Shakespeare's Women, Women in Shakespeare

This seminar will examine Shakespeare and women from two points of view. First, the plays themselves, and the question of whether a large-scale "woman project" is visible or thinkable across the long arc of Shakespeare's career. Second a look into the Newberry's collections at famous women performers of Shakespeare. We will pay special attention to the cross-dressing tradition begun in the plays (particularly comedies that depend on women disguised as men) and to the theatrical tradition of Shakespeare's time (which generally prohibited female performers and thus "forced" cross dressing). What were Shakespeare's audiences looking for in women who played women dressed as men? What are we to make of the significant and remarkable tradition of women taking on major male roles, as for example the tradition of women performers of Hamlet? How does the way Shakespeare develops women characters across his career illuminate or receive illumination from the history of women on the Shakespearean stage?