Shakespeare uses the idea of disguise in many of his plays. It is used as an escape from the characters’ personalities and sometimes for comic effect. In As You Like it, the disguise becomes very comical as in the time it was written only men could act on stage. This could lead to much confusion and comedy in the roles of those in disguise. Disguise can give the freedom to a character to act how they like and a chance for them to show their views. It was in the 16th Century that there became an increased sense of self consciousness and identity. This led to people creating an image for themselves. If one can create a self, they can create many different versions of themselves each showing a different aspect of that person. This links in very well with As You Like It because in the play, Rosalind creates many different disguises of herself. At one point she is disguised as a boy acting as Rosalind. Rosalind and Celia are the main focus for disguise in As You Like It. To ensure safety on their travels in the forest of Ardenne, they disguise themselves – Rosalind as a boy named Ganymede and Celia as a peasant named Aliena. Their names are also important to disguise. Aliena is similar to the Latin ‘Alius’ meaning other. Ganymede was a Trojan mythological hero. Rosalind also uses her disguise to test Orlando’s (the man she loves) feelings for her.
One central point is Rosalind’s disguise as a boy. When Rosalind is not disguised she finds it hard to act how she likes without discrimination. For example before Orlando wrestles with the court wrestler, Touchstone says that it is not a sport for women to watch;
“It is the first time that ever I heard breaking of ribs was sport for ladies.”
As a woman, Rosalind is expected to conform to a female stereotype created by man. Later on in the play, Rosalind mocks the male stereotype of women. As she is disguised as Ganymede, this is possible. She would not have been able to do this as a woman. When she is disguised as a man, more people listen to Ganymede. Although it is the same person, she can have much more say about her views and opinions when she is disguised as Ganymede. However, simply because her personality is not accepted as a woman, it does not mean that she is not presenting it. By showing that she enjoys watching the wrestling, she is revealing her true personality. She does not have to be disguised as a boy to do this. The disguise may show other aspects of the character’s personality but it is still shown through their everyday person.
Another point to make on this matter would be that the character of Rosalind would have been played by a male and the audience would know this. This could mean that the reason Shakespeare included Rosalind’s enjoyment of manly sports was because Rosalind is actually a man in the attire of a woman. There is a large confusion of the gender of Rosalind throughout the play. By confusing the gender, Shakespeare is focusing more on the personality of Rosalind...