Dame Ellen Terry, GBE was an English stage actress who became the leading Shakespearean actress in Britain.
Born into a family of actors, Terry began acting as a child in Shakespeare plays and continued as a teen, in London and on tour. At sixteen she married the much older artist George Frederic Watts, but they separated within a year. She briefly returned to acting but then began a relationship with the architect Edward William Godwin and retired from the stage for six years. She returned to acting in 1874 and was immediately acclaimed for her portrayal of roles in Shakespeare and other classics.
In 1878 she joined Henry Irving's company as his leading lady, and for more than the next two decades she was considered the leading Shakespearean and comic actress in Britain. Two of her most famous roles were Portia in The Merchant of Venice and Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing. She and Irving also toured with great success in America and Britain.
In 1903 Terry took over management of London's Imperial Theatre, focusing on the plays of George Bernard Shaw and Henrik Ibsen. The venture was a financial failure, however, and Terry then toured and later also lectured. She continued to find acting success until 1920, while also appearing in films until 1922. Her career lasted nearly seven decades.