As You Like It by William Shakespeare

As You Like It by William Shakespeare
Table of Contents
1. As You Like It: Introduction
2. As You Like It: Reading Shakespeare
3. As You Like It: William Shakespeare Biography
4. As You Like It: Summary

5. As You Like It: List of Characters
6. As You Like It: Historical Background
As You Like It: Summary and Analysis
¨ Act I, Scene 1
¨ Act I, Scenes 2 and 3
¨ Act II, Scene 1
¨ Act II, Scenes 2 and 3
¨ Act II, Scene 4
¨ Act II, Scene 5
¨ Act II, Scenes 6 and 7
¨ Act III, Scenes 1 and 2
¨ Act III, Scenes 3-5
¨ Act IV, Scene 1
¨ Act IV, Scene 2
¨ Act IV Scene 3
¨ Act V, Scene 1
¨ Act V, Scenes 2 and 3
¨ Act V, Scene 4
¨ Epilogue
As You Like It 1
As You Like It: Critical Commentary
¨ Act I Commentary
¨ Act II Commentary
¨ Act III Commentary
¨ Act IV Commentary
¨ Act V Commentary
As You Like It: Quizzes
¨ Act I Questions and Answers
¨ Act II Questions and Answers
¨ Act III Questions and Answers
¨ Act IV Questions and Answers
¨ Act V Questions and Answers
10. As You Like It: Themes
As You Like It: Character Analysis
¨ Note on the Character Analysis
¨ Celia (Character Analysis)
¨ Frederick (Character Analysis)
¨ Jaques (Character Analysis)
¨ Oliver (Character Analysis)
¨ Orlando (Character Analysis)
¨ Rosalind (Character Analysis)
¨ Touchstone (Character Analysis)
¨ Other Characters (Descriptions)
12. As You Like It: Principal Topics
As You Like It: Essays
¨ Love in As You Like It
¨ Gender Issues in As You Like It
¨ Using Language in As You Like It
¨ Analysis of a Key Passage in As You Like It
¨ Rosalind's Education in Love
As You Like It: Criticism
¨ Alliance of Seriousness and Levity in As You Like It
¨ Overviews
¨ Pastoral Conventions
¨ Dualities
¨ Disguise and Role-Playing
¨ Time
¨ Orlando
¨ Rosalind
¨ Touchstone
¨ Jaques
15. As You Like It: Selected Quotes
16. As You Like It: Suggested Essay Topics
17. As You Like It: Sample Essay Outlines
18. As You Like It: Modern Connections
As You Like It: FAQs
¨ Was there an actual Forest of Arden?
¨ Which "side" did Shakespeare favor in the play's division between town and country?
¨ Why is Jaques so sad?
¨ What is Touchstone's function in the play?
20. As You Like It: Bibliography and Further Reading
eNotes: Table of Contents 2
21. As You Like It: Pictures
22. Copyright
As You Like It: Introduction
One of Shakespeare's early plays, As You Like It (1598-1599), is a stock romantic comedy that was familiar to
Elizabethan audiences as an exemplar of "Christian" comedy. Although the play does include two offstage
spiritual conversions, the "Christian" designation does not refer to religion itself. Instead, it denotes the
restoration and regeneration of society through the affirmation of certain Christian values such as brotherly
love, marital union, tolerance for different viewpoints, and optimism about life at large.
The plot is very simple: the resolution of the dramatic problem in the warped attitudes of two evil brothers
toward good brothers, and related obstacles to marriage for several couples in the play (most notably Rosalind
and Orlando) are easily overcome, and a happy ending is never in doubt. On one level, the play was clearly
intended by Shakespeare as a simple, diverting amusement; several scenes in As You Like It are essentially
skits made up of songs and joking banter. But on a somewhat deeper level, the play provides opportunities for
its main characters to discuss a host of subjects (love, aging, the natural world, and death) from their particular
points of view. At its center, As You Like It presents us with the respective worldviews of Jaques, a
chronically melancholy pessimist preoccupied with the negative aspects of life, and Rosalind, the play's
Christian heroine, who recognizes life's difficulties but holds fast to a positive attitude that is kind, playful,
and, above all, wise. In the end, the enjoyment that we receive from the play's comedy is reinforced and
validated by a humanistic Christian philosophy gently woven into the text by a benevolent Shakespeare.
As You Like It: Reading Shakespeare
In this section:
· Shakespeare’s Language
· Shakespeare’s Sentences
· Shakespeare’s Words
· Shakespeare’s Wordplay
· Shakespeare’s Dramatic Verse
· Implied Stage Action
Shakespeare’s Language
Shakespeare’s language can create a strong pang of intimidation, even fear, in a large number of modern-day
readers. Fortunately, however, this need not be the case. All that is needed to master the art of reading
Shakespeare is to practice the techniques of unraveling uncommonly-structured sentences and to become
familiar with the poetic use of uncommon words. We must realize that during the 400-year span between
Shakespeare’s time and our own, both the way we live and speak has changed. Although most of his
vocabulary is in use today, some of it is obsolete, and what may be most confusing is that some of his words
are used today, but with slightly different or totally different meanings. On the stage, actors readily dissolve
these language stumbling blocks. They study Shakespeare’s dialogue and express it dramatically in word and
in action so that its meaning is graphically enacted. If the reader studies Shakespeare’s lines as an actor does,
looking up and reflecting upon the meaning of unfamiliar words until real voice is discovered, he or she will
suddenly experience the excitement, the depth and the sheer poetry of what these characters say.
Shakespeare’s Sentences
In English, or any other language, the meaning of a sentence greatly depends upon where each word is placed
in that sentence. “The child hurt the mother” and “The mother hurt the child” have opposite meanings, even
As You Like It: Introduction 3
though the words are the same, simply because the words are arranged differently. Because word position is
so integral to English, the reader will find unfamiliar word arrangements confusing, even difficult to
understand. Since Shakespeare’s plays are poetic dramas, he often shifts from average word arrangements to
the strikingly unusual so that the line will conform to the desired poetic rhythm. Often, too, Shakespeare
employs unusual word order to afford a character his own specific style of speaking.
Today, English sentence structure follows a sequence of subject first, verb second, and an optional object
third. Shakespeare, however, often places the verb before the subject, which reads, “Speaks he” rather than
“He speaks.” Solanio speaks with this inverted structure in The Merchant of Venice stating, “I should be
still/Plucking the grass to know where sits the wind” (Bevington edition, I, i, ll.17-19), while today’s
standard English word order would have the clause at the end of this line read, “where the wind sits.”
“Wind” is the subject of this clause, and “sits” is the verb. Bassanio’s words in Act Two also exemplify this
inversion: “And in such eyes as ours appear not faults” (II, ii, l. 184). In our normal word order, we would
say, “Faults do not appear in eyes such as ours,” with “faults” as the subject in both Shakespeare’s word
order and ours.
Inversions like these are not troublesome, but when Shakes–peare positions the predicate adjective or the
object before the subject and verb, we are sometimes surprised. For example, rather than “I saw him,”
Shakespeare may use a structure such as “Him I saw.” Similarly, “Cold the morning is” would be used for
our “The morning is cold.” Lady Macbeth demonstrates this inversion as she speaks of her husband: “Glamis
thou art, and Cawdor, and shalt be/What thou art promised” (Macbeth, I, v, ll. 14-15). In current English word
order, this quote would begin, “Thou art Glamis, and Cawdor.”
In addition to inversions, Shakespeare purposefully keeps words apart that we generally keep together. To
illustrate, consider Bassanio’s humble admission in The Merchant of Venice: “I owe you much, and, like a
wilful youth,/That which I owe is lost” (I, i, ll. 146-147). The phrase, “like a wilful youth,” separates the
regular sequence of “I owe you much” and “That which I owe is lost.” To understand more clearly this type
of passage, the reader could rearrange these word groups into our conventional order: I owe you much and I
wasted what you gave me because I was young and impulsive. While these rearranged clauses will sound like
normal English, and will be simpler to understand, they will no longer have the desired poetic rhythm, and the
emphasis will now be on the wrong words.
As we read Shakespeare, we will find words that are separated by long, interruptive statements. Often subjects
are separated from verbs, and verbs are separated from objects. These long interruptions can be used to give a
character dimension or to add an element of suspense. For example, in Romeo and Juliet Benvolio describes
both Romeo’s moodiness and his own sensitive and thoughtful nature:
I, measuring his affections by my own,
Which then most sought, where most might not be found,
Being one too many by my weary self,
Pursu’d my humour, not pursuing his,
And gladly shunn’d who gladly fled from me. (I, i, ll. 126-130)
In this passage, the subject “I” is distanced from its verb “Pursu’d.” The long interruption serves to provide
information which is integral to the plot. Another example, taken from Hamlet, is the ghost, Hamlet’s father,
who describes Hamlet’s uncle, Claudius, as
…that incestuous, that adulterate beast,
With witchcraft of his wit, with traitorous gifts—
O wicked wit and gifts, that have the power
So to seduce—won to his shameful lust
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The will of my most seeming virtuous queen. (I, v, ll. 43-47)
From this we learn that Prince Hamlet’s mother is the victim of an evil seduction and deception. The delay
between the subject, “beast,” and the verb, “won,” creates a moment of tension filled with the image of a
cunning predator waiting for the right moment to spring into attack. This interruptive passage allows the play
to unfold crucial information and thus to build the tension necessary to produce a riveting drama.
While at times these long delays are merely for decorative purposes, they are often used to narrate a particular
situation or to enhance character development. As Antony and Cleopatra opens, an interruptive passage occurs
in the first few lines. Although the delay is not lengthy, Philo’s words vividly portray Antony’s military
prowess while they also reveal the immediate concern of the drama. Antony is distracted from his career, and
is now focused on Cleopatra:
…those goodly eyes,
That o’er the files and musters of the war
Have glow’d like plated Mars, now bend, now turn
The office and devotion of their view
Upon a tawny front…. (I, i, ll. 2-6)
Whereas Shakespeare sometimes heaps detail upon detail, his sentences are often elliptical, that is, they omit
words we expect in written English sentences. In fact, we often do this in our spoken conversations. For
instance, we say, “You see that?” when we really mean, “Did you see that?” Reading poetry or listening to
lyrics in music conditions us to supply the omitted words and it makes us more comfortable reading this type
of dialogue. Consider one passage in The Merchant of Venice where Antonio’s friends ask him why he seems
so sad and Solanio tells Antonio, “Why, then you are in love” (I, i, l. 46). When Antonio denies this, Solanio
responds, “Not in love neither?” (I, i, l. 47). The word “you” is omitted but understood despite the confusing
double negative.
In addition to leaving out words, Shakespeare often uses intentionally vague language, a strategy which taxes
the reader’s attentiveness. In Antony and Cleopatra, Cleopatra, upset that Antony is leaving for Rome after
learning that his wife died in battle, convinces him to stay in Egypt:
Sir, you and I must part, but that’s not it:
Sir you and I have lov’d, but there’s not it;
That you know well, something it is I would—
O, my oblivion is a very Antony,
And I am all forgotten. (I, iii, ll. 87-91)
In line 89, “…something it is I would” suggests that there is something that she would want to say, do, or have
done. The intentional vagueness leaves us, and certainly Antony, to wonder. Though this sort of writing may
appear lackadaisical for all that it leaves out, here the vagueness functions to portray Cleopatra as rhetorically
sophisticated. Similarly, when asked what thing a crocodile is (meaning Antony himself who is being
compared to a crocodile), Antony slyly evades the question by giving a vague reply:
It is shap’d, sir, like itself, and it is as broad as it hath breadth.
It is just so high as it is, and moves with it own organs.
It lives by that which nourisheth it, and, the elements once out of it, it transmigrates. (II, vii,
ll. 43-46)
This kind of evasiveness, or doubletalk, occurs often in Shakespeare’s writing and requires extra patience on
the part of the reader.
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Shakespeare’s Words
As we read Shakespeare’s plays, we will encounter uncommon words. Many of these words are not in use
today. As Romeo and Juliet opens, we notice words like “shrift” (confession) and “holidame” (a holy relic).
Words like these should be explained in notes to the text. Shakespeare also employs words which we still use,
though with different meaning. For example, in The Merchant of Venice “caskets” refer to small, decorative
chests for holding jewels. However, modern readers may think of a large cask instead of the smaller,
diminutive casket.
Another trouble modern readers will have with Shakespeare’s English is with words that are still in use today,
but which mean something different in Elizabethan use. In The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare uses the
word “straight” (as in “straight away”) where we would say “immediately.” Here, the modern reader is
unlikely to carry away the wrong message, however, since the modern meaning will simply make no sense. In
this case, textual notes will clarify a phrase’s meaning. To cite another example, in Romeo and Juliet, after
Mercutio dies, Romeo states that the “black fate on moe days doth depend” (emphasis added). In this case,
“depend” really means “impend.”
Shakespeare’s Wordplay
All of Shakespeare’s works exhibit his mastery of playing with language and with such variety that many
people have authored entire books on this subject alone. Shakespeare’s most frequently used types of
wordplay are common: metaphors, similes, synecdoche and metonymy, personification, allusion, and puns. It
is when Shakespeare violates the normal use of these devices, or rhetorical figures, that the language becomes
A metaphor is a comparison in which an object or idea is replaced by another object or idea with common
attributes. For example, in Macbeth a murderer tells Macbeth that Banquo has been murdered, as directed, but
that his son, Fleance, escaped, having witnessed his father’s murder. Fleance, now a threat to Macbeth, is
described as a serpent:
There the grown serpent lies, the worm that’s fled
Hath nature that in time will venom breed,
No teeth for the present. (III, iv, ll. 29-31)
Similes, on the other hand, compare objects or ideas while using the words “like” or “as.” In Romeo and
Juliet, Romeo tells Juliet that “Love goes toward love as schoolboys from their books” (II, ii, l. 156). Such
similes often give way to more involved comparisons, “extended similes.” For example, Juliet tells Romeo:
‘Tis almost morning,
I would have thee gone,
And yet no farther than a wonton’s bird,
That lets it hop a little from his hand
Like a poor prisoner in his twisted gyves,
And with silken thread plucks it back again,
So loving-jealous of his liberty. (II, ii, ll. 176-181)
An epic simile, a device borrowed from heroic poetry, is an extended simile that builds into an even more
elaborate comparison. In Macbeth, Macbeth describes King Duncan’s virtues with an angelic, celestial simile
and then drives immediately into another simile that redirects us into a vision of warfare and destruction:
…Besides this Duncan
Hath borne his faculties so meek, hath been
So clear in his great office, that his virtues
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Will plead like angels, trumpet-tongued, against
The deep damnation of his taking-off;
And pity, like a naked new-born babe,
Striding the blast, or heaven’s cherubim, horsed
Upon the sightless couriers of the air,
Shall blow the horrid deed in every eye,
That tears shall drown the wind…. (I, vii, ll. 16-25)
Shakespeare employs other devices, like synecdoche and metonymy, to achieve “verbal economy,” or using
one or two words to express more than one thought. Synecdoche is a figure of speech using a part for the
whole. An example of synecdoche is using the word boards to imply a stage. Boards are only a small part of
the materials that make up a stage, however, the term boards has become a colloquial synonym for stage.
Metonymy is a figure of speech using the name of one thing for that of another which it is associated. An
example of metonymy is using crown to mean the king (as used in the sentence “These lands belong to the
crown”). Since a crown is associated with or an attribute of the king, the word crown has become a
metonymy for the king. It is important to understand that every metonymy is a synecdoche, but not every
synecdoche is a metonymy. This is rule is true because a metonymy must not only be a part of the root word,
making a synecdoche, but also be a unique attribute of or associated with the root word.
Synecdoche and metonymy in Shakespeare’s works is often very confusing to a new student because he
creates uses for words that they usually do not perform. This technique is often complicated and yet very
subtle, which makes it difficult of a new student to dissect and understand. An example of these devices in
one of Shakespeare’s plays can be found in The Merchant of Venice . In warning his daughter, Jessica, to
ignore the Christian revelries in the streets below, Shylock says:
Lock up my doors; and when you hear the drum
And the vile squealing of the wry-necked fife,
Clamber not you up to the casements then… (I, v, ll. 30-32)
The phrase of importance in this quote is “the wry-necked fife.” When a reader examines this phrase it does
not seem to make sense; a fife is a cylinder-shaped instrument, there is no part of it that can be called a neck.
The phrase then must be taken to refer to the fife-player, who has to twist his or her neck to play the fife. Fife,
therefore, is a synecdoche for fife-player, much as boards is for stage. The trouble with understanding this
phrase is that “vile squealing” logically refers to the sound of the fife, not the fife-player, and the reader
might be led to take fife as the instrument because of the parallel reference to “drum” in the previous line.
The best solution to this quandary is that Shakespeare uses the word fife to refer to both the instrument and the
player. Both the player and the instrument are needed to complete the wordplay in this phrase, which, though
difficult to understand to new readers, cannot be seen as a flaw since Shakespeare manages to convey two
meanings with one word. This remarkable example of synecdoche illuminates Shakespeare’s mastery of
“verbal economy.”
Shakespeare also uses vivid and imagistic wordplay through personification, in which human capacities and
behaviors are attributed to inanimate objects. Bassanio, in The Merchant of Venice, almost speechless when
Portia promises to marry him and share all her worldly wealth, states “my blood speaks to you in my veins…”
(III, ii, l. 176). How deeply he must feel since even his blood can speak. Similarly, Portia, learning of the
penalty that Antonio must pay for defaulting on his debt, tells Salerio, “There are some shrewd contents in
yond same paper/That steals the color from Bassanio’s cheek” (III, ii, ll. 243-244).
Another important facet of Shakespeare’s rhetorical repertoire is his use of allusion. An allusion is a
reference to another author or to an historical figure or event. Very often Shakespeare alludes to the heroes
and heroines of Ovid’s Metamorphoses. For example, in Cymbeline an entire room is decorated with images
As You Like It: Reading Shakespeare 7
illustrating the stories from this classical work, and the heroine, Imogen, has been reading from this text.
Similarly, in Titus Andronicus characters not only read directly from the Metamorphoses, but a subplot
re-enacts one of the Metamorphoses’s most famous stories, the rape and mutilation of Philomel. Another way
Shakespeare uses allusion is to drop names of mythological, historical and literary figures. In The Taming of
the Shrew, for instance, Petruchio compares Katharina, the woman whom he is courting, to Diana (II, i, l. 55),
the virgin goddess, in order to suggest that Katharina is a man-hater. At times, Shakespeare will allude to
well-known figures without so much as mentioning their names. In Twelfth Night, for example, though the
Duke and Valentine are ostensibly interested in Olivia, a rich countess, Shakespeare asks his audience to
compare the Duke’s emotional turmoil to the plight of Acteon, whom the goddess Diana transforms into a
deer to be hunted and killed by Acteon’s own dogs:
That instant was I turn’d into a hart,
And my desires, like fell and cruel hounds,
E’er since pursue me. […]
But like a cloistress she will veiled walk,
And water once a day her chamber round…. (I, i, l. 20 ff.)
Shakespeare’s use of puns spotlights his exceptional wit. His comedies in particular are loaded with puns,
usually of a sexual nature. Puns work through the ambiguity that results when multiple senses of a word are
evoked; homophones often cause this sort of ambiguity. In Antony and Cleopatra, Enobarbus believes “there
is mettle in death” (I, ii, l. 146), meaning that there is “courage” in death; at the same time, mettle suggests
the homophone metal, referring to swords made of metal causing death. In early editions of Shakespeare’s
work there was no distinction made between the two words. Antony puns on the word “earing,” (I, ii, ll.
112-114) meaning both plowing (as in rooting out weeds) and hearing: he angrily sends away a messenger,
not wishing to hear the message from his wife, Fulvia: “…O then we bring forth weeds,/when our quick minds
lie still, and our ills told us/Is as our earing.” If ill-natured news is planted in one’s “hearing,” it will render
an “earing” (harvest) of ill-natured thoughts. A particularly clever pun, also in Antony and Cleopatra, stands
out after Antony’s troops have fought Octavius’s men in Egypt: “We have beat him to his camp. Run one
before,/And let the queen know of our gests” (IV, viii, ll. 1-2). Here “gests” means deeds (in this case, deeds
of battle); it is also a pun on “guests,” as though Octavius’ slain soldiers were to be guests when buried in
One should note that Elizabethan pronunciation was in several cases different from our own. Thus, modern
readers, especially Americans, will miss out on the many puns based on homophones. The textual notes will
point up many of these “lost” puns, however.
Shakespeare’s sexual innuendoes can be either clever or tedious depending upon the speaker and situation.
The modern reader should recall that sexuality in Shakespeare’s time was far more complex than in ours and
that characters may refer to such things as masturbation and homosexual activity. Textual notes in some
editions will point out these puns but rarely explain them. An example of a sexual pun or innuendo can be
found in The Merchant of Venice when Portia and Nerissa are discussing Portia’s past suitors using innuendo
to tell of their sexual prowess:
I pray thee, overname them, and as thou namest them, I will describe them, and according to
my description level at my affection.
As You Like It: Reading Shakespeare 8
First, there is the Neapolitan prince.
Ay, that’s a colt indeed, for he doth nothing but talk of his horse, and he makes it a great
appropriation to his own good parts that he can shoe him himself. I am much afeard my lady
his mother played false with the smith. (I, ii, ll. 35-45)
The “Neapolitan prince” is given a grade of an inexperienced youth when Portia describes him as a “colt.”
The prince is thought to be inexperienced because he did nothing but “talk of his horse” (a pun for his penis)
and his other great attributes. Portia goes on to say that the prince boasted that he could “shoe him [his horse]
himself,” a possible pun meaning that the prince was very proud that he could masturbate. Finally, Portia
makes an attack upon the prince’s mother, saying that “my lady his mother played false with the smith,” a
pun to say his mother must have committed adultery with a blacksmith to give birth to such a vulgar man
having an obsession with “shoeing his horse.”
It is worth mentioning that Shakespeare gives the reader hints when his characters might be using puns and
innuendoes. In The Merchant of Venice, Portia’s lines are given in prose when she is joking, or engaged in
bawdy conversations. Later on the reader will notice that Portia’s lines are rhymed in poetry, such as when
she is talking in court or to Bassanio. This is Shakespeare’s way of letting the reader know when Portia is
jesting and when she is serious.
Shakespeare’s Dramatic Verse
Finally, the reader will notice that some lines are actually rhymed verse while others are in verse without
rhyme; and much of Shakespeare’s drama is in prose. Shakespeare usually has his lovers speak in the
language of love poetry which uses rhymed couplets. The archetypal example of this comes, of course, from
Romeo and Juliet:
The grey-ey’d morn smiles on the frowning night,
Check’ring the eastern clouds with streaks of light,
And fleckled darkness like a drunkard reels
From forth day’s path and Titan’s fiery wheels.
(II, iii, ll. 1-4)
Here it is ironic that Friar Lawrence should speak these lines since he is not the one in love. He, therefore,
appears buffoonish and out of touch with reality. Shakespeare often has his characters speak in rhymed verse
to let the reader know that the character is acting in jest, and vice-versa.
Perhaps the majority of Shakespeare’s lines are in blank verse, a form of poetry which does not use rhyme
(hence the name blank) but still employs a rhythm native to the English language, iambic pentameter, where
every second syllable in a line of ten syllables receives stress. Consider the following verses from Hamlet, and
note the accents and the lack of end-rhyme:
The síngle ánd pecúliar lífe is bóund
With áll the stréngth and ármor óf the mínd (III, iii, ll. 12-13)
The final syllable of these verses receives stress and is said to have a hard, or “strong,” ending. A soft ending,
also said to be “weak,” receives no stress. In The Tempest, Shakespeare uses a soft ending to shape a verse
that demonstrates through both sound (meter) and sense the capacity of the feminine to propagate:
As You Like It: Reading Shakespeare 9
and thén I lóv’d thee
And shów’d thee áll the quálitíes o’ th’ ísle,
The frésh spríngs, bríne-pits, bárren pláce and fértile. (I, ii, ll. 338-40)
The first and third of these lines here have soft endings.
In general, Shakespeare saves blank verse for his characters of noble birth. Therefore, it is significant when
his lofty characters speak in prose. Prose holds a special place in Shakespeare’s dialogues; he uses it to
represent the speech habits of the common people. Not only do lowly servants and common citizens speak in
prose, but important, lower class figures also use this fun, at times ribald variety of speech. Though
Shakespeare crafts some very ornate lines in verse, his prose can be equally daunting, for some of his
characters may speechify and break into doubletalk in their attempts to show sophistication. A clever instance
of this comes when the Third Citizen in Coriolanus refers to the people’s paradoxical lack of power when
they must elect Coriolanus as their new leader once Coriolanus has orated how he has courageously fought for
them in battle:
We have power in ourselves to do it, but it is a power that we have no power to do; for if he
show us his wounds and tell us his deeds, we are to put our tongues into those wounds and
speak for them; so, if he tell us his noble deeds, we must also tell him our noble acceptance of
them. Ingratitude is monstrous, and for the multitude to be ingrateful were to make a monster
of the multitude, of the which we, being members, should bring ourselves to be monstrous
members. (II, ii, ll. 3-13)
Notice that this passage contains as many metaphors, hideous though they be, as any other passage in
Shakespeare’s dramatic verse.
When reading Shakespeare, paying attention to characters who suddenly break into rhymed verse, or who slip
into prose after speaking in blank verse, will heighten your awareness of a character’s mood and personal
development. For instance, in Antony and Cleopatra, the famous military leader Marcus Antony usually
speaks in blank verse, but also speaks in fits of prose (II, iii, ll. 43-46) once his masculinity and authority have
been questioned. Similarly, in Timon of Athens, after the wealthy lord Timon abandons the city of Athens to
live in a cave, he harangues anyone whom he encounters in prose (IV, iii, l. 331 ff.). In contrast, the reader
should wonder why the bestial Caliban in The Tempest speaks in blank verse rather than in prose.
Implied Stage Action
When we read a Shakespearean play, we are reading a performance text. Actors interact through dialogue, but
at the same time these actors cry, gesticulate, throw tantrums, pick up daggers, and compulsively wash
murderous “blood” from their hands. Some of the action that takes place on stage is explicitly stated in stage
directions. However, some of the stage activity is couched within the dialogue itself. Attentiveness to these
cues is important as one conceives how to visualize the action. When Iago in Othello feigns concern for
Cassio whom he himself has stabbed, he calls to the surrounding men, “Come, come:/Lend me a light” (V, i,
ll. 86-87). It is almost sure that one of the actors involved will bring him a torch or lantern. In the same play,
Emilia, Desdemona’s maidservant, asks if she should fetch her lady’s nightgown and Desdemona replies,
“No, unpin me here” (IV, iii, l. 37). In Macbeth, after killing Duncan, Macbeth brings the murder weapon
back with him. When he tells his wife that he cannot return to the scene and place the daggers to suggest that
the king’s guards murdered Duncan, she castigates him: “Infirm of purpose/Give me the daggers. The
sleeping and the dead are but as pictures” (II, ii, ll. 50-52). As she exits, it is easy to visualize Lady Macbeth
grabbing the daggers from her husband.
For 400 years, readers have found it greatly satisfying to work with all aspects of Shakespeare’s
language—the implied stage action, word choice, sentence structure, and wordplay—until all aspects come to
As You Like It: Reading Shakespeare 10
life. Just as seeing a fine performance of a Shakespearean play is exciting, staging the play in one’s own
mind’s eye, and revisiting lines to enrich the sense of the action, will enhance one’s appreciation of
Shakespeare’s extraordinary literary and dramatic achievements.
As You Like It: William Shakespeare Biography
The details of William Shakespeare's life are sketchy, mostly mere surmise based upon court or other clerical
records. His parents, John and Mary (Arden), were married about 1557; she was of the landed gentry, and he
was a yeoman—a glover and commodities merchant. By 1568, John had risen through the ranks of town
government and held the position of high bailiff, which was a position similar to mayor. William, the eldest
son and the third of eight children, was born in 1564, probably on April 23, several days before his baptism on
April 26 in Stratford-upon-Avon. Shakespeare is also believed to have died on the same date—April 23—in
It is believed that William attended the local grammar school in Stratford where his parents lived, and that he
studied primarily Latin, rhetoric, logic, and literature. Shakespeare probably left school at age 15, which was
the norm, to take a job, especially since this was the period of his father's financial difficulty. At age 18
(1582), William married Anne Hathaway, a local farmer's daughter who was eight years his senior. Their first
daughter (Susanna) was born six months later (1583), and twins Judith and Hamnet were born in 1585.
Shakespeare's life can be divided into three periods: the first 20 years in Stratford, which include his
schooling, early marriage, and fatherhood; the next 25 years as an actor and playwright in London; and the
last five in retirement in Stratford where he enjoyed moderate wealth gained from his theatrical successes. The
years linking the first two periods are marked by a lack of information about Shakespeare, and are often
referred to as the "dark years."
At some point during the "dark years," Shakespeare began his career with a London theatrical company,
perhaps in 1589, for he was already an actor and playwright of some note by 1592. Shakespeare apparently
wrote and acted for numerous theatrical companies, including Pembroke's Men, and Strange's Men, which
later became the Chamberlain's Men, with whom he remained for the rest of his career.
In 1592, the Plague closed the theaters for about two years, and Shakespeare turned to writing book-length
narrative poetry. Most notable were Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece, both of which were
dedicated to the Earl of Southampton, whom scholars accept as Shakespeare's friend and benefactor despite a
lack of documentation. During this same period, Shakespeare was writing his sonnets, which are more likely
signs of the time's fashion rather than actual love poems detailing any particular relationship. He returned to
playwriting when theaters reopened in 1594, and did not continue to write poetry. His sonnets were published
without his consent in 1609, shortly before his retirement.
Amid all of his success, Shakespeare suffered the loss of his only son, Hamnet, who died in 1596 at the age of
11. But Shakespeare's career continued unabated, and in London in 1599, he became one of the partners in the
new Globe Theater, which was built by the Chamberlain's Men.
Shakespeare wrote very little after 1612, which was the year he completed Henry VIII. It was during a
performance of this play in 1613 that the Globe caught fire and burned to the ground. Sometime between 1610
and 1613, Shakespeare returned to Stratford, where he owned a large house and property, to spend his
remaining years with his family.
William Shakespeare died on April 23, 1616, and was buried two days later in the chancel of Holy Trinity
Church, where he had been baptized exactly 52 years earlier. His literary legacy included 37 plays, 154
As You Like It: William Shakespeare Biography 11
sonnets, and five major poems.
Incredibly, most of Shakespeare's plays had never been published in anything except pamphlet form and were
simply extant as acting scripts stored at the Globe. Theater scripts were not regarded as literary works of art,
but only the basis for the performance. Plays were simply a popular form of entertainment for all layers of
society in Shakespeare's time. Only the efforts of two of Shakespeare's company, John Heminges and Henry
Condell, preserved his 36 plays (minus Pericles, the thirty-seventh).
As You Like It: Summary
Orlando, youngest son of the late Sir Rowland de Boys, complains to Adam, an elderly family servant, that
his brother Oliver has unfairly withheld his late father's inheritance and prevented him from being educated as
a gentleman. Oliver enters and a heated argument ensues. When Oliver learns that his brother plans to
challenge Charles, Duke Frederick's hulking wrestler, he plots with Charles to break his brother's neck during
the match.
The next day Duke Frederick, his daughter Celia, and his niece Rosalind witness the competition. Charles has
subdued his first three opponents, but Orlando manages to defeat his adversary. Duke Frederick is infuriated
when he learns the identity of Orlando's father, in life his bitter enemy, but Rosalind is captivated by Orlando
and gives him a chain from her neck as a reward for his victory. Orlando is immediately taken by her charm,
yet he finds himself speechless to thank her.
Rosalind, daughter of the banished Duke Senior whom Frederick has usurped, tells Celia that she has fallen in
love with Orlando. Duke Frederick has allowed Rosalind to remain at court because of her friendship with his
daughter, but now he banishes her, despite Celia's pleas to allow her to remain. Rosalind and Celia make plans
to join Rosalind's father in the Forest of Arden. They decide to travel in disguise, Rosalind as Ganymede, a
young man, and Celia as Aliena, a peasant girl. Touchstone, Duke Frederick's court jester, agrees to
accompany them.
Duke Frederick is enraged when he learns that his daughter and Rosalind have fled. He believes Orlando is
with them and plans a search party, led by Oliver, to find them. Orlando, meanwhile, has learned from Adam
that Oliver is plotting to have him killed, and they make plans to leave the court for the countryside.
Rosalind and Celia, now in disguise, arrive in the Forest of Arden along with Touchstone. There they overhear
a young shepherd, Silvius, tell an old Shepherd, Corin, of his love for Phebe, a shepherdess who has spurned
his affections. Orlando and Adam, in the meantime, have arrived in another part of the forest. Adam becomes
weak with hunger, and Orlando sets out in search of food. He soon discovers the banished Duke Senior and
his court and confronts them with his sword drawn. Duke Senior greets him with kindness, however, and
invites him to share in his feast. Orlando agrees and leaves to bring Adam to safety.
Obsessed by his love for Rosalind, Orlando writes poems about her and hangs them on trees. Rosalind
discovers the poems and is critical of their literary merit, but when she learns they are by Orlando, she has a
change of heart. She meets Orlando, who does not recognize her in her male disguise, and offers to cure him
of his lovesickness if he will court her as if she were Rosalind. Touchstone, in the meantime, has begun
courting Audrey, a goatherd, and Silvius has continued to pursue the shepherdess he loves. Phebe, however,
has fallen in love with Rosalind in her Ganymede disguise.
Orlando meets with Rosalind and tells her how he would charm and win his beloved. Oliver arrives in the
forest soon afterward and tells Rosalind and Celia that Orlando, unaware of Oliver's identity, had rescued him
from a lioness while he slept beneath a tree. He tells them he is Orlando's brother and that he and Orlando
As You Like It: Summary 12
have reconciled. When he reveals that Orlando was wounded by the lioness, Rosalind faints.
Oliver confesses to Orlando that he has fallen in love with Celia. Orlando tells Rosalind that his brother's
marriage is to take place the next day and wishes he could marry his own beloved. Rosalind, still in disguise,
tells him that through "magic" she will make her appear. She also pledges to help Silvius and Phebe.
Touchstone tells Audrey that they, too, will be married on the morrow.
The next day, Rosalind reveals her true identity; and she and Orlando, Oliver and Celia, and Silvius and Phebe
are married before the banished Duke. Jaques de Boys, the middle son of Sir Rowland, brings the news that
Duke Frederick has met an old religious hermit and has decided to forsake the world and restore his brother's
dukedom. The newly united couples dance, and Rosalind speaks the epilogue.
Estimated Reading Time
This play should take the average student about five hours to read. It will be helpful to divide your reading
time into five one hour sittings for each of the play's five acts. Shakespeare's language can be difficult for
students who are unfamiliar with it, so each act should be read carefully on a scene by scene basis to ensure
As You Like It: List of Characters
Duke Senior—An exiled Duke, living in banishment in the Forest of Arden.
Duke Frederick—Duke Senior's brother; usurper of his dukedom.
Amiens—A courtier and singer who attends Duke Senior in exile.
First and Second Lords—Courtiers who attend Duke Senior in exile.
Jaques—A melancholy philosopher who resides with the exiled Duke Senior in the Forest of Arden.
Le Beau—A foppish courtier attending Duke Frederick.
Charles—A wrestler at the court of Duke Frederick.
Oliver—Eldest son of the late Sir Rowland de Boys and heir to his fathers estate.
Jaques de Boys—The middle son of the late Sir Rowland de Boys.
Orlando—Youngestson of the late Sir Rowland de Boys who falls in love with Rosalind.
Adam—A loyal, elderly servant in the household of the late Sir Rowland de Boys who accompanies Orlando to
the Forest of Arden.
Dennis—Another servant in the household of the late Sir Rowland de Boys.
Touchstone—A clown at the court of Duke Frederick who accompanies Rosalind and Celia into exile.
Sir Oliver Martext—A clergyman.
Corin—An old shepherd who lives near the Forest of Arden. Silvius-A young, lovelorn shepherd.
As You Like It: List of Characters 13
William—A simpleminded young man.
Hymen—The god of marriage.
Rosalind—Daughter of the banished Duke Senior who falls in love with Orlando.
Celia—Rosalind's loyal friend and daughter of Duke Frederick.
Phebe—A shepherdess.
Audrey—A country wench.
As You Like It: Historical Background
As You Like It was probably written in 1599 or 1600, at the midway point of Shakespeare's career as a
playwright. His principal source for the play was Thomas Lodge's pastoral romance, Rosalynde. Lodge's
novel, published in 1590, was in turn adapted from The Tale of Gamelyn, a 14th-century narrative poem.
Shakespeare rewrote the story even further; he introduced new themes and created a number of new characters
including Jaques, Touchstone, William, and Audrey. He also gave his characters far more depth and
dimension than they had in Lodge's novel and added humor to the storyline.
Pastoral romance-a romantic story that takes place in a rural of forest setting-was a popular category of
literature and drama in Shakespeare's time. Love stories of innocent shepherds and shepherdesses and tales of
woodland adventure were then in vogue. Shakespeare, a practical man of the theatre, created a play that he
knew would appeal to his audience. The wrestling scene and the clowning of the rustic shepherds would have
captured the attention of the groundlings, while the sophisticated wordplay would have impressed educated
playgoers in the galleries. George Bernard Shaw felt that Shakespeare, in calling the play As You Like It; was
commenting disparagingly on standards of contemporary theatrical taste. Yet it seems unlikely that
Shakespeare had purely commercial considerations in mind when he wrote this play, for As You Like It does
not adhere strictly to the conventions of pastoral romance. It satirizes them as well. The Forest of Arden is in
many ways an idealized, fairy tale setting for the play, but it is also a place where "winter and rough weather"
present hardships and wild beasts lurk as a threat. Shaw may have been correct, however, in his observation
that Shakespeare was losing interest in crowdpleasing comedies. Soon after he wrote As You Like It,
Shakespeare abandoned comedy and turned to the composition of his major tragedies.
According to theatrical legend, Shakespeare-an actor as well as a playwright-played the old servant, Adam,
when the play was presented by the Lord Chamberlain's Men (later the King's Men), the acting company of
which he was a member. We have evidence that suggests this play was performed before King James I in
1603. In all likelihood it remained in the repertory of Shakespeare's company for a number of years after it
was written.
