13. Rosalind (As You Like It) Rosalind is one of the most famous of Shakespeare’s gender-bending women. When her uncle the Duke banishes her, she stands up to him, ‘asking what the hell’? He responds ‘I don’t trust you!’ to which she stubbornly protests “Yet your mistrust cannot make me a traitor.” He won’t relent so she decides to cut losses and leave.BUT WAIT! “Were it not better,/ Because that I am more than common tall,/ That I did suit me all points like a man?” Dressed up like a dude, she heads into the forest of Arden with Celia and the fool Touchstone, where she wrecks merry havoc on gender roles, forces Orlando into a sexual identity crisis, and ends the play with a rather saucy epilogue: "...If I were a woman I would kiss as many of you as had beards that pleased me..."Points off for bad-mouthing the inherent nature of ladies but still pretty badass. 12. Celia (As You Like It) Ok, Celia wasn’t originally on this list, but rereading As You Like It, I realized that actually, she’s pretty kickass. Her dad is banishing her cousin on pain of death and she has the guts to stand up to him, saying boldly, “if she be a traitor,/ Why so am I.” When Rosalind prepares to leave, Celia refuses to be left behind: “…by this heaven, now at our sorrows pale,/ Say what thou canst, I'll go along with thee.” She’s actually a really interesting character, with Shakespeare hinting at homoerotic tension between her and the cross-dressed Rosalind. Also, she turns out to be the rational rock of strength when Rosalind goes into pieces over Orlando. Celia might just be the sassy gay friend of the play. Bonus: she takes Rosalind to task for fooling around: “You have simply misused our sex in your love-prate.” 11. Hermia (A Midsummer Night's Dream) Hermia might not be the most obviously badass character but let's look at her first appearance in the play. Her dad has dragged her to the most powerful man around and demanded she marry the dude he picked out for her. Asshole goes on to say: "As she is mine, I may dispose of her:/ Which shall be either to this gentleman/ Or to her death." The Duke (who btw, is not a nice guy based on his treatment of his captured Amazonian wife) basically tells her that she should consider her dad a god and listen to him. Hermia replies by first saying, "I know not by what power I am made bold," and then proves to be worthy of her place on this list:So will I grow, so live, so die, my lord,Ere I will my virgin patent upUnto his lordship, whose unwished yokeMy soul consents not to give sovereignty. OH SNAP, you go girl! She literally fights against the patriarchy, literally, her pater (dad), and the Duke, and all the dumbass laws that say she has to obey or die. Ain't no man gonna touch her unless she wants him to. 10. Paulina (The Winter's Tale) Paulina is a bit of an unknown character, over shadowed by Hermione and Perdita in Winter’s Tale. However, if you take a good look at her, she’s a powerhouse. So King Leontes goes nuts and accuses his Queen, Hermione, of adultery. Everyone is like, ‘da fuck?’ ‘cause this pretty much comes out of nowhere. Paulina decides that she’ll be the one to try and reason with the King and tell him about the kid that Hermione JUST GAVE BIRTH TO, since “the office/ Becomes a woman best,” plus Paulina is really smart and witty etc. As she puts it:I'll use that tongue I have: if wit flow from't As boldness from my bosom, let 't not be doubted I shall do good. She backs Hermione 100% and isn’t afraid to tell the King that he’s being a royal dumbass. By the end of the play, she’s the ringmaster, guiding the King into a revelation about the ‘statue’ of his wife. Paulina, my hat goes off to you. 9. Olivia (Twelfth Night) Olivia is a noblewoman, rich, and has Duke Orsino completely head-over-heels for her. Unfortunately for him, she ain’t havin’ him. And why should she? She’s not in love with him, she has her own household that she’s in charge of, her own nobility…she’s living the dream, as far as being an independent woman during Shakespeare’s time. She has no reason to get married except...love.Now this bit I love—Viola, trying to woo Olivia on Orsino’s behalf, tries to pull some shit about how it’s Olivia’s biological duty to pass on her beauty. Exasperated, she replies, ‘you know what?’… I will giveout divers schedules of my beauty: it shall beinventoried, and every particle and utensillabelled to my will: as, item, two lips,indifferent red; item, two grey eyes, with lids tothem; item, one neck, one chin, and so forth.Basically, Olivia refuses to be treated as a body, not a person. When she does fall in love, this lady is PROACTIVE. She goes for what she wants, and turns the wooing on the wooer, dragging her chosen mate to the altar. 