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As You Like It
William Shakespeare



LINES 1-23

Orlando de Boys has taken just about as much abuse from his brother, Oliver, as he intends to stomach. Their father, Sir Rowland de Boys, is dead, and Oliver, as the eldest brother of three, has taken charge of the family. Old Sir Rowland made Oliver promise to give his brothers, Jaques and Orlando, a good education. Oliver kept part of his word by sending Jaques off to school. Orlando, however, has been forced to remain at home and denied an education. Oliver also refuses to give Orlando the thousand crowns his father left him.

The play begins in Oliver's garden. Talking to Adam, an old family servant for many years, Orlando lists his grievances. His brother treats him as if he were an ox or a horse. Actually, Oliver treats the horses better than he treats Orlando, because at least the horses are taught how to behave. Oliver acts as if Orlando weren't his brother, even making Orlando eat with the hired hands. Although he hasn't the means to fight back, Orlando declares he will no longer stand for this treatment.

It is always important when reading a scene in Shakespeare to look not only at what the characters say but also at how they say it. The imagery in this speech makes use of the Elizabethan sense of natural order. Elizabethans believed that whether you were an angel or a groundhog, you had a fixed rank ordained by God. One example of the application of that theory was the "divine right of kings." Rulers were placed on the throne by God. If you deposed the king, you were offending God as well as man.

By assigning Orlando a place lower than that of his animals, Oliver is violating the natural order, which places a man above a beast and a brother above a hired hand. When Orlando says that his father's spirit within him rebels against this servitude, he means that the right and natural order is trying to assert itself.

One of the difficulties that faces any playwright at the beginning of a play is the handling of the exposition- information the audience needs in order to understand the situation. In several plays (such as Romeo and Juliet and Henry V), Shakespeare uses a prologue, in which a character speaks directly to the audience and sets the scene. Here, Orlando speaks to his servant, Adam, rather than to the audience. But by listening to his complaint, you learn all you need to know about the first major conflict of the play.

LINES 24-81

Adam warns Orlando that Oliver is coming. When the older brother enters, you see that Orlando was telling the truth. Oliver makes no attempt to hide his contempt for his brother. He behaves as if his brother has no business in the orchard and asks Orlando what he's doing there, using the Elizabethan phrase "What make you here?" Orlando stands up to Oliver, sarcastically replying that he's not making anything because he hasn't been taught how. Oliver returns the sarcasm, concluding that if Orlando is not making anything he must be marring (spoiling) something. Orlando agrees: he's helping Oliver to spoil one of God's creations- himself.

NOTE: The wordplay in this exchange is remarkable. The entire sequence evolves out of Oliver's use of the word "make." Orlando cleverly twists the meaning of the word and throws it back at him. Oliver does the same, and so on. This type of punning will be used frequently in the play to serve various functions. Here, the wordplay underscores the contempt the two brothers feel for each other.

Orlando confronts his brother with the fact that Oliver's behavior is unnatural and therefore wrong. Orlando emphasizes that he does not want to usurp his brother's place. He respects Oliver's privileges as the oldest brother. That, however, does not alter the fact that Orlando is a member of the family, too.

Even this respectful rebellion makes Oliver lose his temper. He hits Orlando, but the younger brother is by far the better fighter. Orlando "seizes" Oliver, according to the script (probably, in a wrestling hold- you will soon discover he's an expert wrestler). He will not let go until he has voiced his complaint. He repeats what he said in his opening speech- that their father made Oliver promise to educate Orlando, and Oliver has not done it. Now, Orlando wants to be trained as a gentleman or given his thousand crowns and left to find his own way.

NOTE: In Shakespeare's day, the least expensive places were on the ground floor of the playhouse. There, members of the audience, called "groundlings," stood for the performance. Since food vendors passed among them during the show, the groundlings did not always give the stage their undivided attention. Therefore, important information was often repeated several times, as it is here.

After making his brother listen, Orlando releases him. Oliver informs Orlando that, to be rid of him, he will hand over some part of his inheritance. Orlando repeats that he wants only what he's entitled to, then leaves. Calling Adam an "old dog," Oliver sends him away also.

Adam says very little in this scene, but his presence helps make the difference between the brothers crystal clear. Notice that Orlando treats the old man, who was Sir Rowland's servant, with respect, using him as a confidant. Orlando's good relationship with Adam indicates that he's like his father. On the other hand, Oliver demonstrates how different he is from their father by calling Adam an old dog. Look at what Adam says to Oliver as he leaves: "God be with my old master; he would not have spoke such a word."

LINES 82-155

Left alone, Oliver declares his intention to put Orlando in his place without giving up a thousand crowns. He calls for his servant Dennis and asks whether Charles, the wrestler, is still waiting to talk to him. Dennis says that Charles is at the door.

NOTE: Observe how swiftly Shakespeare gets his plot moving. Oliver needs some means to punish Orlando, and Charles conveniently waits outside. The first act is dense with events. In later acts, the pace of the plot will slow down. More time will be given to character development and comic interaction between the characters.

Charles, a huge, thickly muscled wrestler, lumbers in and greets Oliver. As the two converse, you learn about the situation at court. Notice Oliver's pointed question: "What's the new news at the new court?" You have to wonder why the court is new. Then you find out: It is new because it is now headed by a usurper- "the old Duke is banished by his younger brother the new Duke."

