Talk about a rushed ending! I just finished reading the last two acts of As You Like It, and much like Twelfth Night, it ended before I realized what was going on.
But let’s talk about Rosalind.
Today in class, the professor asked us what we thought of Rosalind and Orlando’s relationship. My hand shot up before I had my thoughts together.
“It’s what Viola and Orsino’s relationship could have been,” I said. “Rosalind is taking this opportunity to make sure that Orlando treats her the way she deserves to be treated. Viola had that opportunity as well – she just never took advantage of it.”
Nobody disagreed with me. But, our professor said, some people say that Rosalind is being manipulative. I shook my head quite violently. Rosalind, manipulative? I have no doubt that that piece of critique came from the mouth of a man. We all agreed that Rosalind is only working to ensure both her and Orlando’s happiness. Nothing about her trick is mean, unless you go out of your way to see it as such.
“What,” I said, “is wrong with a little guidance?”
Guidance, my professor agreed, was the correct word. Not manipulation. Poor Rosalind! What a terrible criticism of her character, and an unfounded one at that.
Rosalind is the real gem of this play. She orchestrated four marriages at the end – four! Truth be told, the marriage between Oliver and Celia came as quite a shock to me. I know the forest changes people almost instantaneously (and always for the better), but still. Celia is spirited and witty, and nothing about Oliver seems to mesh with her. But, alas, all characters must fall victim to Shakespeare’s obsession with marrying everybody off at the end of a good comedy.
Jaques leaves us in search of a new location for him to whine in. Good bye, Jaques! I wish you’d had fewer lines, you big baby.
Rosalind’s epilogue was quite curious to me. Comedies do not typically have a chorus, so the inclusion of Rosalind’s speech to the audience was a surprise. What is it for? Well, perhaps it is to ease us back into reality. We have been swept away by the Forest of Arden and all it has to offer. But here is a reminder, courtesy of Rosalind, that what we saw was not quite real. She is, in fact, a male actor in women’s clothing, and it’s time for us to come back to reality.
But Rosalind really is wonderful, isn’t she? Gender roles simply do not apply to her – she makes both a man and a woman fall head over heels for her. What’s more, she manages to play matchmaker in the midst of all the nonsense happening in the forest. What a wonderful multi-tasker! And an incredibly self-aware one, at that.
I love Rosalind. Orlando’s pathetic, lovey-dovey poetry did not become her. She knows who she is, and because of this, her marriage to Orlando will be one full of happiness.