Introduction: Jardine pinpoints trends in feminist scholarship of Shakespeare:
1. Shakespeare "held a mirror up to nature" in terms of the types of women he wrote. He does not privilege one social viewpoint over another, and his characters are varied in scope and type.
2. Shakespeare was a chauvinistic playwright from a chauvinistic society. There are two forms of this view, "non- aggressive" and "aggressive."
- Non- aggressive: WS did his best not to be sexist, but was limited by the views and mores of his society.
- Aggressive: WS was an obvious sexist. The author proceeds to point out instances of sexism in the plays and poems.
Chapter One - " As boys and women are for the most part cattle of the same color: Female Roles and Elizabethan Eroticism"
Jardine starts by debunking a myth that most high schools (mine included) are probably responsible for propagating: the fact that boys were playing female parts was not something EM audiences noticed; it was like scenery to them. I agree that this seems absurd, especially given the number of jokes about the practice in EM dramas (Cleopatra's line about "pip-squeak boys [putting her] i'th' posture of a whore," that joke about Helen of Troy in Faustus, and tons more).
She then discusses how crossdressing in theatres related to both sumptuary laws and anti-theatrical pamphlets, finishing the chapter by differentiating between two types of cross-dressing roles: those that are about the maleness of the boy actor, and those that are about the femaleness of the woman character as embodies by boys for titillation of audiences. As You Like It's Rosalind is one example of the former, and the bulk of Jardine's discussion of the latter centers around Portia and Jessica from The Merchant of Venice. She points out the number of instances in both plays where gender is poked fun at and questioned (Rosalind's taking of the name Ganymede and all of its homosexual/homosocial implications in the wooing lessons that follow; Portia's blushing and stammering in men's clothes before her triumphant speech). I had never really though about how the same stage practice reads differently in those plays, so that was interesting to think about.