Celia: Character Analysis in As You Like It

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Introduction

      Celia is eclipsed somewhat by Rosalind and gets less attention than her merits. Shakespeare has not done justice to her character as her marriage with the villain. Oliver is a great harm done to her prestige and happiness. She is equal to Rosalind in charm, commonsense, love and some other qualities. She really loves Rosalind more than Rosalind loves her. And yet she has been slightly sketched by Shakespeare because he treats her as secondary character. Her part in the play is that of unselfish woman who actively devotes her life and talents to the thankless task of displaying to advantage the gifts of her brilliant sister.

Her Personal Appearance

      She is beautiful, Orlando speaks of Celia and Rosalind “fair and excellent ladies”. She was included in Rosalind’s thoughts when she said.

‘Beauty provoketh thieves sooner than gold.’

Her Love for Rosalind

      Celia love’s Rosalind intensely. When she (Rosalind) feels sad she says, “Herein I see thou loves! me not with full weight that I love thee.” Celia tries her best to make her happy. She even says that she would return her father’s throne when her own father is no more. When Rosalind is banished she says:

Shall we be sundered? shall we part, sweet girl?

Her Loyalty and Unselfishness

      Celia think always for others, never for herself. She went into voluntary exile, and suffered for the sake of Rosalind. In selecting Arden as the place of exile, she was thinking of her cousin’s happiness. She herself retires into the background and comes forward only when Rosalind requires her sympathy.

Her own Love-affair

      But she forgets all prudence, and her advice to Rosalind.

‘but love no man in good earnest’

      When she unexpectedly falls in love at first sight with Oliver. She falls in the very wrath of love. ‘there was never anything so sudden but the flight of two rums’.

Comparison and Contrast with Rosalind

      Celia is a secondary character and Shakespeare has not done full justice with character. Thought she is as beautiful and intelligent as her sister Rosalind, she challenges comparison with her cousin.

      In personal appearance, Celia is not less beautiful than Rosalind. She is shorter than her cousin and less majestic in appearance. While the beauty of Rosalind is sparkling, her beauty is placid.

      Celia has been given some common tasks to do. While the main burden of romance is carried by Rosalind, all the prosaic aspects of their flight and journey are looked after by Celia.

      Celia is more prudent than Rosalind who is more vivacious. But her prudence is flung to the air when she herself falls in love with Oliver. She is faithful and unselfish. She loves Rosalind more than Rosalind loves her. She endures all sorts of troubles and trials only for the sake of her cousin. She is thus unswerving in her love to Rosalind, for whom she sacrifices everything and faces unknown perils.

      Celia is less impulsive than her companion and more conventional in her sense of strict decorum; thus she thinks that Rosalind is a bit too frank towards Orlando after the wrestling, and gently cuts short the interview. There is a touch of seriousness in her good-humored remonstrance. ‘‘You have simply misused our sex in your love pirate.” The reason is that she has less sense of humor than her cousin, and therefore, looks at a situation more from its serious outside. She has an alert, resourceful brain matching that of Rosalind. If Rosalind invents the ways to love Orlando, she suggests provision for the journey.

      Celia is more quiet and retired, but she rather yields to Rosalind than is eclipsed by her. She is as full of sweetness; kindness and intelligence, quite as susceptible, and almost as witty as Rosalind thought, she makes less deeply of wit. She is described as less fair and less gifted, yet the attempt to excite in her mind a jealousy of her lovelier friend by placing them in comparison.

Thou art a fool, she robs thee of thy name
And thou wilt show more bright and seem more virtuous,
When she is gone—

      Fails to awaken in the generous heart of Celia any other feeling than an interested tenderness and sympathy for her cousin;

She says If she be a traitor.
Why so I am; we still have slept together
And wheresoe’er we went like Juno’s swans,
Still we went coupled, and inseparable.

      Celia’s silence and reserve form a contrast to Rosalind’s teasing loquacity, her self-distrust and feminine weakness to Rosalind’s disposition to exercise command over herself as well as over others. When the two cousins are alone Celia is full of life and humor, but in the presence of others, she is content to play the part of a spectator. Lady Martin has pointed out that the different natures of the two ladies are well expressed by the different ways in which they are affected by Oliver’s narrative. Celia exclaims:

Oh, I have heard him speak of that same brother;
And he did render him the most unnatural
That lived amongst men.

      Rosalind’s first thought is not of his brother’s cruelty, but whether her lover has forgotten the past and interposed to save his life.

But to Orlando: did he leave him there
Food to the suck’d and hungry lioness?

      Celia is thus no less lovable as a woman than Rosalind, although she is less immediately and brilliantly and attractive. But she is necessary for Rosalind. In her absence, Rosalind’s best qualities cannot come out. She serves as a foil to Rosalind, not by reason of her own obscurity, but owing to the skill with which she makes way for the play of her cousin’s individuality.

University Questions

Q. Give a character sketch of Celia. Compare her character with that of Rosalind.

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