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Women of Will: Following the Feminine in Shakespeare's Plays

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From one of the country’s foremost experts on Shakespeare and theatre arts, actor, director, and master teacher Tina Packer offers an exploration—fierce, funny, fearless—of the women of Shakespeare’s plays. A profound, and profoundly illuminating, book that gives us the playwright’s changing understanding of the feminine and reveals some of his deepest insights. Packer, wi From one of the country’s foremost experts on Shakespeare and theatre arts, actor, director, and master teacher Tina Packer offers an exploration—fierce, funny, fearless—of the women of Shakespeare’s plays. A profound, and profoundly illuminating, book that gives us the playwright’s changing understanding of the feminine and reveals some of his deepest insights. Packer, with expert grasp and perception, constructs a radically different understanding of power, sexuality, and redemption. Beginning with the early comedies (The Taming of the Shrew, Two Gentlemen of Verona, The Comedy of Errors), Packer shows that Shakespeare wrote the women of these plays as shrews to be tamed or as sweet little things with no definable independent thought, virgins on the pedestal. The women of the histories (the three parts of Henry VI; Richard III) are, Packer shows, much more interesting, beginning with Joan of Arc, possibly the first woman character Shakespeare ever created.  In her opening scene, she’s wonderfully alive—a virgin, true, sent from heaven, a country girl going to lead men bravely into battle, the kind of girl Shakespeare could have known and loved in Stratford. Her independent resolution collapses within a few scenes, as Shakespeare himself suddenly turns against her, and she yields to the common caricature of his culture and becomes Joan the Enemy, the Warrior Woman, the witch; a woman to be feared and destroyed . . .  As Packer turns her attention to the extraordinary Juliet, the author perceives a large shift. Suddenly Shakespeare’s women have depth of character, motivation, understanding of life more than equal to that of the men; once Juliet has led the way, the plays are never the same again. As Shakespeare ceases to write about women as predictable caricatures and starts writing them from the inside, embodying their voices, his women become as dimensional, spirited, spiritual, active, and sexual as any of his male characters. Juliet is just as passionately in love as Romeo—risking everything, initiating marriage, getting into bed, fighting courageously when her parents threaten to disown her—and just as brave in facing death when she discovers Romeo is dead. And, wondering if Shakespeare himself fell in love (Packer considers with whom, and what she may have been like), the author observes that from Juliet on, Shakespeare writes the women as if he were a woman, giving them desires, needs, ambition, insight. Women of Will follows Shakespeare’s development as a human being, from youth to enlightened maturity, exploring the spiritual journey he undertook.  Packer shows that Shakespeare’s imagination, mirrored and revealed in his female characters, develops and deepens until finally the women, his creative knowledge, and a sense of a larger spiritual good come together in the late plays, making clear that when women and men are equal in status and sexual passion, they can—and do—change the world. Part master class, part brilliant analysis—Women of Will is all inspiring discovery.


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From one of the country’s foremost experts on Shakespeare and theatre arts, actor, director, and master teacher Tina Packer offers an exploration—fierce, funny, fearless—of the women of Shakespeare’s plays. A profound, and profoundly illuminating, book that gives us the playwright’s changing understanding of the feminine and reveals some of his deepest insights. Packer, wi From one of the country’s foremost experts on Shakespeare and theatre arts, actor, director, and master teacher Tina Packer offers an exploration—fierce, funny, fearless—of the women of Shakespeare’s plays. A profound, and profoundly illuminating, book that gives us the playwright’s changing understanding of the feminine and reveals some of his deepest insights. Packer, with expert grasp and perception, constructs a radically different understanding of power, sexuality, and redemption. Beginning with the early comedies (The Taming of the Shrew, Two Gentlemen of Verona, The Comedy of Errors), Packer shows that Shakespeare wrote the women of these plays as shrews to be tamed or as sweet little things with no definable independent thought, virgins on the pedestal. The women of the histories (the three parts of Henry VI; Richard III) are, Packer shows, much more interesting, beginning with Joan of Arc, possibly the first woman character Shakespeare ever created.  In her opening scene, she’s wonderfully alive—a virgin, true, sent from heaven, a country girl going to lead men bravely into battle, the kind of girl Shakespeare could have known and loved in Stratford. Her independent resolution collapses within a few scenes, as Shakespeare himself suddenly turns against her, and she yields to the common caricature of his culture and becomes Joan the Enemy, the Warrior Woman, the witch; a woman to be feared and destroyed . . .  As Packer turns her attention to the extraordinary Juliet, the author perceives a large shift. Suddenly Shakespeare’s women have depth of character, motivation, understanding of life more than equal to that of the men; once Juliet has led the way, the plays are never the same again. As Shakespeare ceases to write about women as predictable caricatures and starts writing them from the inside, embodying their voices, his women become as dimensional, spirited, spiritual, active, and sexual as any of his male characters. Juliet is just as passionately in love as Romeo—risking everything, initiating marriage, getting into bed, fighting courageously when her parents threaten to disown her—and just as brave in facing death when she discovers Romeo is dead. And, wondering if Shakespeare himself fell in love (Packer considers with whom, and what she may have been like), the author observes that from Juliet on, Shakespeare writes the women as if he were a woman, giving them desires, needs, ambition, insight. Women of Will follows Shakespeare’s development as a human being, from youth to enlightened maturity, exploring the spiritual journey he undertook.  Packer shows that Shakespeare’s imagination, mirrored and revealed in his female characters, develops and deepens until finally the women, his creative knowledge, and a sense of a larger spiritual good come together in the late plays, making clear that when women and men are equal in status and sexual passion, they can—and do—change the world. Part master class, part brilliant analysis—Women of Will is all inspiring discovery.

