365 Days of Shakespeare

That's right – the Bard in a year.

253. Rosalind

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One of Shakespeare’s many cross-dressing heroines, Rosalind of “As You Like It” has captured the hearts of audiences for centuries. She is introduced to us as a proper young lady, one of somewhat elevated station in society, who instantly falls in love with the dashing Orlando, and who has wonderful companionship and love with her cousin Celia. Despite all these lucky circumstances, she falls into difficult times when she is banished from the kingdom! She goes into hiding in the Forest of Arden, disguised as a boy named Ganymede (and as a servant to Celia, who despite changing her name to Aliena does little to disguise herself), is the victim of many hilarious misunderstandings related to her hidden gender, and still manages to find a happy ever after. Not bad!

Rosalind is tied with Viola, in my opinion, for the title of “strongest cross-dressing heroine”. Rosalind faces a frightening situation with grace and strength, managing to make the best of the unfortunate situation. She refuses to wilt under the pressure; on the contrary, she positively blossoms. Her charm and wit shine through every time she speaks, and she is more than a match for all the men when it comes to the wordplay.

Then there is the matter of her clever ruse to get Orlando to woo her. Though they fell in love at first sight, as so many of Shakespeare’s characters do, Rosalind differs from most of his “in love for no real reason” women in that she actually gets to take the time to find out for sure if this is the guy for her. She is able to not only learn exactly how true Orlando’s love is, but learn the true depths of it, simply by being good at keeping up her boyish appearances and playing the game. This gives her a bit more power than many of Shakespeare’s other girls and helps make their relationship much more “true” than many others.

Rosalind is, in short, one of the tougher girls in Shakespeare’s comedic canon. There is a reason why “As You Like It” has been beloved for so long, and it is not just because of the “All the world’s a stage” speech (though that certainly doesn’t hurt). It is because in Rosalind, Shakespeare has created a female character who truly can stand up on her own and whose strength radiates off of the stage and into the hearts of the audience.

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Written by Caroline Mincks

June 11, 2010 at 8:51 PM

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