Once again, the natural order has been disturbed. Today, you might wonder whether the old duke was deposed because he was a bad ruler. (In The Tempest, Shakespeare shows you that Prospero was easy to depose because he did not attend to business.) You might allow for the possibility that the new duke led a just and necessary revolution. But to the Elizabethan way of thinking, the old duke was clearly the ruler God intended for the country. The new duke must be in the wrong. What's more, the new duke is the old duke's younger brother. As Orlando has said, a younger brother must respect his older brother's rights and privileges.

Oliver questions Charles about the old duke's daughter, Rosalind. It seems that Rosalind has not gone into exile with her father. Because she and the new duke's daughter are so close, Rosalind has stayed behind in the new duke's court.

Oliver then asks where the old duke will live. Look carefully at Charles's answer, because it introduces a major theme of the play:

They say he is already in the Forest of Arden,
and a many merry men with him; and there
they live like the old Robin Hood of England.
They say many young gentlemen flock to him
every day, and fleet the time carelessly as they
did in the golden world.

In Shakespeare's time, many people believed life in the country to be healthier, happier, and more natural than city life. Today you still hear people talking about the joys of getting "back to nature." But is a person who lives in the country happier than a city person? There was a genre of literature in Shakespeare's day called pastoral. Pastoral novels, poems, and plays celebrated country life as an ideal existence. Shepherds, shepherdesses, and other rustic types were portrayed as naturally eloquent, graceful, and generally "close to God." This play will examine that convention. The rumor that Charles reports holds that the old duke and his companions live in the forest as if it were a "golden world," a Garden of Eden. When the action of the play moves to Arden, you can form your own opinion about the reality.

NOTE: This conversation provides more exposition. If you stop to think about it, Oliver would probably know all the news that Charles reports. The audience needs the information, however. Remember that Shakespeare's plays were written to be performed, not read. In a performance, the audience would have no time to stop and wonder why Charles is telling Oliver what he should already know.

Oliver launches into his plot. He asks if Charles will be wrestling the next day. Charles answers yes. In fact, that's why he's come to see Oliver. Charles has heard that Orlando intends to challenge him, and he's afraid of hurting Orlando. Could Oliver talk his brother out of wrestling?

Since Oliver secretly wants to get rid of Orlando, he convinces Charles that Orlando is evil and treacherous. He warns the wrestler that if Orlando loses the match but survives, Orlando will find some way to kill Charles. Oliver lies skillfully. In his false description of Orlando, he presents an accurate picture of himself: He says that Orlando is "a secret and villainous contriver against... his natural brother." Charles thanks Oliver for the warning and promises at least to cripple Orlando in the next day's match.

Shakespeare accomplishes two things in Oliver's long speech to Charles. Oliver seems even more evil when you realize that he fully understands how wrong it is to plot against one's own brother. He knows that Charles will be shocked to learn how unnatural Orlando is. At the same time, the speech is humorous. One level of humor lies in the dramatic situation. You can imagine that Charles is powerful but rather slow-witted. It's amusing to watch Oliver deceive him with fancy talk. There is also humor in the language. After Oliver describes in juicy detail how horrible Orlando is, he adds, "I speak but brotherly of him"!

LINES 156-65

In a soliloquy, Oliver talks about his feelings toward Orlando. Characters often voice their private thoughts in a soliloquy. Because they are alone and talking only to themselves, you can trust they are telling the truth.

Oliver hopes he will be rid of Orlando, because "my soul, yet I know not why, hates nothing more than he." The statement that "his soul" hates Orlando suggests that the feeling is very deep. Although Oliver says he doesn't know the cause, you can guess at his motives from looking at the rest of his speech. He acknowledges that Orlando is gentle, naturally wise, noble, and well loved. In fact, people like Orlando so much they scorn Oliver. It seems that jealousy drives Oliver to hate his brother.

NOTE: This scene uses a pattern of telling and showing that will be repeated often in the play. First, you are told that Oliver mistreats his brother. Then, Oliver enters and you see him abuse Orlando. Later, Oliver says he wants to get rid of Orlando. When Charles comes in, you see Oliver plotting to do just that. You were also told that Rosalind and the new duke's daughter are loving cousins. In the very next scene, this relationship will be demonstrated.


LINES 1-41

The scene shifts to the palace of Duke Frederick. His daughter, Celia, is trying to cheer up her cousin Rosalind. Because of her love for Celia, Rosalind remained at court when her father, the old duke, was banished to the forest. Still, she misses her father.

Celia concludes that Rosalind must not love her as much as she loves Rosalind. She insists that, if the situation were reversed, she would teach herself to think of Rosalind's father as her own. Rosalind agrees to be happy for Celia's sake.

From this conversation you learn about the nature of Rosalind's love for her father and for her cousin. Notice that she does not agree to think of Celia's father as her own. It might be politically wise to do so, since the new duke's control of the land seems absolute. Rosalind's love for her father, however, cannot be affected by such considerations.

At the same time, her loving friendship with Celia isn't affected by the wickedness of Celia's father. For Celia's sake, Rosalind promises to be happy. This kind of nonsexual love between members of the same sex was portrayed frequently in Renaissance literature. Usually, however, the friendship was between two men.

