Shakespeare in Kabul
From the Spectator -
"Putting on a production of Shakespeare in Kabul is perhaps even more momentous than it sounds. The Taleban’s notorious Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice would never have permitted the performance of an English play with female actresses. Even in the era of ‘blind optimism’ permeating Afghanistan in 2005, the production represented an affront to prevailing beliefs; as one of the leading factors states boldly at the outset, ‘we could challenge the whole country.’ The gravity of the challenge is evident from the fate of one of his female colleagues, who is hounded with her family from Afghanistan, her husband murdered seemingly because of her participation in the play. Many in Afghanistan still do not think it is right for women to act, and will take it into their own hands to enforce such values."
Women did not act in Shakespeare's plays when they were produced, but women in 16th and 17th England played far different and varied roles than they are allowed to play in Afghanistan today. As we keep banging on, that is one reason that Britain succeeded on the stage of life.
Shakespeare himself was shaped by his culture, even as he shaped it. He invented wise, strong, compassionate, and charming heroines because he had met them.