Who is referred to as the bountiful woman, and why is she called so?

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stefaniecpeters eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The goddess Fortune is referred to as the "bountiful blind woman" by Rosalind in Act I, scene ii. Here is the passage:

Rosalind: What shall be our sport, then?

Celia: Let us sit and mock the good housewife Fortune from her wheel, that her gifts may henceforth be bestowed equally.

Rosalind: I would we could do so; for her benefits are mightily misplaced; and the bountiful blind woman doth most mistake in her gifts to women.

Celia: 'Tis true; for those that she makes fair she scarce makes honest; and those that she makes honest she makes very ill-favouredly.

Rosalind and Celia are in the palace of Celia's father, Duke Frederick, and Celia is trying to cheer Rosalind up. Rosalind is upset because her own father, Duke Senior, has been banished by Duke Frederick, his brother.

The girls decide to fall in love in order to amuse themselves. This leads to their joke about Fortune, who they say either makes women chaste or beautiful but not both. The point is that though Fortune has many gifts to give (is "bountiful"), she bestows them blindly. The play goes on to examine what chances at love both women have, along with two other women they meet in the Forest of Arden: Audrey and Phoebe. The assumption in these lines is that in most cases, women are expected to be both chaste and beautiful. Part of the humor of Touchstone's role, however, is that he hopes his future wife (Audrey) will not be chaste.