The heroine of the play. Rosalind is the daughter of the exiled Duke Senior and the constant companion of her cousin Celia. She 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. Rosalind teaches those around her to think, feel, and love better than they have previously, and ensures that the courtiers returning from Arden are gentler than when they fled to it.
The youngest son of Sir Rowland de Bois and younger brother of Oliver. Orlando is a handsome 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 and fitting mate for Rosalind.
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 a number of loyal men, including Lord Amiens and Jaques. Far from resenting his banishment, Duke Senior celebrates his life in the forest and his freedom from the rivalries and corruption of the court. 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 demonstrates 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 an example of a stock figure in Elizabethan comedy, the man possessed of a hopelessly melancholy disposition. Jaques stands on the sidelines of life, watching and judging the actions of the other characters without ever fully participating in the action around him. 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.
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 we see from 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 is impetuous and prone to deep, almost excessive emotions.
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.
A clown or jester in Duke Frederick’s court who accompanies Rosalind and Celia in their flight to Arden. Although it is Touchstone’s job, as a professional fool, to criticize the behavior and point out the folly of those around him, he does so in a very different style from Rosalind. Compared with his mistress, Touchstone is hilariously vulgar and unromantic, infusing almost every line he speaks with bawdy innuendo.
The oldest son of Sir Rowland de Bois and sole inheritor of the de Bois 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 Orlando’s downfall.
A young shepherd desperately in love with the proud and disdainful Phoebe. Following the conventions of the love poetry of the time, 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.
A faithful lord who accompanies Duke Senior into exile in the Forest of Arden. Lord Amiens is jolly and loves to sing.
A professional wrestler in Duke Frederick’s court. Charles demonstrates both his caring nature and his political savvy when he asks Oliver to intercede in his upcoming fight with Orlando: He does not want to injure the young man and thereby lose favor among the nobles who support him. Charles’s concern for Orlando proves unwarranted when Orlando beats him senseless.
The ancient former servant of Sir Rowland de Bois. 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 Bois
The father of Oliver and Orlando, friend of Duke Senior, and enemy of Duke Frederick. Upon Sir Rowland’s death, the vast majority 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, despite the fact that she understands very little of what he says.
A young country boy in love with Audrey, and thus Touchstone’s rival.