Many characters undergo a change in William Shakespeare’s play, As You Like It. Duke Senior goes from being a member of a court to being a member of a forest. Orlando changes from a bitter younger brother to a love-sick young man. But the most obvious transformation undergone, is done by Rosalind. Her change from woman to man, not only alters her mood, candor, and gender, but allows her to be the master of ceremonies.
Celia and Rosalind are fairly happy in the court of Celia’s father, Duke Frederick. However, much to her surprise, the Duke banishes Rosalind from his court. Celia, not allowing her beloved cousin to “go it alone”, decides to accompany her to where ever she may roam. They decide to search out Rosalind’s father, Duke Senior, in the forest of Arden. Before they depart, Rosalind decides that for both her and Celia’s safety, she will dress herself as a man, saying,
“Were it not better,
Because that I am more than common tall,
That I did suit me all points like a man?
A gallant curtal ax upon my thigh,
A boar spear in my hand, and- in my hear
Lie there what hidden woman’s fear there will-
We’ll have a swashing and a martial outside,
As many other mannish cowards have
That do outface it with their semblances.
(1:3 ll. 112-120)
At first glance, this transformation is a mere change of clothes and the addition of weapons, but it goes much deeper. To Rosalind, the taking on of a man’s appearance requires certain things. She believes that while dressed as a man, she cannot bring shame to the image of a man. A good example of this is in Act 2, Scene 4, where she says, “I could find in my heart to disgrace my man’s/ apparel and to cry like a woman; but I must comfort/ the weaker vessel, as doublet and hose ought to show/ itself courageous to petticoat. (ll. 4-7). This is not the only time she mentions a doublet and hose. It seems almost that the doublet and hose are the actual source of strength for a man, as in the next example when Rosalind is begging Celia for an answer, saying, “Good my complexion! Dost thou think,/ though I am caparisoned like a man, I have a doublet/ and hose in my disposition?” (3:2, ll.191-193).