Rosalind’s disguise leads to some humorous scenes as the (at least, original) audience is aware of the fact that, as Muir describes, when Ganymede is helping Orlando, “We have a boy pretending to be a woman, pretending to be a boy, pretending to be a boy, pretending to be a woman, satirising feminine behaviour” (90). Her disguise provides numerous incongruities as the audience continues to see the male Ganymede in opposition to Rosalind.
Taking on a masculine role helps Rosalind to develop inner strength. In fact, Diane Dreher explains in her analysis of androgynous Shakespearean characters that “Rosalind’s disguise enables her to examine Orlando’s motives, allowing her to say and do things that traditional feminine modestly would not permit” (121). Despite her depth of character, the audience is constantly aware of her super objective: to marry Orlando. This goal in and of itself is a romantic convention that cannot be ignored.
While Oliver and Duke Frederick appear as antagonistic characters in the beginning scenes when they are at court, both make a turn around after entering the forest. Shakespeare utilizes a romantic convention, the sudden conversion of a villain, to further illuminate the plays comedic nature. When Orlando rescues Oliver from a lioness, Oliver finds favor in his younger brother, and the two are reunited. Oliver and Orlando’s brother Jacques explains that Duke Frederick has changed:
“And to the skirts of this wild wood [Duke Frederick] came, / Where, meeting with an old religious man, / After some question with him, was converted / Both from his enterprise and from the world, / His crown bequeathing to his banished brother, / And all their lands restored to them again / That were with him exiled. ” (Shakespeare, V. iv. 158-164). Entering the woods leads the characters to become better people. The characters language, although sometimes a bit poetic, is rather common. The play’s pastoral elements make prose a more likely language choice. In fact, Dr.
Sharron Cassavant, professor of English at Northeastern University has calculated that 54. 5 percent of the plays 2, 636 lines are written in prose. The opening scene, exposition in conversation between Orlando and Adam, is entirely prose. Rosalind and Celia also interchange in prose. Prose dominates the dialogue between the lovers. Rhymed verse is generally used when Orlando attempts to write poems about his beloved Rosalind. Blank verse, a higher form, is used most often by Jacques, but Duke Senior also utilizes to proclaim the good that nature has offered him.
In this critique of love, blank verse is reserved most often for use by those characters unaffected by love. The language lends itself to the play’s love-at-first-sight theme in that the lovers do not have time to organize their thoughts in a collected way, but rather speak whatever first enters their mind. The play appeals to the comedic audience visually and aurally as well. Most notably, Rosalind’s disguise allows the audience, aware of the fact that the boy they see pretending to be a woman is actually the woman he is pretending to be, to laugh at the incongruities of Orlando’s pretend love for and Phoebe’s real love for Ganymede.
The disguise also presents funny sounds as Rosalind’s voice must change depending on the character she is playing. The other pastoral characters also lend country-bumpkin accents to the plays aural elements, as they are less sophisticated than the courtly characters. As You Like It could not be more comedic. Each of the plays elements presents stereotypical characteristics of comedy. Shakespeare obviously knew the requirements of each genre and managed to control those requirements while never ceasing to dazzle his audience. His works were all as we like them.
Bevington, David. Introduction to As You Like It. The Complete Works of Shakespeare.
By Bevington. NY: Addison Wesley Longman, Inc., 1997. 288-91.
Cassavant, Sharron. As You Like It Main page. Introduction to Shakespeare. Course
Website. Dept. of English, Northeastern University. 11 December 2004
Dreher, Diane Elizabeth. Domination and Defiance: Fathers and Daughters in
Shakespeare. Lexington, KY: The University Press of Kentucky, 1986. [OBU]
Evans, Bertrand. Shakespeare’s Comedies. Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1960. [OBU]
Gardner, Helen. “As You Like It.” Shakespeare the Comedies: A Collection of Critical
Essays, Ed. Kenneth Muir. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc.,1965.