There really wasn’t much carousing among women back in the old days – or at least not in the classical literature. We have a lot of carousing men. We have Sir Toby Belch, Falstaff and Claudius here in this play but even when women are around in these scenes, they don’t really get to do any carousing themselves. They usually bring the drinks. One of the things I love about Gertrude is this choice to carouse to her son, when carousing is not women’s usual way.
I love that she chooses to do it and that she refuses to yield to Claudius’ order that she not. I mean, sure, it kills her but I love that her last act is one of rebellion. She bucks her gender role twice. One, to carouse in the first place and two, to refuse to obey her husband and her king.
Now a woman carousing has become fairly commonplace. Girls have gone wild at bachelorette parties, showers and brunches and as much as most of those gatherings are repugnant to me, it does signal that a girl CAN get away with carousing now. Carousing is no longer out of our gender lane.