The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0151  Tuesday, 23 January 2001

From:           Chris Stroffolino <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 22 Jan 2001 17:12:08 -0400
Subject: 12.0114 Re: Orlando
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0114 Re: Orlando

Thanks Don and Ed for responding again (and Ed Pixley, your point too is
well taken)---

I'd like to offer a couple of other thoughts in response--

Whether Rosalind's initial feelings toward Orlando involve something
like "maternal" or tenderness, on one hand, or sheer physical on the
other extreme (and a whole host of other possibilities---yes, Don, the
idea of her admiring Orlando's physical "prowess" is plausible and sort
of in between the other two possibilities-- in fact, at a SAA seminar a
few years ago, hosted by Christy Desmet, I remember a fascinating, if
unconventional, reading of the play---I forget, right now, who wrote
this--that argued that Rosalind really was attracted to Orlando because
she wanted someone to help her overthrow her uncle at court--- this may
sound absurd, but the paper made a pretty convincing case....)

Anyway, the main point I wanted to contribute to this was to question
the assumption of whether love, in general, and in this play, is
something that can happen at first sight. If it were, how could we
explain what happens in the Silvius Phoebe subplot? Shakespeare plays
with that convention and complicates it psychologically---hence the lack
of "sufficient data" to answer this question because maybe we're asking
the wrong question--Certainly it's more convincing than Kate's early
change in "...Shrew..." and certainly Rosalind expresses attraction (to
Celia) about Orlando, for whatever reasons (maternal, prowess, a bonding
over being mistreated by their family, or just physical va-va-voom), but
do any of these things constitute what we would call love rather than
infatuation or lust or whatever?

Rosalind doesn't fall in love at first sight--- as an intellectual, a
skeptic even, she wants to test not only Orlando's love for her but also
her own love for Orlando. Both "maternal" and "lustful" feelings might
be there at the beginning, but they are ingredients---rather than the
finished cake--of love, which is "all patience and impatience" in this

When discussing Rosalind's character, whose unfolding is much more
evident in Arden than it is in the "envious court," one of the central
questions that comes up in both the classroom and the theatre is the
obvious split, or dual personality, usually divided into two
categories---"the way she is with Orlando" and 2) "the way she is with
Celia". Usually we're told that the way she is with Celia is more
authentic than the way she is with Orlando (just as Hamlet is allegedly
more authentic in soliloquy than he is when he's "antic"), but just as
she reveals aspects of herself that are authentic to Orlando-- not in
spite of, but because of the deception, so when she's with Celia her
constant protestations of loving Orlando should not necessarily be taken
on face value. Since Don argues from experience, I will as well--I've
known quite a few heterosexual women in my life (though this can apply
to men to) who tire their same-sex friends with stories of how deep in
love they are with someone of the opposite sex----and yet even as they
do this, they hold back with the male they claim they love. Their
friends, on occassion, say (as Celia--in effect--does), "you're more in
love with the idea of love than you really are in love." I'm not saying
that Celia is necessarily right about Rosalind's motivations (for there
is probably more in Rosalind's motivations than is dreamt of in Celia's
philosophy), but that there is a perspective from which Celia is correct
to gently, or wittily, chide Rosalind----In any event, I'm going on a
bit long here---to say that the discrepancy between Ganymede and
Rosalind (as she is with Celia, in the forest) is not one and the same
with the difference between "disguise" and "reality"---even if we don't
go so far as to look at the play metadramatically and consider the whole
conundrum of the boy-actor, etc. I believe that seeing these two aspects
of Rosalind's characters as in a dialectic with each other can be
helpful in allowing us to see how Rosalind herself is FALLING IN LOVE
throughout the play--and that the reason why neither Don nor Ed Taft nor
myself have been able to pinpoint the exact reasons so early in the play
is because Rosalind isn't quite sure if it is love she's fallen in

And now I realize that I haven't seen on stage a Rosalind who can play
both Ganymede and Rosalind well in a long long time. Usually it's on or
the other....


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