How do we understand Rosalind's speech, beginning with, "No, faith, die by attorney," addressed to Orlando in lines 94-108 of Act 4, Scene 1 in Shakespeare's As You Like It?
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In many ways, As You Like It is a satire of the pastoral genre. To create the satire, Shakespeare makes use of and portrays the ridiculousness of many conventions found in the genre, such as the convention of treating pastoral life as a utopia, the convention of the shepherd falling madly in love with one who rejects him, and the convention of the villain suddenly becoming a good person (Kenneth Muir, "As You Like It"). In Acts 3 and 4, which can be seen as love "therapy sessions" that Rosalind connives, Shakespeare is particularly exposing the popular, romantic convention of accepting love at first sight as true and pure love ("Love in As You Like It"). Literary critics assert that Rosalind tricks Orlando by posing as Ganymede and tells Orlando to pretend that Ganymede is Rosalind for the sake conducting these therapy sessions to find out exactly how Orlando feels about her but also, more importantly, to find out if they really are suited to each other as a couple ("Love in As You Like It"). Shakespeare uses Rosalind's speech stating that no one dies for love in the middle of one of her love therapy sessions in Act 4, Scene 1 for the purpose of further satirizing the accepted conventions of romantic love.
Rosalind's speech is made in response to Orlando's conventional romantic statement, "Then in mine own person I die," made after she as Ganymede posing as "Rosalind" says she will reject Orlando (IV.i.93). In her speech, Rosalind is debunking the romantic notion that anyone can die for love or die of a broken heart. First, she makes the comic statement, "No, faith, die by attorney," meaning "have one you appoint die for you" (94; Shakespeare Navigators). She then follows her claim with a couple of stories of lovers believed to have died for love who actually died of other causes than a "love-cause" (97). One story is accurate, while the other story she twists to her own advantage. The accurate story she tells surrounds legendary love story of Troilus and Cressida, dating back to the Trojan War. During the Trojan War, the Trojan Prince Troilus fell in love with Cressida, the daughter of a Trojan priest who had defected to the Achaeans. Their love was separated, and Troilus did die, but not out of loss of love, just as Rosalind argues. As Rosalind states, "Troilus had his brains dashed out with a Grecian club," which refers to the legend that Achilles of the Achaeans beheaded Troilus in battle (97-98). It is the second story Rosalind tells that she twists for her own purposes, the story of Leander and Hero. According to that legend, Leander would swim the Hellespont to Hero while Hero kept a light burning in a tower to guide him across the waters. One night, the lamp was blown out, and Leander lost his way and was drown; therefore, Leander certainly did die for the sake of love (Shakespeare Navigators). However, Rosalind twists the story, saying that Leander went out for a swim on a warm summer's night, got a cramp, and was drowned, making his drowning have nothing to do with love (100-105).
Rosalind's twist in the second story creates a comic, ironic effect, and both stories combined make the argument that no one really dies for love. The idea that no one dies for love debunks commonly held, romantic ideals.
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