Support the Monkey! Tell All your Friends and Teachers

Help / FAQ

printable study guide online download notes summary

As You Like It
William Shakespeare

THE STORY, continued


Back at the palace, Duke Frederick threatens Orlando's brother Oliver. The duke finds it hard to believe that Oliver has not seen his brother since Orlando sneaked off. He says that if he weren't so merciful, he would simply take his revenge on Oliver in Orlando's place. He orders Oliver to find his brother and bring him back, alive or dead, within twelve months. If Oliver fails, the duke will seize all his lands and possessions. Oliver protests that he has never loved his brother. The duke comments, "More villain thou" and sends him off.

There is ironic humor in the fact that the duke calls himself merciful and condemns Oliver for hating his brother. The duke is a tyrant who has no love for his own brother.

The main purpose of this scene is to send Oliver to the Forest of Arden. All the rest of the action of the play will take place there. What happens to Oliver in the forest will help make the ending possible.


LINES 1-86

Orlando has settled into his forest life and has begun composing verses to his beloved Rosalind (though he doesn't realize that she is in the forest, also). When you first see him, he is posting his love poems on the trees. As he does so, he talks to himself in extravagant verse, sounding remarkably like Silvius, the other lovesick swain in the play. Promising to carve his beloved's name on every tree, Orlando runs off.

Orlando acts out the conventions of romantic love. Separated (he thinks) from his beloved, he spends his time pining away for her and making up rhymes praising her virtues. The intensity of his feelings are common to anybody who has recently "fallen in love."

Touchstone and Corin enter as Orlando leaves. Corin wants to know how the clown likes the shepherd's life. Touchstone answers with a string of contradictions. He likes the fact it's solitary, but hates the fact it's private. It's wonderful because it's in the country, but terrible because it's not in the court. And so on.

As he did with Jaques, Touchstone passes off nonsense as wisdom. Part of his skill lies in knowing how to fool different people. With Jaques, he appealed to the man's cynicism. With Corin, he relies on the fact that the shepherd has had no formal education and, for example, doesn't know that "private" and "solitary" mean the same thing. What is the difference, however, between fooling a Jaques and fooling a Corin?

Touchstone asks Corin if he has any philosophical thoughts to contribute. Corin's philosophy boils down to the knowledge that what's so is so. If you get sick, you feel bad. Rain is wet, fire burns. And so on. Touchstone calls him a "natural philosopher," a comment with a double meaning. Since "natural" could mean "idiot," he could be calling Corin a fool. On the other hand, "natural" can mean "instinctive." Corin's simple philosophy is naturally wise.

Next, Touchstone has some fun exploiting his verbal advantage over Corin. He tells the shepherd that, if he has never been in court, he must be damned, because he never would have learned good manners. The word "good," of course, can mean either "polite" or "morally correct." Corin argues that manners that are good in court would be wrong in the country. Every argument of Corin's is refuted by Touchstone, who continues to insist that Corin must be wicked if he doesn't know good manners.

Finally, Corin asserts that he is "a true laborer" who earns his living honestly, owes nothing, and envies nobody, and whose greatest joy is taking care of his animals. The simple virtues he claims are genuine. You are reminded that, unlike Silvius, Corin is a true shepherd, a simple man of the earth.

LINES 87-292

Reading aloud one of the poems that Orlando has stuck on the trees, Rosalind enters. Every other line in the poem ends with the name "Rosalind." The verse is sincere, if not very skillful. For instance, he calls India "Ind," so it will rhyme with "Rosalind." Touchstone comments that he could make up rhymes like that for "eight years together." As proof, he hastily offers a series of inane rhymes, such as:

If a hart do lack a hind,
Let him seek out Rosalind.
If the cat will after kind
So be sure will Rosalind.

Touchstone wants to know why Rosalind wastes her time reading such bad verses. She explains that she found them on a tree. Celia enters, also reading a poem. Hers is longer and more complex but it serves the same purpose- to praise Rosalind. The lady so praised complains that the verse is long and tedious. Before saying anything more, Celia sends Touchstone and Corin away.

When Rosalind realizes that Celia knows who wrote the verses, she becomes excited and impatient. Celia hints it's Orlando but teasingly refuses to say his name. When Celia finally confesses, "Orlando," ten questions pour out of Rosalind's mouth in quick succession: How did he look? What did he say? etc.

Celia starts to tell the story of how she saw Orlando, but before she can say much, the cousins are interrupted by the entrance of Orlando and Jaques. The ladies stand back to listen.

The two men obviously cannot stand each other. Each politely expresses his desire to see as little of the other as possible:

Jaques: God b' wi' you; let's meet as little as we can.

Orlando: I do desire we may be better strangers.

To get rid of Jaques, Orlando gulls him with an old joke. He tells Jaques that he will see a fool if he looks into the brook. Jaques does so and says that he sees only himself. That's what I meant, says Orlando. Not amused, Jaques leaves.

LINES 293-430

Taking advantage of her disguise, Rosalind decides to talk to Orlando as if she were a man. She starts by asking if he knows the time but quickly turns their discussion to the subject of love. When Orlando says he has no clock, she replies that a true lover's sighs (one per minute) and groans (one per hour) would do just as well. Of course, she is satirizing the idealized notion of romantic love.

