“Cleanse the foul body of th’infected world / If they will patiently receive my medicine” (Shakespeare 304). William Shakespeare addresses an ailment known as melancholy through the character Jaques in As You Like It. In this quote, Jaques blames the outside world for imposing their “infections” upon him. Robert Burton defines this condition in Anatomy of Melancholy: Jaques’s symptoms indicate that he suffers from what Burton defines as habitual melancholy of emulation and love.In order to understand Jaques’s disease, it is vital to study his symptoms. Robert Burton explains that signs of melancholy within the body are “obvious and familiar,” and that the afflicted “voluntarily betray themselves, they are too frequent in all places…their grievances are too well known” (Burton 382). In Act 2, Scene 1 of As You Like It, Shakespeare introduces the readers to Jaques through a revealing conversation with Amiens. Amiens recognizes Jaques’s discomfort with a song he performs. The lyrics encourage others to sing along together, and to fear nothing except “winter and rough weather” (Shakespeare 302). Jaques responds with cynical comments about this positive message. He wants Amiens to continue singing, while prolonging his sad feelings. His interaction with Amiens reveals his well-known melancholic nature. Amiens openly addresses the fact that Jaques, who can “suck melancholy out of a song as a weasel sucks eggs,” is unable to be pleased (Ibid. 302). In addition, Jaques admits in Act 4, Scene 1 to suffering from “a melancholy of mine own, compounded of many simples, extracted from many objects, and indeed the sundry contemplation of my travels, in which my often rumination wraps me in a most humorous sadness” (Ibid. 315). This reveals Jaques’ comfort and openness with his grievances; he is willing to make everyone aware of his sickness. The melancholy humour arising from the body “makes some laugh, some weep, some sleep, some dance, some sing, some howl, [and] some drink” (Burton 383). Jaques’s inconsistent behavior includes moments of sarcasm, contemplation, and silliness. In Act 2, Scene 5, Jaques sardonically comments on his enjoyment of the music, and decides to create his own verse. His production includes words that are cold and dry; he criticizes “dog apes” that have fled the courts: “Here shall he see / Gross fools as he / An if he will come to me” (Shakespeare 303). This song presents Jaques as a playfully sarcastic character who promotes his melancholic attitudes. In Act 4, Scene 3, Jaques insists that the lords “Sing it. ‘Tis no matter how it be in tune, so it make noise enough” (Ibid. 317). This desire for noise arises from melancholy in the body. In addition to playful sarcasm, Jaques revels in contemplation. He expresses a philosophical concept underlying a deceptively simple idea. For example, in Act 2, Scene 1, Jaques describes a motley fool whom he meets in the Forest of Arden. He talks with youthful excitement – a stark contrast from his darker moments – when describing this fool: “And in his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage…Oh, that I were a fool! I am ambitious for a motley coat” (Ibid. 304). This statement represents Jaques’s conflicting nature. Jaques wears a coat of dry wit and melancholy that becomes part of his perpetual costume, yet shows a philosophical and intellectual side, much like the motley fool. This proposes a bit of irony in Jaques’s disposition because his adamant wish to transform into the motley fool has already evolved. Another example of his contemplative nature occurs as he preaches about the passage of time and the inevitability of mortality. The constant shadow of melancholy that hangs over Jaques results in the development of his disease. It becomes evident through the study of Jaques’s symptoms that his melancholy is of a habitual nature. Robert Burton states that the difference between melancholy of habit and melancholy of disposition lies in the way that infected individuals handle themselves during periods of suffering. Life is a “succession of pleasure and pain,” and all humankind experiences melancholic feelings regardless of their social, mental, or physical situation (Burton 144). Some learn to develop patience during times of sickness, while others become their disease, frequently exposing their constant state of despair. Jaques represents those whose melancholy defines their lives. He refuses to confront periods of despair with inner patience, and rather “gives way to [his] passion, voluntarily subject…labyrinth of cares, woes, miseries, and suffer (his) soul to be overcome by them…dispositions become habits” (Ibid. 145). Evidence of this appears in Act 2, Scene 7, when Jaques explains that “All the world’s a stage / And all the men and women merely players” (Shakespeare 305). He believes that human nature is only a performance, and emphasizes the fact that life assigns certain roles. This corresponds with his earlier comments about how society does not expect a fool to speak profoundly or intellectually. Jaques accepts his role in society as “Monsieur Melancholy” (Ibid. 309), and therefore participates in this dramatic world he describes. Moreover, society encourages his despair, causing Jaques to transform his melancholy into a habit. Jaques’s interaction with society indicates that his melancholy is rooted in both emulation and love. Many aspects of emulation and love intertwine into a single category, for love inspires thoughts of emulation and jealousy. Cyprian describes emulation as a “consumption to make another man’s happiness his misery, to torture…they do always grieve, sigh, and groan day and night without intermission” (Burton 266). This “nurse of wit and valor” (Ibid. 267) occurs between Orlando and Jaques as they walk together in the Forest of Arden. Orlando writes love poems to Rosalind on trees, while Jaques develops an intense disgust towards his overly romantic acquaintance. He judges Orlando harshly, expressing negativity towards Rosalind and the entire, miserable world. “The worst fault you have is to be in love” (Shakespeare 309). Jaques attempts to convert Orlando’s feelings of love into feelings of indifference. He tries to convince Orlando that his actions are shallow, and that only a foolish woman would enjoy the superficial love poems. A similar circumstance takes place in Act 2, Scene 7: “And then the lover / Sighing like furnace with a woeful ballad / Made to his mistress’ eyebrow” (Ibid. 315). Jaques mocks Renaissance love conventions, but his apparent hatred for lovers is simply a costume. He secretly envies couples like Orlando and Rosalind, but cannot escape his melancholic role in the world. This example crosses the boundary between emulation and love melancholy. According to Burton, those who suffer from love melancholy become angry when they hear talk about and between lovers: “What greater contrast can there be than between a lover and a man of self restraint, an admirer of beauty and a madman?” (Burton 5). Jaques’s philosophic nature refuses to accept love, and he develops into a bitter, mad, melancholic being. Shakespeare, however, believes Jaques’s melancholy to differ from Burton’s definition:I have neither the scholar’s melancholy, which is emulation, nor the musician’s, which is fantastical, nor the courtier’s, which is proud, nor the soldier’s, which is ambitious, nor the lawyer’s, which is politic, nor the lady’s, which is nice, nor the lover’s, which is all these; but it is a melancholy of mine own, compounded of many simples, extracted from many objects, and indeed the sundry contemplation of my travels, in which my often rumination wraps me in a most humorous sadness (Shakespeare 315). Shakespeare presents his view of melancholy through Jaques, and challenges Burton’s categorization of the disease. Burton attacks melancholy with precision; a certain formula which Shakespeare does not believe holds true for Jaques. In this passage, Shakespeare writes that Jaques’s melancholy cannot be specifically defined and that the structure of humankind’s melancholic disposition is too complex to be generalized, as it varies case by case. In addition, Burton wishes to educate others about a cure for melancholy, whereas Shakespeare believes that without melancholy, Jaques would no longer be Jaques. Robert Burton assumes that wit and negativity signify disease. According to Anatomy of Melancholy, the character of Jaques in As You Like It fits the mold of a melancholic spirit in need of a cure. Jaques may suffer from melancholy but his sharpness of wit and awareness of the world outside the Forest of Arden proves his strong self-awareness and sanity as opposed to the lives of his friends. In modern society, a re-examination of Jaques would most likely reveal a normal and wise disposition ahead of his time. Works CitedBurton, Robert. The Anatomy of Melancholy. Ed. Holbrook Jackson. New York: New York Review of Books, 2001.Shakespeare, William. As You Like It. The Complete Works of Shakespeare, 4th ed. Ed. David Bevington. New York: Longman, 1997. 288-325.
Pastoralism as a literary device thrives on the juxtaposition of city life and country life. Pastoralists often stress that the burdens of the city can be alleviated and clarified by a trip into the country’s therapeutic environment. A sense of balance and rightness is often restored either through self-reflection or conversations with uncorrupted shepherds. Sojourns to these socially detached regions enable one to “explore ideas and play roles-on one’s own terms and for one’s own amusement” (Leggatt 192). Through the characters of Rosalind and Orlando in his comedic play As You Like It, William Shakespeare suggests that to find true happiness, one must visit the forest and be freed from worldly constraints. The city life burdens the two protagonists of As You Like It with social customs and conventions, as illustrated by their initially strained and stumbling speeches. Upon extracting themselves from the suffocating urban environment, both are able to openly embrace and develop their love in the Forest of Arden. The lessons learned and the emotions expressed in the forest (sans the restrictions of social propriety and expectation) extend far beyond the forest’s edge – they have existed all the while, and simply required an unclouded lens to be revealed.Whether because of their self-consciousness about expressing their undying love for one another or the social standards that quiet such outbursts, Orlando and Rosalind’s “love dialogue at court is hesitant, groping, and shy” at best (Leggatt 194). Orlando, a character heretofore known to be quite eloquent and verbose when expressing his emotions to his brother, finds that he has “weights upon [his] tongue” and is “overthrown” with love, unable to speak to the beautiful Rosalind when she urges conference (AYLI.I.II.244-246). Love is depicted as “more an oppressive than liberating power,” as Shakespeare emphasizes by utilizing a number of conquering images (Leggatt 194). Similarly, Rosalind is awestruck by her newfound love. Upon Celia’s appeal that “Cupid have mercy” for her cousin has “not a word,” Rosalind admits that she has “not one to throw at a dog” (AYLI. I.III.1-3). Throughout this scene Celia urges the conversation onward, while Rosalind hesitantly – though dotingly – reveals her interest in the young man. Seen through this window, coated in the dust of antiquated convention and the grime of hesitation, the future for the relationship between Orlando and Rosalind appears murky and unpromising. Having been chased out of civilization by either threat or banishment, both characters are forced to seek refuge in the forest. Upon entering the woods, they cast off their inhibitions, enjoying “considerable imaginative freedom in the forest” while also finding themselves in a “place of testing and education” (Leggatt 191). In direct contrast to his former inarticulacy, Orlando “finds his tongue, in surprisingly ornate, patterned verse,” littering the forest sanctuary with heartfelt poems “in witness of [his] love” for Rosalind (Leggatt 195, AYLI.III.II.1, 122-151). His ability to not only express his love but to do so in such a vulnerable manner and in such a public forum reveals a man uninhibited by personal and social reservations, capable of a level of self-expression that is only actualized upon entering the woods. Furthermore, while Celia had formerly dominated and guided the conversation about Orlando, Rosalind as Ganymede “comes into her own…starts developing her own ideas and using her own wit” (Leggatt 194). Rosalind seems to achieve a full role reversal, illustrated by her litany of inquiries about Orlando and her “rhymed, romantic contemplations” on love; she is driven by a desire to learn more and be more engrossed in the “madness” of love (AYLI.III.II.213-219, Leggatt 196, AYLI.III.II.386). As a third testament to their uninhibited expression of love in the forest, the scenes in which Rosalind (as Ganymede) and Orlando speak to no end about the tortures and raptures of love depict a sentiment that will withstand the seasons (AYLI.IV.I.136-146). Once cleared of the muck that clouds the relationship in an urban environment, the future for this couple appears clear and long-lasting. Pastoralism is the cloth with which the dust-caked eyeglass is cleaned. Ever since their first encounter, Orlando and Rosalind have been secretly infatuated with each other, though both are initially too concerned with the standards of city life and their own pride to reveal their true emotions, thus clouding their ability to see their future. Clearing away these hindrances by entering the forest (and thus liberating themselves from social conventions), they freely articulate their love to their peers and each other. Because the eyeglass has at last been cleaned, their love and future together is clearer and truer. By leaving the court life and the threats of Duke Frederick and Oliver, Rosalind and Orlando are at last able to examine and nurture their love. The glass merely needed cleaning; now refreshed, they can return to the court with an uninhibited vision of their future.
