Richard III

Performing Gender in Shakespeare

Find and research a female actor in history (not listed above in the resources) who has played a role in a Shakespeare play that is traditionally played by a male actor. Alternatively, find and research a male actor that has played a role in a Shakespeare play that is traditionally played by a female actor.

What part did they play and what sort of technical and social challenges do you think may have arisen in doing so?

As part of your research

  • Find production images or a promotional poster from of the production that features that actor/actress.
  • Did the actor/actress play the role as their own gender, therefore changing the story, or did they alter their performance to play the role in the gender it was originally written for?
  • If they kept true to the original, what technical elements or theatrical techniques may they have used to achieve the role in a gender that is not their own, i.e. costume, voice, gesture?
  • Search for two reviews of the performance. How was it received, were the reviews positive or negative, and what were the reviewer’s reasons?


  • What do you think the director’s intentions may have been in casting the play in this way?
  • How do you think the casting changes the relationships in the play, if at all?
  • Do you think this alternative casting may have affected the overall meaning of the play? Does it open up new discoveries or expose some underlying prejudices that are embedded in the play?

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