Orlando doesn't know to whom he's talking. He is impressed when the youth explains how the speed with which time passes changes according to one's situation. Are you a native of the forest, Orlando asks? Rosalind tells him that she is, and that she lives with her shepherdess sister (Celia). Her refined accent is the product of the education she received from her uncle, an old religious man who had lived in the city.

NOTE: Much of the humor in this scene depends on the principle of dramatic irony. That means the readers or audience members know more than some of the characters. Here, you know that Orlando is talking to his beloved, but he doesn't. You can therefore appreciate the way she fools him. You can enjoy her quick thinking, as demonstrated when Orlando asks about her accent and she makes up the excuse about her uncle.

Rosalind goes on to say that her uncle gave her valuable instruction in love, telling her about the faults and weaknesses of women. Orlando would like to know what they are, but she refuses to tell him: "I will not cast away my physic [medicine] but on those that are sick." In other words, she implies her uncle taught her a cure for love. If she could meet whoever has been papering the trees with poems dedicated to "Rosalind," however, she would love to set him straight.

"I am he that is so love-shaked," asserts Orlando. Impossible, replies Rosalind; he has none of the telltale signs of a lover: "A lean cheek... an unquestionable spirit [reluctance to talk]... a beard neglected" and a general disregard for the way he looks. She is parodying the common literary conception of what a lover should be.

Once, Rosalind says, she cured a young man of his passion by acting the part of his mistress. Every day when he came to woo her, she would act like a woman by being overemotional, fickle, proud, and, in general, as difficult as possible- as "women are for the most part." Eventually, she drove the suitor to "madness,... to forswear the... world and to live in a nook merely monastic." Thus was the young man "cured."

Orlando has no desire to be cured, but Rosalind insists she would like to try. Orlando accepts the challenge. He agrees to call on the "good youth" (Rosalind) daily and woo him as if he were Rosalind.

NOTE: Rosalind's offer to cure Orlando performs a vital function in the plot. It lays the foundation for some of the amusing scenes that will follow. But it also raises an interesting philosophical question. Does satire cure? A satirist offers the audience an exaggerated reflection of its own follies. Some satirists claim that in doing so they help the audiences see their own foolishness and become better people. Do you think it works that way? Can you give an example of how satire caused people to change their minds about a subject? When have you yourself used satire successfully?


Idealized poetic notions of love and marriage come under further attack when Touchstone decides to marry a country wench. Audrey, the woman he's wooing as this scene begins, differs as much from Phebe as Corin differs from Silvius. Audrey can barely understand plain English, let alone poetry.

Touchstone treats Audrey much as he did Corin. He confuses her by using language he knows she will not understand. After comparing himself to the poet Ovid, Touchstone complains that Audrey is not "poetical." Never having heard the word, she assumes that "poetical" is a thing. Is it an honest and true thing? she asks. He answers that poetry isn't true, because it's "feigning." That's a pun, though of course Audrey misses the point. "Feigning" could mean either "lying" or "imaginative" (poetry is a product of the imagination). When Touchstone goes on to say that lovers are prone to use poetry, he implies that lovers tell lies.

In fact, the reason Touchstone wishes Audrey were poetical is that then she might be lying when she says that she's "honest" (chaste). He wants to marry her only so that he can satisfy his sexual desires. If she weren't chaste, he could do that without getting married. But he will marry her, if he has to. Touchstone quips that being in the forest among so many horned animals would discourage most men from marrying. The Elizabethans said that a woman who cheated on her husband gave him horns (made him a cuckold). Touchstone cynically mutters that, if you take a wife, you can't avoid getting horns.

NOTE: Can you imagine two men with more opposite views of love than Silvius and Touchstone? They represent two extreme views of love and marriage. To Silvius, love is pure and spiritual. Touchstone never talks of love, only marriage, which to him is like the mating of animals. Do you think that Shakespeare is saying that one view is more valid than the other? Or is there some middle course? In the upcoming scenes between Orlando and Rosalind, try to determine whether they are more similar to one couple or the other.

Sir Oliver Martext, the priest Touchstone has been waiting for, arrives. When Sir Oliver objects to the fact that nobody is present to give away the bride, Jaques steps in and offers to do it. He has been hiding behind a tree watching the goings-on. And as you might expect, he has been enjoying Touchstone's "philosophizing."

Jaques urges the clown to be married by a better priest than Sir Oliver, who will join them as two boards are joined. Touchstone would really prefer not to be "well married," because that would make it easier for him to leave his wife. But he agrees to follow Jaques's advice. Singing his good-bye to the priest by parodying a popular ballad called "Sweet Oliver," Touchstone exits. Sir Oliver simply shakes his head and swears never to let any crazy person discourage him from his calling.


In another part of the forest, Rosalind sits weeping because Orlando is late for his appointment. Celia uses her sharp wits to try to cheer up her friend, but without success.

Because she is not in love herself, Celia still has a cool and rather skeptical view of love. Orlando isn't a bad person, she says, but he should not be trusted in matters of love. She points out that lovers are notoriously untrustworthy.

When Celia mentions the old duke, Rosalind says that she met him in the forest the day before. Her disguise must be effective, because her own father failed to recognize her. Though the recollection amuses her, Rosalind can't keep her mind off Orlando.