Northrop Frye and C. L. Barber’s “green world” and “misrule” theories are very much evident in William Shakespeare’s As You Like It (ASYI). Frye discusses his “green world” theory in his books Anatomy of Criticism, in 1957, and A Natural Perspective, in 1965. In it, Frye describes a “normal” or court world, a “green world,” and a changed court world. Barber’s theory, found in Shakespeare’s Festive Comedy, published in 1959, draws from an anthropological perspective. He describes the structures as tension, release, and clarification rather than by worlds. The cultural materialist/marxist view focuses more on how one class suppresses another. The marxist view concentrates on the economics, power, and class, while Frye and Barber are more concerned with the plotline of AYLI.Frye’s court world, according to his theory, is where all of the characters are in the beginning of Shakespeare’s play. AYLI’s court, or normal world is one of injustice. It is a world where misuse of the law is prevalent. Act 1, scene 1 reveals Oliver’s knowledge of how brutal Orlando’s fight with the Duke’s wrestler could become, yet he uses only “underhand means” (I. i. 138) to dissuade him from the fight. The word ‘underhand’ is footnoted as meaning “unobtrusive, not open or obvious.” Oliver has misused the ‘rules’ of the normal world to attempt to get Orlando killed. Evidence for the murder conspiracy is found in these lines, spoken to the Charles, the challenger: “I had as life thou didst break his neck as his finger” (I. i. 143-4). Another misuse of court is found in scene 2 after Orlando wrestles Charles and wins. Instead of giving Orlando his prize, Duke Frederick replies, “The world esteemed thy father honorable, / But I did find him still mine enemy. / Thou shouldst have better pleased me with this deed / Hadst thou descended from another house. / But fare thee well” (I. ii. 220-5). Two more misuses are discovered in scene 3 when Rosalind is banished by Duke Frederick on his whim and readers learn it was he who usurped Duke Senior, his brother. Barber would refer to these injustices as building tension. At this point, something must break or be released.Act II brings all three theories into play. The change of scenery to the Forest of Arden follows Frye’s “green world” theory. He describes this world as having the potential for characters to temporarily ‘lose’ their identity. Celia and Rosalind dress as Aliena and Ganymede to change their identities. Frye also tells how only certain characters proceed into the green world (for instance, Duke Frederick and Oliver are left behind). He identifies the exploration of liberating potentialities in his theory, which he found evident in AYLI when there is interaction of the classes in the forest. Duke Senior and his men are compared to “the old Robin Hood of England” (I. i. 115). The lines immediately after this label suggest Barber’s theory of release: They say many young gentlemen flock to him every day and fleet the time carelessly, as the did in the golden world” (I. i. 115-18). The men flocking are in situations too tense for them to handle and are escaping to Duke Senior for ‘release’ or a holiday license. Historically, as the growing industrialization and diminishing agrarianism fueled the tension in European societies the instinct was for society to escape to nature. The marxist view declares no change in worlds but a change in minds. They claim the ‘second world’ is a strategy for living in the first world. Marxists present Corin as evidence because he was already in the Forest of Arden and has not changed anything but employers. Corin is the character that maintains constant attention to time, space, and degree. Sylvius can declare that no one has loved like him because he has the time to sit around and ponder the question day and night and dream of Phoebe (II. iv. 21-42). He can waste the time in a day because Corin is the one completing his chores and making use of the daylight hours. Marxists argue manual laborers are oppressed by the upper class.The changes all occur in the final scene. Frye’s third world is a changed court world. This is described as a discovery of identity, transformation, or marriage. The discovered identities can be Celia and Rosalind’s grand appearance with Hymen, the god of marriage, or as their marriages themselves. Frye views marriage as the manner in which women find their identity. The transformation is seen when Duke Senior declares Orlando the heir to his throne in lines 172-185 of act 5, scene 4. Of course, the marriage rites are about to be spoken just as the play ends thus giving Rosalind and Celia found identities. Barber’s third structure is clarification. He defines it as being a heightened awareness of the relation between man and nature. This relationship exists when Jaques de Boys relates the misfortunes of Duke Frederick:”Duke Frederick, hearing how that every dayMen of great worth resroted to this forest,Addressed a mighty power, which were on footIn his own conduct, purposely to take,His brother here and put him to the sword;And to the skirts of this wild wood he came,Where, meeting with an old religious man,After some question with him, was convertedBoth from his enterprise and from the world,His crown bequeathing to his banished brother,And all their lands restored to them againThat were with him exiled” (V. iv. 159-70).Not only were the characters in the “green world” able to find awareness in nature, but so was Duke Frederick. The marxists argue that no change or clarification took place. Corin is still working on the farm and always will be no matter whom he once served. He catered to the ‘down-trodden’ escapees, but they merely used him until they could regain their social standings. In conclusion, Frye, Barber, and the marxists have similar points of argument in AYLI, but are all looking at the script through different colored glasses.
In the epilogue of As You Like It, Rosalind discusses the nature of real and performed gender identity in a final bid to resolve the gender confusion extant throughout the play. The events leading up to the epilogue make such resolution necessary, fraught as they are with the disguise of one’s “natural” or off-stage gender and with the on-stage confusion of male and female roles. Though such confusion had its basis in theater practice in contemporary Shakespearean theater, the role of Rosalind was taken by a man many other layers of gender transformation exist within the play. For example, the male actor playing Rosalind acts the part of the male Ganymede opposite Orlando; in the role of Ganymede, he “pretends” to be Rosalind to cure Orlando of his love. When these intra-play transformations occur for example, when Rosalind the character dresses as the male Ganymede they shed light on the broader questions raised by gender transformation in the play. As the actors disguise their genders frequently, gender comes to seem arbitrary when performed, able to be shifted at will. As Rosalind says to Orlando, “I would cure you, if you would but call me Rosalind, and come every day to my cote, and woo me” (III, ii. 1603-4). By suggesting the “cure” of having Orlando act out his love, Rosalind reaffirms her theatrically “real” role as Rosalind, even as she is dressed as a man. This pretending both satisfies Orlando’s desire to woo Rosalind, even as she appears absent, and Rosalind’s desire to be wooed, even as she appears in the guise of a man. Orlando is able to enact his desires verbally while continuing to idealize and adore the “absent” Rosalind. His desires are thus compartmentalized into love and friendship, and Rosalind, in her role as tutor and absent muse, is able to fulfill both roles. The play’s epilogue acts as an explication and compounding of these roles, resolving the paradoxes through a meta-theatrical understanding of the actor’s place in the theater as a whole.Rosalind’s suggestion of “curing” Orlando may be perhaps better understood as a wish to have Orlando’s desires enacted before her, even though she may not participate. Because of her love for Orlando, Rosalind has good reason to “pretend” a game of love between herself and her love. Such pretend allows her to reveal herself emotionally without compromising her distant status as the “beloved.” She is not forced to perform according to traditional gender stereotypes because, at least according to Orlando, she appears as a performing man. She is able to express safely her most honest desires, for instance “Yes faith will I [love thee], Fridays, Saturdays, and all” (IV. i. 2026) while remaining in her role as Orlando’s tutor. In the epilogue, Rosalind returns to the issue of traditional gender roles, saying that “It is not the fashion to see the lady the epilogue” (V. iv. 2776-7). This statement seems ironic, as Rosalind has been dressed in men’s clothes and has spoken openly of her desire to love “Fridays, Saturdays, and all.” However, because the “fashion” was for men to act women’s parts, “Rosalind” is a man offstage, and thus does not “actually” commit any unfashionable acts by dressing male. The lady is “given the epilogue” only within the space of the play; underneath the theatrical performance, it is still the man who says the lines. Yet Rosalind goes further to suggest a woman character should be allowed to speak. Having a woman speak the epilogue, she argues, “is no more unhandsome than to see the lord the prologue” (V. iv. 2777-8). The prologue and epilogue mark the two “bookends” of the play, introducing and concluding the action; it seems each one is equally important to the play as a whole. In either context, a woman or a man is equally fit to speak: the selection, Rosalind implies, is arbitrary, a woman’s place “no more unhandsome than the lord.” Though a male-acted male character may be expected to give the epilogue, it is equally viable that a male-acted female character may speak. Rosalind, through the use of the phrase “to see,” not only suggests that the audience must embrace either gender, but also reinforces the visual aspects of performance itself. In “to see…the epilogue,” the word “see” means not only “allow,” but “watch,” as the epilogue is performed by a male actor dressed in drag. Gender here is being performed as spectacle, with the male actor taking on and enacting the woman’s part, who then takes on the dress and disguise of a man. The status of “male” becomes blurred for the audience, as a male actor becomes Rosalind who becomes Ganymede. The audience must literally “see” the female character Rosalind give the epilogue, knowing that, outside the theater, the actor is male. Such confusion, resulting in a series of visual transformations male actor, female character, male dress demonstrates the arbitrary nature of gender in this performative context. It did not matter, for instance, that the male actor playing Rosalind had a woman’s lines; by the same token, it should not be “unhandsome” to have the female Rosalind speak the traditionally male epilogue. When Rosalind notes that “it is not the fashion to see the lady the epilogue,” she speaks to the audience’s likely preconceptions about “male” and “female” speech. However, because so many gender norms have been flouted the acceptable one of males acting in female roles, and the less acceptable one of Rosalind dressing as a man the traditional or “fashionable” gendering of speech becomes less clear. Rosalind suggests she can give the epilogue as well as any man; indeed, the audience has already seen her in a male disguise. The visual example of Rosalind dressed as a man suggests that genders may be put on or taken off at will; it should then be easier to allow Rosalind a traditionally male speech.Rosalind confirms the beguiling, even magical nature of performative gender when she says in the epilogue that “to beg will not become me. My way is to conjure you” (V. iv. 2785). As she has already enacted so many transformations, Rosalind has established herself as a “conjurer” rather than a beggar. Through theatrical disguises, the male actor has convinced the audience