1. Describe how Shakespeare portrayed women in the comedies As You Like It and Twelfth Night. In what ways are Viola and Rosalind similar? How do they differ? Which of the two characters do you most respect? Why? Use evidence from the videos in this collection to support your answer.
Despite the relative insignificance of women in Elisabethan social order, Shakespeare uses them in many significant ways. He seems to be extremely sensitive to the importance of women in society even though they are often overlooked. The idea that men are often a product of the women in their lives is indirectly suggested in the significant impact women have on men in the plays. Isabella has a profound influence in the lives of Angelo and Claudio; Desdemona, by no true fault of her own, turns out to be both a blessing and a curse in the life of Othello; Cleopatra is a major cause of Antony’s downfall. Although having little respect in the social order of Elisabethan society, Shakespeare recognises women as a real and significant part of society. Like all aspects of Shakespeare’s plays, the female characters play a significant role in contributing to plot and theme.
Naked Shakespeare Women's 1 Henry IV
In this media gallery, you will find a series of videos from Shakespeare Uncovered that offer insight into how Shakespeare represented women in Twelfth Night and As You Like It, and how he played with identity and disguise for comedic effect. As you view the videos and complete the activities, think about the role of women in the plays and consider how they are both empowered and restricted.