Gender in "As You Like It"

Many characters undergo a change in William Shakespeare?s

play, As You Like It. Duke Senior goes from being a member of a court

to being a member of a forest. Orlando changes from a bitter younger

brother to a love-sick young man. But the most obvious transformation

undergone, is done by Rosalind. Her change from woman to man, not

only alters her mood, candor, and gender, but allows her to be the

master of ceremonies.

Celia and Rosalind are fairly happy in the court of Celia?s

father, Duke Frederick. However, much to her surprise, the Duke

banishes Rosalind from his court. Celia, not allowing her beloved

cousin to "go it alone", decides to accompany her to where ever she

may roam. They decide to search out Rosalind?s father, Duke Senior,

in the forest of Arden. Before they depart, Rosalind decides that for

both her and Celia?s safety, she will dress herself as a man, saying,

"Were it not better,

Because that I am more than common tall,

That I did suit me all points like a man?

A gallant curtal ax upon my thigh,

A boar spear in my hand, and- in my hear

Lie there what hidden woman?s fear there will-

We?ll have a swashing and a martial outside,

As many other mannish cowards have

That do outface it with their semblances.

(1:3 ll. 112-120)

At first glance, this transformation is a mere change of clothes and

the addition of weapons, but it goes much deeper.

To Rosalind, the taking on of a man?s appearance requires

certain things. She believes that while dressed as a man, she cannot

bring shame to the image of a man. A good example of this is in Act

2, Scene 4, where she says, "I could find in my heart to disgrace my

man?s/ apparel and to cry like a woman; but I must comfort/ the weaker

vessel, as doublet and hose ought to show/ itself courageous to

petticoat. (ll. 4-7). This is not the only time she mentions a

doublet and hose. It seems almost that the doublet and hose are the

actual source of strength for a man, as in the next example when

Rosalind is begging Celia for an answer, saying, "Good my complexion!

Dost thou think,/ though I am caparisoned like a man, I have a

doublet/ and hose in my disposition?" (3:2, ll.191-193).