At the end of the play, Rosalind appears on stage and admits that it is abnormal to have a female character give the epilogue—as male characters mostly delivered them—but she reassures the spectators that a good play is made even better by a good epilogue. Rosalind speaks to the female spectators first and tasks them, saying, “O women, for the love [they] bear to men,” (V, iv, EP. 12-13) to enjoy the play as much as they would like to, as suggested by the title of the play. She then addresses the male spectators and tasks them with the same challenge: “I charge you, O men, for the love you bear to women,” (V, iv, EP. 14-15) to enjoy the play as much as they want. In the end of the play, when the four couples all get married, that is Shakespeare’s way of telling the audience that social order has been restored. But, it is not as simple as that. Rosalind’s epilogue delivers a rather interesting message that calls everything into question. The last few lines of the epilogue are what really stand out:
If I were a woman I would kiss as many of you as had beards that pleased me, complexions that liked me and breaths that I defied not: and, I am sure, as many as have good beards, or good faces or sweet breaths will, for my kind offer, when I make curtsy, bid me farewell (V, iv, EP. 17-22).
In other words, the male actor playing Rosalind is reminding the audience that both men and women may feel an attraction to the character. This reminds us that gender roles in a Shakespearean play can be pretty slippery, and that the physical and sexual attractions in Shakespeare’s plays are almost infinite.
Excellent post and good image from what looks like an artistic set design.