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Gender Roles in Courtship and Marriage

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The sun rises and shines during daytime and the moon at night but the two cannot shine at the same time and even then the sun still shines brighter. As it is with Rosalind in, As you like it, by William Shakespeare, Rosalind is a dominant character in the play and in their relationship with Orlando despite how noble and kind hearted he is his imagination burns less bright in the presence of Rosalind because she seems to be masculine. In this paper I will explain Orlando’s relationship with Rosalind and how her assertiveness enables her to meet her heart’s desires. Furthermore, I will analyze other love relationships in the play to support how Rosalind is portrayed as more masculine in her relationship with Orlando. Lastly I will explain how Rosalind’s bold and fullness of her character gives leeway for women to fully express themselves in a relationship. Through communication and relations Rosalind has, her switch between genders and her relationship with Orlando contrast the social norm of a typical courtship were the men pursue and woo the woman. Shakespeare uses the relationship of Rosalind and Orlando in comparison with other relationships in the play to challenge the expectations of society on roles of men and women in courtship, marriage and beyond.

Rosalind and Celia escape from Duke Frederick into the forest of Aden where Rosalind disguises herself to be a man, and in the same forest she later meets Orlando who she immediately falls in love with. Rosalind is so direct and assertive in pursuing Orlando and this is highlighted when she replies Orlando, “I would cure you, if you would but call me Rosalind and come every day to my cote and woo me. Orlando follows to say, “Now, by the faith of my love, I will: tell me where it is.”,(3.2. 425-426) The reply Orlando gives shows that he did not mind listening and accepting what Rosalind said because he is so caught up by his heart’s desires that he is submissive to Rosalind’s request. This is a typical woman’s role in a relationship to be submissive. Instead of Orlando pursuing Rosalind the way he ought to he is rather submissive to Rosalind’s request to teach him how to woo while Rosalind uses her gender switch to relay what she wants in the relationship as a woman. Both their acts reflects that women are capable and equipped to attain and achieve their heart’s desires in a relationship

Even though, Shakespeare reflects the switch in gender roles in the courtship of Orlando and Rosalind in as you like it he also writes about other love relationships that can be used for comparison.in the relationship between Audrey and Touchstone, Touchstone woes Audrey asks for a hand in marriage and even tries to educate her about love. “No, truly, unless thou wert hard-favored; for honesty coupled to beauty is to have honey a sauce to sugar……..Well, praised be the gods for thy foulness! sluttishness may come hereafter. But be it as it may be, I will marry thee, and to that end I have been with Sir Oliver Martext, the vicar of the next village, who hath promised to meet me in this place…………….Come, sweet Audrey: We must be married, or we must live in bawdry(3.3. 30-36, 95-97). In their relationship Audrey does not object Touchstone’s way of courting her but rather seeks understanding and clarity whenever she does not understand. In contrast when Orlando asks to love Rosalind and if not he dies instead of finding that to be romantic and a way to show that Orlando is laying all his swords down she rather sees his profess as unrealistic,” Men have died from time to time, and worms have eaten them, but not because of love”, (4.1. 105-106). Later on Rosalind plays friendlier and accepts his requesting and this is almost as though she is controlling his thoughts and actions in this relationship. Rosalind’s actions are more masculine than they are feminine compared to other characters which alters the beliefs of society on roles of women and men in courtship.

Shakespeare creates an assertive and dominant character as Rosalind to reflect women’s ability to overthrow the limitations society puts on women. Rosalind is in love with Orlando and is willing to take the chance and be married to him and when she asks how long they will last and he replies forever she replies, “Men are April when they woo, December when they wed. Maids are May when they are maids, but the sky changes when they are wives (4.1. 144-147)”. She replies Orlando in a very bold manner reminding him life isn’t all milk and honey. Shakespeare reflects the possibility of women being able to express the traits they have without feeling threatened.

Society has certain beliefs on who does what in a relationship or in marriage. Shakespeare reflects those belief and expectations through different relationships but also decides to make Orlando’s relationship with Rosalind stand out and this is a reflection that women are capable of expressing their desires in relationships.

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