As You Like It, although neglected in performance for more than a century after Shakespeare's death in 1616,
has been a popular play on the stage ever since. It was revived in England for the first time in 1723 in an
adaptation called Love In A Forest. This version of the play interpolated passages from other Shakespearean
dramas and comedies, notably A Midsummer Night's Dream. Shakespeare's original was restored to the
theatre seventeen years later. In the 19th century As you Like It was staged by a number of eminent English
actor-managers including Charles Kean and William Charles Macready. In late nineteenth century America,
especially, the play became a favorite with audiences. Rosalind found noteworthy interpreters in Helena
Modjeska, Mary Anderson, Ada Rehan, and Julia Marlowe.
As You Like It: Historical Background 14
More recently, the role of Rosalind has attracted a number of leading actresses including Peggy Ashcroft,
Katharine Hepburn, and Vanessa Redgrave. In 1967, the National Theatre of Great Britain staged an all-male
production of the play, and in 1991 England's experimental Cheek By Jowl company mounted a similar
production. Thus, modern audiences were introduced to a theatrical convention of Shakespeare's time, when
young men played all the women's roles. Both productions were well received by audiences and critics and
subsequently toured the United States. Also noteworthy is the Renaissance Theatre Company's 1988
Edwardian dress production in London with Kenneth Branagh as Touchstone. Today, when there are more
than three hundred Shakespeare festivals worldwide, As You Like It remains one of the Bard's most well-loved
and frequently produced comedies.
As You Like It: Summary and Analysis
Act I, Scene 1
New Characters
Orlando: youngest son of the late Sir Rowland de Boys
Adam: an elderly servant in the household of the late Rowland de Boys
Dennis: another servant in the household
Oliver: eldest son of the late Sir Rowland de Boys and inheritor of his father's estate
Charles: Duke Frederick's wrestler
Scene 1, set in the orchard of the de Boys family, begins with the entrance of Orlando de Boys and Adam, an
elderly servant. Orlando complains to Adam that his late father had bequeathed him a thousand crowns and
requested that his oldest brother Oliver provide for his education as a gentleman. Although Oliver has kept the
second brother of the family at school, he has treated his youngest brother no better than one of his horses or
oxen and has refused to honor his father's will.
Oliver enters and a violent quarrel ensues as Orlando confronts his brother with his resentment. Oliver strikes
Orlando, but Orlando puts a wrestler's grip on his brother and subdues him. Adam parts the brothers and
Orlando asks for his rightful inheritance. Oliver dismisses them harshly. After Orlando and Adam leave,
Dennis, a servant, enters and tells Oliver that Charles, Duke Frederick's wrestler, has come to speak with him.
Charles brings the news that the old Duke Senior has been banished by his younger brother, Duke Frederick,
who has usurped his title and lands. The old Duke and his lords have gone into exile in the nearby Forest of
Arden where they are living like Robin Hood and his Merry Men. Rosalind, the old Duke's daughter, has been
allowed to remain at court as the result of her friendship with Celia, Duke Frederick's daughter.
Charles tells Oliver that he plans to wrestle the next day before Duke Frederick and has learned that Orlando
plans to challenge him. He urges Oliver to tell Orlando to withdraw from the match to avoid bodily harm.
Oliver assures Charles that his brother is "a secret and villainous contriver" against his "natural brother" and
tells him "I had as lief thou didst break his neck as his finger" during the match. He warns Charles that
Orlando might resort to treachery to defeat him. After Charles exits, Oliver confesses that he hates and envies
Orlando and hopes the match will bring "an end" to his brother.
In Medieval and Renaissance Europe, a system existed known as primogeniture. The land, money, and goods
As You Like It: Summary and Analysis 15
owned by a family often passed by law or by sanctioned custom into the hands of the family's eldest son, to
the exclusion of other family members. Thus, Oliver would not have been legally bound (or bound by the
customs of the time) to honor the terms of his father's bequests to Orlando. He had a moral obligation, of
course, but chose to ignore it.
By establishing Orlando immediately as a young man who has been wronged, Shakespeare engages our
sympathy for this character. Even his brother later confesses that he's "gentle ...full of noble device, of all
sorts enchantingly beloved." Oliver, on the other hand, is established as an unjust and treacherous character
who has deliberately ignored his late father's bequest of money and his wish that he provide for Orlando's
education as a gentleman. We also learn that he is willing to resort to dishonest means to see his brother out of
the way.
The relationship between Oliver and Orlando is paralleled by the relationship between Duke Frederick and the
deposed Duke Senior. In both instances, a brother has been treated unfairly. There is one noteworthy
difference, however. Duke Senior is the elder brother and rightful heir to the dukedom. Duke Frederick's
usurpation is both immoral and unlawful.
When we learn that Duke Senior and his court-in-exile "fleet the time carelessly as they did in the golden
world" we are introduced to one of the play's many themes: the issue of city life versus country life. The
court-and the de Boys household-are characterized by animosity and malice, whereas Duke Senior's pastoral
existence is the Forest of Arden is idealized.
Act I, Scenes 2 and 3
New Characters
Rosalind: daughter of the exiled Duke Senior
Celia: daughter of Duke Frederick and Rosalind's loyal friend
Touchstone: Duke Frederick's court jester
Le Beau: a foppish courtier
Duke Frederick: usurper of his brother's dukedom; Celia's father and Rosalind's uncle
The next day, Rosalind, daughter of the banished Duke Senior, and Celia, Duke Frederick's daughter, are
encountered at Duke Frederick's palace. Celia urges her cousin to "be merry," but Rosalind is still upset by her
father's banishment. Celia attempts to cheer her up by pledging her friendship and affection. Rosalind agrees
to be joyful for her sake, and to "devise sports." She asks Celia what she would think of falling in love, to
which Celia replies that love is best treated as a "sport" rather than in earnest. The young women banter
lightheartedly about the caprices of "fortune" and "nature." Touchstone, Duke Frederick's court jester, arrives
on the scene. He engages in witty chatter and tells Celia that her father has summoned her. Le Beau, one of
Duke Frederick's courtiers, enters and informs Rosalind and Celia that the wrestling matches are underway.
Charles has defeated his first three challengers, doing bodily harm in the process.
Duke Frederick and his court, along with Orlando and Charles, arrive for the next match. Duke Frederick is
worried for Orlando's safety and urges his daughter and niece to dissuade him from competing. Their attempts
are met by Orlando's firm declaration that "If killed...I shall do my friends no wrong for I have none to lament
me; the world no injury; for in it I have nothing." The match begins and Rosalind and Celia cheer for Orlando.
Act I, Scene 1 16
Then, to the astonishment to the onlookers, Orlando throws his opponent. Duke Frederick orders the match to
a halt. Orlando wants to continue, but Charles is vanquished and is carried off.
Duke Frederick inquires of the victor's name, but when he learns that Orlando is the son of the late Sir
Rowland de Boys, an ally of the banished Duke, his manner becomes harsh. "I would thou hadst been son to
some man else," he remarks. Although the world esteemed Sir Rowland as honorable, Frederick considered
him an enemy. He exits with his court. Rosalind and Celia remain.
Orlando proclaims that he is proud to have been Sir Rowland's son and Rosalind comments that her father
"lov'd Sir Rowland as his soul." She gives Orlando a chain from around her neck, but Orlando, who has fallen
in love at first sight, is speechless and unable to thank her. Rosalind and Celia exit and Le Beau warns
Orlando that the Duke is furious at his victory. He advises him to "leave this place" and also tells him that the
Duke has recently "ta'en displeasure 'gainst his gentle niece" since the people "praise her for her virtues" and
"pity her for her father's sake." Le Beau exits and Orlando, alone, notes that he must now go from facing "a
tyrant Duke" to facing a "tyrant brother." Yet at the same time he has something to cheer his spirits: "heavenly
In Scene 3, also set at Duke Frederick's palace, Rosalind confesses to Celia that she has fallen in love with
Orlando. Their conversation grinds to a halt, however, when Duke Frederick enters "with his eyes full of
anger" and banishes Rosalind from the court. When Rosalind asks for an explanation she is told, "Thou art thy
father's daughter, there's enough." Celia pleads with her father for Rosalind to remain, but the Duke refuses.
Celia tells him that if Rosalind is banished she will go as well. Duke Frederick calls her a fool and exits.
Celia suggests that they join Rosalind's father in the Forest of Arden. Rosalind protests that the journey will be
dangerous for young women: "Beauty provoketh thieves sooner than gold." Celia proposes that they travel in
disguise and resolves to dress in peasant attire and call herself Aliena. Rosalind, the taller of the pair, decides
to dress as a young man and call herself Ganymede. They make plans to lure Touchstone along for the journey
to divert them. They exit to pack their "jewels" and "wealth" and view their flight from the court as a journey
"to liberty, and not to banishment."
The loyal friendship between Rosalind and Celia contrasts sharply with the antagonistic relationship between
their fathers and that of Orlando and Oliver. Earlier, we have been told that they were "ever from their cradles
bred together" and that "never two ladies loved as they do." Now we see their relationship firsthand. This
continues a pattern of hearing about a relationship before it is shown on stage. In the first scene, for example,
we heard of Oliver's unjust treatment of Orlando, then Oliver entered and confirmed his account. We already
know that Duke Senior and his court are living in the forest of Arden like Robin Hood and his Merry Men;
later we will see them doing just that.
Early in the second scene, Shakespeare introduces two additional themes: fortune and nature. Rosalind and
Celia engage in witty wordplay in their discussion of these elements. Celia comments that: fortune's gifts are
not bestowed equally and Rosalind adds that the "goddess" fortune is, by tradition, blind. As we have seen,
even those who are gifted by nature can suffer the caprices of fortune. Orlando, for example, is noble by
nature, yet fortune has deprived him of his father's bequests. These thematic motifs will recur many times in
the play. Later in this scene, for example, Rosalind, after giving Orlando her chain, describes herself as "one
out of suits with fortune." This scene also introduces the theme of love, which will be explored in many of its
aspects. In the opening exchange between Celia, and Rosalind, the platonic love among cousins is contrasted
with romantic love. Celia advises Rosalind to view romance as a "sport" but not in earnest. By the end of the
scene, however, Rosalind will have fallen in love with Orlando. We also learn that Rosalind's father had loved
Orlando's father "with all his soul."
Act I, Scenes 2 and 3 17
The characters of Touchstone and Le Beau serve particular functions in As You Like It. Touchstone, a witty
court fool, impudent, wise, shrewd, and verbally dextrous, has a special license to speak his mind freely. He
comments on the action with subtle irony. When Rosalind and Celia are summoned to the wrestling match
after Charles has injured three opponents, for instance, he remarks wryly that "It is the first time that ever I
heard breaking of ribs was sport for ladies." In Shakespeare's time, a "touchstone" was the stone on which
precious metals were rubbed to test their genuineness. The character of Touchstone similarly exposes the
inner natures of those he meets. Le Beau, on the other hand, is revealed through his pompous speech and
dandified dress as a character who is affected rather than "natural." He represents the formality of the court as
opposed to the freer, more spontaneous life many of the characters will encounter in the Forest of Arden.
In Scene 3, we learn that Rosalind's thoughts have now turned, in part, from her father to the future and her
"child's father." As in the previous scene, Shakespeare uses clever wordplay that builds on a wrestling
analogy: Celia urges Rosalind to "wrestle with her affections" and comments on her sudden "fall" into "so
strong a liking" for Orlando.
Duke Frederick further reveals his villainous nature when he forces Rosalind into banishment as he had earlier
banished her father. Celia demonstrates her loyalty to her cousin by resolving to accompany her. Their
decision to travel in disguise has a practical purpose, for as Rosalind comments, it is dangerous for women to
venture forth alone in the countryside. Her determination to travel in a man's apparel as Ganymede will help
to assure their safety.
In classical mythology, Ganymede, a beautiful Trojan youth who was seized and carried to Mount Olympus
by Zeus' eagle, was the cup bearer of the gods. By tradition, he was beloved by Zeus, the king of the gods
(also known as Jupiter and Jove). When Rosalind declares, "I'll have no worse a name than Jove's own page,"
many in Shakespeare's audience would have known that this myth, with its connotations of same sex romantic
love, would underscore the comic action of the play. This reference also foreshadows the appearance of a
mythological god in the final scene.
Rosalind's new identity will also serve a purely dramatic purpose. Disguise was an essential convention of
Elizabethan drama and Shakespeare's plays in particular. This device will later prove to be an important
element of the plot. Many of the complications in the acts that follow will result from other characters
believing that Rosalind is a young man. Thus, the audience (or the reader) is in on a secret that many
characters in the play will not know.
With Celia's declaration in the concluding line that the young women are going "to liberty, and not to
banishment," Shakespeare again contrasts city life and pastoral life. The court, as we have seen, is a place of
tyranny and corruption, yet the Forest of Arden, although not without its perils, will be revealed mainly as an
idyllic green world of harmony and understanding.
Act II, Scene 1
New Characters
Duke Senior: an exiled duke, living in banishment in the Forest of Arden; Rosalind's father and Celia's uncle
Amiens: a courtier and singer who attends Duke Senior
First and Second Lords: courtiers who attend Duke Senior in exile
Scene 1 takes place in the Forest Arden. Duke Senior tells his "co-mates and brothers in exile" that he finds
Act II, Scene 1 18
life in the forest "more sweet" and "free from peril" than life at "the envious court," despite the inconvenience
of cold and winter winds. Amiens, one. of the Duke's courtiers, agrees, noting that the Duke has turned the
misfortune of his banishment into a happy life in the forest. Duke Senior proposes that he and his courtiers
embark on a deer hunt, although he regrets having to kill deer "in their own confines." The First Lord replies
that Jaques, another courtier, also feels remorse at having to kill animals for food. That day, Jaques had come
upon a deer wounded by a hunter. This sight had moved him to tears and philosophical reflection. He had
observed cynically that Duke Senior and his courtiers were usurpers and tyrants themselves for frightening
and killing the animals in the forest. Duke Senior asks to be taken to the place where Jaques has remained,
"weeping and commenting" upon the fallen deer, for he enjoys encountering Jaques when he is in one of his
melancholy moods.
In Scene 1, we learn that Duke Senior, although banished from his dukedom and lands, has made the most of
his misfortune. Duke Senior's comments on his existence in the Forest of Arden are yet another paean to the
pastoral life. Here, we see a far more relaxed atmosphere than we have seen at court. We are in the presence
of a new social order. Duke Senior and his court-in-exile have cast aside what is "painted" and "envious." We
are also greeted by images of bountiful nature: in the forest, Duke Senior remarks, one can find "tongues in
trees, books in the running brooks,/ Sermons in stones, and good in everything." Yet life in the forest, as we
learn in Duke Senior's opening speech, also has its hazards, particularly the "icy fang" of the winter wind.
Duke Senior is optimistic by nature, however, and he seems undiscouraged by the hardships he and his court
have endured. When he mentions that "Here feel we not the penalty of Adam," he is comparing life in the
Forest of Arden to man's idyllic existence in the Garden of Eden.
Our introduction to Jaques (pronounced "jay-kweez") continues the pattern of hearing about many of the
principal characters before they appear in the play. We learn that Jaques, like Duke Senior, has qualms about
killing deer for food. His reaction to this element of life in the forest: is much more extreme than the Duke's.
Encountering a deer wounded by a hunter's arrow has provoked one of his philosophical moods. Jaques's
ironic observation that Duke Senior and his courtiers have usurped the rightful domain of the animals, just as
Duke Frederick has usurped his brother's dukedom, has some validity. His pronouncements are reminders that
the forest, like the court, is also home to pain and suffering.
Unlike the court, however, this society is a place where diverse types coexist in harmony. It is permissive
haven for a misanthrope such as Jaques. Yet it is apparent that Duke Senior, while enjoying Jaques' company
and savoring the entertainment he provides, does not take his philosophy seriously. As he remarks, "I love to
cope him in these sullen fits, For then he's full of matter."
Act II, Scenes 2 and 3
In Scene 2, set at Duke Frederick's palace, Duke Frederick reveals his anger when he learns that Rosalind,
Celia, and Touchstone are missing. A courtier tells him that Orlando is believed to be in their company. Duke
Frederick orders Orlando to be summoned immediately, or for Oliver to be brought should Orlando be
missing. If Orlando is gone, the Duke will make Oliver find his brother.
Scene 3 takes place at Oliver's house. Adam, in a state of agitation, warns Orlando that he is in mortal danger
if he remains at home. Oliver has learned of Orlando's victory in the wrestling match, and he plans to burn
Orlando's lodgings that very night while Orlando is sleeping. If that fails, Oliver will resort to other
treacherous means to kill his brother. Orlando is uncertain as to where he might go, but Adam tells him that
any place is better than remaining at home. Orlando protests that with no money of his own, his only options
would be to "beg for food" or to make "a thievish living on the common road." Adam tells Orlando that he has
Act II, Scenes 2 and 3 19
saved five hundred crowns during his years of service to Orlando's late father, which he had set aside for his
old age. He offers Orlando the money and begs to accompany him wherever he goes. Orlando, moved by
Adam's loyalty, invites him to share his journey into exile.
These brief scenes contrast the villainy of Duke Frederick and Oliver with the noble natures of Adam and
Orlando. Adam is in many ways a model of virtue. From the age of seventeen "till now almost fourscore" he
has served Sir Rowland de Boys and his household faithfully. He has managed to save five hundred crowns
by leading an exemplary life. In his youth he avoided "hot and rebellious liquors" and other vices. Orlando
comments admiringly that Adam is "not for the fashion of these times" allusion to the corruption of the
court. Yet we can see that Orlando, too, is virtuous. The idea of earning his living as a beggar or a thief is so
repugnant to him that he is willing to risk remaining at home. Here again, we see the theme of fortune when
Adam tells Orlando at the end of Scene 3, "Yet fortune cannot recompense me better/Than to die well and not
my master's debtor."
Act II, Scene 4
New Characters
Corin: an old shepherd who dwells near the Forest of Arden
Silvius: a young shepherd who is in love with Phebe, a shepherdess
Rosalind and Celia, now disguised as Ganymede, a young man, and Aliena, a peasant girl, arrive in the Forest
of Arden along with Touchstone. All three are weary in body and spirit after their long journey. As they rest,
Corin, an old shepherd, and Silvius, a young shepherd, enter. Rosalind, Celia, and Touchstone overhear their
conversation. Silvius sighs that he is hopelessly in love with Phebe, a disdainful shepherdess who has spurned
his affections. Corin offers his advice. He assures Silvius that in his younger years, he, too, had been driven to
madness by love. However Silvius refuses to believe that anyone could love as he does. He remarks that if
Corin has never "broke from company/Abruptly as my passion now makes me," he has never experienced
love. Distraught, and true to his word, he runs off, calling Phebe's name. After he exits, Rosalind is reminded
of her longing for Orlando, and Touchstone recalls one of his own youthful romantic adventures.
Celia, famished, asks Touchstone to inquire if Corin can provide them with food. Corin tells the visitors from
the court that he is merely the hired shepherd of an uncharitable landowner and cannot grant their request. He
adds, however, that the cottage, land, and sheep owned by the man whose herd he tends are for sale. Silvius is
the intended buyer, but at present he is so obsessed by his love for Phebe that he "cares little for buying
anything." Rosalind tells Corin to purchase the flock and property for her, and she promises to retain Corin as
shepherd and raise his wages.
Early in this scene, Rosalind proclaims: "Well, this is the Forest of Arden." This announcement would have
served a practical purpose for Shakespeare's audience. The theatre of Shakespeare's time featured little or no
scenery-a single tree may have sufficed for the entire forest. Thus, Rosalind's comment would have
established the locale.
Rosalind and Celia have now adopted their disguises, in which they will remain until the last scene of the
play. Rosalind comments early in this scene on the disparity between her outward appearance and her inner
feelings: "I could find in my heart to disgrace my man's apparel and to cry like a woman." In Shakespeare's
time, the role of Rosalind was portrayed by a young man. Elizabethan audiences would have appreciated the
Act II, Scene 4 20
irony of a young man playing a young woman disguised as a man.
The young, lovelorn shepherd was one of the conventions of pastoral romance. Here we see a romantic
infatuation similar to that felt by Rosalind and Orlando, yet Silvius' yearning for Phebe is more comically
extravagant. He talks about sighs "upon a midnight pillow," and he refuses to believe that anyone could ever
have felt the same passion he does. Even so, Rosalind is moved by his declarations of love. She is reminded of
her own romantic misfortune the circumstances of her banishment have kept her away from Orlando.
Touchstone responds to Silvius in a different manner entirely. His fanciful account of his courtship of Jane
Smile satirizes Silvius' lamentations about the ridiculous actions his love for Phebe have caused him to
commit. He was once so much in love, he comments, that he kissed the cows' udders the hands of his beloved
had milked. His tale of giving his love two pea pods with the. instruction, "wear these for my sake," also
parodies Rosalind's gift of a chain to Orlando in the wrestling scene and her request to "Wear this for me."
When Touchstone remarks, "When I was at home, I was in a better place," he wryly argues for the superiority
of court life to country life. Again, we are reminded that. the life in the forest is perhaps not the ideal paradise
of pastoral romance. (Note, also, that Corin's master is of "churlish disposition" and is unlikely "to find the
way to heaven" by his deeds.) The long journey to the Forest of Arden and removal from the comforts of
home have disillusioned Touchstone, but he pragmatically resigns himself to his fate: "travellers must be
content." He promptly seeks to content himself by asserting his authority over one whom he considers his
inferior. When he hails Corin in an officious manner and tells him he is being addressed by his "betters," we
see further evidence of a new social order. Touchstone, formerly the royal fool, will now assume the role of a
sophisticated courtier when he is in the company of shepherds.
Act II, Scene 5
New Character
Jacques: a melancholy philosopher who resides with Duke Senior in the Forest of Arden
This scene is set in a clearing in the Forest Arden. Ainiens, one of Duke Senior's courtiers, sings a ballad that
celebrates the pastoral life. When Amiens concludes his song, Jaques asks for more. Arniens protests that the
music will make Jaques melancholy, but Jaques retorts, "I can suck melancholy out of a song as a weasel
sucks eggs. More, I prithee, more/ " Jaques persists, and finally Amiens agrees to sing another verse. Amiens
tells Jaques that Duke Senior has been looking for him, but Jaques replies that he has been deliberately
avoiding the Duke. Amiens sings another stanza, and this time his fellow courtiers join in. In the forest, the
song concludes, one will find "no enemy/ But winter and rough weather." Jaques promptly invents a verse of
his own that satirizes the idealism of Amiens' lyrics: "If it do come to pass/ That: any man turn ass,/ Leaving
his wealth and ease/ A stubborn will to please... Here shall he see gross fools as he." Jaques tells Amiens that
he is leaving "to go to sleep, if I can." Amiens tells him that he will go to seek the Duke, whose banquet has
been prepared.
The song that begins this scene is the first of five songs in the play. Its lyrics, with their images of nature,
idealize the pastoral life. Again, we are greeted by a reference to the hazards of "winter and rough weather."
Yet the declaration, that it is the only "enemy" one might find in the forest, is another reminder that we are a
long way from the envious court.
In this scene, we meet Jaques for the first time. He is a multifaceted character. In Shakespeare's time, he was
what was known as a "humors" character. It was common belief at the time that a person's temperament was
governed by four "humors," or bodily fluids: blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm. An overabundance of
Act II, Scene 5 21
black bile produced melancholy-note that this character is referred to at times as "the melancholy Jaques." Yet
melancholy is only one of his moods. In the previous scene, we learned that Jaques had become sentimental
and philosophical after discovering the wounded deer. Now we see a more cynical side to his nature.
Like Touchstone, Jaques sees the disadvantages of the pastoral life. Earlier, Touchstone has commented, "now
am I in Arden, the more fool, I." In this scene, we hear Jaques saying much the same thing. A man is an ass,
he comments, to leave his "wealth and ease" to please his stubborn will in the forest. By nature, he is an
argumentative malcontent, eager to take the opposing view to whatever sentiments are expressed by those
around him. His satirical parody of Amien' song typifies his cynicism and contrasts sharply with the idealism
of Duke Senior and his court-in-exile.
Act II, Scenes 6 and 7
In another part of the forest, we encounter Adam and Orlando. Adam tells Orlando that he is famished, can
journey no further, and is ready to die. Orlando comforts him and promises to bring him to shelter; he will
then venture forth in search of food.
In Scene 7, Duke Senior, preparing for his banquet, inquires as to Jaques' whereabouts. Jaques enters
immediately afterward. He is in an ebullient mood, having met Touchstone: "A fool, a fool/ I met a fool i' the
forest." Touchstone, Jaques recounts, had "railed on Lady Fortune in good terms." When Jaques greeted him
with "Good morrow, fool," Touchstone replied wittily, "Call me not fool till heaven hath sent me fortune."
Touchstone then drew a sundial from his pocket and used it to illustrate his philosophy. At ten o'clock, it is an
hour after nine and an hour before eleven; thus, "from hour to hour, we ripe and ripe/ And then from hour to
hour, we rot and rot;/ And thereby hangs a tale."
Jaques claims he was so delighted by Touchstone's comments that he laughed an hour by his dial. He
expresses the desire that he, too, might be a fool: "I must have liberty ..give me leave/ To speak my mind, and
I will through and through/ Cleanse the foul body of th' infected world." Duke Senior remarks that Jaques is
an odd choice to do such good, since he has been a libertine. Jaques defends himself by responding that his
castigation will not be harmful if he does not name anyone in particular; those who have been criticized justly
will realize the truth of his words.
Their exchange comes to a sudden halt when Orlando bursts in with his sword drawn. He commands the Duke
and his court to "Forebear, and eat no more/ " Jaques replies drolly, "Why, I have eat none yet." Orlando tells
him he will not eat until "necessity be served." Duke Senior calmly asks if Orlando has been boldened by his
distress and chastises him for his rude manners. Orlando admits that he has been discourteous and tells Duke
Senior he has been brought up in civilized society, but he is desperate for food. Duke Senior tells him that
force is unnecessary; a gentle request will bring the result he desires. Orlando is surprised by his courtesy:
"Speak you so gently? Pardon me, I pray you. I thought that all things had been savage here/ And therefore
put I on the countenance/ Of stern commandment." He apologizes for his behavior, sheathes his sword, and
tells Duke Senior that before he can accept any food he must find Adam and bring him to safety. Duke Senior
promises that the banquet will not begin until he returns.
After Orlando leaves, Duke Senior, moved by Orlando's suffering, tells his courtiers that "we are not all alone
unhappy:/ This wide and universal theatre/ Presents more pageants than the scene/ Wherein we play in."
Jaques immediately seizes upon his analogy; commenting: "All the world's a stage,/ And all the men and
women merely players;/ They have their exits and their entrances,/ And one man in his time plays many
parts,/ His acts being seven ages." He describes each of these ages in turn: the infant, the "whining
schoolboy," the lover, the soldier, the justice, the "lean and slippered pantaloon," and finally, "second
Act II, Scenes 6 and 7 22
childishness and mere oblivion."
Orlando enters, carrying Adam in his arms, and the Duke invites them to sit down and eat. Duke Senior asks
Amiens to provide some music and Amiens obliges, singing another paean to the pastoral life. After he has
finished, Duke Senior tells Orlando that as the son of his old friend, Sir Rowland de Boys, he is welcome to
remain. He invites Orlando to come to his cave, welcomes Adam, and asks to hear the story of Orlando's
Adam's near-starvation in Scene 6 further emphasizes the perils of the pastoral life. Like Rosalind, Celia, and
Touchstone, Orlando and Adam have had a long and difficult journey. Orlando's devotion to the aged servant
again reveals his nobility of character; he repays Adam's kindness with genuine concern.
When we first heard of Jaques he was in a state of despair over the wounded deer; when we saw him first he
was sardonic and cynical. At the beginning of Scene 7, we are exposed to another facet of his nature: he is
elated, having met Touchstone in the forest. Jaques was ecstatic when Touchstone "railed on Lady Fortune,"
but he failed to realize that Touchstone was simply parodying his argumentative nature. Touchstone's absurd
satire serves to counterbalance Jaques' acerbic criticism of the pastoral life and his cynical view of human
nature in general.
This scene features a number of references to time, a motif that will recur in many variations throughout the
play. Touchstone's sundial seems particularly inappropriate in the forest, where little light would reach
through the trees. His comment that "from hour to hour we ripe and ripe,/ And then, from hour to hour, we rot
and rot" is a comic foreshadowing of Jaques' "Seven Ages of Man" speech at the end of this scene. Jaques'
assertion that he laughed for a hour by Touchstone's dial is ironic, for again he did not realize that Touchstone
was satirizing his philosophy.
Jaques' claim that he longs to be a fool, and thus have liberty to speak his mind freely is also ironic, for he
speaks his mind at every opportunity. His declaration that if he, too, could wear motley he could "cleanse the
foul body of th' infected world" arouses Duke Senior's ire. As one who has sinned, the Duke remarks, he
seems an incongruous choice to cure the ills of society. Again, Jaques' observations have some validity, for
society, as we have seen it at court, is in need of a cure.
When Duke Senior disarms Orlando with courtesy after Orlando has confronted the Duke and his men with
his sword drawn, it is again a reminder than we are in the presence of a new social order, one that is far
removed from the "envious court." Orlando's claim to have been well bred seemingly contradicts his statement
in Act I, Scene 1 that he has been denied the education of a gentleman. But we know that he is the son of a
father who was much admired, and that he has been gifted by nature with many of Sir Rowland's virtues. His
innate good qualities have enabled him to transcend his lack of formal education.
Duke Senior's comment after Orlando leaves to bring Adam to safety that "we are not all alone unhappy"
introduces yet another hint that the pastoral life is perhaps not as ideal as many of the characters would have it
seem. In Act II, Scene 1, Duke Senior extolled his life in the forest, a viewpoint that was echoed in Amiens'
first song. Yet here, perhaps because the Duke was reminded of "better days" at court and his own personal
misfortune by Orlando's tale of suffering, he admits candidly that there is something "woeful" in his life in
Jaques' "Seven Ages of Man" speech is one of the most famed speeches in all of Shakespeare; it contains
some of the Bard's greatest poetry. In this speech, Jaques provides seven impressions of man at varying stages
of his life, a further exploration of the theme of time. Yet the canvas he illustrates is selective. For example,
we seethe infant "mewling and puking" rather than burbling with delight; the schoolboy is "creeping like
Act II, Scenes 6 and 7 23
snail/unwilling to school" rather than making the journey with enthusiasm. Jaques' comments on the lover are
in tune with what we have seen of Silvius (and what we will see of Orlando in the scene that follows), but his
next two "ages" are limited, for not all men will be soldiers and justices. This speech, in general, reflects the
cynical attitude of its speaker rather than offering a well rounded portrait of humanity. Finally, Jaques arrives
at old age and the inevitable end: infirmity and death. His tone is rueful and he paints a grim portrait of man
"sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything."
Byway of contrast, Adam enters immediately afterward. He is almost eighty and weakened by hunger,
necessitating that Orlando carry him in his arms. Yet as we know, he is not approaching senility; or "second
childishness," as Jaques puts it. He is still vital in spirit, a sharp contrast to Jaques' bleak view of life's fading
Jaques' observation that "one man in his time plays many parts" is appropriate, however, for it underscores
another major theme of the play: role playing. Rosalind, for example, has been the royal princess and the
faithful friend; she has recently assumed the masculine role of Ganymede. Touchstone, as we have seen,
played the subservient role of the, fool while at court, yet once he is in the Forest of Arden he asserts his
superiority to the rustic shepherds, playing the urbane courtier at every opportunity.
Amiens' ballad, "Blow, blow, thou winter wind" is a companion piece to his earlier song. Again, we see a
wintery motif juxtaposed with images of a rich, springlike world. This song also echoes the Duke's declaration
in Act II, Scene 1 that "Here feel we not., the icy fang/ and churlish chiding of the winter's wind." Exposure to
the elements, while harsh, is preferable to "man's ingratitude" and "friends rememb'red not." Yet here, a
wistful not of skepticism creeps in as well: "Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly."
This skepticism is immediately refuted by Duke Senior in his welcome to Orlando, for he proclaims: "I am the
Duke/That loved your father." And as we will see, love, although making many of the characters appear
foolish at times, can also have its lasting rewards.
Act III, Scenes 1 and 2
At the palace, Duke Frederick commands Oliver to find Orlando and bring him in, dead or alive, within a
year. If Oliver fails to do so, his property and goods will be forfeited. Oliver tells Duke Frederick, "I never
loved my brother in my life." "More villain thou," Duke Frederick replies. He orders his men to forcibly
remove Oliver from the palace and commands that a writ of seizure be placed on Oliver's house and lands.
In Scene 2, we return to the Forest of Arden. Orlando, obsessed by his love for Rosalind, writes poems to her
and hangs them on trees. After he resolves to carve the name of his beloved on every tree in the forest, he
Corin and Touchstone enter, and Corin asks Touchstone how he likes the shepherd's life. Touchstone replies
with a witty series of contradictions. Although he finds some elements of country life appealing, he misses the
liveliness of the court and its good manners. Corin tells him bluntly that courtly manners would be out of
place in the country. The formal kissing of hands, he comments, would be inappropriate when the hands of
shepherds are greasy from handling their sheep. Corin praises the virtues of his simple life as a shepherd, and
Touchstone responds with a series of bawdy jests that satirize the shepherd's calling.
Their conversation is interrupted when Rosalind enters in her Ganymede disguise, reading aloud a love poem
she has found on a tree: "From the east to western Ind/ No jewel is like Rosalind." Touchstone, unimpressed
by the "false gallop" of the verses, promptly invents a parody of the poem. He concludes with yet another
Act III, Scenes 1 and 2 24
bawdy jest. Celia happens upon the scene, reading aloud another love poem about Rosalind.
Celia sends Touchstone and Corin away, and she and Rosalind discuss the poems. Rosalind is critical of their
style and literary merit, and she is at a loss to identify their author. When Celia finally tells her, after teasing
her for her dullness, that the author can only be Orlando, Rosalind is incredulous. She is ecstatic to learn that
Orlando has arrived in the forest, but she wonders how her masculine disguise might complicate matters. 'Alas
the day! " she remarks. "What shall I do with my doublet and hose?" She queries Celia for any bit of news
about Orlando.
Their discussion is interrupted by the entrance of Orlando and Jaques. Rosalind and Celia stand aside and
eavesdrop on their conversation. Jaques has taken a cynical view of Orlando's romantic infatuation and urges
him to "mar no more trees" with his poems, telling him: "The worst fault you have is to be in love." Orlando
proclaims that "'Tis a fault I will not change for your best virtue." Jaques retorts by telling Orlando, "I was
looking for a fool when I found you." Orlando chides him by commenting that if it is a fool he is seeking, he
can look in the brook, for there he will see his own reflection. They exchange parting shots, and Jaques exits.
Rosalind, in an aside to Celia, resolves to speak to Orlando "like a saucy lackey and under that habit play the
knave with him." She steps forward and addresses the young man, who does not recognize her in her
Ganymede disguise. They banter lightheartedly about time and love. Rosalind cautions Orlando that love is a
disease that is best cured. She tells him that "There is a man haunts the forest that abuses our young plants
with carving 'Rosalind' on their barks, hangs odes on hawthorns, and elegies on brambles... If I could meet
that fancy-monger, I would give him some good counsel." Orlando confesses that "I am he that is so
love-shaked" and asks for her remedy. Rosalind wittily catalogues the physical symptoms of a man in love,
and she remarks that Orlando seems to have none of them. Orlando protests that he is indeed in love, but
Rosalind tells him that "love is merely a madness" and proposes "curing it." She tells him she has, in the past,
cured a lovelorn swain of his "mad humor" by impersonating his fickle mistress, "full of tears" one minute,
"full of smiles" the next. She promises that she can heal Orlando's lovesickness as well. Orlando declares that
he does not want to be cured, but Ganymede tells him a cure is possible if Orlando will call "him" Rosalind
and come to "his" cottage every day to court him. Orlando, pleased by the thought of wooing even a surrogate
Rosalind, agrees to the plan.
Scene 1 brings the two villains of the play together. Oliver, accustomed to issuing commands to Orlando, now
must answer to a more powerful tyrant. Ironically, Duke Frederick remarks that Oliver is a villain for failing
to love his brother. Frederick is guilty of this same offense. This brief scene also sets the stage for Oliver's
arrival in the Forest of Arden.
In Scene 2, we see Orlando behaving just as Jaques commented the lover does in his "Seven Ages of Man"
speech: "Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad/Made to his mistress's eyebrow." Here, he is the
lovestruck poet of Renaissance tradition. His verses leave something to be desired, but their sentiments are
evidently sincere.
Later in this scene, Corin, in his exchange with Touchstone, eloquently defends the virtues of the pastoral life:
"I earn that I eat, get that I wear, owe no man hate, envy no man's happiness, glad of other men's good,
content with my harm; and the greatest of my pride is to see my ewes graze and my lambs suck." Touchstone,
playing the role of a dissatisfied exile, argues wittily that the court, with its good manners, is far superior to
the countryside. His speech features a host of amusing contradictions, and at the same time it satirizes the
pastoral ideal. But Corin, praising the reality of his rural existence rather than the ideal notions of the pastoral
life expressed by Duke Senior and others, rebuts him on nearly all of the points he makes. Here, we are
greeted once more by the theme of city life versus country life. Note that Corin, unlike Silvius, is not an
idealized shepherd, but rather a more realistically drawn figure who is concerned primarily with the practical
Act III, Scenes 1 and 2 25
details of his trade.
Touchstone's parody of Orlando's poem is apt, for the poem Rosalind has read has a syrupy, sentimental
quality and a number of awkward rhymes. Touchstone's bawdy jest at the end of his parody echoes his bawdy
comments to Corin in their earlier exchange. His references to sexuality and lust, here and elsewhere, satirize
the idealized notions of love expressed by many of the other characters.
The Orlando-Jaques dialogue parallels in its contrasts the Corin-Touchstone exchange in this scene. Earlier
we had seen a pairing of opposites in the sophisticated wit and the simple shepherd. Here we see the worldly
cynic and the romantic innocent engage in a duel of words. Jaques would like nothing better than to sit down
with Orlando and "rail against our mistress the world, and all our misery" Yet Orlando, true to his nature, will
have none of it. The attitudes toward romance expressed by Orlando and Jaques reflect the timeless conflicts
of youth and age. Orlando's refutation of Jaques' skepticism serves as a prologue to the love scene that
follows. Later, Rosalind's encounter with Jaques will serve much the same purpose.
