As You Like It
Gender in As You Like It
Present day conceptions of gender would appear to be different to what they were in Shakespeares day. Clear cut divisions of male, female and neuter are apparent. One would need to look back to the time of Shakespeare to try and see the different view of gender identity. Using the play As You Like It and the characters portrayed within it one might be able to see how our concept of gender may well be challenged. Gender role in this play does appear to be confusing at first glance. Men playing women who fall in love with men and these women acting within an act to be men. Men wooing women played by and then wooing the men portrayed by these acting women. By carefully going through the text of As You Like It (Greenblatt, ed., PP1591-1657) one can try to dig in to the characters portrayed and discover any challenge to our views of gender identity. During this essay I will point out some of the texts and criticisms that I would suggest lead to the Shakespearean gender identity and this will show how it has altered over time.
I would suggest that Shakespeare explores homoerotic possibilities in several characters. A good example of this is the relationship shown between Rosalind and Celia. Rosalind is called a traitor by Duke Frederick (Greenblatt, ed., p1610) and Celia is very quick to respond to try and help her. The deeper implication of their friendship appears to be pointed out when Celia says (Greenblatt, ed., p1610, lines 66-70):
But now I know her. If she be a traitor,
Why, so am I. We still have slept together,
Rose at an instant, learned, played, eat together,
And wheresoeer we went, like Junos swans
Still we went coupled and inseparable.
This would appear to suggest that their friendship is more intimate than is apparent and Juliet Dusinberre in As WHO liked it says that the play rewrites the record of female desire so that women want to read it. I will return to Rosalind and Celia later in this essay.
Gender conception is also challenged with the scene at Duke Seniors forest home (Greenblatt, ed., pp1612-1613). There are no woman in the forest retreat and there appears to be no desire for them either. This seems to be an all men together lifestyle which is described as being sweet. Duke Senior says (Greenblatt, ed., p1612, line 5) Here we feel not the penalty of Adam and this line alone really points to the no women feelings amongst the men.
One needs to look at the relationship of Rosalind and Orlando and Rosalinds disguise as Ganymede. To do this one needs to discover the meaning behind the name Ganymede.
The name Ganymede has social and literary connotations and suggests male to male desire. Ganymede was a young boy from mythology that Jove fell in love with. The boy replaced Joves wife as his lover. In Shakespearean times the name Ganymede was used to describe a male prostitute and more specifically the name given to a young male lover of an older man. The term was fully understood at the time and I would suspect that Shakespeare used it to implicate a homoerotic overture between Orlando and Ganymede. The idea of a homoerotic relationship between these two would also be backed by the speedy acceptance by Orlando of the situation. Orlando describes Ganymede as fair and good and woos and flirts with him as he would have with Rosalind.
Returning to Rosalind and Celia one can find more evidence of their deep relationship when they are discussing Orlando (Greenblatt, ed., pp 1634-1635). They are in deep conversation about Orlando and Rosalind is singing his praises to Celia. Rosalind says she loves his hair, his and his love. Celia replies that his hair is the same as Judass, his kisses cold as ice and that his love is hollow. So here one can see that Celia is jealous of Orlando.
Celia is not the only woman in love with Rosalind. When Phoebe first discovers Rosalind as Ganymede she falls in love. She would appear to be attracted to Ganymedes femininity and goes on to describe his physical attributes (Greenblatt, ed., p1638, lines 120-125):
His leg is so-so; and yet tis well.
There was a pretty redness in his lip,
Than that mixed in his cheek. Twas just the difference
Betwixt the constant red and mingled damask.
Whether or not Rosalind feels romantic towards Phoebe it is apparent that she is pleased that another woman is erotically and physically attracted to her. Rosalind seems to confirm this in the line (Greenblatt, ed., p 1654, line 113) to Phoebe, Nor neer wed woman if you not be she.