NOTE: One of the things that makes Rosalind such a fascinating character is her ability to balance the dictates of her heart and of her head. Remember how, in her last scene with Orlando, Rosalind refused to let him know who she was? She spoke disdainfully of love and promised to cure him of its foolishness. Yet in this scene you see again how smitten she is. Rosalind's passion is deep and powerful. Her self-control and common sense save her from the kind of foolish behavior to which lovers are prone.

Corin hurries on stage to invite his "master" and mistress to watch an entertaining show: "a pageant truly played / Between the pale complexion of true love / And the red glow of scorn and proud disdain." In other words, Silvius and Phebe are nearby. Rosalind wants to see this "play" very much. In fact, she says that she'll join in the show herself.

NOTE: The theatrical imagery Corin and Rosalind use in referring to Silvius and Phebe points up the essentially literary nature of these last-named characters. They represent "types" that were popular in pastoral fiction of the period. At the same time, the theatrical imagery relates to the theme of role playing that runs throughout the play. As Jaques says in his "Seven Ages of Man" speech, each person has roles to play. Jaques certainly plays a role- that of the malcontent. In Rosalind's scenes with Orlando, she plays the role of a cynical boy who hates love, while in her scenes with Celia she plays her true role of a lovesick woman. Look for examples of role playing as you read each scene.


LINES 1-37

Silvius and Phebe behave exactly as Corin promised they would- he fawns, she scorns. Silvius has gotten to the point where he no longer begs her to love him. He only asks her not to hate him. He accuses her of having less compassion than an executioner, who at least apologizes to his victims before killing them.

As Rosalind, Celia, and Corin sneak in to listen, Phebe denies that she has murdered or even injured Silvius. Her eyes may indeed express her hatred, but they cannot do him any harm. She challenges him to show any scars she has left on him. Silvius counters that "love's keen arrows" make invisible wounds. He warns Phebe that when she falls in love she will realize that what he says is true. Fine, she replies, then leave me alone until then.

These two are playing out their roles perfectly. Romantic love thrives on obstacles. Considering Phebe's attitude toward Silvius, there seems little danger that the obstacle will be removed. The notion of the man's unworthiness is another convention of romantic love. Lovers were supposed to perform heroic tasks to prove their worthiness.

NOTE: All the lovers in the play seem to misunderstand the power of love until they are truly in love. Thus Rosalind's flippant attitude in Act One changes after she meets Orlando. Celia judges lovers' behavior quite coolly, because she has not yet been smitten. Phebe doesn't understand Silvius's suffering because she has never felt as he does. Shakespeare has Silvius make that statement about "love's keen arrows" in order to heighten the irony of what is about to happen.

LINES 38-85

Rosalind has heard enough. Still disguised as a man, she approaches the couple. She demands to know who Phebe thinks she is to talk so cruelly to Silvius. She says that Phebe is singularly unattractive, but that's no excuse for such meanness.

Noticing a strange look on Phebe's face, Rosalind recognizes it as the expression of a woman in love! Rosalind's scorn, it seems, has made Phebe fall for her. Trying to discourage Phebe, Rosalind makes the situation worse by scorning her further. She claims that she cannot understand why Silvius wastes his time pursuing a woman who is so ugly and worthless. Phebe should get down on her knees and thank God that a man wants her. Giving Phebe a little friendly advice, Rosalind counsels her to take Silvius's offer- she won't get any others. Then Rosalind starts off.

Phebe begs her to stay. She says that she prefers Rosalind's chiding (scolding) to Silvius's wooing. Rosalind tries one more time to make it clear that she does not love or even like Phebe. Taking Celia and Corin with her, she leaves.

LINES 86-148

Now Phebe understands love. Quoting Christopher Marlowe (a contemporary of Shakespeare's), she says, "Who ever loved that loved not at first sight?" Love in As You Like It certainly does seem to happen at first sight. Sometimes that quickness causes problems, as here. In other cases, as with Orlando and Rosalind, the lovers are well-suited to each other.

Phebe admits that she feels pity for Silvius. She still cannot give herself to him, but she'll endure his company and even give him employment. What she wants him to do is take a letter to "that peevish boy" (Rosalind). Phebe claims to be angry with the youth for speaking so rudely to her. She speaks of him at great length in a peculiar fashion, constantly alternating between criticism and praise. Perhaps this conflict is for Silvius's sake, because she doesn't want him to realize she's in love and refuse to be her messenger. It's also possible that Phebe is struggling with her own feelings. She is both angry at and in love with this rude boy and cannot reconcile the two feelings.

Phebe says that she will write a "very taunting letter" for Silvius to deliver. He promises to do so.

How much truth do you think there is in the suggestion that rejection can stimulate love? Most people have experienced the feeling of being infatuated with someone who doesn't seem to care for them. From the evidence of this play, that kind of thing has been going on for a long time.


LINES 1-36

While still waiting for Orlando, Rosalind has been accosted by Jaques. She's heard all about him and therefore wants to spend no time with such a "melancholy fellow." Jaques argues that his type of melancholy is unique, because it is the product of observations made on his travels. When she hears that Jaques has traveled abroad, Rosalind sums him up as one who affects melancholy only to impress others with his "worldliness." She says that she would rather have a fool to make her happy than a critic to make her sad.

