Early on, the women in Shakespeare’s works tended to be simple caricatures – shrews to be tamed or sweet little things with no discernible independent thought. As the great writer matured, however, his female characters did, as well. Take the heroine of Romeo and Juliet, whose inner thoughts and feelings were achingly revealed, who was every bit as courageous as Romeo and received equal billing in the title of the play.
Tina Packer, founder of one of the largest Shakespeare festivals in the country, Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, Massachusetts, explores the playwright’s evolving understanding of femininity in a discussion of her book, Women of Will. Whether his ladies were disguised as men or wearing dresses, whether they were creating love in the world or pain and suffering, Shakespeare never backed away after Juliet from giving them their full due as human beings.