Shakespeare has, I would suggest, deliberately woven in homoerotic potential throughout this play. From the hints of homosexuality of Duke Senior and his friends in the forest to Orlando wooing a boy whose name is associated with male to male lovers. He has pointed to female homosexuality in Rosalind and Celia and even brought in the character of Phoebe to back this up. It should be noted, however, that at the end of the play all the characters end up in heterosexual relationships.
Where does this leave one with the original question and does this evidence point towards a challenge to ones conception of gender identity? One should realise that at the time that Shakespeare was writing there was great social change. The period of enlightenment was well under way. Attitudes to urinating and defecating
in public view were altering. In a patriarchal society women were viewed in a different light to what they are now. I would suggest that there was basically only one gender during this period. Woman were considered to be the same as males, but because they had no male organs they were lesser males and treated accordingly.
Ann Thompson (Stanley Wells, ed., p4) puts forward a previously suggested idea that Shakespeares own sexual identity may have been in doubt. This may well be part of the reason for him including the multi-gender eroticism in this play. She goes on to point out that transvestism was widespread in this period as it was in the Renaissance. It would appear that homoerotic themes in As You Like It (Greenblatt, ed., pp1591-1657) may well have been a reflection of how Shakespeare perceived the society of the day.
Victor L. Cahn takes a slightly different look at gender identity in his book. He tends to perceive the romantic side of the play showing how different critics have widely varying ideas. However, he does say that (Cahn, p.651): the combination of masculine boldness and feminine sensitivity that makes her [Rosalind] so alluring to Orlando. So even in a romantic look at the play the double gender identity of Rosalind still pushes through.
Mario DiGangi gives one a final vision. He refers to the line (Greenblatt, ed., p1602, line 102-103) as they did in the golden world. He suggests that this line refers back to the renaissance myth of Orpheus who established an all male community. This community was established to avoid the dangers of female seduction and sexuality. This compares with Duke Seniors lifestyle and the homosexual implications of this would appear to be almost undeniable.
In concluding this essay I would suggest that Shakespeares vision of gender identity is a challenge to ones own. The point I have already made about women being lesser forms of men may have been acceptable in his day. In our enlightened society this would not be acceptable.
The main point of gender identity in Shakespeares day was that it would appear that for men cross-dressing, homosexuality and casual affairs would have been more acceptable than now. The thought of willy-nilly cross-dressing and the general wooing of the same sex would definitely challenge modern day views on gender.
The Depiction Of Race In Branagh’s Adaptation Of ‘As You Like It’
“In the latter part of the 19th century, Japan opened up for trade with the West. Merchant adventurers arrived from all over the world, many of them English. Some traded in silk and rice and lived in enclaves around the ‘treaty ports.’ They brought their families and their followers and created private mini-empires where they tried to embrace this extraordinary culture, its beauties and its dangers…” (On-screen text)
Branagh uses 19th century Japan to envision a culturally diverse Shakespeare’s As You Like It, where the feudal lords of the medieval France of the play are now lords of mini-empires created by English colonizers in Japan. These lords are not originally of noble blood but are rich, opportunistic merchants who have reinvented themselves as royalty. Away from the European societal norms, this reinvention facilitates the possibility of not only a black lord but also his match with a white Duke’s daughter. While the period, place, and races have been changed, Branagh retains the original Shakespearean language. Although by the end of the eighteenth century slavery was abolished in France, blacks were still seen as an inferior race. But just as the forest is outside the conventions of the court, a colonial outpost in Japan also has different conventional parameters and cultural hierarchies than the aristocracy of France. There is thus much cultural and racial flexibility in the movie. As stated by the opening on-screen text, we see that the European colonizers have quasi-adapted Japanese culture. But even in the first scene, when they are watching a kabuki performance and the military coup is being staged, Oliver is standing away from the other white characters who are sitting in a group. There is a hint of exclusion or an imaginary boundary which he can’t seem to cross.