30 review for Women of Will: Following the Feminine in Shakespeare's Plays

  1. 5 out of 5

    Amalia Gkavea

    This book cannot even justify the one-star rating. I read it as fast as I could like a personal mental exercise. I wanted to test my irritation limits, how much nonsence I could handle before I said ''ok, that's enough.'' I dont know how I managed to finish it, but I did. Now, I want to forget everything about it. Consider yourselves warned...A rant of epic proportions is about to begin... When I saw the title, I thought ''Oh, this is going to be great!''. When I saw the imposing Ellen Terry front This book cannot even justify the one-star rating. I read it as fast as I could like a personal mental exercise. I wanted to test my irritation limits, how much nonsence I could handle before I said ''ok, that's enough.'' I dont know how I managed to finish it, but I did. Now, I want to forget everything about it. Consider yourselves warned...A rant of epic proportions is about to begin... When I saw the title, I thought ''Oh, this is going to be great!''. When I saw the imposing Ellen Terry front cover, with the goddess of Theatre in Lady Macbeth's famous beetlewing dress, I said ''come to me, you beautiful book, you.'' I dived right into Shakespeare's world, trying to learn more about the development of female roles over the course of his work. Sadly, what I found was a huge pile of problems and a stinking ego. The first blow came early, when the writer referred to ''The Taming of the Shrew''. In my opinion, she has completely misunderstood the meaning of the ending. I believe that Kate decides to answer in irony, hidden in docile words, in order to show to Petruchio that he will never win completely. In my mind, she wants him to understand that he can never be certain whether she is sincerely tamed or not. And there lies the beauty of the play. I think Shakespeare has concluded it in such a way so that the readers can view it openly and interpret either way. Many acclaimed critics have stated this as a possibility, but Packer never states a doubt. The expression in my opinion is totally absent. She promotes her own prejudiced views as being ''canon'', in a pseudo-revolutionary, highly pretentious manner.Her dogmatic tone bothered me deeply and made me doubtful as to what was coming next. And next, she took the theme of male friendship, which is so important to Shakespeare's plays (a concept that the Bard borrowed from Ancient Greece) and drew a comparison to the Paul Newman and Robert Redford films(!) I mean...SERIOUSLY? Show some respect...Her way to refer to Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine was to mention the actors who portrayed them in the film adaptation of The Lion in Winter, the famous play by James Goldman. As if there is no chance in the world that the readers will recognise these legendary historical figures, who shaped a large part of the European History, unless they have watched a film. We're talking about the parents of Richard the Lionheart, call me an idealist but I'd like to entertain myself by thinking that the readers who are interested in essays about Shakespearean characters do know a thing or two about History. History, people, not Hollywood... The writer is so opinionated (in a negative way, of course), so boisterous that it becomes tedious, irritating, infuriating. She seems to have convinced herself that she knows what went on in Shakespeare's mind as he was writing the plays (!) She is so certain her view is correct because ''I have read thousands of books on Shakespeare, I have played in and directed all Shakespeare's plays, I founded Shakespeare & Company in Massachusetts...'' There are so many ''I''s and ''Me''s that I had the feeling I was reading about her, not about Shakespeare. Well, you're not Laurence Olivier, you know. Not even he had ever the nerve to claim that he was aware of Shakespeare's thought. I mean, who are you? The Doctor Who of the Mind? For instance, she says she liked to think that Joan of Arc was the first woman he wrote about, because...no reason. Just like that! This has been a rant, it has been a long rant, but I had the need to vent after witnessing Shakespeare being abused in the hands of the writer. I was ready to toss it aside after 50 pages, but I didn't. I was hooked by her -fascinatingly- poor writing and lack of objectivity. I considered it a hunt in order to spot the following outrageous claims.And I stayed up all night to finish it. Well, it was entertaining, I can tell you that. After all, I managed to find the worst book about Shakespeare after 14 years of devouring everything that has to do with the Bard's life and work. And I thought that ''Shakespeare In Love was an ugly, poorly-written (not to mention acted, since she adores Hollywood so much) nightmare...This book deserves no stars, it deserves minus stars, actually. If only I had a raven to cry ''Hold, hold!'' when I started reading it...