that he is female; further, that female character has, through an additional disguise, convinced Orlando that she is male. The act of conjuring has become familiar to Rosalind and has proven itself effective within the context of the play. Begging or arguing rhetorically is not necessary for her to effect change; rather, she has only to act either a male or a female part. Rosalind lays out her strategy clearly when she says she will “conjure you,” implying her use of disguise and acting as nearly magical techniques. Her reason for not begging is theatrical as well: she notes that “I am not furnished like a beggar, therefore to beg will not become me” (V. iv. 2784-5). Examining this sentence, one realizes the causal relationship between being “furnished like” a character and playing that character’s role. Rosalind does not have the disguise of a beggar, “therefore” she cannot act the beggar’s part. Of all possible reasons for preferring conjuring to begging, Rosalind picks the one that has to do with being “furnished” or disguised. The causal relationship she sees between disguise and role-playing suggests the inevitability of her current position; as adept as she is in disguises, she may “conjure” up whatever character she likes. Not used simply to begging, she suggests that the beggar’s role would “not become [her]” and avoids that role.Finally, the character Rosalind reveals the fundamentally acted nature of her role when she says, “If I were a woman, I would kiss as many of you…” (V. iv. 2791-2). Though her character has been constructed as female, here Rosalind uses the conditional “if,” suggesting that she is not or may not be female. Such a conditional may refer to one of two potential alternatives, either that of the male Ganymede or that of the male actor behind Rosalind’s disguises. Because some critics have suggested Rosalind has not yet changed out of her male Ganymede disguise, it is possible that she is speaking as Ganymede even in the epilogue. However, such a view seems contested by Rosalind’s first statement, that “it is not the fashion to see the lady the epilogue.” Through that initial statement, Rosalind suggests that she is the “lady” giving the epilogue; in the later “if I were a woman,” she implies she is not female at all. Such a strong contradiction of gender identification suggests that Rosalind must be referring to two different characters, or even two different sets of convention, in the lines. Perhaps the two terms “lady” and “woman” distinguish between the character and the actor of her role. Though the actor of Rosalind plays the “lady” in As You Like It, he is still male beneath the disguise and thus may say “if I were a woman” without contradicting himself. Such theories gesture towards the meta-theatrical nature of Rosalind’s speech: she seems here to suggest that any time an actor goes onstage, he is playing a non-intuitive, arbitrarily-gendered role. The actor must have the ability to “conjure” any character desired, putting on the clothes and mannerisms of that character in order to be convincing in that role. At the end of the epilogue, the sudden turn to the future indicative “will…bid me farewell” (V. iv. 2795-6) suggests that it is more appropriate for “Rosalind” to be bid farewell than to be kissed by men. In applauding, it is appropriate for the audience to recognize the gender of the actor outside of the stage, to bid farewell rather than to kiss. Though the actor is a conjurer, putting on a female disguise to play Rosalind, the audience must recognize that his off-stage presence is male.In playing multiple roles as Rosalind and Ganymede, the actor demonstrates to the audience the flexibility of gender as it is performed. Rosalind’s own performance enacts that flexible nature, suggesting that though “it is not the fashion to see the lady the epilogue,” it is contextually appropriate. Rosalind’s ability as an actor is highlighted when she discusses how she will “conjure” the audience members, putting a spell over them through the convincing quality of her disguise. However, in the end, Rosalind says she would kiss men only “if [she] were a woman,” thus revealing the conditional nature of her acting in a role. Though the entire play is built on gender disguises of Rosalind as Ganymede, of the male actor as Rosalind the characters seem finally conscious of the way these genders are performed. Rosalind does not want to be kissed because she is neither Rosalind nor female; rather, it is more appropriate to bid “him” farewell. The play ends with the realization that the actor underneath all the disguises is male an appropriate gesture, as the actor will soon be rid of his theater clothes2E In the epilogue, the play’s performing of gender is heightened, discussed, and finally, through meta-theatrical comments, resolved.
Rosalind’s literal significance in Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” is grounded in her motivation in acting as Ganymede, for it is her sole perspective that elucidates the reader of the biases of society’s gender roles. The necessity for Rosalind to perform as Ganymede defines her with a perverse yet rational will, for instead of speaking in the abstract as Celia does and “sit[ting back] and mock[ing]” (I.ii.ln.31) Fortune’s gifts being unequally bestowed to men and women, Rosalind physically takes on the duty of the “bountiful blind woman [who] doth most mistake in her gifts to women” (I.ii.ln.35). She is truly a “blind woman,” knowing not what she will encounter, and forced to quite literally become blind to a society whose head, Duke Frederick, has made her ill favored in the court. As Celia says, “those that [Fortune] makes honest, she makes very ill favoredly” (I.ii.ln.37). And yet it is not Fortune’s action, but society’s cutthroat decision in banishing Rosalind that forces Rosalind to disguise herself as Ganymede, and in doing so, dishonestly represent her true gender. Appearances are certainly deceiving, for even fate is molded to accommodate that which society deems to be appropriate, thus establishing a most unnatural hierarchical order. It is for this reason that Rosalind remains immortal as a character, for in doing Fortune’s work and physically moving towards Nature’s Forest of Ardenne, she is able to assume an unnatural yet liberating gender role.Celia serves to perpetuate society’s affect on Rosalind, thus undermining Rosalind’s unique sense of self, and underscoring the image Celia incessantly attempts to project onto Rosalind of a woman of proper and socially acceptable behavior. Prior to banishment, Rosalind is thus trapped as a woman of traditional identity within the very walls of the play’s text, confined by the outer appearance of social conventions that dictate her life. Rosalind simply acts in the appropriate ways expected of a woman in her position, but fails to truly portray the emotions of one sincerely affected. Celia introduces Rosalind to the text with an attached, emotional plea for her cousin’s happiness, “…sweet my coz, be merry” (I.ii.ln1), yet in doing thus, the reader’s reality concerning Rosalind in the context of the court is filtered by the melancholy that Celia immediately brings to the reader’s attention. As a young woman whose father has been banished, Rosalind must now assume the role of a saddened daughter, and yet it is clear after a few lines that Rosalind would in fact prefer to “be merry” as Celia compassionately urges her to be, instead of remaining in the “condition of [her saddened] state” (I.ii.ln15) as is expected of her. The irony lies in the fact that while Celia seemingly tries to comfort Rosalind, it is she herself who reinforces Rosalind’s dismal behavior. Simply by addressing Rosalind as if something should be the matter, Celia forces Rosalind to defend herself, and Rosalind is unwittingly coerced into voicing the reason for her sadness as being the banishment of her father regardless of whether or not there is any basis to this claim. It is exactly this coercive social force in Celia that Rosalind must yield to, for Rosalind deliberately says only what is necessary to avoid social criticism and to publicly uphold the values that are politically and socially correct for her to have. Rosalind immediately and repeatedly makes attempts to lift the distressed tone cast upon the scene by bypassing Celia’s negative sensibilities in a manner that still does not make her seem careless and unfeeling. She says quite deliberately “…would you yet [I] were merrier? Unless you could teach me how to forget a banish’d father… (I.ii.ln.4),” where almost as an afterthought she addresses the banishment of her father. In doing so, Rosalind affirms Celia’s reasoning in assuming that she must be sad, though the true root of her melancholy does not permit itself to be accurately defined at this time. She simply cites a socially acceptable reason for her sadness, and in doing thus, swiftly digresses as a means of avoiding conversation over the true stimulus for her dejected tone. Rosalind makes a plea to “forget the condition of [her] estate,” (I.ii.ln.15) and then another to “devise sports” (I.ii.ln.24) as a means of changing the topic of conversation, but it is Celia who sets the tone for Rosalind’s performance, who succeeds in her continued effort to dwell on that which society expects Rosalind to be sad about, thereby allowing the further subjugation of Rosalind’s true emotions.Rosalind opposes the conventional order by refusing to expose herself as emotionally vulnerable to Celia, for doing so would result in complete conformity between the two, and further demolish any sense of a unique self that Rosalind is left struggling to maintain. Although the greater court views the love between Celia and Rosalind to be “dearer than the natural bond of sisters,” (I.ii.ln.276) Celia does not seem especially apt in sensing Rosalind’s desire to speak of something besides her father’s banishment. In trying to get an emotional rise out of Rosalind, Celia is attempting to further cement the bond between the two cousins, yet Rosalind resists the urgency to become the traditional emotional woman who is so predictable in her sensitivities. In the continual coupling of Celia and Rosalind’s characters, Celia manages to drives a wedge between herself and the protagonist, for while Rosalind expresses neither strong sentimental attachment to her father nor any apparent guilt about his fate, her emotions are simply exploited by what Celia, a representative of the natural customs of society, assumes them to be. Thus, it is as a model of social order and conventional values that both Celia and the greater society that she represents are initially portrayed, but both fail to show a deeper understanding of Rosalind’s need for self-expression and a unique identity that cannot be defined by the society at court.Rosalind’s emotions are piqued by Orlando’s similar fate, and her desire to be with him thus becomes grounded in the fact that the two share commonalities. Superficial passions are not supreme, for what Rosalind needs is someone with whom she can simultaneously identify and be able to preserve her own sense of self. Although it may be Orlando’s brawn that initially piques Rosalind’s interest, it is neither his wit nor his charm that causes her to fall in love with him. The moment she approves of his family, Orlando suddenly becomes a viable option for marriage, and Rosalind allows herself to become smitten as is clear when she says “Had [she only] known [his ancestry] before…[she] should have given him tears unto entreaties, ere he should thus have ventur’d. (I.ii.ln.237)” In saying so, she already takes on the role of a wife, serving to caution and protect Orlando. Rosalind is no longer as concerned with what is expected of her, for in shedding the Duke’s expectations of her, she freely continues to congratulate Orlando. She not only hands over a chain as the symbol of their mutual affection, but in establishing a physical connection with Orlando, goes on to reveal, almost in spite of herself, the source of her melancholy