Rosalind Monologue (Act 3, Scene 5)

Written by on | Monologues Unpacked Shakespeare

Let’s take a look at one of Rosalind’s monologues from As You Like It. Rosalind is a great character to explore and only gets more fun throughout the play as she takes full flight. Rosalind is cunning, smart, vulnerable, and strong as well as funny to boot. In this speech we get to see all of that on top of all of the complex layers she’s entrenched in. Let’s take a look.

Context

Duke Senior, Rosalind’s father, has been usurped from his throne by his brother Duke Frederick, and has fled to the forest of Arden along with his loyal followers. Distrusting Rosalind, Duke Frederick banishes Rosalind from the Kingdom as well, and she and Celia, the Dukes own daughter, being close friends since birth, decide they’ll go to the forest of Arden together and disguise themselves for their safety, bringing Touchstone the court jester too. Rosalind disguises herself as a man named Ganymede, and Celia as a common shepherdess called Aliena. Meanwhile Orlando, the son of the late Duke, has learned about a plot against his life by his older brother Oliver, and decides to flee to the forest as well.

While in the forest Orlando and Rosalind (disguised as Ganymede) meet. Believing Rosalind to be Ganymede, Orlando confides in her, and tells her all about his love for Rosalind. Rosalind, as Ganymede, tells Orlando that she’s an expert in curing lovesickness and promises to cure him of his ailments. All he has to do is pretend that Ganymede is Rosalind and come to woo her every day, just as he would woo Rosalind.

Later on Orlando hasn’t showed up for his morning meeting with Ganymede and Rosalind is distraught over this, she compares his hair to Judas, Celia suggests that maybe it’s not so bad and Rosalind agrees, finding some forgiveness for Orlando. Just then, in walks Corin, a young shepherd, who comes in saying that his friend Silvius, another young shepherd, is about to try and woo Phoebe, a young shepherdess. There’s a lot of sheep that need shepherding. Rosalind and Celia decide to go and see the scene, but Rosalind says she’ll not only watch but intervene.

We find Silvius who is madly in love with Phoebe, pining over Phoebe in the forest. Phoebe is growing increasingly annoyed and disdainful toward Silvius’ doting. Silvius compares Phoebe to an executioner, claiming that even the executioner asks for forgiveness before they kill someone. Phoebe mocks this remark, asking why, if her eyes are murderers, he hasn’t died. Phoebe tells Silvius she wants nothing to do with him. Meanwhile Rosalind and Celia, in their respective disguises, have been watching the whole exchange. When Rosalind, as Ganymede, intervenes saying…

Original Text

And why, I pray you? Who might be your mother,
That you insult, exult, and all at once,
Over the wretched? What though you have no beauty,–
As by my faith, I see no more in you
Than without candle may go dark to bed,–
Must you be therefore proud and pitiless?
Why, what means this? Why do you look on me?
I see no more in you than in the ordinary
Of nature’s sale-work. Od’s my little life!
I think she means to tangle my eyes too.
No, faith, proud mistress, hope not after it:
‘Tis not your inky brows, your black silk hair,
Your bugle eyeballs, nor your cheek of cream,
That can entame my spirits to your worship.
You foolish shepherd, wherefore do you follow her,
Like foggy south puffing with wind and rain?
You are a thousand times a properer man
Than she a woman: ’tis such fools as you
That make the world full of ill-favour’d children:
‘Tis not her glass, but you, that flatters her;
And out of you she sees herself more proper
Than any of her lineaments can show her.
But, mistress, know yourself: down on your knees,
And thank heaven, fasting, for a good man’s love:
For I must tell you friendly in your ear,
Sell when you can; you are not for all markets.
Cry the man mercy; love him; take his offer:
Foul is most foul, being foul to be a scoffer.
So take her to thee, shepherd. Fare you well.

Unfamiliar Language

insult (v.)
be insolent, show scorn, triumph scornfully

dark (adv.)
old form: darke
in the dark

ordinary (n.)
routine, norm, usual procedure

sale-work (n.)
old form: sale-worke
ready-made good

‘Od
[in emphatic expressions] shortened form of ‘God’

tangle (v.)
trap, snare, enmesh, hold fast

brow (n.)
old form: browes
Eyebrow

bugle (adj.)
bead-like, beady, glittering

entame (v.)
tame, subdue, quell

south (n.)
south wind [believed to bring storms, and plague-carrying mists]

proper (adj.)
good-looking, handsome, comely

ill-favoured (adj.)
old form: ill-fauourd
ugly, unattractive, unsightly

glass (n.)
old form: glasse
mirror, looking-glass

lineament (n.)
line, feature, characteristic, attribute

mercy (n.)
compassion, forgiveness, pardon

cry (v.)
beg, entreat, implore
foul (adj.)
old form: foule
plain-looking, unattractive, ugly

fare … well (int.)
goodbye [to an individual]

Modern Translation

And why, I pray you? Who might be your mother,
That you insult, exult, and all at once,
Over the wretched?

