Event Title

“No worse a name than Jove’s own page”: As You Like It as a Critique of Pederasty

Faculty Mentor

Dr. Matthew Fike

College

College of Arts and Sciences

Department

English

Location

DiGiorgio Campus Center, Room 222

Start Date

22-4-2016 2:45 PM

End Date

22-4-2016 3:00 PM

Description

Rosalind, the heroine of Shakespeare’s As You Like It, was historically played by a boy and engages in cross-dressing herself. For her alter-ego, she chooses the name Ganymede. Critics like Mario DiGangi and Amanda Rudd have questioned the choice of the name Ganymede, but until now analyses have generally concluded that it was chosen because of its association with homoeroticism, without further addressing how the play protests the act. Given that Shakespeare was involved extensively in the theater world, I will argue that the choice of the name Ganymede, the process of performing, and the actions of the characters in As You Like It actually critique a small subset of Elizabethan theater: pederasty. The myth of Ganymede was often used to justify sexual relationships with adolescent boys. Pederasty existed in every social class in Elizabethan England, but especially in the theater world and in poetry (this paper explores Shakespeare’s reference to the homoerotic relationship between Neptune and Leander in Christopher Marlowe’s Hero and Leander). As You Like It, however, critiques homoeroticism in two ways. First, retro-disguise returns the actor who plays Rosalind to a character more like himself, thus reminding the audience that he is a boy and negating the believability of a homoerotic relationship onstage. Second, the pretend relationship between Orlando and Ganymede critiques pederasty because Orlando remains indifferent to the disguised Rosalind. Given all this evidence, the play seems to promote the “ideal” family and to critique the institution in which Shakespeare achieved his success.

Previously Presented/Performed?

National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR), Asheville, North Carolina, April 2016

Course Assignment

Shakespeare, ENGL 305, Dr. Matthew Fike

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Apr 22nd, 2:45 PM Apr 22nd, 3:00 PM

“No worse a name than Jove’s own page”: As You Like It as a Critique of Pederasty

DiGiorgio Campus Center, Room 222

Rosalind, the heroine of Shakespeare’s As You Like It, was historically played by a boy and engages in cross-dressing herself. For her alter-ego, she chooses the name Ganymede. Critics like Mario DiGangi and Amanda Rudd have questioned the choice of the name Ganymede, but until now analyses have generally concluded that it was chosen because of its association with homoeroticism, without further addressing how the play protests the act. Given that Shakespeare was involved extensively in the theater world, I will argue that the choice of the name Ganymede, the process of performing, and the actions of the characters in As You Like It actually critique a small subset of Elizabethan theater: pederasty. The myth of Ganymede was often used to justify sexual relationships with adolescent boys. Pederasty existed in every social class in Elizabethan England, but especially in the theater world and in poetry (this paper explores Shakespeare’s reference to the homoerotic relationship between Neptune and Leander in Christopher Marlowe’s Hero and Leander). As You Like It, however, critiques homoeroticism in two ways. First, retro-disguise returns the actor who plays Rosalind to a character more like himself, thus reminding the audience that he is a boy and negating the believability of a homoerotic relationship onstage. Second, the pretend relationship between Orlando and Ganymede critiques pederasty because Orlando remains indifferent to the disguised Rosalind. Given all this evidence, the play seems to promote the “ideal” family and to critique the institution in which Shakespeare achieved his success.