When Rosalind and Orlando banter about time, it recalls Jaques' mention of Touchstone's sundial in an earlier
scene. Again, reference to time seems ironic, for while court life (which Touchstone can never escape
entirely) is strictly regimented, the Forest of Arden is in many ways a timeless place. As Orlando remarks,
"there's no clock in the forest." This comment foreshadows his behavior in later scenes. Rosalind, on the other
hand, is far more conscious of time's passing, a disparity that will lead to complications in her relationship
with the man she loves. She tells Orlando bluntly that if there is no clock in the forest, "Then, there is no true
lover in the forest; else sighing every minute, and groaning every hour, would detect the lazy foot of Time as
well as a clock." In sum, if Orlando were a true lover, he would be prompt.
This scene features a number of incongruities. It seems unlikely, for example, that Rosalind, intelligent and
quick-witted, would not know immediately that the author of the mysterious love poems is Orlando. We are
also asked to accept the fact that Orlando does not recognize the woman he claims to love in her Ganymede
disguise. Much of the humor here arises from confusion--the inability of a character to perceive what other
characters already know. The audience (or the reader) is also in on the "secret." This type of confusion occurs
frequently in Shakespeare's comedies.
Indeed, the entire Forest of Arden is filled with incongruities. The play is set in the Ardennes region of France
(note the French names of many of the characters), but the forest is home to a palm tree and olive trees; later,
we will hear that a lioness roams there as well. Moreover, the countryside is peopled by typically English
shepherds, and there is a reference to the English folk hero, Robin Hood. In fact, there is a real-life Forest of
Arden in Warwickshire, not far from Stratford-upon-Avon where Shakespeare was born and raised. No
attempt is made, however, to depict this location realistically. Arden is a place that is both real and enchanted.
Initially, Rosalind is panic-stricken upon learning that Orlando had arrived in the forest; she wonders what to
do with her doublet and hose. For the moment, she feels trapped in the role she has assumed. Earlier, she had
asked Celia, "dost thou think, though I am caparison'd like a man, I have a doublet and hose in my
disposition?" However, when Orlando appears, she quickly recovers her wits and realizes that her disguise
may, in fact, prove an advantage. Later, when Orlando becomes suspicious of her refined accent, she invents a
"history" for her character, telling Orlando she was raised by "an old religious uncle" who taught her to speak
and warned her about the folly of love. She asks Orlando bluntly, "But are you so much in love as your
rhymes speak?" Although he has written poetry, she remarks, Orlando seems to have none of the traditional
signs of a man in love: a lean cheek, disarray in his dress, and so on. She then sets in motion a plan to put
Orlando's love to the test by attempting to "cure" him of his "malady." She refers to Orlando's declarations of
love as a "sickness," and she disparages the ways of women. When she impersonated a woman in the past to
cure another lovelorn swain, she remarks, her methods were so effective that her "suitor" withdrew to a
Act III, Scenes 1 and 2 26
Orlando is initially reluctant to be cured, yet ultimately he agrees to the plan. By the end of this scene,
Rosalind is clearly in control and relishes her situation. Her playful yet serious investigation of Orlando's true
feelings for her will continue in scenes to come.
Act III, Scenes 3-5
New Characters
Audrey: a countly wench
Sir Oliver Martext: a clergyman
Phebe: a shepherdess who dwells near the Forest of Arden
Touchstone, in a merry mood, enters with Audrey, a goatherd who lives near the Forest of Arden. Jaques also
arrives on the scene; he stands aside, eavesdropping on their conversation. Touchstone attempts to woo
Audrey, asking, "Am I the man yet? Doth my simple feature content you?" His witticisms are lost on the
simple country goatherd, who does not understand the meaning of the word "poetical." Touchstone has no
illusions about Audrey's morals; he suspects her of being a "foul slut." Audrey protests that she is not "a slut,"
but she adds, "I thank the gods I am foul." Jaques, in a series of asides, comments cynically on the scene that
is unfolding.
Touchstone tells Audrey that he has met with Sir Oliver Martext, a clergyman who lives nearby. Sir Oliver
has promised to meet him in the forest to perform a marriage ceremony. Touchstone realizes, however, that
after he is married to Audrey she is likely to be unfaithful to him. He wittily resigns himself to this fact.
Sir Oliver Martext arrives and Touchstone asks him to officiate at the wedding, but Sir Oliver comments that
the marriage will not be lawful unless someone is there to give the bride away. Jaques immediately steps
forward to volunteer his services. He comments that a man of Touchstone's "breeding" should not be "married
under a bush like a beggar" and urges him to go to a church, where a "good priest" might marry him.
Touchstone, in an aside, remarks that he prefers to be married by Sir Oliver, for the marriage might not be
legal, thus leaving him free to abandon his wife and make a better marriage. He agrees to listen to Jaques'
advice, however, and proclaims, "Come, sweet Audrey./ We must be married, or we must live in bawdry" He
exits with Jaques and Audrey, singing merrily, while a bewildered Sir Oliver stares after them.
In Scene 4, Rosalind, close to tears, worries that Orlando may have forsaken her because he has not arrived at
the scheduled time for their meeting. Celia reminds her that tears are inappropriate to her masculine disguise;
she reassures her cousin that Orlando is simply attending Duke Senior. Rosalind tells Celia that she had met
the Duke the previous day. Her father had not recognized her in her disguise, and when the Duke inquired of
her parentage, Rosalind answered wittily that it was "as good as he."
Corin enters and tells Rosalind and Celia that Silvius, the lovelorn shepherd they had often asked about, is at
that moment wooing Phebe, the shepherdess he loves. Corin remarks that if they would care to "see a pageant
truly played/Between the pale complexion of true love/ And the red glow of scorn and proud disdain" they are
welcome to accompany him. Rosalind agrees, commenting: "The sight of lovers feedeth those in love./ Bring
us to this sight, and you shall say/ I'll prove a busy actor in their play."
Scene 5 takes place in a nearby part of the forest. Silvius begs the disdainful Phebe for even the smallest
kindness: "Sweet Phebe, do not scorn me; do not, Phebe!/ Say that you love me not, but say not so/ In
bitterness." Rosalind, Celia, and Corin enter and observe their conversation from a distance. Silvius tells
Act III, Scenes 3-5 27
Phebe that if she falls in love one day she will sympathize with his anguish. However Phebe tells him bluntly,
"till that time/ Come not near me .... As till that time I shall not pity thee."
At this point, Rosalind steps forward to interrupt their conversation. She angrily chastises Phebe for being
"proud and pitiless," and she tells Silvius that he is foolish to pursue Phebe, since Silvius is "a thousand times
a properer man/ Than she is a woman." Phebe, Rosalind remarks, should be thankful to have a good man's
love, since she is not the charming beauty she thinks herself to be. "Sell when you can," Rosalind admonishes
her, "you are not for all markets." She urges Phebe to love Silvius and to "take his offer" of marriage.
By that time, however, Phebe has become hopelessly captivated by Rosalind in her Ganymede disguise.
Rosalind attempts to discourage her interest by speaking harshly, telling her, "I am falser than vows made in
wine" and "I like you not." She urges Silvius to keep at his courtship, and she tells Phebe to "look on him
better/ And be not proud." With that, she turns and exits with Celia and Corin.
Phebe instantly confesses that now she understands what it means to love. Transformed by her encounter with
Ganymede, she admits that she feels sorry for Silvius. Again, she tells the lovelorn shepherd that she has no
romantic interest in him, but since he can talk of love, she will tolerate his company. She contradicts her
statement of a moment earlier, however, by claiming petulantly the Ganymede, though attractive in certain
ways, does no really interest her. She resolves to write a taunting letter to the "peevish boy" to repay him for
his rudeness. Silvius agrees to deliver the letter after it is written.
Touchstone's courting of Audrey in Scene 3 represents a different type of love than those we have already
seen. He candidly confesses to Jaques his reasons for wanting to marry his earthy goatherd: "as the ox hath his
bow, sir, the horse his curb, and the falcon her bells, so man hath his desires." Here, he burlesques the
romantic idealism we have seen in Orlando and Silvius. He is not seeking beauty and wit; he merely wishes to
fulfill his physical cravings.
Touchstone's obscene jests with Audrey were a convention of Elizabethan comedy, one that Shakespeare's
audience would have looked forward to eagerly. When Touchstone engages in a witty yet introspective series
of puns comparing a deer's antlers to the "horns" he expects to wear, he is creating a variation on one of the
most popular jokes in Shakespeare's time. In Elizabethan England, "horns" were the symbol of a cuckold, a
man whose wife was cheating on him. The world "cuckold" is derived from the cuckoo-a bird that lays its
eggs in other birds' nests. According to Elizabethan legend, cuckolds grew horns on their foreheads.
Touchstone, pragmatic about the future, resigns himself to the fact this will be his inevitable fate is he marries
Scene 4 reveals Rosalind's insecurities about Orlando's true feelings for her. She also discloses the extent of
her love for Orlando. She is upset with him for not arriving at the scheduled time of their meeting, but Celia, a
calm voice of reason, assures her that Orlando is busy attending Duke Senior. Again, we are greeted by the
theme of role playing when Corin invites Rosalind and Celia to witness "a pageant truly played" by observing
Silvius' courtship of Phebe, and in Rosalind's subsequent declaration that she will "prove a busy actor in their
Lovelorn shepherds such as Silvius were a convention of pastoral romance. In Scene 5, Shakespeare satirizes
those conventions by depicting Silvius' unrequited passion as comically excessive. There seems to be no end
to his misery. Here, we are exposed to yet another aspect of love. Silvius is much like Orlando in his ardor,
but instead of writing poems, he sighs pathetically about the "wounds invisible/ That love's keen arrows
make." It is easy to see why Phebe might be weary of his relentless pursuit. Yet Phebe, as Rosalind points out,
is no prize herself. She is vain, petulant, and hindered by her false pride. Just as Shakespeare satirizes the
lovelorn shepherd in Silvius, he satirizes another familiar literary type, the "poetic shepherdess," in Phebe.
Act III, Scenes 3-5 28
Note that Audrey, a rustic goatherd, did not understand the meaning of the word "poetical," yet Phebe speaks
in verse and quotes from a poem by one of Shakespeare's contemporaries Christopher Marlowe when she
proclaims, "Who ever loved that loved not at first sight?"
Rosalind's harsh criticism of the shepherdess has the opposite effect of what is intended, for Phebe is
immediately captivated by Rosalind in her Ganymede disguise. Nevertheless, she craftily misleads Silvius by
disparaging Ganymede and playing down the extent of her interest. Thus, additional comic complications are
added to the plot as the third act draws to a close.
Act IV, Scene 1
Rosalind and Celia, still in their disguises, enter with Jaques, who expresses a desire to become better
acquainted with Ganymede. Rosalind comments that she has heard that Jaques is "a melancholy fellow."
Jaques admits this is true; he tells Rosalind that he likes melancholy better than laughter. Rosalind cautions
against going to extremes of either melancholy or mirth, and Jaques retorts that "tis good to be sad and say
nothing." In that case, Rosalind replies wittily, it is good to be a post. Jaques remarks that his melancholy was
acquired during his travels abroad, but Rosalind is skeptical of his tale. Orlando enters soon afterward. Jaques
bids farewell to Ganymede and departs.
Orlando, late for his rendezvous, casually explains to Rosalind that he has come within an hour of the
appointed time. Rosalind chides him for being tardy; true lovers, she reminds him, arrive promptly. She tells
him, "I had as lief be wooed of a snail," and she adds mischievously that a snail, like many husbands, has
"horns." Women, she reminds him, can't be trusted to be faithful. Orlando protests that his Rosalind is
virtuous. "And I am your Rosalind," Ganymede proclaims, elated by the compliment. Celia, worried that
Orlando might realize the truth of this statement, quickly interjects, "It pleaseth him to call you so: but he hath
a Rosalind of a better leer than you." However Orlando is none the wiser, and Ganymede bids Orlando to
"Come, woo me." She asks Orlando what he would say if the "real" Rosalind were there. Orlando replies that
he would kiss before he spoke. Rosalind tells him bluntly it would be better to speak first. After bantering
merrily with Orlando, Ganymede plays the devil's advocate, telling him, "I will not have you."
Orlando protests that he would die if this were the case, but Rosalind replies skeptically that "men have died
from time to time and worms have eaten them, but not for love." Orlando tells her he would not have his
Rosalind "of this mind," for her frown might kill him. Ganymede then agrees to play Rosalind in a more
receptive mood. 'Ask me what you will, I will grant it," she remarks. Orlando asks her to love him. Rosalind,
as Ganymede, replies that she will, "Fridays and Saturdays and all," although she jests that she will also have
twenty more men like him, since one cannot have "too much of a good thing." She then asks Celia to perform
a mock marriage ceremony. Rosalind and Orlando exchange vows with Celia serving as "priest," but when
they have finished, Ganymede cautions that women often change after they are married. She warns Orlando
that his Rosalind will be jealous, clamorous, and giddy, will "weep for nothing," and will "laugh like a hyena"
when he is trying to sleep.
Orlando tells Ganymede that he must leave for two hours to attend Duke Senior at dinner, but he promises to
return. Rosalind warns him not to be late again, telling him that another lateness will prove him a "most
pathetical break-promise" and a man unworthy of Rosalind's love. With a pledge to return on time, Orlando
After he is gone, Celia chides Rosalind for having "misused our sex" in her role playing with Orlando. She
jokingly threatens to pull off her doublet and hose to reveal her masquerade. Rosalind protests that she is more
deeply in love than Celia realizes; My affection hath an unknown bottom, like the Bay of Portugal." She tells
Act IV, Scene 1 29
Celia that she cannot bear to be out of Orlando's sight and plans to "go find a shadow, and sigh till he come."
While Rosalind is sighing, Celia will be doing something far more mundane: taking a nap.
Rosalind's reaction to Jaques is similar to Orlando's response in an earlier scene. Again, we are greeted by a
classic conflict between youth and age. Rosalind would rather have a fool to make her merry than experience
to make her sad. Her romanticism, like Orlando's, stands in sharp contrast to Jaques' cynical view of the
In this scene, Jaques attempts to define his melancholy as unique, commenting that it is unlike the scholar's
melancholy, the musician's, the soldier's, the lawyer's, the lover's, or the lady's. In sum, he briefly catalogues
the varieties of melancholy as he had previously categorized the ages of man at greater length. Elizabethan
audiences took particular delight in complex flights of rhetoric such as Jaques offers here; earlier, we heard
similarly detailed discussions of fortune, nature, and time.
Jaques remarks that his world weariness is a result of his travels abroad. To Rosalind, however, his speech,
dress, and general demeanor seem merely an exaggerated pose. Here, Shakespeare was satirizing the
Englishmen of his own time who returned from the Continent and expressed dissatisfaction with life at home.
Earlier, Touchstone had stated that "Travellers must be content." Jaques, on the other hand, asserts that his
travels have made him a malcontent. We already know that Duke Senior likes to contend with Jaques when he
is in his melancholy moods, but he does not take him seriously. Rosalind, the Duke's daughter, seems even
less impressed by Jaques' gloomy philosophy.
When Orlando enters the scene, he is almost an hour late for his appointment with Ganymede. Apparently he
is caught up in the timelessness of the forest, but Rosalind is not. Jaques notices him when he enters, but
Rosalind, peeved at his lateness, ignores him. She comments on the departing Jaques for a moment before
turning to greet him with mock surprise: "Why, how now, Orlando, where have you been all this while?" One
more lateness, she warns him, and he will be banished from her sight.
Clearly, Rosalind is delighted by the opportunity to again "play the saucy lackey" with the man she loves. The
character of Rosalind is one of Shakespeare's most vivacious, charismatic heroines. She is witty and wise,
with a playful sense of humor, yet she, too, is not immune to the wonders of love. When she proclaims to
Orlando, "I am your Rosalind," she is, of course, speaking the truth. Celia is concerned that Orlando might see
through Rosalind's disguise, but Orlando, in keeping with the play's conventions, gives no indication that he
suspects Ganymede's true identity.
As Ganymede, Rosalind has the opportunity to present Orlando with not one but two Rosalinds. The first is
somewhat of a skeptic. Playfully, she puts Orlando to the test, mocking his romantic assertions that he will die
if Rosalind rejects him. (Note that Orlando, in his comments, echoes Silvius' remarks to Phebe in the previous
scene that he, too, will die if Phebe does not love him.) Rosalind quickly rebuts his conventional sentiments,
citing the supposedly tragic examples from classical literature of Troilus and Cressida and Hero and Leander.
She tells him bluntly, "These are all lies." However when Orlando objects to Ganymede's "characterization,"
Rosalind tries a different approach: playing "Rosalind" in a more pliant mood. She enjoys hearing Orlando's
declarations of love, and her own responses to his wooing and genuine, both here and in the mock wedding
that follows.
Afterward, however, she cautions Orlando that "Men are like April when they woo, December when they
wed. Maids are May when they are maids, but the sky changes when they are wives." Given the many
contrasts we have already seen between the green world of spring and the "icy fang" of winter, her analogy
seems apt. Yet here again, Rosalind is playing devil's advocate. She is putting Orlando to the test with
generalized observations on the foibles of human nature rather than predicting what might occur in her own
Act IV, Scene 1 30
marriage. Her comments on "horns" and infidelity, for instance, are made playfully rather than in earnest.
There is probably some truth in Ganymede's warning to Orlando about the "irrational" behavior he might
expect from his wife, however, given what we have already seen of Rosalind's many moods. Yet Orlando is
undaunted, and Rosalind is reluctant to see him depart to attend the Duke. His response to Ganymede has
made it obvious that he loves the "real" Rosalind. After he is gone, Rosalind abandons her role playing. She
confesses to Celia that she is deeply in love. However Celia wryly punctures Rosalind's romanticism with
bawdy jests and skepticism, just as Rosalind has teased Orlando moments earlier.
Note that Celia, although present throughout this scene, plays a diminishing role as the play progresses.
Earlier, Celia commented that the cousins "have slept together,/ Rose at an instant, learned, played, eat
together,/ And wheresoe'r we went, like Juno's swans,/ Still we went coupled and inseparable." Yet now we
see their relationship changing; Celia is almost silent as Rosalind and Orlando engage in their courting. She is
watching her friend's affections being shifted to Orlando, and we are aware that the longstanding relations
between the two loving cousins will be transformed as they move toward maturity and marriage.
Act IV, Scene 2
In another part of the forest, Jaques encounters several Lords bearing the carcass of a deer. He asks which of
the Lords killed the deer and suggests that they "present him to the Duke, like a Roman conquerer." He
inquires if they have a song for the occasion, which they do. "Sing it," Jaques commands. "'Tis no matter how
it be in tune, so it make noise enough." The Lords break into a lusty song that features a play on words
comparing a deer's antlers and the "horns" of a cuckold.
Jaques' response to meeting the Lords and seeing their slaughtered prey is in sharp contrast to his "weeping
and commenting" after encountering a wounded deer in the second act. His response suggests that there
maybe some truth to Rosalind's accusation that his melancholy and cynicism may in part be a pose. However,
there is more than a hint of sarcasm in his suggestion that the deer be given to the Duke like tribute paid to a
Roman conquerer.
The lyrics to the song, with their references to "horns" and cuckoldry, again evoke a comic motif we have
heard in the conversations of Touchstone and Rosalind. Touchstone's comments have been witty yet
pragmatic, given that he is planning to marry Audrey, and Rosalind's remarks were designed principally to put
Orlando to the test by disparaging women's virtues and romantic love in general. Here, the song seems
designed to counterbalance the lyrical romanticism of Rosalind's declarations at the end of the previous scene.
Note that Shakespeare often juxtaposes romantic sentiments with a refutation of the romantic ideal. After
Rosalind reads aloud one of Orlando's poems, for example, we are greeted by Touchstone's bawdy parody.
Act IV Scene 3
It is now past two o'clock, the appointed hour of Rosalind and Orlando's meeting, but Orlando has not
appeared. Celia teases Rosalind by telling her that Orlando is so deeply in love that he has probably fallen
Silvius enters and presents Ganymede with the letter Phebe has written to her. He confesses that he does not
know the contents, but tells her that he believes the letter was written in anger, judging by Phebe's expression
while she was writing it. Rosalind pretends to Silvius that Phebe has been harsh in her criticism of Ganymede.
Act IV, Scene 2 31
She playfully accuses Silvius of writing the letter himself and comments that it appears to be in a man's
handwriting. But Silvius innocently denies any knowledge of the letter's contents.
Rosalind reads the letter aloud, insisting all the while that Phebe is insulting Ganymede. However it is actually
a love letter, and when Silvius hears Phebe's impassioned sentiments he realizes the truth and is heartbroken.
Celia feels sorry for Silvius, but Rosalind comments that he is foolish to love a woman as false of Phebe. She
commands Silvius to return to the shepherdess to inform her that Ganymede will love her only when she loves
Silvius. She also tells him to deliver the message that Ganymede will "never have her" unless Silvius pleads
for her cause. Silvius exits meekly to do her bidding.
As stranger enters immediately afterward, inquiring as to the whereabouts of "that youth" whom Orlando
"calls his Rosalind." It is Orlando's brother Oliver, and he is bearing a token from Orlando: a bloody
handkerchief. He explains why Orlando was unable to keep his promise to return at two o'clock. While
wandering in the forest, Orlando had come across "a wretched, ragged man, o'er grown with hair" sleeping
beneath an ancient oak tree. A snake was entwined around his neck, but seeing Orlando, the snake slithered
away. Greater peril lay nearby, however, for a hungry lioness was lurking in the bushes. Orlando saw the
lioness, yet approached the sleeping man and discovered that it was his brother who had plotted to take his
life. Twice, Orlando thought about leaving Oliver in peril, but his kind nature, "nobler ever than revenge," led
him to wrestle with the lioness, whom he quickly killed.
Oliver admits to Rosalind and Celia that he is the man Orlando rescued, the same man who had often
contrived to kill his younger brother. He tells them that he is no longer the villain he once was; grateful to
Orlando for saving his life, he has reconciled with his brother. After Oliver related to Orlando the story of
how he had arrived in the forest, Orlando had taken him to meet Duke Senior. While visiting the Duke at his
cave, Orlando discovered that the lioness had wounded his arm. Oliver bound his wound, and Orlando had
sent his brother into the forest with the bloody handkerchief to find "the shepherd youth/ That he in sport doth
call his Rosalind," and to apologize for his missed appointment. When Rosalind hears that Orlando has been
wounded and realizes the handkerchief is stained with his blood, she faints.
Oliver, unaware that Ganymede is Rosalind in disguise, observes that "many will swoon when they look on
blood," but he chides her for lacking "a man's heart." Rosalind acknowledges that his last statement is true, but
she makes the excuse that she was simply absorbed in her role. She asks Oliver to tell his brother "how well I
counterfeited." Yet Oliver observes that Ganymede's passion for Orlando seems real. Celia remarks that
Ganymede looks pale, and Oliver and Celia lead her away toward her cottage.
Orlando, as we have seen, is a young man of many virtues, but promptness is not one of them. In the first
scene of the act, he was warned by Rosalind that his next lateness would be his last, thus setting up potential
complications if he is late to their next meeting. But this time, as we learn, he has a good excuse.
Rosalind, as Ganymede, toys with Silvius in much the same way as she had teased Orlando in Act IV Scene 1.
She pretends that Phebe's letter is what Silvius had supposed it to be, and she accuses him of writing it
himself. Here again, Phebe is in many ways the "poetic shepherdess" of pastoral romance (her love letter is, of
course written in verse), yet Rosalind punctures the convention by making fun of her "leathery" hands. When
she realizes how upset Silvius is by the actual contents of the letter, she becomes justifiably irate at his
infatuation, calling him a "tame snake." She then institutes a practical plan that may cure Phebe of her false
pride and bring the lovers together.
Oliver's conversion seems miraculous. However, such instantaneous changes were a convention of
Elizabethan drama, one that Shakespeare's audience would have accepted. The play, as we have seen, contains
a number of realistic elements, yet Oliver's transformation is in keeping with the fairy tale nature of much of
Act IV Scene 3 32
the story. Even so, his metamorphosis may not have been as sudden as it might seem. Oliver, when last seen
in Act III, Scene 1, was banished by a more powerful tyrant than himself, and we learn that he wandered
extensively, enduring the hardships of the forest, perhaps giving him reasons to contemplate his actions in the
Throughout much of the play, Rosalind demonstrates "masculine" confidence while in her disguise. Yet she
loses her courage when she is confronted by the sight of the handkerchief soaked with Orlando's blood. Much
of the comedy in the latter part of this scene results from Rosalind behaving in an "unmasculine" manner. The
dialogue features a good deal of dramatic irony: Oliver, for example, chides Ganymede for lacking a man's
heart, and Ganymede comments, "I should have been a woman by right." Rosalind has "counterfeited" her
outward appearance to play the role of Ganymede (and indeed, she claims to Oliver that she has counterfeited
a woman so well that she faints at the sight of blood), yet her emotions are genuine.
Oliver, like his brother, is fooled by Rosalind's disguise, although by the end of this scene it is apparent that
the disguise is wearing thin. (Note that Celia slips in calling Rosalind "Cousin Ganymede.") Orlando has now
been put to the test and has passed; again, we feel the depth of Rosalind's love for him. The masquerade is
rapidly losing its attraction, and the events of the play are winding to a close.
Act V, Scene 1
New Character
William: a simpleminded young man
Touchstone asks Audrey to be patient; he assures her that their marriage will indeed take place. Audrey argues
that Sir Oliver Martext was good enough to perform the ceremony, but Touchstone disparages the cleric and
moves on to another topic, remarking that there is a youth in the forest who "lays claim" to Audrey. However
Audrey, interested only in marrying her urbane man of the court, protests that her supposed suitor "hath no
interest in me in the world."
William, an unsophisticated young man of twenty-five, enters. As soon as Touchstone sees his potential rival,
he decides to have some fun at his expense. He questions William about his background and inquires as to
whether he loves Audrey. William replies that he does. Touchstone officiously asks William if he is "learned."
When William replies that he is not, Touchstone launches into an absurd flight of rhetoric that "proves" his
right to wed Audrey. The dumbfounded William fails to comprehend.
Touchstone then asserts his claim to the country goatherd in plainer language. He tells William to abandon his
courtship, declaring that if he does not he will kill him a hundred and fifty different way. "Therefore," he
concludes, "tremble and depart." To this, Audrey adds her own simple pronouncement: "Do, good William."
William meekly agrees and exits. Corin enters immediately afterward and tells Touchstone and Audrey that
Ganymede and Aliena are seeking them.
William is a genuine rustic, the type of character one might have expected to encounter in a rural setting in
Shakespeare's time. He stands in sharp contrast to Silvius, a poetic shepherd drawn not from life but from the
conventions of pastoral romance. Touchstone deceives the unlearned William, just as he has fooled Audrey,
with his displays of "erudition." There is a comic contrast in the polite way that William addresses Touchstone
and Touchstone's condescending tone when speaking to his rustic "rival." William uses the polite "you" when
speaking to Touchstone, but Touchstone employs a patronizing "thou" in speaking to one whom he considers
his inferior. Touchstone's threats, of course, are not to be taken seriously, and his aggressive manner
Act V, Scene 1 33
disappears as soon as William exits.
Act V, Scenes 2 and 3
Orlando has learned that Oliver has fallen in love with Aliena at first sight. He is incredulous at the news, but
Oliver assures his brother that his love is genuine and asks for his permission to marry. He tells Orlando that
after he is married he plans to give him their father's house "and all the revenue that was old Sir Rowland's."
Furthermore, Oliver plans to "here live and die a shepherd." Orlando grants his consent. He tells Oliver that
the wedding will take place the next day and bids him to invite the Duke and his followers.
Rosalind enters, still disguised as Ganymede. After she exchanges greetings with Oliver he departs. She tells
Orlando that she had been distressed to hear of the wounds he suffered in his battle with the lioness, but
Orlando is more worried about his romantic affairs. Rosalind remarks upon Oliver and Aliena's love for each
other and predicts a happy marriage. Orlando replies that he is sad to "look into happiness through another
man's eyes," for his own romantic situation seems far less promising.
Rosalind asks if she couldn't again serve as Orlando's Rosalind on the day of the wedding. But Orlando
answers that he can "no longer live by thinking." Rosalind assures him that she has a solution to his problem.
Since the age of three, she comments, she has "conversed with a magician" who has taught her the secrets of
his art. She promises that when Oliver marries Aliena, Orlando will marry his Rosalind as well. She pledges
to produce the real Rosalind the next day. Orlando is skeptical, but Ganymede reaffirms "his" promise and
tells Orlando to dress in his best clothes and invite his friends to his own wedding.
Silvius and Phebe enter, and Phebe promptly criticizes Ganymede for showing her letter to Silvius. Rosalind
tells her that it was her intention to be "despiteful and ungentle." She remarks that Silvius is a faithful
shepherd and tells Phebe to love him, for he worships her. Silvius again declares his love for Phebe, but the
shepherdess protests that she is in love with Ganymede. Orlando then proclaims his love for Rosalind. With
Phebe's infatuation in mind, Rosalind announces that she is "for no woman." The lovers repeat their
declarations until finally Rosalind wearies of their sighing: "Pray you, no more of this; 'tis like the howling of
Irish wolves against the moon." She pledges to help Silvius if she can; she tells Phebe that she would love her
if she could and requests a meeting the next day, promising, "I will marry you if ever I marry a woman, and
I'll be married tomorrow." To Orlando, she remarks that she will satisfy him if ever she satisfied a man; she
assures him that he will be married the next day. She also promises Silvius that he will be married at the same
In Scene 3, Touchstone announces to Audrey that they, too, will be: married on the morrow. Two Pages enter,
and Touchstone requests a song. The Pages respond by singing "It was a Lover and his Lass," a merry song
that celebrates love, marriage, and the pastoral, When the Pages have finished, Touchstone criticizes the song
and their singing: "I count it but time lost to hear such a foolish song. God b' wi' you, and God mend your
The notion of love at first sight again appears in Oliver's love for Aliena. In Lodge's Rosalynde, Aliena fell in
love only after the hero's older brother had rescued her from a gang of thieves. Here we have what seems like
an obligatory pairing; even Orlando asks wonderingly, "Is't possible?" However it is also a union with a
number of precedents. Rosalind and Orlando also fell in love at first sight, and Phebe became similarly
enchanted at her first encounter with Ganymede.
Act V, Scenes 2 and 3 34
The comic confusion resulting from Rosalind's disguise reaches a climax in Scene 2. Much of the humor in
this scene lies in repetition. Each of the lovers reprises his or her declaration of love until finally Rosalind
wearies of their "howling" and promises a solution to everyone's problems. She has enjoyed the opportunity to
have a last bit of fun with her masculine identity, but now she knows that the masquerade must end the next
Note the contrast between "It was a Lover and his Lass" in Scene 3 and Amiens's songs in the second act.
Here there are no allusions to winter and rough weather; it is a song of spring and young love, with subtle
evocations of the theme of time. This song sets the tone for the wedding scene that follows; each lover will be
paired with his lass in joyous finale.
Act V, Scene 4
New Characters
Hymen: the god of marriage
Jaques de Boys: second son of the late Sir Rowland de Boys; brother of Oliver and Orlando
The next day, Duke Senior, Amiens, Jaques, Orlando, Oliver, and Aliena gather in the forest. Duke Senior
asks Orlando whether he feels Ganymede can do all he has promised. Orlando replies that he has been
wavering between belief and disbelief; he is afraid of being disappointed. Rosalind, still disguised as
Ganymede, enters with Silvius and Phebe and asks those who have assembled to have patience while she
confirms that everyone has agreed to keep their promises. Duke Senior pledges his permission for Rosalind to
marry Orlando if Rosalind appears. Orlando declares that he will marry Rosalind. Phebe says she will marry
Ganymede if "he" is willing, but she promises if for any reason she decides not to marry Ganymede she will
marry Silvius, who quickly agrees to marry Phebe if she will have him. Rosalind reaffirms her pledge to solve
everyone's problems. After cautioning the lovers to "keep your word," she exits with Aliena. Duke Senior
remarks that "I do remember in this shepherd boy/ Some lively touches of my daughter's favor." Orlando
comments to the Duke that the first time he saw Ganymede he thought "he" was "a brother to your daughter."
However he insists that Ganymede is "forest-born."
Touchstone and Audrey enter, and Jaques observes that there seems to be a flood in store, for couples are
arriving two by two as they did when the Biblical Noah built his ark. Touchstone and Audrey, he remarks,
seem "a pair of very strange beasts, which in all tongues are known as fools." Jaques tells Duke Senior that
Touchstone has claimed to have been a courtier. Touchstone immediately retorts that if anyone doubts his
word, they may put him to the test. At Jaques' prodding, he launches into witty discourses on the habits of
courtiers, their quarrelsome natures, and the seven types of lies they practice. Duke Senior, pleased with
Touchstone's wit, agrees with Jaques' observation that Touchstone is "a rare fellow."
Rosalind and Celia, now dressed in feminine attire, enter along with Hymen, the god of marriage. Soft music
is heard, and Hymen asks Duke Senior to receive his daughter. Rosalind gives herself, in turn, to her father
and to Orlando, and Phebe comments that "If sight and shape be true,/ Why then, my love adieu/ " Hymen
remarks that confusion has now been brought to an end, and that it is time to "make conclusion/ Of these most
strange events." The four pairs of lovers join hands, and Hymen blesses their union. A joyous wedding song
follows. Duke Senior welcomes Celia, and Phebe pledges herself to Silvius.
The wedding festivities are interrupted by the sudden entrance of Jaques de Boys, the second son of the late
Sir Rowland. He brings the news that Duke Frederick, having learned that every day "men of great worth"
were fleeing into the forest of Arden, had raised an army and headed toward the forest with the intention of
Act V, Scene 4 35
killing Duke Senior. When Duke Frederick arrived on the outskirts of the forest, however, he met an old
religious hermit. After speaking with the hermit, Duke Frederick decided to abandon his deadly mission and
forsake the world for a religious life. He also restored his dukedom to his banished brother.
Duke Senior is overjoyed at this news. He welcomes Jaques de Boys and remarks that he has brought
additional happiness to his brothers' wedding. He pledges to restore to Oliver the lands Duke Frederick had
confiscated, and he names Orlando as his heir. He also promises that the courtiers who have joined him in his
exile will share in his good fortune when he returns to his dukedom. He calls for music and a wedding dance.
Only Jaques does not share in the festive spirit. He tells Duke Senior that he plans to join Duke Frederick in
an austere religious life, remarking that "Out of these convertites/ There is much matter to be heard and
learned." Jaques bestows his blessings upon Duke Senior, Orlando, Oliver, and Silvius, but he cautions
Touchstone that his marriage to Audrey is likely to last only two months. He announces his intention to leave
the wedding festivities, commenting, "I am for other than for dancing measures." Duke Senior pleads for
Jaques to remain, but Jaques refuses, telling the Duke he will find a home in Duke Seniors abandoned cave.
He exits, and Duke Senior gives the instruction for the couples to begin their joyous wedding dance.
In spite of Orlando's skepticism at the beginning of the scene, everything is happily resolved. While waiting
for Rosalind's inevitable entrance, this time in feminine clothes, we are treated to one last debate on the
virtues of city life versus country life. Touchstone wittily describes the affectations one might encounter at
court: flattery, craftiness, expensive clothing, quarreling. The quarrels he depicts are governed by set rules; the
same holds true for the degrees of the lies told by courtiers.
Critics differ in their views of Touchstone in this scene. Some commentators feel that his vein is still satirical:
he parodies the language of the affected courtier and burlesques a courtly due. Other critics are of the opinion
that Touchstone's remarks are ironic, and that he is clearly "putting on airs." In Act I, Scene 2, Rosalind called
Touchstone "Nature's natural," but some observers feel that life in the forest has transformed this witty fool;
he is no longer a critic of courtly manners, but rather their staunch defender. Either way, Touchstone's
extended flights of rhetoric serve a practical dramatic purpose: they give Ganymede and Aliena time to
change their costumes and emerge once again as Rosalind and Celia.
In classical mythology; Hymen was the god of marriage. The name of the god symbolizes the impending
consummation of the marriages that will take place. Here, it is interesting to note that in ancient Greek
dramas, plays were often resolved by what: we known as a deus ex machina, literally, a "god from the
machine." When mortals were unable to solve their problems, a god was lowered to the stage at a climactic
moment to resolve the action-a convention Shakespeare would have been aware of. In this instance, however,
the god does not solve the problems of the lovers but merely solemnizes their wedding festivities. Those
onstage might well assume that Hymen represents the "magic" that Ganymede has promised; indeed, we are
told that "Hymen from heaven" has brought Rosalind. But the audience (or the reader) is aware that it is
Rosalind, rather than Hymen, who has brought an end to the "confusion."
With the entrance of Hymen, the play becomes a masque-a popular court entertainment in Shakespeare's time.
Masques were usually characterized by music, dancing, and the appearance of supernatural or mythological
personages. They featured far less plot than a play, and much of their impact was visual. Generally speaking,
masques were allegorical in nature and took as their theme an idealized vision of the power of the reigning
monarch and the ruler's divine right to govern. The masque of Hymen serves much the same function. Order
has been restored to the proceedings; the chaos brought about when Duke Frederick usurped his brother's
dukedom is resolved almost immediately after the wedding song.
Act V, Scene 4 36
In Jaques de Boys' tale of Duke Frederick's encounter with the "old religious man" we see the same type of
miraculous conversion we had witnessed earlier in Oliver's transformation. If anything, Duke Frederick's
sudden metamorphosis seems more implausible. Still, it is in keeping with the fairy tale nature of much of the
There are a number of ironies in the play's resolution. Note that Duke Senior, who has praised the pastoral
life, plans a return to the court as soon as the opportunity presents itself. Yet Jaques, who has criticized life in
the forest, chooses to remain.
At the end of the play, the caprices of fortune have been corrected; those of good nature have been rewarded,
and those who were of evil nature have seen the error of their ways. All are not content, however. Jaques'
decision to forego the wedding merrymaking and join Duke Frederick in a religious order lends a jarring note
to the festivities, although it is one we might have expected from such a character. Yet his curiosity about
Duke Frederick and his new way of life seems genuine, and it is easy to imagine that he well find satisfaction
in his company. The ending of the play is by no means completely symmetrical, but the final scene concludes
in a joyous spirit of communion and celebration.