  2. 4 out of 5

    Terence

    I think some reviews miss the point of Women of Will. This book is not an academic text written by someone who hasn’t “trod the boards” but by a producer, director and actor of Shakespeare’s plays who’s been engaging with the Bard for 40+ years, and who is presenting the insights she has gleaned from her experiences. And even more, it’s the author’s particular conclusions about Shakespeare’s relationship with women and how that came out in his plays. The reader can accept Packer’s interpretation I think some reviews miss the point of Women of Will. This book is not an academic text written by someone who hasn’t “trod the boards” but by a producer, director and actor of Shakespeare’s plays who’s been engaging with the Bard for 40+ years, and who is presenting the insights she has gleaned from her experiences. And even more, it’s the author’s particular conclusions about Shakespeare’s relationship with women and how that came out in his plays. The reader can accept Packer’s interpretations as valid or not, depending upon their own reading (or acting) of the plays. What makes Packer’s interpretations so interesting is certainly not their academic rigor but that they’re made in the context of a firmly held belief that words can remake the world: The actor Shakespeare could feel in his body the truth; the writer Shakespeare could record what he saw in the outside world and he gave to women the words to expose the dichotomy between what lay within and what was expected from without. And the only way to bridge the gap, alter, and bring it to a new relationship is through love. The women acknowledge the love and go on the journey. Creativity? It is the ability to see the world as it is, imagine what it might be, and step out with love (p. 299). I’m not going to discuss the whole book. Packer looks at most of the plays over the course of 300 pages. To give you a taste, though, I will focus on two that I find personally interesting – “Troilus and Cressida” and “Measure for Measure” – and a section the author calls “The Plague Years,” where she imagines what Shakespeare was up to during the 1590s. Packer’s readings of Shakespeare don’t exclude others. In preparing this review I pulled Mark van Doren’s Shakespeare and Marjorie Garber’s Shakespeare After All off my shelves to refresh my memory about what they had written. Van Doren’s “Troilus and Cressida” essay dismisses Cressida in less than a sentence, “That Cressida is not worth all this does not damage it as rhetoric…” (p. 174). As Packer argues in regards to Troilus, van Doren too appears unable to empathize with Cressida. Garber’s essay is more academic. She does treat of the women in the play but even she has little sympathy to spare for the young woman. Regarding “Measure for Measure,” van Doren is close to Packer, though he is writing from a broader perspective. She would agree with his conclusion: “It is the permanent symbol for a city, itself all earth and rotting straw, with which Shakespeare at the moment can do no more than he had been able to do with the diseased bones of Pandarus’s Troy. All he can do is stir it until its stench fills every street and creeps even into the black holes of prisons…. The bank of dark cloud above her [Vienna’s] forehead is never burned away” (pp. 191-2). In Garber’s “Measure for Measure” chapter, here too she and Packer are closer in readings than otherwise, touching on many similar themes, though – again – Garber’s perspective is broader. Which is understandable. Women of Will is not about anything but Shakespeare’s representation of women. Packer is interested in what she believes were Shakespeare’s encounters with real women that allowed him to grow as a writer and create increasingly sophisticated and nuanced characterizations not only of women but of men. “The Plague Years” This section is a speculative romp through Shakespeare’s life from 1587-1594, where Packer believes that something extraordinary happened to him: he fell in love. Through that love, his perception of women fundamentally changed. “He wrote as if he were a woman. Embodying them. Giving them full agency” (p. 52). The woman he fell in love with was the Dark Lady of the sonnets, whom Packer believes was Aemilia Lanyer (née Bassano), daughter of an expat Venetian musician and an English woman, also a musician. Shamefully perhaps, I had no idea that this remarkable woman existed, though now I’m interested in reading her work. It’s from his relationship with Aemilia, which may have lasted for these few years or perhaps for the 20 or so they could have known each other before his death, that Shakespeare “finally got it about women” (p. 90). His engagement with Lanyer inspired him to create female characters like Juliet, Beatrice, Rosaline and Lady Macbeth, and influenced his male roles as well, lifting them from the near greats like Richard III to the truly greats like Othello, Hamlet and Lear. Of course, the Dark Lady wasn’t the sole influence that made Shakespeare Shakespeare during these years. Packer imagines quite a bit in reconstructing them. Aside from his new-found insights into women, perhaps the most important of these were the contacts he made with the circle of men and women who were the leading literary lights of the period and their noble sponsors – in particular Kit Marlowe and the Earls of Essex and Southampton. Shakespeare realized four things (according to Packer): One, poets were the greatest truth-tellers because their poetry gave them perceptions others couldn’t have [justifying Shakespeare’s life]. Two, music and poetry induced higher levels of knowledge and consciousness. [Shakespeare’s work began to incorporate music and his words became more rhythmic; he became conscious of the harmonies in a well-crafted sentence.] Three, poets are inspired, perhaps by something outside of themselves (the Muse) or something deep inside (the unconscious). Wherever it comes from, this “frenzy” cannot be denied. And, four, poetry – and even more so, theater – brought everyone, from the meanest pauper to the wealthiest noble, to the same perception and consciousness: [J]okes about bodily functions and elementary sexual acts make people laugh, so they let go of themselves and un-self-consciously inhabit their bodies, and that this, combined with the most sublime poetry, allows the full spectrum of man’s being. Theatre can do something poetry by itself could never do – it can give us all of humanity, all kinds of people standing side by side, building a community of understanding, empathetic understanding. And that connection in turn fosters the perception and language of God. Potent and regenerative (p. 68). “Troilus and Cressida” I like “Troilus and Cressida” because, of Shakespeare’s three great plays about star-crossed lovers [“Romeo and Juliet” and “Antony and Cleopatra” are the other two], this one seems to me to be the most honest. Which shows what a pessimist I am. Packer unpacks “Troilus and Cressida” in relation to “Romeo and Juliet” and “Antony and Cleopatra” and asks the question, “Why does this love fail?” Her answer is the unequal relationship between the lovers. Troilus is a prince of Troy, son of Priam. He has wealth, status, and the respect of family and comrades. Cressida is the daughter of a traitor and otherwise without family, status or wealth except for an oily uncle (Pandarus), whose situation mirrors her own. Her only asset is her virginity and she’ll be utterly vulnerable if she gives it up to Troilus. But she does after both lovers pledge their undying love for each other in a scene worthy of the two more famous tragedies[1]. But where Romeo and Juliet and Antony and Cleopatra do die for each other, Troilus leaves Cressida at the mercy of Troy’s council, who have decided to trade her for the warrior Antenor. Abandoned and alone in the Greek camp, the teen-age girl’s spirit collapses and she throws herself on the mercy of Diomedes, a Greek warrior who seems sympathetic. Troilus, witnessing her from afar but unable to empathize with her plight, believes she’s unfaithful and abandons his love for the forgetfulness of violence. And so ends this love as one would expect it to in real life. The lovers don’t understand each other and fail to live up to the ideals they so readily espoused when their relationship was unthreatened; the relationship is destroyed; the lovers live on, though, and have to cope. “Measure for Measure” “Measure for Measure” doesn’t flinch from the fact that life is messy. Relying on a definitive recipe that answers all your questions, satisfies all your desires, and lets you get away with suppressing half of your identity leads to all kinds of trouble. There are three protagonists: the Duke, Angelo and Isabella. Packer largely ignores the Duke as he’s peripheral to her intent. Angelo is a cold-hearted, supremely logical fellow who’s put in charge of Vienna to curb its carnal excesses. Isabella, arguably equally cold-hearted and logical, is a novice of the Order of St. Clare whose devotion to Christ is put to the test when Angelo threatens her virtue to save her brother. Both have walled themselves off form the messy business of emotions. When Angelo meets Isabella and argues with her over the fate of her brother, he recognizes a woman who can meet him on an equal footing and falls desperately in love with her. Unfortunately, he lacks the capacity to respond to her as an equal. He can only engage with her in debate or – in the end – by forcing her to accede to his desire. Isabella, for her part, is as constrained as Angelo. Unable, unwilling to admit to the possibility of love, she doesn’t recognize Angelo as a fellow soul. In the one moment when Angelo breaks down and opens the door to love, she refuses to walk through, instead threatening to expose him. “Measure for Measure” examines the unconscious motivations present in all of us. Obviously, that’s not how Shakespeare would have put it but he recognized the relationship between repressed desire and physical violence. Once Angelo admitted to feeling a sexual attraction, he opened himself to myriad emotions that overwhelm his ever-so-rational mind: “Why does my blood thus muster to my heart, / Making both it unable for itself, / And dispossessing all my other parts / Of necessary fitness?” (2.4, 20-23) “Measure for Measure” is listed as a comedy among Shakespeare’s plays. And everything does appear to work itself out in the end (as all comedies should) – Claudio lives and is reunited with Juliet, Angelo marries his fiancée Mariana, Lucio marries Kate Keepdown, and the Duke proposes marriage to Isabella. But I can’t imagine any of these pairings being successful except for Claudio and Juliet’s, which is the only one that’s based on any sort of mutual attraction and equality, the factors that Packer has stressed throughout the book that are critical to a successful relationship. It’s often brought up that Shakespeare leaves it up in the air how Isabella responds to the Duke’s proposal. By this point in the play, she’s speechless – literally. Various troupes have interpreted the character differently. Some have her responding with joy; others with horror. I lean toward the “horror” crowd. If they could get over their psychological hang-ups, it’s Angelo and Isabella who should marry. There is one final thing I want to highlight. In one of her digressions, Packer discusses Shakespeare’s quest to discover what is the “soul,” which paralleled his discovery of the “female.” I thought it was an interesting insight. It sums us why she’s devoted so much of her life engaging with the Bard, and I quote her conclusion in full: So I think in the end where Shakespeare comes out is: The soul is a verb, not a noun. It is substantive but not material. It lives in every breath we take. Therefore, the potential to be open to life is there within our bodies in every moment. The soul is the ability to sustain love – real love, which renews itself in the creative act. It is the maiden phoenix, the bird of the spirit, which burns up itself (which is painful) and, out of the ashes, creates itself anew (which is often hard but ultimately joyful). It can join with another, or many. It fills the body, is deeply erotic, and generates new life (p. 107). As should be apparent from my rating, I enjoyed this book[2]. While some of her non-Shakespearean asides are cringe worthy[3], I found her Shakespeare-centered commentary stimulating and it made me see the plays in a new light. For example, her discussion of Goneril and Regan in “King Lear” revealed aspects of their characters that I hadn’t considered. They’re still not “nice people” but they’ve become more rounded individuals in my mind, and their motivations clearer. Definitely recommended for Shakespeare fans, especially those interested in the insights of someone who’s directed and acted in the plays. [1] Though Packer points out that Troilus’ language is more reminiscent of Romeo’s in regards to Rosalind, the woman he’s swooning for before meeting Juliet and whom he’s never actually met. [2] Enough that I’ve ordered my own copy (albeit the paperback edition, which comes out next year (2016). [3] As I write these words, I’m thinking in particular of her explanation of the Holy Roman Empire and the relationship between Emperor and Pope (p. 202).

