Q. What does Rosalind’s disguise suggest about the fluidity or fixity of gender in the play?
Ans. Rosalind’s disguise as Ganymede, a shepherd’s boy, is liberating; it allows her a special kind of freedom. Her disguise was required only so that she could reach the safety of the forest, however, she chose to keep the disguise and even befriends Orlando, who thinks “Ganymede”, is actually a teenage boy. Gender, in As You Like It, is culpable to change. Its fluidity is a result of the effect of one’s surroundings on their character and personality.
After Duke Frederick banishes his niece, Rosalind, for the crime of being her father’s daughter, Rosalind and Celia decide to exile themselves to the Forest of Arden. However, the question remains as to how they will travel to the forest, considering that, “beauty provoketh thieves sooner than gold.” In order to conceal herself from the savagery of thieves and robbers, Rosalind must take on the disguise of a male figure in order to hide her womanly qualities. It is suggested here that gender is susceptible to change in order to suit ones needs. Rosalind disguises herself as a teenage shepherd, Ganymede, so as to not attract attention from assailants as a woman could; as Celia says, “…so shall we pass along, and never stir assailants.”
However, even after the safe passage of Rosalind and Celia into the Forest of Arden, it is seen that Rosalind still maintains her disguise as Ganymede. She internalizes the qualities of the teenage boy by behaving, acting, and conversing like a male after experiencing the freedom she was allowed by her disguise. “I could find in my heart to disgrace my man’s apparel and to cry like a woman; but I must comfort the weaker vessel, as doublet and hose ought to show itself courageous to petticoat.” As Ganymede, Rosalind is able to tutor Orlando about love and comment freely on his actions; this may have been impossible in a conventional love affair.
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