Present day conceptions of gender would appear to be different to what they were in Shakespeare's day. Clear cut divisions of male, female and neuter are apparent. One would need to look back to the time of Shakespeare to try and see the different view of gender identity. Using the play As You Like It and the characters portrayed within it one might be able to see how our concept of gender may well be challenged. Gender role in this play does appear to be confusing at first glance. Men playing women who fall in love with men and these "women" acting within an act to be men. Men wooing women played by and then wooing the men portrayed by these acting women. By carefully going through the text of As You Like It (Greenblatt, ed., PP1591-1657) one can try to "dig in" to the characters portrayed and discover any challenge to our views of gender identity. During this essay I will point out some of the texts and criticisms that I would suggest lead to the Shakespearean gender identity and this will show how it has altered over time.
I would suggest that Shakespeare explores homoerotic possibilities in several characters. A good example of this is the relationship shown between Rosalind and Celia. Rosalind is called a traitor by Duke Frederick (Greenblatt, ed., p1610) and Celia is very quick to respond to try and help her. The deeper implication of their friendship appears to be pointed out when Celia says (Greenblatt, ed., p1610, lines 66-70):.
"But now I know her. If she be a traitor,.
Why, so am I. We still have slept together,.
Rose at an instant, learned, played, eat together,.
And wheresoe"er we went, like Juno's swans.
Still we went coupled and inseparable.".
This would appear to suggest that their friendship is more intimate than is apparent and Juliet Dusinberre in As WHO liked it says that the play rewrites "the record of female desire so that women want to read it." I will return to Rosalind and Celia later in this essay.