  3. 5 out of 5

    Annalisa

    As a Shakespeare teacher and a feminist, I should love a book that wants to argue that Shakespeare was the first dramatist to develop fully rounded, individual women characters and shows how that development happened. As a lover of theater, I should also love a book that draws on decades of experience as an actor and director of Shakespeare. But I did not like this book. I found the style to be very off putting--as an academic having someone say "Shakespeare must have felt/done X" raises my hackl As a Shakespeare teacher and a feminist, I should love a book that wants to argue that Shakespeare was the first dramatist to develop fully rounded, individual women characters and shows how that development happened. As a lover of theater, I should also love a book that draws on decades of experience as an actor and director of Shakespeare. But I did not like this book. I found the style to be very off putting--as an academic having someone say "Shakespeare must have felt/done X" raises my hackles. Packer doesn't know how Shakespeare felt about women--no one does--and she can't claim he did X or believed Y--again, we just don't know. What she really means is "My version of Shakespeare, built out of my reading of the plays, felt and did X" and that's an entirely different thing. She also was much too attached to her vision of Shakespeare's increasing understanding of and respect for women, to the point of having to produce some weird interpretations in order to crush the plays that don't fit into her smooth arc. This is most obvious when she simply rejects Two Noble Kinsmen because it is co-authored with Fletcher and thus doesn't count. But she's happy talk about Henry VIII which is also co-authored with Fletcher, so it seems obvious that her real problem with Two Noble Kinsmen is that the female characters are flat and uninteresting. She also makes some claims about The Tempest that I find simply ridiculous (such as Prospero having an affair with Sycorax when it's entirely clear from 1.2 that she died before Prospero arrived on the island). There are also places where she's simply wrong and I'm actually surprised to find a director get basic facts about the text wrong. So all in all I found this book very unsatisfying and occasionally infuriating.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Asae

    Listening to Women of Will feels like having many cups of coffee, walks along the garden, and the occasional pint with a favorite aunt or a beloved teacher and her male companion, both of whom, happen to also be brilliant actors and courageous souls. There are chapters worthy of standing room only at Oxford or The Globe and chapters where the thread gets a little lost and the experience feels a bit scattered and you wonder if you'd both rather be somewhere else. Those might be poor metaphors for Listening to Women of Will feels like having many cups of coffee, walks along the garden, and the occasional pint with a favorite aunt or a beloved teacher and her male companion, both of whom, happen to also be brilliant actors and courageous souls. There are chapters worthy of standing room only at Oxford or The Globe and chapters where the thread gets a little lost and the experience feels a bit scattered and you wonder if you'd both rather be somewhere else. Those might be poor metaphors for getting at the strengths and weaknesses of this work, however, my point is that if you love Shakespeare and you love the kind of embodied/examined experience that are core to acting and the work of Shakespeare & Co then event in the moments where this work does not quite work you are in marvelous company and glad to be there. Highly recommended, particularly in audio form.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Blair Stackhouse

    By "finished" I mean that I gave up about 102 pages in (which I think is a fair amount of time to decide you don't like a book). I rarely give up on books, but this writing style was not for me. There was a mix of scholarly ideas about the women of Shakespearean plays, her history as an actor/director, and complete conjecture. The parts that were actual analysis of the plays was very interesting, but then Packer would declare things she thought were true about Shakespeare and run with them as if By "finished" I mean that I gave up about 102 pages in (which I think is a fair amount of time to decide you don't like a book). I rarely give up on books, but this writing style was not for me. There was a mix of scholarly ideas about the women of Shakespearean plays, her history as an actor/director, and complete conjecture. The parts that were actual analysis of the plays was very interesting, but then Packer would declare things she thought were true about Shakespeare and run with them as if it was actual fact. The idea of a book about the women of Shakespeare's plays is fascinating - she was not the author to write it.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Tracy Marks