Rosalind proposes to "devise sports" to keep them amused. As a joke, she asks Celia what she thinks of falling in love. Celia replies that love is all right, as long as it's treated only as a sport. Never get too involved, she warns. As the play progresses, remember Rosalind and Celia's joking attitude on this subject. When each one really falls in love, it will be in earnest, not in sport.

Celia would rather make sport of the goddess Fortune (luck): "Let us sit and mock the good housewife Fortune from her wheel, that her gifts may henceforth be bestowed equally." The girls agree that undeserving people often seem to have good luck.

In their joking, Rosalind and Celia touch upon a major theme of As You Like It: the difference between Fortune and Nature. For example, Orlando's spirit is noble. He's honest, faithful, and sincere. Those are gifts endowed by Nature. Fortune, however, has denied him the worldly privileges to which he is entitled. Oliver's own nature is anything but noble. He is mean and petty. Yet, Fortune has rewarded him with worldly power and goods. Most of the good characters in the play will be made to suffer because Fortune gives their ignoble enemies power over them. Eventually, the injustice will be corrected as the wheel of Fortune makes its inevitable turn.

LINES 42-143

Rosalind and Celia find a better object for their sport when a clown or professional fool named Touchstone approaches them. They immediately turn to making fun of him by wondering whether Fortune or Nature is responsible for his coming. They make a pun of the fact that when Elizabethans called a person a "natural," they meant he was an idiot.

Touchstone tells Celia that her father wants to see her. He says that "by mine honor, I was bid to come for you." The girls tease him, asking where he learned the oath "by mine honor."

Touchstone's answer demonstrates clearly that he's not an idiot but is, in fact, quite clever. He learned the oath from a knight, who swore to something that was not true, yet did not swear falsely. The girls want to know how that is possible. Touchstone stages a demonstration. He instructs the girls to swear by their "beards" that he is a knave (villain). They do so. Now, he says, although he is not a knave, they have not sworn falsely. The reason? They have sworn by something that does not exist. And that's just what the knight was doing when he swore "by his honor"!

NOTE: Touchstone is an "allowed fool." As such, he has the right to say just about anything to anybody without being punished. From that privileged position, the fool can make fun of the behavior of those around him. Just as some modern comedians, the Elizabethan fool would mimic the pretenses, hypocrisies, and follies of his patrons. In doing so, he would not only cause them to laugh but would also help those willing to learn about themselves.

The discussion of foolery (the allowed fool's art) is interrupted by the entrance of Le Beau, who is truly foolish. Le Beau dresses like a dandy and affects an elaborate manner of speech. By doing these things he considers himself "in fashion" and believes that others will be impressed. He has come to tell the ladies that they are missing what he calls "good sport."

Rosalind, Celia, and Touchstone team up to make fun of Le Beau. He can barely get out a few words before they pounce and begin confusing him with puns.

Finally, amid continual interruptions by the clown and the ladies, Le Beau delivers his news- there is to be a wrestling match the ladies might enjoy. He describes how Charles the wrestler has just disabled three challengers. Touchstone questions whether such sport is good entertainment for ladies. The decision is made for them, however, because the next match is to take place right where they are.

NOTE: In Le Beau, Shakespeare creates a character who demonstrates one of the dangers of city life. Le Beau spends all his time and energy trying to appear "fashionable" in order to win the approval of others. He'll wear any ridiculous piece of clothing if he believes that others will like him in it. In trying to assume whatever identity he thinks will be popular, he loses touch with his natural self.

LINES 144-258

A flourish of trumpets announces the entrance of Duke Frederick (Celia's father) and his attendants. Charles the wrestler and Orlando follow them in. Having tried unsuccessfully to convince Orlando that, for his own safety, he should forget about wrestling, the duke asks Rosalind and Celia to try their luck at dissuading him. It's interesting that a wicked character like Duke Frederick would be worried about Orlando's safety. Does Shakespeare want to convey to the audience that the duke has human feelings or is he simply indicating that Orlando is in danger? The duke is subject to swift changes of temper, as you will soon see. His sympathy in this scene could be meant to contrast with the anger he will soon display.

Duke Frederick stands aside as Le Beau summons Orlando, who respectfully presents himself to the ladies. Celia points out that Charles has already demonstrated his fearsome strength. Rosalind offers to make it appear that the match was canceled at her and Celia's request. That way, no harm would be done to Orlando's reputation.

Orlando answers graciously but firmly that, although he hates to deny any request from such lovely ladies, he will wrestle. He explains that he cannot lose any reputation, because he has none. Orlando displays neither fear nor boastfulness, but only calm resolution. Does his claim that he has nothing to lose sound like self-pity to you? Why? The ladies seem to interpret it as genuine humility.

The match is about to begin. Charles makes fun of Orlando. Clearly, the wrestler believes he has nothing to fear from this young man. As Charles and Orlando tangle, Rosalind and Celia root for Orlando. Suddenly, to the complete surprise of the crowd, Orlando throws Charles. The duke declares the match over, although Orlando complains that he's hardly winded. Charles, however, must be carried off.

The duke congratulates Orlando and asks his name. When Orlando says that he's the son of Sir Rowland de Boys- a friend of the banished duke- Duke Frederick abruptly turns cold. Although the world loved your father, says the duke, I considered him my enemy. What does that tell you about the duke? Remember that Oliver made a similar statement about Orlando. You are a brave young man, the duke tells Orlando, but I wish you had a different father. So saying, the duke leaves.

