Right from the opening of the play, it’s evident how identities are thrown around by the upper class and disguises are simply used for entertainment or some kind of gain. Though some may look at the introduction pieces are comical and in a way kind to the beggar for he will be taken care of in such a delightful manner for the time being, it’s all based upon the boredom of a wealthy lord. Were it not for his amusement, Sly would not have been taken in. It was quite simple for the lord to just abandon his post as lord for the time being in order to fill his day with some laughter, he easily put himself in a lower class however the repercussions of his disguise are no where near that of Sly’s. When the game is over, he will most likely be thrown back out on the streets after having been given everything; he will have nothing again but laughter following him as he walks the streets for the ruse will have been one of humiliation in the end. Meanwhile, the lord will simply shed the servant’s clothes from his body and return to a life of luxury as he searches for another source of such entertainment.
It’s important to notice that while most of the disguises are optional, in the respect that they were choices made, Sly did not make the decision to disguise himself. If he were given the option, I wonder if he would have chosen to follow through with the ruse. If having the luxury of a wealthy man for a day only to return to sleeping once again on the streets would be something he would be willing to do.
All the others who decide to disguise themselves had the option to take on a new persona for the time being. Although there are servants who are told to disguise themselves, both in the reality of Sly’s life and in the play performed for him, they at least have the knowledge of what is occurring. The disguise of the servants to Sly are not as intricate as the others, they remain servants while Tranio is fortunate to play the part of his lord. In doing so, although he will not find the gain of love that Locentio is after, he will gain some education since he is to pose as a student. Tranio seems to be the only servant who has some form of a proper gain and his knowledge of the disguise makes it possible for him to properly take in the moments of schooling he would otherwise be denied.
Although all the servants go along with the ruse in both scenarios, they don’t have much or any say in the matter. It’s really a game of those in higher classes. Shakespeare may be trying to show the extent of how luxurious lives can be for high class, that these are the games they play out of boredom. The harshness of it still holds some humor, but when looked at for what it is, it’s simply a high class game of cruelty because only the rich leave with what they want while the poor leave empty handed, trying to pretend they haven’t tasted what it’s like to live a better high-class life.