365 Days of Shakespeare

That's right – the Bard in a year.

352. Top 11 Shakespearean badasses: number 5

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NUMBER 5: All the crossdressers.

Any of Shakespeare’s women who had to cross-dress to protect themselves qualifies as a badass. These girls had to totally hide their femininity from the world in order to keep from being in any danger, often had to assume the role as a servant or companion to a male master (whom they were in love with, of course), and generally are considered some of the strongest female characters Shakespeare ever wrote. These are the women who really lead those plays and who stand out the most.

For instance, I recently saw a production of Twelfth Night and something struck me: we always remember Viola as the standout character, but she actually doesn’t have a ton of stage time. Sure, she’s there a lot, but it’s not as though there aren’t nice-sized gaps where the actress is hidden backstage for a while. This is the exception rather than the rule, though, especially when it comes to Rosalind, whose role is exceptionally large.

And just look at Portia – she is usually in woman’s weeds, but she ends up disguising herself as a male page to go into the court and use possibly the best loophole in existence to save Antonio from a really unpleasant fate. Whether Shakespeare was really a feminist or not, there is no denying that he wrote some really tough girls who are usually just as smart – if not smarter – than the men.

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Written by Caroline Mincks

September 18, 2010 at 11:16 PM

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