In As You Like It, why does Shakespeare have Rosalind as the heroine and hero?   

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Orlando is technically the hero of As You Like It, but he lacks a pronounced demonstration of the qualities of a hero. He is not resourceful; it is Adam who rescues him when he is in danger. He is not a leader; it is Rosalind who directs the misguided loves in Arden Forrest. However, he is virtuous and valiant: he insists before Duke Senior that Adam be given food and drink, and he courageously faces Charles and defeats him.

In an interesting cross-over of roles, Shakespeare casts Rosalind as the hero--even though she is technically the heroine. After Celia comes to her aid and rescues her in an instance that parallels Adam's rescue of Orlando, Rosalind, in the guise of Ganymede, appropriates the role and characteristics of the hero as she boldly takes charge of correcting the ills of the forest and leading people into right relationships with each other.

ROSALIND: I have promised to make all this matter even.
Keep you your word, O duke, to give your daughter;
You yours, Orlando, to receive his daughter:
Keep your word, Phebe, that you'll marry me,
Or else refusing me, to wed this shepherd:

Some critics assert that the paramount reason that Shakespeare characterized Rosalind as the hero was to honor Queen Elizabeth I. Elizabeth was a mighty ruler in England, some say perhaps the mightiest, and had had some great successes in bringing peace to England. Others say Rosalind is cast as the hero to exemplify the Christian qualities--theoretically best personified by a woman--of steadfastness, kindness, love, wisdom, brotherhood, and marriage.

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As You Like It

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