    WOMEN OF WILL: The Feminine in Shakespeare's Play by Tina Packer reviewed by Tracy Marks A brilliant presentation of Shakespeare's development and portrayal of female characters When I started reading WOMEN OF WILL, I was intrigued by Tina Packer's concepts of Shakespeare's development in regard to the women in his plays. However, I was soon confused by all the names. Packer describes the roles of the primary characters, especially the women, in about 30 plays, as well as the historical background WOMEN OF WILL: The Feminine in Shakespeare's Play by Tina Packer reviewed by Tracy Marks A brilliant presentation of Shakespeare's development and portrayal of female characters When I started reading WOMEN OF WILL, I was intrigued by Tina Packer's concepts of Shakespeare's development in regard to the women in his plays. However, I was soon confused by all the names. Packer describes the roles of the primary characters, especially the women, in about 30 plays, as well as the historical background of most of them, and the key women in Shakespeare's life over time. That means that we readers are introduced to approximately 300 characters in 300 pages. Too much! My impression is that Packer (pack-her) was trying to pack all she knew about Shakespeare and his women into one book – including details related to her primary theories as well as extraneous information that many readers will not be able to absorb. But don't let this giant potpourri (which spreads in every possible direction) dissuade you from reading the book, even if doing so means skipping a few of the plays discussed. Packer's presentation is comprehensive, informative and occasionally deeply meaningful. No, she does not back up all her statements and theories about Shakespeare with scholarly references. She also injects personal experiences and belief, some related to contemporary issues. But in doing so, she helps make Shakespeare relevant to us today. I eventually realized that I had been initially judging her book by academic standards and a traditional "male" approach to writing about literature. Tina Packer is not an academic, although her knowledge about Shakespeare's plays is astounding. She is a Shakespearean actress who has performed the roles of most of the women in these plays. She has also been, for many years, director of a highly regarded Shakespearean theater company in Lenox, Massachusetts. These plays are meant, first of all, to be performed and watched by an audience – not read and not analyzed by scholars and students. Packer is, in fact, presenting Shakespeare's female characters as an actress experiences them. The insights she shares as a result help us to enter Shakespeare's plays more fully than an academic approach. Her personal sharing, although disruptive at times, also helps us readers bring Shakespeare to life today, and relate our own experiences to the characters she describes. In the process, WOMEN OF WILL is particularly enlightening in regard to issues related to women and power, and therefore is likely to appeal to any women struggling with defining and asserting themselves effectively in our patriarchal society. Packer's basic thesis is that Shakespeare's conception of women, especially in relation to men and issues of power, developed through a variety of stages throughout his lifetime, as reflected chronologically in his plays. The book is divided into five sections, each discussing a number of plays. I mention a few that are covered below: 1) THE WARRIOR WOMAN: VIOLENCE TO NEGOTIATION (The Taming of the Shrew, the Henry VI plays, Richard III) 2) THE SEXUAL MERGES WITH THE SPIRITUAL (Much Ado about Nothing, Romeo and Juliet, Antony and Cleopatra) 3) LIVING UNDERGROUND OR DYING TO TELL THE TRUTH (Othello, As You Like It, Twelfth Night) 4) CHAOS IS COME AGAIN: THE LION EATS THE WOLF (Macbeth, King Lear, Coriolanus) 5) THE MAIN PHOENIX: THE DAUGHTER REDEEMS THE FATHER (Pericles, The Winter's Tale, The Tempest). As Packer describes the plots of each play and the roles of the female characters, she also relates them to Shakespeare's real life relationships with women at the time of writing each play, to the extent that we know, and speculates about what we do not know. Even if there are only three or four women a play, Packer tells us, they are key to transforming some of the male characters and their society. WOMEN OF WILL is fascinating, insightful and a much-needed "female" and actor's approach to Shakespeare. A reader unfamiliar with most of these plays may find the plot descriptions and repertoire of characters overwhelming. But such descriptions (most of them, at least) are necessary. Viewing the female characters out of context detracts from understanding them and Packer's main concepts. I suggest reading the book slowly, a chapter a week, and give yourself time to digest the rich material within it. What happens when female voices are silenced, or when they seek power and personal fulfillment overtly or covertly taking on roles normally assigned to men? This is a key question that WOMEN OF WILL addresses. Female power and powerlessness are the issues here. But as Packer learned from Shakespeare, love is an antidote to aggression and violence. The constructive empowerment of women is intimately related to man's integration of "feminine qualities" (love, nurturance, creativity) within himself. Packer has a web site called womenofwill.com . Her theater company, Shakespeare and Company is at shakespeare.org . She has performed series of Women of Will plays which present the main female characters discussed in the book, although this summer 2015, she is playing the role of Joan of Arc rather than a Shakespearean heroine. A trailer about her Women of Will performances is available at Youtube, as are a number of interviews with her including the one with Charlie Rose, which I particularly recommend. In regard to organization, I rate WOMEN OF WILL a 3. In regard to substance, I would rate it above a 5 if that were possible. Since I find the book to be so informative and insightful (and particularly, a must for women who are interested in Shakespeare and both defining and exploring their role in society) I give it an overall rating of 5, despite its obvious flaws. It is that exceptional. (IF YOU LIKED MY REVIEW, PLEASE RATE IT AS HELPFUL HERE: http://www.amazon.com/review/R3P6JLHE... Thanks! )

