When speaking about Cleopatra's undying charm, Enobarbus stated,
Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale
Her infinite variety
This is how many readers feel about the heroines in Shakespeare's comedies. In both Twelfth Night and As You Like It the action revolves around strong female characters. Both Viola and Rosalind show immense strength, courage and power highly uncharacteristic of women in Elizabethan literature. In addition to their strength, the women also retain traditional feminine characteristics. Despite their many similar traits, many differences can also be found in the characterization of Viola and Rosalind.
In the exposition of As You Like It, we discover that Rosalind's father the Duke of Burgundy has been exiled by his brother Duke Frederick. Even though Rosalind is initially permitted to stay because of her close relationship with the Duke's daughter Celia, the Duke's allowance is quickly revoked and Rosalind is forced to join her father in exile in the forest of Arden.
Since it would not be safe for a woman to travel unaccompanied the wise Rosalind stated
Beauty provoketh thieves sooner than gold [I.iii 112]
and decided to dress as a man and call herself Ganymede. When confronted with a similar situation Viola from the Twelfth Night took similar actions. Viola finds herself ship-wrecked and alone and yet the first words out of her mouth
What country, friends, is this? [I.ii 1]
convey a certain calmness and rationality. Since like Rosalind, it is not safe for Viola to wander the countryside alone, she decides to dress as a man and work as a page under the name Cesario. Viola finds herself completely dependent on herself however it is her instinct to except rather than challenge circumstances. Finding herself in a difficult position in a strange country, she spends little time bemoaning the harshness of...