at the beginning of the play. Orlando is in the same position as Rosalind, for his scheming brother has affected his own fortunes. Likewise, she cannot help but admit that “[her] pride [also] fell with her [own] fortunes (I.ii.ln.252).” In being able to identify with Orlando, she is able to isolate her own desire to be proud of herself and pinpoint her need to find a way to enhance her own sense of proper dignity and self worth. Rosalind thus falls into the role of a love-struck woman, yet manages to acknowledge her feelings for Orlando as both insensible yet honestly intentioned. This distinction distinguishes her from other idealistic, romantic figures in Shakespeare’s plays, for while Rosalind recognizes the affect Orlando has on her, instead of waiting for him to rescue her, she is able to optimize his effects on her by contentedly going “To liberty, and not to banishment (I.iii.ln.138),” and quite literally liberating her own sense of self confidence and bringing about a change in the role she plays in her own life.Rosalind’s growing attachment to Orlando parallels her own increased awareness of the fact that she is in fact alone, and that unless swift action is taken, that the social authority and general control over her own personal rights that are rapidly diminishing will soon completely be gone. At the beginning of scene three, Celia asks whether Rosalind is still pensive about her father, but Rosalind replies, “some of it is for my child’s father (I.iii.ln.11).” Rosalind’s response is more selfish and distant than before, for while society treats her as a child whose concerns should, in turn, only be for her absent father, Rosalind slowly transitions into more autonomy as can be seen when she is asked “But is all [worry] for your father?” (I.iii.ln.10) and Rosalind outright says “No…” (I.iii.ln.11). Rosalind is coming into her womanhood only to realize that she has “not one [word]” (I.iii.ln.3) for Celia, the typical representative of the traditional behavior of restrictive courtly society. “They are but burs, cousin, thrown upon thee in holiday foolery” (I.iii.ln.13) Celia says, but Rosalind now is less able to keep the same politically and socially correct manner with which she was able to so effectively accommodate Celia’s expectations in the scene previous. In that scene, act I scene ii, Celia offers her inheritance to Rosalind saying “You know my father hath no child but I, nor none is like to have; and truly when he dies, thou [Rosalind] shalt be his heir” (I.ii.ln.17), but this simply serves to reinforce the mutual identity of the two cousins and undermine Rosalind’s independent social status. Therefore it is a common linkage with Orlando that makes Rosalind confident in her own image, and able to identify with him without replacing her own sense of self with his character. In attempting to regain the “pride” that was lost to her, she forges an identity new to Celia, but truer to her inner self – Ganymede.Rosalind literally goes “from Fortune’s office to Nature’s” (I.ii.ln.40) by changing her natural gender to reap the rewards that Fortune has bestowed on her, rewards such as inherent intelligence, energy and appeal, all virtues that society has thus far prevented her from benefiting from. Acting as Ganymede, Rosalind has the freedom to assert herself in the presence of others, act as an equal among men, and even initiate a courtship as Ganymede does successfully with Orlando. These sorts of liberties are unbeknownst to women, namely Rosalind, who as can be seen prior to her banishment, is restricted by society’s expectations of a woman in her position. Celia continually stands as society’s ideal representation of women, for she takes on the character Aliena, a largely passive woman whose very name has roots in the word “outsider”. Celia simply waits for life to deliver her a suitable man, and in doing so stands in stark contrast to Rosalind’s character Ganymede who is revived with a fresh sense of youthful optimism and actively plays a role in her dealings with Orlando. The relationship between Orlando and Rosalind serves to further distinguish Rosalind from other traditional women of the era, for she is able to assert herself as a man would in the figurative absence of a socially constructed court, yet preserve the dignity of her femininity by still acting in ways that are true to her real identity as a woman.In thereby redefining her own role as a woman, Rosalind forces the reader to question the extent to which conventional societal rules apply. As Jacques says “All the world’s a stage,” where Rosalind’s performance as Ganymede serves to illuminate the legitimacy, or lack thereof, of pre-established gender roles, for she brings to light the fact that the only thing distinguishing conventional sexual arrangements from the alternatives is something seemingly as superficial as clothing! Society accommodates Rosalind in a restrictive setting until it becomes inconvenient, for the Duke unleashes himself from any sense of responsibility just as quickly as he attains it. Socially dictated behavior, outer appearance, and expectations are what perpetuate the construction of stagnant social rules that serve to initially entrap Rosalind, for the Duke condemns Rosalind not based on any factual evidence, but merely based on his perceptions of her. Rosalind therefore manages to use her image as a tool in revealing society’s insistence on gender differences as more than mere tradition. Rosalind makes outer appearance work in her favor, for in dressing as a man and gaining a freedom unknown to her as a woman, she successfully uses society’s double standard against its own ideals. Simply by presenting herself in masculine form, Rosalind is able to fully prove to society the attributes that are clearly inherently enshrined within her; the creative intelligence that is innate to her in the female form. In establishing her authority as Ganymede, she sets precedence for the power relations in her relationship with Orlando, for she sets the tone for the behavior that should be expected from her in her pursuit of preserving a sense of pride in her own identity. It is this simple fact that sheds light on the disparity of traditional gender roles in society, for Rosalind’s actions only serve to reveal the true hypocrisies of society’s differing behavior towards men and women.
Shakespeare’s As You Like It is made up of two distinct forms of dialogue: prose and verse. Shakespeare’s verse is rhythmic and poetic, while his prose is simple and does not have a distinct beat. Although Shakespeare’s choice of prose or verse may seem arbitrary, there are actually distinct motivations behind Shakespeare’s choice of mode. In As You Like It, one of the ways Shakespeare utilizes prose is to signify romantic connection between Rosalind and Orlando. Additionally, Shakespeare’s use of verse is significant in its role of characterizing Orlando and Oliver as virtuous. Throughout this play, Shakespeare deploys two distinct modes of dialogue for specific purposes of characterization.
Shakespeare uses prose establish the romantic chemistry and connection between Orlando and Rosalind, while Rosalind is disguised as the man Ganymede. As Rosalind disguises herself as Ganymede to toy with and get closer to Orlando, she speaks almost exclusively in prose. When Ganymede first meets Orlando and asks him the time, he responds, in prose, “You should ask me what time o’day. There’s no clock in the forest,” to which Rosalind responds “Then there is no true lover in the forest, else sighing every minute and groaning every hour would detect the lazy foot of time as well as a clock” (Shakespeare, 3.2.294-296). Their interaction begins with Ganymede playfully questioning Orlando’s dedication to his love; already, it is clear that there is a deeper romantic level to Ganymede and Rosalind’s relationship.
Later in the play, when Ganymede is impersonating Rosalind, she continues playfully trying Orlando’s devotion, telling him, “Well, in her person, I say I will not have you.” Orlando keeps up his profession of love, telling Ganymede “Then, in mine own person, I die” (4.1.84-85). Once again, this entire exchange is written in prose. Shakespeare chooses prose for Ganymede and Orlando’s dialogue because it comes across as more natural and emotional than verse. The connection and chemistry that Rosalind and Orlando share is clear, in part, due to the use of prose. More evidence for the deliberacy of Shakespeare’s choice of prose can be found in the relationship between Silvius and Phoebe, a pairing that lacks romantic connection and speaks almost entirely in verse. As they bicker, this lack of chemistry is clear. Silvius complains, in verse, that one day Phoebe will fall in love and “know the wounds invisible That love’s keen arrows make.” Phoebe keeps up her bitterness, telling him “But till that time Come not thou near me.” (3.5.28-32). Shakespeare’s choices between prose or verse add a level of nuance to the romantic relationships between his characters, and helps make the chemistry, or lack thereof, between these pairings clear.
Shakespeare’s use of verse in dialogue helps to characterize Orlando and the reformed Oliver as virtuous. Throughout As You Like It, dialogue written in verse signals moral virtue, particularly within the dialogue of the brothers Orlando and Oliver. Orlando, when his actions or temperament are particularly virtuous, speaks in verse. After Orlando threatens Duke Senior for food, he is embarrassed and regretful of his savage actions. In this moment, as he apologizes for his lack of manners, his virtue shines through, as he proclaims “Let gentleness my strong enforcement be, In the which hope, I blush and hide my sword” (2.7.119-120). This dialogue, entirely in verse, draws attention to Orlando’s gentle and kind nature. Orlando does not always speak in verse, as he often speaks in prose with Rosalind; however, when his moral virtue is on display, his dialogue is in verse. Oliver is not always so gentle and kind; in the first act, he hates Orlando, and, while speaking in prose, tells Charles that “I hope I shall see an end of him; for my soul – yet I know not why – hates nothing more than he” (1.1.154-155). After Oliver’s reformation, when he is telling Rosalind how Orlando saved his life and that he “From miserable slumber … awaked” (4.3.130), he is speaking in verse. Oliver’s shift from prose to verse is distinct, as his mode of speaking shifts with his personality. Shakespeare utilizes verse to characterize Orlando and Oliver as virtuous; this choice helps showcase Oliver’s kind nature, and makes the contrast between the old and reformed Oliver clear.
Throughout As You Like It, Shakespeare skillfully utilizes both prose and verse to add a level of nuance and detail to his characters’ personalities and relationships. Within such a complex plot, full of many unique characters and relationships, this extra level of characterization allows the reader or audience to develop a fuller understanding of the plot and development. As one of the many literary tools that Shakespeare masterfully deploys, the choice between prose and verse plays a small but important role in As You Like It.
In many of Shakespeare’s comedies, we see people from all social ranks being portrayed – from the highest of nobles, to the lowest of servants. In cases of male friendship, there is a common pattern to see friendship develop through master-servant relationships, which aid and benefit each other. Two pertinent examples of this type of relationship is seen in Lucentio and Tranio in The Taming of the Shrew, and between Adam and Orlando from As You Like It. In both cases, these master-servant friendships can be compared to other friendships in the play that feature varying degrees of equality/inequality, to specify what makes these friendships different. In this essay, the nature of both of these friendships, and how they are portrayed will be explored, as well as their intended roles and functions in progressing the narratives of their respective plays.