  7. 4 out of 5

    Madeleine

    This book is very strange--until seeing other reviews I thought my conflicted feelings towards it were because the pattern that I read it in was also rather strange. I started it around the time of graduation and with all the hubbub surrounding all the parties, thank you notes, new job I read this book in fits and starts. I thought that because of this inconsistency I was missing something, that I was unable to fully connect the text with my memory and thus some of her interpretations of histor This book is very strange--until seeing other reviews I thought my conflicted feelings towards it were because the pattern that I read it in was also rather strange. I started it around the time of graduation and with all the hubbub surrounding all the parties, thank you notes, new job I read this book in fits and starts. I thought that because of this inconsistency I was missing something, that I was unable to fully connect the text with my memory and thus some of her interpretations of history and the plays were sailing over my head. But today, I realized: no, it's not my fault. Women of Will is Tina Packer's baby. It is solely about Tina Packer and Tina Packer's relationship with the theatre and with Shakespeare. Those analyses and ideas may not line up with my own. This is a book far too personal to be an expository, end-all, be-all interpretation of the feminine of Shakespeare's plays. There is far too much of Tina Packer and her experiences wrapped up into this book to be objective. Though the writing is engaging and sometimes charming, overall, this is not a very well-written or well-organized book. I chalk this up to the initial construct. Packer's idea is that Shakespeare wrote his plays in five acts in which a particular type of women emerges and that there are X amount of women who fit into this category. To a certain extent I understood what she was doing but Shakespeare's work simply isn't that linear and so when her references crossover and the timeline doesn't seem to quite match up it lends a disorganized air to the book. The book is also rather tangential and meandering. She glides from topic to topic. In the midst of discussing a play she drops everything to talk about the fall of the American Empire or her view of the transgender rights movement or her relationship with Nigel Gore (which to go on a bit of a tangent myself--I hope Nigel reciprocates her intense feelings because like--whoa). The thing is I don't particularly care about any of those topics, I see the relevancy but don't see how they are worth a paragraph in an already overlong chapter. Another one of her writing quirks was the use of exclamation marks. It was a pet peeve throughout reading this book. But I had a bit of a revelation yesterday--that this was originally a performance piece. If she is explaining things orally these remarks do deserve exclamation but the dynamics and impact of spoken word can be lost in a written piece especially if it is swimming in newly expanded detail. So then I felt bad for being pissy about the exclamation points. My final complaint is about her research technique: intuition. She just FEELS things to be true...despite the limited concrete facts to support her hypothesis. She just KNOWS because she and Shakespeare are artists and humans and have some sort of spiritual connection. Some of her leaps make sense and others are really freaking weird. She just feels that some lady that may or may not have been in the same vicinity of Shakespeare ever is the Dark Lady. She just knows that Pericles is an example of Shakespeare returning to an earlier style instead of being an early play. Why? Because they fit with her thesis. She twists the evidence to support her preconceived conclusion. This happens also in her exploration of some of the plays. Her assumptions about the characters are based solely on her own idea of what is true--I never read Lear and Goneril's relationship as incestuous or Othello and Iago's as being homoerotic (to be fair, I have read interpretations of both before). I don't remember Caliban ever being Prospero's son or Antonio being bereft at Sebastian's choice to marry Olivia. Packer takes these things as obvious, foregone conclusions but I never felt entirely comfortable with any of those things being definitively decided especially on such sparse evidence. It is academic narcissism--evident also in what plays she selected, skating over those that do not exactly fit her picture of the "Shakespearean woman." She talks about the plays SHE loves which included long stretches of in-depth analysis about plays that are rarely performed or taught and consequently plays I have never seen, heard or read. Consequently there were lengthy parts of the book that I did not understand, particularly if she did not explain the action in a concise way, where I felt disconnected, confused and left out of the fun. However, despite all these fatal flaws, I really liked this book. There is no denying that Packer is a prolific Shakespearean and to hear her thoughts on some of my favorite plays (Twelfth Night, Macbeth, Much Ado etc.) were invaluable. As a reader, I had to move beyond what I wanted which was an academic treatise on Shakespearean women and step instead into what Tina Packer was providing. Her completely honest take on what William Shakespeare and women. I'm not sure if I read a purely academic book on Shakespeare's women it would inspire such deep thought on my part. Shakespeare IS meant to be performed and interpreted by actors and a theatrical audience. IT was never intentioned for academia. And this is an actor's book about an actor's world. It is a uniquely intimate book, one that allows the reader to step into the mind of a woman who has completely devoted herself to the art form and particularly to Shakespeare. Maybe I'm biased--I live relatively close to Shakespeare&Co and have seen many of Tina Packer's productions. To go is a highlight of my summer. I've met Nigel Gore--seen many of the actors that she mentions perform. Some of those productions I love--2010's Richard III for example, others I detest like 2013's Love's Labor's Lost. Tina Packer's company is much like this book--immensely valuable, artful and skilled but at times too caught up in their own thoughts, their own interpretations, their cerebral world, themselves to clearly communicate they mean. So yeah...also this is my first book of SUMMMERRRR!!!! YAYAYAYAYAYAY!!!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Laurel Hicks

    I wasn’t charmed by her destination, but the journey was interesting.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Carol Douglas

    Author Tina Packer is an astonishing woman. She founded her own troupe, Shakespeare & Co., and has produced many of Shakespeare's plays and acted in the starring roles -- including some male roles, such as Coriolanus. In this book, she says that Shakespeare's development can be traced through the development of his female characters. He began with a conventional view of women who accede to the wishes of men, but quickly moved to female characters who speak out and make their own decisions, suc Author Tina Packer is an astonishing woman. She founded her own troupe, Shakespeare & Co., and has produced many of Shakespeare's plays and acted in the starring roles -- including some male roles, such as Coriolanus. In this book, she says that Shakespeare's development can be traced through the development of his female characters. He began with a conventional view of women who accede to the wishes of men, but quickly moved to female characters who speak out and make their own decisions, such as Queen Margaret and Elizabeth in Richard III. Then he moved to Juliet, who is portrayed just a deeply as Romeo. And then to women's whose will to power is just as great and deadly as men's, such as Lady Macbeth. Interestingly, she sees Lady Macbeth as focusing on power because she has just undergone the death of her child. And finally, the plays move to women who bring out reconciliation, as in A Winter's Tale. She sees Ariel in The Tempest as a female spirit. Packer's feminist view of the plays is well expressed and well worth reading. I have read other feminist books on Shakespeare, such as Germaine Greer's and Marilyn French's, but there is still a great deal more to say, and Packer makes a significant contribution.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Mr. B

    A fortuitous set of coincidences led me to this text. A student used it as a source for her final essay and now I find that this year's Shakespeare in the Park is directed by Packer. The premise affirms a belief I've had for a while: when the women are listened to (even if they have to disguise themselves as men) then there's a happy ending. If not, tragedy. Packer's text looks at that premise much more critically, but it's still accessible. Good reading for the casual Shakespeare fan who is int A fortuitous set of coincidences led me to this text. A student used it as a source for her final essay and now I find that this year's Shakespeare in the Park is directed by Packer. The premise affirms a belief I've had for a while: when the women are listened to (even if they have to disguise themselves as men) then there's a happy ending. If not, tragedy. Packer's text looks at that premise much more critically, but it's still accessible. Good reading for the casual Shakespeare fan who is interested in learning more. It's also a great introduction to literary criticism.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Julia (Shakespeare and Such)

    4.3/5 stars, full review to come! I personally would have slightly reorganized the book and it’s important to acknowledge Packer writes of her own opinions and speculation as much as (if not more than) fact, but overall I like what she had to say. Organization : 4/5 Writing: 4/5 Enjoyment of subject/ideas: 5/5

  12. 4 out of 5

    Amandanoel

    I've had the privilege and pleasure of working with Tina packer. That experience is six stars out of five. The book is a lot of summary though and a lot of very smart and passionate artistic opinion stated as fact which is hard for the scholarly side of me but the director side gets it. 100% worth reading though and some truly brilliant insights/hopeful conclusions.