You may wonder why such a point is made of the fact that Jaques has traveled. It was popular in Shakespeare's time to satirize the traveler who returned home and complained that his native land suffered in comparison to foreign countries. Even today, you may know somebody who's constantly saying, "In France they do it this way" or "In Greece they really know how to live." You might also find this person rather annoying and suspect that his frequent mentions of his travels are calculated to impress. Rosalind accuses Jaques of being just such a person.

LINES 36-192

Orlando has finally arrived, so Rosalind swiftly gets rid of Jaques. She begins giving Orlando his "love cure" by pretending to be his Rosalind. What follows makes use of the technique of dramatic irony. You can enjoy Orlando's ignorance of the fact that he really is in the presence of his beloved Rosalind, while he believes he's with a boy pretending to be her. Remember, she has promised to give him a taste of what a woman is really like.

First, she scolds him for being late. He protests that he's come within an hour of the appointed time. That, she says, proves he's not in love. No lover would be late by even a thousandth of a minute. She'd as soon be wooed by a snail, who at least has a house, which is more than Orlando has to offer. Also, a snail "brings his destiny with him"- "horns." In other words, she says that all husbands are destined to be betrayed by their wives.

NOTE: It may seem strange that a cultured and virtuous young woman like Rosalind would joke about women being unfaithful to their husbands. One reason is simply that jokes about cuckolding were extremely popular in Shakespeare's time. From a more psychological point of view, it could be because she's wondering whether Orlando, to whom she's given her heart, will be faithful to her.

Orlando objects to that statement: Rosalind would never betray him, because she's virtuous. His compliment delights her so much that she almost gives away her secret by saying, "And I am your Rosalind." Celia, who has been quietly listening all this time, steps in and saves the day by interpreting: "It pleases him to call you so; but he hath a Rosalind of a better leer [face] than you." Recovering her self-control, Rosalind urges Orlando to play their game. She encourages him to woo her, because she says she is in a good humor and is likely to consent.

NOTE: This mention of being in a humor suggests a point of view about love and romance. They are entirely appropriate and enjoyable in their season- and when kept in the proper perspective. It is foolish, however, to let them take over your life, as Silvius does.

The first thing Orlando would do if he were wooing Rosalind, he says, is kiss her. A bad idea, counsels Rosalind. Instead, he should start by talking. Then, when he runs out of things to say, he can resort to kissing. If she refuses the kiss, that will give him something more to talk about.

Next, suddenly changing moods, Rosalind says that she will not have Orlando. He claims that, if the real Rosalind denied him like that, he would die. That's just what Silvius said in the last scene. Rosalind, who is demonstrating how difficult women are, responds just as Phebe did. Nobody has ever died of love, she asserts. She gives examples of two legendary men who supposedly died of love and shows how they were actually killed by other means. Orlando isn't convinced. He insists that a frown from the real Rosalind would kill him. Rosalind moves on to the next question: what would he do if Rosalind would grant what he asks? He would ask her to love him, he answers. Rosalind flippantly tells him she will have him and twenty like him. He can't understand why she would want others. Can you have too much of a good thing? she asks. Then she enlists Celia to play the role of priest in a mock wedding ceremony. After the vows, she wants to know how long Orlando would keep the real Rosalind once he had her.

Orlando swears that he would keep her "For ever and a day." Rosalind claims that he would be more truthful if he just said "a day." As his wife, she would drive him crazy, crying when he wants to be happy and laughing when he wants to sleep. Orlando protests that the real Rosalind is too wise to do that, but Rosalind insists that "the wiser" a woman is, "the waywarder" she is. Her wit cannot be stopped, she warns. In other words, a woman has an answer for everything. If he catches his wife in bed with his neighbor, she will swear that she went there looking for her husband!

Orlando says that he has to attend the duke at dinner for two hours. Rosalind extracts a promise from him to return promptly when those two hours are up. But she is skeptical of him and says that Time will be his judge. He leaves.

Through the devices of disguise and role playing, Orlando and Rosalind have gone quickly through several stages of courtship. At the same time, Rosalind has been able to stand back and comment on the process. Therefore, they have been spared the kind of foolishness that entraps Silvius and Phebe.

LINES 193-210

Celia takes a dim view of Rosalind's characterization of women. She half-heartedly threatens to remove Rosalind's pants and reveal her as a traitor to her sex. Rosalind sighs that she is more deeply in love than her friend can possibly realize. She intends to go lie in a shadow and sigh until Orlando returns. Celia, on the other hand, will spend the time sleeping.


In the forest, Jaques meets some of the lords, who have just killed a deer. He asks who killed the deer and sarcastically suggests that the man should be presented to the duke with all the honor given a Roman conqueror. He also wants the hunter to wear the deer's horns on his head "for a branch of victory." It is Jaques's intention, of course, to make the man look foolish.

At Jaques's request, the lords sing a song as they carry off the deer. Its theme is that there is no shame in wearing horns; in fact, everyone's male ancestors wore them. Once again you are hearing the cynical view (Shakespeare's?) that all women give their husbands horns by cheating on them.