For their part, the Japanese characters are given very marginal roles in the film and have problematic characterizations. Charles, who is a sumo wrestler instead of a boxer in the movie, basically sits silent in his conversation with Orlando; all his lines are spoken by a white man. Phoebe is featherheaded and superficial. She embodies Nietzsche’s idea of women, that is, “When thou goest to a woman, take thy whip!” She cruelly rejects Silvius but falls in love with Rosalind’s criticism, which itself also becomes an issue. Though she uses the same lines as in the play, the features described as ugly are “inky brows, black hair” — characteristic Asian features. Hence, the entire scene almost verges on racism.
Almost as though reflecting these racial constructs, Edward Said in his book Orientalism discusses how non-Europeans are treated as Other to show white supremacy and civility. William is portrayed as a simple-minded Japanese peasant who is a silent spectator, ridiculed and physically abused by Touchstone until he runs away. Touchstone here asserts his manliness and right to Audrey not only by using wit but by actually using physical violence. The white court fool, who is of a lower hierarchy among the European colonizers, asserts his superiority in comparison to an Asian character. Duke Frederick, the antagonist, like his samurai soldiers has black Samurai hair and wears black samurai clothes. But when he converts and becomes civilized, his appearance become Europeanized. The movie even uses elements of Chinese culture like feng shui meditation garden and characters performing tai chi to represent, or misrepresent, Japanese culture. Branagh has fallen in the trap of creating an Orientalist image by blurring cultural differences and nuances in the process. This Eurocentric attitude leads to a very stereotypical and superficial depiction of Japan.
There is currently some debate on whether this cross-cultural adaptation is a success. On the one hand, Trevor Johnston notes that “Branagh’s fifth foray into celluloid Shakespeare brings us this rather stodgy version of the Bard’s wise comedy of old Japan. Shakespeare, of course, didn’t set it in the Far East, but Branagh’s conceit is that a Japan in transition with the arrival of foreign traders makes an ideal background for a story reliant on transformation and disguise.” However, Heather Boerner asserts that “Branagh’s idea to move the play from England to Japan is brilliant and adds a new layer of interest. Plus — ninjas and sumo wrestlers. What could be better? The antic second half, full of Three’s Company-style mistaken identities, quick banter, and a very happy ending will satisfy the romantics in the audience.”
The film is a unique postcolonial rewriting of a vital text in Eurocentric Canon. Agree with his choices or not, Branagh purposefully contextualizes As You Like It in the socio-political sphere of 19th Century Japan. But the racial relationships are neither suitably developed nor aptly explored. Though the film does, like the other movies of Branagh, try to show an inclusive inter-racial world, it drastically falls short in its uninformed approach to the culture it is trying to depict.
Henry IV and As You Like It: The Relationship Between Older and Younger Males
Compare the relations between older and younger men in the following extracts; pay close attention to the use of dramatic language and the opportunities offered by the text for different emphases in production: 1 Henry IV, 2.4.109-62 (Bevington ed., pp. 182-6) and As You Like It, 2.3.27-77 (Brissenden ed., pp. 131-3)
The two extracts differ dramatically in their approach to the relations between older and younger men. In summary, the As You Like It scene is serious and moving, conducted in verse, concerned with issues of faithfulness, and uses Biblical references for metaphors. The scene from Henry IV is humorous, conducted in prose, concerned with betrayal and falsehood, (even if it is set in a farcical context,) and refers to common sayings in its metaphors and oaths. Both scenes examine the comparison of an old world to the new, to different levels of significance. The potential exists in both scenes to perform them in opposition to the audiences expectations – comic elements could be introduced into the As You Like It scene, and the Henry IV scene could be darkened in places.
The extract from Henry IV is conducted in prose throughout; its use can be allotted by social distinction, for superior characters to inferiors, or it can be used by one of high status to another, as a calculating insult. In this case though, it is appropriate for the surroundings of the Eastcheap tavern, and is used among persons of varying status to express their friendship. Hal effectively moves between the prose world of Eastcheap and the noble world of exalted blank verse. The use of prose in the tavern is simply a different register and does not necessarily make it an inferior form; Falstaff’s prose often seems to speak more truth than the elevated language of the courtiers. The use of prose here also has the effect of increasing the pace of the scene, and the brisk exchanges of short pieces of dialogue support this:
HAL: Why, you whoreson round man, what’s the matter?
