In Henry IV, it is the women who speak the truth: ‘No, Sir John,’ Mistress Quickly says to Falstaff when he insists he knows she has been hostess to petty crime. ‘You do not know me, Sir John; I know you, Sir John.’ As with Lady Percy, it is the idea of women being in possession of the truth that is the affront. The ensuing crisis produced one of the most unsettling moments of this production. Falstaff responds with sexual insult; to Shakespeare’s bawdy and already offensive repertoire, the players added one or two even more vulgar barbs of their own. Whereupon Mistress Quickly rushed weeping from the stage—‘We said we weren’t going to do that bit, we said we weren’t going to say those things’—as if the actors had violated a prior ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ not to go too far. You do a double take before realising all this has been rehearsed. They then repeated the scene with the offending lines excised. Words damage. Lloyd and her cast were making a crucial—but by no means simple—feminist point. Only if we face, or even stage, the worst misogyny, thereby bearing perverse witness to its power, might there be the slightest chance for women to rewrite and efface the script.

Jacqueline Rose, “At the Donmar”