Discuss Shakespeare's presentation of Rosalind in light of her relationship with other characters in the play As You Like It.

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

[This is a rather open-ended question. I'll provide three brief illustrations of Rosalind's relationships and hope this fulfills your need.]

Rosalind can be examined from some interesting perspectives in her relationships with other characters. Three of these perspectives are: (1) who is presented as better than Rosalind; (2) who Rosalind is permitted to dominate; and (3) her change in behavior after donning men's clothes.

Interestingly, while at court, Cecilia is presented as being more noble and steadfast, thus better, than Rosalind. The suggestion is that Rosalind's status as inferior, merely tolerated cousin--and daughter of ousted exile--reduces Rosalind to insecurity. Yet there is also some suggestion that it is Rosalind's natural character to be more gloomy and pessimistic. In any event, Rosalind only comes into her own sense of nobility and authority after her Arden adventure and after she brings the conflicts to culmination at the wedding ceremony.

    truly, when [my father] dies, thou shalt
    be his heir, for what he hath taken away from thy
    father perforce, I will render thee again in
    affection; by mine honour, I will;

Arden Forest reveals that since Rosalind is a Duke's daughter, born to rule, she is permitted to dominate the peasants in her care. In Arden, the peasants under her figurative "care"--as they do not know her true identity and only recognize her male persona, not her noble authority--are the shepherds and Phoebe. Being male allays the hesitation and insecurity her position at Ferdind's court instilled and opens the way for her nobility and commanding ways to come forth.

    Well, go your way to her, for I see
    love hath made thee a tame snake, and say this to
    her: that if she love me, I charge [i.e., command] her to love

When she meets Orlando at the wrestling match, she is hesitant and demure and behaves very much like Celia behaves, thus she shows few signs of preference for Orlando. Celia is surprised to find her heart went to Orlando along with her necklace. When she and Orlando meet again in Arden, Rosalind overcomes her initial flutterings and decisively acts in her own best interests even though that means perpetrating a prolonged fraud and deception.

    let us talk in good earnest: is it
    possible, on such a sudden, you should fall into so
    strong a liking with old Sir Rowland's youngest son?

Wearing men's clothes and playing the men's role (even that of a young man not yet old enough to shave) gives Rosalind new courage and a new foundation of authority from which to act. This leads the way to reclaiming her noble rank and authority that she demonstrates before her father at the Arden weddings. Thus Rosalind's relationships with others molds the outward expression of her inner being.

Read the study guide:
As You Like It

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