As You Like It

As You Like It is a play of boundaries, exploring the spaces between gender identities, the worlds of rural and courtly life, and the fantasies and realities of love. It begins after Duke Senior is exiled by his older brother Frederick to the forest of Arden. His daughter Rosalind and her cousin Celia leave the court when Frederick threatens to banish Rosalind for her lineage. Rosalind dresses as a man and calls herself Ganymede in order to protect herself and her cousin as they travel through the woods. In the guise of a man, Rosalind is able to play with the boundaries of gendered expectations and control the destinies and behaviors of the other characters. Principally, Rosalind orchestrates the fate of her lover Orlando, an aristocrat denied education and wealth by his older brother Oliver. Orlando and Oliver’s relationship mirrors that of the two Dukes. Ultimately, Rosalind uses trickery to bring about a somewhat far-fetched happy ending, which she then comments on in the only Elizabethan Epilogue spoken by a woman. The play remains self-conscious that it is a theatrical performance in order to underscore a major theme: that identity and social customs are costumes that people can take on and off to suit their means. For, as Jaques’ famous line asserts, “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players.”

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