The author of these plays portrays a number of intimate woman-to-woman relationships. These relationships are not included in the source materials from which the playwright borrowed the plot; the addition of a second female consistently creates close and complex female relationships on stage. The bonds between these women are strong and supportive, as opposed to the male relationships which often tend to be destructive. This of course does not prove that a woman wrote the plays!  Yet it is an interesting feature to ponder, especially considering no other playwright of the time wrote such profound relationships between women.

Close Female Relationships

  • Paulina and Hermione in The Winter’s Tale.
  • Hermia and Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
  • Rosalind and Celia in As You Like It.
  • Desdemona and Emilia in Othello.
  • Beatrice and Hero in Much Ado About Nothing.
  • Queen Margaret, Queen Elizabeth, Queen Ann, and the Duchess of York in Richard III.
  • Maria and Olivia in Twelfth Night.
  • Adriana and Luciana (sisters) in The Comedy of Errors.
  • Julia and Silvia in The Two Gentlemen of Verona.
  • The Princess of France, Rosaline, Maria, and Katherine in Love’s Labor’s Lost.
  • Portia and Nerissa in The Merchant of Venice.
  • Mistress Ford and Mistress Page in The Merry Wives of Windsor.
  • Juliet and her Nurse in Romeo and Juliet.
  • Cleopatra with Charmian and Iras in Antony and Cleopatra.
  • Volumnia, Virgilia, and Valeria in Coriolanus.



Shakespeare has no heroes—he has only heroines.  —John Ruskin (1819–1900)