Be prepared, Shakespeare is about to show his ugly mug once again.
Anyway, back in Shakespeare's time there were little or no female actors. It just wasn't acceptable. This does not mean that there were no female parts, as we well know. Most of the female parts were played by young boys. Now Shakespeare was pretty worried about the psyches of these boys (or at least that is what my Shakepeare professor used to argue). So he created situations in his plays that would allow these boys to get back into pants, britches, leggins, or what have you. These have been some of my favorite plays, I love the drama of will the girl be discovered?
This tradition of putting girls into pants with their hair cut short and their chests bound flat continues, especially in manga. The reasons for it range from wanting to get an education denied because of their sex to just wanting to be close to the boy they like. Here or some of my favorites and a few extras thrown in.
Alanna: The First Adventure (The Song of the Lioness) The Lioness Rampant Books by Tamora Pierce are all about a girl who disguises herself as her brother so that she can train to be a knight. This series is awesome and created a whole world for Pierces books that have gone on to inspire girls everywhere.
Hana-Kimi, Vol. 1: For You In Full Blossom Mizuki Ashiya is American, but she has been in love with Izumi Sano ever since she saw him perform a high-jump on television. Determined to meet her idol, she convinces her parents to send her to the same high school in Japan, not telling them that it is actually an all boy's school.
The Education of Bet Here is another one where the girl is denied an education and takes her brother's place at the all-boy English Boarding School he was to attend. In this case, it is her foster brother and there is an underlying mystery surrounding her true parentage.
Leviathan Okay, bad, bad, bad, librarian! Don't booktalk a book you haven't read! But I want to read it; I really do. It is even sitting on my shelf right now. But I will let the guys over at Unshelved explain it better than I could. Click
If you know of any others, put them in the comments below.