The Outcast and The Saint: A Brief Analysis on Two of Shakespeare's Leading Ladies

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Christopher Baker


Rosalind and Isabella are both central, female characters in two of Shakespeare’s comedies, As You Like It and Measure for Measure respectively; however, Rosalind and Isabella are very different from each other. The moods of the different plays are different as well with As You Like It being a comedy that strictly adheres to its genre and Measure for Measure being a problem comedy. As You Like It is a play with the central theme of marriage, whereas Measure for Measure is a play with themes of justice, mercy, and sex. The lighthearted nature of As You Like It contrasts the especially oppressive mood of Measure for Measure. Interestingly, Rosalind faces the threat of death in the first act, but the audience forgets this grave sentence by the end of the play if not before. Alternatively, death is very prominent in Measure for Measure which is what makes it a problem comedy. Essentially, Rosalind and Isabella prove to be representative of the moods of the different plays in their actions and personalities. Examining their positions in their environments and their responses to their situations gives insight into the functionalities of the different plays. The Edenic Forest of Arden contrasts the dark city of Vienna and the puritanical convent to which Isabella commits. Furthermore, Rosalind controls much of the plot development in As You Like It; however, Isabella’s situation is out of her control and tests her purity. Isabella’s dilemma parallels the dilemma of the problem comedy while Rosalind celebrates in her happy ending.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

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