Like Twelfth Night and The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare's As You Like It features a cross-dressing heroine whose disguise allows Shakespeare to explore the fluidity of gender. When Rosalind flees into the woods for safety, she disguises herself as an attractive young boy, "Ganymede," challenging traditional ideas about what it means to be a man or a woman. Rosalind's gender-bending game of make believe is complicated even further by the fact that the actor playing the role of "Rosalind" would have been a boy since women weren't allowed to perform on Shakespeare's public stage. In As You Like It, Shakespeare makes it clear that gender roles can be imitated and performed – in theater and in real life.
Because Rosalind is bossy, opinionated, and willing to set out on her own, she defies the traditional 16th-century assumption that women are passive, silent, and helpless.
Rosalind's "Ganymede" disguise gives her the freedom to explore her identity because it allows her to behave in ways that were considered socially unacceptable for women.