Gender and Politics in As You Like It
William Shakespeare and the new millennium seem to be diametrically opposed, yet his works are having a renaissance of their own after 400 years in the public domain. Why have some major film producers revisited his works when their language and staging would seem to be hopelessly outdated in our society?Perhaps because unlike modern writers, who struggle with political correctness, Shakespeare speaks his mind with an uncompromising directness that has kept its relevance in this otherwise jaded world.
Gender issues and social commentary are especially relevant in published criticism of Shakespeare's As You Like It since the beginning of the 1990's, as evidenced by the number of articles published in scholarly journals during the past twelve years. Janet Gupton's review in Theatre Journal, published in 2001as well as Louise Schleiner's article in the Shakespeare Quarterly in the fall of 1999, both deal with the treatment of gender-subjectivity.
While most scholars deal with the confused sexuality of Rosalind living in the forest, they do not discuss the possibility that if Shakespeare himself was bisexual he would naturally be more conscious of the conflicted feelings of his own psyche, and want to explore the taboos of gender issues on the stage.
Celia and Rosalind are portrayed as having an unusually close relationship in Act 1 Scene 1 of As You Like It.Even before they make an appearance, Oliver and Charles are discussing whether Rosalind has been banished like her father, in terms that indicate a strange relationship.
Oh, no; for the Duke's daughter her cousin so loves her, being
ever from their cradles bred together...and no less beloved of her
uncle than his own daughter; and never two ladies loved as they do. (1.1.93-97)
Is this Shakespeare's way of hinting that there is a sexual relationship between the cousins, or is he merely referring to the image of sisterhood that "implies a relationship of mutual duties and pleasures, of spiritual and material solace constructed around familiarity, similarity, pleasure, duty, and presence. " (Stirm 379).Was this device necessary to the plot, as an example of a stable family relationship to contrast the dysfunctional relationship of Orlando and his brothers? At the height of their sisterhood, while traveling to the forest, "the two become not sisters but siblings, sister and brother, through disguise." (Stirm 383).This sexual confusion is explored in several Shakespearean plays.
In those plays, the women are the ones who change their sexual orientation through disguise, not the men.In her article about the topic, Martha Clare Ronk writes primarily about the use of visual techniques in medieval drama, however she goes on to discuss how these dramatic tools were used to create confusion when Rosalind was disguised as Ganymede. She uses a short poem, from Act 3 Scene 2, to illustrate...