  13. 5 out of 5

    ArwendeLuhtiene

    +1 I found the book engaging and enjoyable to read, for the most part. +1 Feminist criticism of the patriarchal society of Shakespeare's time and the sexism that can be found in the treatment of some of his female characters (such as The Taming of the Shrew). Tina Packer tackles some interesting problems, such as patriarchal religion and its treatment of women, the limited roles of women in a male-dominated society, abusive relationships, binary 'femininity' and 'masculinity' constructs, and how +1 I found the book engaging and enjoyable to read, for the most part. +1 Feminist criticism of the patriarchal society of Shakespeare's time and the sexism that can be found in the treatment of some of his female characters (such as The Taming of the Shrew). Tina Packer tackles some interesting problems, such as patriarchal religion and its treatment of women, the limited roles of women in a male-dominated society, abusive relationships, binary 'femininity' and 'masculinity' constructs, and how powerful/strong/intelligent women are so easily demonized. +1 The author also criticizes other problematic societal elements, such as war and the concept of 'honour'. -1 However, while I generally 100% agree with her when she tackles feminist issues, Packer does not always criticize problematic patriarchal issues as much in some parts of the book. For example while she criticizes binary gender roles in some cases, in others she seems to use those gender roles and biological determinism-based ideas in order to support other arguments; or she praises some female characters for 'redeeming their fathers' in Shakespeare's later plays, an idea that actually promotes patriarchal ideas; etc. -1 Packer also often idealizes romantic relationships and the construct of 'love' ("sexual/spiritual merging" is a phrase I became pretty fed up with as the reading progressed :S xD), to the point that, in my opinion, she overlooks some problematic elements in many of the relationships portrayed by Shakespeare (Antony and Cleopatra, for example). In my opinion, she often mistakes sex/lust/physical attraction with a 'spiritual' experience that 'makes the world better' - A very idealized mindset that can be problematic in the sense that it also promotes a deep emotional dependence, much in the way of traditional (patriarchal) fairytales (the author actually praises the idea of the lovers dying 'for love'/not wanting to live after the other dies, for example - not a healthy mindset or a role model to follow). -1 While her style I find engaging and easy to read, Packer also shows a lack of objectivity in the way she writes in more than one occasion, sometimes stating her opinions and interpretations as objective facts. Something that I found particularly grating is the way Packer (actively? unconsciously?) completely erases Shakespeare's bisexuality. She focuses on heteronormativity everywhere and doesn't seem to accept that Shakespeare had affairs with men and male lovers -She actually enhances and idealizes her own interpretation of his relationship with the 'Dark Lady' for example, while calling the Earl of Southampton, Shakespeare's very probable lover, 'his friend' - an heteronormative interpretation stated as fact.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Sallie

    I don't normally read books about Shakespeare, believing fervently that Shakespeare needs to be experienced, both his plays and their value--NOT studied. (I learned early on that studying Shakespeare can make a lifelong hater of Shakespeare out of people, whereas experiencing a good production of one of his plays can do the exact opposite.) However, this particular title intrigued me, so I checked out the book from my library and read it over a period of about two months (renewed it without a pr I don't normally read books about Shakespeare, believing fervently that Shakespeare needs to be experienced, both his plays and their value--NOT studied. (I learned early on that studying Shakespeare can make a lifelong hater of Shakespeare out of people, whereas experiencing a good production of one of his plays can do the exact opposite.) However, this particular title intrigued me, so I checked out the book from my library and read it over a period of about two months (renewed it without a problem because no one was waiting for it). In this treatise about the role of women in Shakespeare's life and his understanding of them in a time when they had few rights and little impact on the world (unless they were rulers), Tina Packer provided me with many insights that were completely fresh. She chronologically traces Shakespeare's maturation as a human with his deepening awareness and appreciation of the female side of the human spectrum. As an important side-note, let me stress that although it's helpful to be familiar with Shakespeare's oeuvre, Packer fills in the reader with essential plots and plot-twists, so the points she makes are manageable to follow. I took such a long time reading it because there's so much to think about in it. As an avid reader, I often mix non-fiction with fiction, reading at least two books simultaneously, but this one took longer, for whatever reason. The net effect on me after reading it has caused my renewed interest in re-reading several of his plays, reading several more for the first time, and maybe even going out of my way to find local productions. I've never been afraid of Shakespeare--always finding much to think about and (hopefully) enjoy in his theatrical trove. But I've awakened to some possibilities not heretofore appreciated or contemplated. Thank you, Tina Packer!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Pilar

    The book is interesting and easy to read, And she often (not always) makes a good criticism of religion/patriarchal society from a feminist point of view, highlighting women's oppression by both institutions. BUT Tina Packer, -who has got most of her knowledge of Shakespeare's plays through her directing and performing them-, analizes and studies them from a point of view, -her point of view-, that many times makes it difficult for her to see things as they are (non accepting Shakespeare's bisexu The book is interesting and easy to read, And she often (not always) makes a good criticism of religion/patriarchal society from a feminist point of view, highlighting women's oppression by both institutions. BUT Tina Packer, -who has got most of her knowledge of Shakespeare's plays through her directing and performing them-, analizes and studies them from a point of view, -her point of view-, that many times makes it difficult for her to see things as they are (non accepting Shakespeare's bisexuality, for example; idealizing "sex/love" as a "sexual/spiritual merging" (Romeo and Juliet, Antony and Cleopatra...).

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    There are some interesting bits, but overall this book was a disappointment. Many of Packer’s assertions about Shakespeare rely upon the authority of her personal experience (rather than, say, well-structured argument or disciplined scholarship), and tend toward a limited, proscriptive reading of his plays.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Brendan Linwood

    Though it undeniably presents an interesting premise - an exploration of the man Shakespeare through the female characters he wrote - the author did little to make this a readable essay. Her writing is at times academic and frigid, and at others parenthetical and familiar. The intersection made it difficult to read more than a passage at a time, as the constant shift of tone was exhausting. As is necessary with Shakespeare, because we have so little evidence of his life beyond his work, she make Though it undeniably presents an interesting premise - an exploration of the man Shakespeare through the female characters he wrote - the author did little to make this a readable essay. Her writing is at times academic and frigid, and at others parenthetical and familiar. The intersection made it difficult to read more than a passage at a time, as the constant shift of tone was exhausting. As is necessary with Shakespeare, because we have so little evidence of his life beyond his work, she makes some imaginative leaps to tell the story of his life as she sees it relating to his work. However, I found the number and enormity of these gaps to be altogether too large, and as a result, much of her argument was, to me, unconvincing. What was engaging to me was her analysis of the work itself; her breakdown of each and every female character in each and every play was thorough, insightful, and opened my eyes to new and exciting ways to read the text. It was when she strayed from that enterprise to attempt to speak to the life of the author as he wrote these incredible women that Packer lost me.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Becky Raeta