After the wedding dance, Rosalind steps forward and addresses the audience. She comments that a good play
needs no epilogue, just as a good wine needs no bush-a reference to the ivy bush vintners in Shakespeare's
time used on signs of their trade. Yet she argues that even good plays can be improved with the help of good
epilogues. She apologizes for not being a good epilogue, and adds that she cannot slyly gain the audience's
approval, for she is not dressed like a beggar; thus, it is improper to plead for an ovation. Instead, she will
"conjure" the audience into applause. She addresses the women in the audience, telling them "for the love you
bear to men, to like as much of this play that please you." To the men she comments that she hopes the play
has pleased them as well. "If I were a woman," she remarks, "I would kiss as many of you as had beards that
pleased me." She adds that she would like as many of the men "as have good beards, or good faces, or sweet
breaths" to applaud when she curtsies and exits.
In Shakespeare's time, of course, the role of Rosalind was acted by a young man. Rosalind, in expressing the
hope that the audience has enjoyed the play, humorously acknowledges this fact. Her reference to conjuring
recalls her fanciful tale of being trained by a sorcerer and the "magic" she promises and delivers at the end of
the play. Her comments are self-effacing, yet at the same time they appeal to the audience's vanity. If all the
women in the audience who liked part of the play and all the men who felt they had "good beards, or good
faces, or sweet breaths," responded to her entreaties, she would have been greeted at her exit by a hearty
round of applause.
As You Like It: Critical Commentary
Act I Commentary
Scene i: This scene, which provides most of the exposition necessary to understand the events of the play, also
demonstrates the violation of Christian values that has occurred between the family members. As the
relationship between the two sons of Sir Rowland de Boys is revealed, we learn from Orlando that Oliver has
not only been remiss in his duties to educate his youngest brother, but openly demonstrates his hostility
toward Orlando by treating him like a servant and striking him when he criticizes Oliver's behavior. Oliver's
Epilogue 37
actions contrast what we expect of a brother, and therefore sets Oliver as one of the antagonists of the play.
The value of brotherly love and care is also mirrored in the news that Charles brings Oliver about Duke Senior
and Duke Frederick, but in this case, the younger brother has violated the sanctity of the sibling relationship.
While Oliver is certainly abusive to his younger brother, he takes the rivalry between them too far in this
scene. He lies to Orlando by telling him that he will give him his inheritance after striking and insulting him.
Even worse, Oliver plots to kill Orlando by setting Charles against him. While Elizabethan (and
contemporary) audiences understand that sibling rivalry does often occur between brothers, plotting to kill a
sibling is, of course, unacceptable. Oliver's reasons for hating his brother are also unacceptable. Oliver hates
Orlando for reasons that even he does not understand: "for/my soul, yet I know not why, hates nothing more
than/he" (ll.151-152). However, Oliver does also mention in this scene that other people tend to prefer
Orlando to him, especially his own "people," making clear that jealousy is at issue here.
Scene ii: Scene 2 is the female counterpart of scene 1. In this case, it is Rosalind and Celia who reveal the rest
of the exposition. Rosalind, of course, is upset by the recent overthrow and banishment of her father. Despite
this, Rosalind manages to engage in a lively and witty conversation on the nature of fortune. This discussion
demonstrates Rosalind's immense wit and understanding. Because of her intelligence, Rosalind, like Prospero
in The Tempest, will be able to manipulate characters and situations in the play in order to bring the couples
However, even Rosalind cannot control herself completely when love strikes later on in the scene. When
Orlando insists on fighting Charles despite Charles' reputation, Rosalind immediately does her best to
dissuade him. Her interest in him is increased by the knowledge that he is Sir Rowland's son, as Sir Rowland
was one of her father's favorite courtiers. This brings up an interesting point about love in this play. Although
love certainly needs physical attraction, character and family connections also matter. Rosalind correctly
assumes that Orlando has a similar personality to his father, and this turns the physical attraction that she feels
upon meeting Orlando into love. Class issues also matter—as an aristocrat (albeit a younger son), Orlando is
socially worthy of Rosalind, the daughter of a duke. Orlando returns the affection, partially from physical
attraction and partially because Rosalind's father is in a similar predicament to his own.
Another important aspect of this scene is Duke Frederick, who reveals his villainy as the scene progresses.
When he first appears, Duke Frederick has just tried to stop Orlando from fighting Charles because he worries
for Orlando's welfare. He also welcomes both his daughter and his niece, whom he has permitted to stay even
though she is the daughter of his enemy. These actions are not those of an outright villain, and, for a moment,
Duke Frederick's status as antagonist is in question. However, when he learns Orlando's identity toward the
end of the scene, Duke Frederick's cruelty becomes clear—he tells Orlando that his father, while honored by
everyone else, was his enemy and Orlando is forced to flee court. Duke Frederick's antagonism will be further
revealed in the next scene, where his mercy to others will end completely.
Scene iii: This scene breaks into three sections. In the first part, Rosalind has suddenly become very quiet,
which Celia notes as extremely unusual. When Rosalind reveals her love for Orlando, Celia immediately
attacks the notion of loving him because Duke Senior loved Sir Rowland. Celia correctly points out that
through that logic, she should hate Orlando, but she does not. However, there is more to Rosalind's love than
Orlando's identity. However, this discussion is interrupted by Duke Frederick, who has come to banish his
niece from court because he does not trust her. Rosalind argues that she is not a traitor because of her father.
This argument, through which Rosalind points out that treason is not inherited, was a critical issue for
Elizabethans. During the Elizabethan period, children of people who were found to be traitors were often
executed (They were found guilty by association). However, being related to someone does not automatically
mean agreement with them, as has been made obvious in the play through Orlando and Oliver, as well as both
dukes. Celia continues Rosalind's argument by pointing out that her closeness to Rosalind should classify her
as a traitor. However, like the monarchs of the period, Duke Frederick is unmoved by this argument and
Act I Commentary 38
banishes Rosalind.
The final section of this scene is the unfolding of the escape plan. Rosalind correctly points out that one of the
girls must dress as a man in order to protect them both in the forest. Rosalind decides to be the one to become
male because she is "more than common tall," but Rosalind's assumption of a male identity is more than just a
change in appearance. As a female, Rosalind is powerless—she must do as the men around her order. Because
she now appears to be a man, Rosalind is able to manipulate those she will encounter. When Rosalind resumes
her female identity at the end of the play, it is no coincidence that she has also finished using her power over
those around her.
Act II Commentary
Scene i: The dichotomy between court and country, one of the major themes of this play, becomes one of the
subjects of the discussion between the banished Duke Senior and Amiens in this play. The duke expounds
upon the virtues of country life, which is more honest than that of court. He also states that the only harm in
country life is the weather, which is much better than the "toads" of court. Amiens, who is meant to be a foil
for Le Beau in the previous act, quickly agrees with the duke, and spends his time in the Forest of Arden
singing the way a stereotypical shepherd would, despite his status as a lord. The idea that the country brings
out the good in people that was often absent in city life is a common theme in literature. While Shakespeare
appears to conform to this idea through the duke's speech in this scene, the characters that claim to appreciate
the wonders of the country will all eventually return to the city.
However, not everyone is happy in the country. Jaques is introduced as a melancholy attendant to Duke
Senior that moralizes over every event—in this case, the killing of a deer. This incident makes Jaques, already
depressed, cry and lament the fact that the duke and his attendants have "usurped" the Forest of Arden and
become its tyrants, just as Duke Frederick has usurped the dukedom. The identification of this similarity
shows Jaques' sensitivity and his intelligence, which, like Rosalind, he will display throughout the play.
Unlike Rosalind, however, Jaques takes no joy in life, and thus misses the point of having a wit in the first
place. (Jump to the text of Act II, scene i)
Scene ii: This scene juxtaposes the previous scene by further displaying the cruelty of Duke Frederick, as
opposed to the happiness and good humor of Duke Senior. Duke Frederick, in shock over his daughter's
sudden departure, immediately tries to blame someone else for it instead of realizing that Celia would indeed
leave with Rosalind, despite the fact that she begs him to banish her in Act I, scene 3, when he banishes
Rosalind. Duke Frederick will also make Oliver find Orlando, believed to be in the company of Celia and
Rosalind, instead of committing his own resources to do it. Duke Frederick's lack of love for his daughter and
the tyrannical demands that he intends to place upon Oliver shows both violations of both family values as
well as those pertaining to governance. This is much different from Duke Senior, whose good humor and
appreciation for honesty make him the more appealing monarch.
Scene iii: This scene demonstrates the value of servant loyalty. Adam, the faithful servant of Sir Rowland,
offers to use all of his savings to save his former master's youngest son, and even goes so far as to offer his
services to Orlando for the rest of his days. Adam receives no advantage in this—all of his money will be gone,
and he will continue to be nothing more than a servant. However, this is precisely what makes Adam the ideal
servant because he gives everything to his master and aspires to nothing more than his current station. Orlando
notes the "antique" nature of Adam's offer, which is what a good servant of the "old days" would do, and
accepts it gratefully.
Meanwhile, Oliver's treachery, like Duke Frederick's, becomes more nefarious in this scene. Orlando and
Adam leave for the Forest of Arden because Oliver intends to kill him because of the praise Orlando has
Act II Commentary 39
earned by defeating Charles. This is the second attempt that Oliver has made on Orlando's life, and this
attempt has a clear motivation—jealousy.
Scene iv: Scene 4 begins with a character reversal. Rosalind, who is portrayed as distressed throughout Act I,
is now the merry one of her party, while Touchstone and Celia are exhausted. Rosalind's transformation is due
the movement to the Forest of Arden, where values exist, and to her change of gender. Rosalind cannot allow
herself to cry or be upset because she is male, which she notes in lines 4-8. This is the beginning of the gender
theme of the play, and Rosalind especially will spend a great deal of time identifying what it means to be male
and female.
Another major aspect of this scene is Silvius' love for Phebe. According to Silvius, Corin cannot possibly
understand the depth of his love for Phebe because he is too old and has not committed as many foolish acts
for love as he has. Silvius also maintains that "loving heartily" means that the lover remembers every foolish
action, talks incessantly of his love to others, or leaves abruptly in order to be alone. While Rosalind
sympathizes with Silvius' passion, she also notes the wisdom of Touchstone's assertion that "as all is mortal in
nature, so/is all nature in love mortal in folly" (ll. 50-51). Silvius' love for Phebe is clearly folly because he
fails to control it, allowing it to become obsession. While this is pitiable, it is not the ideal kind of romantic
love, and Silvius' depression reminds us not to allow passion too much sway. (Jump to the text of Act II, scene
Scene v: This scene features the introduction of Jaques. When Amiens sings of the pleasures of the country,
once again evoking pastoral images, Jaques remains stubbornly depressed. He also notes the silliness of those
who believe that the country is better than the city because the country is without the pleasures or the
conveniences of the city. However, Jaques takes no pleasure in city life, either, especially because he cannot
avoid people in the city. His misanthropic nature makes him incapable of taking any pleasure in life, be it in
the country or in the city.
Scene vi: In this scene, Orlando returns the loyalty demonstrated by Adam at the end of scene 3. When Adam
cannot walk any further for lack of food and energy, Orlando carries him. He also offers to find Adam food,
and warns him that he cannot die unless Orlando fails to find any. Orlando demonstrates that he is worthy of
Adam's servant loyalty by showing loyalty to him.
Scene vii: This scene begins with the typically depressed Jaques looking shockingly merry because of
Touchstone. When Jaques hears Touchstone's observations on life, he erupts in laughter because a fool can be
so contemplative. Jaques wishes to be a fool (jester) so that he can "cleans the foul body of th' infected
world,/If they will patiently receive my medicine" (ll. 60-61). Being a fool will allow Jaques to speak when he
chooses and say whatever he likes. However, Jaques has failed to understand the basic purposes of a fool—to
bring laughter and entertainment to a court.
When Orlando stumbles upon the duke's party, the theme of city and country resurfaces. As a city dweller,
Orlando automatically assumes that everything in the forest must be savage, and therefore savagely demands
some of the duke's meal. However, because the country is more "civilized" than the city, Duke Senior
graciously offers to feed both Orlando and Adam. He also welcomes Orlando when he realizes who he is.
Thus the country has become much more welcoming than the dangerous city.
The miseries that lead to Orlando's hostility lead to Jaques' famous "Seven Ages of Man" speech. This speech
reminds the audience that not only are they watching a play, but life in general is merely a play that has many
parts. Every person goes through several different stages throughout their lifetimes, from infancy and
childhood to senility and total depravation. However, Jaques fails to note that despite the eventual loss of
senses, we are not left "sans everything" if we have enjoyed what life has to offer. Jaques' bleak analysis of
life and his simple reduction of it to seven absurd stages demonstrate a good deal of wit, but little wisdom.
Act II Commentary 40
Act III Commentary
Scene i: Another city scene creates a second juxtaposition between the two dukes. While Duke Senior is
merciful and helpful to Orlando, Duke Frederick is tyrannical and threatening to Oliver in this scene. Despite
his comment that he is "the better part made mercy," he seizes Oliver's lands and money and threatens his life
if he does not deliver Orlando within a year (l. 2). When Oliver tells him that he never loved his brother, Duke
Frederick criticizes him by stating that the lack of love makes him more loathsome: "More villain thou" (l.
15). This statement is purely hypocritical, as Duke Frederick clearly lacks love for his own brother, which, by
his own estimation, makes him even more of a villain as well. However, Oliver's tyranny is limited to Orlando
while Duke Frederick's affects an entire kingdom.
Scene ii: This lengthy scene covers the themes of country/city life and love. In the first part of the scene,
Orlando is hanging some badly written love poems to Rosalind on trees. This is typical of lovers, and
Rosalind is immediately acquainted with the fact that Orlando returns her affections. However, this will not
deter her from fully investigating the depth of Orlando's affections. After displaying her wit to Orlando
through her discussion of the passage of Time (which passes differently depending upon point of view),
Rosalind offers to "cure" Orlando of his love by pretending to be Rosalind so that he can see the folly of
woman. The idea here is that by exposing him to the inconsistency of the "touched" (tainted) feminine mind,
he will be cured of love's "madness." However, Shakespeare does not intend his audiences to believe that
women are so ridiculous because Rosalind is, after all, female, and most certainly not absurd.
Rosalind's approach to Orlando's love seems to be in agreement with Jaques' opinions on the subject. Jaques
ridicules Orlando for his love of Rosalind and the multitude of poems left on trees. However, Jaques clearly
does not completely dislike Orlando because he asks Orlando to sit with him and rail against their fates. This
is because, despite his fawning love for Rosalind, Orlando demonstrates his own wit in this scene by cleverly
answering Jaques' questions and by recognizing that Jaques is indeed a fool. Thus, like the "Seven Ages of
Man" speech, Jaques' observations on love are not meant to be taken seriously.
Orlando is not the only one affected by love in this scene. While Rosalind manages to fool Orlando and
convince him to play her game, she is also silly when it comes to her love. When Rosalind reads the various
poems left by Orlando, she does not mind the bad verses, even though she criticizes them to Touchstone and
Celia. Rosalind blushes when she discusses Orlando with Celia, and demands to know what Orlando looked
like, what he said, where he was, etc., when Celia mentions that she saw him. When Celia tries to tell her,
Rosalind keeps interrupting excitedly, another typical action for someone in love. While Rosalind will often
make fun of love throughout the play, the fun is ironic, as Rosalind knows that she is love's fool just as much
as any of the characters in the play.
The other section of this scene continues the country/city dichotomy. When Corin asks Touchstone how he
enjoys being a shepherd, Touchstone praises and criticizes it for its simplicity. All of the advantages of
country life (its solitary nature, its location, and its sparseness) are, according to Touchstone, also its
disadvantages. This statement summarizes the entire point of the country/city theme of the play—both have
their advantages and disadvantages, and anyone who does not recognize this is a fool. However, although
Touchstone makes this witty and wise observation, he does not, as Rosalind has pointed out before,
understand his own wisdom. Touchstone's attitude in this scene (and throughout the play) is that he is superior
to the shepherds in the play because he is from the city and, therefore, more sophisticated, despite
acknowledging the advantages of country life. He tries to prove this by attempting to outwit Corin in
conversation in this scene, but Corin stands firm by reminding Touchstone that he earns his own way, owes
no one anything, and is generally happy.
Act III Commentary 41
Scene iii: Touchstone's foolishness is revealed by Jaques' criticisms in this scene. In his conversation with
Audrey, Touchstone uses his wit to establish his superiority over her "country" simplicity by wishing that she
were "poetical"—a concept that Audrey is not familiar with. Jaques, however, identifies Touchstone's attitudes
as foolish and makes fun of them at several points in the scene. Touchstone's superior attitude is also evident
in his use of Oliver Mar-Text, who as a questionable priest may provide Touchstone with the excuse to leave
Audrey later by claiming that the marriage is illegal. Fortunately for Audrey, Jaques prevents this by
persuading Touchstone to listen to his counsel.
Scene iv: Rosalind shows her ability to pine away because of love in this scene. When Orlando is late to their
"lesson," Rosalind wants to cry. She then calls him a traitor and is hurt when Celia suggests that he might not
be in love with her anymore because he is young and silly. Rosalind is so involved with her feelings for
Orlando that she does not even wish to discuss her father, whom she went into the forest to look for. However,
despite her sadness, Rosalind is not completely consumed by her feelings, and decides to "play a part" in the
scene about to unfold between Silvius and Phebe.
Scene v: Rosalind demonstrates her power to manipulate others because she is a man in this scene. When
Phebe rejects Silvius' pathetic advances, Rosalind recognizes that Silvius loves Phebe because she rejects him,
and that Phebe will probably be attracted by rejection as well. This observation proves to be correct, and
Phebe quickly falls in love with Ganymede (Rosalind). She even goes so far as to use Silvius to bear a love
letter to Ganymede, despite the cruelty of such an action. This type of love, which is inspired by cruelty and
quickly becomes obsession, is unhealthy and brings misery, as we have seen with Silvius. Although Rosalind
will manipulate the situation so that Silvius will eventually marry Phebe, there is little hope that their marriage
will be a happy one.
Act IV Commentary
Scene i: This scene shows the extent of the power that Rosalind has over the characters in the Forest of Arden.
She can not only manipulate "simple" characters like Silvius and Phebe in the previous scene, but she can
outwit the more intelligent ones like Jaques. When Jaques states that he prefers his own version of melancholy
(which he insists is unique) to laughing, Rosalind correctly points out that too much of either depression or
humor is bad for a person. This notion of extremes of any kind as bad is a common theme throughout
Shakespeare's plays as well as Elizabethan philosophy.
Rosalind then turns her attentions to Orlando, who has arrived late for their "session." In her guise as
Ganymede, Rosalind is capable of admitting who she is and what she wants from Orlando without his
knowledge. She also makes some very disparaging remarks about women, including comments about women
being too jealous, too weepy, too silly, and too contrary. While this allows Rosalind to appear to be male by
sounding stereotypes of women, it also allows her to make Orlando express what he really thinks of not only
Rosalind, but of women in general. Celia, on the other hand, cannot force herself to play the game because she
knows that women are none of these things, and moderates Rosalind's statements by exclaiming that Rosalind
has "misused" the female gender (l. 185).
Scene ii: This set piece features Jaques joking about the horns of a deer. In the Elizabethan period, men who
were cuckolded by their loves (especially their wives) were said to be wearing horns. The song warns that no
one should laugh at those who are cuckolded because one never knows when one will become a fool for love.
Scene iii: While Rosalind can control quite a bit in the Forest of Arden, this scene shows that she cannot quite
manipulate everything. When Orlando is late once again, Silvius has time to deliver Phebe's letter. Rosalind
deliberately misinterprets the letter in order to anger Silvius so that he sees Phebe for what she is. Rosalind
also tries to provoke Silvius because she realizes that Phebe is only attracted to men who will be mean to her,
Act IV Commentary 42
just as Silvius is attracted to Phebe because she is mean to him. She then sets the solution to this problem in
motion by telling Silvius to tell Phebe that if she loves Ganymede she must love Silvius. This is a
foreshadowing of how Rosalind's trick in Act V.
Rosalind may be able to control the people in the Forest of Arden, but she cannot control the forces of nature.
When Oliver enters the scene and tells Rosalind and Celia of Orlando's heroics, Rosalind faints when she sees
the bloody bandage. This is a reminder to Rosalind that she is not only female but uncontrollably in love.
Rosalind does recover quickly enough to make several admissions about being female and to tell Oliver she is
only pretending to swoon.
Act V Commentary
Scene i: This scene functions as comedy relief after the serious issues of the previous scene. Touchstone and
Audrey, still looking for an appropriate priest to marry them, encounter William, Audrey's other suitor.
Touchstone uses his witty remarks to scare William away, but he once again does not realize the depth of his
observations. When William insists that he has a "pretty" wit, Touchstone's reply is that "'The fool doth think
he is wise, but the/wise man knows himself to be a fool'" (ll.30-31). Touchstone is telling William that he is a
fool, but he fails to realize that the comment applies to him as well. Touchstone's attempts to outwit the
country dwellers are an abuse of language because he only uses his words to insult them and establish his own
Scene ii: This scene begins to wrap up the problems of the play. In the first section, Oliver reveals his
engagement to Celia, who he believes to be a simple shepherdess. Oliver's conversion to the value of love is
complete in this scene—he is willing to give up all he possesses to stay with his love, and he asks his brother's
permission to do so. Oliver even goes so far as to play Rosalind's game by referring to her ironically as "fair
sister," which we know she will soon be.
The next problem to be solved is the situation between Orlando and Rosalind. When Orlando can no longer
pretend because he is too depressed about his brother's happiness, Rosalind claims to be able to use magic to
bring him Rosalind. Of course, the magic is simple honesty, which the city lacks but the country makes
Rosalind then must solve the issue of Silvius and Phebe. When Rosalind states that she is in love with no
woman (another ironic admission), Phebe asks her why she is angry that Phebe is in love with her: "If this be
so, why blame you me to love you?" (l. 98). Silvius then asks Phebe why she blames him for being in love
with her when she is in love with Ganymede, who does not love her back. The purpose of the repetition of this
line is to remind Phebe that she should be more understanding of his pain because she experiences it as well.
Orlando's repetition of the line serves the same purpose for Rosalind, although he does not know she is
present. This reminds Rosalind to bring her games to a close and to finish solving the love problems of the
Scene iii: This scene, designed to "lose" time before the conclusion of the play, uses on of several songs of the
play in order to do so. There are several songs in the play with varying purposes. The first is as a set piece, as
with the song in this scene. Another purpose that this song fulfills is that of theatrical entertainment, which
almost always included song and dance. The third purpose of this song is to delay the inevitable. Shakespeare
makes very little attempt to hide the fact that all of the problems presented in the beginning of this play will be
resolved, and we are never in suspense over this issue. This song, as with some of the other songs in the play,
merely provides light entertainment to "lose time," as Touchstone ironically states, before the happy ending
we know is to come.
Act V Commentary 43
Scene iv: Rosalind begins this scene as Ganymede, but will end it with yet another change of identity by
marrying Orlando. She enters the scene as Ganymede in order to make sure that her final commands are in
place. She must do this as Ganymede because the other characters respond to her power as a male. Once she
resumes her true identity, she will be subject to her father and her husband and will lose her influence over
The ending of this play is extremely convenient. Not only do all of the lovers manage to marry each other, but
even Duke Frederick is conveniently converted off stage so that Duke Senior can take back his kingdom.
Shakespeare makes no attempt to hide the silliness of this resolution, and even goes so far as to bring the god
of marriage, Hymen, in to conduct the ceremony. As with the various metadramatic references to playacting
throughout the play ("All the world's a stage," etc.), this scene reminds us that we are, after all, watching
fiction on stage, and instead of hiding that fact, Shakespeare uses it for his own comic purposes.
Epilogue: An epilogue typically serves to sum up the major points of the play, or to comment on it, but this
epilogue at first glance appears to do neither. However, the fact that Rosalind, a female character, is delivering
the epilogue is highly unusual, as male characters always deliver the epilogue in Elizabethan drama.
Rosalind's delivery of the epilogue reminds us that she has been in control of the plot since Act II, despite her
"femininity." However, Shakespeare, who does not let us forget that this is a play, reminds us that the idea of
a female character is also ironic because Rosalind was played by a boy ("If I were a woman," etc.). Even
though Rosalind's statements in the epilogue seem to be about nothing, the fact that a boy playing a girl who
has controlled this play as a girl playing a boy reminds us of the issue of gender and power that pervades As
You Like It.
As You Like It: Quizzes
Act I Questions and Answers
Study Questions
1. Why does Orlando resent the way he has been treated by his brother Oliver?
2. How does Charles describe the exiled Duke Senior and his court?
3. Why does Duke Frederick allow the daughter of his banished brother to remain at court?
4. What plot does Oliver hatch against Orlando?
5. Why is Orlando warned not to wrestle with Charles?
6. What gift does Rosalind give to Orlando after he wins his wrestling match?
7. How do we know that Rosalind and Orlando have fallen in love at first sight?
8. What warning does Le Beau bring to Orlando after the match?
9. What are the reasons Duke Frederick gives for banishing Rosalind?
10. Why do Rosalind and Celia disguise themselves when they leave the court?
1. Orlando resents his treatment at his brother's hands because Oliver has ignored the bequests made by their
As You Like It: Quizzes 44
late father. Sir Rowland de Boys left Orlando a thousand crowns and requested that Oliver provide for his
education as a gentleman, but Oliver has kept Orlando "rustically at home" and has treated him no better than
one of his horses or oxen.
2. Charles describes the exiled Duke and his court as living like Robin Hood and his Merry Men in the Forest
of Arden. There they "fleet the time carelessly as they did in the golden world."
3. Duke Frederick has allowed Rosalind to remain at court because of her friendship with his daughter Celia.
Charles tells Oliver that "the Duke's daughter her cousin so loves her, being ever from their cradles bred
together, that she would have followed her exile, or have died to stay behind her."
4. Oliver plots to have Charles disable or kill Orlando during the wrestling match scheduled for the next day.
He tells Charles "I had as lief thou didst break his neck as his finger" and warns him that Orlando may resort
to poison or treachery if Charles does not take care of him first.
5. Celia, at Duke Frederick's bidding, warns Orlando that he has seen "cruel proof" of Charles's strength.
Charles has seriously injured his first three opponents and Orlando's safety is at stake.
6. Rosalind gives Orlando a chain from around her neck and bids him to "wear this for me."
7. Rosalind tells Orlando, "Sir, you have wrestled well, and overthrown/ More than your enemies." After
Rosalind exits, Orlando proclaims, "O poor Orlando, thou art overthrown!/ Or Charles, or something weaker
master thee."
8. Le Beau tells Orlando to "leave this place" because the Duke is angry and there is no telling what he might
9. Duke Frederick accuses Rosalind of being a traitor and says he does not trust her. When asked to explain
his reasoning he replies, "Thou art thy father's daughter, there's enough."
10. Rosalind and Celia decide to disguise themselves because it would be dangerous for young women to
travel alone in the countryside.
Act II Questions and Answers
Study Questions
1. Which two characters express sorrow about the killing of deer in the Forest of Arden?
2. Who is the source of the rumor that Orlando may be in the company of Rosalind, Celia, and Touchstone?
3. Why does Adam urge Orlando to avoid his brother's house?
4. Why does Orlando initially refuse to leave?
5. Which three items of property does Rosalind agree to purchase from Corin's employer?
6. What reason does Jaques give for avoiding Duke Senior?
7. Why does Orlando leave Adam in the forest?
Act I Questions and Answers 45
8. Which character from the court does Jaques tell Duke Senior he met in the forest?
9. What reasons does Orlando give for confronting Duke Senior and his courtiers with his sword drawn?
10. How does Duke Senior know that Orlando is the son of his former friend and ally, the late Sir Rowland de
1. Duke Senior remarks that "it irks me that the poor dappled fools... Should in their own confines... have their
round haunches gored." We also learn that "the melancholy Jaques grieves at that."
2. Hisperia, Celia's waiting gentlewoman, reported that, she believed Orlando had accompanied Rosalind,
Celia, and Touchstone when they left the court.
3. Adam urges Orlando to leave Oliver's house because Oliver plans to burn Orlando's lodgings while he is
asleep. He also tells Orlando that if this plan fails, Oliver will resort to other treacherous means to kill his
4. Orlando initially refuses to leave because he believes he will be reduced to begging, or that he will be
forced to become a thief.
5. Rosalind agrees to purchase a cottage, a flock of sheep, and the pasture land where the sheep graze.
6. Jaques tells Amiens that he is avoiding Duke Senior because "He is too disreputable for my company" 52
As You Like It
7. Orlando leaves Adam in the forest because he is too weak with hunger to accompany Orlando while he
searches for food.
8. Jaques tells Duke Senior that he met Touchstone in the forest.
9. Orlando remarks that he is famished, and he tells Duke Senior, "I thought that all things had been savage
here,/ And therefore put I on the countenance/ Of stern commandment."
10. Duke Senior knows that Orlando is the son of the late Sir Rowland de Boys because Orlando has
"whispered faithfully" that he was. Duke Senior has also noticed that Orlando's face bears a strong
resemblance to his father's.
Act III Questions and Answers
Study Questions
1. What penalty will Oliver face if he fails to find Orlando within a year?
2. What does Orlando do with the love poems he has written to Rosalind?
3. Where does Celia tell Rosalind she saw Orlando?
4. Where does Orlando tell Jaques he can find a fool?
5. What names do Jaques and Orlando call each other when they part?
Act II Questions and Answers 46
6. What excuse does Rosalind make when Orlando comments that her accent seems "something finer" than
one might expect of a native of the forest?
7. Why does Touchstone prefer to be married by Sir Oliver Martext rather than "a good priest?"
8. What did Ganymede tell Duke Senior when the Duke asked about her parentage?
9. How do we know that Phebe has fallen in love with Rosalind in her Ganymede disguise?
10. What message does Phebe plan to deliver to Ganymede and who will deliver it?
1. Duke Frederick tells Oliver that if he fails to find Orlando within a year, he will forfeit his lands and goods.
2. Orlando hangs the love poems he has written to Rosalind on trees in the Forest of Arden.
3. Celia tells Rosalind that she saw Orlando "under a tree, like a dropped acorn."
4. Orlando tells Jaques to look in the brook if he is seeking a fool, for there he will see his own reflection.
5. Jaques calls Orlando "Signior Love." Orlando calls Jaques "Monsieur Melancholy."
6. Rosalind tells Orlando that "an old religious uncle" of hers, in his youth a city man, had taught her how to
7. Touchstone prefers to be married by Sir Oliver Martext because he believes that the marriage might not be
legal, thus leaving him free to eventually abandon his wife.
8. When Duke Senior, not recognizing his daughter in her disguise, inquired of Rosalind's parentage, she told
him her parentage was "as good as he."
9. We know that Phebe has fallen in love with Ganymede when she comments after Rosalind's exit, "Who
ever loved that loved not at first sight?"
10. Phebe plans to write a "taunting letter" to Ganymede for scorning her. She asks Silvius to deliver the
letter, and he agrees.
Act IV Questions and Answers
Study Questions
1. What is Rosalind's response when Orlando fears "her frown might kill" him?
2. Who performs the mock wedding ceremony between Rosalind and Orlando?
3. How long does Orlando say he will be gone before he returns to Rosalind?
4. What excuse does Orlando give for leaving?
5. What question does Jaques ask the Lords he meets in the forest?
Act III Questions and Answers 47
6. What did Orlando ask Oliver to bring to Ganymede?
7. Which two animals threatened Oliver while he slept beneath a tree?
8. What wound did Orlando receive while defending his brother?
9. What is Rosalind's response when she hears that Orlando has been injured?
10. Where does Rosalind say she would like to be after she recovers?
1. Rosalind, as Ganymede, tells Orlando that his Rosalind "would not kill a fly."
2. Celia performs the mock wedding ceremony.
3. Orlando says he will be gone for two hours.
4. Orlando tells Rosalind he must leave to "attend the Duke at dinner."
5. Jaques asks the Lords which of them has killed the deer they are bearing to the Duke.
6. Orlando asked Oliver to bring Ganymede a handkerchief soaked with his blood.
7. Oliver was threatened by a "green and gilded snake" and a lioness.
8. Orlando had flesh torn away on his arm while battling the lioness.
9. When Rosalind learns that Orlando has been injured, she faints.
10. When she regains consciousness, Rosalind comments, "I would I were at home."
Act V Questions and Answers
Study Questions
1. How old is William?
2. What does Touchstone threaten to do if William does not relinquish his claim to Audrey?
3. Who does Oliver fall in love with?
4. When does Oliver plan to be married?
5. When does Touchstone tell Audrey they will be married?
6. Who delivers the news of Duke Frederick's conversion?
7. Who was responsible for Duke Frederick's sudden change of heart?
8. Who does Duke Senior name as heir to his newly restored dukedom?
Act IV Questions and Answers 48
9. What reason does Jaques give for departing the wedding festivities?
10. Who speaks the epilogue of the play?
1. William tells Touchstone he is twenty-five.
2. Touchstone claims he will kill William "a hundred and fifty ways."
3. Oliver falls in love with Celia in her Aliena disguise.
4. Orlando tells Oliver that the wedding will take place the next day.
5. Touchstone tells Audrey that they, too, will be married the next day.
6. Jaques de Boys, the second son of the late Sir Rowland, delivers the news of Duke Frederick's miraculous
7. Duke Frederick abandoned his plan to capture and kill his brother after meeting "an old religious man" on
the outskirts of the forest.
8. Duke Senior names Orlando as his heir.
9. Jaques tells Duke Senior, "I am for other than for dancing measures."
10. Rosalind speaks the epilogue.
As You Like It: Themes
At the conclusion of As You Like It, Rosalind remains on stage to end the play with a standard epilogue. After
acknowledging that it is unusual to assign the epilogue to a female character, she sends the audience home
with the words, "My way is to conjure you and I begin with the women. I charge you, O women, for the love
you bear to men, to like as much of the play as please you; and I charge you, O men, for the love you bear to
women … that between you and the women the play may please" (V.iv). This upbeat but very slight final word
is consistent with Shakespeare's primary purpose in As You Like It: to entertain his audience. Filled with skits,
songs, and superfluous side stories (the love affairs between Touchstone and Audrey and between Silvius and
Phebe) and featuring many exchanges of comic wordplay, As You Like It does not have any dominant theme
or message to convey beyond goodwill to all and tolerance toward each. There is, however, a particular point
of view that is brought to bear on the subjects that arise in its course (love, aging, time, nature, and the like).
That perspective or worldview is brought to the fore in the person of Rosalind (as both a woman and a man)
and contrasted with the dour outlook of Jaques.
We are at liberty to choose how we wish to live and to experience life, Shakespeare tells us in As You Like It.
The most obvious choice presented to us in the play is between the civilized realm of the courtly society and
the natural world of Arden. As the veteran shepherd Corin tells us, "those that are good manners at the court
are ridiculous in the country as the behavior of the country is most mockable at court" (III.ii.46-47). The
Forest of Arden is initially presented to us as a romanticized and idealized alternative to the cruelty of the
court under Duke Frederick and the "evil" brother Oliver. The first that we hear of Duke Senior and the lords
who have taken refuge in Arden is that, "They live like old Robin Hood of England" (I.i.117). While they
recognize the hardships of natural life, the good Duke and his men are a merry lot, happy to trade their station
Act V Questions and Answers 49
at court for the freedom of the woods.
But Shakespeare also includes some negative dimensions to country life, which is seen to be physically
strenuous with uncertain terrain, lions and miscreants roaming about along with bumpkins and rural fools.
When Touchstone is asked by Corin how he likes life as a shepherd, the jester answers: "In respect that it is
solitary, I like it very well; but in respect that it is private, it is a very vile life" (II.ii.15-16). Since "solitary"
and "private" are virtual synonyms, the clown's opinion seems meaningless; in fact, it encompasses a broader
point made time and time again in the play: that our experience of anything is largely a product of how we
look at it and define it.
The most consistent and recognizable worldview in As You Like It belongs to Jaques, the melancholic member
of Duke Senior's court who finds fault not with individuals but with life at large. The constant target of
ridicule from Amiens and the hearty lords of Duke Senior's sylvan court, Jaques recites the play's most
famous speech in Act II, scene vii, in which the melancholy loner tells us that:
All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.
There follows a highly unflattering depiction of man's development from its first stage as a "mewling infant"
to that of a "whining schoolboy," a foolish lover, a quarrelsome soldier, a fat judge, a preposterous old man
trying to act youthful, and lastly to the infirmity of Old Age as a pathetic type of second childhood. In his
view, human life is devoid of dignity in each of its seven ages and ends in a state of ridiculous weakness.
Pining at the sight of a dying stag or ridiculing country life and love, Jaques' viewpoint is that of a
misanthropic pessimist, a man who holds an opinion of human folly so low that it compels others to treat him
as an object of folly. Jaques excludes himself from the play's concluding dance and by doing so indicates that
his maudlin outlook cannot be reconciled to the affirmative values of Christian society.
While several of the play's other characters recognize that love fades, that people are often ridiculous and
cruel, and that human life becomes worm fodder, they are generally willing to embrace the joys of being alive.
Rosalind serves as the prime example of this tempered humanism. For example, in her disguise as Ganymede,
Rosalind tells Orlando that "love is merely madness" (III.ii), but in the next act she confides to her cousin
Celia that she is now hopelessly deep in her love for Oliver. Alongside her tolerance for human frailty
(including her own passions), Rosalind epitomizes the virtues of the Christian heroine. Chief among these are
compassion and a concern for others. In the first scene of the play, Rosalind is understandably disturbed by
the banishment of her father and the treachery of her uncle, but she nevertheless says to her cousin Celia, "I
will forget the condition of my estate, to rejoice in yours" (I.i.15). What Rosalind stands for are the Christian
values of love and harmony and the willingness to construct a positive experience even in the face of
adversity. This spirit is also found in the behavior of Orlando when he comes across the brother who wronged
him, asleep at the mercy of a fierce beast. As the reformed or "Christianized" Oliver puts it in Act IV, scene
iii, his younger brother considered allowing him to be mauled, "But kindness, nobler ever than revenge, / And
nature, stronger than his just occasion." At risk of his own life, Orlando repays Oliver's mistreatment with an
act of sacrifice. This, in turn, causes a conversion in Oliver, while a meeting with an old religious man causes
Duke Frederick to undergo a parallel awakening.
Love and time are among the subjects that occupy the conversation in Arden, and we are exposed to varied
viewpoints on these themes. Alongside the seemingly perfect romantic love of Rosalind and Orlando, for
instance, we see an imperfect and somewhat common love of Touchstone and Audrey and, beyond that, the
As You Like It: Themes 50
lopsided love of Silvius for Phebe. Time marches on as Jaques reminds us, but we are also presented with
positive models of the aged, particularly Orlando's faithful retainer, Old Adam. While there are no clocks in
Arden, Orlando is nevertheless late for two of his courtship practice sessions with Ganymede. In each
instance, there is something valid about Jaques point of view. Nothing is perfect even in a romantic comedy,
but we understand that Jaques perspective is self-defeating and unbalanced.