LINES 1-76

Once again, Orlando is late for his appointment. Rosalind and Celia exchange sarcastic comments, with Celia suggesting that he's so much in love he must have fallen asleep. Another lover arrives in Orlando's place- Silvius- bringing Phebe's letter to Rosalind. He explains that, though he hasn't read the letter, he suspects that its contents are unpleasant. Phebe looked angry when she wrote it.

Rosalind reads the letter, which is really a love letter. She behaves as if the letter were exactly what Silvius thinks it is. Feigning outrage, she asks why Phebe should be so mean to her. She accuses Silvius of writing the letter, claiming that it's too harsh for a woman to have written. Silvius denies writing or even reading the letter.

To prove her point about the letter's cruelty, Rosalind reads it aloud. Actually, it's full of praise. Phebe begins by calling Ganymede (Rosalind) a "god to shepherd turned" and goes on to swear love for him. Though Rosalind keeps insisting that the letter is insulting, Silvius understands the truth. By the time she finishes reading, Silvius is crushed. Celia pities him, but Rosalind says that his problems are of his own making. She will not pity a man who insists on loving such a cruel, deceitful woman. Rosalind sends Silvius back to Phebe with the following instruction: if Phebe loves Ganymede, then she should do what Ganymede tells her to do- love Silvius.

NOTE: Why does Rosalind lie about the contents of the letter? Some readers think that she begins by trying to spare Silvius's feelings. Perhaps she hopes that, in his lovesick haze, he won't notice what the letter actually is saying. It's also possible that she wants Silvius to know the truth but realizes he will have to recognize it for himself. After all, when she tried to tell him the truth about Phebe in Act III, Scene V, her comments had no effect on him. Which reason makes more sense to you? Why?

LINES 77-190

As soon as Silvius leaves, a stranger approaches. It is Orlando's brother Oliver, who has been absent from the play since Act III, scene i. Although the women do not know him, he recognizes them by description and says that he brings greetings from Orlando. To Rosalind he gives a bloody handkerchief, also from his brother. To explain the meaning of the handkerchief, he tells them a story.

While on his way to meet Rosalind, Orlando saw a "wretched, ragged" man sleeping under a tree. A snake had coiled itself around the man's neck and was about to bite him. Seeing Orlando, the snake uncoiled itself and slid off into the bushes. What Orlando saw in the bushes was even worse- a lioness waiting for the sleeping man to stir so she could pounce. Orlando was surprised when he recognized the man as his brother Oliver. Celia comments that she has heard Orlando speak of his brother as the "most unnatural / That lived among men." Oliver agrees. Orlando, however, could not leave his brother to his fate. Instead, he fought and killed the lioness. At just that moment, says Oliver, "I awaked."

The ladies are astonished. Are you the brother who plotted to kill Orlando? they ask. Oliver admits he was but says he has changed. Now he's ashamed of his past deeds. Oliver explains that, after he and Orlando were reconciled, they proceeded to the duke's camp, where Orlando revealed that he had been wounded by the lioness. He fainted, and Oliver bandaged the wound. Orlando is now resting but has asked Oliver to tell "Ganymede and Aliena" what happened.

Realizing that the handkerchief is reddened with Orlando's blood, Rosalind faints. Her behavior is "unmanly," but Oliver excuses it by saying that "many will swoon when they do look on blood." When Rosalind comes to, she claims to have only pretended to faint. Celia urges Rosalind, who now looks very pale, to go home. She invites Oliver to join them. He agrees, saying that he has to get a message from Rosalind for his brother.

NOTE: Oliver's conversion is nothing short of a miracle. Shakespeare seems completely unconcerned with plausibility. Perhaps Orlando's courage in saving his brother's life brought about the change, or perhaps it was the cruel treatment Oliver received from Duke Frederick. You have to accept without question that the conversion is genuine, because part of the happy ending will depend on it. Comedies have to end happily, so villains must be either converted or disposed of. Oliver's conversion foreshadows that of another villain, which will occur in Act V.


Audrey is tired of waiting for Touchstone to marry her. She thinks that Sir Oliver Martext would have performed the ceremony well enough, despite Jaques's objections.

Changing the subject, Touchstone mentions that there is a young man in the forest who "claims" Audrey. As if on cue, the young man appears. Touchstone immediately sizes him up as a slow-witted rustic. That fact delights him, because he'll enjoy making fun of William.

NOTE: Upon seeing William, Touchstone says "It is meat and drink to me to see a clown." That statement underscores the fact that the scene will be a confrontation between two types of "clowns," or "fools." The wise fool (Touchstone) uses his foolery to amuse and instruct. The natural fool (William) amuses because he is genuinely dim-witted.

William approaches Touchstone and Audrey quite respectfully, taking off his hat and bidding each a good evening. Touchstone seems to be trying to put William at ease by telling him to put his hat back on. Then, he begins to work his foolery by asking the youth a series of questions. He starts simply enough: How old are you? What's your name? Where were you born? After each of William's replies, Touchstone compliments him on his answers.

Then he asks if William loves Audrey. When William says he does, Touchstone gives him a lesson in nonsense-rhetoric that pretends to prove that Touchstone is the one who must marry Audrey. Having achieved his goal of thoroughly confusing William, Touchstone finishes by making an elaborate show of explaining exactly what he means: William should "abandon (which is in the vulgar, leave) the society (which in the boorish is, company) of this female (which in the common is, woman)." Otherwise, Touchstone will kill him, a fact he explains in about a dozen ways.

