As You Like It characters belong to different courts. This article focuses on the court of Duke Frederick in As You Like It – which includes Rosalind, Celia, Le Beau, Charles the Wrestler and Touchstone.
Duke Frederick has previously overthrown his brother and taken over his dukedom, we are unaware of the circumstances by which he did so. (However, he did not act as harshly as Antonio in The Tempest who usurped his brother by banishing him and his daughter and putting them on a boat with no food. At least Duke Senior was banished to the forest with the possibility of surviving his environment.)
Duke Senior’s daughter was looked after, at first, by Duke Frederick as his own daughter – she was not treated badly as far as we can tell, until her banishment. However, Duke Frederick loves his daughter Celia and his banishment of Rosalind is partly to protect his daughter and avoid people judging her for her father’s mistakes. Celia does not thank her father for this and instead favours Rosalind – running off into the forest with her. In this instance the Duke’s love for his daughter is unrequited.
As with Oliver, on entering the forest the Duke realises the error of his ways; the forest appears to have healing properties when it comes to evil dispositions. Perhaps this suggests that it is not the characters who are evil but the environment of the court which makes them this way – who knows what Duke Senior was like in the court?
At the end of the play the Duke disappears into obscurity in order to practice religion, he is accompanied by the melancholy Jaques and as such we know he will not be alone. He is clearly very easily persuaded to give up his Dukedom but he is possibly a broken man by then having lost everyone close to him. He represents man’s ability to change.
- Position in Duke Frederick’s Court: Duke Senior’s daughter, but looked after by Duke Frederick
- Alter Ego: Ganymede, When Dressed as a Man
Rosalind is witty, strong minded and independent. She takes control of her own fate and teaches other characters how to love in a realistic and genuine way.
Rosalind is given more freedom in this role than would normally be attributed to a female role, mainly due to her being disguised as a man for much of the play. She is quite forward in her wooing of Orlando and instigates the marriage. This is permitted due to her male persona.
Her character plays with the idea of gender and sexuality and this gender confusion contributes much of the comedy in the play. Mistaken identity is also a comedic tool. Rosalind’s own father fails to recognise her and she softly teases him in her male guise.
Rosalind teaches Orlando how to love her. She enjoys the romantic side of wooing but is worldly enough to know this is not enough in the real world and there must be more than foolish poems – she tests Orlando and as a result, hopes their love will not be tested.
- Position in Duke Frederick’s Court: Duke Frederick’s daughter
- Alter Ego: Aliena, When in Disguise in the Forest
Celia loves Rosalind intensely, one could argue, homoerotically. She will do anything for Rosalind. She is very loyal to Rosalind but, in being so, is disloyal to her father but we forgive this because we perceive him as evil or at least misguided.
Compared to Rosalind, she is not as physically appealing being shorter and plainer than her cousin but she doesn’t appear to feel animosity towards Rosalind. As a poor country woman Aliena has more freedom and can be more outspoken than Celia could be which indicates the restrictions of courtly life for a woman.
However, she is accompanied by two ‘men’ in effect; Ganymede and Touchstone and is therefore unable to experience the freedom enjoyed by her cousin. Celia falls in love for Oliver very quickly and does not go through the ‘testing’ process of her future spouse that Rosalind puts Orlando through. There is a slight concern that Oliver will revert to his old ways and that she is attracted to him because he reminds her of her father.
- Position in Duke Frederick’s Court: Duke Frederick’s wrestler
Charles is a loyal character and tries to discourage Orlando from fighting him. We are told that Charles is virtually unbeatable and it is therefore a surprise when Orlando wins the match so easily. In conversation with Orlando’s brother Oliver, Charles offers to ‘throw’ the fight, so as not to hurt Orlando, out of loyalty to the family. Oliver says that he doesn’t care if his brother is hurt and leaves the decision to Charles. Therefore it is unclear as to whether Charles let Orlando win or not?
It is probably a more sensible decision to take a knock to your pride and allow a royal to win in his own court than to beat him and face the consequences. Orlando gains from winning the fight in that Rosalind falls in love with him for his bravery but he is also hounded out of town.
- Position in Duke Frederick’s Court: A Jester
Touchstone is a clown and is very witty and clever with his words. He is a base, bawdy character falling for Audrey for her ‘foulness’. He derides courtly love as dishonest and is interested in a more primitive kind of sexual love. He likes that Audrey is honest and doesn’t flatter with poetic or flowery terms. Touchstone and Audrey act as a foil to Orlando and Rosalind’s characters. A different aspect or perspective on love is represented by these characters.
- Position in Duke Frederick’s Court: A Courtier attending on Duke Frederick
Le Beau is polite and is the bringer of news – as such he moves the story along.