In order to examine the friendships of Lucentio and Tranio, as well as Adam and Orlando, it is important that we first define a concept of male friendship of which to compare them to. I have formed my definition around that of Lorna Huston’s, who theorises that male friendships were “an economic dependency as well as an affective bond.” Viewed from this angle, male friendships in Shakespearean plays are treated not simply in terms of shared thoughts and feelings between characters, but a relationship of reciprocity – where members of a friendship work in order to help benefit and aid the other. This definition of friendship is active in both the relationships between Lucentio and Tranio, and Adam and Orlando, as despite both being master-servant relationships, they both work to benefit each other with the knowledge that it will serve themselves, as well as satisfying the emotional needs of the other. From the start of The Taming of the Shrew we see a solid representation of male friendship in the bond between Lucentio and Tranio. Lucentio is a love-struck noble from Pisa, who has come to Padua to attend the prestigious university. He is accompanied by his “trusty servant” Tranio. Throughout the narrative, Tranio works to aid Lucentio in his mission to woo Bianca. It is clear that on one hand, Tranio does recognize his official role as Lucentio’s servant. In the end of Act 1, scene 1, Tranio declares that he is “tied to be obedient” and refers to his promise to Lucentio’s father to be useful to Lucentio. However, Tranio concludes that he has no problem with carrying out Lucentio’s wish “Because so well I love Lucentio”. this suggests that while Tranio recognizes and acknowledges his duty as a servant to Lucentio, his actions are motivated primarily by love.
The friendship between Lucentio and Tranio is portrayed as being similar to the bond between a wise mentor and his eager student. In the beginning of Act 1, scene 1, Lucentio asks Tranio’s opinion “Tell me thy mind…” about his decision to move from Pisa to Padua. Whereas Lucentio respected Tranio enough to ask for his opinion, so too did Tranio feel comfortable enough to respond honestly. In his monologue, Tranio gives Lucentio sage pieces of advice, such as “No profit grows where is no pleasure ta’en. In brief, sir, study what you most affect”. Lucentio also has much faith in Tranio, as seen when he implores for his help after falling in love with Bianca; “Counsel me, Tranio, for I know thou canst. Assist me, Tranio, for I know thou wilt.” Tranio reinforces his role as a mentor when he immediately springs into action after realizing the immediacy of Lucentio’s love for Bianca, by first defining the problem for Lucentio; “That til the Father rid his hands of her, Master, your love must remain a maid at home.” Then feeding him the solution “You will be schoolmaster, and undertake the teaching of the maid.” According to Jeremy Taylor’s understanding of friendship, Tranio proves his usefulness as a friend, as he “gives advice” and proves himself as an “active and useful individual” when he willingly plays the role of Lucentio, and never fails to act in Lucentio’s best interests. The friendship between Lucentio and Tranio is integral to advancing the narrative of The Taming of The Shrew, in that without Tranio, Lucentio would most likely not have been able to produce a plan to attract Bianca, and have successfully carried out. In fact, the plan mostly works due to the dedication and intuition that Tranio puts into acting as Lucentio. He is easily able to fool the rest of the characters into believing that he is Lucentio, and capably bluffs his love for Bianca “And I am one that love Bianca more” (2.1. 323). Tranio also acts quickly on his feet when tricks the Merchant into pretending to be Vincentio in order to maintain the charade, and fool Baptista.
Whereas Lucentio and Tranio are an example of a close, but unequal friendship, they are paralleled in the play by the friendship of Petruchio and Hortensio, who are both wealthy men of high status. Petruchio considers Hortensio to be his “best-loved and approved friend”, and Hortensio often acts in Petruchio’s best interests. Such as when he mentions Katherine in response to Petruchio’s desire for a landed wife, but is quick to warn him that she would make a “shrewd, ill-favoured wife”. In this scene, Hortensio acts in a way that is beneficial to himself, as Katherine must first be married before Baptista will think of allowing anyone to marry Bianca. While also aiding Petruchio in his search for a wealthy wife, and warning him of her nature. In comparing the friendships of Hortensio and Petruchio and Lucentio and Tranio, we discover that there friendships are shaped by their respective equality and inequality. Hortensio’s friendship towards Petruchio is unaffected by matters of status and service, but Tranio performed the greater feat of friendship by pretending to be Lucentio, and doing it willingly. The next male friendship that fits into the previously outlined definition of friendship is that of Adam and Orlando in As You Like It. The noble, but uneducated, Orlando seeks shelter in the Arden Forest, accompanied by his elderly servant and companion, Adam, after he learns of his brother Oliver’s murderous intentions towards him. Whereas in The Taming of the Shrew the relationship between Lucentio and Tranio was portrayed as relatively equal, with Lucentio looking up to Tranio, but Tranio working to benefit and aid Lucentio. The friendship between Adam and Orlando has Adam behaving more in the traditional role of the servant, but we see Orlando and Adam working equally to aid and benefit each other. It is clear that Adam has clearly served within the de Bois family for a long time, he refers to Orlando and Oliver’s father as “old master” and declares that he has “lost my teeth in your service” when reprimanding Oliver. Adam also refers to Orlando as his ‘master’, such as when he cries “O my gentle master, O my sweet master”. However, he also expresses love, adoration, and concern over Orlando’s wellbeing. In the same scene, he praises Orlando as being “gentle, strong, and valiant”. Based on the fact that Adam probably played a central part in Orlando’s upbringing, and his expressed fondness towards Orlando, we can gather that Adam has consequently taken on a familial role in Orlando’s life – probably something akin to a grandfather.
When discussing the concept of the household-family, Tadmor points out that people that lived in the 16-18th centuries often did not limit the concept of family to direct blood relatives, but often extended the concept to all who lived in the household. Tadmor also observes that friends were also alluded to as friends. When Adam informs Orlando of his need to flee, due to the imminent threat on his life, he performs a fantastic act of giving, when he offers Orlando his life savings of “five hundred crowns the thrifty hire I saved under your father, which I did store to be my foster nurse”. Furthermore, he offers to accompany him and offers “Let me be your servant”. In this substantial show of generosity, Adam fits the criteria for what makes, according to Jeremy Taylor, a good friend. While also being “true and honest” he is also “free with his money”. Later on, we see Orlando reciprocate the favours he owes to Adam, when he carries Adam to a sheltered spot in Act 2, scene 6 when Adam is bound to collapse from hunger and exhaustion. He is also willing to humiliate himself in front of Duke Senior, Jaques, and the rest of their entourage when he clumsily enters their gathering with sword drawn, and exclaims that they “forbear, and eat no more!” Although Orlando and Adam’s friendship does not progress the play’s narrative in any substantial way, it does perform the function of providing a touching example of devotion, love, and loyalty to the audience. On the behalf of both Orlando and Adam. Orlando and Adam’s friendship also serves as a means for Orlando to be introduced to Duke Senior and his entourage, as he interrupts their gathering to search for food on Adam’s behalf. Another male friendship in As You Like It that could be used as a counterpoint to Orlando and Adam’s is between Duke Senior and his lords – particularly Amiens and Jaques. Again, these friendships are forged on inequality, as Duke Senior occupies a higher position than any lord. However, their difference in status is blurred by the fact that Duke Senior has been banished from court, and currently holds no formal power. He even refers to the lords that have accompanied him as his equals when he calls them his “co-mates and brothers in exile”. It is important to note that all of the lords have made a substantial sacrifice by leaving their lifestyles to follow Duke Senior into the Arden Forest. A decision that was motivated no doubt partly by a sense of service, as the lords still refer to him as their superior, like when they address him as “your grace” and “my lord”. However, it must have been dually motivated by a sense of friendship and genuine preference of Duke Senior over Duke Frederick. In comparing the two, both friendships are similar because they are motivated by multiple senses of service, friendship, and in Orlando and Adam’s case; familial love.
In comparing the friendships between Lucentio and Tranio and Orlando and Adam, there are several points of similarity. Firstly, both friendships occur between masters and servants, and both friendships work to aid and benefit one another. Of course, the glaring fact that these friendships involve masters and servants inevitably brings up the question of, to what extent can these friendships be considered genuine? In concern to this question, Taylor alludes to the importance of choice; who we pick for our friends is just as important as who we do not. The fact that Orlando and Lucentio chose to include Tranio and Adam as friends, instead of choosing to have them remain as purely servants to them, is telling. Furthermore, Taylor discusses the benefits of inequality in friendships, specifically on the behalf of Tranio and Adam, as they may reap the benefits bestowed upon them by their richer companions/masters, Orlando and Lucentio. Despite their similarities, these friendships also have a fair amount of differences. For a start, there seems to be a disparity in ages between the two friendships. Lucentio and Tranio act as if they are relatively closer in age than Adam and Orlando, and as a result Lucentio views Tranio as a wise mentor and companion. Whereas, Orlando is a young noble and Adam is his elderly servant, which explains why Orlando views Adam as being a grandfather-figure.
The plays The Taming of the Shrew and As You Like It both portray significant male friendships of varying differences in equality and inequality. In the friendship between Lucentio and Tranio, Tranio exemplifies the friendship traits of confidentiality, wit, and intuition to help Lucentio in securing the object of his affection; Bianca. In the case of Adam, he fulfils the 16-18th century ideals of friendship through his touching and overwhelming displays of personal and economic sacrifice on Orlando’s behalf. The plays also feature reciprocal friendships in the form of Petruchio and Hortensio, and Duke Senior and his lords, but nowhere is the sacrificial and supportive nature of friendship more apparent than in the master-servant friendships of Lucentio and Tranio, and Adam and Orlando.