FALSTAFF: Are you not a coward? Answer me to that. And Poins there?
POINS: Zounds, ye fat paunch, an ye call me coward, by the Lord, I’ll stab thee.
1 Henry IV 2.4.134-39
By contrast, the As You Like It extract is conducted in blank verse. It’s unrhymed, measured iambic pentameter was the most popular poetic form, or vehicle, of English Renaissance drama. It tends to be used by high-ranking characters, as a mark of respect to each other, or to talk down to inferiors. In this extract, however, Adam would be considered an inferior of Orlando, yet they converse in blank verse without the intention of insult. A lowly character such as Adam, like that of Caliban in The Tempest, gains reverence and status by his use of verse, and shows the mutual respect and friendship between the pair. Adam’s rhyming couplets in his final speech give formal heightening to his resolve, and an audible marker to the conclusion of this part of the play, which, apart from the small scene 3.1, takes place in the forest. The blocks of dialogue are much larger here, and the use of verse slows the scene down, allowing the audience to contemplate it fully. It is important that the audience should hear what is being said here, and understand the nature of Orlando’s and Adam’s relationship, whereas much of the humour in the Henry IV scene requires less attention, and has already been anticipated earlier in the play when we hear Poin’s scheme in 1.2.
An actor can vary the register and tone of their speech to build character from their role and to interact with other roles in the scene, since there are potentially multiple performances within each speech. Varying the second-person pronoun between ‘thou’, ‘thee’, or ‘you’, and their possessives, ‘thy’, ‘thine’, or ‘your’, was a crucial method of indicating status and register in the early modern period. The use of ‘thou’ expresses affection between family and friends, or condescending superiority to an inferior, or contempt towards strangers. In Henry IV, Hal refers to Falstaff as ‘thou’ in friendly terms, but switches angrily, possibly in jest, to ‘you’ when Falstaff continues to ignore him, ‘How now, woolsack, what mutter you?’ [2.4.129]. Falstaff switches between ‘thou’ and ‘you,’ and although it is textually unclear, the scene could be directed in such a way as to make him refer to Poins as ‘thou’ and Hal, ‘You, Prince of Wales!’ [2.4.133] as ‘you.’ In this period, one would use ‘you’ to either someone of status as an inferior, or someone one did not know well – Falstaff could be implying both these sentiments, as he is angry that Hal thought himself too good for the raid, and let down by a friend, someone he should have known well. In the As You Like It extract, Orlando refers to Adam as ?thou’ throughout, as is common from masters to servants, but here it seems to express their friendship. However, Adam still feels the need to refer to Orlando as ‘you’, up until his final speech where their loyalty to each other is confirmed and he announces, ‘Master, go on, and I will follow thee,’ [2.3.70] although retaining the title of ‘Master,’ to preserve some distinction of status.
It is interesting to note that many allusions in the As You Like It extract are drawn from the Bible, emphasising the formal, sombre nature of the scene. For example:
ADAM: Take that, and he that doth the ravens feed,
Yea providently caters for the sparrow,
Be comfort to my age.
As You Like It 2.3.44-46
Is a reference to God’s feeding the ravens in Psalm 147 : 9, Luke 12 : 24, and Job 38 : 41. God’s concern for the sparrows is mentioned in Matthew 10 : 29, and Luke 12 : 6. The phrase, ?yet I am strong and lusty,’ [2.3.48] reiterates, yet inverts the meaning of, Psalm 73 : 4, where the psalmist complains that the wicked, who are strong and lusty, or vigorous, always seem to be better off. Adam’s implication here, however, is that he has kept his strength because he has not given into worldly temptations. Additionally, the lines:
ORLANDO: …none will sweat but for promotion,
And having that do choke their service up
Even with the having.
