What does it mean to say that Shakespeare has no heroes, only heroines in As You Like It?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In As You Like It, Shakespeare certainly does not have any heroes, but instead a heroine. This is true because it is Rosalind who is responsible for nearly all of the play's happy conclusions at the end of the play.

Through her disguise as Ganymede, she manages to trick Orlando into disclosing his deepest feelings for Rosalind, which helps her to confirm that his love for her is sincere and that she should marry him. We especially see Rosalind become certain he loves her in the fifth act when Orlando explains just how much his brother's happiness about marrying Celia as Aliena is grieving him because he cannot yet share in his brother's happiness by marrying Rosalind. When Orlando states, "I can live no longer by thinking," Rosalind knows it is now time for her to reveal herself as Rosalind, as well as reveal her love for Orlando and become married (V.ii.50).

Beyond creating the happy and certain resolution between herself and Orlando, she also helps Silvius win Phebe by tricking Phebe into marrying him. She tricks Phebe, who is still in love with Rosalind as Ganymede, by making Phebe promise that should she decide not to marry Ganymede, then she will marry Silvius instead. As a result of that promise, when Phebe sees Rosalind as Rosalind instead of Ganymede, Phebe knows full well that she has no choice but to relent and marry Silvius.

    But if you do refuse to marry me,
    You'll give yourself to this most faithful shepherd?

    So is the bargain.

    You say, that you'll have Phebe, if she will?

    Though to have her and death were both one thing.

Since Rosalind is responsible for both of these resolutions, she is the heroine of the story. The only two resolutions she is not directly responsible for are Duke Frederick becoming a changed man by meeting a religious man in the forest, inspiring him to relinquish the dukedom back to Duke Senior. She is also not responsible for Oliver becoming a changed man in the forest. However, all in all, she does help create the play's happy endings.

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As You Like It

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