The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0105  Thursday, 18 January 2001

From:           Chris Stroffolino <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 16 Jan 2001 18:14:28 -0400
Subject: 12.0066 Re: Orlando
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0066 Re: Orlando

I have a different take on the initial meeting of Rosalind and Celia and
Orlando that may, hopefully, occupy a middle ground between Mr. Bloom
and Mr. Taft, and one that I think is backed up by close textual

I would argue that it is precisely such generalizations as Mr. Bloom's
"I don't think women are motivated as much by physique as we are," that
Shakespeare's subtle, but significant, differentiation of the character
of Rosalind and Celia is designed to challenge....

There is evidence, from the beginning (when Le Beau enters "with his
mouth full of news" (1.2.88) that Rosalind wants to see the wrestling
more than Celia does (1.2.104; 127-133; 146-151) while Celia is more
eloquent and adamant in her attempts to persuade Orlando not to
wrestle.  While Celia sides with Toucstone's insinuation that "breaking
of ribs" should bot be "sport for ladies," Rosalind counters---

    But is there any else longs to see this broken
    music in his sides? Is there yet another dotes upon
    rib-breaking? Shall we see this wrestling, cousin? (1.2.130)

I will grant that Rosalind finds pitiable Le Beau's story, but her
attempt to dissaude Orlando from wrestling is not as passionate as
Celia's (which comes first), and Rosalind seems satisfied with Orlando's
response (perhaps because she already identifies with an outsider much
more than Celia---); Rosalind wants adventure; the sport of "falling in
love" and going to see a male wrestler may provide an excellent
diversion to her own troubling situation. On this point, I am more
sympathetic to Taft's argument, for how do such urges on Rosalind's part
jive with the so-called "maternal" (or as Sophie Masson puts it
"tender") urges which Bloom claims as Rosalind's primary motivation?

At the same time,
Don is right to point out that there are no textual indications to say
when the two men take off their shirts, but this does not mean that
physical attraction doesn't play a role in Rosalind's attraction. Yet,
if we look at the play as a whole, it's clear throughout that Celia is
much more conventional (or perhaps in Bloom's terms, we should say "much
more male") in her privileging of physical attributes and prowess over
words and graciousness (which, as Bloom rightly points out, does play a
part in Rosalind's attraction to Orlando)--for Taft makes the mistake
(as quite a few esteemed critics have) of taking Celia's reading of
Rosalind's psyche as truth. Actually Taft's reading of the wrestling
scene is quite similar to something Celia later says about what happened
to Rosalind, but notice that Rosalind herself never says that Orlando
"tripped up the wrestler's heels and [Rosalind's] heart, both in an
instant." (3.2.205). This tells us more about what attracts Celia to men
than it does about what attracts Rosalind to men...Celia who falls for
Oliver much more quickly than Rosalind does for Orlando.....

I hope this sheds some light on the subject....


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