October 20, 2017
“As You Like it” by William Shakespeare, was a masterful comedy of its time. For it to be as successful and so oft reproduced, Shakespeare employed literary devices to create a deeper meaning for the audience. This includes motive and summary. Also during this time, Shakespeare was breaking cultural barriers with his use of women in plays. However it was not women that Shakespeare used but men dressed as women, something that Cromwellian/English Puritan society was not built to handle. While Shakespeare delighted audiences, he horrified the religious authorities of his day such as William Prynne, who ravaged Shakespeare in his work “The Dangers of Cross Dressing.” Meanwhile, critic Erica Fudge took a more humanist perspective in her work “Dressing up as a Human.”
Rosalind broke the mold of feminine characters in her day, for she presented a strong woman headed only where she wanted to go. “Men have died from time to time, and worms have eaten them, but not for love”(IV.i.78–79) said Rosalind as she rejected a man’s claim that he would die without her; this clearly breaks the mold of a traditional female in Elizabethan society. However, the femininity could not truly be captured because the person who played the strong woman was actually a man. Among many other professions such as being a soldier or a craftsman, women were prevented from becoming actors as that was left for the Actor’s guild's. Even though there was a loophole through making men dress as women, not all people thought it was appropriate at all. William Prynne in “The Dangers of Cross Dressings”, being the Puritan he was, attacked cross-dressing from a biblical standpoint. Prynne quoted Deuteronomy 22 verse 5 about how women will not dress as men and vice versa. He states that cross-dressing as well as dressing like an animal but “Obliterate that most glorious image which god himself hath stamped upon us” (Prynne 216). It is important to note Prynne calls man the most glorious image god made, displaying classic Elizabethan sexism of the time. However, what could not have helped in the case of theater against Prynne was how strong willed Shakespeare made Rosalind. Shakespeare was not just openly being progressive for his time, he sarcastically pointed it out in the epilogue as Rosalind states, “It is not the fashion to see the lady the epilogue; but it is no...