Lastly, there is an enormous amount of wordplay in the text of As You Like It. In Act II, scene v, for example,
Jaques sings a parody song in which the nonsense word "ducdame" is repeated three times. When he is asked
what a ducdame is, Jaques replies that it is "a Greek invocation, to call fools into a circle" (60). This type of
amusing banter is the stock and trade of Touchstone, the great corrupter of language, a fool who is able to
make his way through life on puns, malaprops, and the jestful use of language.
As You Like It: Character Analysis
Note on the Character Analysis
Note: As You Like It is a formulaic comedy in which love and good must ultimately triumph. As such, it is
filled with stock character types. While each of the play's main characters is distinct and none, save the least
important (Charles the wrestler), is purely one-dimensional, the figures that appear on stage in As You Like It
are not complex in the sense that Shakespeare's Hamlet or Lady Macbeth is complex. The two exceptions are
Rosalind and Jaques, the poles of the play's "optimism/pessimism" opposition.
Celia (Character Analysis)
Celia is the daughter of Duke Frederick and lives at the palace. After her father ousts Duke Senior, Duke
Senior's daughter Rosalind, Celia's cousin, comes to live with her, and the two seem to be very close. They are
like two schoolgirls exchanging witticisms about all they observe in their somewhat sheltered world. Celia
takes an active part in the witty exchanges with Le Beau, in which the two girls and Touchstone engage in
endless wordplay. She, along with her cousin, tries to convince Orlando that he will be injured if he wrestles
Charles, and during the wrestling match, Celia encourages him. After the match, Celia and Rosalind pun on
wrestling terms like "fall" and "throw," using these terms in the language of love to discuss Rosalind's
infatuation with Orlando. Celia is excited for her cousin, but much of her energy at Duke Frederick's court is
siphoned into distancing herself from her father's actions, most noticeably his banishment of Orlando after the
wrestling match.
When Duke Frederick suddenly demands that Rosalind leave his household, Celia does not hesitate; she
decides to share Rosalind's fate and travel with her to the Forest of Arden. The two adopt disguises because
traveling in the sometimes violent Elizabethan underworld was a dangerous undertaking for two women.
Celia assumes the persona of a woman being escorted by "Ganymede," Rosalind's male persona, significant
since Celia is the less dominant of the two women. It is also significant that Celia takes the name "Aliena." In
an obvious sense, she is alienated from her father and the world of Duke Frederick's court. In another sense,
she seems alienated from herself; in the Forest of Arden she seems different from the carefree adolescent she
is in earlier scenes. She becomes a woman of means living in the world, buying the cottage of Corin's master
and establishing a household. As a character, she recedes into the background of the pastoral world of Arden,
becoming merely the go-between for Rosalind and Orlando. Her relationship with Oliver is reported to rather
than witnessed by the audience. Of the two female friends in the play, Rosalind is clearly the more dynamic,
Celia, perhaps, giving modern audiences the glimpse of another dimension of female identity in Elizabethan
As You Like It: Character Analysis 51
Frederick (Character Analysis)
Duke Frederick is the younger brother of Duke Senior and has somehow gained enough power to banish him
from the court. He plunders the estates of those lords who have accompanied Duke Senior into exile. Duke
Frederick seems to be acting capriciously and arbitrarily when he banishes Rosalind, but her banishment
probably stems from the animosity that exists between himself and Duke Senior. She is, after all, Duke
Senior's daughter, and Duke Frederick has only taken her in to appease his own daughter Celia. It may also be
conjectured that he has witnessed or heard reports of Rosalind's attraction to Orlando and her gift of a
necklace to him and is upset with her for befriending the son of Sir Rowland de Boys, his avowed enemy.
Again, this probably stems from the quarrel between Duke Frederick and Duke Senior, the latter having had a
great affection for Sir Rowland. Duke Frederick has already banished Orlando for his paternity and will
eventually banish Oliver for the same reason, after Oliver has failed to produce and punish Orlando in
accordance with Duke Frederick's desires. Duke Frederick becomes alarmed at the popularity enjoyed by his
older brother in the forest, and he sets out to remove Duke Senior and his followers by force. He is dissuaded
from this purpose and is miraculously converted to the contemplative life by a religious man in the Forest of
The rupture in the relationship between Duke Frederick and Duke Senior parallels that of Oliver and Orlando
although the virtuous brother is younger in the latter pair and older in the former. Fraternal envy and
disharmony is a common theme in several of Shakespeare's plays (for example, Hamlet and The Tempest),
often recalling the Biblical story of Cain and Abel. For Shakespeare, it is necessary to reconcile these fraternal
feuds in order to restore the fabric of social order. It is perhaps this necessity for restoring order that accounts
for Duke Frederick's sudden conversion by the religious hermit in Arden, a place where the ill effects of desire
and ambition are temporarily suspended.
Jaques (Character Analysis)
A lord attending the banished Duke Senior, Jaques seems less enthusiastic about the natural simplicity of
Arden as the other characters there, but he does not entirely dampen their enthusiasm. Rather, Duke Senior
and his followers are amused by his pessimism about an environment which they celebrate as basic and
unflattering, an environment which allows them to be themselves. For example, they are highly amused when
Jaques empathizes with the deer wounded by one of them, moaning and weeping for the pain of the deer, the
killing of which is seen by Duke Senior and his followers as sad but necessary for survival and part of the
correct order of things. Jaques's identification with the deer is illustrative of the alternative perspective he
provides throughout the play.
The alternative perspective Jaques provides allows the audience to see the duplicitousness that invades even
the Forest of Arden. He accuses Duke Senior and his followers of having usurped the claim that the deer have
to the forest as its natural inhabitants. Although Duke Senior regrets having to gore them, he does not see, as
Jaques does, that his dominance over the deer is similar to the law of "right by power" Duke Senior thinks he
has escaped by fleeing the court and taking refuge in the forest. Jaques also sees through Touchstone's
relationship with Audrey. If Touchstone thinks he can feign affection for Audrey and hide ''amongst the rest
of the country copulatives," (V.iv.55-6) Jaques sees the relationship for what it is, simple lust and a
denigration of the institution of marriage.
In his "Seven Ages of Man Speech" (II.vii.139-66), Jaques says, "All the world's a stage, / And all the men
and women merely players" (II.vii.139-40). He seems to see nothing of lasting value in life because these
players come and go; it would seem that one player is as good as another. About the stages humans pass
through as they mature, he has nothing good to say: infants are "mewling" and "puking''; the schoolboy is
''whining''; lovers sigh melodramatically; the soldier fights for as inconsequential a thing as reputation; the
Frederick (Character Analysis) 52
judge is corpulent and self-indulgent; the aged man shrinks in his clothes and wheezes; and finally, near death,
man becomes a child again with no teeth, failing eyesight, and a loss of appetite. Jaques expresses a
pessimism here that reins in the optimism expressed by Duke Senior and his followers.
Jaques is not unaffected by the transforming power of the Forest of Arden. He has been a libertine, pursuing
his appetites and ambitions. The forest has made him contemplative of life and sorry for his past mistakes. It
seems fitting that at the end of the play he announces his intention to go and inquire about the contemplative
religious life now embraced by Duke Frederick and forego the group weddings and communal celebrations
with which the play concludes.
Oliver (Character Analysis)
Oliver is Orlando's older brother and takes over the responsibility of raising him. He so dislikes Orlando that
when the brothers quarrel, Oliver strikes Orlando and then orders him out of the house. Oliver even goes so
far as to assure Duke Frederick that he hates Orlando as much as the duke does, knowing full well that the
duke intends to apprehend him and punish him.
As the eldest son of Sir Rowland de boys, Oliver has inherited the entire estate. The play never explains why
he elects to send the second brother, Jaques, off to school but neglects the education of Orlando. Perhaps, as
some critics have suggested, he is extremely envious of his younger brother's talent, generosity, and
aristocratic impulses and wishes to be rid of Orlando so that he might appear in a better light without
competition from his younger sibling. This explanation of Oliver's behavior must remain a matter of
conjecture only. It is likely, though, that Shakespeare is using Oliver, as he uses Duke Frederick, to emphasize
the social upheaval that results when brothers fight. Like Duke Frederick, Oliver has a sudden, almost
unbelievable change of heart toward his brother. Since social order is symbolically restored only when
brothers reconcile, it may sometimes be necessary for Shakespeare to effect this reconciliation even if it is
sometimes unbelievable within the plot. In As You Like It, bringing the feuding brothers together again takes
precedence over consistent and plausible characterization.
Like so many of the other characters, Oliver changes when he enters the Forest of Arden. Not only is his
attitude toward Orlando changed, but his capacity for feeling emotion seems to increase also. Although his
betrothal to Celia is somewhat quick, his feelings for her seem genuine. Just as important is Celia's affection
for Oliver. Oliver is from an aristocratic family, but Celia is the daughter of a duke, a member of the nobility.
This is yet another example of the transforming power of the forest, in that arbitrary social distinctions are
suspended. The forest setting allows Oliver's true nature to reveal itself and shows him fit to marry a
noblewoman, just as it does with Orlando.
Orlando (Character Analysis)
Orlando is the youngest son of the deceased Sir Rowland de Boys and a brother to Oliver. He resents the
harsh treatment he receives at Oliver's hands and complains that Oliver neglects to educate him. Orlando feels
that he is being ''kept'' like the livestock. He is fed and he grows physically but not intellectually or socially.
Despite this neglect, Orlando's talents and his aristocratic nature reveal themselves. Although there is no
mention of Orlando having had formal training in the sport of wrestling, he defeats someone who makes his
living wrestling. Having seen the match, Rosalind becomes attracted to Orlando, and gives him her necklace.
After escaping to the Forest of Arden, Orlando encounters Rosalind, who is posing as Ganymede. Again,
although he has not been taught to write formal verse, Orlando's instinct is to write poetry to Rosalind and
express his feelings for her. According to Rosalind and Touchstone, the verse is stiff and halting, yet
Orlando's inclination to turn to poetry as an emotive outlet attests to his aristocratic nature. Thinking that
Jaques (Character Analysis) 53
Ganymede (Rosalind) is a young man knowledgeable about the relationships between men and women,
Orlando allows himself to be educated in the finer points of courtship.
In a comical scene, Jaques and Orlando meet as strangers and speak to each other according to polite
convention. Each tells the other that he would rather be alone, and they agree that they should meet less often.
The polite veneer of their speech does not quite fit with the content of their speeches. We get the sense that
Jaques and Orlando are complete opposites—Jaques a pessimistic and brooding character, and Orlando an
optimistic fellow intent upon experiencing life to the fullest.
Another indicator of Orlando's virtuous nature is his treatment of Adam. As the two make their way to the
Forest of Arden, the trip proves too arduous for the faithful, old servant. When he can no longer go on,
Orlando is ready to fight Duke Senior and all of his attendant lords in order to procure food for him. And
when Jaques expresses a characteristic pessimism about the value of human life, Orlando carries Adam into
the company of exiles, mute testimony for the value of mutual respect and support between human beings.
As a disadvantaged younger brother, Orlando probably would have been received sympathetically by a good
portion of Shakespeare's audience. Under the system of primogeniture, the eldest male child inherited the
entire estate, leaving younger male children to make their own marks in the world. These younger brothers
would often have to learn a profession and would apprentice themselves to master craftsmen in London.
Shakespeare's professional theater was a major source of diversion and entertainment for these young
apprentices, and we should expect that they would have identified, to some degree, with Orlando's situation.
Although Orlando's intelligence may seem to be in question because he fails to recognize Rosalind in her
disguise as Ganymede in the Forest of Arden, his failure to recognize Rosalind and his willingness to be
manipulated by her are better attributed to his eagerness to compensate for his lack of education and become a
student of the formal art of courtship. He proves to be a good student and passes the tests Rosalind presents
him as she assesses his faithfulness and devotion. In the last act, Rosalind reveals herself, and she Orlando are
Rosalind (Character Analysis)
Rosalind is Celia's cousin and daughter to Duke Senior. When her father is banished by Celia's father, Duke
Frederick, Rosalind lives with Celia until Duke Frederick banishes her, too. She adopts a male disguise as a
measure of security for her journey with Celia and Touchstone to the Forest of Arden. She adopts the name
''Ganymede," a telling name since, in Greek mythology, Ganymede was an androgynous youth raped by Zeus.
When she arrives in Arden, Rosalind keeps her male disguise even though she is now safe and has no reason
to do so.
When Celia discovers Orlando's poetry to Rosalind marring the tree trunks, she informs Rosalind of the
author's identity. Initially, it seems as though Rosalind hangs onto her disguise in order to have some fun with
Orlando. As the play progresses, Rosalind realizes that her male disguise gives her a certain power that she
does not have as a woman. She is able to manipulate Orlando and extract from him his deepest secrets
concerning her. Disguised as a man, she has power over other characters too. She is pursued by Phebe and can
intervene in her relationship with Silvius.
Like her father, Duke Senior, Rosalind is a dominant presence in the play. She mediates many of the
contradictions posed by the play. For example, Orlando wants to be a student of the formal patterns of
courtship, but this desire is out of place in Arden where conventions are unimportant. Rosalind teaches him
that, in romantic love, faithfulness and devotion are more important than any prescribed steps in a process of
wooing. Orlando passes the test and is rewarded with Rosalind's reciprocal love. Faced with Phebe's ill
Orlando (Character Analysis) 54
treatment of Silvius, Rosalind teaches her a lesson about the importance of considering others' pain and
Rosalind's dual nature serves to mediate between the pastoral world of Arden and the rule-bound world of the
court. Nature is often characterized as feminine—"Mother Nature"—nurturing growth and diversity. The
masculine world is bound by time and conventions, rules and regulations devised to insure order and
conformance. Rosalind/Ganymede knows what it is like to be both a man and a woman, and this knowledge
enables her to understand the conflicts between the masculine and feminine worlds, the court and the Forest of
Arden respectively, and better equips her to deal with those conflicts. It is the increased power granted by
Rosalind's dual gender that differentiates her from Celia, the two characters seeming so much alike in the
play's earlier scenes. Celia is in a sense bound by her inflexible identity.
Rosalind, like Phebe, represents an aspect of Queen Elizabeth, who liked to speak of her ''two bodies"—her
frail womanly body and her body politic, the masculine identity she derived from being the monarch of
England. The Queen dressed in masculine attire at Tilbury in order to rally her English soldiers as they
awaited an invasion by the Spanish. It is this kind of gender confusion that Elizabethan audiences would have
been aware of, and it is perhaps inevitable that they would have seen Rosalind as an allusion to the Queen, at
once feminine and powerful.
Rosalind is the moral center of As You Like It, the character with whom our sympathies lie and through whose
eyes we experience and evaluate the play's events and other characters. She is at the start an innocent victim
of her uncle's mistrust, and there is nothing in her actions or words to justify Duke Frederick's treatment of
her. Rosalind perseveres, however; and in most of the exchanges that take place while she is disguised as
Ganymede, she controls the situation by being privy to knowledge, such as her own female identity, of which
others (Orlando, Phebe, her father Duke Senior) are ignorant. Rosalind can be forceful, as in her rejection of
Jaques and her treatment of Phebe, but she stands at the positive end of regenerating Christian values and
social harmony. To be sure, Rosalind is subject to Cupid's arrow and falls in love with Orlando shortly after
meeting him. But it is also plain that Orlando is a worthy match for her and that her instinctive choice of him
is ultimately wise.
Touchstone (Character Analysis)
Touchstone is a clown, or fool, in Duke Frederick's household. He may not be a vigorous male character, but
he is a man nonetheless, and Celia and Rosalind decide to take him along as an extra measure of security on
their journey to the Forest of Arden. When he arrives in the forest he finds that his familiarity with the
language and customs of the court impress the simple shepherds and goatherds, so he uses this advantage to
further his lustful designs on Audrey and marry her in what is typically described as a travesty of romantic
love and marriage.
The Elizabethan term "clown" could be applied to any simple yokel. The term ''fool" referred to a court jester
often wearing motley, a kind of multi-colored and outlandish attire. Elizabethan fools were very often
"naturals," simple unassuming idiots who amused the courtiers with their naiveté or misunderstanding. In
Shakespeare's plays, fools arguably function as either the conscience of some basically noble but misled
character (for example, in King Lear) or as a device to deflate and expose the pomposity of characters who
overstep their proper positions (for example, in Twelfth Night). Additionally, Shakespeare's fools amuse with
their convoluted logic and witty plays on words. In As You Like It, Touchstone, although he delights with his
wit, serves a somewhat different purpose.
A "touchstone" was a stone that was used to determine if metals were precious. Rubbed against a touchstone,
gold and silver would leave a distinguishable mark. ''Touchstone'' has come to signify anything that tests and
Rosalind (Character Analysis) 55
reveals virtue or worth. This is the purpose Touchstone serves in the play. When he is in the company of other
characters, he brings out their true virtue. For example, when he debates Corin, the audience sees the true
value of Corin's simple philosophy in contrast to Touchstone's argument for argument's sake, and Corin's
pastoral life seems to have real substance—it is not a life based solely on witticisms and conventional
language. In another example, Touchstone discusses with Jaques the "lie circumstantial," one step in an
elaborate form of argumentation that replaces genuine passion with social convention. The fact that Jaques
participates in this discussion at all reveals that he values that social convention beyond the simple life he is
trying to imitate.
Jaques, who is greatly amused by Touchstone, reports that the clown has produced a timepiece from his
pocket during their encounter in the forest. Touchstone has brought the "dial" with him from Duke Frederick's
court where the timepiece was perhaps essential. In the timelessness of the Forest of Arden, the appearance of
the watch draws attention to the conflicting values the two different realms place on the experience of time,
and the timepiece is as out of place in the forest as Touchstone himself.
Other Characters (Descriptions)
Adam is the faithful, old servant of Sir Rowland de Boys, father to Oliver and Orlando. When Sir Rowland
dies, Adam remains as a servant to the household which is now governed by the elder Oliver. He recognizes a
certain inherent nobility in Orlando and sympathizes with the younger brother in his complaints against Oliver
for neglecting his education and breeding. Adam is ill-treated by Oliver, and after the two brothers quarrel and
physically struggle, he sides with Orlando and casts his fortune with him. He gives Orlando all of the money
he has managed to save and travels with him to the Forest of Arden. In a society like Elizabethan England
with rigid class distinctions, Adam represents the ideal of service, one who is motivated by loyalty and
affection rather than greed and ambition. When Jaques, the pessimistic courtier in attendance upon the exiled
Duke Senior, utters his fatalistic "Seven Ages of Man" speech (II.vii.139-66), concluding with a description of
old age as isolated dependence, Orlando enters carrying Adam. Orlando defiantly protects the servant who has
given everything to him, and the mutual generosity and dependence between Orlando and Adam contradicts
the dismal picture drawn by Jaques's speech.
See Celia
Amiens is one of the lords in attendance upon Duke Senior in the Forest of Arden. He is not in servitude to
Duke Senior; he has voluntarily joined him in exile. Any distinction in social standing is diminished in the
egalitarian environment of Arden. He sings several songs or snatches of songs, mostly at the insistence of
Jaques, all of which express the sentiment that, even in its extremities of climate, the forest is a simple and
direct place, without the dishonesty that sometimes accompanies the communal associations of humans. He
appears in the last scene of the play but does not speak.
They are the servants of Duke Frederick. They appear along with Duke Frederick, his lords, Charles, and
Orlando in I.ii, a scene in which all are trying to dissuade Orlando from wrestling Charles. They do not have
speaking parts.
Audrey is a goatherd and is even less sophisticated than the shepherds in the play. Even Touchstone impresses
her, and she agrees to marry him. That marriage appears to be, as some have argued, more the product of lust
Touchstone (Character Analysis) 56
and Touchstone's desire for conquest than it is of any deep affection between the two. She abandons another
suitor, William, in order to be with Touchstone. In a parody of romantic love, Touchstone so twists the simple
logic by which Audrey lives that she says, "I am not a slut, though I thank the gods I am foul" (III.iii.38),
uttering this statement in response to the convoluted logic he has offered about court values of beauty and
chastity. Audrey and Touchstone get married at the end of the play, but they have attempted to marry earlier
than this. They arrange to be married by Sir Oliver Martext, but Jaques interrupts the ceremony and argues
that the marriage will not be legitimate if it is performed by Sir Oliver. Jaques's argument does not convince
Touchstone, but he delays the wedding anyway. Audrey does not express her feelings about the interrupted
wedding either way, and this is typical of her reliance on Touchstone's more worldly knowledge.
Charles is the king's wrestler, who travels about the countryside challenging all comers to best him in a match.
When Charles finds out Orlando has challenged him, he informs Oliver of the fact and that his reputation as a
strongman is at stake, and he is confident that he cannot lose. He asks Oliver to intervene and discourage
Orlando from what he considers a foolhardy enterprise, believing that Orlando's defeat will disgrace the de
Boys name. Oliver misrepresents Orlando to Charles as a dangerous villain, and the wrestler leaves with a
firm resolve to punish and defeat Orlando thoroughly. In the arranged matches, Charles, not surprisingly,
convincingly beats the first three challengers, but he mocks Orlando and is greatly surprised when Orlando
bests him through a combination of the incentive of revenge for that mockery and Orlando's own ability.
Charles informs the audience of several important plot details early in the play: Duke Frederick's banishment
of his brother Duke Senior; Duke Senior's residence in Arden; Rosalind's living arrangements; and Celia's
great affection for Rosalind.
Corin is an old shepherd living in the Forest of Arden. He tends sheep for his master, a man who, according to
Corin, is not very generous. The cottage of Corin's master is bought by Celia, and she becomes Corin's new
mistress. His lot is improved by this transaction. Corin is first seen in the company of Silvius as the latter
bemoans the intensity of his love for Phebe. When Corin cannot identify with Silvius's hyperbolic
protestations of love, Silvius accuses him of never having experienced that emotion. But Corin is old and
pragmatic, and his inability to share Silvius's current emotional state suggests either that time dissipates the
capacity for feeling or that the emotional states of love and rationality are, perhaps, mutually exclusive. Corin
lives by a simple philosophy: He is content with the knowledge that rain makes things wet, that fire burns, and
that sheep are fattened by grazing on pasture. He eats what he can get with his own hands, wears the clothes
he makes himself, and is not envious of the success of others. He debates the virtues of court and country
living with Touchstone, and although Touchstone declares victory in this debate, Corin's simple and direct
logic contrasts with Touchstone's witty wordplay, exposing the superficiality of court life and revealing its
enslavement to convention. Corin's simple honesty and Silvius's lovelorn agitation are split aspects of the
stock pastoral figure employed by elite writers to comment on social and political circumstances at court and
in the city.
Dennis is another servant in the de Boys household, which is now in the sole possession of Oliver. He appears
briefly in an early scene, performing the task of announcing a guest.
Duke Frederick
See Frederick
Duke Senior
See Senior
Other Characters (Descriptions) 57
There are no actual foresters in the play, only Duke Senior's attendant lords dressed as foresters. They are
playacting in a way that parallels the pastoral mode itself since the literary pastoral voice of the lowly
shepherd was invented by aristocrats as they imagined shepherds would speak. See Lords.
See Rosalind
Hymen is the Greek god of marriage. In As You Like It, a person representing Hymen officiates at the
marriages of the betrothed couples, symbolically blessing those unions.
Jaques (brother of Oliver and Orlando)
This is a son of Sir Rowland de Boys and brother of Oliver and Orlando. He is referred to in the beginning of
the play when Orlando remarks that Oliver has done the right thing with Jaques, sending him to school where
he is reported to be doing well. He does not appear in the play until the final scene and has only a brief role
reporting the sudden conversion of Duke Frederick. He is referred to only as "Second Brother'' in this
instance. Having two Jaques in the play leads to some confusion, and the question of whether the confusion is
the result of revision or Shakespeare's inadvertent mistake has not been resolved.
Le Beau
Le Beau is a courtier, presumably in the court of Duke Frederick. He reports to Celia and Rosalind the result
of Charles's earlier wrestling matches and announces that the two cousins will witness the match between
Orlando and Charles if they remain where they are. He serves as the pivot point, the straight man, for the witty
vollies of Celia, Rosalind, and Touchstone. He later warns Orlando that Duke Frederick is displeased with
Orlando's success and advises him to leave the vicinity, suggesting that not all the courtiers have been
compromised by the influence of Duke Frederick's ambition, but suggesting, also, the necessity for masking
one's true feelings at court.
When Duke Senior seeks refuge in the forest from the persecution of his brother, a number of lords, or
wealthy landholders, go along with him. In II.i, two characters designated as "1. Lord'' and ''2. Lord" inform
Duke Senior of Jaques's melancholy weeping for the "sobbing deer" which has been wounded in the hunt.
Duke Frederick, too, is surrounded by several lords. We can distinguish Duke Senior's lords and Duke
Frederick's lords only by setting and context. Amiens and Jaques are lords as are the foresters.
Martext (Sir Oliver Martext)
Sir Oliver Martext is a country vicar, a parish priest. He is consulted by Audrey and Touchstone concerning
their impending marriage. Since the text of the spoken marriage ceremony is what makes the wedding official,
his name is appropriate: he will mar the text of that ceremony, which is itself a travesty of what a real
marriage should be. His name may also suggest the Martin Marprelate controversy of the late sixteenth
century. In 1598, an anonymous pamphleteer, adopting the persona Martin Marprelate (to mar or injure a
prelate, namely a Protestant bishop), published a series of attacks vilifying and discrediting the Protestant
episcopacy (church government based on the hierarchy of bishops). These pamphlets were a matter of great
concern to religious and governmental officials. It is appropriate that a character named Sir Oliver Martext is
consulted about a marriage that discredits the very institution with which the vicar is intimately connected.
In Act V, Touchstone encounters two pages who are probably the servants of Duke Senior or the lords who
have joined him in exile. They sing a song and quibble with Touchstone about their execution of that song.
Quite fittingly, the song is about love and springtime in nature, the Forest of Arden seeming to promote
Other Characters (Descriptions) 58
feelings of love in those who venture into its confines.
Phebe is the proud and disdainful mistress of Silvius. She is callous to his feelings and apparently wants
nothing to do with him. Ironically, Phebe finds herself in a situation similar to that of Silvius, who is in love
with her, when she falls in love at first sight with Rosalind disguised as Ganymede and is rebuked by him/her.
She agrees to marry Silvius if she should decide for any reason that she does not want to marry Ganymede. Of
course, she will reject Ganymede when she discovers that he is really Rosalind. We may think that Phebe will
be upset with her consolation prize of Silvius, feeling somehow duped into marrying someone for whom she
has no affection. But perhaps her own experience of unrequited love will make her sympathetic to his
experience and provide a basis for their relationship.
Phebe is really a character of convention. She is the typical object of poetic and pastoral longing, depicted as
unattainable in order to make her worthy of intense pursuit. If she were too easily caught, she would not be
worth the chase. For Elizabethans especially, the creation of the idealized woman as distant and disdainful
was a reaction to Queen Elizabeth, the Virgin Queen, who became a symbol for unattainable desire. In regard
to Phebe's pursuit of Ganymede, it is appropriate here to bring up a convention of Shakespearean theater:
young boys played the parts of the female characters. It has not been resolved whether Shakespearean
audiences suspended disbelief entirely and accepted fully the characters as female or were constantly amused
by the gender confusion. In any event, the prospect of a boy playing Rosalind playing a boy and being
pursued by a boy playing Phebe is one that would boggle the imagination of most people.
Senior (Duke Senior)
Duke Senior is the virtuous elder brother of Duke Frederick and is banished by him from the court. He takes
up residence in the Forest of Arden and is joined by his loyal followers there. He attracts followers because it
is reported that he is living a life there that is simple and attractive, the life lived in the ''golden age'' when men
did not work for other men but lived off the land and took care of themselves. Duke Senior praises the
environment of Arden as devoid of flattering ambition. He hears honest counselors in the babbling brooks and
whispering winds. He feels uncompromised reality in the biting wind and soaking rain.
Although he retains the title of ''duke'' in the forest, he does not rule by force or coercion; in fact, he does not
seem to rule at all. The society formed in the Forest of Arden is an egalitarian one, a society based on equality.
At the end of the play, Duke Senior regains all of his hereditary rights befitting his commendable nature. It is
also made clear that Duke Senior and the others will return to the court which they have left behind, and we
can only assume that the lessons learned in the Forest of Arden will be applied in social relationships when all
return to the society from which they have been temporarily banished. Duke Senior does not have a large part
in As You Like It, but his presence is felt throughout the play as a cohesive force pulling together both discrete
characters and situations.
Silvius is a young shepherd deeply in love with Phebe. She is the sole object of his thoughts; he cannot keep
his mind on anything else. He has intended to purchase the cottage owned by Corin's master, but, as Corin
tells us, this kind of financial concern is the furthest thing from his mind as he dotes on Phebe. Phebe treats
Silvius harshly. In one scene, Corin tells Rosalind and Celia that if they wish to witness how the poor lovelorn
shepherd, Silvius, is getting on they should follow him. In the spectacle that follows, Phebe not only rejects
Silvius's offers of devotion but tells him that if looks could kill he would be at that moment slain.
Like Phebe, Silvius is a conventional character. He speaks the language of hyperbole, perhaps grossly
exaggerating his feelings for Phebe, certainly exaggerating her qualities. She is, after all, a working woman
with a working woman's chapped and callous hands. Silvius disparages himself and disallows that anyone else
might have experienced love as deeply as he, in an attempt to elevate Phebe. As a conventional pastoral
Other Characters (Descriptions) 59
character, it might be said that he is more in love with the idea of being in love than he is truly enamored of
William is a simple goatherd and suitor to Audrey. Like the other unsophisticated pastoral figures, he is
impressed by Touchstone, and he allows himself to be intimidated by him. He is thoroughly cowed by
Touchstone's threats and relinquishes his claims to Audrey with little or no resistance.
As You Like It: Principal Topics
Numerous oppositions in As You Like It reveal Shakespeare's partiality toward the pastoral rustic life of Arden
forest to life at court. At Duke Frederick's court, disorder holds sway. The deterioration of political authority
is the most obvious form of disorder, for Duke Frederick has unlawfully seized Duke Senior's kingdom. This
political degeneration is compounded by a more personal disorder, since the dukes are also brothers at odds
with each other; this conflict is underscored by the antagonistic relationship of two other brothers at the court,
Oliver and Orlando. Arden forest offers a sense of pure, spiritual order in contrast to the corrupt condition of
Duke Frederick's court. The journey there is long and arduous; when the characters arrive, they are physically
exhausted and hungry. Moreover, such threatening elements as the "icy fang" and "churlish wind" portray life
in Arden as anything but ideal. The harsh experience of nature acts as a purgative process, however, which
lays bare the characters' virtuous natures calloused by court life. Some characters, like Orlando and Rosalind,
need little improvement, yet find in Arden a liberation from the oppression they have endured at court. Others,
such as Oliver and Duke Frederick, approach the forest with malicious intent only to undergo a complete
spiritual reformation. Arden thus represents a morally pure realm whose special curative powers purge and
renew the forest-dwellers, granting them a self-awareness which they will ultimately use to restore order at
court. Closely allied with the opposition of court life and Arden forest is another dichotomy, that between
fortune and nature. Here, "fortune" represents both material gain—which is achieved through power, birthright,
or possession—and a force that unpredictably determines events. "Nature," on the other hand, reflects both the
purifying force of Arden and humanity's fundamental condition stripped of the trappings of wealth, power,
and material possessions. The opposition of these two entities provides another example of the overall theme
of antithesis and conflict in As You Like It.
Time is another theme that is treated differently in the court scenes and those in Arden forest. At court, time is
specific; it is marked by definite intervals which amplify the corrupt and violent nature of Duke Frederick's
rule. In most cases, it is related to the duke's threats: he orders Rosalind to leave the court within ten days or
she will be executed, and he gives Oliver one year to find Orlando or else his land and possessions will be
confiscated. In Arden, however, the meaning of time is less precise. Some scholars argue that in the forest
time is replaced by timelessness, enhancing Arden's mythical, otherworldly properties. Others interpret time
not in the passage of hours and minutes but in the progress of events, leading to self-awareness that the
characters experience in Arden. This view of time has a cause and effect aspect, determined by the characters'
changes in attitude as events in the forest ultimately lead to the multiple marriages. Time is also explored in
relation to the human being's aging process. Jaques's melancholy "Seven Ages of Man" speech (II.vii.139ff.)
pessimistically illustrates the individual's passage through life in distinct stages, ending with the image of man
and woman as pathetically ineffectual and dependent creatures. Touchstone also offers a description of the
aging process, but his concern is that as human beings age, they lose their ability to enjoy physical love.
Rosalind presents a more optimistic opinion of aging, however, asserting that life is worth living when you
can grow old with someone you love.
Sexual disguise and role-playing are two other closely related and important themes in As You Like It These
issues primarily focus on Rosalind, who disguises herself as a gentleman named Ganymede to insure her safe
passage to Arden. Though she can discard her male costume when she reaches the forest, Rosalind does not
As You Like It: Principal Topics 60
do so until the end of the play. Critics generally agree that she continues to act as Ganymede because the
disguise liberates her from her submissive role as a woman. She is therefore able to take more control of her
own life, especially in her courtship with Orlando. In their play-acting scenes, Rosalind controls the tactics of
courtship usually reserved for men, inverting the strategy to teach Orlando the meaning of real love rather
than love based on his ideal vision of her. An added dimension to Rosalind's role-playing is evident if we
consider the comedy in its Elizabethan context. In Shakespeare's age, it was common for boys to play the
roles of women in dramas. The playwright takes advantage of this convention in As You Like It to accentuate
the play's theatricality. If we consider that the boy actor who performs Rosalind must also play Ganymede,
who in turn portrays Rosalind in the play-acting sessions with Orlando, we can appreciate that this subtle, yet
complex, theatrical technique illustrates how disguise and role-playing often operate on several different
levels in the play.
As You Like It: Essays
Love in As You Like It
As You Like It presents many views about the issue of love. The primary plot involves the love of Rosalind
and Orlando, and several other characters in the play are either in or out of love. This provides the characters
in the play the opportunity to wax philosophical about the subject, expressing views about the different types
of love experienced not only by the characters, but also in life in general.
The first scene of the play introduces the concepts of brotherly love and the lack of it. Oliver is portrayed as a
villain because he does not "love" his brother Orlando. Oliver has neglected his brother by refusing to educate
him and by treating him as a servant. Thus we see that to be a proper older brother, one should care for and
improve the status of one's younger siblings. As if all of this did not already violate what the love of a sibling
is supposed to be, Oliver is also physically abusive to his brother and even plots Orlando's demise by spurring
Charles against him. However, younger brothers can also be cruel, which is portrayed in the situation of the
two dukes. Duke Frederick has deposed his older brother, Duke Senior, and has banished him—clearly not the
act of a loving younger brother. Duke Frederick, like Oliver, is a villain because of his treatment of his brother
and his niece. Thus Oliver and Duke Frederick are the antagonists of the play because they are first and
foremost bad brothers.
Healthy sibling love is portrayed in the play through the relationship between Rosalind and Celia. Although
technically only cousins, Rosalind and Celia have become as close as sisters during the overthrow of Duke
Senior, and they show this in their dealings with each other in the first act. Celia mentions the first aspect of
sibling love, putting the feelings of the sibling before one's own, in Act I, scene 2, when she tells Rosalind that
she should be happy because Celia is happy, as she would have been had their situations been reversed.
Orlando attempts to do this for Oliver at the end of the play when he is to marry Celia. Good siblings also
sacrifice for one another. When Rosalind is banished in Act I, scene 3, Celia immediately volunteers to go
with her, despite her ties to her father and the dangers that leaving home will present. This is in direct contrast
to Oliver and Duke Frederick, who attempt to sacrifice their brothers instead of sacrificing for them. This
issue of sacrificing for a sibling is a major aspect of the relationship, and Shakespeare demonstrates its
importance throughout the play. In fact, it is only when Orlando somewhat reluctantly sacrifices his own life
to save his brother from the lion that Oliver is converted, and becomes a good brother once again. After this
event, Oliver is willing to sacrifice everything he owns to his brother so that he can stay with Aliena (Celia).
Celia's sacrifice also allows the resolution of the play. Thus, good love between siblings helps to contribute to
the successful conclusion of the play.
Another type of love in the play is that of a ruler for his people. . In Elizabethan sensibility, it is the duty of a
monarch to act as a loving parent to her/his country. Duke Senior, when he was in power, loved his country
As You Like It: Essays 61
well and was much loved in return. This is the reason why several lords come flocking to him in the Forest of
Arden. He has acted as a good ruler and is eventually rewarded at the end of the play. Duke Frederick, by
contrast, abuses his power and becomes a tyrant. Unlike Duke Senior, who has followers who will give up
their comforts in the city to come live with him in the country, Duke Frederick can only motivate his subjects
by threatening death and seizing property. The message here appears to be that because Duke Frederick does
not know how to love his brother or his subjects, he can only maintain his power through tyranny. Only
through the love of God is Duke Frederick converted, which leads him to relinquish the dukedom and the
seized property. The dukedom is then returned to the ruler that truly loves it.
This love between monarch and subject is similar to the love between master and servant, demonstrated in this
play by Orlando and Adam. Because Sir Rowland was a benevolent master, Adam is willing to give
everything that he has in order to support his new master, Orlando. Orlando, in turn, carries Adam through the
Forest of Arden and is even willing to kill Duke Senior and his comrades for food in order to save Adam's
life. The loyalty of the servant, like that of the loyalty of the lords for Duke Senior, is inspired by the love and
care of the master, who functions as the servant's monarch.
Although sibling, monarch, and master/servant love are prominent concerns in As You Like It , the primary
type of love in the play is romantic love. By the end of Act I Rosalind and Orlando are already in love with
each other. While both fall in love at first sight, Rosalind is additionally encouraged by the knowledge that
Orlando is the son of the late Sir Rowland de Boys, who was one of her father's favorite courtiers. While
physical attraction is important in romantic love, personality and morals must be just as important, and
Rosalind assumes that Orlando has his father's good character. However, Shakespeare reminds us that identity
cannot count for too much, as Celia points out, because if Rosalind is going to love Orlando only because he
is Sir Rowland's son, then Celia should hate him for the same reason. This warning compels Rosalind to be
somewhat sensible in her affection for Orlando, which is what allows her to discover Orlando's true feelings
in his "therapy sessions" during Acts III and IV.
