Back to: As You Like It by William Shakespeare
As You Like It is one of those ingenious Shakespearean plays which uses the tool of disguise to change the conventional notion of certain issues in society. In the play, the characters of Rosalind and Celia disguise themselves and the whole consequence of comedy and wit happens.
In Elizabethan times, the disguise was one of the tools of the stage to entertain. Shakespeare uses this tool to add some comic effects while suggesting a serious issue behind it at the same time. Rosalind is too witty for the male characters in the play.
When she leaves for the Forest of Arden with Celia, they disguise themselves for safety but very soon we see that even when they’ve found Duke Senior, Orlando and others in the forest, they don’t come out of disguise and this is when we learn the importance of the idea of disguise in the play.
Rosalind chooses to be Ganymede which is the name of a Greek mythical character known for its boyish beauty. It stands exactly opposite to what Rosalind actually is, a beautiful girl.
Celia chooses to be Aliena which in Latin means stranger. It may mean that after knowing the true face of her father due to his cruelty and leaving everything behind, she is a stranger to her own self.
The disguise allows them to do what normally they can’t as women. It raises the question of the conventions of society regarding gender roles too. As Ganymede, Rosalind tests the loyalty of Orlando thoroughly. She can enjoy freedom of speech. She can express her feelings at first which as a woman is required from her to be controlled.
The disguise of Rosalind and Aliena reminds us of the fact that gender roles are after all not as rigid as designed by a patriarchal society. Gender roles are created because Rosalind as a boy can do anything as good as any real man so the role of a woman is not born by nature but created in society.
Hence the play deals with the theme of disguise extensively and suggests to us subtly of something serious while using it to create comic effects every now and then.