56 pages 1 hour read

William Shakespeare

As You Like It

Fiction | Play | Adult | Published in 1599

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Themes

The Fluidity of Gender Roles

As You Like It raises and challenges contemporary notions of gender, primarily through the character of Rosalind. Rosalind displays far more agency and power than is typical for a female character in Shakespeare’s time. Although banished by her uncle from her family home, in the forest Rosalind takes charge of her situation and achieves her desires through her ruse to deceive Orlando. Rosalind therefore expresses much of her agency in the guise of a man, Ganymede—though as a man she spends a lot of time pretending to be herself, a woman. By freely flowing between man and woman as the situation requires, Rosalind manipulates other characters, including Orlando and the shepherdess Phoebe, into doing what she wants. Rosalind also freely calls attention to her play with gender, making cryptic comments to other characters about her disguised identity. For example, when disguised as Ganymede she comments that she is a fake to Oliver. When Oliver says that she lacks a man’s heart, Ganymede responds, “I pray you tell your brother how well I / counterfeited” (IV.3.177-178). Here, Oliver does not realize that Rosalind means that she is a counterfeit man.

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