The therapy sessions of Acts III and IV allow Rosalind to prove to herself (and to the audience) that she and
Orlando are properly suited toward each other and toward marriage. While she chides Orlando for not
conforming to the expectations of a lover (he is always late, he does not pine away, etc.), he does demonstrate
his love for Rosalind through his poetry and his devotion to her despite all of Ganymede's (Rosalind's) teasing
banter about women. He also shows his intelligence (despite his lack of education) and his quick wit in his
encounters with Jaques. The development of Rosalind's and Orlando's relationship throughout the play
demonstrates that successful romantic love needs more than just the physical—people must be well suited to
one another in order to have a happy marriage.
Romantic love is not always so reasonable, however, and other characters in the play will not have
relationships nearly so happy as that of Rosalind and Orlando because of the nature of their love. Phebe and
Silvius are an example of love based on abuse. Silvius, who is in love with Phebe throughout the play, claims
that love means constant pining, constant crying, and constant folly. While Orlando writes his share of bad
poetry, he does not follow Silvius' directives for love but still loves Rosalind. Also, Silvius is only in love
with Phebe because she treats him badly, and Phebe falls in love with Ganymede (Rosalind) for the same
reason. Both characters are willing to literally beg in order to win the love of their intended, despite the
horrible treatment that they receive from that person. Silvius carries a love letter from Phebe to Ganymede and
endures complete humiliation for it without being willing to let his love for Phebe go. Phebe not only writes a
love letter to the abusive Ganymede, but also wants to marry him despite his treatment of her. While Silvius
gets what he wants at the end of the play by marrying Phebe, Phebe must give up her freedom, which she has
relinquished because she loves the verbally abusive Ganymede. This is clearly not the beginning of a happy
Love in As You Like It 62
Another imbalanced relationship in the play is that of Touchstone and Audrey. Touchstone, the city-born
clown who accompanies Rosalind and Celia to the Forest of Arden, has a great deal of wit, but no wisdom to
go with it. He uses this wit to abuse others, including Corin (who manages to hold his own with Touchstone),
Oliver Mar-Text, and William. It is this use of wit that impresses Audrey, a simple country girl who does not
understand Touchstone's ramblings, and leads her to fall in love with him. Her lack of knowledge allows
Touchstone too much power over her, and he almost marries her illegally in order to be able to leave her later
on (Fortunately for Audrey, Jaques prevents this). This message about love is fairly clear—those who marry
people who are too different in ability are doomed to an unhappy relationship where one will take advantage
of the other. Both Hymen, god of marriage, and Jaques point out the folly of this relationship at the end of the
play, likening the relationship to the marriage of winter and foul weather and to a voyage without supplies.
Because Touchstone and Audrey are so different, and because Touchstone uses his wit to put himself over
others, they cannot have Rosalind and Orlando's happiness.
While people who love often cannot control their feelings, the characters of As You Like It are permitted to
explore their own notions of what love is and to pursue them. For the most part, the characters of the play are
granted what they seek—Duke Senior gets his dukedom back, the lovers all marry, and Jaques escapes
company by retreating to the holy man. However, while they receive what they pursue, they may not
necessarily get what they want. It is only those who have truly learned to love others that have successful
relationships at the end of the play.
Gender Issues in As You Like It
When Rosalind decides to cross dress as the shepherd Ganymede in Act I, scene 3 of As You Like It, she
highlights the conceptions of gender as a central theme of the play. While As You Like It presents common
Elizabethan notions of what it means to be male and female, it also makes an important point about the
intelligence and capability of women by portraying clever and powerful girls who are capable of holding their
own in a man's world. By giving these women power and intelligence, Shakespeare reminds us that although
his contemporaries (and many of our contemporaries as well) assume that men and women fulfill certain
stereotypes, both genders are more than capable of superseding those limitations in order to attain their goals.
As You Like It first establishes what it means to be male in Elizabethan society. Orlando criticizes his brother
Oliver for raising him improperly because he has not educated him so that he can be a gentleman. While
Orlando, as Oliver notes, is learned without an education, it is expected that Orlando, as the son of a
nobleman, will be educated because he is male. We also learn in the first scene that Orlando is one of the
heroes of the play because he is noble, good looking, and strong (qualities which make Oliver, one of the
villains, hate him). Rosalind also notes that he is of good character because he has inherited his father's spirit.
Later on in the play, Orlando writes several love poems and remains steadfast in his love despite Ganymede's
"attempts" at driving him away from it. Orlando's example of what it means to be male is the standard by
which all of the other males (including Rosalind when she pretends to be Ganymede) will be measured.
While the definition of male in the play is fairly straightforward, the idea of what it means to be a woman is
far more problematic. The first time female characters appear in the play is in the second scene, where we find
two princesses making fun of fortune and nature. Both Celia and Rosalind are portrayed as both intelligent
and beautiful, a rare combination that breaks from the "dumb female" stereotype. From their first exchange, it
is clear that either character could easily outwit any male in the play, especially in terms of conversation, as
they manage to quickly subdue Touchstone. It is also clear that while Celia is intelligent, Rosalind is more so.
However, since both are female, their actions are limited, and they have no ability to act on their intelligence
while they are in court.
Gender Issues in As You Like It 63
The situation changes, however, when Rosalind is banished by Duke Frederick. Although Celia is the taller of
the two girls, Rosalind insists that she will play the man. The first thing she thinks of to do in order to become
a man is to arm herself, since weapons are "manly" and will cover up the "womanly" fear in her heart of being
in the forest. She also cannot cry once she gets there, even though she is about to, and must instead comfort
the "weaker vessel" Celia like a good brother. However, pretending to be a male will allow Rosalind to
actually act on the intelligence with which she has been gifted, and she will begin to manipulate other
characters in the play because of her new gender status.
Rosalind's manipulative acts as Ganymede help to bring the play to a happy conclusion. Her first act is to
offer to "counsel" Orlando out of his love for her. Rosalind proposes to do this by fulfilling all of the
stereotypes associated with women in romantic relationships. In Act III, scene 2, she tells Orlando that she
will "grieve, be effeminate, changeable, longing and/liking, proud, fantastical, apish, shallow, inconstant, full
of tears, full of smiles; for every passion something/and for no passion truly anything" (ll. 385-388).
Ganymede will act like this because women in love are supposed to be fickle and flighty. By portraying
women in their most stereotypical (and unrealistic) light, Rosalind pretends that she will cure Orlando despite
the fact that she really has no intention of doing so. Her main reason for these sessions is to, of course, be near
Orlando and uncover just how much he loves her before she risks herself by revealing her identity to him.
Rosalind goes on to further expose the fallacies of the stereotypes of women in Act IV, scene 1. After pointing
out that both men and women are like spring when they woo and winter when they wed (a metaphor that only
fits bad relationships), Rosalind proceeds to completely denounce women. First, she accuses women of acting
before thinking, and then claims that women are more giddy (silly) in their desires than a monkey. Women,
according to Rosalind, will also use their wit to blame their husbands for all of their own faults, and will be
unreasonably emotional at the most inappropriate times. However, neither Orlando nor the audience is meant
to believe these accusations. If all of these were true, then Rosalind would not be able to control herself and
play Ganymede so successfully. She would not be able to deceive her father or Orlando, and also would not
be able to manipulate Silvius and Phebe into marrying each other at the end of the play. So although a female
character proposes this ideas, we are clearly not meant to really believe that women are quite so ridiculous, as
Celia immediately reminds us with her outburst that Rosalind has "misused" the female gender by making
these completely false claims. Celia also goes so far as to say that Rosalind has played a male too long
because she is forgetting what women are really like. Celia's intelligent observations, made by a female who
clearly does not conform to the stereotypes put forth by Rosalind in her conversations with Orlando,
demonstrate a woman who is definitely as wise as any man.
Rosalind's other major act of manipulation relates to the relationship between Silvius and Phebe. Silvius, like
Orlando, is very much in love, but unlike Orlando, is completely consumed by it. He is willing to make a
complete fool of himself for Phebe, and constantly pines for her despite the fact that she is both proud and
extremely disdainful of his affections. Because of she is so intelligent, Rosalind quickly perceives that Silvius
loves Phebe because she is so abusive to him, and Phebe will fall in love with her as Ganymede if she is mean
to Phebe as well. This astute observation helps Rosalind to help Silvius by making Phebe promise to marry
Silvius if she refuses to accept Ganymede. It should also be noted here that Phebe, despite her pride, does not
fulfill all of the female stereotypes, either. Although she spurns Silvius and refuses to give up on her love for
Ganymede until the final scene, she does fulfill her word and marry Silvius, and even promises to unite her
love to that of Silvius when she marries him.
Despite being more than capable of solving the problems of the play as a woman, Rosalind would not have
been able to accomplish her successes in either of these situations (Silvius/Phebe and Orlando) had she not
been dressed as a man. Not only would Orlando have recognized her if she appeared as a female, but he also
would have been much less likely to confess his feelings to Rosalind directly if she had not been dressed as
Ganymede. Phebe would not have been able to be influence by Rosalind if she had not fallen in love with
Ganymede, rendering Rosalind incapable of assisting Silvius in his pursuit of her. The appearance of being
Gender Issues in As You Like It 64
male gives Rosalind the authority to work all of these situations into a successful conclusion. This is the
reason why Rosalind must appear one last time as Ganymede in the final scene—in order to cement the
bargains she makes through her power as a man. Once Rosalind returns to her true identity, she must accept
the power of her father and of her husband over her, but it is clear that she is still the most intelligent and most
able character in the play. This serves as a reminder to us that although we make certain assumptions about
people's abilities based on their gender, our assumptions may not always be the case.
Using Language in As You Like It
The ability to make witty comments is an important one to several characters in As You Like It. When the
heroine of the play, Rosalind, is first introduced, she engages in a verbal game of wits with her cousin Celia
about the nature of Fortune. Several other characters, including Orlando, Jaques, and Touchstone, also make
several clever comments in an effort to outwit characters in the play. The characters' possession of wit and the
ability to use it properly not only makes the play more entertaining, but also teaches an important point about
the use of words—that words without wisdom or compassion have no meaning at all.
Rosalind, as heroine, is the character who is most visible in her use of words. Although she begins Act I,
scene 2, depressed because of her situation, she is more than capable of rising to Celia's challenge to be merry
by making fun of Fortune. This discussion, which shows both Celia's and Rosalind's impressive verbal
abilities, is relatively meaningless because they are arguing just to see who can make the wittiest comment.
However, their abilities are put to the test in the next scene, when Duke Frederick banishes Rosalind. Duke
Frederick banishes Rosalind because she is her father's daughter and therefore a threat. However, Rosalind
correctly points out that treason is not an inherited trait, and that she is no more dangerous now than she was
when Duke Frederick first agreed to keep her at court. Celia then pleads Rosalind's case by stating that she
must also be a traitor because she has become so close to Rosalind that they are essentially the same kind of
person. Both Rosalind's and Celia's arguments, which are very logical especially in light of the emotion of the
moment, are rejected not because they are insufficient, but simply because of Duke Frederick's villainy.
Another example of Rosalind using her linguistic abilities occurs in her meetings with Orlando, Silvius, and
Phebe. When Rosalind, dressed as Ganymede, attempts to "counsel" Orlando out of his love for her, she uses
a great deal of wit to do so. First of all, Rosalind uses her wit to protect her disguise. When Orlando asks her if
she is a native of the Forest of Arden, Rosalind makes an ambiguous remark about being as much of a native
as a rabbit is to the place where it is born. In other words, she never quite answers the question directly. She
uses this kind of verbal sidestepping again in Act V, scene 2, when she says that she is in love with no woman
and that she will marry Phebe is she is going to marry any woman at all. She also makes Phebe promise that if
she refuses to marry her, she will marry Silvius. Rosalind manipulates the other characters through her use of
language, but she does so for one purpose—to ensure a happy ending to the play.
Although Rosalind does use her verbal abilities to help others in the play, she will occasionally use her wit for
sport. Act I, scene 2 is an example of this. Another example is Act IV, scene 1, when she talks Orlando into
pretending to marry her. She proposes this as part of the "cure" for Orlando's love madness, but the staging of
the marriage has no real purpose. She also constantly insults and makes fun of Touchstone (although his job is
to entertain her), and she outwits Jaques for the fun of it. This differentiates Rosalind from Celia. Although
Rosalind is clearly the better wit, Celia refuses to use her language to hurt others. When Rosalind proposes to
stage the wedding, Celia cannot bring herself to participate because she knows that they should not be making
fun of Orlando in this fashion. She also chastises Rosalind for abusing women verbally in her conversations
with Orlando. While Rosalind can and does occasionally use language at the expense of others (harmless
though it is), Celia does not, and is rewarded for it at the end of the play with marriage to Oliver and
acceptance by Duke Senior. Rosalind, however, is also rewarded with marriage to Orlando because she is the
one to use her language to bring about the successful resolution of the play.
Using Language in As You Like It 65
While Rosalind and Celia are rewarded for their good use of their verbal abilities in the play, those who
misuse language in As You Like It do so to their detriment. Touchstone is the primary example of this. When
he is introduced in Act I, scene 2, it is clear that he too is capable of using words well (Rosalind and Celia can
outwit him, but they are both exceptionally witty). Touchstone also makes a particularly astute remark about
love in Act II, scene 4, when he witnesses Silvius' pining: "We that are true lovers/run into strange capers; but
as all is mortal in nature, so/is all nature in love mortal in folly" (ll. 49-51). Even Rosalind notes the
intelligence of this remark by stating that Touchstone speaks wiser than he is aware of. The problem with
Touchstone's wit is that he only uses it for his own entertainment or to make himself appear superior to
someone else. When Corin asks him if he is enjoying life as a shepherd, Touchstone uses his wit to try to
make city life appear superior to that of the country. He also tries to draw Corin into a verbal argument by
insulting country behavior and claiming that Corin is damned because he has never seen good manners. Corin,
however, refuses to be dazzled by Touchstone's words, and claims that he is happy. He then starts to make fun
of Orlando's love poem without any sympathy for the feeling behind it.
While attempting to lure Corin into a debate in order to demonstrate his verbal superiority is most certainly a
character flaw in Touchstone, it is small in comparison to what he attempts to do in his relationship with
Audrey. Audrey is a simple, honest country girl who does not understand anything that Touchstone says.
Although Touchstone says that he wishes Audrey were "poetical," he is more than content to speak over her
head. Even Jaques, who only uses language for his own benefit, laments Touchstone's misuse of his verbal
abilities: "O knowledge ill-inhabited, worse than/Jove in a thatched house!" (Act III, scene 3, ll. 7-8).
Touchstone even goes so far as to talk Audrey into allowing Oliver Mar-Text to marry them illegally so that
he can justifiably leave her when he tires of her. Only Jaques, who is depressed but not morally bankrupt,
prevents this false marriage from occurring. Touchstone will abuse language one last time to get Audrey by
scaring off William, another country simpleton who thinks he has a "pretty" wit. Touchstone uses his wit to
threaten William's life and point out William's foolishness: "'The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man
knows himself to be a fool'" (Act V, scene 1, ll. 30-31). Once again, Touchstone speaks more wisely than he
is capable of understanding, because he too is a fool who thinks he is wise. At the end of the play, Touchstone
seems to be rewarded with marriage to Audrey, but both Hymen and Jaques warn that their marriage will be
an unhappy one indeed. Hymen likens their coupling to winter and foul weather, and Jaques states that they
are doomed to fighting after the first two months because they are so different. Although Touchstone gets
what he wants through the use of his verbal talents, his wit will eventually be his undoing because he will be
trapped in an unhappy and completely legal marriage.
Another character that uses witty language to his own benefit is Jaques. When Duke Senior first mentions
Jaques in the beginning of Act II, he is portrayed as melancholy and sullen. While Duke Senior finds this a
means of entertainment, Jaques is almost constantly melancholy (except when Touchstone makes him laugh),
and only uses his language to reinforce that melancholy on himself and others. When he tells Duke Senior that
he should be a clown, he says that he wishes to do so so that he can spread his point of view to the world and
get paid for it. He does not wish to share his verbal gifts to help others, but rather to make fun of them. He
then attempts to dismiss all of the important things in life with the famous Seven Ages of Man speech, in
which he reduces all of the stages of life into meaningless oblivion. Another attempt that Jaques makes to use
his wit to reinforce his own depression is when he tries to get Orlando to rail against life's misfortunes with
him in Act III, scene 2: "Will you sit down with me? And we/two will rail against our mistress the world and
all our misery" (ll. 264-266). Jaques does not use his language to help Orlando as does Rosalind later on in the
scene, but hopes to indulge his own depression by adding Orlando's witty comments to reinforce it. He
attempts to do this one last time with Rosalind in the beginning of Act IV by wittily explaining that his
melancholy is different from everyone else's because it is a combination of many things and many travels.
Instead of being impressed by his comments, Rosalind outwits Jaques by telling him that he is a traveler, and
it is a shame that he spends so much energy travelling if doing so only depresses him. Jaques' selfish use of
language and wit in order to maintain his own depression renders him unfit for return to city life with the rest
of the characters, which leads him to seek out the holy man who has converted Duke Frederick in the final
Using Language in As You Like It 66
scene of the play. However, it should be noted that Jaques does prevent Touchstone from taking advantage of
Audrey. He seems to be rewarded for this by going to the holy man so that he can learn important matters. It
may be that by beginning to do something for someone else by talking Touchstone out of the illegal marriage,
Jaques may learn to use language to help others, as Rosalind and Celia have done, and live happily for it.
Analysis of a Key Passage in As You Like It
Shakespeare opens Act II of As You Like It with a speech in which the Duke Senior attests to the value of the
life which he and his entourage have found in the Forest of Arden (II, i, 11.1-17). The exiled nobleman's
initial oration performs several key functions within the play. It presents us with a balanced and tempered
vision of the natural world which serves as a foil to both previous intimations about the Forest and to life as
we have seen it in the superficial and deceptive court over which the usurper Duke Frederick now presides. It
also reveals the salient personality traits of Duke Senior, establishing a pattern whereby the Forest mirrors the
essential character of each figure who enters into it. The passage is dominated by a conjoined Biblical and
bestial imagery which recurs throughout the play. Perhaps most significantly, it underscores the fundamental
purpose of the natural world as being one of moral education and personal insight. This purpose is ultimately
embodied in Duke Senior's decision to leave his sylvan realm following his brother's conversion and the "old"
Duke's restoration to his rightful throne.
The passage under scrutiny furnishes us with a firsthand vision of the Forest of Arden that stands in contrast
with the two alternative "hints" about what life is like there previously given by Charles the wrestler and by
Rosalind. Our first image of the Forest of Arden is the idyllic depiction presented by Charles in Act I, scene ii.
After drawing an analogy to the legendary realm of Robin Hood and his merry men, Charles tells Oliver about
Duke Senior's current estate, "they say many young gentleman flock to him every day, and fleet the time
carelessly as they did in the golden world" (11.120-125). An altogether different image of the Forest is evoked
when Celia suggest that she and Rosalind sojourn to that wild quarter and her cousin responds, "Alas, what
danger will it be to us, Maids as we are, to travel so far forth! Beauty provoketh thieves sooner than gold" (I,
iii, 11,110-112).
The view expressed by Duke Senior, however, is neither the idealized portrait presented by Charles nor the
ruffian world which Rosalind fears. It is harsh but by no means inherently evil. Clearly the passage's account
of the natural world in Arden stands in direct relief to life in Duke Frederick's court with its "painted pomp"
and superficial sycophants. The forest, in effect, mirrors the predisposition of the characters which enter into
it. We note that both Touchstone and Jaques, the two principal clowns of As You Like It. find little of value in
the Forest, with the latter subsequently rendering a parody of the idealized song about life in Arden canted by
Duke Senior's followers (II, v, 11.52-59). When the feral and combative Oliver comes to Arden, he naturally
encounters a lioness, its presence reflecting Oliver's rapacious side.
Consistent with this pattern, the speech which opens Act II establishes the hallmark of Duke Senior's character
as that of a truly benign spirit developed through a wisdom stemming from direct but deeply considered
experience. Unlike Frederick and Oliver, Duke Senior embraces those around him as spiritual peers, as
"co-mates" and "brothers in exile." The nobleman Amiens is clearly correct in his observation that the speech
reflects Duke Senior's disposition, "Happy is your Grace/, That can translate the stubbornness of fortune/Into
so quiet and so sweet a style" (II, i, 11.18-20). Plainly the Duke is consistently benevolent in translating
"sweet adversity" into gain. Indeed, when Orlan-do demands that the Duke and his company provide him with
food, he is taken aback by the good Duke's hospitality, inquiring, "Speak you so gently?" (II, vii, 1.106). By
the play's conclusion, we must concur with Jaques that owing to his "patience" and virtue" Duke Senior
deserves restoration to this rightful position.
Analysis of a Key Passage in As You Like It 67
If there is a key word in the speech, it is "find." Here a close distinction must be made between "find" in the
objective sense of to merely come across and "find" in its subjective denotation as to penetrate or apprehend
via tempered discernment. While he would not change the Forest, Duke Senior is fully aware of its harsh
aspects -and emphasizes them in his speech. This measured assessment is reiterated when the Duke tells
Orlando, "thou seest we are not all alone unhappy" ((II, vii, 1.136). The Duke recognizes the true value of the
natural world as being that of moral insight, a point to which we shall return later in this explication.
There are two consistent strands of imagery incorporated into Duke Senior's speech, one a Biblical motif
rooted in the Old Testament book of Genesis, the second being that of wild beasts. The Duke alludes to the
Fall and to Adam and Eve's expulsion from the Garden of Eden, "Here we feel but the penalty of Adam" (1.5).
Nevertheless, it is less the Fall that fraternal rivalry between Cain and Abel which his Old Testament allusion
evokes in our minds. Like Abel, Duke Senior has been wronged by the "envious" court which reflects Duke
Frederick's character. Even stronger, the submerged allusion to Cain and Abel places the relationship between
Oliver and Orlando into a Biblical context. This is emphasized by the rough treatment accorded to the minor
figure of Adam, the faithful and fatherly old retainer of the de Boys household whom Oliver grossly mistreats.
Here Shakespeare invites us to consider fraternal conflict within the play as a manifestation of an adamantine
struggle between respectively innocent and envious brothers.
While the Duke's speech exhibits his appreciation of the simplicity of the natural world, as noted above, it is
also replete with references to the bestial aspect of nature, to the "icy fang" of the winter which "bites" the
Duke's body as he figuratively encounters the ugly and venomous (but bejewelled) toad. The imagery which
the Duke uses in his initial speech resonates with Oliver's account of his being saved by Orlando and then
converted. Specifically, the "green and gilded snake" which wreath's itself around the hermit's neck (IV, iii,
1.109) recalls the jewelled toad, while the lioness from whom he is saved displays tooth and claw which
harkens back to the stabbing and biting experience which Duke Senior describes here.
Of summary significance, the passage at hand underscores that the purpose of the Forest is that of moral
education grounded in direct experience upon the "body." What the Duke finds in Arden is a lesson given to
him through "tongues in trees, books in the running brooks/Sermons in stones, and good in everything."
(11.16-17). The elemental forces of raw nature strip away the paint and pomp of civilized existence and
thereby serve as a source of deep personal insight that "feelingly persuade me what I am" (1.11). We note that
in Duke Frederick's worldly court, there is no moral educative function at work. As the wrestler Charles
informs Oliver, "there's no news at the court, sir, but the old news" (I, i, 1.102). The same, of course, cannot
be said of Arden. With the exception of Jaques, who is later excluded from the play's concluding masque,
each of the characters in the play undergoes a moral transformation or regeneration during his or her time in
the natural world of Arden.
In the final scene of As You Like It. the Second Brother brings news of Duke Frederick's religious conversion
(V, iv, 11.159-172), and Duke Senior is restored to his rightful position. Upon learning of this, Duke Senior
again exhibits his "balanced" nature. He first directs his subjects to the pleasures available at the moment
through the multiple wedding rites which remain to be performed. He then tells the assembled characters,
"And after, every of this happy number/That have endur'd shrewd days and nights with us/ Shall share the
good of our returned fortune/According to the measure of their states" (V, iv, 11.178-181). The Duke and his
"merry men" have indeed been shrewd, not in their capacity to survive life in the Forest of Arden, but in their
ability to profit from sweet adversity.
At the play's end, we note that Duke Senior acts in a manner which contradicts his sentiments in the speech
under scrutiny. He elects to leave Arden for the civilized world. This, in turn, reinforces the function of the
natural world as being one of moral education. Arden is not preferable to life in court; both are valuable when
one "finds" the lessons being related. From experience in the natural world, we learn about ourselves and the
use of that self-knowledge allows us to find our proper place in a larger order which encompasses God's plan
Analysis of a Key Passage in As You Like It 68
and his lowliest creatures. Consequently, having absorbed all the lessons that the elements of Arden can teach
him, Duke Senior is now fully prepared to resume his position as each of the four pairs of lovers finds their
proper mates within a unified natural-civil order.
Rosalind's Education in Love
In her disguise as Ganymede, Rosalind in Shakespeare's As You Like It has the opportunity to observe the
varieties of love, and the behaviors it produces in different people. Her disguise allows her to be privy to
information that she would not otherwise receive, such as Phebe's letter, which reveals how love can make
one deceive, and Orlando's feelings of love for herself. She gives advice on love, as well as receives it,
obtaining a full education on the many ways and manifestations of love.
Before Rosalind ever puts on her disguise she is aware that love and friendship exist in many forms. Though
Frederick has banished her own father and usurped his dominions, he allows her to remain as companion to
his daughter Celia, because of his love for her. Because of Celia'a friendship for Rosalind, and Frederick's
love for his daughter, Rosalind is not banished along with her father, and remains at court, bearing no malice
towards Frederick, despite what he has done to her father. Nonetheless, she cannot be happy as long as she
lives with the knowledge that her father is banished.
Rosalind falls in love with Orlando when she meets him at the wrestling match, and he with her. She loves
him the more after he has unexpectedly wins the match, when it is revealed that he is the youngest son of Sir
Rowland de Boys, who was much beloved by her father before his death. Ironically, Frederick, in his fear and
malice, brings Rosalind and Orlando together, for they meet in the forest after Rosalind has been banished and
Orlando warned to quit the court if he would save his life. But by this time, Rosalind has taken on her
disguise, and she observes Orlando's love for herself through the guise of Ganymede. To test and measure the
full extent of Orlando's love for herself, she urges him to pretend that "she," Ganymede, is Rosalind, and to
woo "him" as he would woo Rosalind. By this means Orlando's love for her as Rosalind is revealed.
Already, before being banished, Rosalind has learned that love can make one lose one's prize, for she turns
back to speak with Orlando when he calls to her. With her banishment, she also learns that a jealous mind can
put a false interpretation on love, as occurs when Frederick accuses her of subtly pretending to love Celia,
meanwhile plotting to rob her friend of her name and wealth by winning the sympathies of the people. Celia
proves the real meaning of love and friendship when she chooses to accompany Rosalind into the forest rather
than believe her father's jealousies, For Celia, love makes her and Rosalind one, and what is done to her
dearest friend is done to herself. She asserts that she, too, has bean banished, and when Rosalind denies it
No hath not? Rosalind lacks than the love
Which teachath thee that thou and I am one :
Shall we be sunder*d? shall we part, sweet girl?
No : let my father seek another heir. (II, I, 98-101)
Frederick has every reason to fear the power of love, for Orlando is much loved, because he is strong, yet
virtuous and valiant, and all people love him, making him a threat to the Duke.
Rosalind, as Ganymede, discovers Orlando's love for her through the songs he writes to her and pins to the
trees. "Ganymede" tests Orlando by teasing him about his condition, suggesting that he does not appear like a
man in love, and claiming that woman have many faults. Orlando responds by declaring his love for Rosalind
all the more, to the extent that "Neither rhyme nor reason can express how much" (III, ii, 1.419). "Ganymede"
responds that love is a madness, which "he" will cure Orlando of by counsel. "He" claims to have cured
Rosalind's Education in Love 69
another by pretending to be the object of the suitor's love, and this Ganymede now proposes with Orlando.
"He" proposes to cure Orlando's love by pretending to be Rosalind, and Orlando accepts the challenge.
Rosalind learns that love can make the carrier of that emotion impatient and sorrowful, fickle and jealous.
Celia warns her that lovers are deceitful, and Rosalind believes ill of Orlando when he is away from her. She
accuses him of winning her by flattery —speaking as Ganymede, but In Rosalind's words, and with her
emotions—and warns him that he oust come to her within the minute of the time promised, or she will think
him a hollow lover. But she is convinced of his capacity for love when she hears of how Orlando saves his
elder brother, Oliver, from death, though Oliver has contrived to bring about Orlando's downfall. The power
of brotherly love reunites the two after Orlando, risking his own life, proves that hatred is unnatural. Oliver is
converted, and Celia is consequently able to fall in love with him, and he with her, for he is no longer
contemptible. Rosalind observes the process of love at first sight, as it occurs between Oliver and Cella, and
which has already brought herself and Orlando together.
Orlando proves his love for Rosalind and she, as Ganymede, learns the power of love, its openness and
strength. Yet her disguise also makes her privy to a different kind of love, that of Phebe, who also believes her
to be a man. Silvius is in love with Phebe, and admits that love can make the lover act in ridiculous ways. One
has not loved, he declares, until one has committed so many follies in the name of love that they cannot even
be remembered; or until one has wearied one's listener with praise of the loved one, or scorned company
because of the emotions aroused by love. Yet Phebe scorns him, rejecting his love with bitterness. Rosalind
observes Silvius' love sickness, and Phebe's treatment of him. As Ganymede, she scorns Phebe for responding
to Silvius' love with a mixture of insults and exultations. Phebe takes pleasure in torturing Silvius because he
loves her, showing Rosalind a very different face to love than that which Orlando has shown her. Having felt
the power of love she warns Phebe:
And thank heaven, fasting, for a good man's love:
For I must tell you friendly in your ear,
Sell when you can: (III,v,ll.58-60).
for real love is not easily come by.
The consequence of Ganymede's rebukes is that Phebe falls in love with "him" and on the pretense of writing
a letter to "him," complaining of "his" treatment of her, writes a love letter, which she sends to Ganymede by
way of Silvius. Silvius believes the letter is a taunting one, expressing Phebe's bitterness at being scolded. He
delivers it, though he bears no malice against Ganymede, because Phebe asks him to and he will not refuse her
request. Rosalind is surprised by the letter because it reveals to her how a woman can be made bold by love,
to the extent that she takes on a man's qualities. But it also shows her that love can make its bearer a deceiver.
Phebe writes in her letter that she loved Ganymede while "he" scolded her and offers herself to Ganymede
while urging him not to reveal the contents of the letter to her lover Silvius, who has delivered it. Silvius, she
points out, does not know of her real feelings for Ganymede.
The example of Silvius and Phebe shows how a man can be tamed by love, and a woman emboldened by it.
Rosalind warns Silvius not to accept Phebe’s deceit, but to pursue her and act like a true lover. And she has to
betray Phebe's confidence and act in an ungentle manner towards her, to bring the two lovers together, for she
recognizes Silvius’ great love for Phebe, and knows its value. It is Silvius who describes the constituent parts
of love; it is faith, service, passion, adoration, duty, observance, humbleness, patience, impatience, purity, and
trial. Rosalind's experience, as Ganymede, has taught her to recognize all these aspects of love, and more, for
she has seen how it affects different people, and observed the actions it forcers lovers to participate in, against
their will and judgement. She has seen Orlando's pure love and Phebe's guile and exultation in the power of
love as a weapon. And she has observed brotherly love conquer hatred.
Rosalind's Education in Love 70
As You Like It: Criticism
Alliance of Seriousness and Levity in As You Like It
(From Shakespeare's Festive Comedy by Cesar Lombardi Barber. © 1980 Princeton University Press.
Reprinted by permission of the publisher.)
In a true piece of Wit all things must be,
Yet all things there agree.
—Cowley, quoted by T. S. Eliot in "Andrew Marvell."
Then is there mirth in heaven,
When earthly things made even
Atone together.
—As You Like It
SHAKESPEARE's next venture in comedy after The Merchant of Venice was probably in the Henry IV plays,
which were probably written in 1597-98. Thus the Falstaff comedy comes right in the middle of the period,
from about 1594 to 1600 or 1601, when Shakespeare produced festive comedy. Much Ado About Nothing, As
You Like It, and Twelfth Night were written at the close of the period, Twelfth Night perhaps after Hamlet.
The Merry Wives of Windsor, where Shakespeare's creative powers were less fully engaged, was produced
sometime between 1598 and 1602, and it is not impossible that All's Well That Ends Well and even perhaps
Measure for Measure were produced around the turn of the century, despite that difference in tone that has led
to their being grouped with Hamlet and Troilus and Cressida. I shall deal only with As You Like It and Twelfth
Night; they are the two last festive plays, masterpieces that include and extend almost all the resources of the
form whose development we have been following. What I would have to say about Much Ado About Nothing
can largely be inferred from the discussion of the other festive plays. To consider the various other sorts of
comedy which Shakespeare produced around the inception of the period when his main concern became
tragedy would require another, different frame of reference.
As You Like It is very similar in the way it moves to A Midsummer Night's Dream and Love's Labour's Lost,
despite the fact that its plot is taken over almost entirely from Lodge's Rosalynde. As I have suggested in the
introductory chapter, the reality we feel about the experience of love in the play, reality which is not in the
pleasant little prose romance, comes from presenting what was sentimental extremity as impulsive
extravagance and so leaving judgment free to mock what the heart embraces. The Forest of Arden, like the
Wood outside Athens, is a region defined by an attitude of liberty from ordinary limitations, a festive place
where the folly of romance can have its day. The first half of As You Like It, beginning with tyrant brother and
tyrant Duke and moving out into the forest, is chiefly concerned with establishing this sense of freedom; the
traditional contrast of court and country is developed in a way that is shaped by the contrast between everyday
and holiday, as that antithesis has become part of Shakespeare's art and sensibility. Once we are securely in
the golden world where the good Duke and "a many merry men … fleet the time carelessly," the pastoral motif
as such drops into the background; Rosalind finds Orlando's verses in the second scene of Act III, and the rest
of the play deals with love. This second movement is like a musical theme with imitative variations,
developing much more tightly the sort of construction which played off Costard's and Armado's amorous
affairs against those of the nobles in Navarre, and which set Bottom's imagination in juxtaposition with other
shaping fantasies. The love affairs of Silvius and Phebe, Touchstone and Audrey, Orlando and Rosalind
succeed one another in the easy-going sequence of scenes, while the dramatist deftly plays each off against the
As You Like It: Criticism 71
Sylvan Barnet
[Barnet presents a succinct overview of As You Like It in relation to Much Ado About Nothing and Twelfth
Night, Shakespeare's otherfestive comedies. In this excerpt, the critic explores the contrasting elements of the
court and Arden forest, relates the various implications that the courtships of Orlando and Rosalind, Oliver
and Celia, Silvius and Phebe, and Touchstone and Audrey have on the whole play, and surveys the theme of
redemption through the characters' gradual self-knowledge, especially the improbable conversions of Oliver
and Duke Frederick. This essay has been reprinted in Four Great Comedies (1982) by Sylvan Barnet.]
Near the turn of the [seventeenth] century—just after he had finished his second tetralogy of history plays and
was nearing the great tragedies-Shakespeare wrote three comedies that for many readers and spectators are the
essence of Shakespearean romantic comedy: Much Ado About Nothing (1598-1600). As You Like It
(1599-1600). and Twelfth Night {1600-02). These plays, like The Merchant of Venice and to a lesser degree
A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Two Gentlemen of Verona, are plays of courtship. The assumption
behind them is that despite momentary absurdities and pains, love liberates, enriches, and fulfills the lovers,
(p. 93)
Like A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Merchant of Venice, As You Like It presents two worlds. A
Midsummer Night's Dream moves from Athens, with its harsh law and its harsh father, to the moonlit woods
outside of Athens, where lovers are transformed into their better selves; The Merchant of Venice moves from
the commercial world of Venice to the moonlit world of Portia's Belmont. In As You Like It the movement is
from the court of the usurper. Duke Frederick, to the Forest of Arden, where lovers find what they seek and
where the wicked are converted. Only Touchstone, the Clown, and Jaques, the melancholy man, remain
unimproved by Arden, a sort of hint of man's recalcitrance or self-conceit.
The play is full of "holiday foolery," but the foolery is not devoid of meaning, for it embodies an enduring
vision of love and of the triumph of the gifts of nature over those of fortune. Various kinds of lovers are
juxtaposed: the romantic young lovers, Rosalind and Orlando and Celia and the reformed Oliver; the prettified
artificial pastoral figures, hardhearted Phebe and her mooning Silvius, who thinks no man has ever loved as he
loves: the low pastoral figures, old Corin, who has forgotten the ridiculous actions that love moved him to in
his youth, and the young bumpkins William and Audrey; and finally the clown Touchstone, who remembers
that when he was in love he kissed "the cow's dugs that her pretty chopt [chapped) hands had milked" [II. iv.
49-50]. Love is wonderfully displayed in the "strange capers" of these figures, and it is treasured even when it
is mocked—as when Rosalind realistically warns Phebe against scorning Silvius' offers, saying. "Sell when
you can, you are not for all markets" [III. v. 60] or when Rosalind, concealing her love for Orlando, offers to
cure him of the madness of loving Rosalind, and he replies, "I would not be cured" [III. ii. 425]. Nor, of
course, would Rosalind or the audience want him cured. The love poems that Orlando writes are wretched
(Touchstone drily offers to produce such rhymes "eight years together, dinners and suppers and sleeping hours
excepted" [III. ii. 96-7]), yet we would not have Orlando's rhymes improved; we value them for their
delightful ineptitude. Rosalind herself is delightfully mocked, as in this bit of dialogue in which Celia (Aliena)
prosaically reminds us that people in love can be very boring:
ROSALIND. I'll tell thee. Aliena I cannot be
out of the sight of Orlando. I'll go find a
shadow, and sigh till he come.
CELIA. And I'll sleep.
[IV. i. 215-18]
Overviews 72
In short everything in the play, including the folly, is in Celia's words "O wonderful, wonderful, and most
wonderful wonderful, and yet again wonderful" [III. ii. 191-92]. Not least wonderful are the improbable
conversions of Oliver and the wicked Duke Frederick; again we are grateful for these improbabilities because
we would not deny to anyone the possibility of finding joy by shedding self-centeredness. These two men
come late to self-knowledge and its concomitant generosity of spirit, but better late than never. The play ends
with "a wedlock hymn" and other strong hints of a transfigured world—though Jaques' refusal to join in the
dance suggests that the new joyous order is less than total. The return of the exiles to the court is not a bit of
cynicism discrediting their experience in the forest; rather, it brings the vitality and harmony of the forest into
the court, which earlier in the play is a place of tyranny, (pp. 95-7)
Sylvan Barnet, "The Comedies," in his A Short Guide to Shakespeare, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1974, pp.