Despite Touchstone's "clarity," William must still be a bit confused. He looks to Audrey, who advises him to leave. With a polite "God rest you merry, Sir" to Touchstone, William runs off. At that moment, Corin approaches and tells Touchstone that Rosalind and Celia want to see him.

NOTE: Like Corin (and unlike Silvius and Phebe), William is a real shepherd. He is not "poetical." Touchstone's ridiculous parody of a learned gentleman fools William completely. Note how politely William treats his rival. He addresses Touchstone respectfully, using the pronoun "you," while Touchstone addresses William as "thou," a pronoun used for inferiors.


LINES 1-40

Oliver has just told Orlando some surprising news- he and Celia (who is known to him as Aliena) have fallen in love. Oliver admits that the situation is odd, considering how recently they met. But he says they want to be married. Oliver intends to give all he owns to Orlando and to live as a shepherd in the forest. He wants Orlando's consent.

Agreeing, Orlando says that the marriage will take place the next day. Just then, Rosalind enters. Oliver leaves to prepare Aliena for the wedding.

Rosalind tells Orlando she's sorry he was wounded. She asks whether Oliver told him about her "counterfeit" fainting. "Ay, and greater wonders than that," he replies, referring to the astonishing suddenness of Oliver and Aliena's betrothal.

NOTE: Shakespeare took the story of As You Like It from Thomas Lodge's pastoral novel Rosalynde. Lodge gave the romantic pairing of Oliver and Aliena greater justification. In the novel, the older brother rescues Aliena from a band of thieves, thus winning her affections. Shakespeare's change accomplishes two things: (1) It simplifies the story for the stage. Introducing a band of thieves this late in the play would be awkward; (2) This additional case of love at first sight satirizes the conventions of romantic love found in pastoral fiction.

LINES 41-73

Oliver's good fortune pleases Orlando, but it also increases his despair at being separated from Rosalind. The dramatic irony of this scene lies in the fact that Orlando doesn't realize he's talking to the very person he wants so terribly. As Ganymede, Rosalind asks why she cannot continue to pretend to be his Rosalind. Because "I can no longer live by thinking," declares Orlando. Seeing that the time has come to end her charade, Rosalind tells Orlando one more story. She claims to have been raised by a magician, very skilled yet not "damnable" (that is, not in league with the devil). Using the skills he taught her, she can make Rosalind appear the next day. Are you serious? asks Orlando. She is; if he wants to, he can marry his Rosalind tomorrow.

NOTE: Why has Rosalind chosen to end her game? Let's look at several possible reasons. The depth of Orlando's sadness may have moved her to reveal herself. Or, she may see that he's become tired of the game and will no longer play. A third possibility is that she believes that she has cured him of excessive romanticism. His statement that he can "no longer live by thinking" could mean he is ready to love a person (Rosalind), with all her human imperfections, rather than a false romantic ideal.

LINES 74-125

They are interrupted by Phebe and Silvius. Phebe complains that it was unkind of Ganymede to show Silvius the love letter. So what? says Rosalind. I don't love you. This shepherd does. You should love him.

Phebe thinks that Ganymede simply doesn't understand love. Knowing the one thing Silvius (the play's authority on romantic love) does well, she asks him to tell Ganymede what love is like. What follows humorously dramatizes the complicated situation at this point in the play:

Silvius: It is to be all made of sighs and
tears; And so am I for Phebe.

Phebe: And I for Ganymede.

Orlando: And I for Rosalind.

Rosalind: And I for no woman.

Silvius goes on to list the traits of the romantic lover. Each time he pauses, the others join in as above. Finally, Phebe asks Rosalind, "If this be so, why blame you me to love you?" Silvius asks Phebe the same question. Then Orlando asks the same question. Who are you talking to? queries Rosalind. He sadly answers, "To her that is not here, nor doth not hear."

Rosalind has heard enough. Knowing that she has the power to resolve all the conflicts, she tells the other three to meet her the next day. To entice them to come, she makes these promises: she will marry Phebe if she ever marries any woman; Orlando will be satisfied; Silvius will get what pleases him. What's more, they will all be married tomorrow. They all swear to meet her, and she leaves.

The love Silvius describes is pure romantic love. The sighs, tears, obedience, duty, and so on that he mentions are the evidence of dedication to an idealized, unobtainable beloved. Such feelings of passion and longing are human and understandable. Even the levelheaded Rosalind joins in the refrain. What Shakespeare seems to be saying, however, is that they are only part of love. As You Like It satirizes the way pastoral romances portray love as all sighs, all obedience, all purity. Love also includes sex, friendship, and marriage, Shakespeare reminds us.


The buildup toward the wedding scene continues in this interlude with Touchstone and Audrey. In their last scene, Audrey was impatient to get married. Now, when Touchstone tells her that "tomorrow is the joyful day," she is glad but hopes that her desire to become "a woman of the world" is not improper.

Two of the duke's pages enter. They readily agree to Touchstone's request for a song. The ditty they choose is about two lovers in the spring. The lyric calls springtime "the only pretty ring-time" (i.e., the best time for marriage) and says that "lovers love the spring." But it points out that life, like a season or a flower, lasts only a limited time.