And why, pray tell me? Who is your mother and what powers did she give to you that you can insult a man and exult over the pain you’ve caused him at the same time?

What though you have no beauty,–
As by my faith, I see no more in you
Than without candle may go dark to bed,–

You’re not that beautiful, I can honestly say, that you could go to bed with the lights on.

Must you be therefore proud and pitiless?

So why do you act so proudly and without pity?

Why, what means this? Why do you look on me?
I see no more in you than in the ordinary
Of nature’s sale-work.

Wait, what is happening? Why are you looking at me like that? I don’t see anything in you out of the ordinary.

Od’s my little life!

For God’s sake!

I think she means to tangle my eyes too.

I think she wants me to fall in love with her too!

No, faith, proud mistress, hope not after it:

No, honestly, proud woman, don’t hope for that.

‘Tis not your inky brows, your black silk hair,
Your bugle eyeballs, nor your cheek of cream,
That can entame my spirits to your worship.

Your black eyebrows, your silky black hair, your glittering eyes, or your creamy complexion can’t make me worship you.

You foolish shepherd, wherefore do you follow her,
Like foggy south puffing with wind and rain?

You foolish shepherd, why are you following her crying and puffing hot air like a foggy south wind?

You are a thousand times a properer man
Than she a woman:

You’re a thousand times a more proper person than she is:

’tis such fools as you
That make the world full of ill-favour’d children:

It’s fools like you, marrying the wrong people, who fill the world with unfortunate children.

‘Tis not her glass, but you, that flatters her;

It’s not her mirror, but you, who flatters her;

And out of you she sees herself more proper
Than any of her lineaments can show her.

And from you she gets a better image of herself than is really there.

But, mistress, know yourself: down on your knees,
And thank heaven, fasting, for a good man’s love:

But lady, know yourself: get on your knees and thank God for sending you a good man’s love:

For I must tell you friendly in your ear,

For I must tell you as a friend,

Sell when you can; you are not for all markets.
Sell while the markets good; not everyone will want to marry you.

Cry the man mercy; love him; take his offer:

Ask for this man’s forgiveness, love him, and accept his offer.

Foul is most foul, being foul to be a scoffer.

You are already foul, don’t let your scorn make you fouler.

So take her to thee, shepherd. Fare you well.

So take her shepherd. Goodbye!

Notes on Performance

Given circumstances are always key to performing anything accurately and well, and this is a prime example. Remember where we are; in the Arden forest, a strange and unfamiliar place to Rosalind, remember what’s just happened; Orlando, the man Rosalind is in love with, hasn’t showed up to their meeting, and she’s pretty upset about it. Finally she’s summoned to witness this wooing and decides enough is enough, so she intervenes.

When performing this monologue, keep in mind the many layers that Rosalind has on her at this time. She’s in disguise, she’s been banished from her home, and she’s madly in love with Orlando, who she is teaching to get over his love-sickness by pretending to be someone else, pretending to be herself!

Allow all of these things to wash over you, and go all in.

This monologue is also a fantastic opportunity to play with circles of attention, targets, or whatever floats your boat. The point is that Rosalind’s attention jumps from one place to another, and her thoughts springboard her from one place to the next. Relish in this and allow yourself to mentally move as quickly as you need to.

Finally, something to keep in mind when performing this monologue is Rosalind’s intelligence and wit. The words are chosen for a reason, and she creates crystal clear arguments at lightning speed, while also cutting those around her at the knees with her words. Lean into that and relish in the playfulness of this speech.

Conclusion

When performing this speech we first have to understand the story or the plot that has led us to be in these circumstances. Why are we where we are? That will lead us to remembering the many circumstantial layers that Rosalind has garnered for her new life in the forest. And lastly when we understand how we got here, and why we’re doing what we’re doing we’ll better understand Rosalind as a person because we’ll have followed her journey. This can be a really fun monologue, but is also very cutting. Like so much in acting, remember all of your given circumstances and the rest will follow.

About the Author

StageMilk Team

StageMilk Team is made up of professional actors and writers from around the world. This team includes Andrew, Alex, Luke, Jake, Indiana, Patrick and more. We all work together to contribute useful articles and resources for actors at all stages in their careers.

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