I agree. There is too long a delay between equipping the shield and, say, striking with the sword. It may be easier if you could "equip" both sword and shield at the same time, kind of like in The Axys Adventures, so it would be one short movement to switch from one to the other in combat.
However, you would then probably have to "unequip" them before you could use the bow, adding one more fun layer of challenge to that weapon. After all, you need to have both hands free to fire a bow. Also, I do like your idea of being able to dodge or side-step while in arrow-firing mode.
I suppose that might make sword battles a little more clunky though, if you have to press a button before he will grab his sword; I definitely like the way he grabs his sword and slashes with one click right now.