how is gender addressed in as you like it

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kankanivarsha | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Honors

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As you Like it is a play that challenges socially accepted notions of gender and identity. During the Elizabethean time, womens were confined to the glorified roles of the chaste maiden subservient wife and a caring mother which helped in perpetauting male supremacy in the society. However Shakespear disrupts this social sysytem based on hierarchy of gender through cross-dressing and challenging the traditions of courtly love. Also the creation of forst of arden has the most important characteristic that it allows people to be themselves. This helps the chracter to make choices that determine their roles functions and relations with each other rather than having these forced on them.

Through this we can see that the play raises pertinent questions about the issues of male and female identity in the society. Celia who shares a very close sisterhood bond with Rosalind resist the authority of the Duke Federick. So the two sisters decides to move to the forest of Arden leaving behind their aristocratic class and identity Rosalind beacuse of her external apperances decides to disguise herself as a man named ganymede where as Celia changes her identity by dressing up like a lower class girl named Aliena. From this the paywright exposes the alternative idea of class  where both the girls leave behind their inherited aristocratic position i.e the name and the fame attached in being the daughter of a Duke and adapting the lefestyle of a lower class i.e the idea of creating a differnt identity of your own.

On the other hand, when the law of primogeniture is being transgressed by Oliver, Orlando is banished to the forest of arden where he is accomapanied by his loyal servant Adam. As soon as they both enter the Forets of arden the conventional hierarchy of master servant relationship is now equilatery as they both are now of same class.

There are instances in the text where Rosalind disguised as Ganymede transgresses the normative relationship between male and female. The first one is when Phebe is unimpressed by Silvius declaration of love and instead falls in love with the coarse Ganymede. And second when Rosalind undermines patriarchal construction of male and feale behaviour as Gnymede pretends to be Rosalind and asks Orlando to woo her. She tells him, "Come woo me, woo me , for now I am in a holiday humor and like enough to consent."

This liberty of expressing one's sentiments in courtship and marriage was not achievable to women. Rosalind uses her double gender identity for taking greater freedom which is otherwise denied to her. She not only urges Orlando to woo her but also arranges a mock marriage with him in Celia's presence.

Thus by bringing up the idea of cross-dressing the playwright demonstrates how the dress code becomes a mean of maintaining gender difference and hierarchy in the society. And now Rosalind's cross-dressing challenges and subverts the traditional norms of courtly love. 

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