Essay about Gender and Coming of Age in Shakespeare’s As You Like It

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Gender and Coming of Age in Shakespeare’s As You Like It

Shakespeare introduces the protagonists of his comedy, As You Like It, as youths mourning the absence of their fathers: Orlando remarks on the consequences of his father’s death and Rosalind first appears despairing over her father’s exile. He closes the play with the marriage of these youths. The absence of their respective fathers centrally figures into their courtship and preparation for marriage. Even more noticeable is the absence of all mothers—not a single mother or older wife appears in the play. The young women, Rosalind and Celia, enter adulthood, seemingly without any female role models. Such responses impact the development of the young protagonists, causing the two
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Further, after Orlando has shamed his elder brother by beating Charles, Adam fervently admonishes Orlando to flee and offers to accompany him: “Here is the gold; / All this I give to you. Let me be your servant”(2.3.45-46). Upon learning of Orlando’s father, Duke Senior proclaims, “If that you were the good Sir Rowland’s son, …Be truly welcome hither” (2.7.194,198). With only his father’s name for a ticket, Orlando is easily adopted into the old boys’ network of Arden. Similarly, Adam’s devotion to Orlando stems from his devotion to the late Sir Rowland de Boys; in the scene where Adam offers to leave the court with Orlando, Adam greets him, “O my sweet master, O you memory / Of old Sir Rowland”(2.3.3-4). Recognizing Orlando’s fatherless state, Duke Senior and Adam jump to help him.

But such a paternal surrogate does not exist for the fatherless Rosalind, and neither does a parallel maternal substitute emerge for either Celia or her. Without this support network, Rosalind and Celia must fend for themselves. They “steal” their friend Touchstone, the court jester, whom they convince to leave with them, but his presence is for company not for guidance. When Rosalind poses as a male native of the forest, Orlando asks her how her speech became so refined. She attributes it to a fictitious, old, learned uncle, creating a network of elder mentors for herself. She associates male mentorship with being a young male in society but does not associate

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