On The Complexity of Rosalind

“Rosalind and Hamlet are surely the most complex in the vast parade of Shakespeare’s characters.”

So begins this Signature article, “What’s So Complex About Shakespeare’s Immortal Rosalind?

I’m already stumped, and that’s nothing personal against Rosalind.  I’ll give you Hamlet. But a funny thing happened as I sat here thinking, “No, wait, surely there’s a lengthy cast of characters that could vie for that title.”  Complex female characters in Shakespeare’s work. Ummm….hmmm. Maybe they have a point? I keep rattling off names – Desdemona, Juliet, Cordelia – but the word “complex” does not come to mind for each of them, even though they each have their own strengths.  I guess Viola is the obvious competition.

Maybe I’ve not yet seen a good As You Like It, because my impression of Rosalind is inevitably “boy crazy teenager.”  I saw this one interpretation where Rosalind and  Celia, talking about boys, at one point grab each other by the forearms, jumping up and down in a circle while laughing and squealing loudly. You’ve no doubt seen similar played out in many a television sitcom. It didn’t take much creative energy, I’m sure. I didn’t like it, as it left me thinking, “Is this all there is to this one?”

Maybe I’m wrong, though, and I’m open to debate.  I think I’m biased toward Viola in Twelfth Night , however, thanks to Wayne Myers’ book “The Book of Twelfth Night, or What You Will: Musings on Shakespeare’s Most Wonderful Play,” which explores many of the darker themes of that one.  Viola doesn’t have time to finish mourning for her dead brother before she assumes his identity. Let’s see Rosalind try that!

Rosalind.  Complex?

P.S. – Can I get a word in about the editor’s note?  The article’s title says “the immortal Rosalind,” to which the editor adds, “a character who has never lived and therefore can never die.”  So…literally, in the literal sense of the word, every fictional character.



Which Play Is The Most Romantic?

Going over edits for my Shakespeare wedding quotes book, I’m curious which play provided the most romantic quotes.  That’s a fairly arbitrary measure, of course, but it’s an interesting question. I’m not thinking of the story line. I mean, which play has the most passages that you could pull out of context and use elsewhere, and still have them sound romantic?
Might Twelfth Night be Shakespeare's most romantic play?From where I sit, As You Like It and A Midsummer Night’s Dream both have a great deal of stuff to say on the subject of love and romance.  But they’re both … light? about it.  Neither, in my book, expresses the sort of ups-and-downs that come with what love’s really all about.  Don’t get me wrong, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is damned near perfection from some angles, but half the time the lovers are in the grip of a magic potion and in love with the wrong person.  As You Like It I find just too corny.  Cute, but corny. Life’s not as easy as that one makes it out to be.

I think I’ll put my money on Twelfth Night. I love the discussion we had on music being the food of love.  Orsino has got some amazing insight about what love’s really all about, and that place where it can actually cause you pain, and yet you still want more of it.

“They are in the very wrath of love, clubs cannot part them.”

“Love sought is good, but given unsought is better.”

Welcome John Hudson of The Dark Lady Players!


If you don’t recognize the name, John Hudson is known for having put forth Amelia Bassano Lanyer as the latest contender for the Authorship Question (also known as the “Shakespeare was a black Jewish woman?!” theory).

When I first posted about the theory I wondered aloud if it was a joke.  I also wondered why the discussion is always about As You Like It, since it seems that you’d want to go right to Shylock if you’re going to argue that a Jewish person created him. So when I got email from Mr. Hudson, I apparently have no shame, I dove right in and asked both questions :).  Answers printed with his permission:

Q:  With all due respect, are you serious?  Or is this some larger satirical joke on the Authorship question as a whole that’s gone over my head?”  (paraphrased)

A: Actually I am serious–which is why in March last year I went to London to present this theory to Mark Rylance and the Shakespearean Authorship Trust, who treated it seriously and brought her in as candidate number 8  at the top of the ‘other candidates’ section of their website. I would also not be spending money putting on demonstration allegorical versions of the plays unless I was serious!

Q: Why have I not heard anyone ask about Merchant, or even Taming of the Shrew?  Why would Bassano have written such misogynistic, anti-Semitic works?

A: This theory holds that the plays are written as allegories—as was much of Elizabethan and Renaissance literature—so they have a meaning in some cases on the surface that is opposite to what they really mean underneath. Both MOV and Shrew are quite complex, so  it is easiest if I begin  referring you to my analysis of more straightforward plays like MND and AYLI (which we are currently rehearsing for production in late July). Once you see how those work it is easier to make analogies to the others. For instance I would show why the way that Adam disappears half-way through AYLI is a parallel to the way that Shylock disappears half way through MOV–and what happens to them is similar. (I would however refer you to the literary signatures she has left on the two Shrew plays, which have also recently been detected by Rene Weis in Shakespeare Unbound pg 177).

(I certainly plead ignorance regarding the depth of these arguments, but that answer to the Shylock question does seem similar to the “nonono, it’s not anti-Semitic, it’s showing us the dark side of anti-Semitism” case that we’ve spoken of.)

Hudson goes on to add, “The only person who has ever considered Amelia  Bassano was the Russian critic Gililov, who  identified the Shakespearean quality of her poetry (The Shakspeare Game pgs 305-312) then decided as a lower class woman she could not have written it, even though she was educated by a duchess and a countess from the age of 7. Once you have read the two documents will be happy to talk further, and yes please use it in your blog, I would like to get the public debate going!!

[John did attach two PDF documents for me, but I don’t have a good way to attach them to this post.  Perhaps if he is reading he can provide links.]

Thank you to John Hudson for his response, and the boatload of reference material he provided.  I’ve got some reading to do.