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“As You Like It”, is yet another Shakespearian play that pities nature against civilisation, masculinity against femininity, idealism against cynicism, youth against age, child against parent, time against timelessness, and love against hate. It’s both a gentle, pastoral comedy of love, and a dark and sexually ambiguous comment on gender construction. Rosalind as a character is both a heroine and a portrayal of feminism. The evolution of feminine identity within a patriarchal system of power informs both the setting and characterization of this play.
Rosalind dominates the play. As the audience we fully realise the complexity of her character. We understand her emotions, her subtle thoughts, and the fullness of her character that no other character in the play can match. She is successful as a knowledgeable and charming critic of herself and others “I would give him some good counsel for himself, for he seems to have the quotidian of love above him. ” The definition of a heroine looked up in a dictionary is: a woman possessing heroic qualities or a woman who has performed heroic deeds.
This definition can be subjective however depending on the context and the time in which the heroine’s character was portrayed. The definition of a heroine changes and evolves over time which is why what a modern audience would class a heroine characterisations is different to the definition of a heroine during the Elizabethan times. The traditional method takes the idea that all characters are real and have lives of their own. This is very different to the modern method as it is structured around the idea that characters are only functions that portray Shakespeare’s ideas.
They are all part of Shakespeare’s stage craft. They reflect the bigger aspect of the play. They all have particular dramatic functions, and are set in a social and political world with particular values and beliefs. Looking at a play from a traditional approach is a more imaginative and less academic, however this does allow the audience to become involved and emotionally attached to the characters. This way of approaching a play was used in the time of Shakespeare as plays were made purely for performance.
Features of a 17th century heroine differs from a modern day heroine. In the Elizabethan times, beauty, innocence, intelligence, wit and independence would have been classed as heroine qualities. A modern day heroine is thought to be a person that has strength of character, a courageous and original person. Nowadays facial features and beauty does not really count as a heroic quality. However perceptions and ideas of heroines differ from one person to another and this needs to be kept in mind. The portrayal of Rosalind is open to interpretations.
It has been interpreted differently by different versions of performances and films. It has also been interpreted differently by different characters in the play. Celia sees Rosalind (Ganymede) as someone who has “misused our sex”. Other characters like phebe fall in love with (Ganymede) “I love Ganymede”. In Elizabethan times Rosalind would be viewed as a very feminine character who was at liberty when dressed as a male. This is because in the Elizabethan era, women were viewed as being weak and men as being in control and powerful.
Therefore when a woman was dressed as a man she was at more liberty and could do things that she couldn’t have done if she was in form of a woman. Nowadays Rosalind can be viewed a tomboy. Rosalind is a particular favourite amongst the feminist critics, who admire her ability to subvert the limitations that the society imposes on her as a woman. With boldness and imagination she disguises herself as a young man for most of the play in order to woo the man she loves and instructs him in how to be a more accomplished and attentive lover, a tutorship which would not be welcome to her as a woman.
“You shall never take her without her answer, unless you take her without her tongue. O that woman cannot make her fault her husband’s occasion, let her nurse hr child herself, for she’ll breed it like a fool. ” Rosalind and Celia develop into women. In the court these are inexperienced girls, yet as the comic action moves forward, they are forced to take on disguises and discover what it means to be a woman. Rosalind derives her power from her masculine disguise, and much of her humour is antifeminine.
It can be said that this detracts her from being a perfect heroine. She can not exercise such power and control when being simply herself. It’s Celia who actually makes the first step into adult heterosexual womanhood. She’s angry over Rosalind’s boorish behaviour as Ganymede, Celia berates her cousin and says “we must have your doublet and hose plucked over your head, and show the world what the bird hath done to her own nest. “