As You Like It 2.3.61-63
Could be derived from the parable of the sower, Matthew 13 : 22, where the world is choked up by the deceitfulness of riches. In the Henry IV extract, however, it is noticeable that the allusions pertain to alterations of common sayings of the day, rather than the authority of the Bible. ‘There is nothing but roguery to be found in villainous man,’ [2.4.119-120] is a variation on the saying, ‘there is no faith in man,’ and ‘…thy lips are scarce wiped since thou drunk’st last’ [2.4.147-8] is a ironic variation on the saying ‘you licked not your lips since you lied last.’ ‘Then am I a shotten herring,’ [2.4.24] uses the saying, ‘as lean as a shotten herring,’ (one which has spawned and is especially thin and emaciated,) ironically due to Falstaff’s large size. Additionally, Falstaff makes some very unusual oaths, in keeping with the comic nature of the scene. Instead of the traditional ‘By God…’ or, ‘By Heaven…’ or, ‘…may God strike me down,’ etc., he uses oaths such as, ‘Ere I live this life long, I’ll sew nethersocks,’ [2.4.111-2] ‘…then am I a shotten herring,’ [2.4.24] and, ‘I’ll never wear hair on my face more,’ [2.4.132-3]. An interesting display of parallelism from Falstaff occurs at line 145-5, ‘I am a rogue if I drunk today’ and line 158-9, ‘I am a rogue if I were not at half-sword with a dozen of them two hours together.’ This adds humour to the scene as it is ironically significant that Falstaff is a rogue as he was not at half-sword with a dozen men – no-one could accuse him of lying. Other examples of parallelism include the mention of ‘a thousand pounds’ at line 139, and again at line 153, supposedly the amount stolen from the gang. Elsewhere in the play, the sum is 300 marks, or 200 pounds, but the exaggeration here is appropriate to Falstaff’s previous hyperbole, ‘I would give a thousand pounds I could run as fast as thou canst.’ In the As You Like It extract, Orlando’s closing speech ends with the word ‘content,’ which was used by Celia in her final couplet before leaving the court for the forest [1.3.137], giving a circularity of plot – both characters are wrongfully banished from their home, and seek refuge, peace, or ‘content’ in the forest.
It has already been pointed out that the Henry IV extract is intended to be the start of a very amusing scene. Falstaff’s reprimanding of Hal and Poins for being cowards is ironic as the audience know they robbed him and his gang, acting far from cowardly. Other humorous aspects include Falstaff’s disgruntled manner of ignoring them, his outrageous oaths and curses, and the fact that we see him falling into Poin’s trap, and hearing ‘the incomprehensible lies that this same fat rogue will tell,’ [1.2.174-5]. Falstaff makes a comic pose of pious virtue in his vows to make and darn stockings, replace soles, and sing psalms. Numerous references are made to Falstaff’s corpulence, a universal mirth-provoking topic, including, ‘Titan,’ [2.4115] the irony of ‘am I a shotten herring,’ [2.4.124] ‘one of them is fat and grows old,’ [2.4.125-6] ‘woolsack,’ [2.4.129] ‘whoreson round man,’ [2.4.134] and ‘ye fat paunch,’ [2.4.138]. Darker elements could be introduced into this scene, however, contrary to audience expectations. It has already been pointed out that the apparently random interchangeability of ‘thee’ and ‘you’ could be a calculated attempt to show Falstaff’s true anger and disappointment in Hal. Elsewhere in the play, there is little evidence to suggest that he knows of the plot, although it has been produced this way in Eighteenth-Century adaptations, but only by adding lines to the original script. How much sense of betrayal hides behind Falstaff’s comic grumpiness? Falstaff’s mention of, ‘a dagger of lath,’ [2.4.131] alludes to a stage property of the Vice figure in Morality plays, used as a comic weapon. In this allusion, parallels can be drawn between Falstaff and the Vice figure, who was not only hilariously comic but inherently evil. Therefore, the scene could also act as a precursor to Hal’s eventual rejection of Falstaff, adding a dark, ironic edge to the proceedings.
