What is the purpose of Rosalind, Celia, Audrey in 'As You Like It' as females?

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William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As You Like It is a love story. Shakespeare must have called the play As You Like It because his audiences liked love stories, as audiences still do. There is plenty of love in the play, so Shakespeare needed many female characters. Rosalind is in love with Orlando, and he is in love with her. She cleverly gets him to make love to her even while she is disguised as a male calling herself Ganymede. Then, ironically, a local shepherdess named Phebe falls in love with Rosalind, thinking she is a man. (This is especially ironic, since all the female characters are played by young male actors, and thus Rosalind really is a man.) The relationship between Rosalind and Orlando is the main love story in the play. By the end of the play there are four marriages resulting from all the love affairs. Rosalind will marry Orlando. Orlando's brother Oliver, who is tracking Orlando down under orders from Duke Frederick, meets Celia in the Forest of Arden and they fall in love and will get married. When Phebe finds out that Rosalind is a female, she agrees to marry a country lad named Sylvius who is passionately in love with her. And Touchstone the fool agrees to marry Audrey, who admires him because she thinks he is a sophisticated courtier.

There is something magical about the Forest of Arden. It brings out the best in people and causes them to fall in love. There are some elements of danger, but nothing really bad happens to anyone. Duke Frederick, the usurper, has met an old religious hermit and has magically decided to forsake the world and restore the dukedom to his brother, Rosalind's father Duke Frederick. The many tangled plots are all resolved to everyone's satisfaction, including the satisfaction of the audience, which makes all the actors, the audience, and the playwright subscribe to the title As You Like It.,