8. Juliet (Romeo and Juliet) Let me start off by saying that I sort of hateHATEhate Romeo and Juliet. That having been said, I have to admit that Juliet is a rather rebellious lady. Think about it; her dad is telling her she HAS to get married to her cousin, her mom is telling her, tough, I was having babies by your age, and literally no one is giving her an option she can live with. So she takes matters into her own hands, marries the guy she loves, and when he’s dead, instead of stepping back meekly into the yoke of patriarchy to be married off, she exits stage left. Not saying any of what she did was right, but gotta give the girl credit- she walked her own path and damn the consequences. Still a better feminist than Bella Swan. Kind of. 7. The Abbess Emilia (The Comedy of Errors) Little-known character appreciation time. How ‘bout the Abbess in The Comedy of Errors? Spoilers: her name is Emilia and she’s the undercover mother of the play’s two brothers. She survived a storm on sea that literally cut a ship in half, became an abbess, and when she has a mob of people literally beating down her door to get to a couple of fugitives, she refuses to let them in (“No, not a creature enters in my house”). She also gives out kind of hilarious advice: when her secret daughter-in-law complains that her husband’s never at home, the Abbess basically gives her sex tips. The crowd gathered gets pissed and goes to the most powerful man in the city with their complaints. When they all get to the abbey, she takes control and reveals the play’s mystery, at the same time rescuing her long-lost hubby: “Whoever bound him, I will loose his bonds/ And gain a husband by his liberty.” She’s pretty badass.Also, her first line? “Be quiet, people.” Priceless. 6. Cordelia (King Lear) When her dad starts wheedling for her to declare that she loves him more than annnnyyytthhing in the whole wide world, she says no, even though it gets her disinherited. As she puts it, "I am sure, my love's/ More richer than my tongue," aka, 'Dad, you don't have to buy my love, actions are stronger than words.' Sadly, Dad's more than a little nuts and disinherits her anyway.She marries her suitor the King of France, who's really impressed and actually states that his love has turned to respect ("Gods, gods! 'tis strange that from their cold'st neglect/My love should kindle to inflamed respect.") Now, I'm pretty sure if she had just stayed in France she would have lived happily ever after. Instead, she leads an army back to her homeland, to rescue her dad and take over. It doesn't work but DAMN that gurl has some guts. 5. Cleopatra (Antony and Cleopatra) Cleopatra is a hell of a woman and a hell of a character to pin down. She’s not one of my favorites but she definitely belongs on this list for a couple of reasons. First off, she’s a master manipulator: Marc Antony admits, “She is cunning past man's thought.” She’s headstrong: when her lady in waiting advises, “In each thing give him [Antony] way, cross him nothing,” Cleo replies “Thou teachest like a fool; the way to lose him.” Cleopatra really shows her guts once Antony is dead. When her enemy Octavius Caesar triumphs, he’s desperate to keep her alive, a prisoner, and a trophy to take home. When his forces draw near, he advises them to watch out, “Lest, in her greatness, by some mortal stroke/ She do defeat us. ”Cleo ain’t havin’ none of that trophy shit. She draws her ladies to her, kisses one to death (literally), then takes her life in defiance of Caesar (“Ah, women, women! come; we have no friend/ But resolution, and the briefest end.”) Mr. Caesar Salad ends up grudgingly admiring her: “Bravest at the last,/She levell'd at our purposes, and, being royal,/Took her own way.” Unfortunately, she spends the majority of the play entirely too obsessed with Antony—we’ve all known someone like Cleopatra, someone who’s crushing madly on somebody, and can’t stop thinking about them, what they’re doing, etc. etc. She’s a problematic character but a badass in her own way. 4. The Weird Sisters (Macbeth) Not just a band from Harry Potter! Not only do these three witches have Macbeth eating out of their hand, begging for more info, they also get to use cool words like "hurlyburly," make potions with seriously nasty ingredients, and go around making mischief. Also, they're under the authority of another bitchin' lady, the goddess Hecate. Also, also they get some of the best and most memorable lines in the play, like "Double, double toil and trouble;/ Fire burn and cauldron bubble," and "By the pricking of my thumbs,/ Something wicked this way comes." 