Orlando cries out that he is proud to be Sir Rowland's son and "would not change that calling / To be adopted heir to Frederick." Appalled by the duke's rude dismissal of Orlando, Celia suggests to Rosalind that they congratulate the young man. Celia assures him he has done well. If he keeps his promises in love as well as in fighting, he will make his mistress happy, she adds. Rosalind presents him with a chain that she's been wearing around her neck. She calls it a gift from "one out of suits with Fortune." She's telling him that she understands his feelings because she is in the same predicament herself.

In this brief scene, Orlando and Rosalind have fallen in love. Love at first sight will, in fact, be the pattern for this play. Orlando finds himself tongue-tied, unable even to say "thank you," as the ladies depart.

LINES 259-93

Orlando wonders what's come over him. He admits he's been "overthrown" by "something weaker" than Charles (Rosalind). The use of wrestling imagery underscores the irony. Orlando, who has easily handled a powerful wrestler, is overpowered by a beautiful young woman.

Le Beau enters to give Orlando a warning. The duke, he cautions, is "humorous"- that is, given to sudden mood changes. He implies that the duke now considers Orlando his enemy. Le Beau suggests that it might be wise for Orlando to imagine how cruel the duke can be, but it would be distinctly unwise for Le Beau to speak of it. Frederick, knowing he has no right to the throne, lives in fear of being overthrown and will banish or kill anybody he doesn't trust.

After thanking Le Beau, Orlando asks which of the two young ladies who were at the wrestling is Duke Frederick's daughter. Neither, if you judge by their behavior, replies Le Beau. But the smaller girl is his daughter. Note that Shakespeare is making it very clear that Celia shares none of her father's wickedness.

NOTE: In the first printed editions of As You Like It, Le Beau says that the "taller" girl is the duke's daughter, but it's clear from the rest of the text that Rosalind is taller. Therefore, many later editors have changed the line to read "smaller." Such carelessness in the original versions reflects the fact that Shakespeare's plays were not published until after his death. In his day, plays were not generally considered literature. The position of the playwright was similar to that of a modern television writer. Successful ones were well paid, but nobody expected the scripts to be read and produced by future generations.

Le Beau explains that Rosalind is the daughter of the banished duke, and that although she and Celia are like sisters, Le Beau fears that Frederick may attempt to harm her. The duke has come to fear her because the people love her. Again, the duke's reasoning sounds like Oliver's. These two villains are envious of anybody who is well liked.

After Le Beau leaves, Orlando reflects on his unhappy situation-caught between two tyrants. But now at least he has something to be glad about. As he leaves, he cries, "But heavenly Rosalind!"


LINES 1-35

Celia cannot figure out why Rosalind now seems even more sad than before. She begs Rosalind to speak just one word to her. Rosalind puts her off, saying she hasn't one word "to throw at a dog." Celia knows her friend well, so she starts making puns about "throwing words." As Celia hoped, Rosalind cannot resist joining in the wordplay. She admits that this melancholy is not all for her father. "Some of it," she says, "is for my child's father"- in other words, for the man she hopes will be her husband, Orlando.

Rosalind is lovesick. Let's examine how Shakespeare expresses her state through the use of imagery (what the words make you see). "O, how full of briers is this working-day world!" she cries. Briers are prickly twigs that catch on your clothes. Rosalind compares the way love has suddenly captured her with the way a brier attaches itself unexpectedly. When Celia points out that briers can be shaken off skirts, Rosalind replies that these briers are in her heart. Now, the image has full impact and meaning- briers in the heart would be painful and nearly impossible to remove. Love is the same way.

NOTE: A statement such as "love is a brier" uses a poetic technique called "metaphor." A metaphor is a comparison of two elements made without the use of the words "like" or "as." A similar technique, called "simile," uses "like" or "as." Thus, you might say, "The wrestler Charles is as big as a bear." That would be a simile. Or you might just say, "Charles is a bear." That is a metaphor. Both techniques use imagery to describe something. Draw up a list of the next five similes and five metaphors you come across in As you Like It. What, if anything, do they add to your enjoyment of the play?

Celia tries to reason Rosalind out of her feeling. She argues that Rosalind has fallen for Orlando too quickly. Rosalind counters that her father loved his father so it makes sense that she should love Orlando. By that logic, I should hate him, says Celia, because my father hated his father.

LINES 36-95

Duke Frederick enters angrily. He announces that Rosalind must leave the court within ten days or be executed. She cannot understand why he should turn on her so suddenly. What has she done? Has she said anything to offend him? He replies that traitors are always careful not to say anything that could get them into trouble. When Rosalind presses him for a more specific reason for his distrust, he says, "Thou art thy father's daughter, there's enough." Rosalind boldly speaks the truth: "My father was no traitor."

Celia tries to intervene. She describes how close she and Rosalind have become. The duke accuses Rosalind of stealing the affection of the people away from Celia. His daughter is about to argue with him when he tells her to be silent. His decision is made. Rosalind is banished. If she must go, then I will, too, vows Celia. Assuming she is bluffing, the duke calls her a fool and leaves. The duke's behavior demonstrates how insecure a usurper must be. Frederick knows he has no right to the position he holds. He lives in fear that somebody will do to him what he did to his brother. He misinterprets Rosalind's virtuous behavior as a plot to undermine his position.

