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Role Reversal of Men and Women in As You Like It

Updated on August 23, 2012

William Shakespeare plays – Othello

As you like it
As you like it

As You Like It notes

Shakespeare’s comedy As You Like It involves quite a number of disguises or role changes that presents the deceit and treacheries effectively. Even though the trickery associated with identity is used for temporary gain, it ultimately resulted in good outcomes. By the end of the play we find that these temporary deceits paved the way for the revelations of truth. Even though the role reversals obviously are a kind of deceit, the final result is good events. The characters who take part in these reversals finally learn about themselves towards the end of the play.

As You Like It themes

Gender roles in As You Like It - A careful view of As You Like It helps us understand that the traditional gender roles are quite mysterious in this comedy. The use of role reversals or disguises first happens in the play when Rosalind disguises as a male shepherd (Ganymede) and when Celia takes the role of the sister of Ganymede. Later we find that Rosalind continuing in her role, providing love advices and role play tips to Orlando who is lovesick. Rosalind is not the only character in the comedy who acquires a gender-confused identity. We find Phoeba and Silvius having an odd relationship in terms of their gender identity and sexuality. Silvius runs after Phoeba like a silly lovesick girl. She fling continuously beg at her feet for her attention. Phoeba, however, behaves like a jaded man, being too intolerant to bother about the feelings of Silvius. Role change thus plays a major part in the comedy As You Like It.

As You Like It Analysis

Quotes in the play - study of women in As You Like It

Women in As You Like It - Rosalind is one of the strongest women characters we find in the comedy. She is incomparable in her interesting personality and wit. She was able to fully express herself as she disguised to take a male role in a major portion of the play. This role reversal helps her to experience her thoughts and emotions beyond the constrained world of women. She would not have been able to display such a performance if she had remained in her original role. She contributes an important quote in the play, “Now go we in content, / To liberty, and not to banishment” (Shakespeare, 1998). The very use of the word ‘banishment’ shows her view of femininity, the state of being negatively privileged in everyday life. She was comfortable with her male role as she could express her opinion freely without the fear of persecution (suffered by the female characters). In the end when she gives her epilogue the audience understands that she has gained good confidence and personality while playing the role of Ganymede. Similarly Rosalind who disguises as a male is able to make strong influences in her new role. We find her (as a male) criticizing poetry and engaging in discussions about the meaning of life. She could engage in debates with men which would never been possible if she had not taken the role of a male. Towards the end of the play the audience more or less forgets the deceit involved with Rosalind’s role reversal. Finally the audience remembers nothing but the accomplishment of Rosalind as a female and a male character. Deceit gets concealed in the effective deploy of role reversal in the play. Disguise contributes to the long-term benefit of the characters. The role reversal thus makes the play As You Like It meaningful and interesting.


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      Deepthi 2 years ago

      It was very informative.Thank you

    • dhannyya profile image

      dhannyya 5 years ago

      happy to see your comment. Gender and sexuality explanation is not complete here..I just have made a humble attempt to brief it

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 5 years ago from The Caribbean

      Interesting commentary on gender and sexuality, made even more interesting by the use of disguise. Thanks for reminding me of this enjoyable dramatic work.