The As You Like It extract is taken from a serious scene between Orlando and his faithful servant Adam – this in itself is far removed from the bickering and deceitful scene between Hal and Falstaff. It is significant in context to the rest of the play, since it is the last scene in the court and concludes, in a sense, that section of the play. It also hinges on one of the play’s central themes – the comparison of an old and new world. It was pointed out that dark undertones could co-exist in the light-hearted Henry IV extract, and similarly, part of this scene could be played comically to break up the tension. When Adam offers Orlando the five hundred crowns of his life-savings, the container it is presented in has varied in performance from a tiny draw-string pouch to enormous buckets of pennies, almost impossible to lift. This depiction of two extremes presents Adam as a comical figure due to his stereotypical selfless, Christ-like role. The examination of the values of an old and new world comes when Orlando praises Adam for retaining traditional values, of working out of a sense of duty and not profit:
O good old man, how well in thee appears
The constant service of the antique world,
When service sweat for duty, not for meed!
Henry IV 2.3.57-59
This theme is also examined, albeit in a lighter way, in the Henry IV extract. Falstaff bemoans the modern world, claiming, ‘God help the while! A bad world I say!’ [2.4.126-7] it’s population, ‘a plague of all cowards.’ [2.4.110] This is a pointed jibe at Hal and Poins, yet approaches the same topic as the As You Like It extract.
In conclusion, Henry IV’s use of prose indicates its humorousness and the friendship between characters of different social status. As You Like It shows this too, yet it’s verse displays a more formal tone. It has been shown that both extracts can display sentiments contrary to audience expectations – the comic incorporates darkness, the sombre has the potential for humour. The Biblical allusions in this extract are replaced with comic oaths from Falstaff in Henry IV. Both extracts are linked by their examination of old and new world values.
Shakespeare, W. (1998). Henry IV Part I. (c. 1598) D. Bevington (Ed.) Oxford: Oxford University Press
Shakespeare, W. (1998). As You Like It. (c. 1600) A. Brissenden (Ed.) Oxford: Oxford University Press
The Forest Of Arden As An Utopianism Sanctuary
In the pastoral setting of the Forest of Arden in William Shakespeare’s As You Like It, the characters are physically removed from society, and thus from the political, economic, and sexual rules that govern social life. If Arden is a paradise, however, it is an illusory one. Shakespere initially represents Arden as a sanctuary where the characters can re-invent themselves in roles that were unavailable to them in society. The experience of inhabiting different personae, however, only renews the characters’ dedication to their traditional societal roles. Shakespere thus presents the Forest of Arden as a commentary on the permanent influence of society on individual identity.
In Arden, both Rosalind and Oliver have a chance to reinvent themselves. Rosalind, having fled the corrupt society of court, approaches the Forest of Arden as a place where she may be able to be free to be herself. In a move that suggests the particular oppression of women in Renaissance England, Rosalind re-imagines herself as the mythological male figure of Ganymede: a Trojan boy of great beauty and Zeus’ cupbearer (II.1.123). In Rosalind’s attempt to shed her identity in outside society as the daughter of Duke Senior, she chooses the identity of a strong male. Underneath her disguise, however, she clings fiercely to her femininity. Even in her man’s apparel, Rosalind insists that she can “cry like a woman” (II.4.5).
Oliver is presented initially as a greedy, evil character who denies his brother the right to an education. When the Duke orders him to enter Arden to find his brother who has fled, Oliver has a chance to redeem himself. After being saved from the lion and snake by his brother Orlando, Oliver comes across Rosalind and Celia. Upon asking who he is, Oliver announces to the women: “I do not shame / To tell you what I was, since my conversion / So sweetly tastes, being the thing that I am” (IV.3.134-136). Removed from the pressures of court, Oliver has the opportunity to judge his own character and redeem himself as an authentic person (“this thing that I am”). However, Oliver’s redemption – presented in distinctly religious terms – is one that fulfills the Duke’s order and thus renders Oliver more suitable to court life. For Oliver, Arden is not an escape from society, but a temporary opportunity to redeem himself in the eyes of the social world.
