In what ways do we see Rosalind cope with pretending to be Ganymede and being a man and a woman at the same time in Shakespeare's As You Like It?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

At first Rosalind decides to disguise herself as a man because it will be safer for her and Celia as they travel to the Forest of Arden together in order to escape Duke Frederick. However, once in the Forest of Arden, she really has no further need for the disguise to remain safe. Instead, literary critics point out that she decides to remain disguised as Ganymede because she realizes that being a man "gives her a certain power that she does have as a woman" ("Rosalind (Character Analysis)"). Her disguise allows her to play a trick on Orlando that further allows her to find out from him his deepest, secret feelings for her, secrets that he would be willing to tell a fellow man as a friend, but would certainly feel uncomfortable confiding in a woman. Beyond having power over Orlando, her disguise also allows her the power of intervening in Phebe and Silvius's relationship, ultimately allowing her to trick Phebe into marrying Silvius. Hence, all in all, Rosalind handles her disguise as a man very well in that she learns how to use it to wield her power over others for the benefit of others. She also uncloaks her disguise at the precise moment when doing so can solve all problems, giving her even more power. However, she does have a couple of moments in the play in which she nearly slips up and discloses her identity much too soon.

One example can be found in Act 3, Scene 2, when she first converses with Orlando as Ganymede. As Orlando continues to talk with her, it starts to become fairly apparent to him that Ganymede may not truly be a real boy, as we can tell from the question he poses: "Where dwell you, pretty youth?" (II.iii.334). Rosalind deceptively answers in a way that tries to maintain her disguise, yet also hints at her true feminine nature, as we see in her lines:

With this shepherdess, my sister; here in the skirts of the forest, like fringe upon a petticoat. (335-37)

In this passage, the words "sister," "skirts," "fringe," and "petticoat" are all feminine words, which would make a person think of feminine things and would not be very convincing things to say for one trying to identify herself as a boy. The words "skirts," "fringe," and "petticoat" would have been especially suspicious to Orlando because no one really describes a forest using those terms. We see through his next questions that Orlando continues to remain skeptical, as we can see from his continuing to question her, even about her accent, but he does not remain skeptical enough not to treat her as a fellow man later in the scene. Just as a man would ask another man, but be much less likely to ask a woman, he asks Ganymede for love advice, as we see in his line, "I am he that is so love-shaked: I pray you tell me your remedy" (367-68). Hence we see that not only does Rosalind struggle to fully hide her true identity in this scene, she very cleverly copes with her disguise by masking her disguise in feminine words, making Orlando feel even more skeptical and puzzled. However, despite Orlando's skepticism, she successfully manages to deceive him, showing us just how much power she can wield with her disguise.

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As You Like It

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