One of the most intriguing aspects of As You Like It by William Shakespeare concerns the issue of gender. This issue generates a lot of interest and discussions due to its complexity. The main reason for such a concern in the play is the cross-dressing and role-playing. The central love interest between Rosalind and Orlando calls into question the conservative wisdom about men and women and their gender roles. It also challenges our presumptions about these roles in courtship, love, and relationships.
At the center of this courtship is a very complex ambiguity, which is difficult to fully appreciate without a production with which to compare. Here, we have a man, playing a woman, who has dressed herself up as a man who is pretending to be a woman, who is then courting Orlando. It’s quite a complex list of roles. In modern times, even if a young male actor were to not play the role of Rosalind, the theatrical irony remains far beyond the complexity of most plays. This theatrical irony is particularly relevant in Act Four, Scene One. In this scene, Orlando and Rosalind/Ganymede are on stage together. Rosalind, dressed as Ganymede, meets with Jaques for the first time. He explains that he prefers to be glum and somber because he has seen the world, and that his contemplations on what he has seen and experienced make him sad. Rosalind tells him that she prefers a fool, who keeps her happy to experience, which makes her sad. Orlando arrives and Rosalind says goodbye to Jaques. Orlando then approaches her and calls her Rosalind. She reprimands him for being an hour late and then accuses him of not truly being in love. Rosalind finally tells Orlando that she is in the right state of mind and is in good enough humor to woo her. He tells her he would rather kiss her than converse with her, but she asks Orlando what he would do if she happened to refuse. He claims he would die of love and overwhelming emotion. Rosalind laughs at his innocence and tells him that it is practically impossible to die for love-related reasons.
Orlando finally asks her if she will love him. Rosalind says she will, and then asks her sister Celia, who is still in disguise, to pretend to marry the two of them. Orlando takes her hand and they perform a simulated wedding ceremony. Rosalind then asks him how long he foresees their relationship lasting. Orlando claims “forever and a day” (Shakespeare, 4.1.123). Rosalind replies, “men are April when they woo, December when they wed” (Shakespeare, 4.1.124-125). She then gives Orlando a speech about the way that women truly act once they are married and committed to one man for the rest of their lives. Juliet Dusinberre demonstrates that Rosalind’s authority in the play grows from new ideas about women and reveals that Shakespeare's heroine reinvents herself within As You Like It (Dusinberre).
Louis Montrose interestingly describes Orlando as “naively romantic” in this scene in his article “The Place of a Brother” in As You Like It:...