Whenever I see Shakespeare performed well, I'm not only inspired to achieve more in my own art, I'm reminded of the heart and passion all of us as human beings are capable of in a way other plays can't express. He's able to blend four core aspects of humanity with his language: mind, heart, body, and soul. As a performer, acting Shakespeare is a truly athletic endeavor, demanding vocal and physical precision. It's not for sissies! And one of the most interesting aspects of Shakespeare was his ability to create some of the most fascinating and unforgettable women in drama.

I asked the head of UNC School of the Arts' voice and speech department, Mary Irwin, who she believed were the strongest women in the entire Shakespearean canon. These were her top five. Enjoy!