 Hutson, Lorna. The Usurer’s Daughter, Male Friendship and Fictions of Women in 16th Century England. London: Taylor and Francis, 1994. Pg. 3.  Ibid. Pg. 3-6.  Shakespeare, William. “The Taming of the Shrew” In Modern Critical Edition. Edited by Gary Taylor, John Jowett, Terri Bourus, and Gabriel Egan. The New Oxford Shakespeare. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016.  Ibid. 1.1.7.  Ibid. 1.1.202.  Ibid. 1.1.207.  Ibid. 1.1.21.  Ibid. 1.1.39-40.  Ibid. 1.1.147-148.  Ibid. 1.1.170-171.  Ibid. 1.1.182.  Tadmor, Naomi. Family and Friends in Eighteenth-Century England. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001. Pg. 241.  Ibid. Pg. 241.  Shakespeare, William. “The Taming of the Shrew” In Modern Critical Edition. 2.1.323.  Ibid. 1.2.3.  Ibid. 1.2.55.  Shakespeare, William. “As You Like It” In Modern Critical Edition. Edited by Gary Taylor, John Jowett, Terri Bourus, and Gabriel Egan. The New Oxford Shakespeare. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016.  Ibid. 1.1.63.  Ibid. 1.1.62-63.  Ibid. 2.3.2-3.  Ibid. 2.3.6.  Tadmor, Naomi. Family and Friends in Eighteenth-Century England. Pg. 18-21.  Ibid. 18-21.  Shakespeare, William. “As You Like It” In Modern Critical Edition. 2.3. 38-40.  Ibid. 2.3.46.  Tadmor, Naomi. Family and Friends in Eighteenth-Century England. Pg. 241.  Ibid. Pg. 241.  Shakespeare, William. “As You Like It” In Modern Critical Edition. 2.7.88.  Ibid. 2.1.1.  Ibid. 2.1.18.  Ibid. 2.1.26.  Tadmor, Naomi. Family and Friends in Eighteenth-Century England. Pg. 167-175.  Ibid. Pg. 167-175.
In a romantic forest setting, rich with the songs of birds, the fragrance of fresh spring flowers, and the leafy hum of trees whistling in the wind, one young man courts another. A lady clings to her childhood friend with a desperate and erotic passion, and a girl is instantly captivated by a youth whose physical features are uncannily feminine. Oddly enough, the object of desire in each of these instances is the same person. In As You Like It, William Shakespeare explores the homoerotic possibilities of his many characters. At the resolution he establishes a tenuous re-affirmation of their heterosexuality. In this essay I will show how individual characters flirt with their homoerotic inclinations, and finally reject these impulses in favor of the traditional and socially accepted heterosexual lifestyle. I will explore male to male eroticism through the all-male court in the forest and through Orlando’s attraction to Ganymede. I will inspect female to female attraction through Celia’s attachment to Rosalind and through Phebe’s instant attraction to the effeminate boy, Ganymede. IIn Duke Senior’s forest retreat, Shakespeare creates a setting ripe with homoerotic potential. In the first lines Duke Senior speaks he rejoices in the ‘sweetness’ of the woodland life. ‘Now my co-mates and brothers in exile, / Hath not old custom made this life more sweet/ Than that of painted pomp’ (II.i.1-3). He clearly considers this woodland lifestyle more pleasant than that of the court. One of the primary distinguishing factors between the court and the forest is the absence of women. Despite the fact that the members of Duke Senior’s court have been without women for a long while, throughout the play they do not express the slightest desire for them. This all-male lifestyle attracts the positive attention of many other men. Charles, the wrestler, compares the Duke’s lifestyle to the idyllic age of Robin Hood and reports that ‘many young gentlemen/ flock to him every day and fleet the time carelessly as they/ did in the golden world’ (I.i. 101-103). In his article, ‘Queering the Shakespeare Family,’ Mario DiGangi explains this reference to the ‘golden world’ as being an allusion to the Renaissance myth of Orpheus, the misogynist who establishes an all-male community in order to avoid the dangers of female seduction and sexuality. In describing the lifestyle which is alluded to by Shakespeare’s phrase, ‘the golden world,’ DiGangi explains that Orpheus and his comrades, living in isolation, did ‘utterly eschew/ The womankynd’ and ‘taught the Thracian folke a stewes of Males to make/ And of the flowering pryme of boayes the pleasure for to take’ (Ovid bk. 10, II qtd. in DiGangi 277-280). This description bears unmistakable similarities to Duke Senior’s lifestyle, and makes the homosexual implications of his society undeniable. The solely masculine society of Duke Senior’s woodland retreat is pleasing and attractive to the male characters in the play. This contentment with purely male companionship, coupled with the undeniable allusion to a well-known homosexual society, create a fertile ground for planting the argument that Duke Senior’s lifestyle is as much alternative as it is ‘sweet.’Another, and more commonly analyzed, example of male- to- male sexual desire is found in Orlando’s relationship with Rosalind’s male disguise, Ganymede. The nature of what their relationship will be is foreshadowed before Orlando and Ganymede exchange a word. Rosalind declares that she will ‘ . . .have no worse a name than Jove’s own page’ and tells Celia ‘And therefore look you call me Ganymede’ (I,iii,118-119). Rosalind has chosen for her male alter-ego a name with significant homoerotic overtones. The word ‘ganymede’ has great significance. As Steve Brown, in an article on gender ambiguity in the sixteenth century, explains ‘ganymede’ has both literary and social connotations, both of which are vital to understanding Orlando’s relationship with Ganymede. As a mythical figure, Ganymede was a young boy whom Jove loved and took home. Ganymede replaced Hebe, Jove’s daughter, as Jove’s official cupbearer and took the place of Jove’s wife, Juno, as Jove’s primary lover. Because of its mythological context ‘ganymede’ then became a symbol for males replacing females as the primary objects of other males affection. Thus, the word ‘ganymede’ came to be used as a term for a male prostitute or, more relevant to our discussion of Ganymede’s role in the play, the young male lover of an older man (Brown, 250-251). Given the prevalent understanding of the term in Shakespeare’s time, there can be no doubt that the bard was aware of this word’s connotations and used it to prime the audience’s minds toward interpreting a homoerotic relationship between Ganymede and Orlando.Orlando’s behavior toward Ganymede supports the analysis of Ganymede as the focal point of Orlando’s erotic attraction. Within a moment of meeting Ganymede, Orlando addresses him in the language of flirtation and courtship. He speaks of love to Ganymede, and although he always speaks of how he loves Rosalind, he always ends with a question or remark that prompts Ganymede to speak, thus prolonging the conversation and enabling Orlando to get to know him better. Orlando almost immediately addresses Ganymede as ‘fair’ and ‘good,’ ascribing to this boy, to whom he is erotically attracted, the characteristics of a female lover, foreshadowing the new relationship that will emerge between the two before the scene is over. By courting Ganymede, Orlando is able to indulge in the expression of erotic desire toward this ‘fair youth.’ Under the pretense of wanting to be cured, Orlando agrees to court a young man who will be pretending to be a woman (III,iii 383-384). Yet he agrees to do this within a breath of declaring ‘I would not be cured, youth’ (III,iii 380). Orlando engages in this courtship play, not, as he claims, in order to be cured of his love for a woman, but as a ritual of indulging, and perhaps he secretly hopes, satiating, his love for a young man. Within the complex relationship between Orlando and Rosalind/Ganymede there is a twisted lovers’ triangle. Rosalind loves Orlando. Orlando is in love with Rosalind and Ganymede. Rosalind is Ganymede and, more significantly, Ganymede is actually Rosalind. In addition to this twisted geometry, this play contains yet another triangle. Orlando loves Rosalind, Rosalind loves Orlando, and Celia loves Rosalind.IIThe concept of female homosexuality in Shakespeare’s time was not as widely addressed or acknowledged as was the concept of male homosexuality. However, it was not an entirely unknown issue, and Shakespeare explores it through Celia’s and Phebe’s erotic attraction to a member of their own sex. That Celia’s affection for Rosalind is more than just sisterly devotion, there can be little doubt. The unusually deep bond between the two girls is sensed by the other members of the court. In describing their relationship to Oliver Charles, the Duke’s wrestler, says ‘O no; for the Duke’s daughter [Celia] so loves her[Rosalind]/ . . . that she would/ have followed her exile, or have died to stay behind her/ . . . never two ladies loved as they do’ (I.i. 94-97). Clearly, their relationship is understood by those who know them to be one of unusually strong love and attachment. Shakespeare’s first presentation of Rosalind and Celia is in such a way that the audience cannot miss the clinging, insecure attachment, often associated with unrequited passion, that Celia feels for Rosalind. Pouting that Rosalind ‘lovest me not with the full weight that/ I love thee’ (I.ii. 6-7), Celia betrays her fear that Rosalind does not return to her the same kind of affection she bears for Rosalind. She compares Rosalind’s love for her to her devotion to Rosalind by saying ‘So/ wouldst thou, if the truth of thy love to me were so righteously/ tempered as mine is to thee’ (I.ii. 9-11). These insecurities foreshadow her coming displacement as the primary object of Rosalind’s affection, thus making her assumed name, Aliena, signify more than simply her alienation from her father’s home. Celia’s romantic feelings for Rosalind continue to manifest themselves in the marital language Celia uses to describe her relationship with Rosalind. When Duke Frederick banishes Rosalind, Celia pleads fervently with him, describing their relationship in words that would more appropriately describe an ideal marriage. ‘We still have slept together,/ Rose at an instant, learned, played, eat together,/ And wheresoe’er we went, like Juno’s swans/ Still we went coupled and inseparable’ (I.iii. 67-70). In spite of Celia’s impassioned plea, Rosalind is banished and Celia assures Rosalind that she herself has also been banished. Her words: ‘Rosalind, lack’st thou then the love/ Which teacheth thee that thou and I am one?’ (I.iii. 90-91) are an obvious allusion to the biblical description of marriage which states that ‘the twain shall be one flesh’ (Mat. 19.5). The many nuptial comparisons that Celia makes in describing her feelings for, and relationship with Rosalind leave little doubt that her feelings for Rosalind are at very least tinted with romanticism and eroticism.Further evidence of Celia’s homoerotic feelings for Rosalind is found in Celia’s hostility toward Orlando, Rosalind’s ‘lover.’ The mounting vehemence of Celia’s criticisms of Orlando can be measured in direct proportion to the increasing intensity of Rosalind’s passion and love for Orlando. In act III, scene iv, we find the two ladies engaged in a conversation that beautifully illustrates this contrast and betrays Celia’s protective, jealous, almost possessive behavior toward Rosalind. As Rosalind raves about Orlando’s glories, Celia swiftly and deftly twists each of the adored features into a fault or flaw. She compares Orlando’s hair, which Rosalind loves, to Judas’ hair color, implying that the two may share treachery as well as hair color. When Rosalind praises the sanctity of Orlando’s kisses Celia replies that they are so chaste as to be cold as ice. Finally, as Rosalind continues to think about Orlando, Celia tells her bluntly that she believes Orlando’s love to be hollow, his words to be false, and his heart to be faithless (III, iv). Celia’s attachment to Rosalind is also betrayed during a mock wedding between Orlando and Rosalind. Celia finds that, when called upon to play the priest, she cannot, even in jest, speak the words that will surrender Rosalind to another (IV, iii: 108-109). This hesitation reveals the concern that the place she hopes to hold in Rosalind’s heart will be usurped by another. This fear manifests itself toward Orlando because, like Orlando, she considers herself to be Rosalind’s ‘lover.’ Celia is not alone in being a female who is erotically attracted to the femininity. Phebe is also in love with Rosalind, though in her case the attraction is immediate. Phebe both declares her love and acknowledges its suddenness when she says ‘Dead shepherd, now I find thy saw of might:/ ëWho ever loved that loved not at first sight?” (III. V. 82-83). Such immediate attraction cannot be anything other than physical desire. While Phebe believes that she is in love with a ‘sweet youth’ it is clearly Ganymede’s female characteristics that attract her so wildly and instantly. She describes each of Ganymede’s physical features that attracts her (III.v.116-124). Each characteristic is a distinctively female quality: skin, height, eyes, red lips, shapely legs and flushed cheeks. There may be some slight evidence that the desire is slightly and grudgingly returned. When Rosalind says ‘Besides, I like you not. If you will know my house,/ ëTis at the tuft of olives, here hard by’ (III, v: 75-76), Rosalind, even as she shuns, scorns and abuses her admirer, tells Phebe where she lives, thus indicating that she will permit, and perhaps even encourage, further contact. Regardless of whether Rosalind’s feelings for Phebe border on being romantic, it is evident from the immediacy and intensity of Phebe’s attraction, and from her obvious delight in clearly female physical attributes that Phebe is wildly and irresistibly attracted to at least one other women in a highly physical and erotic way. Shakespeare has woven into the complex emotional fabric of this play threads of homoerotic potentialities. He explores male to male homosexuality through the blatantly joyful all male lifestyle of Duke Senior and his fellow wood dwellers and through Orlando’s attraction to and courtship of a fair youth, whose name coincidentally means a young male lover. He explores female homosexuality through Celia’s possessive and amorous feelings for Rosalind and through Phebe’s instant lust for a person who she believes to be a young man, but who has remarkably female characteristics. In the end, however, Shakespeare binds each of his love-maddened characters into a securely heterosexual relationship. IIIIf man and woman are destined to be together, then this play truly does have a happy ending. Each lover, whether their affection has been homoerotic, heterosexual, or ambiguous throughout the play, finds themselves perfectly matched with a member of the opposite sex at the end of the play. Shakespeare accomplishes this pairing in one of two ways. In both ways the homoerotic desire is switched to a member of the opposite sex. In one way this switch is direct, in the other it is indirect. In the case of Celia’s love for Rosalind, Celia is easily reconciled with the idea of Rosalind finding someone else to take Celia’s place when Celia herself finds someone else to take Rosalind’s place. Her attraction toward Oliver, Orlando’s brother, is immediate and scented with the possibility of desperation, but nevertheless, it is there. ‘On so little acquaintance you should/ like her? That but seeing, you should love her? And loving,/ woo? And wooing, she should grant?’ (V.ii. 1-3). Thus Celia, once the faithful and jealous lover of Rosalind, finds her desire directly diverted into a more attainable object of desire. Phebe’s ‘cure’ is of a similar nature. When she discovers that her beloved is indeed a woman she resigns herself to marrying Silvius, the faithful shepherd, and finds it not so repugnant as she always swore it must be. ‘I will not eat my word. Now thou art mine,/ Thy faith my fancy doth combine’ (V.iv. 148-149). So Phebe also is happily united with a member of the opposite sex. The resolution of Orlando’s homoerotic desires is at once the happiest and most troubling. Just as he does not have to choose between the two people he desires because they are one and the same, so he does not have to choose between the different genders he desires. In his marriage to Rosalind (woman) he also marries Ganymede (man). This is pleasant for him, but mildly troubling for the audience and his bride. One cannot help but wonder if he is marrying her for who she is, or her for who she reminds him of. Still, Shakespeare glosses over this uncertainty with the whitewash of a goddess’s blessing. Hymen declares that ‘You and you no cross shall part’ (V, iv: 120) and we are content with that. As You Like It is a play in which Shakespeare explores homoerotic possibilities, and for a while allows his characters to indulge in these desires and affections. In the end, however, he bows to social convention, reigns in his characters’ wandering or errant lusts and loves and tethers each of them down to a pleasant, if tenuous, life of heterosexuality. WORKS CITEDBrown, Steve. ‘The Boyhood of Shakespeare’s Heroines: Notes on Gender Ambiguity in The Sixteenth Century.’ Studies In English Literature 30 (Spring 1990): 243-264.DiGangi, Mario. ‘Queering the Shakespearean Family.’ Shakespeare Quarterly 47 (Fall 1996): 269-290.Shakespeare, William. ‘As You Like It.’ The Norton Shakespeare. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt et al. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., Inc., 1997. 1600-1656.The Bible. King James Version.WORKS CONSULTEDBarroll, Leeds, et al., eds. Shakespeare Studies. London: Associated UP, 1998.Charney, Maurice. All of Shakespeare. New York: Columbia UP, 1993.
William Shakespeare is an author who is known best for his tragedies, such as Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, and Julius Caesar: plays in which the heroes lose. However, Shakespeare also wrote comedies, such as A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Merchant of Venice, and As You Like It: plays in which the heroes win. Included in both of these kinds of plays are strong characters. A character is considered “strong” if they have a distinct personality, motivation, and conflict. Shakespeare was not known for writing what was mainstream at that time, instead creating cross-dressing characters, main female characters, and overall gender fluidity in his plays. He does maintain one feature, though: some of his strongest characters are masculine, even if they are not male, namely in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and As You Like It. The contrast between Bottom’s proud masculinity and Rosalind’s disguised masculinity not only expresses the idea that a strong masculine character does not necessarily have to be a male character, but it also helps the reader to better understand both characters.
Masculinity can be defined, for the purpose of Shakespeare, as power. Masculinity is also pride, independence, strength (physical and emotional), and the ability to make a decision on one’s own. They also have the ability to deal with internal and external conflicts. Both Bottom and Rosalind demonstrate these characteristics in their own ways. Bottom’s main masculine characteristic is his pride. He focuses all of his attention on his acting abilities, and the most likely cause of this is that he’s not seen to have many other talents. However, he is quite confident in his acting abilities: “Let me play the lion too. I will roar, that I will do any man’s heart good to hear me. I will roar, that I will make the Duke say: ‘Let him roar again; let him roar again’ (I.II.66-69). Bottom believes himself to be able to play multiple parts at once, and be very good at playing all of these parts. Some of his conflicts include, of course, his donkey head, but once he begins to get attention from the Queen of the Fairies for this, he grows comfortable and arrogant with Titania’s fairies. He makes decisions on his own when he can, and when he can’t, he changes the situation around to the best of his ability so that it appears that he is in control.
Rosalind, on the other hand, is only masculine in disguise. She is a female, but she has a male counterpart: Ganymede. She is independent, and that gets in her own way as a female, such as when Duke Frederick exiles her. However, once she begins to dress and act as Ganymede, these issues seem to go away for the most part, only added by the fact that she claims it is easy for her to look like a man:
Were it not better,Because that I am more than common tall,That I did suit me all points like a man?A gallant curtal-axe upon my thigh,A boar-spear in my hand, and in my heart,Lie there what hidden a woman’s fear there will. (I.III.111-116)
Rosalind claims that she looks like a man, which will make it easier for her to pass as a man. However, it is not merely this physical disguise that helps her to become a believable man. Rather, it is her courage, her independence, and her forthrightness that truly make the disguise. In those times, a woman could dress like a man or a man could dress like a woman all he or she cared to, but unless the personalities matched what was thought of as “feminine/masculine,” it would not be believed. This is ironic because in Shakespeare’s time, all parts were played as men, so Rosalind’s character was played by a man acting as a woman who was acting as a man, with a masculine personality at all times. Her own gender identity is one of Rosalind’s many inner conflicts, including whether or not she is in love with Orlando. Then to prove her strength, she faced her gender conflict so that she could overcome her external conflict of being exiled and be free.
Disguise was a major theme in both of these plays. Disguises can hide one’s feelings, identities, and ambitions. When Bottom was disguised, it was not by his choice. Instead, he was transfigured by Puck to trick Queen Titania:
Bottom: Why do they run away? This is a knavery of them to make me afeard.Snout: O Bottom, thou art changed! What do I see on thee?Bottom: What do you see? You see an ass-head of your own, do you? (III.I.107-112)
In being transfigured, Bottom is no longer an actor or an independent man: he has become someone who is not much more than an interest of Titania’s affection. As a result, he has seemingly lost a part of his masculinity. Titania is making decisions for him, about where he will go and when he will speak, when decision-making and having power over a situation is one of Bottom’s favorite characteristics. By donning this forced disguise, Bottom’s own personality is hidden.
Rosalind, on the other hand, chose her disguise. She did this to take control over her life, to be free to make her own decisions after it seems like this opportunity will be taken away from her. Through this disguise, Rosalind discusses Orlando’s love for her, without him being aware that he is roleplaying as Orlando-Rosalind with Rosalind herself:
Rosalind: I would cure you, if you would but call me Rosalind and come every day to mycote and woo me.Orlando: Now by the faith of my love, I will. Tell me where it is.Rosalind: Go with me to it and I’ll show it to you; and by the way you shall tell me wherein the forest you live. Will you go?Orlando: With all my heart, good youth.Rosalind: Nay, you must call me Rosalind. Come, sister, will you go? (III.II.408-417)
Here, Rosalind is taking her advantage of being Rosalind disguised as Ganymede, and putting herself in a position of power over Orlando. As a woman, Rosalind was given little say: her father was usurped and exiled, she was told what to do, and then she was exiled. As a man, however, Rosalind is independent, free, and able to help others make decisions rather than others making decisions for her. In other words, through this disguise, Rosalind becomes the complete opposite of herself, much like Bottom does, though in a different way. Gender fluidity is another major component of these plays, and this idea goes alongside with gender roles.