Alfred Harbage
[Harbage provides a scene-by-scene summary of As You Like It, often accompanied by critical commentary.
Each of the play's characters—particularly Rosalind, Orlando, Touchstone, and Jaques—are discussed as they
appear in the text.]
To Adam, an old family servant Orlando de Boys complains that his elder brother Oliver is disregarding the
will of their deceased father and is rearing him as an oaf. He repeats this complaint to Oliver and is rewarded
with a blow, whereupon he lays hold of his surly guardian and demands the legacy due him so that he may
make his own way in the world. Oliver half promises to meet the terms but has no intention of doing so. When
Charles, the champion wrestler, comes with a warning that Orlando is apt to be injured if he persists in his
plan to enter the matches about to be held at court, Oliver traduces the youth and incites Charles to do his
worst. Secretly he hopes that the bouts will prove fatal to Orlando, whose natural graces have been putting his
own merits in the shade. In the course of his conversation with the wrestler, we have learned of the situation at
court. The rightful Duke has been forced to retreat to the Forest of Arden where he lives a Robinhood sort of
life with some faithful comrades, while power at home resides in the hand of Duke Frederick, his usurping
younger brother. The banished Duke's daughter Rosalind remains at court as companion to Frederick's
daughter Celia.
1-22 This is a somber opening for a play with so beckoning a title. A recital of grievances can never be truly
engaging, but the note of aspiration in Orlando's voice offsets the petulant tone. He craves the education, the
gentility, proper to his birth. As he invokes the spirit of his honored father, he seems less concerned with
personal status than with the honor of his line. The speech, evidently continuing a conversation with Adam (as
thou say'st), but with something of the air of an expository soliloquy [As I remember) comes out as a
compromise between the two. It has the virtue of indicating at once the domestic situation and the nature of
this menage, a considerable manor, with home-farm, horse-trainers, hinds; the names Oliver, Rowland,
Jaques, Dennis make it sufficiently 'French.' 23-78 The ethical basis of Orlando's rejoinders save them from
seeming impudent. He gains greatly in contrast with his snarling brother, indeed seems the more mature and
restrained of the two. His physical prowess is impressive: obviously he is able to subdue Oliver without much
personal agitation or expenditure of energy. This physical conflict of brothers, one of whom stands in place of
a parent, is an ominous sign of decay, as witness Adam's distress (58-59) and Orlando's own apologetic words
at its conclusion. It is evidently no casual thing, but the first overt act of rebellion against long oppression.
When Oliver's spleen is vented on Adam—you old dog (75)—the latter's remark makes clear which of these
brothers is truly the family renegade. There is an iron-age atmosphere now; things were different in the days
of the good Sir Rowland. 79-111 Charles's old news (92) is so obviously old that there is no reason why it
should be conveyed except to post the audience. Shakespeare's expository devices are usually less flatfooted
than this question-and-answer sequence, yet it contains the most memorable speech in the scene—on the merry
men in the Forest of Arden who fleet the time carelessly as they did in the golden world (110-11). It is
relieving to hear, in this gloomy establishment, that something merry and golden survives at least somewhere.
Overviews 73
(Charles, incidentally, is more articulate than most wrestlers we have known.) 112-49 And he is not
ill-disposed. Actually he has come on a mission of good-will, and Oliver bends him to his purpose by
deceiving him, in fact by appealing to his moral sense. Oliver's brotherly characterization of Orlando
functions like a photographic negative: we deduce that the youth is the opposite of what he is here said to be.
150-59 The 'positive' of the portrait follows, furnished by the same villainous speaker but when no one is
present to hear. This is one of many instances in Shakespeare where virtue receives tribute from vice. Oliver's
rancor reminds us of Iago's remark about Cassio: 'He hath a daily beauty in his life That makes me ugly'
[Othello, V. i. 19-20].
I, ii
Troubled by the absence of her banished father, Rosalind is rallied by her cousin Celia. The two amuse
themselves with remarks about the vagaries of Dame Fortune and Lady Nature in bestowing their gifts upon
women. With the appearance of the court-jester Touchstone, the conversation erratically swerves to the
subjects of wisdom, folly, and empty oaths. The courtier Le Beau brings news that Charles the wrestler has
just maimed three challengers and is about to take on a fourth. If they remain in this place, they will see the
'sport.' Touchstone is dubious about the appeal of bone-crushing as an entertainment for ladies, but Rosalind
and Celia decide to stay when they see the young and handsome challenger. They add their pleas to Duke
Frederick's to dissuade Orlando from the unequal match, but he is resolved to risk everything in this chance to
distinguish himself. The girls lend him ardent support, and he easily defeats the champion, but Duke Frederick
sourly withholds his favor upon learning that the young victor is a son of a former enemy. Celia deplores her
father's ungraciousness, and Rosalind, who remembers old Sir Rowland as a supporter of her father, rewards
Orlando with a guerdon. She gives-him ample chance to improve the acquaintance, but he can only gaze at her
in awe. Le Beau, who has departed with the Duke and his retinue, returns with a warning that Orlando stands
in danger of the Duke's active displeasure, as does also the exile's daughter upon whom he has just been
gazing. Orlando realizes that he is in worse plight than before, but consoles himself with thoughts of heavenly
Rosalind! (270)
1-21 Our knowledge of the political situation is here reinforced, and we see the children of the enemy-brothers
behaving as loving foster-sisters. Since Celia intends to right the wrong done by her usurping father, the future
as well as the past is tinged with gold. 22-49 Rosalind's conversational gambit on falling in love (22) is
dramatic 'foreshadowing.' Observe how swiftly the subject is switched off by Celia's moralistic reply.
Shakespeare's heroines are not permitted to fall in love in the abstract; ripeness is not all in this area; there
must be single and worthy objects. The logic-chopping about Nature and Fortune will do as a sample of small
talk between lively and cultivated girls, but it seems to come from the top of their heads. 50-85 Touchstone
will do better, too, when the occasion improves. The words dullness of the fool (51) promises no scintillating
performance, indeed no more than the routine clowning we get. The 'demonstration' (about invalid oaths
sworn on non-existent beards) is of the tried-and-true order of comic business such as would be part of any
jester's repertory, but observe that aspersions are slyly cast upon the usurper, as his daughter notices (76-79):
Touchstone's knight without honor is one whom Duke Frederick loves. 86-111 Le Beau is a tame courtier, in
contrast with the merry men who have followed the elder Duke; he is a gossip and perhaps a fop, but his
officiousness is good-natured, and there is nothing in his lines and actions to suggest the effeminacy that is
often projected ad nauseam in modem productions; a slightly vapid timidity should do. The merriment of
Rosalind and Celia is determinedly sophisticated. For the moment they appear as a pair of smart little minxes.
112-203 The impression does not endure. They grow tender when they hear of the injured wrestlers, more
tender still when they see Orlando. Now they are sketched with swift contrasting strokes. They address the
youth with a studied grown-up gravity, but when the match is on, show the delightfully uninhibited
partisanship of children. Celia's impulses are especially fetching (193-94). Charles's boastfulness is just
enough to set off the quiet modesty of Orlando, who is remarkably successful in concealing his uncouth
rearing; in his plaintive and courtly address to the girls he proves quite the rhetorician. Again his physical
prowess is impressive: he is Shakespeare's most muscular lover. 204-41 Duke Frederick has appeared
anything but villainous thus far—trying to spare Orlando, limiting the bout to one fall, even making an inquiry
Overviews 74
(as the girls do not) about the condition of the loser. There is a hint of regret in his manner as he turns upon
Orlando, so that the action seems prompted more by a bad conscience than by evil nature. Celia sides against
her father in his churlishness (as does Jessica [in The Merchant of Venice]) without forfeiting our esteem.
With the Duke's display of passion, the medium shifts to blank verse, and naturally remains so; it would not
do for Orlando and Rosalind to fall in love in prose. As usual in these plays, it is the lady who makes the first
practical overtures. Rosalind's four-line speech (233-36) illustrates the suppleness which the playwright
required of his principal actors, as she lets a wish be father to a thought {He calls me back), speaks to herself
in an aside (My pride fell with my fortunes), addresses a face-saving remark to Celia [I'll ask him what he
would), and then almost proposes to Orlando. A fine bit of business is implied here, as she hovers invitingly
before him while he stands too dumbfounded to speak. How he should have responded, of course he realizes
later with chagrin. 242-70 Frederick's villainy is carefully kept within bounds. Le Beau speaks of his
condition, his manners, his humorous state, rather than of inveterate malice. Perhaps he will not prove
obdurate in evil, and this iron age will pass. Again the idea of a better world than this (265) is obtruded on our
attention. To Frederick as to Oliver, it is someone's virtue (260-62) which seems to constitute a threat.
I. iii.
Rosalind replies to Celia's questioning by confessing that she has a new reason to be pensive: she has fallen in
love with Orlando. Duke Frederick breaks in on their council with an order that Rosalind leave the court
within ten days on pain of death. Both she and Celia staunchly protest but the Duke distrusts Rosalind as the
daughter of his banished brother and the object of his subjects' love. Celia resolves to share Rosalind's exile;
they will disguise themselves and seek out the elder Duke in the Forest of Arden. Rosalind will don male
attire and swagger it out as 'Ganymede' while Celia will pose as 'Aliena.' Touchstone will be persuaded to go
1-35 The repartee of the girls has improved now that they have worthy matter to work on. Rosalind is no
longer pensive about her father but about her child's father (11). How swiftly and implacably her thoughts
have fixed upon ultimate objectives! 36-85 Again the shift is from prose to blank verse, with the shift from
wit and whimsey to passion. Duke Frederick's anger seems a kind of seizure, like that of Leontes in The
Winter's Tale. Rosalind and Celia are armed only with honesty, but their plain-speaking is so formidable that
we almost pity the Duke. Twice he calls Celia a fool (76, 83) because, blinded by love, she fails to see that
Rosalind's virtues make her a serious rival. The playwright loves these ironic collisions, where hatred and
moral defect must, in self-defense, attack love and virtue as dangerous. The Duke is convinced that his
appraisal of the situation is quite rational. 86-134 So resolute a moment before, Rosalind and Celia now sound
defenseless and forlorn—but not for long. Cheerfulness seeps rapidly into their voices, so that by the end of the
brief dialogue they sound less like refugees than like schoolgirls planning a Halloween junket. Especially
captivating is Rosalind's eagerness to wear a gallant curtle-axe and to cloak her timidity in a swashing and
martial outside (110-18). The two seem truly standing in half-water between childhood and womanhood. Of
course Touchstone will go along; Shakespeare's fools all adhere to the right side.
II, i
In the Forest of Arden, Duke Senior extols the simple life and the sweet uses of adversity. His comrades share
his content, if not his solicitude for the dappled deer whose dominion they have invaded. They tell of how one
of their number, the melancholy Jaques, lies sighing by a brook, moralizing the fate of a wounded stag into an
allegory of corrupt society. The Duke goes to seek Jaques out, since he loves to 'cope him' in his 'sullen fits.'
1 s.d. The direction like Foresters (later like Outlaws) indicates the Kendal green attire of the little band, in
contrast with the courtly finery of Frederick and his retinue. We are in the Forest of Arden. After the
somewhat asphyxiating atmosphere of Oliver's manor and Frederick's court, the air seems cleansed and cool.
The effect is achieved by the relaxed words and conduct, as well as the Robinhood attire of the actors. 1-20
The rightful Duke is not even equipped with a proper name, but he has the composure and graciousness of the
natural leader, like Theseus. Although his opening lines are filled with allusion to what is painted and envious
Overviews 75
in society, to what is churlish in nature, the tone is serene and the verse is limpid, in harmony with the theme
of peace-of-mind. Amiens describes truly what the speaker does, translate, and the style in which he does it,
so quiet and so sweet (20). The image of the ugly toad wearing in its head the precious jewel (13-14) lends
just the touch of strangeness needed to set off the easy simplicity of the rest. His last two lines, with their
artfully varied parallelism rising to a climax, good in everything (17), have a peculiar significance, as the first
generalization we hear in the Forest of Arden spoken by its tutelary spirit. The Duke is not a Pangloss, since,
in his pronouncement, that which is not good is absorbed and neutralized rather than ignored, and happiness is
something earned. The Forest is not an earthly paradise, for here the fang of winter bites even though it bites
to man's advantage; Arden seems to symbolize a process rather than a place. 21 -69 The Duke's next brief
speech contains the text of the two long speeches following. The suggestion of pathos in the fate of the hunted
deer, and the idea of their being the native burghers (23) of this sylvan city, are imaginatively expanded. The
picture of the brook which brawls past the gnarled oak-roots, the stag which stretches with groans its leathern
coat (31-38), is painted from nature sharply observed, but the painting is stylized-decorative and consciously
artificial rather than realistic, as is the treatment of the Forest as a whole, in harmony with the symbolic use to
which it is being put. The 'moralization' of the picture attributed to Jaques is remarkable for its ingenuity and
neat devices of condensation, but its excesses create the impression that the orator was enjoying himself, and
we feel a little skeptical about his weeping (66). Perhaps he can weep at will.
II, ii
The absence of Celia and Touchstone as well as Rosalind leads Duke Frederick to suspect connivance on the
part of Orlando. He orders the youth brought to court for questioning. If he is missing, his brother Oliver must
answer for him.
1-21 The birds have flown as we knew they would, and Frederick scents treason as he was bound to do.
However one new detail is introduced, the eavesdropping of Hisperia, which directs the Duke's attention to
the de Boys household. Presumably this will have importance in the economy of the plot; at least we are
pleased to hear that Oliver will have to answer for something.
II, iii
Old Adam warns Orlando that the praise he has won for his wrestling victory has inflamed his brother's
rancor, so that if he tarries at home he is apt to be burned in his lodgings. Adam puts at Orlando's disposal his
life's-savings of five hundred crowns, and the two set forth to seek in the world some 'settled low content'
1-30 The virtues of Orlando and the danger to which they have exposed him are described in an excessively
exclamatory style, but Adam is an octogenarian and we must give the aged leave to wail. 31-76 What follows,
in addition to getting Orlando off on his journey, is a moral exemplum in its own right. First Orlando chooses,
in exemplary fashion, the lesser evil, personal danger, to outlawry and vagrancy. Then Adam (surely the
'Adam before the fall') performs an act of charity in a spirit of Christian faith, explicitly expressed (43-45).
Then comes an oblique lecture on good moral habits, with Adam's hale old age offered in evidence. All this is
too well written to be dismissed as perfunctory padding. There is feeling in the reference to old and cashiered
servants—unregarded age in corners thrown (42). Finally Orlando, using Adam for his text, reproves the
world where men work only for meed and not for love and duty. The present is compared again to its
disadvantage with a golden past. The weighty moral content of the scene suggests that regeneration is in
order, and the direction the comedy will take. It would not have been surprising if it had been written
throughout in couplets, such as appear in the last speech and sporadically just before it. There is pathos in
Adam's rueful words about taking to the road at fourscore, and performers should defer to the playwright's
obvious regard for this good old man (56). To portray him as ludicrously senile, on the principle that every
play must have its Polonius, is a detestable piece of blotting. (A tradition, none too reliable, maintains that
Shakespeare played this part himself.)
Overviews 76
II, iv
Rosalind as 'Ganymede,' Celia as 'Aliena,' and Touchstone as himself arrive weary at Arden, where there
appear to be pasturelands as well as trees. They overhear the young shepherd Silvius tell the old shepherd
Corin of his love for disdainful Phebe; and Rosalind is put in mind of her own love-longings for Orlando.
They ask Corin if he can supply them food and shelter, and learn that he is only the hireling of another man,
whose cottage, flocks, and pastures are up for sale. When they offer to make the purchase themselves and
retain Corin as their shepherd, they are led off to view the holding.
1-16 The runaways have made it, a little the worse for wear, so that Rosalind must look out for their morale.
She speaks partly for herself, partly for 'Ganymede,' whose masculine courage she must emulate. Each of her
companions is given a speech or two in character (and in prose) before natives step into view. 17-58 They step
out of the literary pastoral-tradition, where shepherds are chronically in love, of exquisite sensibility, and
speak a dialect as poetic as their names. Observe the patterned speech of Silvius, the three unrimed couplets,
each followed by a half-line, Thou hast not loved (31-39), the last patly illustrated by his passionate exit.
Rosalind and Touchstone, each after kind, is touched, so that love sounds a three-note chime. Touchstone's
Jane Smile, with her chapped hands, is a less ethereal example of rural mistress than Silvius's Phebe, and there
is more than a hint in the language that Touchstone's designs upon her were not ethereal either. Rosalind's
love must be more in the ideal fashion of Silvius's, but it is odd, if the issue were clear, that she should say so
in a jingle (55-56). 59-65 There is something strange about this Forest of Arden. In the scenes back in
'civilization' there was a reasonably plausible consistency in the treatment of character and event. Here,
experience has an amiably schizoid quality, with plausible and implausible consorting comfortably together.
Touchstone's arrogant hail to one whom he deems even lower in the social scale than himself, and Rosalind's
engaging embarrassment over his rude snobbery, are as natural as can be. But Corin, who a moment before
was a conventional pastoral shepherd (whom love ere now had drawn into a thousand acts ridiculous)
suddenly changes into an authentic old countryman, humble and kindly, who speaks with a lovely simplicity
(70-95). Like the wood outside Athens, this one seems enchanted too, but the dreams are the dreams of
II, v
Amiens sings 'Under the greenwood tree' and, for reasons of his own, Jaques asks for more. As they spread for
the Duke's evening banquet, Amiens sings again, with all joining in the chorus. Jaques produces a parody of
the song, and Amiens sings this too, before going to summon the Duke.
1-7,33-39 We are grateful to Jaques, whatever his motives, for persuading Amiens to give us the second
stanzo. It is a festive song, just right for a woodland feast, and we are reminded of the line of light operas sired
by this play. Fine solo and choral singing in a comradely atmosphere has its own undeniable appeal, and the
scene would justify itself simply as a musical interlude. But it also adds a dimension to this forest world.
Observe that the words of the song repeat, in their own way, the message of the Duke (II, i, 1-17), so that we
have been twice greeted in Arden by the idea of triumphant contentment, but now the idea is challenged. 8-55
The Jaques we met 'in absentia,' sobbing over the fate of the stag and the inhumanity of man, struck us as a
doleful sentimentalist. Either we were mistaken, or he himself has changed. Here he seems truculent and
carping, a determined cynic—Diogenes with a parody up his sleeve. A moment ago we heard Touchstone say
now am I in Arden, the more fool I (II, iv, 14). Now it is Jaques who says the same thing, in express
opposition to the official sentiment of the place. The fool and the eccentric see eye to eye, and see what
common sense tells us is true—that the efficacy of retreat into the great open spaces is a lot of sentimental
nonsense. At least our common sense would tell us so if the issue came to debate. But there is no debating
here. No one contradicted Touchstone, and no one contradicts Jaques. Instead, the same singer who sang of
the joys of the forest-life happily sings the parody. This has the odd effect of keeping the issue open. Either
the Duke and his followers are aware of some truth denied the dissenters, or they know the value of pretense.
Perhaps this is the secret wisdom of Arden, a stronghold of passive resistance to disillusion.
Overviews 77
II, vi
Adam, faint with hunger and fatigue, tells Orlando to go on alone. Orlando speaks words of cheer, and
promises to find food somewhere in this forest to which they have wandered. He bears the old man to shelter
before leaving for his search.
1-16 There is no condescension in Orlando's speech, but such eager assurances as are designed to put heart
into the old and ill. Toward its end, the broken continuity indicates the pauses for action as he ministers to his
servant. His actions must not be viewed casually. A young aristocrat carrying an old servitor to shelter is a
symbol which would have had a strong ethical and emotional impact.
II, vii
At the woodland repast of the Duke and his following, Jaques describes with high glee his meeting with a fool
in the forest, and he begs for a motley coat so that he may rail upon the times. When the Duke questions his
motives, he defends the satiric mode. Orlando breaks in upon them with drawn sword, demanding a share of
the food, but he relaxes his posture when the Duke addresses him kindly. He goes to bring Adam to the feast,
and returns with the old man in his arms just as Jaques is concluding a survey of the seven ages of man. All sit
to the repast, and Amiens sings another song. The scene ends with the Duke proffering permanent refuge to
this young son and this former servant of his onetime friend, Sir Rowland de Boys.
1-11 For one alluded to in such terms—nowhere. . . like a man and compact of jars (2-5)— Jaques seems to
have a strange fascination for the Duke. 12-43 The Touchstone whom Jaques describes bears small
resemblance to the Touchstone we have met; he has undergone a Forest-change and gained a languid elegance
as he poses for this brilliantly comic picture of utter boredom and futility. Jaques himself, now almost
hysterically elated, keeps changing before our eyes. When we first heard of him, he was anguished, and when
we first saw him, he was bitter. His moods are as motley as Touchstone's coat, and he has been virtually
functioning as the Duke's jester before he requests the role. There is a chameleon quality about Jaques and
Touchstone, their coloration exchangeable, so that it is hard to decide which if either is the 'touchstone' of
what. The season in Arden appears to be a mixture of autumn, winter, spring, summer; and between them
Touchstone and Jaques manage to mix up the spirit of the boxing days with the spirit of lent. 44-87 In two
lengthy and nicely-turned speeches Jaques defends the integrity of satire. The burden of his discourses—'If the
shoe fits, wear it'-—is the standard apology of the satirists of the day. Between his speeches comes the Duke's
'ad hominem' charge that the satirist is a warped and corrupted man, with an affinity for the vices he
castigates. The issue is not resolved. The Duke is an important and incisive speaker, but Jaques is permitted to
speak longest and last. 88-109 If the question is the relative powers of persuasion of vinegar and honey, the
latter wins the palm in the action. As Orlando, always the tall-man-of-his-hands, bursts pugnaciously upon
them, it is the Duke's mild courtesy which disarms him, not Jaques' witty sarcasms. 109-26 Orlando's
inventory of those influences which account for humane action—gratitude for one's own well-being, religious
teaching, good example—is repeated Dy the Duke so as to receive a ceremonial endorsement. The
'conventional' morality here has been used as a butt of Shavian wit, but there is nothing logically wrong with
the liturgy. Orlando thinks that all things had been savage here (107), and he recognizes that things cease to
be savage because of civilizing influences; he is mindful of the ultimate reasons why he will be eating instead
of eaten. 127-66 The Duke's comment, as Orlando goes off to fetch Adam is cheerful in intent; he is telling
the company that relatively they are not unhappy (unlucky). Jaques' extension of his metaphor of the theatre
into All the world's a stage. . . (139-66) is different in spirit. It contains seven miniature portraits, sharp,
animated, credible, the amount of detail increasing from one to the next, but all miracles of condensation. The
data is highly selective: the babe is mewling and puking (not smiling), the child creeping to school (not
running to play), and at no point is man seen to advantage. Although in the first five ages, he grows a little
more imposing, in the last two, after the deft punctuating clause And so he plays his part, he suffers a
devastating fall. Like the scorpion, Jaques' summation bears its sting in its tail: the crown of life is—senility!
And yet generations of youngsters speaking their 'memory pieces' have cheerfully chirped out Sans teeth, sans
eyes, sans taste, sans everything; and, in productions, the lines are often spoken like a benediction. How can
Overviews 78
we account for this oddity? In its substance the speech denigrates life, in spite of the few relieving touches,
like the schoolboy's shining (fresh-scrubbed) morning face, but the tone of the speaker is not that of the
malicious de-bunker; rather it is sympathetic, regretful, a little nostalgic. The words say one thing, the 'tune'
something a trifle different, and as an act of faith we attend to the tune. The speech is a wonderful literary feat.
167-200 Although we should feel grateful for it, we should also feel grateful for the stage direction following:
Enter Orlando, with Adam. Orlando will soon De composing sonnets to his mistress's eyebrow, and Adam is
approaching Jaques' seventh age; indeed at the moment his life has come full cycle for he is resting in
another's arms as at the beginning. But Orlando and Adam together are something different from Orlando and
Adam apart, and different as individuals than as types. And which of Jaques' capsulated 'ages' fits this gentle
and generous Duke? The tableau formed by these three is a silent commentary upon the preceding speech, for
the nuances in Shakespearean drama are not confined to the words. For a moment we thought we were
hearing something bravely definitive about the vanity of human life, but now we are less sure. There is
ambiguity even in the concluding song—a wintry companion to the one sung before the banquet began. After
Orlando, Adam, and the Duke have begun acting as if gratitude, friendship, and love are potent realities, the
song voices serious doubts. Or does it? Mostjriendship is fainting, most loving mere Jolly (181); but 'Most' is
not 'all,' as Celia would say, and little candles throw their lights far. Never have such melancholy verses been
followed by such rollicking choruses.
III, i
Duke Frederick orders Oliver to set out and seek his brother while his house and lands are held in bail. If
Orlando is not produced within a year, Oliver will lose everything.
1-18 We glimpse the court again, like a receding coastal point. The episode might easily have been included
in 11,11, but it is split off for structural reasons: we are reminded that there is such a place as the court, that
the exodus of characters has been noticed, and that something is being done about it. (This is anticipating, but
observe that preparation is made for Oliver's appearance in Arden, but not for the Duke's warlike approach.
Threat of invasion would not suit the atmosphere of the place.)
III, ii
Orlando adorns the trees with verses in praise of Rosalind. Touchstone and Corin debate the rival claims of
court and country life. When Rosalind reads aloud a sample of the poetry, Touchstone extemporizes a parody.
Celia reads another sample, and after impish delay, tells Rosalind that the poet is her Orlando. The two step
back to witness an encounter between him and Jaques, demonstrating the antipathy of a person-in-love and a
person-out-of-love. Rosalind, retaining her identity as 'Ganymede,' engages Orlando in conversation, and
offers to cure him of love by posing as his loved-one and tormenting him with a woman's whims. He has no
wish to be cured, but welcomes the chance to unburden his heart by addressing this youth as 'Rosalind.'
1-10 Orlando's speech is a sonnet lacking the first quatrain (no doubt spoken before his entrance) and a better
lyric than any he is able to get on paper; perhaps he should dictate his poetry. He has seen so little of Rosalind
that the second of the qualities he attributes to her, The fair, the chaste, and unexpressive she (10) must be
known to him through pure intuition. We soon learn that he is now outfitted neatly as one of the Duke's
foresters, so that we must visualize him as an amalgam of Petrarchan love-lyricist and husky youth in Kendal
green. At least one of the trees upon which he pins his verses is a palm (167), which here seems able to
survive the icy Jang of winter as readily as the gnarled oak. Since in Arden the glades of Arcadia are
superimposed upon Sherwood Forest, and tropical flora and fauna (presently we shall hear of a lioness)
flourish in France Orlando can be two selves with perfect propriety. 11-82 There is an Alice-in-Wonderland
inconclusiveness about this debate. After it is over, Corin might justly feel like a Kafka victim, wondering just
what kind of guilt he has incurred, but luckily his nerves are sound. In one of his Sonnets [66] Shakespeare
speaks sadly of 'simple truth miscalled simplicity,' but the miscalling proves a jolly business when done by a
professional simpleton. Frivolousness is Touchstone's métier, and his air of tolerant superiority is as engaging
as Corin's innocence. Although handicapped by his sincerity, as any natural philosopher (30) is bound to be in
Overviews 79
a skirmish with a wit and a punster, Corin manages to get his view of life on record, unforgettably so (69-73),
and Touchstone's persiflage sounds no more damaging than the crackling of thorns under a pot. 83-117 Once
having found his rime, Orlando has stuck to it, and to his jog-trot meter {the right butterwomens rank to
market). Touchstone is right in his critical judgment, but his parody, reducing love to lust and Rosalind to a
trollop, turns Orlando's idealism inside out, and merits Rosalind's rebuke. But, as usual in this least cynical of
all plays, the cynic is given the last word. 118-239 This second poem, achieving a quite respectable
mediocrity, must have been composed after Orlando had acquired the knack of it. Perhaps Rosalind would
like it better if she had not already been berymed like an Irish rat (169), or if she knew who the author was.
When she is told, her first words are Alas the day! What shall I do with my doublet and hose? (208) What she
does is keep them on, thus remaining incognito both to the lover she has been longing for and the father she
has come to Arden to seek. Fortunately there is no attempt to rationalize this irrational behavior. To do so
would be like trying to explain why palm trees are growing in this forest, or who is tending to Silvius's and
Phebe's sheep. The clock has been stopped, the laws of logic suspended, and the dwellers in Arden freed from
the obligation to do anything but what is enjoyable. Still, and this makes it unique, the play never labels itself
'fantasy,' thus apologizing for its devices, and its characters never become marionettes—but only pose as
marionettes. One of the minor triumphs among them is Celia. In the constant presence of the witty, ardent and
magnetic Rosalind, she, might have easily lost identity and dwindled to a cipher. Instead she remains quite
distinct alternately teasing and lecturing the friend in whose love-affair she is so whole-heartedly interested.
Since there is no malice or envy in this interest, she can be as outspoken as she pleases. Her remark that she
has found Orlando under a tree like a dropped acorn (224) is a sample of her piquant conversational style.
240-81 A moment ago Goodman Kersey-woolen encountered Sir Taffeta, and now Signior Love encounters
Monsieur Melancholy. Orlando is the more hostile of the two, shying away as if he feared Jaques' malady to
be catching. The dialogue lacks the 'articulated' style of real communication since the incompatibility of this
pair is absolute; their speeches are pot-shots exchanged across a chasm. These interpolated encounters
(Corin-Touchstone, Jaques-Orlando) provide time for Orlando's poems to be found, identified with their
author, and serve as a means of bringing the lovers face to face, but they are rounded off as self-sufficient
'skits.' Through the remainder of the play similar encounters between substance and shadow (not always easily
distinguishable) provide the true center of interest, with the plot-action slipped into the interstices. This
fragmented dramatic technique resembles impressionistic painting, and renders commentary upon separate
details somewhat irrelevant. The succession of impromptu charades, comic eclogues, musical interludes,
wit-skirmishes, suggests an extemporal allegory, a parade of the seven-or-so-not-so-deadly-attitudes, a
whimsical dance of love and life. Its proper lighting is dappled sunlight and it could be set nowhere in the
world but the Forest of Arden. 282-408 Rosalind's disguise as a saucy lackey (282) lets her express the
misgivings about love and marriage which she is intelligent enough to have but healthy-spirited enough to
disregard. Her mind says one thing, her heart another, and like the play as a whole, she is unromantically
romantic. Orlando is reduced to the role of 'straight man' as he converses with this volatile youth who dwells
on the skirts of Arden like fringe upon a petticoat (319), but he is passing a kind of test. His dogged refusal to
escape the pangs of love—I would not be cured, youth (398)—although addressed to 'Ganymede' must sound
sweet in the ears of Rosalind.
III, iii
Touchstone pays court to the country-maid Audrey while Jaques stands gloomily by. A forest wedding is
about to take place, with Sir Oliver Mar-text officiating. Jaques steps forth to give the bride away, then
persuades Touchstone to postpone the ceremony until it can be more properly performed.
1-94 The courtship of ideal lovers now in process casts this antic shadow—a travesty in action, like
Touchstone's travesty of Orlando's love-lyric. Audrey is available and willing; and Touchstone, who hath his
desires (70), is resigned. Any action involving Touchstone is bound to be subversive, and his remarks upon
compatibility, poetry, chastity [honesty), fidelity, and the ultimate sanctions of marriage (69-71) are
saturnalian in spirit. In contrast Jaques' spirit is saturnine; he here appears as primly censorious, and a stickler
for propriety. Audrey, whose wit and beauty may leave something to be desired, lays stress on moral
Overviews 80
character: her question about poetry—Is it honest in deed and word? Is it a true thing? (14)—is as priceless as
Touchstone's reply (16-17). Arden, we observe, is suddenly provided with a nearby village and vicar. Are his
services rejected because of some Puritan taint? or because marriages in comedy should be reserved for the
last scene? Poor proud Oliver Mar-text—we remember him always, although he is only given three speeches
and then elbowed into oblivion.
III, iv
To Rosalind's distress, Orlando has failed to keep an appointment, and she and Celia discuss his truancy.
Corin comes to invite them to witness a meeting between Silvius and the scornful Phebe.
1-54 In tantalizing Rosalind, Celia displays her usual deftness in the use of metaphor. The prose dialogue of
this play sparkles with splintered poetry. Observe that Corin reverts to his 'pastoral' role whenever he is
associated with Silvius and Phebe: his terms are not countrified as he invites the girls to see the pageant truly
played (47).
III. v
As Silvius pleads for gentler treatment, Phebe makes mock of his devotion. Rosalind steps forth and
indignantly upbraids her, giving short shrift to her alleged beauty and charm. The tirade succeeds only in
arousing Phebe's interest in the one who utters it, and when Rosalind and Celia have left, she employs Silvius
to convey a 'taunting' letter to the scolding 'Ganymede.'
1-138 Phebe's manner is wanton and irritating as she pecks away at Silvius's metaphors, ignoring the spirit in
her literal interpretation (8-27). It is a small offense, but it will serve. Since Silvius is in love, and is the only
eligible shepherd in view, Phebe seems to personify coy fastidiousness; and all male hearts respond as
Rosalind pitches into her (8-27). A woman should indeed thank heaven fasting for a good man's love; it is a
regular manifesto.
IV, i
Jaques defines the nature of his melancholy to Rosalind—who is unimpressed. She chides Orlando for coming
late, then plays the part of skeptical mistress, subjecting his sentiments to stiff strokes of common sense.
However, she acts out a marriage ceremony with him with Celia serving as 'priest,' and when he has left to
attend upon the Duke, she admits how 'many fathom deep' she is in love.
1-201 Rosalind proves as hostile to Jaques as did Orlando—they are young growth resistant to frost. Our
impression that Jaques alters in mood from scene to scene is confirmed by his own diagnosis: his is an eclectic
melancholy, compounded of many simples, extracted from many objects (15). What follows is a strange
love-scene, with its haunting, Men have died from time to time, and worms have eaten them, but not for love
(96-98). More critics have fallen in love with Rosalind than with any other of Shakespeare's heroines, and the
reason is fairly clear. She is witty, warm, and presumably beautiful, but, further than that, she seems the
perfect risk as a wife, since her capacity for love is so great that it has survived disillusionment in advance. In
spite of the preposterous masquerade, Orlando and Rosalind remain convincing as lovers in the scenes where
the masquerade is maintained—he a little subdued, hang-dog, put-upon, as young lovers are bound to be; she a
little desperate, for all her high-larking spirits, as one who can only pretend that her soul remains her
IV, ii
The 'foresters' have killed a deer, and at Jaques' suggestion march off to present it to the Duke, singing a song
of the lusty horn.'
1-18 We have not had foresters or a song for some time, and the scene needs no further justification. With
horned beasts on the premises, and marriages in the making, a cuckoldry song was inevitable. It does not
Overviews 81
reflect upon the characters of Rosalind, Celia, Phebe, or even Audrey.
IV, iii
Apologetically, Silvius delivers Phebe's letter, supposing it to consist of insults. When it proves to be a
protestation of love for 'Ganymede,' the receiver rebukes Silvius for his infatuation, and returns an answer to
Phebe that her love will be reciprocated only when Silvius consents to act as her intercessor. Oliver now
appears bearing a blood-stained handkerchief and a message from Orlando. The latter has been wounded by a
lioness in rescuing Oliver from death, thus returning good for his brother's evil. Oliver is now penitent, and he
and Celia minister to Rosalind, who has fainted upon hearing of Orlando's own narrow escape. They conduct
her home, her jauntiness all wilted away.
1-181 Silvius has been too tame a lover. Phebe's emotions have been thawed by 'Ganymede's' fire, and need
only the proper channeling. The idea of love-congealed, of frozen immobility awaiting a spring thaw, reminds
us of Romeo and Rosaline, of Orsino and Olivia [Twelfth Night). (In all three plays the thawing agent is an
ardent young girl.) An air of the miraculous attends Oliver's sudden appearance as a completely reformed
man. His reformation borrows a semi-mystical character from the description of the circumstances
(99-121,128-33). He has been awakened from miserable slumber after Orlando has resisted the temptation to
return evil for evil. The brightly-enameled image of the green and gilded snake which retreats at Orlando's
approach, and of the sucked and hungry lioness which dies at Orlando's hands, suggest the, allegorical
illumination of ancient manuscripts. If anything were needed to endear Rosalind to us, it would be the
collapse of her bravado when she sees Orlando's blood: I would I were at home ( 162).
V, i
Touchstone comforts Audrey, who sees no reason why their nuptials should have been interrupted. He then
deals with William, her erstwhile suitor, treating the country swain to a display of courtly patronage and
courtly swashbuckling.
1-60 William is an inoffensive youth although, like Silvius, a little wanting in fire. Still, better men than he
might quail before Touchstone's invincible superciliousness. This jester, among other things, is a kind of
'fetch.' He is a living parody of the mannerisms which prevail in the effete courtly circles he loves to flout.
V, ii
Orlando learns that his brother Oliver has fallen in love with the shepherdess 'Aliena' (Celia), and the two
wish to marry at once. Oliver will share her humble lot, and Orlando may take possession of the de Boys
estates. Rosalind promises Orlando that he himself may marry on the morrow, not in another mock-ceremony
but in a true one with his actual mistress, who will be brought hither by magical aids. Silvius and Phebe are
also promised a resolution of their problem: 'Ganymede' will marry Phebe or never marry any woman, and yet
Silvius will be satisfied. The principals in these crossed love-affairs chant out a litany of love, which Rosalind
abruptly terminates with a repetition of assurances that all will be properly paired off.
1-117 Is't possible … ? asks Orlando. lt must be, since it has happened. What would be impossible would be
for the eminently marriageable Celia to finish the course unclaimed. The scene contains another and more
elaborate passage of schematized repetition, this time a lovers' creed and testament, both poetic and absurd. It
dissolves in Rosalind's laughter, so that the effect, like so much else in this play, is spicy-sweet, not cloving.
Touchstone gives Audrey the joyous tidings that they, too, will be married on the morrow; then sits between
two pages of the Duke and joins them in singing 'It was a lover and his lass.'