LINES 96-148

When the ladies are left alone, Celia proves her love for Rosalind. She was not bluffing when she said that she would share her friend's banishment. Her father can find another heir. In other words, she will give up a kingdom to stay with Rosalind.

Celia proposes that they join her uncle, Rosalind's father, in the Forest of Arden. Getting there will be dangerous for a pair of young women, so they decide to travel in disguise. Celia suggests that they dress as poor peasants. Rosalind decides that, since she is unusually tall for a woman, she will disguise herself as a man. For a name she chooses Ganymede. (In Greek mythology, Ganymede was the page of Zeus, king of the gods.) Celia gives herself a name that reflects her outcast state- Aliena (from the Latin, which meant the same as our "alien.")

NOTE: Shakespeare's theater had no actresses. Acting was not considered a respectable profession for women. Therefore, all the women's parts were originally played by young boys. It's difficult for us to contemplate that tender love scenes, such as those between a Romeo and a Juliet could be portrayed effectively by two young men, but apparently it worked. When Rosalind disguised herself as a boy, then a boy was playing a girl who was playing a boy. Elizabethan audiences loved such complications. Also, since a boy was playing the part, the disguise would have been convincing!

The young women add one more element to their plot. They decide to take Touchstone along to amuse them. Celia offers to coax him to come, saying he is devoted to her. Neither girl seems sad about leaving home. They look forward to their journey: "Now go in we content / To liberty, and not to banishment." Their sentiment is in keeping with the popular idea that life in the country is carefree.

Having had a glimpse of city life, you are now about to see what life is like in the country. The events so far serve to get some of the major characters from the city to the country. Duke Senior is there already, and now Rosalind, Celia, and Touchstone are on their way. It will be important to have Touchstone along, because, whenever he is present, he pierces pretenses and clarifies what is really going on.


What have the old duke (Duke Senior) and his followers been doing in the Forest of Arden? In this scene, you get your first view of their country life. Because the play is set in France, the place must be the Forest of Ardennes. In none of Shakespeare's plays, however, do you find much concern with realistic details of a foreign place. Since As You Like It borrows the conventions of pastoral fiction, you can think of the country setting as "any forest, anywhere." In his mind's eye, Shakespeare may very well have seen the Forest of Arden near his birthplace of Stratford-on-Avon.

The duke delivers a discourse to his lords about their life in the forest. He praises the honesty of the rustic life. When he feels the cold wind blow against him, he knows that it's real, and not the invention of some flattering courtier who wants to get on his good side. Though they all suffer from exposure to the elements and other hardships, the very difficulty of life there teaches them so many valuable lessons that they should be grateful.

This speech neatly sums up the idealization of the "natural" life contained in pastoral literature. Does the duke mean what he's saying or is he trying to make the best of a bad situation? You know what he means when he talks about "the envious court," because you've seen the terrible acts Duke Frederick and Oliver are driven to by envy. Still, does the duke prefer life in the forest? That question can't be answered yet, but keep it in mind as you read.

Amiens compliments the duke on being able to find good in what others would consider bad fortune. Once again the theme of Fortune is introduced. By Nature (and the will of God), the duke should be ruling the land. Fortune has made him an outcast but as every Elizabethan knew, Fortune's frowns could be reversed in time.

One of the realities of country life faces the duke and the others right now. They need to kill venison so they can eat. The duke mentions how he regrets having to kill animals, who are native to the forest (as he is not). Another lord picks up on that theme by telling the duke that another member of their band, Jaques feels the same way. Jaques, in fact, says that what the duke is doing to the animals in the forest is worse than what the duke's brother did to him in the city. The lord describes how he and Amiens secretly followed Jaques earlier that day. Jaques found a wounded deer lying by the river. As he watched it suffer, he delivered a sermon on the injustice of killing a deer in its natural dwelling place. Apparently, Jaques went on at great length about the insensitivity of mankind.

The duke seems pleased to hear this news. He wants the lords to take him to Jaques, so that he can debate with him. With the lords leading the way, they all leave.

Though Jaques does not affect the plot, he is a major character in As You Like It. Two thirds of this scene are devoted to introducing him. Let's look at what you learn. First, he is melancholy (sad). The fact that Amiens twice refers to him as "the melancholy Jaques" suggests that his depression is not a passing mood, but a permanent state. You also learn that he likes to moralize. When he encounters the suffering animal, he uses it to illustrate as many moral lessons as he can think of. Notice that he does nothing to help the animal. He doesn't put it out of its misery. He simply uses its fate as a pretext to criticize the world.

Jaques sounds like an unpleasant person to be around, and in a way he is. But people seem to find his oversentimentality amusing. The two lords thought it worth their time to spy on him, just in case he had something to say. And when the duke hears their report, he immediately wants to be taken to see Jaques.


Back in the palace, Duke Frederick has discovered Celia's disappearance. Nobody saw her go, but an investigation has turned up two facts. First, the clown Touchstone disappeared at the same time. Second, Celia and Rosalind were overheard praising Orlando after the wrestling. It is thought that, wherever the cousins have gone, Orlando must be with them. The duke orders that Orlando be brought to him at once. If Orlando cannot be found, his brother Oliver should be brought in his place. The duke will force Oliver to find his brother.