Similarly, Touchstone and Duke Senior remind the reader that Arden is merely a temporary respite from human society. Its utopian character is illusory: Arden is not part of another world. Although Touchstone is one of the fools of the play, he is one of the only characters who resists folly in believing Arden to be a type of paradise. Indeed, Touchstone reminds us that in Arden, “from hour to hour, [they] ripe and ripe, / And then, from hour to hour [they] rot and rot” (II.7.26-27). Provocatively, Touchstone suggests that Arden is not a supernatural realm: in Arden as in nature, nothing lasts forever. While Arden’s pastoral landscape may appear fantastical and ideal, time moves on and things are always changing. Duke Senior also demystifies Arden. The Duke tells of the wonders of Arden; how the woods are free from the perils of court and and the penalty of Adam. He refers to the Biblical Garden of Eden and the fall of man, contrasting it to Arden: a golden world wherein the fall of man never happened. However, as he continues, the Duke reveals an ambivalence about Arden’s status as the mythical “golden world”. He states that with “the icy fang/ And churlish chiding of the winter’s wind, / Which, when it bites and blows upon [his] body / […] [He shrinks] with cold” (II.1.6-9). In this description of the harshness of nature, the Duke suggests that Arden changes with the seasons and the weather will not stay perfect forever; it is the same in Arden as it is in human society.
Like Rosalind, Touchstone takes advantage of his time in Arden to re-invent himself in a role that would not be available to him in society. Significantly, both characters pay for transgressing their societal roles. Rosalind’s disguise as Ganymede enables her occupy a masculine role in the process of courtship. She attempts to woo the man she loves and teach him how to be a better lover. In her time as Ganymede, she and Orlando form a homosocial bond and with this, a homoerotic attraction to one another. Rosalind cannot, however, take part in a sexual relationship with Orlando while in disguise. Upon realizing that a homosexual relationship will not be accepted in outside society, she abandons her disguise and submits instead to her future husband (V.4). Similarly, Touchstone attempts to re-invent himself as a married man for his own ends. When he is made aware by the vicar that marriage in Arden is unlawful, he responds: “[He] is / not like to marry me well; and not being well married, / it will be a good excuse for me hereafter to leave my / wife” (III.3.83-86). Touchstone suggests that he does not believe in the bonds of marriage; yet in Arden, he is not afraid to follow through with the ceremony. He thus carries out his distorted fantasy of marrying Audrey in Arden in exchange for the promise of a void marriage back in human society. The Forest of Arden emerges as a realm where one’s fantasies of escaping societal roles ultimately lead to a re-inscription of those roles.
Shakespeare represents the Forst of Arden not as an ideal world, but rather a sanctuary where one can go to act freely, learn, and return to society with a new understanding of the permanence of individual identity. In Arden, people change, time changes and fantasies are fulfilled only temporarily. Ultimately, Shakespeare criticizes utopianism as an impossibility. Individuals re-enact their societal roles even in the absence of society.
Shakespere, William. As You Like It. Ed. Alan Brissenden.
Oxford: Oxford UP, 1998.
Celebrating Women And Castigating Men In A Midsummer’s Night Dream And As You Like It
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 my
cote 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 where
in 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 him
Methought he was a brother to your daughter.
But my good lord, this boy is forest-born
And hath been tutored in the rudiments
Of 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.
Love As You Like It From A Different Perspective
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.
Jaques’s Melancholy in “As You Like It”
“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.
Seeing Love Through Fresh Eyes
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.
Colliding Worlds: Green World Theory vs. Marxist Theory
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.
Call Me Rosalind: Gender and Gender Stereotyping in As You Like It
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.