The Gender Question
Current Feminist approaches tend to examine patriarchal power and gender production in Shakespeare. Certainly his later works are characterized by problems with women, protectiveness against female sexuality, and an obsession with the father-daughter relationship.
KING LEAR CAN BE SEEN AS A REPRESENTATION OF PATRIARCHAL MISOGYNY AND A LESSON IN FAMILY DUTY … ONLY THOSE WHO COLLUDE IN MISOGYNY CAN ENDORSE THE ENDING.
Feminist approaches have in turn created a subset of body criticism, dissecting the Renaissance idea of the body through investigations of, for example, medical texts, and therefore conjuring more “contexts” for Shakespeare plays. This has also created great excitement about sexual identities on the Shakespearean stage.
PARTICULARLY IF WE BEAR IN MIND THAT FEMALE CHARACTERS WERE PLAYED BY CROSS-DRESSED BOYS … ALTHOUGH FAR TOO MUCH HAS BEEN MADE OF “TRANSVESTISM” AND HOMOEROTICISM. IT WAS NOT ONLY A THEATRICAL CONVENTION BUT A LEGAL REQUIREMENT.
And if we recall how often Shakespeare’s heroines disguise themselves anyway, the boys playing them could be comfortably attired as men for a considerable part of their “female” role. And it is the sort of thing one barely notices reading the play, away from the stage. On the other hand, it is worth considering how the portrayal of female characters by female actors, or a black actor playing Aaron or Othello, changes that role onstage.