Opinion: Genius transcends gender



Cassandra Adams

In a literature course here at Kent State, the professor said these words while giving a lecture, and for some reason they stuck out: “Genius transcends gender.”

After furiously scribbling them down on a spare piece of paper — writers have a habit of doing this — I recently came back to it reminiscing on the lecture.

The class discussion was about Shakespeare, and after reviewing some of his poems, the next task was — yes you guessed it — Romeo and Juliet.

Ego intact, I thought this would be another review of the same play that had been shoved down our throats in every English class in high school.

Wasn’t this college?

Under this impression, can you believe how surprised I was, mid-doodle, to hear the professor bring up the possibility that Shakespeare was a woman?

And there I was under the impression that it was going to be the usual review. Instead, we went into an in-depth review of the complexity of this legendary play that has maintained its place in the literary world, classrooms and box offices.

To top it all off, this love story, that has even made its way as the theme of one of Taylor Swift’s biggest songs, had yet another layer. The motivation behind the text, she argued, was not really Romeo, but in fact, Juliet.

The context is actually of Juliet’s coming of age and identity — something that many young people and college students can relate to. This type of theme is universal and allows it to reach people since it was written to the present day.

So what’s the reasoning behind why Shakespeare could be a woman, some even say his wife? Because the understanding of the female role and her place in society seemed so innately captured, that it is arguable that a man could not have this type of awareness. But, don’t shoot the messenger.

During that time, it was common for a female writer to use a pen name in order to appeal more to readers and gain more recognition. This practice hasn’t left us yet. J.K. Rowling did something similar by following her editor’s advice in initialing her name to make her books more marketable.

So, was the legendary Shakespeare actually a woman?

While it may never be discovered in our time, the point the professor allowed for debate was that whether, male or female, in any field, and in this case literature, any of the distinguishing writers – Twain, Dickinson, Austen, Hemmingway, Clifton and Shakespeare – could overcome social and gender norms, allowing them the ability to understand human nature universally and give the audience a chance to re-define the way we think and live.

Cassandra Adams is a junior newspaper journalism and English major, and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].