It is a testament to the clarity of Rosalind’s vision that she does not spare herself or Orlando from this condemnation of extremes. When Orlando claims that he will die of love, Rosalind disproves him with one of the play’s most famous and delightful speeches. Her insistence that literature has misrepresented and unduly romanticized the world’s greatest lovers is a stringent antidote to Orlando’s mewling, and supports Touchstone’s earlier observation that “the truest poetry is the most feigning, and lovers are given to poetry; and what they swear in poetry it may be said, as lovers, they do feign”. After dismantling Orlando’s model of love, Rosalind goes on to assail the men who follow the model, claiming that the greatest romantics are transformed by marriage into inattentive, uncaring dictators. In addition to the jesting, there is a serious element of self-preservation in Rosalind’s famous observation that “men are April when they woo, December when they wed”. When, on two occasions, Orlando is late for their appointment, Rosalind fears that her lover’s devotion might not be steadfast, but she also knows that the thrill of romance is short-lived. Over time, love weathers and even dulls, an unhappy but inevitable truth that only Rosalind stops to consider: “the sky changes,” she admits, “when [maids] are wives”.
Rosalind might be construed as a spoilsport, out to ruin everyone else’s fun by exposing the crumbling foundations of their love fantasies, but there is much more to her than this simplistic interpretation. Certainly, even her closest confidante Celia misunderstands her, claiming that Rosalind, in her attempts to drain the excess of Orlando’s romanticism, has succeeded in disparaging the entire female sex. Rosalind’s goal is less to represent the female gender than to show Orlando that, just as there is no such thing as a perfect and heroic love, there is also no such thing as an ideal and ideally worthy woman. By stripping Orlando and herself of the ideals that preoccupy him, Rosalind prepares them both for love in the real world, for a love that strikes a balance between the transcendent and the familiar, and for a love that blends the loftiness of Silvius’s poetry with the baseness of Touchstone’s desires. Thus, Rosalind’s attacks on Orlando’s idea of love are not an attack on love itself. After all, Rosalind herself is clearly and deeply in love. Her attempts to furnish Orlando with a more realistic understanding of love are a means of ensuring that their relationship will thrive in a world less enchanted than Arden.