Battle of the Petticoats

Ladies and gentlemen, today, and only today, we present to you a fight of extraordinary forces. A clash of ladies the likes of which has never been seen before. For today not two, but four dames will step into the ring. In the red corner, from Thomas Lodge’s Rosalynde, we have the ladies Rosalynde and Alinda. In the blue corner, coached by Shakespeare himself, As You Like It’s Rosalind and Celia. Who is the superior female character? Who is the true strong, independent woman who don’t need no man? Let the Battle of the Petticoats begin!

When it comes to scepticism Rosalind certainly takes the win over Rosalynde. Orlando may try to woo her as much as he likes, but she doesn’t give in easily. She could give Petrarch’s Laura a run for her money when it comes to being a cold-hearted ice-queen. Rosalynde, on the other hand, is swept of her feet without much fuss. A few pretty words of Rosader in their Eclogue and she “will grace thee with her love.”

It is Alinda, however, who beats Celia in scepticism when we look at the other ladies. She is not impressed by Rosader’s wooing nor his sonnets. While Rosalynde falls for it quite easily Alinda remains the voice of reason, needling Rosader with sarcastic comments. But it is not just Rosader she is critical of, she doesn’t hold her tongue around Rosalynde either. Celia, on the contrary, doesn’t show this level of cynicism. The commenting on Rosader’s sonnets is left to the character of Touchstone instead.

Over all, Celia is much less eloquent than Alinda in the first place. Alinda spends pages trying to convince her father not to banish Rosalynde from the court, and when he still does so a few pages more to comfort her friend. Celia only has a few lines in which she pleads with her father after which she gives up immediately. Of course Shakespeare had to condense Lodge’s romance into a play, which often means cutting content. He did not just cut Alinda’s lines, however, he added two other male characters—Jaques and Touchstone—and gave part of Alinda’s role to them, leaving Celia to often just stand by and watch.

And for the final blow, by putting Celia in the background so much, Shakespeare has diminished the importance of Rosalind and Celia’s friendship. Because Celia doesn’t interact as much with Rosalind, they do not seem to be as close as Alinda and Rosalynde are. Although romance is certainly a crucial part of Lodge’s Rosalynde, a large part of his story centres around this female friendship. Shakespeare’s As You Like It, unfortunately, does not keep this up.

Shakespeare is generally known for his strong female characters, however, in As You Like It they seem to be inferior to him poking fun at the pastoral conventions. Therefore we have a clear winner here. Our Battle of the Petticoats Champion 2018 is Thomas Lodge’s Rosalynde!

Written by Marije van Lankveld based on study group discussion.

One thought on “Battle of the Petticoats”

  1. Loved this, a really effective way to approach the differences between Shakespeare’s As you like it, and his prose source, especially the way that you build your argument in stages: how Rosalynde/Rosalind changes, how Alinda/Celia changes, then how Celia’s ‘part’ is a reduced version of Lodge’s Alinda, her cynicism farmed out to Touchstone and Jacques (and a little bit to Rosalind too), and that this causes the female friendship to be less of a theme in As you like it than in the prose romance. If you were going to develop this into something bigger, maybe you could include a few more quotations to evidence your summary.

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