Gender and Social Norms in Shakespeare's As You Like It Essay

Gender and Social Norms in Shakespeare's As You Like It Essay

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Gender and Social Norms in As You Like It

     Shakespeare based his comedy As You Like It primarily on three other works.  Its plot follows the basic structure of Rosalynde, published in 1590 by Thomas Lodge.  The Tale of Gamelyn, written by an unknown author in the mid-fourteenth century, is a violent Middle English narrative that was found among Chaucer's papers and provides further details for Shakespeare's work.  With the Forest of Ardenne serving as an escape for our main characters, Shakespeare takes his details from the countless Robin Hood ballads popular in Medieval England.  This paper will examine how Shakespeare's adaptations and alterations of emphasis and plot from these source works have turned our attention to the role of gender norms in society, the restrictions of social norms, and human influence on one's future.  Lastly, included is a brief discussion of how these factors might influence a production of this clever and entertaining work.


In Shakespeare's play, the question of women's role is central to theme and plot.  "By assuming the clothes and likeliness of a man, Rosalind treats herself to powers that are normally beyond her reach as a woman" (Spark 7).  She is able to talk, walk and have the freedoms of a man, while having the heart of a woman.  She is even able to court a lover of her own choice and train him in the art of love.  Shakespeare focuses his work on the drastically different role that she can take under the guise of a man.  In contrast, the novel Rosalynde, focuses only on the male concerns of the story.  The entire story has been directed exclusively to men and made glaringly obvious in it's preface beginning with the words, "To Gentleman Readers."  Throughout the story, L...

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Kuhn, Maura. "Much Value in It." Shakespeare Quarterly 28 (Winter 1977): 40-50.

Hanawalt, Barbara A. ed.. Chaucer's England- Literature in Historical Content. Minneapolis:

University of Minnesota Press, 1992.

Howard, Jean E., "Intoduction to As You Like It." The Norton Shakespeare Ed. Stephen

Greenblatt, New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1997. 1591-1599.

Prendergast, Maria Teresa Micaela.Rennaissance Fantasies- The gathering of Aesthetics in

Early Modern Fiction. Kent: Kent State UP, 1999.

Sparknotes. As You Like It, by William Shakespeare. 8 Nov. 2002

Strout, Nathaniel. "As You Like It, Rosalynde, and Mutuality." Studies in English Literature

1500-1900 v. 41 no 2 (Spring 2001): 277-95.

Tenney, Edward A.. Thomas Lodge. Ithica: Cornell UP, 1935.


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