Discussion Topic

Rosalind and Celia's disguises and their reasons in As You Like It

Summary:

In As You Like It, Rosalind disguises herself as a young man named Ganymede to ensure her safety in the Forest of Arden. Celia, her cousin, adopts the guise of Aliena, a poor lady, to accompany Rosalind and stay safe. Their disguises allow them to navigate the forest freely and protect themselves from potential threats.

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What disguise names do Rosalind and Celia choose in As You Like It?

The scene you need to look at is Act I scene 3, when Celia and Rosalind plan to go to the Forest of Arden together because Celia's father has banished Rosalind from court, just as he has already banished Rosalind's father, Duke Senior. Having already spoken of the necessity of disguising herself as a man to prevent their youth and beauty being even more of a danger than having money would be, Rosalind, according to pastoral conventions, says that she will call herself Ganymede when disguised. Ganymede was a beautiful young shepherd boy who was snatched away by Jove and taken to Olympus to be the cup-bearer of the Gods. Because of Jove's desire for Ganymede, the name also has strong homoerotic associtions.

The name that Celia chooses for herself is more obvious to us today, and something that she feels befits her new station now that she is leaving her home and going into the wilderness:

Something that hath a reference to my state:

No longer Celia, but Aliena.

Thus Celia chooses a name for her disguised identity reflecting that she is an "alien" away from her home and in the middle of the forest.

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Why do Rosalind and Celia disguise themselves in As You Like It?

The tyrannical Duke Frederick has decided to banish his niece Rosalind from the ducal court. There is no good reason for this outrageous action; Frederick is only doing it because he's insanely jealous of the huge popularity that Rosalind enjoys. What he particularly hates about his niece is that she reminds her of Duke Senior, Frederick's brother whom he banished to the Forest of Arden. So long as Rosalind's around, Frederick will never feel secure on the throne, and so he makes the fateful decision to banish her.

Frederick's daughter Celia is horrified at her father's tyranny, and tries to intercede with him on Rosalind's behalf. But it's all to no avail. As Celia can't prevent her father from banishing Rosalind, she decides to go with her to the Forest of Arden. This is a risky strategy, at best, one that's fraught with considerable danger. If Celia is caught defying her father there's no telling what might happen.

Celia will run off with Rosalind, then, but only in disguise. Rosalind, too, will disguise herself so as not to attract attention. This way, the two young ladies can be together without arousing suspicion. But they will have to adopt convincing disguises if the subterfuge is going to work. If anything, though, Rosalind and Celia's disguises—Rosalind becomes a man called Ganymede and Celia a shepherdess by the name of Aliena—are a little too convincing, as they cause all manner of confusion throughout the rest of the play.

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Why do Rosalind and Celia disguise themselves in As You Like It?

In Shakespeare's As You Like It, Rosalind's disguise as Ganymede serves the purposes of keeping Rosalind safe, helping her pursue her love of Orlando, and promoting the love relationships of other characters. Let's look at each of these in more detail.

Rosalind's father was the duke before his own brother usurped his position and forced him away. At first Rosalind remains at the court, but then the new duke decides that she, too, is a threat. Duke Frederick banishes Rosalind and tells her if she is ever found within twenty miles of his court again, she will die. Rosalind, however, wants to stay close on account of Orlando, so she disguises herself as Ganymede.

Rosalind's disguise actually allows her to pursue her love for Orlando in a way she would not otherwise be able to. As a young man, she can speak directly to him. She invites Orlando to pretend to be in love with “Ganymede” so that the “young man” can help him get over his love for Rosalind. Of course, this has the opposite effect, drawing Orlando closer and closer to the disguised Rosalind and allowing her to express her love for him even though he is unaware. Rosalind can be much more bold as Ganymede than as herself.

Finally, As Ganymede, Rosalind can help other characters come together in love. Silvius and Phoebe, for instance, get together on account of Ganymede as do Oliver and Celia and Touchstone and Audrey. Ganymede proves to be quite the matchmaker.

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