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Note on the Character Analysis

(Shakespeare for Students)

Note: As You Like It is a formulaic comedy in which love and good must ultimately triumph. As such, it is filled with stock character types. While each of the play's main characters is distinct and none, save the least important (Charles the wrestler), is purely one-dimensional, the figures that appear on stage in As You Like It are not complex in the sense that Shakespeare's Hamlet or Lady Macbeth is complex. The two exceptions are Rosalind and Jaques, the poles of the play's "optimism/pessimism" opposition.

Celia (Character Analysis)

(Shakespeare for Students)

Celia is the daughter of Duke Frederick and lives at the palace. After her father ousts Duke Senior, Duke Senior's daughter Rosalind, Celia's cousin, comes to live with her, and the two seem to be very close. They are like two schoolgirls exchanging witticisms about all they observe in their somewhat sheltered world. Celia takes an active part in the witty exchanges with Le Beau, in which the two girls and Touchstone engage in endless wordplay. She, along with her cousin, tries to convince Orlando that he will be injured if he wrestles Charles, and during the wrestling match, Celia encourages him. After the match, Celia and Rosalind pun on wrestling terms like "fall" and "throw," using these terms in the language of love to discuss Rosalind's infatuation with Orlando. Celia is excited for her cousin, but much of her energy at Duke Frederick's court is siphoned into distancing herself from her father's actions, most noticeably his banishment of Orlando after the wrestling match.

When Duke Frederick suddenly demands that Rosalind leave his household, Celia does not hesitate; she decides to share Rosalind's fate and travel with her to the Forest of Arden. The two adopt disguises because traveling in the sometimes violent Elizabethan underworld was a dangerous undertaking for two women. Celia assumes the persona of a woman being escorted by "Ganymede," Rosalind's male persona, significant since Celia is the less dominant of the two women. It is also significant that Celia takes the name "Aliena." In an obvious sense, she is alienated from her father and the world of Duke Frederick's court. In another sense, she seems alienated from herself; in the Forest of Arden she seems different from the carefree adolescent she is in earlier scenes. She becomes a woman of means living in the world, buying the cottage of Corin's master and establishing a household. As a character, she recedes into the background of the pastoral world of Arden, becoming merely the go-between for Rosalind and Orlando. Her relationship with Oliver is reported to rather than witnessed by the audience. Of the two female friends in the play, Rosalind is clearly the more dynamic, Celia, perhaps, giving modern audiences the glimpse of another dimension of female identity in Elizabethan England.

Frederick (Character Analysis)

(Shakespeare for Students)

Duke Frederick is the younger brother of Duke Senior and has somehow gained enough power to banish him from the court. He plunders the estates of those lords who have accompanied Duke Senior into exile. Duke Frederick seems to be acting capriciously and arbitrarily when he banishes Rosalind, but her banishment probably stems from the animosity that exists between himself and Duke Senior. She is, after all, Duke Senior's daughter, and Duke Frederick has only taken her in to appease his own daughter Celia. It may also be conjectured that he has witnessed or heard reports of Rosalind's attraction to Orlando and her gift of a necklace to him and is upset with her for befriending the son of Sir Rowland de Boys, his avowed enemy. Again, this probably stems from the quarrel between Duke Frederick and Duke Senior, the latter having had a great affection for Sir Rowland. Duke Frederick has already banished Orlando for his paternity and will eventually banish Oliver for the same reason, after Oliver has failed to produce and punish Orlando in accordance with Duke Frederick's desires. Duke Frederick becomes alarmed at the popularity enjoyed by his older brother in the forest, and he sets out to remove...

(The entire section is 5,846 words.)