Discussion Topic

Reasons for Rosalind's banishment in "As You Like It."

Summary:

Rosalind is banished in "As You Like It" because Duke Frederick, who has usurped her father Duke Senior's throne, sees her as a potential threat. Despite her close friendship with his daughter Celia, Frederick's paranoia and fear of losing power lead him to exile Rosalind from the court.

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In As You Like It, Act 1, Scene 3, why does Duke Frederick banish Rosalind?

In Act I, Scene 3 of Shakespeare's As You Like It, Duke Frederick orders his niece, Rosalind, to leave his court. He wrongly accuses her of treason. When his own daughter, Celia, protests the banishment of Rosalind, Frederick responds as follows:

  • Frederick She is too subtle for thee; and her smoothness,
    Her very silence and her patience,
    Speak to the people, and they pity her.
    Thou art a fool. She robs thee of thy name;
    And thou wilt show more bright and seem more virtuous 485
    When she is gone. Then open not thy lips.
    Firm and irrevocable is my doom
    Which I have pass'd upon her; she is banish'd.

This is a revealing speech for a number of reasons, including the following:

  • Frederick is the character who might most reasonably be described as “subtle,” especially if that word suggests a person who is devious and not to be trusted.
  • Ironically, in the very act of attacking Rosalind, he calls attention to some of her virtues, including her “patience.”
  • The fact that the populace feels “pity” for Rosalind suggests that many people in the dukedom possess a virtue that Frederick himself seems to lack, thus making him seem uncommon in his hard-heartedness.
  • The true “fool” in this play is Frederick himself, in the sense that he behaves unreasonably and unwisely.
  • By making this kind of decision and speech, Frederick will in the long run be robbing himself of his own “name” or reputation.
  • Frederick assumes that his daughter shares his own selfish motivations.
  • Frederick believes that Rosalind is a traitor or potential traitor, but he has already proven himself the true traitor in the play by usurping his brother’s dukedom.
  • Frederick speaks with an unbending determination that implies his enormous pride – a central sin for Renaissance Christians.
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According to Duke Frederick in As You Like It, why is Rosalind banished?

In act 1, scene 3, Rosalind and Celia are talking about Rosalind's love for Orlando when Duke Ferdinand enters the room "with his eyes full of anger" and tells Rosalind to "get you from our court":

Within these ten days if that thou beest found
So near our public court as twenty miles,
Thou diest for it.
Both Celia and Rosalind are shocked. Although Duke Ferdinand had banished Rosalind's father, Duke Senior, he has allowed Rosalind to stay because not only is she a close friend of his daughter, Celia, but he regarded her as one of his own children.
Rosalind asks the Duke to explain why he has banished her and all the Duke can tell her is that, as the daughter of Duke Senior, he can no longer trust her. When Celia asks him why he is suddenly saying this now—after all, it was the Duke's "pleasure and your own remorse" that allowed her to stay in the first place—the Duke becomes defensive, claiming that Celia is too naive to see Rosalind's deviousness:
She is too subtle for thee, and her smoothness,
Her very silence and her patience
Speak to the people, and they pity her.
With Rosalind gone, the Duke says Celia will blossom into the woman she is destined to be:
She robs thee of thy name,
And thou wilt show more bright and seem more virtuous
When she is gone.
Celia tells her father she cannot live without Rosalind. When the Duke leaves, she agrees to join Rosalind in her quest to find her father.

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