As mentioned before Rosalind’s character is open to a myriad of readings. Harold Bloom describes her as a character that “is at once so accomplished in wit, and so little interested in the power that great wit can bring if properly exercised. ” Completely contradicting this, Camille Paglia writes “Rosalind and Ganymede pretend to be a rakish lady killer and, at her assumption of that sexual persona, actually becomes one. She is all sex and power. ” Such critical disagreements are not uncommon for plays such as “As You like It”.
In my opinion both of these critics are right in what they say. However Paglia is a bit too unfair and biased. I understand her point about Rosalind being all “sex and power”, but I disagree with her saying that she’s a “radish lady killer. ” In my opinion Rosalind is a character that challenges feminism. When dressed as Ganymede she portrays the thoughts of men at the time. Shakespeare uses Rosalind to put this point across. That is the fact that at the time men misrepresented and repressed women.
This is quite ironic as Rosalind is herself a female and the fact that at some points during the play, she puts females down is due to the fact that she’s trying to act like a man and the men at the time had these types of approach and attitudes towards females. In my opinion she’s not acting the way she does to put women down, but to show the audience how ridiculous it is for men to behave that way towards women and to introduce dramatic irony into the play.
In my opinion Rosalind is a perfect heroine, however like any character or any other human being she has fatal flows which in this case has been sheltered by her virtues of character. I completely agree with Bloom on his describing of Rosalind. He also says that she’s “harmoniously balanced and beautifully sane”, which again I consent with. However he says that Rosalind is not interested in the power that her wit brings her. I think that Rosalind as a character is well aware of the power that she has as Ganymede and the power that her wit brings her.
I do also think that she’s interested in the power that being dressed as a man gives her and she enjoys using that supremacy. In my opinion Rosalind is a manipulative character (in a positive way) and can be described as a heroine in most cases. When Orlando asks her if she is a native of the forest, Rosalind makes an ambiguous remark about being as much of a native as a rabbit is to the place where it is born. Here we see how she uses her wit to protect her disguise. In other words, she never quite answers the question directly.
She uses this kind of verbal sidestepping again in act V, scene2, when she says that she is in love with no woman and that she’ll marry phebe if she is going to marry any woman at all. She also makes phebe promise that if she refuses to marry her, she’ll marry silvius. Rosalind manipulates the other characters through her use of language, but she does so far one purpose and that is to ensure a happy ending to the play. In my opinion this makes her a genuine heroine. As mentioned before Rosalind subverts the typical role of women in the Elizabethan period.
She has great wit and wordplay and this is subversive of Shakespeare to bequeath a female with such qualities. One of the reasons that this play would have been counted as a comedy is the fact that the audience would have found Rosalind’s courage and wit quite funny and they would not have taken it seriously. However Shakespeare would perhaps have wanted to get a very serious and important point across. Some people believe that Shakespeare was a feminist and this is the point to prove it.
He could’ have chosen to endow these qualities to another male character, but he chose a female character to reflect on all of these points. Some feminists are keen to stress the utter oppression of women in Elizabethan society in all areas of life; economic, domestic, sexual, familial and personal. Whilst it is certainly true that women were in no way regarded as equal to men in official aspects of life, the plays have an important part to play as pieces of evidence as about the status of women in this period. They are not separate from their background but part of our understanding about women’s lives in this period.
This plays has a strong emphasis on the importance of gender at the time and the limitations that females were under due to this. Shakespeare uses Rosalind to undermine this and to illustrate that women can be as witty as men. However significantly and in a sense ironically she is only able to show this to the audience when she is disguised as a male. She is the supreme representation of the possibilities of human personality if there is freedom and if oppression can be overcome. She also shows the possibilities of female ability once liberated which in Rosalind’s case is liberty in disguise.
At court Rosalind’s status was lower than Celia’s, for Celia was the daughter of the ruling duke “within ten days if that thou beest found so near our public court as twenty miles, thou diest for it. ” Inn the forest of Arden, Rosalind dressed as a man, has higher status and Celia’s role almost fades away. The play has been under a lot of political criticism. It is possible that Shakespeare wrote the play for political reasons. It is a play that describes character like Rosalind and Celia fleeing from the oppression and coercion that they had to deal with when they were at court. Duke Fredrick has been
Associated with Queen Elizabeth for his vindictive deeds towards his own daughter and Rosalind. The play is about power and social structure. The court is seen as being the place of higher classed people, whereas the Forest of Arden is supposed to be for the undersides of the society (at the time) like women, exiles, outcasts and people in lower status. The play describes the court as being a patriarchal society and the forest as being a place of justice and equality. However we find out that this is not the case as there are wealthy landowners that enrich themselves of the poor.
Phebe and Silvius are examples of these as they are shepherds that work for a rich and cruel man. This goes to show that the forest has the same hierarchy structure as the court. Shakespeare could have been trying to portray the fact that there’s always injustice in “enclosures”. The end of the play is very significant to the irony of the play. Rosalind loses her independence, autonomy and freedom when she gets married to Orlando and when she takes off Ganymede’s clothes “to you I give myself, for I am yours”.
This is so ironic as after all of Rosalind’s efforts and all of Shakespeare’s efforts to portray her as a witty, intelligent character and a Feminist, she has gone back to being her old powerless self. I think that Shakespeare did this to show the audience that things like antifeminism had to be established and dealt with properly. I think that Shakespeare wanted to bring to light the fact that it wasn’t good enough that Rosalind did all the things that she did, as at the end of the day, Orlando had more power over her and he was in control and she dedicated herself to him.
Shakespeare was telling the women n the audience that they would never have rights if they didn’t stick up for themselves and if they didn’t manage to get feminism established. Shakespeare transforms Rosalind’s character throughout the play. From a love struck powerless girl to a dignified, aloof woman who managed to manipulate and influence other characters like Orland (the hero) and Phebe (Ganymede’s lover).
Rosalind becomes a very sardonic, scathing and witty character to show that women can be as derisive and satirical as men if they were given the opportunity to be. She fulfils a very important role and a very significant dramatic function. Then he allows her to mould back to her original, immobilized character to show that there had to be a vital change in society otherwise women are never going to get the respect that they truly deserve if the society wasn’t revolutionised and modified..