Violet Vanbrugh began her long, illustrious stage career in 1886. She first played Shakespeare in 1888 as Ophelia, Helena (A Midsummer Night’s Dream), Rosalind, and Portia (The Merchant of Venice), a part she repeated in 1905; that same year she played Portia by Royal Command of King Edward V at Windsor Castle.
After a brief tour in America, she returned to England in 1892 to join Sir Henry Irving‘s company where she played Anne Boleyn in Henry VIII. The next year she joined Augustin Daly’s troupe and played Olivia in Twelfth Night (1894). In 1906 she took the part of Lady Macbeth at Stratford and later reprised the role in 1911; she played Lady Macbeth in a silent film as well (1913). She appeared as Mistress Ford in The Merry Wives of Windsor in 1911, a role she played again near the end of her career in 1934 and 1937.
After playing Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing, she won critical acclaim in the role of Queen Katherine in Henry VIII in 1910; the next year she played the part in another silent film. Her success in the role was such that in 1915 she was chosen to play Katherine in the “all-star revival” of Henry VIII at His Majesty’s Theatre, London.
She also played in four other films between 1931 and 1940.