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.”
Deception, Disguise, and Gender ThemeTracker
Deception, Disguise, and Gender Quotes in As You Like It
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.
[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.