The function of women in Shakespearean comedy
Although boys fill the roles, Shakespeare's women are not at all masculine either in character or in conduct. They act as we should expect women to do, and they serve the Comic Muse as only women can. I think we shall find that as a general rule they are directing the whip rather than feeling its sting. They punish men for disregarding the social pattern or for overemphasizing it. As far as any generalization about the sexes is true, it is probably fair to say that women are more practical than men. They are less deceived by forms and more likely to obey the dictates of common sense, because theories and abstract ideas do not interest them greatly. Hence women are usually, although not always, on the side of normality. Most often we shall find them cooperating with the Comic Muse, her hand-maidens rather than her victims.
Master of Arts (M.A.)