    Overall, I did enjoy this book and its insights. I picked it up thinking that it would be introspective pieces on each female character. I’m currently working on a piece of my own about Ophelia and was really looking forward on what I could get from this book. Unfortunately, there’s barely a couple of paragraphs on her (even though I find her a fascinating and underrated character within theatre), so I didn’t learn much on that front. I DID learn a lot, however, about the arc women took over the Overall, I did enjoy this book and its insights. I picked it up thinking that it would be introspective pieces on each female character. I’m currently working on a piece of my own about Ophelia and was really looking forward on what I could get from this book. Unfortunately, there’s barely a couple of paragraphs on her (even though I find her a fascinating and underrated character within theatre), so I didn’t learn much on that front. I DID learn a lot, however, about the arc women took over the course of his collection, and how their themes could be considered a large part of why Shakespeare’s work is so relatable today. My other wish is that it didn’t take so much of a focus on her play Women of Will, or her partnership with the male actor she was so often cast across. It’s rather dependent on us seeing the piece, and those passages serve more of her ego than anything that’ll help her arguments.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn Harris

    A engaging study of how portrayals of women evolved in Shakespeare's plays over the course of his career, informed by the author's extensive experience performing, directing and teaching all the plays except Cymbeline. Although Packer has conducted a wide range of research concerning Shakespeare's life and work, the narrative is a very personal one, incorporating her feelings performing the female roles and the decisions that she has made as a director. The book is strongest when it focuses clos A engaging study of how portrayals of women evolved in Shakespeare's plays over the course of his career, informed by the author's extensive experience performing, directing and teaching all the plays except Cymbeline. Although Packer has conducted a wide range of research concerning Shakespeare's life and work, the narrative is a very personal one, incorporating her feelings performing the female roles and the decisions that she has made as a director. The book is strongest when it focuses closely on the plays. Packer's speculation concerning what Shakespeare might have been thinking at any given time in his life is sometimes distracting as there is so much that is still unknown about his life experiences. A fascinating read, especially immediately after watching a Shakespeare performance.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ross Nelson

    This book is a mess, but it's an interesting mess. In her considerable experience acting, directing, watching, and reading Shakespeare, she's created an image of him in her mind. This is the Shakespeare she discusses, whether or not it conforms to what is known. There are a number of places where she says, Scholars agree on X but I think Y, while providing zero evidence. She also perpetuates the myth that scholars of Shakespeares day were debating whether women had souls or not. This simply isn' This book is a mess, but it's an interesting mess. In her considerable experience acting, directing, watching, and reading Shakespeare, she's created an image of him in her mind. This is the Shakespeare she discusses, whether or not it conforms to what is known. There are a number of places where she says, Scholars agree on X but I think Y, while providing zero evidence. She also perpetuates the myth that scholars of Shakespeares day were debating whether women had souls or not. This simply isn't true. Some of her readings of the posts are also misinformed - she suggests Prospero and Sycorax had been lovers, but all he knows about her he learned from Ariel. Such issues aside, she does have a great love of Shakespeare and his characters, and brings a good deal of experience and insight when she's not in thrall to her own point of view.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Margaret

    I gave this book two stars instead of one because I did find it somewhat interesting to see how a theater person might approach Shakespeare's plays. Although I've seen a number of Shakespeare's plays performed, my background has been literary, rather than theatrical. So it was a bit interesting to approach it all another way. That said, I don't think the book is really described accurately; it somewhat emphasizes the women who are characters in the plays, but it's really at least as much about Sh I gave this book two stars instead of one because I did find it somewhat interesting to see how a theater person might approach Shakespeare's plays. Although I've seen a number of Shakespeare's plays performed, my background has been literary, rather than theatrical. So it was a bit interesting to approach it all another way. That said, I don't think the book is really described accurately; it somewhat emphasizes the women who are characters in the plays, but it's really at least as much about Shakespeare. And most of what's there about Shakespeare is speculative. The author does imagine Shakespeare as a human being, and how his life may have intersected with his work. But it really is mostly speculative. Mildly interesting, enough that I finished it, but not really what I expected, and mostly not in a good way.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jackie

    I was disappointed with this book. It went back and forth with Shakespeare, the history of the period, and the authors time as an actor/director of Shakespeare. It didn't flow well. She also wishes time retelling each Shakespeare story, which great for people who don't know it but it took up a lot of space that more research or information or an argument could go. It was an ok book but I found myself skipping portions of it

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    You know those brain studies where different parts of the brain light up when they are stimulated? That's what I felt while I was reading this. So many new ways to look at the plays and the world. Deeply thoughtful and yet conversationally written; challenging, inspiring and accessible. Tina Packer is a wonderful companion through the canon. I followed up this reading by seeing a performance of the piece by Packer and Nigel Gore at Shakespeare and Company, which I recommend very highly.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Wendy

    I don't read a lot of literary criticism, but this book was very clear and Packer's arguments were compelling. She claims that Shakespeare experienced a profound love before he wrote Romeo and Juliet and this love transformed his understanding of women. His new insight is shown in his depiction of female characters in his remaining work.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Randy Mulchin

    I was not sure what I expected when I got this book,but believe me I was in no way disappointed. Tina Packer has written the most wonderful,thoughtful,and thought provoking history of not only Shakespeare,but feminism and human nature/nurture. I heartily recommend this book to any and every man who wants to explore feminism from a surprising vantage.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Young__Tulip

    Great idea, not executed to its full potential. I thought Packer's experience as artist/actor/director of Shakespeare's plays would be insightful. However, she often took it too far as the thrust of her argument instead of an analysis.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Olivia

    I thought this book was very informational and thought-provoking. Definitely a great read for anyone who loves Shakespeare.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    Exceptional non-fiction audio book read by the incredible Shakespeare scholar, director and actress Tina Packer. If "Women of Will" the stage production ever comes to your town-see it!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Alyssa Grady

    A must read for any fan of Shakespeare.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    Oh, Tina Packer! I don't know why I'm giving you two stars for this book. The claims in this book are often totally outrageous.

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