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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 , 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 , 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 isacademic 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 nothan 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 n e 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 becamerhythmic 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 evenso, 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 twofamous 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 fianc e 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 becomerounded 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 isreminiscent 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 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 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 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 [ Download Ebook ] ♝ Women of Will: Following the Feminine in Shakespeare's Plays ♞ 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 thatShakespeare 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 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 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 I wasn t charmed by her destination, but the journey was interesting. 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 inthan 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 WOMEN OF WILL The Feminine in Shakespeare s Playby Tina Packer reviewed by Tracy MarksA brilliant presentation of Shakespeare s development and portrayal of female charactersWhen 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 Playby Tina Packer reviewed by Tracy MarksA brilliant presentation of Shakespeare s development and portrayal of female charactersWhen 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 playsfully 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 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 truedespite 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 ShakespeareCo 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 yeahalso this is my first book of SUMMMERRRR YAYAYAYAYAYAY 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 dealto say, and Packer makes a significant contribution