As You Like It

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Deception, Disguise, and Gender Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
Deception, Disguise, and Gender Theme Icon
Romantic Love Theme Icon
Country vs. City Theme Icon
Love and Rivalry Between Relatives Theme Icon
Fools and Foolishness Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in As You Like It, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Deception, Disguise, and Gender Theme Icon

As You Like It is structured around acts of deception that complicate the play’s narrative and allow for events to unfold that otherwise might not. The primary tricksters of the play are Rosalind and Celia, who disguise themselves in order to go undetected into the Forest of Arden. Rosalind dresses as a man and goes by the name “Ganymede”; Celia pretends to be a shepherdess and calls herself “Aliena.” By constructing false appearances and presenting themselves dishonestly, Rosalind and Celia incidentally inspire their lovers to act more truly and honestly toward them. When Rosalind is dressed as Ganymede, Orlando reveals to her how deeply he loves Rosalind, without knowing that he is addressing her. Rosalind’s disguise thus permits Orlando to speak more openly and perhaps less intentionally than he might if he knew the true identity of his conversation partner. Celia’s attire does not alter her seeming identity as radically as Rosalind’s, but it, too, changes her lover’s initial conduct around her, by making her seem to be not of courtly upbringing. Whereas Rosalind’s disguise provokes honest speech from her lover, Celia’s tests the honesty of her lover’s love: the fact that Oliver falls in love with her despite her shepherdess’s exterior indicates how genuine his love is.

When Rosalind and Celia act out roles, they alter not only the way they act, but also the way that other people act toward them. These instances of disguise and deception, along with serving as important plot points and providing great comic potential, thus represent the playacting and deception performed by every character in the play and, moreover, by every person in his or her life. They illustrate and exaggerate the extent to which “All the world’s a stage/ And every man and woman merely players.”

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Deception, Disguise, and Gender Quotes in As You Like It

Below you will find the important quotes in As You Like It related to the theme of Deception, Disguise, and Gender.
Act 2, Scene 7 Quotes

All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players; they have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.

Related Characters: Jaques (speaker)
Page Number: 2.7.146-150
Explanation and Analysis:

Orlando finds the Duke and Jaques and, desperate to feed the starving Adam, barges in on them demanding that they give him food. The Duke happily accepts, and Orlando apologizes for his behavior, claiming that the forest has made him savage. When Orlando leaves, the Duke reflects on this encounter, telling Jaques that the world is like a theatre where people suffer together as if on a stage. The Duke tries to compare Orlando's suffering to Jaques' need to feel melancholy about life. Jaques replies with this iconic quote. Here, he depicts life as being as inconsequential as actors on a stage. People go through their lives as if they are living in acts and scenes of a play, following a script that they have no control over until that play simply ends. 

This idea of performing a role is an important one in As You Like It. Many of the characters in the play physically wear disguises, or more metaphorical masks (as seen in Jaques' cynicism) in order to protect themselves. Rosalind disguises herself as Ganymede, enabling her the freedoms of a man, and here Jaques notes that throughout life, we all wear disguises and play the parts that we are told to play. This moment also brings up a certain comedic irony, as Jaques himself is merely a character in a play on a stage, and his life is written by William Shakespeare. 

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Act 5, Scene 2 Quotes

[To Orlando] As you love Rosalind, meet. [To Silvius] As you love Phebe, meet. And as I love no woman, I’ll meet. So fare you well.

Related Characters: Rosalind (speaker), Orlando, Silvius, Phebe
Related Symbols: Ganymede
Page Number: 5.3.124-126
Explanation and Analysis:

All of the lovers unite in one scene. Phebe tells Rosalind (as Ganymede) that she is furious that "he" shared her letter. Silvius still pines for Phebe. Oliver loves Aliena (Celia) and Orlando is downtrodden at his inability to find Rosalind.

Rosalind quiets the group by explaining that the next day all will be answered (as she plans to reveal herself). She tells each of the lovers that they will meet the one they love as they really are. Once again Rosalind is the authority, the teacher of all things regarding love. Although the group doesn't understand how, they trust that she will bring all of their problems to a resolution. Yet it is important to note that she also maintains her leadership position because she is still thought to be a man. Her disguise has given her the freedom of manhood, the ability to lead. 

This moment also depicts the true chaos caused by Rosalind's disguise. Love has driven all the characters mad, and Rosalind knows that she cannot wait any longer to reveal herself.