The daughter of Duke Senior. Rosalind, considered one of Shakespeare’s most delightful heroines, is independent minded, strong-willed, good-hearted, and terribly clever. Rather than slink off into defeated exile, Rosalind resourcefully uses her trip to the Forest of Arden as an opportunity to take control of her own destiny. When she disguises herself as Ganymede—a handsome young man—and offers herself as a tutor in the ways of love to her beloved Orlando, Rosalind’s talents and charms are on full display. Of all the characters in the play only Rosalind is fully aware of the foolishness and the delights of romantic love. She teaches those around her to think, feel, and love better than they have previously, and she ensures that the courtiers returning from Arden are far gentler than those who fled to it.

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The youngest son of Sir Rowland de Boys and younger brother of Oliver. Orlando is an attractive young man who, under his brother’s neglectful care, has languished without a gentleman’s education or training. Regardless, he considers himself to have great potential, and his victorious battle with Charles proves him right. Orlando cares for the aging Adam in the Forest of Arden and later risks his life to save Oliver from a hungry lioness, proving himself a proper gentleman. He is a fitting hero for the play and, though he proves no match for her wit or poetry, he is the most obvious romantic match for Rosalind.

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Duke Senior

The father of Rosalind and the rightful ruler of the dukedom in which the play is set. Having been banished by his usurping brother, Frederick, Duke Senior now lives in exile in the Forest of Arden with several loyal men, including Lord Amiens and Jaques. We have the sense that Senior did not put up much of a fight to keep his dukedom, for he seems to make the most of whatever life throws at him. Content in the forest, where he claims to learn as much from stones and brooks as he would in a church or library, Duke Senior proves himself to be a kind and fair-minded ruler.


A faithful lord who accompanies Duke Senior into exile in the Forest of Arden. Jaques is a self-professed melancholic who seems to find perverse pleasure in his own affectation of misery. Much like a referee in a football game, he stands on the sidelines, watching and judging the actions of the other characters without ever fully participating. Given his inability to participate in life, it is fitting that Jaques alone refuses to follow Duke Senior and the other courtiers back to court, and instead resolves to assume a solitary and contemplative life in a monastery.

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The daughter of Duke Frederick and Rosalind’s dearest friend. Celia’s devotion to Rosalind is unmatched, as evidenced by her decision to follow her cousin into exile. To make the trip, Celia assumes the disguise of a simple shepherdess and calls herself Aliena. As elucidated by her extreme love of Rosalind and her immediate devotion to Oliver, whom she marries at the end of the play, Celia possesses a loving heart, but she is prone to deep, almost excessive emotions.

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Duke Frederick

The brother of Duke Senior and usurper of his throne. Duke Frederick’s cruel nature and volatile temper are displayed when he banishes his niece, Rosalind, from court without reason. That Celia, his own daughter, cannot mitigate his unfounded anger demonstrates the intensity of the duke’s hatefulness. Frederick mounts an army against his exiled brother but aborts his vengeful mission after he meets an old religious man on the road to the Forest of Arden. He immediately changes his ways, dedicating himself to a monastic life and returning the crown to his brother, thus testifying to the ease and elegance with which humans can sometimes change for the better.


A fool in Duke Frederick’s court who accompanies Rosalind and Celia in their flight to Arden. Touchstone’s job, as fool, is to criticize the behavior and point out the folly of those around him. He performs this job faithfully, though he often seems to delight in being cruel. This cruelty wins the favor of the melancholic Jaques, but it proves far less effective than Rosalind’s critical acumen, which is firm but ultimately warm-hearted. Next to his mistress, the fool seems hopelessly vulgar and narrow-minded. Almost every line he speaks echoes with bawdy innuendo.

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The oldest son of Sir Rowland de Boys and sole inheritor of the de Boys estate. Oliver is a loveless young man who begrudges his brother, Orlando, a gentleman’s education. He admits to hating Orlando without cause or reason and goes to great lengths to ensure his brother’s downfall. When Duke Frederick employs Oliver to find his missing brother, Oliver finds himself living in despair in the Forest of Arden, where Orlando saves his life. This display of undeserved generosity prompts Oliver to change himself into a better, more loving person. His transformation is evidenced by his love for the disguised Celia, whom he takes to be a simple shepherdess.


A young, suffering shepherd, who is desperately in love with the disdainful Phoebe. Conforming to the model of Petrarchan love, Silvius prostrates himself before a woman who refuses to return his affections. In the end, however, he wins the object of his desire.


A young shepherdess, who disdains the affections of Silvius. She falls in love with Ganymede, who is really Rosalind in disguise, but Rosalind tricks Phoebe into marrying Silvius.

Lord Amiens

A faithful lord who accompanies Duke Senior into exile in the Forest of Arden. Lord Amiens is rather jolly and loves to sing.


A professional wrestler in Duke Frederick’s court. Charles demonstrates his political savvy when he asks Oliver to intercede in his upcoming fight with Orlando: he doesn’t want to be seen injuring a member of the nobility. When Oliver specifically asks Charles not to go easy on Orlando, Charles reveals a hidden savagery by expressing excitement at the prospect of breaking Orlando’s neck.


The elderly former servant of Sir Rowland de Boys. Having witnessed Orlando’s hardships, Adam offers not only to accompany his young master into exile but to fund their journey with the whole of his modest life’s savings. He is a model of loyalty and devoted service.

Sir Rowland de Boys

The father of Oliver and Orlando, friend of Duke Senior, and enemy of Duke Frederick. Upon Sir Rowland’s death, most of his estate was handed over to Oliver according to the custom of primogeniture.


A shepherd. Corin attempts to counsel his friend Silvius in the ways of love, but Silvius refuses to listen.


A simpleminded goatherd who agrees to marry Touchstone.


A young country boy who is in love with Audrey.