NOTE: While satirizing the artificial love portrayed in pastoral romances, As You Like It celebrates the joys of real love. The play makes the point that, as this song says, love has its season. During that season, it should be enjoyed.

After hearing the song, Touchstone wittily insults the singers. He claims that, although the song was only a trifle, it was certainly sung badly. The pages defend their rendition, saying that they kept time very well. That's right, says Touchstone, but time spent listening to such a silly song is time wasted. Taking Audrey, he leaves.


LINES 1-38

The wedding day has arrived. Orlando and Duke Senior talk while waiting for Ganymede. The duke wants to know if Orlando really believes the boy can do what he claims. Orlando replies that sometimes he believes it, and sometimes he's afraid to believe, because he's afraid of being disappointed.

NOTE: Nobody questions the power of magic, though doubt is raised about Ganymede's ability to deliver the miracle he's promised. Elizabethans were extremely interested in the supernatural. King James I believed in the power of witches and even wrote a book on the subject. Magic appears throughout Shakespeare's plays, from the witches of Macbeth to the ghost of Hamlet's father. The forest in A Midsummer Night's Dream is full of mischievous fairies.

Rosalind (disguised as Ganymede), arrives with Silvius and Phebe. Asking the others to bear with her, Rosalind reviews all the promises that have been made:

-To Duke Senior (her father): If I make Rosalind appear,
you will let her marry Orlando?

He would do so even if he had kingdoms to give
with her as a dowry.

-To Orlando: You will marry Rosalind, if she appears?

He would, even if he were king of all the world.

-To Phebe: You will marry me [Ganymede]?

She will, even if she were to die the next hour.

-But, if you refuse me, you'll marry Silvius?

Phebe admits that's what they agreed upon.

-To Silvius: You're willing to marry Phebe?

Needless to say, he is, even if he were to die for it.

Rosalind leaves, taking Celia with her.

NOTE: As You Like It has a complicated plot. Shakespeare takes great pains to make the situation clear at this point. In order to enjoy what's going to happen, you have to understand each of the complications. As you can see, the shedding of Rosalind's disguise will resolve all the romantic conflicts.

Orlando and the duke discuss the fact that Ganymede reminds both of them of Rosalind. It never occurs to either of them that the boy could actually be Rosalind. This passage could be a satirical comment on the conventions of pastoral romances. Disguises were commonplace in such stories, and they always worked perfectly. Fathers, for example, never recognized their own daughters.

LINES 39-110

Touchstone and Audrey arrive to join in the nuptials. Jaques laughingly swears that another flood like the one in Noah's time must be coming, because all the animals are pairing off. These two, he says, are called fools.

Jaques recommends Touchstone to the duke as the "motley-minded gentleman" that he so enjoyed meeting in the forest (Act II, scene vii). He reminds the duke that Touchstone swears to have been a courtier. And I can prove it, announces Touchstone. He claims to have danced courtly dances been crafty with his friend and clever with his enemy. He has also put three tailors out of business by not paying his bills. Finally, he swears that he has had four quarrels, one of which almost led to a duel. How did you avoid fighting? asks Jaques. "Faith, we met," explains Touchstone, "and found the quarrel was upon the seventh cause." Jaques wants to know what the fool means.

In offering proofs that he was a courtier, Touchstone satirizes the way of life in the city. He picks up several themes mentioned in the city scenes earlier. Like Le Beau, his courtier is concerned with fashion, flattery, and fancy clothes. He characterizes the typical courtier as a man who would be equally willing to lie to his friends or his enemies in order to get ahead. The preoccupation with quarreling was also typical of the courtier.

Explaining the "quarrel on the seventh cause," Touchstone says it was "a lie seven times removed." He illustrates the seven steps of a lie. If Touchstone sends word to a certain courtier that he dislikes the cut of the man's beard, the courtier may (1) say he believes that it's well cut- the "Retort Courteous." If Touchstone repeats his assertion, the courtier may (2) say he cut it the way he likes it- the "Quip Modest"; (3) state that Touchstone has no taste- the "Reply Churlish" (rude); (4) claim that Touchstone isn't telling the truth- the "Reproof Valiant"; (5) say that Touchstone is lying (a subtle distinction from step 4)- the "Countercheck Quarrelsome." The final steps are (6) the "Lie Circumstantial" (an indirect accusation of lying) and (7) the "Lie Direct" (an open, direct accusation). Touchstone and the courtier had to stop between the last two, however. Had they gone on to step seven, they would have had to fight. As it was, they avoided crossing swords.

NOTE: If you think these rules sound silly, then you've gotten Shakespeare's point. Books were actually written giving instructions in quarreling. These rules were as artificial as the conventions of love portrayed in pastoral romances. Therefore, they are a target for satire. Sometimes the rules served a practical function, however- they kept quarrels from getting out of hand. The textbooks of quarreling provided ways of avoiding a duel.

Touchstone illustrates another method of avoiding a duel- the "if." When two quarreling parties can meet and say, "If you said so, then I said so," they can make up and be friends. Jaques and the duke praise the fool's ability. The duke comments that Touchstone uses the wise fool's technique: he presents the truth under the guise of foolishness.

