We've been talking about the end of the play, especially the end of Rosalind. She's the chattiest girl in Shakespeare, but once she appears in her wedding gown, she becomes almost completely silent.
And not easily answered. Some productions have made much of Rosalind's concluding silence, playing her wedding as a kind of imprisonment. In one production, Orlando, obviously in love with Ganymede, stalked off when he saw Rosalind appear as a traditional bride. We could go there too, but we're not. Why should we assume that Rosalind is trapped and diminished simply because she is a mostly silent bride?
We love Rosalind babbling in the woods, but she's overwhelming too; Celia can hardly get a word in edgewise. Peggy Ashcroft, a great actress and a great Rosalind, said Rosalind was a great part, but also a girl who did talk rather a lot. Rosalind will never wear out her welcome, but it's just possible audiences might be reaching their Rosalind saturation point by the end the play. When Orlando tells her he can't play games anymore, that he can "live no longer by thinking," Rosalind replies, "I will weary you then no longer with idle talking." Orlando's relief at hearing this might well be ours, too.
When she appears as a bride we see Rosalind in a completely new way--she's in a new costume and, astonishingly, she's quiet. I like to think of this not as a diminishment or surrender of her powers, but simply as her latest role. There's no reason to think Rosalind will be permanently silenced any more than she will be a perpetual bride. I think she's glowing and happy, as brides who want to wed always are. Brides do not need to talk; their radiance is meant to be seen and proves reliably one of the great natural wonders of our lives. There's nothing like a wedding; there's nothing so lovely as a bride. She will have her vows (and Rosalind has already taken hers in the "play" wedding in the woods), but she needs no words.
But we wouldn't want to leave Rosalind speechless, and Shakespeare doesn't. So there she is, after the comedy's concluding dance, appearing alone onstage as the epilogue, where, being Rosalind, she is talking again. The epilogue has been treated in many inventive ways in productions, but these are all wrong. Really the only good way is to play it simply as it was written. In the epilogue, Rosalind is again someone new: still Rosalind, but also the actor playing Rosalind, appearing on behalf of the play she has just played in. She explains she isn't dressed like a beggar, so she can't very well beg. Instead, she will have to "conjure" us--work her magic on the play's behalf. And her magic is charm. She charms first the women, then the men in the audience, and then she charms them together, just as she's been doing for the last two hours. Then she says, "if I were a woman, I would kiss as many of you as had beards that would please me . . . " In the original production the joke is that Rosalind was played by a boy actor; it's harder to make that work now that nearly all Rosalinds (including ours) actually are women. We've "solved" the problem by having Rosalind, radiant in her wedding gown, put on the baseball cap she wore in the forest when she was Ganymede, reminding us she can play any gender she wants.
She's even tried dropping into her Ganymede voice at this moment, so she's speaking as a guy saying if he was a girl he would kiss the guys. Now that's our girl! And our guy!