Happy International Women’s Day! I would like to dedicate my posts today to my mother, who is undergoing surgery today. She taught me how resilient, courageous, and creative women can be and I can think of no better way to express my appreciation for the women in my life than the quote above.
Some of Shakespeare’s Best Female Characters
I’ve discussed Shakespeare’s best Mother characters before, and his Roman characters as well, but I thought I should include some of the ones who are not mothers and/or unmarried (at least for most of the play). I don’t want to rank these characters since I detest ranking women in general, so here are some of Shakespeare’s best characters, and some of their immortal speeches:
Beatrice is one of the greatest characters in all of literature, and her scene with Benedick in Act IV is legendary: here’s a clip with Catherine Tate as Beatrice from the London’s Wydham’s Theatre production in 2012:
A fascinating and electrifying character. She seduces her husband and makes him fully commit to murdering the king. If you read my Crafting a Character post, you can see that I actually made pleasing Lady Macbeth my entire motivation for the character. Her strength and energy is highly attractive and it was easy for me to see how a man might do anything to make her happy.
Isabella From “Measure For Measure”
I think Elizabethans would have seen the connection between the Virgin Queen who fought off assassination from the Pope, and Isabella, a virgin who fights off the advances of Angello, who seems pious, but who secretly is degenerate and cruel. Isabella even becomes a princess at the end of the play, (assuming she marries the Duke), which means she could literally become a Queen Elizabeth to English eyes.
Joan of Arc
I have lots more to say about this heroine, but for now, let’s let her speak for herself:
auphin, I am by birth a shepherd's daughter, My wit untrain'd in any kind of art. Heaven and our Lady gracious hath it pleased To shine on my contemptible estate: Lo, whilst I waited on my tender lambs, And to sun's parching heat display'd my cheeks, God's mother deigned to appear to me And in a vision full of majesty Will'd me to leave my base vocation And free my country from calamity: Her aid she promised and assured success: In complete glory she reveal'd herself; And, whereas I was black and swart before, With those clear rays which she infused on me That beauty am I bless'd with which you see. Ask me what question thou canst possible, And I will answer unpremeditated: My courage try by combat, if thou darest, And thou shalt find that I exceed my sex. - Joan of Arc, Henry VI, Part I, Act I, Scene ii.