What does Rosalind say about Phebe's beauty in Shakespeare's As You Like It?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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When Rosalind disguised as Ganymede first meets Phebe in Act 3, Scene 5, a scene in which we witness Silvius pleading for Phebe to return his love, Rosalind actually flat out insults Phebe's beauty. Rosalind sees absolutely no reason why Phebe should be so proud as to reject Silvius's love because she apparently really does not have that much going for her. The first thing Rosalind says to Phebe is to tell her directly that she has no beauty. Just like Romeo likened Juliet's beauty to flaming light in Romeo and Juliet, Rosalind likens Phebe's beauty to darkness, saying that her beauty is no more magnificent than darkness unlit by a candle. She further calls Phebe's eyebrows "inky," her eyeballs "bugle," meaning "beady" as bugles were a bead that commonly decorated Elizabethan clothing, and her cheek cream colored rather than rose colored (Shakespeare Navigators; III.v.46-47). She also describes Phebe as being "ordinary / Of nature's sale-work," meaning run-of-the-mill or common (Shakespeare Navigators; 42-43). In the worst insult she delivers to Phebe, she warns Phebe to accept Silvius's love because she should be thankful for any man's love as she is "not for all markets," meaning very few men would find her attractive (58-60). Hence we see that Rosalind finds Phebe to be very plain and is very shocked by her behavior, even proclaiming to Phebe that she has no beauty and no reason to be so prideful, hurtful, nor vain.


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