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Updated by Alivia Barrier on Oct 15, 2018
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Alivia Barrier

What early moderns would have understood by the term "Ganymede.

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Greek Mythology

Greek Mythology

In Greek mythology, Ganymede was a beautiful young man--son of Tros of Dardania. Ganymede was the most beautiful of mortals, and it is said (in one version of the tale) that Zeus, having fallen in love with Ganymede's beauty, abducts him in the form of an eagle to serve as a cup-bearer in Olympus.

This speaks to Rosalind's natural beauty--and may be a cover as to why she is such a pretty guy. Shakespeare, partially, uses this name satirically to jest at the fact that no-one knows her beauty come from the fact that she is really a girl.

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Roman Mythology

Roman Mythology

In this Roman mythological tale, it is very similar to that of the Greek's, however, instead of Zeus stealing Ganymede it is Jupiter--the Roman's equivalent to Greek Zeus. This story puts a much greater enfaces on the sexuality between Jupiter and Ganymede--referencing homosexuality. Shakespeare may use this name to show a longing for freedom of sexuality. For instance, we can read Celia's affection for Rosalind as more than just mere friendship. Celia states in Act 1 Scene 2, "the truth of thy love to me were so righteously tempered as mine is to thee." One reading might suggest that Celia is not just Rosalind's best friend, but that she desires a deeper relationship with her. Also it could allow for Orlando's mind to be more open to the idea of falling in love with this man who is actually Rosalind. From a Roman Mythological standpoint it allows the homosexuality aspect of the play to become more questioned and more accepted from the characters.

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Access to Wealth

Access to Wealth

Another reason for Ganymede could be as Shakespeare's way of commenting on women functioning as a way for men to gain wealth and privilege in society. In Roman culture it was highly acceptable for individuals to have desirable boy servants, and it was seen as a notion of wealth and privilege. In Shakespeare's era having a woman like Rosalind--the daughter of a duke--would be highly desirable. By making Rosalind dress as this boy Ganymede Shakespeare is suggesting that in the same way as in Roman times women are now seen as a way for men to gain wealth and privilege in his society.

Ganymede (Rosalind) Monologue - As You Like It | MICHAEL LUCA

Allowing Rosalind to be and stay as Ganymede through a great deal of the play allows her to have a say in what is going on. In this clip Rosalind, as Ganymede, is able to fully tell her feelings to this woman who is lusting after her. These insults wouldn't be acceptable if a woman had said them and Rosalind would not have near the influence on the men is she was to tell that she was actually a girl. In this way, Rosalind is able to fully express herself, which is something that goes away from the typical Roman mythology were Ganymede is more of a passive individual. Shakespeare's ideas contrast nicely to those of Roman mythology and allow for a woman to speak her mind with his play.

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Cup-Bearer

Cup-Bearer

In a very contrasting manner to the next point, Shakespeare may use Ganymede to jest at the fact that although Rosalind is playing a man, she is still inferior to the real men in the play. In Roman and Greek mythology, Ganymede is said to be the cup-bearer and servant for the gods. In this light, Rosalind although having the ability to speak her mind as a male, will always stay a servant to the man for she is innately a woman at heart. This idea really stays within the social standards of the time, and therefore may appeal more to Shakespeare's audience than some of my later suggestions for the name Ganymede.

wolves howling up to the moon

Ganymede is also the largest satellite of Jupiter--basically a moon. Rosalind proclaims in Act 5 Scene1 that everyone is like "Irish wolves against the moon” proclaiming their love for her (V.i.101–102). In this light, Shakespeare's reasoning for using Ganymede may have been to suggest that all the other characters that fall in love with Rosalind (Ganymede) throughout the course of the play are merely wolves entrapped by the moons mystical beauty and enchanting features. It is as if the characters can't help but fall for Ganymede--as if they are under some spell, much like wolves when they howl to the moon.

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Athens

Athens

This name can also be taken from the Ancient Greek name "ganymai" meanings "I rejoice, am glad." In this light Shakespeare may have chosen the name Ganymede to portray Rosalind's lighthearted joy and joking aspect of her personality. This is portrayed in her cunning ability to play tricks on the one whom she loves and gladly invest in the fun of it. This happens in Act 3 Scene 2: "I will speak to him like a saucy lackey, and under that habit play the knave with him."

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γανυμαι (the Greek form of ganymai)

γανυμαι (the Greek form of ganymai)

Ganymede, derived from "ganymai," can also mean brightness, and for Orlando Rosalind is his brightness: "Heaven would in little show." Orlando proclaims this in the love poem Celia reads in Act 3 Scene 2. Basically Orlando is proclaiming that all the heaven and all the earth cannot amount to the splendor of Rosalind. Therefore her name could be ironic in the since that he doesn't know his brightness--the thing his whole being revolves around--stands right in front of him when Ganymede is in his presence.

Woman's Roles in Society

"Ganymedes" can also mean "meant to please" this may imply that Shakespeare is able to solidify the woman's role even through a man's name throughout his play. Even though Rosalind might seem as a man, she is still just a woman with less social class and her job is to please the man--not be the man. In this way Shakespeare may be pointing to the role women have in his current society. Even in Act 3 Scene 2 Ganymede offers to help Orlando--serve him--to try to get him to get over her, even though she has ulterior motives; she is still serving him as a man.

see also https://www.pointgreece.com/γ-gamma-greek-names/

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Γανυμήδης and Bliss

Γανυμήδης and Bliss

Lastly Γανυμήδης, Ganymedes, can mean "to feel bliss" and bliss is defined as "a state of perfect happiness, typically so as to be oblivious of everything else." Ganymede has this overwhelming persona that draws almost everyone to him/her. She is able to have them all, wether she means to or not, feel such happiness that they are completely oblivious to the truths about her. Shakespeare may have used this meaning and name as an irony. Everyone calls her Ganymede and knows it means blissful happiness yet does not connect the fact that they may be blinded by her, and are not seeing the true picture.