Shakespeare’s Little Boys: Theatrical Apprenticeship and the Construction of Childhood

  • Catherine Belsey


Performances of As You Like It can have the effect of bringing home to the audience the centrality of Rosalind. Particularly as Ganymede, Rosalind dominates the stage. She buys the cottage, organizes the lovers, and successfully educates Orlando in the proprieties of courtship. More important, she makes the jokes, while the hero acts largely as her foil. In other words, she sets the tone, which means she has the primary responsibility for enlisting the audience’s attention, maintaining the suspense and shifting the mood from comedy to romance and back. The actor who plays Rosalind has to be good: a weak Rosalind would entail a poor play all round. Like Cleopatra, like Juliet, Rosalind is at the heart of the play and, also like them, is required to display a range of moods, as she herself indicates. Adding Ganymede’s role to Rosalind’s own, the play asks its protagonist to ‘grieve, be effeminate, changeable, longing and liking, proud, fantastical, apish, shallow, inconstant, full of tears, full of smiles’ (3.2.410–12).1


Female Role Fictional World Henry VIII Early Modem Elizabethan Theater 
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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Catherine Belsey

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