NOTE: You may wonder why Shakespeare gives the clown such a lot to say just when the plot had built to a climax. Ever a practical man of the theater, Shakespeare wrote this entertaining passage to fill the time needed for Rosalind and Celia to change their costumes.

LINES 111-55

Soft music heralds the return of Rosalind and Celia, who have shed their disguises. Hymen, the god of marriage, accompanies them. Though Hymen is the first supernatural character to appear in the play, the many references to magic have prepared the way for his arrival. He presents Rosalind to her father. The duke, Orlando, and Phebe are astonished. Hymen announces that he must clear up all confusion. He names the four couples who will now be married: Orlando and Rosalind, Oliver and Celia, Phebe and Silvius (he reminds Phebe of her promise), Touchstone and Audrey.

The duke joyfully welcomes his daughter and his niece. Phebe promises to keep her word and marry Silvius. What's more, she says that she's now in love with him. Why do you think Shakespeare gave her this abrupt change of heart? Her reversal could serve a satiric purpose. Earlier, Phebe scorned Silvius only because the romantic conventions demanded that she do so. Now, she suddenly loves him so that the ending can be happy. Her behavior is constantly dictated by literary conventions.

LINES 156-208

Before they can proceed with the wedding, a new character appears. He identifies himself as Sir Rowland's second son- Orlando and Oliver's brother, Jaques. He brings word about Duke Frederick. It seems that the Duke headed into this forest with a large army intending to murder his brother, Duke Senior. But on the edge of the forest, he met an old religious man. After some conversation, Frederick renounced both his evil ways and the world. Returning the dukedom to his brother, he now intends to live in the forest as a hermit.

This transformation is as sudden as Oliver's and even less believable. It appears that, as the play nears its end, the magic power of the forest strengthens. The evil duke has only to arrive at its edge to be converted.

NOTE: Lodge's Rosalynde is actually more credible in this respect. In the novel, the usurper is killed. Shakespeare probably didn't want to sour the end of his play with a killing. Tragedy ends in death. Comedy ends in forgiveness and rebirth. The marriages and conversions all support this promise.

The duke rejoices at hearing that his dukedom and all the lands taken from the exiled lords have been restored. He intends to return immediately to the city. First, however, the wedding must take place. He calls for music and dancing.

NOTE: Does the duke's decision to return to the city prove that all his talk about the joys of country life was false? It would seem that he was just making the best of a bad situation. But As You Like It shows good and bad in both city and country life. In the final analysis, might the duke and his followers simply feel more comfortable in the city, where they were born and bred?

Before the dancing can begin, Jaques interrupts. He has no intention of returning to the city. Instead, he will join Duke Frederick, because "Out of these convertites / There is much matter to be heard and learned." Jaques remains contrary to the last. All along he has criticized life in the forest. Now he chooses to remain there. Here again, Jaques seems to be motivated by his desire to be different from everybody else. Or is he genuinely interested in debating the newly converted duke? Such a person would be "full of matter." Why do you think he remains?

The duke urges Jaques to stay. Not to watch merrymaking, replies Jaques. But he will wait in the duke's cave to talk with him. Once Jaques leaves, the music and dancing commence.

NOTE: Some historians believe that the wedding dance was added when the play was presented at the wedding of a nobleman. Elizabethans loved music and dance. Elaborate entertainments called masques combined musical elements with ornate costumes and scenery. There are masquelike sections in a number of Shakespeare's plays, including Romeo and Juliet, Much Ado About Nothing, and The Tempest.


When the dance ends, Rosalind turns to the audience to deliver the epilogue. These speeches traditionally consisted of apologies for the shortcomings of the play and a request for applause. Rosalind says that a good play doesn't need an epilogue any more than a good wine needs a "bush" (an ivy bush hung outside an alehouse to let people know that wine was available). However, a play can benefit from a good epilogue, she continues. Therefore, she apologizes for having neither a good epilogue nor the charm to make the audience feel charitably disposed toward the play.

Since she cannot beg for applause, she will "conjure" it. This statement picks up on the theme of magic that has played an important part in Act V. The demands made in her conjuration are amusingly simple: men and women, for the love they bear each other, should like as much of the play as pleases them. She concludes by saying that if she were a woman she would kiss as many of the men as pleased her. (In Shakespeare's theater, the part was played by a boy.) So Rosalind curtsies and asks the audience to bid her farewell by applauding.

NOTE: Rosalind could be accused of false modesty, but this charmingly humble epilogue ends the play on a sweet and sunny note. It's interesting to compare it with the epilogue of Twelfth Night, the play written just after this one. Also a romantic comedy, Twelfth Night has an unusual epilogue in the form of a song. Sung by Feste, the fool, its tone is decidedly melancholy.



ECC [As You Like It Contents] []

© Copyright 1985 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.
Electronically Enhanced Text © Copyright 1993, World Library, Inc.
Further distribution without the written consent of, Inc. is prohibited.

  Web Search Our Message Boards   

All Contents Copyright © 1997-2004
All rights reserved. Further Distribution Is Strictly Prohibited.

About Us
 | Advertising | Contact Us | Privacy Policy | Home Page
This page was last updated: 10/18/2019 3:19:56 PM