This short scene confirms that Rosalind and Celia have carried out their plan. They have taken Touchstone and are heading for the Forest of Arden. The scene also serves as a reminder of the nasty goings- on at the "envious court."


Orlando, of course, knows nothing about what Rosalind and Celia have done. Walking into Oliver's house, he finds the old servant Adam in an agitated state. The old man warns Orlando that his noble virtues are his enemies, because they make others plot to kill him. His own brother is so envious of the praise Orlando has won in the wrestling match that he plans to murder Orlando by setting fire to the place where he sleeps that night. Adam urges Orlando to get away from the house and never come to it again.

NOTE: Observe how the theme of natural vs. unnatural shapes Adam's warning. He calls Orlando "you memory / Of old Sir Rowland," while he cannot even bring himself to say that Oliver is Orlando's brother or Sir Rowland's son. And what a perverted world they must live in if it's dangerous to be "gentle, strong, and valiant!"

Orlando protests that he has no place to go and no money to feed himself. He would have to beg or steal his food, and he would rather die than do either. Adam offers his life savings to Orlando, trusting that God, who takes good care of the raven and the sparrow, will see to an old man's needs. All he asks is to go along with Orlando as his servant.

Overcome with emotion, Orlando says that Adam is a reminder of the old world where men worked out of a sense of duty. Now, people work only for gain. He thanks Adam for his genuine faithfulness and wishes that he could do more to repay his goodness. They will go off together to find some humble means of living.

Adam and Orlando both represent the past, a time idealized as free from greed and envy. Aged Adam is a holdover from that time. Although Orlando is young, his nature is more suited to the virtues of the "antique world" than the vices of the modern one. Orlando and Adam are able to admire the good qualities in each other without being envious. Each wants only what he is naturally entitled to. Orlando does not look down on living a humble life. Adam demonstrates how little he cares for worldly things by giving away his savings. His final lines in the scene show that living an honorable life is his main concern:

Yet fortune cannot recompense me better
Than to die well and not my master's debtor.

NOTE: You have probably noticed that each scene ends with a pair of lines that rhyme, as these do. These "rhyming couplets" give a sense of finality to the conclusion of the scene and end it with a flourish. In Shakespeare's time they also served as guideposts to the groundlings, who could sometimes be inattentive. (Today, we often indicate the end of a scene by drawing the stage curtain.)


Rosalind, Celia, and Touchstone finally reach the Forest of Arden. They are too tired from walking to celebrate their arrival. All they want is to sit down. Touchstone quickly makes it clear that he will puncture any pretension around him. When Rosalind complains that her spirits are weary, Touchstone drily comments: "I care not for my spirits if my legs were not weary."

Rosalind announces that they are in the Forest of Arden.

NOTE: While it's not uncommon for a traveler to say "We're here," Shakespeare had a special reason for giving Rosalind that announcement. His theater did not use scenery, as the modern theater generally does. No green tree boughs would be lowered to indicate that they are in the forest, for instance. Therefore, all important information about location, time of day, or weather had to be made plain in the dialogue. How could such a drawback as the lack of scenery be made into an asset for a playwright?

Touchstone's opinion of the forest differs from what the banished duke said two scenes ago. "Ay, now am I in Arden, the more fool I. When I was at home, I was in a better place." This speech is one of the first clues that this play will not simply expound the pastoral viewpoint. Touchstone expertly mocks everything he comes in contact with. He will certainly make fun of the idea that the Forest of Arden is like the Garden of Eden.

They are interrupted by a pair of shepherds, who are engaged in a serious discussion of love. Rosalind, Celia, and Touchstone stand back and listen.

Corin, an old shepherd, is offering advice to his young friend, Silvius about how to handle the woman he loves. Silvius doesn't believe that the old man knows about love. He's convinced that nobody has ever loved as he does. How many acts of madness was Corin driven to by love in his youth, asks Silvius? A thousand, answers Corin, but he has forgotten them. Silvius insists that, if Corin has forgotten even the slightest detail of what love made him do, then he was never really in love. If Corin never made his friends tired of listening to his mistress's praise, he never loved. Finally, he claims that Corin never loved if he never abruptly broke off a conversation. As if to prove his point, Silvius suddenly runs off, crying the name of his beloved: "O Phebe, Phebe, Phebe!"

NOTE: Just as the old duke's speech in the first scene of Act II sums up the pastoral attitude toward nature, this scene shows how a lover behaves in pastoral fiction. Silvius is typical of this type of stock character. He is a shepherd who has no time for tending sheep. Love is his only concern. Though uneducated, he speaks about love in elaborate verse. The names Silvius and Phebe were commonly used for these characters in pastoral romances. It's obvious that Shakespeare is having a good time poking fun at those old stories.

In case anybody failed to notice how ridiculous Silvius's behavior was, Touchstone mimics him. Silvius has just listed some of the ridiculously romantic actions lovers are driven to, so Touchstone makes his own, even sillier, list. He even claims to have kissed the udders of a cow because his lady's hands had milked them. He mockingly concludes by saying that, if you are in love, you cannot avoid acting foolish.

