Characterization of Rosalinda and Celia from William Shakespeare’s As You Like It
Everyone likes strong female characters, but what makes a female character? Many medias and literature force women into old stereotypes, not giving us the the three dimensional, developed character, filled with negative and positive things. A character with a realistic background and gets developed by the plot, not to develop the plot. Shakespeare’s plays are filled with strong female characters, characters that explore many issues like feminism and gender- roles, making Shakespeare’s works extraordinary and ahead of his time. In As You Like It, we are introduced to Rosalind and Celia, although both typical heroines, with similar backgrounds, they serve different purposes in the plot, and both are powerful in a different way, with Rosalind receiving more attention.
Disguised as Ganymede, she is more protected, one of the reason why she took on the disguise in the first place. Rosalind can also have more freedom not only in movement and actions, but also in position and power. With her wits she takes full advantage of these new-gained abilities and use other men to her benefit in her quest for love with Orlando, her lover.
As Rosalind tests the waters by talking with Orlando, she also slowly shapes him into the lover she desires. This creates process creates great irony and the embodies the concept of disguise within disguise. She teaches him how to woo women and how to love her. All this happens without Orlando having little control nor knowledge of this situation, creating even more irony, whilst depicting the loss of power men once had over women.
“Rosalind, poor girl, with all her strength and elasticity, is not always able to stand up firmly against the flood of emotion which pours over her heart. For example, after the mock marriage, her doubts again begin to overwhelm her, and she asks Orlando how long he would have her; a question which her situation makes touchingly pathetic.” (White, Shakespeare-Online.com)
The follow citation from Richard Grant White’s Studies in Shakespeare describes Rosalind’s double sided personality and character through the use of disguise. Being Ganymede she is impudent, flippant, swaggering and confident appearance. Beneath the unmasked identity is also the unmasked personality. Rosalind is sweet, compassionate, caring and leans more toward the feminine side, even more than Celia.
Compared to Celia, Rosalind is very much similar. They both have similar backgrounds, nurtured in a similar way and certainly have some of the wittiest conversations in the play. Rosalind however is not a copy of Celia. Celia serves more as a mirror to reflect Rosalind’s strength and character. Without it she herself may never know. Celia have also defended Rosalind on numerous occasions. Like Cheering Rosalind up: “I pray thee Rosalind, sweet my coz, be merry” (1.2 Shakespeare). Or suggesting an adventure into the forest. This allows Rosalind to display her wit, beauty, emotion, love and strength. Without Celia acting as a chaperon, scenes of dramatic irony may never be known, such as Ganymede’s conversation with Orlando.
Even with Celia’s support, Rosalind still eventually gave in to her emotions and embraced Orlando and the patriarchic society, but who can blame her? No one can control love. Although this leads to the reduction of Rosalind’s power and independence, it is step is also part of the restoration of the natural order, giving power back to the men. “Men are April when they woo, December when they wed. Maids are May when they are maids, but the sky changes when they are wives.” ( 4.1 127-29 Shakespeare). True to her words, it will be difficult for females to remain in power in a marriage without jeopardizing the relationship. Rosalind has, however, thoroughly tested Orlando, and he seems to be the special man she needs in her life. Assured, she accepts the patriarchal closure.
Most would say Rosalind is stronger than Celia, but the two works like light and dark. Just like how cannot see light if there is no dark, Rosalind’s unique character and qualities can’t be seen without Celia to expose and compare to. Shakespeare has successfully used the duo to express his views on social issues during his time, through art. Rosalind and Celia are icons of modern feminism. But is one really stronger than the other? Does Rosalind having more lines and being more developed make her the better one?
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