Gender fluidity is where characters move from male to female throughout the work, while gender roles help to define what is viewed as a male or female act. Bottom, for example, seems a very proud character at first, and pride is a male role: “If I do it, let the audience look to their eyes: I will move storms, I will condole in some measure. To the rest – yet my chief humour is for a tyrant. I could play Ercles rarely, or a part to tear a cat in, to make all split” (I.II.21-26). Here, Bottom demonstrates his confidence in his abilities, and the control he thinks he has over what roles he can play. Later on, though, he loses control. As previously stated, once he has been transfigured, there is a power shift where Titania is now in control of Bottom:
Come, wait upon him; lead him to my bower.The moon, methinks, looks with a watery eye,And when she weeps, weeps every little flower,Lamenting some enforced chastity.Tie up my love’s tongue, bring him silently. (III.I.190-194)
Titania is ordering around not only her fairies, but also Bottom. He gets no say in whether or not he wishes to come with Titania, but rather he is tied up and forced to follow her. As A Midsummer Night’s Dream progresses, Bottom realizes that he has less and less control over his situations.
While Bottom’s characterization focused mainly on gender roles that were pushed onto him, Rosalind is a very gender fluid character. She moves from male to female with ease, maintaining her looks and her personality along the way:
Orlando: My lord, the first time that I ever saw himMethought he was a brother to your daughter.But my good lord, this boy is forest-bornAnd hath been tutored in the rudimentsOf many desperate studies by his uncle,Whom he reports to be a great magician,Obscured in the circle of this forest. (V.IV.28-34)
Rosalind passes easily for a man, fooling both her love and her father, while still looking like herself. Despite this, though, she was expected to follow gender roles as a woman, to listen to Duke Frederick and accept banishment (I.III.74-81). But when she “became” a man, she ignored gender roles and did as she pleased. Her character seemed to be more relaxed and comfortable as a male, and she was able to easily help Orlando determine how to interact with herself as a female. Then in the prologue, she discusses the strangeness of a woman being the lead in the Epilogue, which plays directly into gender roles, and also brings up what she would do “If I were a woman,” which highlights her gender fluidity (E.1-21). Rosalind flows between male and female and between the corresponding gender roles throughout the play, and this back-and-forth motion only becomes easier for her as As You Like It advances.
The proud and the disguised masculinity of Bottom and Rosalind play into one another, but they are also distinct from one another. Once Bottom has been defined as a proudly masculine character, it is easier to see that Rosalind is disguising her masculinity behind her female body at first before letting it out as a male. Similarly, upon understanding the point of Rosalind’s disguise, it is easier to understand the change in Bottom’s personality that occurred when his head was transformed into a donkey’s head. At first he was full of himself, insisting that he could play any part in the world to the best it was written. As time progressed, though, and he underwent more conflicts with other characters and situations, Bottom realized that he was not the center of the universe. On the other hand, once Rosalind had disguised herself as a man, her masculinity was unleashed rather than reeled in. She was more comfortable with herself, and did not accept being pushed aside. These two different masculine personalities helped the reader to better understand the other.
Gender fluidity, gender roles, and disguises are all very prevalent themes in Shakespeare’s plays As You Like It and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. These components are strung together to create characters who are diverse, well-rounded, strong, and independent. These characters encounter internal conflict, external conflict, and go through transformations of personality as well as form. Rosalind and Bottom are strong masculine characters, regarding the definition of masculine as independent, proud, and strong, although they are not both male. Shakespeare goes against the flow by making a female into a strong masculine character, but this only goes to show that even if you are a woman, you can still be a main character in the play that is your life. As Jaques said in As You Like It, “All the world’s a stage, / And all the men and women merely players. / They have their exits and their entrances, / And one man in his time plays many parts” (II.VII.140-143). With today’s society, it is difficult to remember that all human beings are, in fact, all human beings. But upon the realization that a woman can be a strong masculine character in Shakespeare, that means that anything can happen.
From the viewpoint of our world today, Shakespeare’s era seems about as conservatively-minded as a society could get. Shakespeare completely demolishes this notion, with his progressive suggestions of a normalcy in homosexuality and transgenderism in his comedy, As You Like It. He first introduces these differing sexualities in depicting a homosexual love between Celia and Rosalind, followed by Orlando and Ganymede—Rosalind’s male disguise. In doing so, Shakespeare also brings about the question of Rosalind as an independent character, or if she is truly independent at all. More important, though, is the epilogue. Just as Shakespeare forces the audience and the characters into a realm of heteronormativity, Rosalind’s epilogue reminds us of the homosexuality that we had previously accepted, before it was overshadowed by the relationships that society had deemed to be correct. Rosalind’s epilogue leaves us wondering if the patriarchal, heteronormative society that Shakespeare presents by the end of the play is the ideal one, or if, rather, a society in which all sexualities and genders are accepted is ideal—we are left yearning for a transgendered Rosalind and the homosexual relationships presented previously.
This conflict of genders and sexualities that the epilogue refers to is brought into question in both Celia’s and Orlando’s loves of Rosalind and Ganymede, respectively. Celia, in the first act, is suggested to have some quasi-lesbian feelings towards Rosalind. Not only does she declare to Rosalind that “thou and I am one,” but when Rosalind asks Celia her thoughts on love, Celia says to “love no man in earnest” (1.3.97, 1.2.26). This latter statement raises the question of whether or not Celia means to only love women “in good earnest,” if she will not love men this way, explaining her seemingly-romantic love for Rosalind. Through our prior love of Rosalind and Celia, and their close bond, Shakespeare makes us keen on the idea of a lesbian relationship between them, or at least homosexual feelings on Celia’s part. This then leads us to a better acceptance of homosexuality for the entirety of the play. Similarly, Rosalind’s epilogue is reminiscent of an acceptance of homosexual love. This is evidenced in the male actor (playing Rosalind) saying that if he were a woman, he would “kiss as many of you as had beards that pleased [him],” suggesting an acceptance of transgender or homosexual feelings on the part of Shakespeare, through the actor (Epilogue, line 17). The actor’s homoerotic feelings being paralleled to Rosalind’s are there intentionally—they reinforce the idea of a normalcy in homosexuality and transgenderism. In turn, the epilogue leaves us dissatisfied at the rather heteronormative ending, in which Shakespeare gives the ending that society wants, not what is best for the characters, or even what society should be openly accepting of. Shakespeare, rather, is touching on the character’s having to hide their homosexual feelings—here, Celia hiding her lesbian feelings toward Rosalind—much like homosexual tendencies were forced to be hidden from society. Although Shakespeare rightly suggests a normalcy in homoerotic and transgender feelings, he seems to only allow these feelings to be openly shown through men—in this case, Orlando and Rosalind’s actor. Perhaps Shakespeare is suggesting, once again, not only the disparity in power between hetero- and homosexual sexualities, but also between men and women. Parallel to Rosalind’s submissiveness to men in the epilogue, women in this play are not openly allowed to share their homoerotic and transgender feelings like their male counterparts. To this extent, Shakespeare reiterates homosexuality in Orlando’s romantic interest in Ganymede.
Although he is initially enchanted by Rosalind, his love for “Rosalind” transcends to his later love for Ganymede. Perhaps the most revealing instance in the play is the scene in which Rosalind and Celia openly discuss Orlando’s kissing. Rosalind, crying to Celia, says that Orlando’s “kisses are Judas’s own children” and that “his kissing is as full of sanctity as the touch of holy bread” (3.4.9-14). Because Orlando and Rosalind were not shown kissing at court, it can be justly assumed that Orlando and Ganymede had just kissed. This implies a side of Orlando not plainly known to us before, one in which Orlando harbors same-sex feelings, and, moreover, is allowed to act on them. This leaves us with the question of why, unlike Celia, he’s allowed more freedom in acting upon his homosexual feelings. Also brought into question is why Shakespeare only allows the male actor to allude to homosexual feelings, rather than having Rosalind say that she would kiss every woman in the audience. Instead, she is obliged to almost apologize for being there, as it “is not the fashion to see the lady the epilogue” (Epilogue, ll. 1-2). In this regard, Shakespeare seems to be critiquing the lack of power that women have, doubly so as both a woman and as a woman with homosexual feelings. If it’s assumed to be correct that the audience is somewhat disappointed in the ending, then the epilogue is the key part in which we truly feel for both the characters’ lack of power in their sexuality, and also the lack of female power. The epilogue leaves us yearning for the power that Rosalind had as Ganymede, and envious of the liberty that the men in the play easily and openly enjoy. If the relationships between Rosalind/Celia and Orlando/Ganymede are the cause of our acceptance of varying sexualities, then it is the ending and the epilogue which create our cause for concern. Rosalind, throughout the play and epilogue, plays a critical, yet versatile role. Not only is she the crux for non-heteronormativity in the play, but she is also the character through which the others can express their less-than-heterosexual feelings throughout the play. It is Rosalind, though, who is not able to govern herself how she wants. In the end, she is obliged to take the heteronormative role that society wants her to take, once again conveying the lack of power that women, homosexuals, and transgenders have.
The epilogue, too, leaves open for interpretation the character that Rosalind is embodying at that time. There is no satisfying answer to this question, though: dressed as Rosalind, we would be disappointed in the character not having the freedom to identify as Ganymede; dressed as Ganymede, she would still be demeaned to a status below men. The epilogue, in its allowance of the reader to interpret how Rosalind is dressed, serves to show the lack of power that women have, and leaves us desiring for Rosalind to have more power, to fully be Ganymede, as Ganymede afforded her such liberties. Rosalind admits in the epilogue that “It is not the fashion to see the lady the epilogue,” demeaning herself to a status below men (Epilogue, 1). This attitude of Rosalind’s starkly contrasts the Ganymede side of her, who had “a swashing and martial outside,” but yet now is meek and inferior (1.3.118). Perhaps Shakespeare, in showing this dynamic, wants us to be disappointed, and somewhat off-put, by the character we see before us, so different from the Ganymede from before. The epilogue depicts the lack of power that the people other than the non-heterosexual males in Shakespeare’s time actually had. The audience is left wondering at this, hungry for the powerful Rosalind that we had seen before.
Though the play acts upon our willingness to love the characters through whichever gender or sexuality they (or the play) offer to the audience, it begs the question of whether or not this was actually effective. Did the audience view this play the way it seems he has intended it, or did they simply take it as a joke about differing sexualities, rather than a critique on our heteronormative society? Being that this play was performed hundreds of years ago, it seems more accurate that the audience could have misconstrued Shakespeare’s meaning. Perhaps rather than the ending being a critique, they saw it as the “correct” ending. If so, Shakespeare’s words and suggestions were lost on a generation which could have been the starting point of a new, more progressive England.