A famous line from Thomas Coryat's 1611 travel narrative Coryat's
Crudities: Hastily gobled up in Five Moneth's Travels, often used in Shakespearean scholarship to demonstrate the ubiquity of male actors on the Elizabethan stage.
Here I observed certaine things that I never saw before.
For I saw women acte, a thing that I never saw before, though I have
heard that it hathe beene sometimes used in London, and they
performed it with as good a grace, action, gesture, and whatsoever
convenient for a Player, as ever I saw any masculine actor.
The passage in question comes from Coryat's account of Venice,
where he visited one of the local playhouses. Although Elizabethan
theatre traditionally only allowed men and boys to act, in some parts
of continental Europe women were permitted onstage as well. For Englishmen abroad, this was a shocking sight.
His mention of London is a little ambiguous, as we know of no
Elizabethan acting companies who allowed female players, but this
perhaps refers to continental troupes who sometimes appeared
before the English court.