As You Like It

by: William Shakespeare

Gender

1

So wouldst thou, if the truth of thy love to me were so righteously tempered as mine is to thee. (I.ii.12)

Celia addresses Rosalind, who is bemoaning the fact that her father has been exiled. Celia feels offended by Rosalind’s unhappiness. She believes that if the situation were reversed, she would find a way to be happy since she and Rosalind would still be together. The love between these cousins serves as a simple example of a pure familial love based on deep friendship. Celia and Rosalind’s female bond represents one of the strongest and most balanced relationships in the play.

2

Were it not better, Because that I am more than common tall, That I did suit me all points like a man? (I.iii.112–114)

After Rosalind is banished from court, she and Celia decide to escape to the forest of Ardenne together as Celia does not want to be apart from Rosalind. As they discuss their next steps, they realize that they won’t be safe walking the forest alone as women. In light of such a fact, they decide to dress as men. Here, Rosalind points out that her unusual height makes her disguise easy to pull off. In Elizabethan times, the perceived dangers to women traveling alone were much the same as they are today.

3

Women’s gentle brain Could not drop forth such giant-rude invention, Such Ethiop words, blacker in their effect Than in their countenance. (IV.ii.55–57)

After Rosalind, while disguised as Ganymede, scorned Phoebe, Phoebe sent Rosalind a scathing letter, clearly offended that her love was dismissed so easily. After reading the letter, Rosalind tells Silvius, who delivered the letter to Rosalind, that she can’t believe a woman wrote such a harshly worded letter. Throughout the play, in opposition to the conventions of the Elizabethan era, the women tend to act like men, and the men like women.

4

Be of good cheer, youth. You a man? You lack a man’s heart. (IV.ii.191)

Oliver addresses Rosalind, who is disguised as Ganymede, after she faints upon hearing of Orlando’s dangerous interlude in the woods and his chivalric efforts to prove his love for Rosalind again, disguised as Ganymede. In this scene, Rosalind feels overcome with emotion, making her a typical woman, especially in the courtly love tradition. A man, based on the Elizabethan culture, would be able to handle his emotions more stoutly. This mixing of gender roles represents a lighthearted yet subversive move on Shakespeare’s part, serving to bring Rosalind’s tender heart, a quality she tends to deny she possesses, into sharper focus.

5

It is not the fashion to see the lady the epilogue, but it is no more unhandsome than to see the lord the prologue. (V.iv.196–197)

In the epilogue of the play, Rosalind stops using her disguise to deliver one last set of lines to the audience. Rosalind points out that typically a male, not female, character gives the final epilogue. Nevertheless, as the lead character, Rosalind delivers these final lines. Gender identity played an important role in Elizabethan theater and culture, and blurring gender roles as Shakespeare does here demonstrates a highly subversive act.