This will be short, I promise.
We’ve talked about Shakespeare’s heroines before. Both of us are firm believers that even Shakespeare’s least obvious heroines (Kate of Taming of the Shrew comes to mind) are powerful manifestos on the power of women. Kate, for example, gets the longest speech in the whole play even while she’s talking about how women should listen to and be submissive to their men; the irony is palpable there. Portia (of Merchant of Venice) is brilliant, quick-witted, gracious… and absolutely determined to at once follow her father’s commandment and find a way to marry the man of her choice. And, of course, it is she who, dressed as a lawyer named Balthazar, outwits Shylock and saves Antonio. (Whether Merchant of Venice is antisemitic or not–and, believe it or not, the jury is still out on that one–is for another day.) You have Cleopatra who has led her own nation and refuses to give Augustus the final victory. Even Juliet’s choices are often seen as a woman at the nascence of her sexual awakening deciding to take said sexuality into her own hands (which makes the choice of Romeo perhaps… not… entirely well-advised). Rosalind of As You Like It takes Orlando to task for mistaking his sweet words for ardent devotion, teaching him what it is a woman wants. My favorite–Beatrice–is sharp-witted, determined, knows herself and her wants, and extraordinarily loyal. She demands Benedick prove himself to her; no mere words of love here.
Powerful women abound in Shakespeare. Arguably Nasty Women, who use and manipulate the system to get what they want or fight for someone else. They fight. They don’t give up. They are in control of themselves.
So, yeah… Nasty Women of the world: Shakespeare is on your side. And, if he were alive, he would celebrate all of you in his plays. Even if he’s forced to dress you up like a man to accomplish it.