Rosalind tells Touchstone that he's wiser than he knows. Though she does not give herself over to foolish behavior as Silvius does, she understands exactly how he feels. She may even view his behavior as a warning against giving in too completely to the urges of romantic love. That might explain why she treats Orlando as she does when she next meets him. You cannot be sure, but keep this encounter in mind, so you can form your own opinion.

Celia's concerns at this moment are practical. Since she's famished, she suggests they ask Corin for food. Though he'd like to help, Corin has nothing to give. He works for another, a miserly and inhospitable man whose cottage stands nearby. The cottage and its lands are for sale, Corin explains. But his master is away, so there isn't much food. He'll share what little he has with them, though.

Rosalind asks who intends to buy the cottage. The young man who just ran off is supposed to, Corin tells her, but he obviously isn't thinking about buying anything right now. Rosalind immediately offers to buy the cottage, its land, and its flock of sheep. Celia adds that they will hire Corin to work for them and pay him better than his current master does. Corin agrees to arrange the purchase and to stay on as their servant.

Pay attention to the difference between the two shepherds who have just come into the story. As you've seen, Silvius resembles the shepherds of pastoral romances. Shakespeare has introduced this character in order to parody the genre. He makes this point clear by having Touchstone mock Silvius's love talk and by providing a more realistic shepherd, Corin, to whom you can compare Silvius. All Silvius thinks or talks about is love. He spends his time making up verses and pursuing his beloved. Corin has a hard life, working for a miserly landowner. His speech is simple and direct. He does not try be witty, but there is humor in his response to Touchstone's assertion that the fool and his companions are Corin's betters: "Else are they very wretched." Notice how Corin discusses the sale of the cottage with Rosalind and Celia. Only a real shepherd would know all the particulars he wants them to be aware of before buying the place.


In another part of the forest, Jaques and several of the lords from the banished duke's train are strolling. Amiens sings a song about the sweetness of life in the forest. When the song ends, Jaques asks to hear more. Amiens would rather stop. More singing would make Jaques melancholy, he says. Jaques responds that it pleases him to be melancholy. No excuse Amiens makes satisfies Jaques. Amiens says he doesn't have a good voice, so his singing will not please Jaques. Jaques counters that he did not ask to be pleased, he asked to hear a song.

In this scene, Jaques confirms what you heard about his melancholy nature. You also see that he is surly and argumentative. Pressing Amiens to sing, he asks whether the verses of a song are called "stanzos." Amiens replies that he may call them that if he likes. Jaques, who asked the question to begin with, states rudely that he doesn't care what they are named. Cynically, he adds that he only needs to know the names of people who owe him money.

Amiens tells his friends to set the table, because the duke is coming. He informs Jaques that the duke has been looking for him, but Jaques says the duke is too argumentative for his taste!

Amiens and the other lords join together to sing another verse in praise of the simple life in the forest. Anybody who will give up ambition and enjoy life's "basics"- living in the sun, eating the food you catch yourself- should come to the forest, says the verse. Jaques make up his own verse to finish the song. His stanza says that if anybody is stupid enough to give up the comforts of civilization, he should come to the forest, where he will find others as foolish as he is. Then, Jaques abruptly announces that he's going to take a nap.

Have you ever known a person for whom nothing is ever right, a person ready to criticize everything you do or say? That's Jaques, whose criticisms do not seem to come out of a desire to improve anything. He just likes to criticize or take the opposing point of view. For example, while the others praise forest life, he criticizes it. Yet at the end of the play, the others will go back to the city, and Jaques will choose to stay in the forest.


Two more travelers arrive in the Forest of Arden- Orlando and Adam. Like Rosalind, Celia, and Touchstone, they have had a rough journey. The old servant is weak from exertion and lack of food. Orlando makes Adam comfortable, then leaves to find food for him.

In your opinion, what are the purposes of this short scene? You should be able to suggest at least two.


LINES 1-90

The duke has joined the lords, but Jaques has gone away. Exasperated, the duke concludes that Jaques must have been turned into an animal, because he cannot find him anywhere. When one of the lords replies that Jaques was with them recently, the duke asks the lord to fetch Jaques.

NOTE: This passing mention of the transformation of man into beast underscores the fact that forests were thought to be inhabited by fairies who could perform all sorts of magical mischief. That theme, of course, is found in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Before the lord can go to seek him, Jaques appears, laughing merrily. Surprised, the duke asks what has happened to put him in such a good humor. In answer, Jaques describes how he met a fool in the forest. When Jaques saw this man wearing motley (the many-colored outfit worn by professional jesters), he greeted him: "Good morrow, fool." The fool's response was cynical: "Call me not fool till heaven hath sent me fortune." In other words, he said that foolish people have the best luck. Next, the fool took a sundial from his pocket and used it to explain his philosophy of life: At ten o'clock, he said, it is an hour after nine and an hour before eleven. "And so," continued the fool, "from hour to hour we ripe and ripe, / And then, from hour to hour we rot and rot; / And thereby hangs a tale." Jaques so enjoyed what the fool said that he burst out laughing and continued laughing for an entire hour, according to the fool's sundial.

Obviously, Jaques is delighted to encounter somebody as cynical as he is. Actually, he has just been ridiculed by Touchstone, who is an excellent mimic. Jaques takes himself and his criticism of the world so seriously that he failed to realize that Touchstone was making fun of him. It is obvious that Touchstone's "wisdom" is mere foolishness. The use of a sundial is equally ridiculous. Who laughs according to a clock? Besides, it would be hard to use a sundial in the forest among the shadows cast by the trees.

