Discuss the character of Rosalind on the basis of As You like It.
Rosalind is the vital character in As You Like It, analyze.
Discuss Rosalind as an ambiguous character.
Answer: In Shakespeare’s play ‘As You Like It,’ the character Rosalind is an example of ingenuity, good humor, and patience. She also proves to be a truly loyal friend. Just as Orlando, the hero of the play, exemplifies the best of the Anglo-Saxon and Elizabethan virtues of a man, Rosalind, the heroine of this comedy, exemplifies the best of virtues to be found in a Renaissance English woman. She is intelligent, witty, warm, strong of character, and she possesses an unshakable integrity. Yet, there is nothing overbearing or pedantic about her intelligence; she intimidates no one. As a result, she remains always gently and wittily human, whereas Orlando, at times, seems almost too intense in his quest to measure up to his father’s precepts. Rosalind always seems to rise above the failings of fate by using her resourceful, realistic understanding, and she emerges as a human being who is to be admired. In this lesson, we will learn more about this admirable heroine.
Rosalind is the daughter of the banished Duke Senior whose brother, Duke Frederick, has usurped his rightful throne. Soon after, Duke Frederick banishes Rosalind, too. However, his own daughter, Celia, escapes with Rosalind to a cottage on the edge of the Forest of Arden. Through her wisdom and wit, Rosalind not only survives, but thrives through her difficulties.
The first good character trait Rosalind displays is her obvious humble spirit. She demonstrates this through her loyalty to her cousin Celia. Her father has just been exiled, and yet Rosalind is willing to stay in order to be a companion to her cousin. Rosalind must have felt torn between the father she loves and the uncle who cheated him out of his throne, but she doesn’t show any bitterness. The two have been inseparable since they were very young. Rosalind accepts this role, regardless of her own deep sadness over her father’s banishment. She does admit her feelings to Celia in Act I, but resolves to ‘forget the condition of (her) estate, to rejoice in (Celia’s).
Clearly, Rosalind’s wit is sharp. She proves herself to be a fun companion, cousin, and friend to Celia. In the beginning of the play before the banishment, both girls tease about the enigma that women are either beautiful and loose, or unattractive and honest, and wonder why women can’t be both honest and beautiful. In addition, both girls have great fun finding and reading the love notes to Rosalind hanging from tree branches in the Forest of Arden, not to mention the ‘schooling’ Rosalind gives to Orlando.
Rosalind also demonstrates both wit and ingenuity when she decides to disguise herself as Ganymede, a young gentleman. She escapes with Celia, who is disguised as a shepherdess. Rosalind’s disguise is so good, that she even fools her father, who she meets later in the forest. Again, we see her selfless nature as the girls and Touchstone (the court jester) journey towards the Forest of Arden. Rosalind is extremely weary, but her new role as Ganymede helps her keep her focus off her own problems. She says,
‘I could find in disgrace my man’s apparel and to cry like a woman; but I must comfort the weaker vessel, as doublet and hose ought to show itself courageous to petticoat: therefore courage, my heart to good Aliena!’.
Regardless of her own weary discomfort, Rosalind takes her eyes off of her own feelings and focuses on the needs of others.
Rosalind decisively buys the cottage at the edge of the woods. Banishment may have disillusioned someone of lesser strength, but Rosalind takes charge and makes the best of a very difficult situation. She finds shelter and food for herself and her companions.
It is not clear why Rosalind maintains her disguise as long as she does in the play, but perhaps it is the disguise that provides her with the opportunity to test Orlando and see if he truly loves her. She definitely possesses strength of character to be able to keep up this guise in the presence of someone she really loves. She also demonstrates patience. It would have been so easy for her to reveal herself to Orlando sooner than she does, but she waits until the time is right. Finally, she organizes a quadruple wedding for Celia, herself, and two other couples in the middle of a forest, which cannot have been an easy task.
It is unusual for Shakespeare to have a woman end a play in this fashion, as Rosalind mentions in her first line. However, as she points out, a woman can do the job of speaking an epilogue just as easily as a man. But she goes on to say that even though a good play doesn’t really need an epilogue, a solid epilogue can enhance a play as a wine skin can enhance wine.
In some ways, Rosalind is rambling in her epilogue because she then adds that she isn’t really sure this qualifies as a good play. But, as she is not dressed as a beggar, she will not beg the audience for applause, but rather ask the women, out of their love for men, to like as much of the play as they wish. To the men, she requests that they share their love of the play with their women. Rosalind then states that she would kiss the men who have beards, who are handsome, and who have good breath. And these men she asks to bid her farewell as she curtsies. Thus, this entertaining comedy is concluded.
Favored with youth, beauty, intelligence, wit, and depth of feeling, Rosalind is one of Shakespeare’s most appealing creations. She has, indeed, been frequently regarded as the ideal romantic heroine — very warm and very human, and in any good production, she dominates the stage.