Page extent: 256
ISBN: 9781783198559
Binding: HardBack

Rosalind: A Biography of Shakespeare’s Immortal Heroine

Angela Thirlwell

HardBack (29 Apr 2016)

Into the spotlight steps Rosalind, the actor-manager of As You Like It.
She’s alive. She’s modern. She’s also a fiction.
Played by a boy actor in 1599, she’s a girl who gets into men’s clothes to investigate the truth about love.
Both male and female, imaginary and real, her intriguing duality gives her a special role.
What is a man? What is a woman?
We are all Rosalind now.

This book is for everyone who has ever loved Shakespeare.  In April 2016, his quatercentenary will make Shakespeare more alive than at any time since his death in 1616. Like Rosalind, his most innovative heroine, he can never die. She too is timeless. There is no clock in the Forest of Arden where Rosalind finds herself and applies her mercurial wit to teach her lover, Orlando, how to become her perfect partner, issues which consume men and women today.

This highly original ‘biography’ of Rosalind contains exclusive new interviews with Juliet Rylance, Sally Scott, Janet Suzman, Juliet Stevenson, Michelle Terry, award-winning director Blanche McIntyre, as well as insights from Michael Attenborough, Kenneth Branagh, Greg Doran, Rebecca Hall, Adrian Lester, Pippa Nixon, Vanessa Redgrave and Fiona Shaw.

Angela Thirlwell explores the fictitious life and the many after-lives of Rosalind, Shakespeare’s progressive new heroine, and her perennial influence on drama, fiction and art. The book ranges widely across Tudor history, theatre history, sexual politics, autobiography, art history and filmography.

On a single day Cush Jumbo wins the Sunday Times Ian Charleson Award for her performance as Rosalind at Manchester’s Royal Exchange – ‘it’s a dream role,’ she says, ‘the greatest female part in Shakespeare.’ As You Like It is performed for free in Central Park New York, plays in Georgian at Shakespeare’s Globe on Bankside, opens in Atlanta and Seattle,goes to eleven venues across Gloucestershire, is presented on the Isle of Dogs, in Ottawa and New Zealand. A major production is  scheduled at the National Theatre for 2015/16. In Canada a new prize for women’s fiction is named the Rosalind Prize and Arden editions of Shakespeare set the standard worldwide in scholarship. It could be any day in any year and confirms the enduring popularity of the play and its immortal heroine.


Visit Angela Thirlwell's website

Listen to Angela Thirlwell discussing Rosalind on Woman's Hour

Download the National Theatre podcast of Angela Thirlwell discussing Rosalind

Read Angela Thriwell's articles in Signature Reads

Read a review of Rosalind in The Jewish Chronicle 

Buy As You Like It

Additional Information

ISBN13 9781783198559
Binding HardBack
Page Extent 256


'In this animated hybrid of scholarship and creative nonfiction, Thirwell offers a sensitive portrait of one of Shakespeare’s most complex female characters, and a sweeping assessment of her cultural legacy... Thirwell has a particular strength for portraying history with dramatic flair, as in a chapter on Queen Elizabeth I... just as this book ends with an injunction to prize questions over answers, so too will Thirwell’s expansive discussion lead curious minds toward creative, boundary-blasting inquiry.' Publishers Weekly

'Thirlwell turns to a fictional subject in her charming appraisal of the gender-bending protagonist of As You Like It... Though the author claims to be “writing Rosalind’s biography,” this delightfully rambling text is more properly described as a blend of literary criticism and theater history... A model of popular Shakespearean scholarship: engagingly accessible and contagiously enthusiastic.' Kirkus Reviews

'This is a very personal book, written out of Angela Thirlwell's passion for her subject, the witty, fervent, teasing, lovable, independent, managing, occasionally acerbic girl-boy, Rosalind... But it's clear that her choice of Rosalind is also influenced by more important considerations: immersion in Shakespeare, pleasure in theatre and theatricality and, above all, fascination with the hetero/homoerotic slipperiness of gender in As You Like It.' Around the Globe

'Few authors simultaneously capture the zeitgeist of the moment and confront the universal wish for immortality. But, taking a fictional character - Shakespeare's "mercurial, mischievous" heroine, Rosalind - as her beguiling subject, Angela Thirlwell, in her latest biography, achieves this.' The Jewish Chronicle

‘Thirlwell has always been inventive…this is rather more than a biography. The character of Rosalind remains at the book’s centre, but Thirlwell’s horizons expand into an ambitious exploration of Elizabethan England, sexual politics and the history of theatre, art and film. Her passion for the topic is clear from the rich detail she weaves into every page.
…A chapter on Rosalind’s cross-dressing is (a) highlight, with delightful glimpses into Elizabethan life.
…Most entertaining of all are the many anecdotes about actors and directors who have taken on As You Like It…With injections of playfulness, there is little risk of the book veering towards academic impenetrability.
…Thirlwell uses Rosalind as a lens to train upon her wider interests, and lowers it completely when she feels like it. After all, innovative biography is what Thirlwell does best.’ Daily Telegraph

‘[H]ighly ingenious…strength and originality of Thirlwell’s book…she has read adventurously…’ Times Literary Supplement