What can we learn from the make-believe courtship between Orlando and Rosalind as Ganymede pretending to be Rosalind in Shakespeare's As You Like It?
Rosalind's scheme of pretending to be Ganymede and having Orlando court Ganymede while Orlando pretends he is courting Rosalind is a clever and witty way for her to test the sincerity of his love for the real Rosalind. Rosalind especially uses her scheme of make-believe courtship in the first scene of the fourth act to reveal a great deal about Orlando's nature and feelings as well as her own nature.
For example, Orlando arrives an hour late for their rendezvous, giving Rosalind the opportunity to warn him that lovers who come late may have been encouraged by Cupid to pursue love but are not yet wholly in love. Using her scheme, she even gets the opportunity to hear him claim that Rosalind would never make a "horn-maker," meaning "cuckold" of her husband because she is virtuous (III.iii.63-64). A cuckold is a husband of a cheating wife; hence, Orlando is claiming Rosalind would never resort to infidelity because she is far more virtuous than that. Rosalind even philosophizes about women's jealousy, warning him that her jealousy of him would be like a madness, saying:
I will be more jealous of than a Barbary cock-pigeon over his hen, more clamorous than a parrot against the rain, more new-fangled than an ape, more giddy in my desires than a monkey. (149-153)
Orlando's response apparently satisfies her when he says that his real Rosalind wouldn't behave so insanely as "she is wise" (159). Rosalind even takes the conversation back to the possibility of infidelity, and though Orlando says he must leave for two hours to attend the Duke, which does seem a bit like he is running away from the madness of the conversation, Orlando's final response must have also satisfied Rosalind as he swears to keep his promise to return, and to keep his promise "with no less religion than if [she] wert indeed [his] Rosalind" (197-198)
Hence, despite the fact that Rosalind as Ganymede scared Orlando with the prospect of jealous fits and infidelity, he still promises to return to Ganymede who is pretending to be Rosalind, showing Rosalind that he really does care. We know she reaches the conclusion that he really does care because the next thing she proclaims to Celia is just how deeply in love she is with Orlando.
The relationship between Orlando and Ganymede is purely make-believe. This is depicted in Shakespeare’s As You Like It, Act 4.
Rosalind and Celia are in the Forest of Arden, disguised as Ganymede and Aliena respectively. Orlando and Rosalind are in love, however when Orlando encounters Rosalind in the forest, he does not recognise her through her disguise. The pretence is carried forward, by Rosalind not revealing her true self to Orlando. She does this because she wants to have some fun, and promises to cure Orlando of his love-sickness. This is evident from what she tells Celia: “I shall speak to him like a saucy lackey, and under the habit play the knave with him.” Thus she made Orlando promise to woo her everyday as though she really was his Rosalind. He must always treat her as Rosalind, and not as Ganymede. Orlando agrees to engage in this make-believe courtship.
Rosalind continues the banter by mocking him when she says: “Break an hour’s promise in love!” Here Rosalind displays the typical quality of a woman who does not like to be kept waiting by her lover. She does not accept Orlando’s apology, and says that she would rather be wooed by a snail.
This make-believe courtship between Orlando and Rosalind reaches a climax in the mock ceremony of marriage wherein Celia personates the priest and unites her to Orlando. This stimulated ceremony is barely over when Rosalind inquires how long he would love his lady should he win her. Orlando ardently swears “forever and a day.” To this Rosalind promptly reports “men are April when they woo, December when they wed.” Thus she portrays that it is in the character of a woman to test a man’s true love for her. She therefore puts him through rigorous tests to prove the same.
Thus, through the above references from the play, it is clear that the courtship between Ganymede and Orlando is make belief. However, all play acting is borne out of elements of truth. In the case of Rosalind, she reflected her suspicious nature, whilst Orlando personified his true love for Rosalind.
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