“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!
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.