3. Katharina (The Taming of the Shrew) This one might throw you for a loop for a second, ‘cause The Taming of the Shrew ain’t what most would call a feminist play. Or, anyone really. But hear me out.Katharina, also known as Kate, is what they called a shrew back in the day—she says what she wants, does what she wants, and damn everyone who tells her otherwise. The men of the play are AFRAID of her, and with good reason. She takes their patriarchy and stuffs it down their throats - the whole play is devoted to taking this lady DOWN. Enter Petruchio, add in a little humiliation, manhandling, forced sleep deprivation, denial of food, terrorizing shows of violence, and you have a made-to-order-bride. Her last speech is enough to make anyone, woman or man, barf and die a little on the inside. That last speech can be played in a lot of different ways – Kate can be shown as a mocking figure, making fun of the men who tried to dominate her. It can be used to highlight the extreme measures that were used to bring her to her knees (essentially making fun of Petruchio’s ‘wife-taming’). It can (should) make people feel uneasy about how women are treated by society. I think one of her best lines is "I see a woman may be made a fool,/ If she had not a spirit to resist." And hell, she resists, through what was essentially torture. When she stops resisting, it's more than a little heartbreaking and I think that's exactly what Shakespeare intended.Anyway, the fact is Katharina is a towering figure of strength and a rebel against the strictures of her man-ruled world. RESPECT. 2. Lady Macbeth (Macbeth) Lady Macbeth puts the BAD in badass. Her hubby comes to her and hints that maybe they could kill the king when he’s spending the night at their place and take over his throne. Her response? “Look like the innocent flower,/But be the serpent under't.” When Macbeth changes his mind, she verbal bitch-slaps him, saying ‘BE A MAN AND GET YO’ ASS MOVING.’ Lady M is powerful and more than a little scary. It’s safe to say, without her, ehem, pep talk, Macbeth probably wouldn’t have killed the king. She even rearranges the scene of the crime when Macbeth goes catatonic, getting blood all over her hands. This of course prompts her eventual descent into madness and suicide (“Out, damned spot! out, I say!”), so while she’s a badass lady, she miigghtt not be the best role-model. 1. Beatrice (Much Ado About Nothing) Beatrice is my absolute favorite character and the queen of this list. She’s witty, she’s bold, she’s wonderfully saucy (“Speak, cousin; or, if you cannot, stop his mouth/ with a kiss, and let not him speak neither.”) and she puts up with very little bullshit. She KNOWS she’s the equal of Benedick, the male lead, boasting that “In our last/ conflict four of his five wits went halting off, and/ now is the whole man governed with one.” The Prince himself falls in love with her and she turns him down. She’s one of the few female characters in Shakespeare without a dominating father figure in the background and one of the few who isn’t completely ruled by her heart over her mind—what I mean by that is that even though she loves Benedick, even though she can act silly and moon a bit over him, she also gets genuinely angry with him and at times refuses to play the role of a woman in love. (Benedick: “Do not you love me?” Beatrice: “Why, no; no more than reason.”) She’s loyal to her cousin Hero, unrelentingly demands justice, and what’s more, this character? She GETS female oppression. Beatrice has a terrible understanding of how little power she has in traditional society and she aches, she rages with it. Benedick tries to calm her down after Hero is betrayed at the altar—she’ll have none of it. “O God, that I were a man! I would eat his heart/ in the market-place.” She knows Hero was wronged and knows that as a woman, she can’t act in retaliation. In her world, a man’s word trumps the actions of a woman—Hero didn’t have a chance against Claudio and she herself has no power to challenge him.Princes and counties! Surely, a princely testimony,a goodly count, Count Comfect; a sweet gallant,surely! O that I were a man for his sake! or that Ihad any friend would be a man for my sake! Butmanhood is melted into courtesies, valour intocompliment, and men are only turned into tongue, andtrim ones too: he is now as valiant as Herculesthat only tells a lie and swears it. I cannot be aman with wishing, therefore I will die a woman with grieving.She recognizes the faults in the patriarchal system, where not only does SHE not have power, but ultimately, men are hypocrites, turning against their own ideas of manhood. When Benedick tries to distract her saying, “Tarry, good Beatrice. By this hand, I love thee,” she demands that he, “Use it for my love some other way than swearing by it.” Yup, Beatrice is 110% done with male bullshit. She does eventually accept Benedick’s hand in marriage, saying, “…I yield/ upon great persuasion; and partly to save your life…” All-in-all, she’s an amazing character, flawed, human, fun, and strong.