Jaques says he wants to be a fool himself. If he wore motley, then people would have to let him say anything he wanted to. Jaques is already a self-styled critic of the human race. As an allowed fool, he would have even more freedom to rail against anything and everything. Fools were treated as if they were mad. Therefore, nobody could take offense at any insult by a fool. Jaques boldly declares that, if he himself had the license to speak his mind, he could "cleanse the foul body of th' infected world."

The duke, ever ready to dispute with Jaques, points out that Jaques himself has committed every sin he rails against. Jaques defends his criticism by saying that it is not directed against any particular person, but against the sin itself. If an individual takes offense, he condemns himself. Jaques claims that as long as he doesn't slander anybody, he should be free to say what he likes. If the shoe fits...

LINES 91-145

Orlando interrupts this argument between the duke and Jaques by bursting into the camp with his sword drawn. He orders them to stop eating. The duke shows a capacity for human understanding by asking this armed intruder whether his attack is motivated by desperate need or a common disregard for manners. Orlando answers that the duke's first guess was correct. Though he seems rude, he is "inland bred"- that is, raised in the city- and has some breeding.

NOTE: Some readers, remembering Orlando's complaint in the first act that Oliver has denied him his education, find his claim to being well-bred contradictory. They may be right. Such contradictions do exist in Shakespeare's plays. In Act I, scene ii, Le Beau says that Celia is taller than Rosalind, whereas it's clear in the rest of the play that Rosalind is taller. In this case, however, Orlando may simply mean that he was wellborn. In other words, he may be saying, "I'm no ordinary thief."

The duke suggests that a gentle appeal will produce better results than threats. When Orlando confesses that he's nearly dead of hunger, the duke invites him to share their meal. Touched by the duke's kindness, Orlando softens. He explains that he had expected to find savages in such a desolate place. The duke assures him that they all have lived in the city and tells him to take whatever food he needs.

Orlando will not eat until he fetches old Adam. The duke promises that they will eat nothing until Orlando returns. Orlando's noble nature is demonstrated clearly by the fact that he puts his servant's well- being before his own.

LINES 145-213

The duke finds a lesson in Orlando's misfortune:

Thou see'st we are not all alone unhappy:
This wide and universal theater
Presents more woeful pageants than the scene
Wherein we play in.

His comment is interesting, because in the first scene of this act, he spoke at great length about how happy he and his followers are in the forest.

NOTE: This contradiction bears examination. Does his statement prove that all the talk about the joyful life in the forest is false? It is true that at the end of the play they will happily return to civilization. Perhaps he means that they are unhappy because Fortune has deprived them of their natural positions in the civilized world. In that case, they might truly enjoy their forest life but feel that the place they rightfully belong is in the city. How do you interpret the duke's lines?

Not to be outdone in sermonizing, Jaques borrows the duke's theater imagery to deliver his own oration. He declares that "All the world's a stage, / And all the men and women merely players." Each player enacts seven different parts during his lifetime: first, the infant, who cries and throws up; second, the schoolboy, who whines because he has to go to school; third, the lover, who sighs and carries on foolishly; fourth, the soldier, who risks his life to gain fleeting fame; fifth, the justice, who dispenses common sense as if it were great wisdom; sixth, the old man, whose body is falling apart and whose once manly voice is becoming shrill as a child's; and seventh, the senile old man who becomes helpless as a child and then dies.

This famous speech, often called the "Seven Ages of Man," presents a bleak and cynical view of life. But the grim sentiment is so beautifully expressed that the speech has become one of the most famous passages in Shakespeare. Some readers believe that it reflects Shakespeare's own philosophy. They point out that, because Jaques stands apart from the action of the play, he could be Shakespeare's spokesperson, present only to voice the author's views. Others hold that it is a mistake to view the speech separate from its dramatic function. Certainly it demonstrates Jaques's penchant for "moralizing." Shakespeare could be pointing out that, if you adopt a cynical attitude, as Jaques has, you can find something sad in every part of life. You must decide whether you think that the play as a whole supports Jaques's cynical attitude or not.

As if in answer to Jaques's bleak portrait of life, Orlando enters with Adam. Orlando's love for the old man contradicts the idea that life is a sad and pointless pageant. Do you think that Shakespeare timed this entrance to prove that he disagreed with Jaques's statement?

As Adam and Orlando sit down to eat, Amiens sings a song. As usual, his theme is the sweetness of life in the forest. This song says that the ingratitude of man hurts much more than the chilly winter wind.

NOTE: Amiens's songs could be helpful in trying to figure out how the duke and the lords really feel about life in the forest. Does he sing about the happy life in the country because that's how he feels? Or is he trying to convince himself and the others that they are happy?

During the song, Orlando and the duke talk. When the music ends, the duke says that he is glad to learn that Orlando is Sir Rowland's son. The duke identifies himself and says that Orlando and Adam are welcome. He invites Orlando to his cave, where he will hear about the rest of the young man's fortunes. Note that the theme of Fortune and Nature comes in here again. The Duke now knows that Nature made Orlando the son of a wise and noble man. What he wants to find out is how Orlando has been treated by Fortune.

THE STORY, continued


ECC [As You Like It Contents] []

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