I’ve been reading Shakespeare lately and it’s the first time I’ve done so outside of a classroom setting. I’d never realized it before, but many of the plays are quite silly.
Take As You Like It, in which the character Orlando meets who he thinks is a male shepherd but who is actually the woman he loves. The shepherd convinces Orlando to pretend that he the sheperd is actually his lady love, which we know of course is the case.
What are we supposed to make of this? What did an Elizabethan audience make of it?
This sort of gender-bending characterizes many of Shakespeare’s comedic plays especially. And it’s widely influential even in modern times. Think Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie. Or Tobias dressing up as the family maid in Arrested Development in order to spend time with his daughter.
Maybe the premise, no matter how supercilious it may seem, is only important as a vehicle for getting people to think about what it might be like to be a member of the opposite sex. I can get behind that.