1-40 As the two little boys appear from nowhere, and perch on either side of this antic figure (who surely
must be long and lean), and as the three voices join in this golden catch, we have a sense of the 'rightness' of
Overviews 82
the whole design—an unpremeditated rightness, as hard to describe as a peal of bells or the fragrance of a
V, iv
Duke Senior will willingly accept Orlando as his son-in-law if 'Ganymede' is able to produce Rosalind as
promised. Still posing as this masterful youth, Rosalind repeats her assurances, and makes certain that Phebe
will accept Silvius if she decides not to wed 'Ganymede.' She and Celia retire, and Touchstone leads in
Audrey to make up another couple in the impending nuptials. Prompted by Jaques, Touchstone expatiates
upon the 'seventh cause' in the code of the duello. Rosalind and Celia return in their own proper forms, and to
the sound of soft music, and an Epithalamion by Hymen, the four couples link hands, all mysteries resolved
and all obtacles removed. Even Phebe seems contented—Silvius will do, now that 'Ganymede' is no more. At
this juncture another brother of Orlando and Oliver appears on the scene, with news that Duke Frederick has
abandoned plans to invade the Forest of Arden; instead he has been converted to the religious life and has
abdicated the Dukedom in favor of its rightful ruler. All may now return to their inheritances. Jaques
pronounces a benediction upon the fortunate ones, but withdraws from the celebration; he will join Duke
Frederick and commune with the convertite. Duke Senior leads off the couples in a dance, and Rosalind
speaks the Epilogue.
1-192 Despite the somewhat offhand methods used in the tying of it, a quite respectable knot is available for
untying in this conclusion, and we have a comforting sense of accomplishment. Everyone is enlightened,
united, reformed, reinstated, and, so far as possible, married. True to themselves, Touchstone, after pressing in
with the country copulatives (53), gives a fine display of jesting virtuosity, and Jaques retires to enjoy his
melancholy in peace. Hymen's hymn to that blessed bond of board and bed which peoples every town
(135-40) is the properly decorous sequel to Touchstone's song of the lover and his lass in the vernal fields of
rye (V, iii, 15-32). Thus ends a play which leaves the critical commentator always an awkward step in the
rear. Its moods, sentiments, mockeries, perceptions form patterns as bright, translucent, shifting, and
apparently accidental as those in a kaleidoscope. In the Epilogue Rosalind proceeds unscrupulously to coerce
a display of audience approval with her charm. The play as a whole coerces us with its charm. What appears
to be a medley, a structure of spontaneous improvisation, cannot be evaluated by objective standards, and we
may well speak of the artistic level of this play as Orlando speaks of Rosalind's stature—-just as high as my
heart (III, ii, 258). One may say with Jaques that this is but a pretty answer, or, indeed, that As You Like It is
but a pretty play. However, it does something which mere pret-tiness could never do. It makes the world seem
young. It sweetens the imagination. (pp. 222-45)
Alfred Harbage, "Infinite Variety: 'As You Like It'," in his William Shakespeare: A Reader's Guide, Farrar,
Straus and Giroux, 1963, pp. 164-297.
Pastoral Conventions
Brigid Brophy
[Brophy surveys the elements of pastoralism in As You Like It (pastoralism is a literary form that presents an
ideal and virtuous vision of rustic life). In addition, the critic discusses the comedy in relation to its source,
Thomas Lodge's novel Rosalynde. Brophy asserts that among the play's most moving aspects are
Shakespeare's brilliant dramatization of the romantic love affair between Orlando and Rosalind and the bond
of friendly love exhibited by Rosalind and Cetia.]
As You Like It is a play I have loved virtually all my life, but it was only recently that I realised that it is not
what the Copyright Act would call 'an original work'. This is not a great feat of literary detection on my part.
Almost all Shakespeare's plays have sources of some kind, and any school text will tell you that the source for
As You Like It is a novel called Rosalynde by Shakespeare's contemporary, Thomas Lodge.
Pastoral Conventions 83
However, very few people bother to read Lodge's novel; and that is a pity, because it is a highly interesting
novel in its own right—rather eccentric, deeply charming, very shrewd about psychology, very lively, very
well written; and the moment you do read it you realise that it is very much more than just a source for As You
Like It. As You Like It is, in fact, an absolutely straightforward, dramatised version of Rosalynde.
The novel was first published in 1590 and it evidently had a considerable success—it ran to three editions
within the next decade. That, presumably, made it worthwhile for someone to cash in on it. It is notable that
Shakespeare did not change the name of the heroine. He kept the name 'Rosalind', and it was towards the end
of the decade, in 1598 or 1599—no one knows for sure which—that As You Like It appeared on the stage.
But, although Shakespeare changed the names of several of the characters, he did not change the characters
themselves, or—which is more important—the relationships between them. He cut down the time spanned by
the novel, because a novel has more room to sprawl than a play has. But he made fewer changes than a
modern writer would if he were adapting a modern novel for the theatre or for television. Having stayed with
Lodge in all the big things, relationships, characters, plot, sequence, Shakespeare often chose to stay with him
right down to smallish detail.
The novel and the play are both set in France. One thread concerns a king of France who is driven out of his
court by his usurping brother. Shakespeare demotes this pair of brothers from kings of France to dukes of an
unnamed part of France. The exiled king or duke is eventually followed into exile by his daughter, Rosalind,
but not before she has fallen in love with another ill-used brother, who has been driven out of his inheritance
by his elder brother, and who also goes into voluntary exile. The place where all these exiles take refuge and
where the threads of the story are woven is what Lodge and Shakespeare called the Forest of Arden—what we
would call, now that it is no longer fashionable to Anglicise French names, the Ardennes.
The ups and downs of fortune which have turned these people into exiles give them all the opportunity to
reflect on blind fortune, or random chance, as we would probably call it; and this gives the play its
fashionable, philosophical tone. The fact that they have all taken refuge in the forest also puts the play slap in
the middle of another high fashion of the Renaissance—which remained in fashion deep into the 18th
century—the fashion for the pastoral.
Although a pastor is literally a shepherd who puts his sheep out to pasture, I can assure anyone who feels, as I
do, that the countryside is highly overrated, that the pastoral fashion has remarkably little to do with real
countryside or with real sheep-rearing. When they arrive in the forest, Rosalind and Celia do buy a sheep
farm, but even in Lodge, who has more room, they are only moderately serious about working it. In
Shakespeare, it obviously is left to run itself. The object of the pastoral was not to draw any morals from
nature. It was to recreate the literature of the ancient world, in particular the pastoral poems—dialogues
between shepherds, mainly—which Theocritus wrote in Greek in the third century BC, and Virgil's imitations
of them in Latin.
If you bought a pastoral novel or went to see a pastoral play, you knew pretty much what you were going to
get, just as nowadays if you go and see a thriller you know pretty much what you are going to get. You were
going to get shepherds with Greek or Latinised names like Sylvius, Corin, Lyddas and Damon, and
shepherdesses called things like Phoebe and Corinna. The point of the whole thing was going to be that people
were going to fall desperately in love. You knew also that you would get large quantities of lyric verse. It may
have begun—this idea that shepherds were poets—from the thought that shepherds piped to their flocks, and,
perhaps, having piped a tune, they then set words to the tune.
In Shakespeare, only one of the characters, Orlando, has the actual verse-writing mania—no doubt he picks it
up from the pastoral setting like an infection when he arrives in the forest. His verses, incidentally, are all bad.
But the entire play is punctuated by songs.
Pastoral Conventions 84
The shepherds in Theocritus and Virgil often fall passionately in love with shepherdesses and they also quite
often fall passionately in love with shepherds. The same is probably true of the cowboys in the modern
Western, which is a diluted descendant of the pastoral.
This tradition of the pastoral made it a particularly apt mode for Lodge, followed by Shakespeare, to set their
story in. When the girl cousins and best friends, Rosalind and Celia, run away to the Forest of Arden,
Rosalind—and it is Rosalind rather than Celia because, as she explains, she is the taller of the two—dresses up
as a boy.
Orlando and Adam. Act II, scene iii. By Robert Smirke (1798).
As you would expect, given that the novel is knee-deep in classical allusions and the play is at least
ankle-deep, although some have been cut out to make it more easily assimilable in the theatre, the name which
Rosalind chooses for herself while she is disguised as a boy is Ganymede, the name of the page whom Zeus,
the father of the gods, fell in love with.
Lodge plays with grammar. He calls Rosalind, or Ganymede, 'he' and then 'she' within a single sentence.
Shakespeare, of course, had an extra decorative dimension to play with, because women did not appear as
actors on the English stage for another generation and therefore all the parts in As You Like It were taken by
men. Rosalind was that old favourite of the English theatre, a drag act, from the word go, and when she
disguises herself as a boy she goes into double drag, and, at the same time, a very delicate and charming air of
sexual ambiguity comes over the story.
Phoebe falls in love with Ganymede; but, of course, Ganymede does not really exist. Is she, in fact, really in
love with Rosalind? Orlando is in an even greater dilemma. He believes that if he pretends that Ganymede is
his Rosalind and he woos him, he will be cured of his love for her, and so he does woo the boy and, in the
Pastoral Conventions 85
process, falls deeper and deeper in love with the woman. Or is it with the woman? Is it, in fact, with the boy?
If I ask myself what makes As You Like It so moving, I locate the answer in two elements that Shakespeare
dramatised quite brilliantly from Lodge's novel: the erotic love between Rosalind and Orlando, obviously;
and, slightly less obviously, the non-erotic love between Rosalind and Celia. The dialogue that expresses
these relationships may not be positively witty, in the sense that you could go through it taking out bits for an
anthology of aphorisms, but it is witty in tone, witty in rhythm, and its tone is, of course, the tone of flirtation.
Rosalind and Celia are limbering up their flirtatiousness on one another. If I go on to ask myself how
Shakespeare achieved this technically, the answer is one that I think is rather surprising—or would be
surprising if you knew only his other comedies. He does it in prose.
CELIA: Trow you who hath done this?
ROSALIND: Is it a man?
CELIA: And a chain, that you once wore,
about his neck. Change you colour?
ROSALIND: I prithee, who?
CELIA: O Lord, Lord! it is hard matter for
friends to meet; but mountains may be
remov'd with earthquakes, and so
ROSALIND: Nay, but who is it?
CELIA: IS it possible?
ROSALIND: Nay, I prithee now, with most petitionary vehemence, tell me who it is.
CELIA: O wonderful, wonderful, and most
wonderful wonderful, and yet again
wonderful, and after that, out of all whooping!
ROSALIND: Good my complexion! dost thou
think, though I am caparison'd like a man,
I have a doublet and hose in my disposition?
One inch of delay more is a South
Sea of discovery. I prithee tell me who is it
quickly, and speak apace . . . I prithee
take the cork out of thy mouth that I may
drink thy tidings.
CELIA: SO you may put a man in your belly.
[III. ii. 179-204]
Even if you discount the superstitions about the innocence and simplicity of life in the country, there is a way
in which shepherds can truly be said to be innocent. This does not apply to cowboys, incidentally. Shepherds
are innocent of blood-guilt. Human beings do not always choose to do so, but it is possible to live on
reasonably fair terms with a flock of sheep. You can deprive the sheep of their wool, which they are quiet glad
Pastoral Conventions 86
to get rid of, and not deprive them of their lives. One of the changes that Shakespeare did make in dramatising
Lodge's novel was to shift the emphasis from sheep-minding to hunting. His exiled courtiers in the forest kill
the deer. And in this way he darkens the sunny landscape he found in Lodge.
All the same, through that imperfect windy instrument Jaques, Shakespeare does allow the point of view of
the deer to be stated. It is Jaques who has pointed out to his fellow courtiers in exile that wounded deer weep,
which is a matter of fact, incidentally, not a matter of folklore as is usually thought. Jaques makes his entrance
asking the telling question, 'Which is he that killed the deer?'—a question in which he is the detective hunting
down a killer, as well as looking for someone to congratulate on his victory, and the song that follows—though
it does congratulate the killer on his victory—also makes a mockery of him.
What shall he have that kill'd the deer?
His leather skin and horns to wear.
the rest shall hear this burden:
Then sing him home.
Take thou no scorn to wear the horn;
It was a crest ere thou wast born.
Thy father's father wore it;
And thy father bore it.
The horn, the horn, the lusty horn,
Is not a thing to laugh to scorn.
[IV. ii. 10-18]
The English-speaking theatre's other grand master of dramatic prose, Bernard Shaw, considered As You Like It
a melodrama, on the grounds that the hero and heroine have no disagreeable qualities. Presumably he missed
the distinct touch of sadism which I detect in Rosalind's personality. He considered that As You Like It gives
unmixed delight, but he thought this was simply a bid for popularity. He said Shakespeare flung Rosalind at
the public with a shout of 'As You Like It'. Of course, it was a bid for popularity—a bid for popularity which
Lodge's novel had already established with readers. My guess is that, when Shakespeare had finished making
his adaptation, he riffled through the pages of Lodge's novel, casting about for a title, and finally he came
back to the beginning and came upon Lodge's preface, which is addressed to the gentlemen readers. 'To be
brief, gentlemen,' Lodge says, after relating how he wrote the book on a sea voyage when he was taking part
in a military expedition, 'room for a soldier, and a sailor, that gives you the fruits of his labours that he
wrought in the ocean, when every line was wet with a surge, and every humorous passion counterchecked
with a storm. If you like it, so ….' By the time Shakespeare made his adaptation, the gentlemen readers had
already proved that they did indeed like Lodge's novel. It was no longer a question of 'if you like it', but 'as
you like it', (pp. 837-38)
Brigid Brophy, "As You Like Shakespeare," in The Listener, Vol. 100, No. 2591, December 21-28, 1978, pp.
Kenneth Muir
[Muir contends that Shakespeare did not intend As You Like It to be a traditional pastoral—a literary form
which presents an ideal and virtuous vision of rustic life—but a work suited to his own dramatic purposes. The
critic also emphasizes the irony throughout the play in the fact that Duke Senior and his entourage will return
to the court at their first opportunity, and he warns against taking Jaques's comments as Shakespeare's own
point of view, for they are consistently undercut by the other characters. Additionally, Muir perceives
Shakespeare exploiting other literary conventions besides the pastoral, including the notion of "love at first
sight" and, in the cases of Oliver and Duke Frederick, the sudden conversion of a villain.]
Pastoral Conventions 87
As you like it? Does the title suggest (as some critics have supposed) that Shakespeare was deploring the taste
of his audience at the Globe, or was he happily proclaiming that their taste corresponded with his own? Most
great writers begin by giving their public what it wants and end by making the public want what they choose
to give. Before the end of the sixteenth century, Shakespeare was in this happy position, though he kept up the
pretence in his titles and sub-titles—As You Like It, Much Ado about Nothing, What You Will—that the boot was
on the other foot.
The same irony is apparent in his dramatisation of Thomas Lodge's Rosalynde, a euphuistic novel which,
despite its charm and elegance, is entirely artificial and removed from reality. The characters never
condescend to mere conversation: they orate to each other. Although Shakespeare follows Lodge's plot fairly
closely, there are no verbal echoes of his dialogue. His aim, it soon becomes clear, was different from that of
Lodge: he was not trying to write a straight pastoral, but to use it for his own dramatic purposes.
The very first speech should alert us to what he is doing. Orlando is informing Adam, his old retainer, of facts
which he already knows, and which Orlando knows that he knows:
As I remember, Adam, it was upon this fashion bequeathed me by will but poor a thousand
crowns, and, as thou say'st, charged my brother, on his blessing, to breed me well; and there
begins my sadness.
[I. i. 1-5]
This violates one of the most elementary rules of play-writing. There is no other exposition in all
Shakespeare's works which is so unashamedly crude. As he had already written some seventeen competent
plays, and as a writer of comedy was at the height of his powers, we are entitled to wonder why he should
revert to such an unashamedly primitive technique—more primitive than that of his earliest experimental plays.
The speech is, in fact, a way of preparing us for the tone of the rest of the play. Shakespeare is pretending that
he is presenting a corny tale of a bad elder brother and a good younger brother, a tale which will end, as such
tales do, with the good brother marrying a princess and living happily ever after. For good measure he
introduces a usurping Duke and his exiled brother who lives in the greenwood like Robin Hood. On the face
of it, the play is naive in the extreme; but it is really as sophisticated as those of Marivaux.
Orlando, of course, defeats Charles the wrestler, who has been bribed to break his neck; but Shakespeare is
careful to remind us that we are in a world of fiction by making Celia comment on Le Beau's account of
Charles's prowess, 'I could match this beginning with an old tale' [I. ii. 120]. Rosalind, with the initiative
expected of a fairy-tale princess, hints to Orlando that she has fallen in love at first sight:
Sir, you have wrestled well, and overthrown
More than your enemies.
[I. ii. 253-54]
Before long, Rosalind and Celia (disguised as Ganymede and Aliena), go off with Touchstone to the forest of
Arden and Orlando, to escape being murdered by his brother, makes the same journey with Adam. Meanwhile
we have been introduced to the exiled Duke and his entourage, and they are depicted not without irony.
However much they profess to believe in the superiority of the forest life to that of the court, however much
Amiens extols the greenwood and the jolliness of its life, we know that they will hurry back to court as soon
as they get the chance. The only one of their number who does not, Jaques, has mocked the insincerity of his
Yet we are prevented from accepting Jaques's comments as authorial by the fact they are undercut by the
Duke, by Orlando and by Rosalind. The Duke accuses him of being a reformed libertine, satirising the vices
he once enjoyed; when Orlando is invited to rail against mankind, he gently reproves Jaques; and when
Pastoral Conventions 88
Rosalind hears his affected account of his particular brand of melancholy, she laughs at him:
A traveller! By my faith you have great reason to be sad. I fear you have sold your own lands
to see other men's; then to have nothing is to have rich eyes and poor hands.… I had rather
have a fool to make me merry than experience to make me sad—and to travel for it too!
[IV. i. 21-9]
Even Jaques's set speech on the seven ages of man, suggested probably by the motto of the Globe theatre,
cannot be taken as Shakespeare's considered opinion on human life; for its melancholy outlook is contradicted
by the play as a whole, as well as by the situation which evokes it—for Orlando, courteously received by the
outlaws, has gone out to fetch the exhausted Adam and courtesy, charity and fellow-feeling are apparently
excluded from Jaques's philosophy of life.
The attitude we are forced to adopt to the outlaws is a complex one and the same complexity is apparent in the
other versions of pastoral with which Shakespeare treats. The oldest matter of pastoral, dating back to Greek
and Latin poetry, and still flourishing in Shakespeare's day in the eclogues of Spenser and Drayton, is that of a
love-sick shepherd in love with a scornful shepherdess. The love of Silvius for Phebe is in this convention,
and it is in the scenes in which they appear that Shakespeare comes nearest to the spirit of his source. Yet he
provides a suitable antidote to the convention in the very scene in which the pastoral lovers are introduced
when Rosalind intervenes:
And why, I pray you? Who might be your mother,
That you insult, exult, and all at once
Over the wretched? What though you have no beauty—
As, by my faith, I see no more in you
Than without candle may go dark to bed—
Must you be therefore proud and pitiless?
Why, what means this? Why do you look on me?
I see no more in you than in the ordinary
Of nature's sale-work. 'Ods my little life,
I think she means to tangle my eyes too!
No, faith, proud mistress, hope not after it;
'Tis not your inky brows, your black silk hair,
Your bugle eyeballs, nor your cheek of cream,
That can entame my spirits to your worship.
You foolish shepherd, wherefore do you follow her,
Like foggy south, puffing with wind and rain?
You are a thousand times a proper man
Than she a woman. 'Tis such fools as you
That makes the world full of ill-favour'd children.
'Tis not her glass, but you, that natters her …
But, mistress, know yourself. Down on your knees,
And thank heaven, fasting, for a good man's love;
For I must tell you friendly in your ear:
Sell when you can; you are not for all markets.
[III. v. 34-60]
Another form of pastoral convention is represented by Audrey and William, who are not real rustics but
country bumpkins seen through urban eyes; they are illiterate, slow-witted and not very clean. Audrey does
not know the meaning of 'poetical' and this provides Touchstone with the opportunity of telling her that 'the
truest poetry is the most feigning' [III. iii. 19-20]—an ironical comment on the poetic conventions Shakespeare
Pastoral Conventions 89
is exploiting in the play. Although Touchstone puts William to flight and goes through a form of marriage
with Audrey, he does not intend it to be more than temporary. The simple-minded and 'foul' rustic is superior
in some ways to the civilised fool. Indeed, when Touchstone attempts, by a series of quibbles, to prove that
Corin is damned, that sensible and dignified shepherd gets the best of the argument.
The last kind of pastoral represented in the play is that of Rosalind and Celia, aristocrats who adopt the
pastoral role. On the spur of the moment they decide to buy the farm belonging to Corin's master:
Ros. I pray thee, if it stand with honesty
Buy thou the cottage, pasture, and the flock,
And thou shalt have to pay for it of us.
Cel. And we will mend thy wages. I like this place,
And willingly would waste my time in it.
[II. iv. 91-5]
They buy the farm without even seeing it, much less calling in a surveyor or scrutinising the accounts. We
hear nothing more about the farm. Presumably Corin continues to do all the work.
Shakespeare exploits other literary conventions. His lovers—Rosalind, Orlando, Celia, Oliver and
Phebe—would all make answer to Marlowe's question 'Who ever loved that loved not a first sight?' with a
chorus of 'No one'. Shakespeare goes out of his way to underline the absurdity, as when Rosalind tells
Orlando of the match between Celia and Oliver:
Nay, 'tis true. There was never anything so sudden, but the fight of two rams and Caesar's
thrasonical brag of 'I came, saw, and overcame'. For your brother and my sister, no sooner
met but they look'd; no sooner look'd but they lov'd; no sooner lov'd but they sigh'd; no
sooner sigh'd but they asked one another the reason; no sooner knew the reason but they
sought the remedy—and in these degrees have they made a pair of stairs to marriage, which
they will climb incontinent, or else be incontinent before marriage.
[V. ii. 29-39]
One other romantic convention may be mentioned—the sudden conversion of a villain. In the twinkling of an
eye, Oliver is converted from being a murderous, avaricious scoundrel with no redeeming characteristics into
a pleasant and acceptable husband for Celia. The usurping Duke is a cruel tyrant and in Act V is about to
exterminate his brother and the other outlaws when he meets an old religious man, and, we are told,
After some question with him, was converted
Both from his enterprise and from the world.
[V. iv. 161-62]
Some actors of these parts, conscious of the improbability of the conversions, have attempted to prepare the
audience by presenting Frederick and Oliver as psychological wrecks, on the verge of nervous breakdowns.
This is surely wrong, for Shakespeare was merely rounding off his comedy with a happy ending, the
improbability being part of the fun. To force As You Like It into a naturalistic mode is to maim it. In the last
act there is a scene which becomes almost operatic in its mockery of naturalism, with a quartet of wailing
Pheb. Good shepherd, tell this youth
what 'tis to love.
Pastoral Conventions 90
Sil. It is to be all made of sighs and tears;
And so am I for Phebe.
Pheb. And I for Ganymede.
Orl. And I for Rosalind.
Ros. And I for no woman.…
Sil. It is to be all made of fantasy,
All made of passion, and all made of wishes;
All adoration, duty, and observance,
All humbleness, all patience, and impatience,
All purity, all trial, all obedience;
And so am I for Phebe.
Pheb. And so am I for Ganymede.
Orl. And so am I for Rosalind.
Ros. And so am I for no woman.
Pheb. If this be so, why blame you me to love you?
Sil. If this be so, why blame you me to
love you?
Ros. Why do you speak too 'Why blame
you me to love you?'
Orl. To her that is not here, nor doth
not hear.
[V. ii. 83-108]
At this point Rosalind drops into prose and laughs at the artificiality of the scene:
Pray you, no more of this; 'tis like the
howling of Irish wolves against the moon.
[V. ii. 109-10]
The finest scenes in the play are, of course, those in Arden between Orlando and Rosalind. Bernard Shaw [in
his Shaw on Shakespeare] ascribed then-success to the fact that they were written in prose and there is a grain
of truth in this paradox since, as we have seen, Shakespeare at this time in his career found it easier to express
individualities of character in prose than in verse. Not wholly true, however, for Shaw himself complained
that if you wreck the beauty of Shakespeare's lines 'by a harsh, jarring utterance, you will make your audience
wince, as if you were singing Mozart out of tune' and Dorothea Baird's 'dainty, pleading narrow-lipped, little
torrent of gabble will not do for Shakespeare's Rosalind'. She resembled a 'canary trying to sing Handel'.
Shaw's explanation of Rosalind's popularity need not be taken seriously—that she speaks blank verse for only a
few minutes, that she soon gets into doublet and hose, and that like Shaw's Ann Whitefield she takes the
initiative and does not wait to be wooed. But Shaw was right to protest about the confusion of life and art by
Pastoral Conventions 91
those critics who describe Rosalind as 'a perfect type of womanhood'. To him she was 'simply an extension
into five acts of the most affectionate, fortunate, delightful five minutes in the life of a charming woman'. This
is not quite true, however, because Rosalind is given misfortunes, as well as a wit that has never been
It is important to remember that the effect of these scenes in 1600 was rather different from that in the modern
theatre: for Shakespeare did not have a Peggy Ashcroft or a Vanessa Redgrave to play his heroine. His
original audience would have seen a boy impersonating a woman who was also a princess; they then saw this
princess pretending to be Ganymede, and Ganymede pretending to be Rosalind, but in so doing guying the
real Rosalind. It is sometimes said that the chief reason why Shakespeare's heroines so often disguised
themselves as men was to simplify the task of the actors playing the parts. This may have been true with some
of the early plays—the Induction to The Taming of the Shrew, Julia in The Two Gentlemen of Verona—but
Rosalind is far too complex to be explained in this way. In Shakespeare's day there were a number of different
images imposed one on the other. We have a boy pretending to be a woman, pretending to be a boy,
pretending to be a woman, satirising feminine behaviour. Rosalind, moreover, though pretending to cure
Orlando, is making certain she will fail; for she makes him love the pretended Rosalind, and love more the
real one of which Ganymede is but the shadow.
In the scenes when Rosalind pretends to be Rosalind, Orlando is merely a feed to her brilliant improvisations.
Luckily his character has been established early in the play. His name is that of a famous lover, Orlando
Furioso, whose story had been dramatised by Greene; and like his namesake he carves his love's name on tree
trunks. He shows both dignity and courage in his struggles with his brother and Charles the wrestler; he saves
the lives of Adam and of Oliver; he answers Jaques's cynicism good-humouredly and sensibly;
iconographically he has been compared with Hercules and it is only as a lover that he is at a loss.
Most of Shakespeare's comedy is a critique of love; and in As You Like It different kinds of love are
examined—the lust of Touchstone, the self-love of Jaques, the pride and vanity of Phebe, and the sentimental
idealism of Orlando—are all found wanting. It would be a mistake, then, to regard the play as a mere
pot-boiler, although it is obvious from the triumphant epilogue that it made the plot boil merrily: it is a highly
sophisticated play that uses all the stalest devices of romantic fiction and popular drama so as to satisfy what
Hamlet called 'the judicious' [Hamlet, III. ii. 26].
Perhaps the judicious of Shakespeare's day appreciated Touchstone more than we can. He never comes up to
Jaques's description of him. Shaw, with pardonable exaggeration, asked, 'Who would endure such humour
from anyone but Shakespeare?—an Eskimo would demand his money back if a modern author offered him
such fare.' The wit of Rosalind is undimmed by time; but Touchstone is dimmed. Yet Armin, who played the
part, must have given such a performance that he opened Shakespeare's eyes to his potentialities and
encouraged the poet to write the parts of Feste [in Twelfth Night] and Lear's Fool. The name Touchstone
alludes to the fact that Armin had been a goldsmith—a nice private joke which is superior to any he is given to
speak, (pp. 84-91)
Kenneth Muir, "'As You Like It'," in his Shakespeare's Comic Sequence, Barnes & Noble Books, 1979, pp.
George Ian Duthie
[In the excerpt below, Duthie discusses As You Like It in light of the opposition of order and disorder
generally found in Shakespeare's comedies. Although life is comfortable at Duke Frederick's court and in
Oliver's house, the critic declares, moral order has been overthrown by the corrupting influence of
Dualities 92
materialism and envy. By contrast, the country setting of Arden is depicted as physically hard, but it offers an
atmosphere of moral purity. Duthie insists, however, that this is not just a simple contrast between good and
evil life. Jaques's and Touchstone's critical observations throughout the play establish that Arden is not the
ideal alternative to court life. According to Duthie, Shakespeare never endorses escapism to Arden as an end;
rather, it is a means by which those who come to the forest can discover the self-knowledge necessary to
return to and purify the disordered outside world.]
[We] find at the beginning of As You Like It a court environment in which order has been overthrown. The
Duke Frederick has rebelled against his elder brother, the Duke Senior, has defeated him, driven him into
exile, and usurped his domain. Here is a double attack on the principle of order—a subject has rebelled against
his ruler, and a younger brother has behaved unnaturally towards an elder brother. In this court circle we have
another opponent of order in the person of Oliver. He is treating his younger brother Orlando unnaturally. As
Orlando says, Oliver keeps him "rustically at home, or, to speak more properly, stays me here at home unkept;
for call you that keeping for a gentleman of my birth, that differs not from the stalling of an ox? His horses are
bred better; … He lets me feed with his hinds, bars me the place of a brother, and, as much as in him lies,
mines my gentility with my education." [I. i. 7-21].
Oliver does not treat Orlando as a brother should treat a brother according to the divinely established order of
things. Oliver is trying to degrade Orlando from his proper status of gentleman to a status far below it—to the
status of a peasant ("you have trained me like a peasant, obscuring and hiding from me all gentleman-like
qualities" [I. i. 68-70]), and even to the status of an animal. Orlando himself is not at all to blame. He
willingly accords Oliver all the privileges of his seniority, and, despite the wrongs he suffers, will not harm
Oliver physically. Oliver's animus against him is a result of envy. He says that he does not know why he hates
Orlando, and then proceeds to give the reason. "My soul," he says, "yet I know not why, hates nothing more
than he. Yet he's gentle, never schooled and yet learned, full of noble device, of all sorts enchantingly
beloved, and indeed, so much in the heart of the world, and especially of my own people, who best know him,
that I am altogether misprised" [I. i. 165-71]. Compare the Duke Frederick's reasons for driving Rosalind into
exile. She was kept at court when her father, the Duke Senior, was banished, in order to be companion to
Frederick's daughter Celia. Frederick now drives her out also. Le Beau says that of late the Duke Frederick
Hath ta'en displeasure 'gainst his gentle niece,
Grounded upon no other argument
But that the people praise her for her virtues
And pity her for her good father's sake.
[I. ii. 278-81]
And Frederick himself says to Celia:
her smoothness,
Her very silence and her patience
Speak to the people, and they pity her.
Thou art a fool: she robs thee of thy name;
And thou wilt show more bright and seem more virtuous
When she is gone.
[I. ill. 77-82]
The Duke obviously thinks of Rosalind as a danger to his own usurped position (cf. I. iii. 58—"Thou art thy
father's daughter"), but there is envy involved also, I think, as there certainly is in Oliver's case.
Shakespeare, then, gives us two parallel cases of opponents of order—Frederick who injures his elder brother,
and Oliver who injures his younger brother. Shakespeare elsewhere makes use of such parallelism. In King
Dualities 93
Lear, both Lear and Gloucester err in trusting their elder offspring (two daughters in the one case, one son in
the other) and distrusting their younger offspring. We may note also in passing that in Orlando we have a case
of a youth who, though he has been denied the appropriate education and upbringing, shows the qualities of
mind and character appropriate to his station ("never schooled and yet learned, full of noble device" [I. i.
167]). Shakespeare apparently believes that no matter how unfavourable the environment, the qualities one
inherits will inevitably assert themselves. Compare Guiderius and Arviragus in Cymbeline. Though they have
been brought up from childhood in the Welsh mountains, unaware of their identity, living a life entirely
different from that at court, the mettle appropriate in a King's offspring asserts itself in them by the force of
The court milieu at the beginning of As You Like It, then, is one in which disorder flourishes. Life in the forest
of Arden is contrasted with "that of painted pomp", with the perilous life in "the envious court" [II. i. 3-4].
This is the "court versus country" theme which recurs in Shakespeare in other plays, In As You Like It we have
to deal with a very serious degree of disorder in the court life. The fidelity and conscientiousness of the old
servant Adam are contrasted by Orlando with the general rule that obtains in this environment:
O good old man, how well in thee appears
The constant service of the antique world,
When service sweat for duty, not for meed!
Thou art not for the fashion of these times,
Where none will sweat but for promotion,
And having that, do choke their service up
Even with the having: it is not so with thee.
[II. iii. 56-62]
And it is Adam himself who gives what is perhaps the most striking evidence of the disorder that is rampant.
Speaking to Orlando he says:
Know you not, master, to some kind of men
Their graces serve them but as enemies?
No more do yours: your virtues, gentle master,
Are sanctified and holy traitors to you.
O, what a world is this, when what is comely
Envenoms him that bears it!
[II. iii. 10-15]
"Envenoms" means "kills by poison". In the true order of things a man's graces and virtues should assist him
in his life, but here a man's virtues are a danger to him, exciting the envy of others. The true order of things is
inverted. Compare again in Macbeth the Witches' cry of "Fair is foul, and foul is fair" [I. i. llff.]. A man's
virtues are "sanctified and holy" things: but, since they here constitute a danger to him, they are spoken of in
the passage as "sanctified and holy traitors". The oxymoron helps to emphasize the state of inversion with
which we have to deal in the corrupt, disordered environment of the beginning of this play. (pp. 62-5)
[It] may be well to point out here that Shakespeare does not believe that court life must necessarily be corrupt
and disordered. In fact he is concerned in As You Like It to point out by implication that escapism is no
solution: at the end of the play we have most of the exiles returning from the forest of Arden, and we are
clearly meant to understand that the court environment has been rid of its evil. Disorder has been set right, (p.
In the comedies … Shakespeare concerns himself with exposing follies. In As You Like It he does this, too; but
here he also concerns himself with vice, with evil. We have already seen that the court environment to which
Dualities 94
we are introduced at the beginning of the play is one in which disorder is rampant; a subject has dispossessed
his ruler; in two cases a brother has behaved unnaturally towards a brother; men's virtues are their enemies;
and so on. It is a disordered environment, and the disorder springs from evil. We have seen also that life in the
forest of Arden is set in contrast with this corrupt court life. It is a case of a favourite Shakespearian
theme—that of court versus country.
In the first scene of the play Oliver asks Charles the wrestler "Where will the old duke live?" And Charles
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 gentle
men flock to him every day, and fleet the
time carelessly, as they did in the golden world.
[I. i. 114-19]
By "the golden world" is meant the Golden Age, the reign of Saturn on earth, when men lived in a state of
ideal happiness and prosperity. There was no conflict, no war, no weapons. Man's food was brought forth
from the earth without his having to labour to get it. "Perpetual spring reigned, flowers sprang up without
seed, the rivers flowed with milk and wine, and yellow honey distilled from the oaks" [C. M. Gayley in The
Classic Myths in English Literature].
Now many readers and critics speak as if life in Shakespeare's forest of Arden were, in fact, nothing but
idyllic pleasure, happiness, ease, comfort, jollity. When we ourselves get into the forest, at the beginning of
Act II, we quickly find that it is by no means altogether that. And when we look attentively at the passage in
Act I which we have quoted, spoken by Charles the wrestler, we notice the twice repeated formula "they say".
The account of life in the forest of Arden that Charles gives us is the account that is going round the court. It
is based on rumour, hearsay. We are supposed to take it that the forest is a long way from the court. Sir Arthur
Quiller-Couch points out [in The New Shakespeare: As You Like It ] that "all the fugitives reach this Forest of
Arden leg-weary and almost dead-beat. Sighs Rosalind, 'O Jupiter! how weary are my spirits!' invoking
Jupiter as a Ganymede should. Touchstone retorts, 'I care not for my spirits, if my legs were not weary'; and
Celia entreats, 'I pray you, bear with me, I cannot go no further' [II. iv. Iff.]: as, later on, old Adam echoes,
'Dear master, I can go no further' [II. vi. 1]; and again, we remember, Oliver arrives footsore, in rags, and
stretches himself to sleep, so dog-tired that even a snake, coiling about his throat, fails to awaken him. It is
only the young athlete Orlando who bears the journey well."
Now Shakespeare may well have a symbolic purpose here: the forest of Arden is a place of spiritual
refreshment—these people have come from an environment of disorder and evil—their need of spiritual
refreshment is symbolized by their physical fatigue. But even if this is in Shakespeare's mind, we are entitled
to interpret on a realistic plane as well. Admitting that Rosalind and Celia are girls and Adam almost an
octogenarian, so that their fatigue need not be particularly significant, and admitting that Touchstone, the
court fool, who, as we find in the play, likes physical comfort, may not be in the best of physical trim, there is
the fact that even Oliver is exhausted when he gets to Arden. Arden is a long way from the court, and the
journey is a hard one. When the idea of going to Arden is suggested to Rosalind in the first place she says:
Alas, what danger will it be to us,
Maids as we are, to travel forth so far!
[I. iii. 108-09]
Dualities 95
Reverting to Charles's report of what life in the forest is like, we can be quite sure that whoever started the
rumour had not trudged the long way there to see, and the long way back to report what he had seen. Charles's
report is hearsay, and when we get into the forest ourselves we find that it is not in all respects accurate.
The first scene which takes place in the forest is II, i. At the beginning of this scene the exiled Duke speaks to
his fellows:
Now, my co-mates and brothers in exile,
Hath not old custom made this life more sweet
Than that of painted pomp? Are not these woods
More free from peril than the envious court?
Here feel we not the penalty of Adam
The seasons' difference?—as the icy fang
And churlish chiding of the winter's wind,
Which, when it bites and blows upon my body,
Even till I shrink with cold, I smile and say
'This is no flattery: these are counsellors
That feelingly persuade me what I am.'
[II. i. 1-11]
What he asks in line 5 is—do we not here in Arden suffer those afflictions to, which all men as such are,
subject, and only those afflictions, not the sort of man-made afflictions one has to suffer in the "envious
court"? He contrasts the life in Arden and the life in the envious court very pointedly. At court there is
"painted pomp", there is envy, flattery, and so on; it is a dangerous life (but, we may say, though it is only
implied, not stated, in the passage, there are physical comforts at court). Here in Arden the moral atmosphere
is pure—one does not have to put up with the evil that prevails at court: but there is little physical comfort here
in Arden. The Duke uses words which are incisive—he means what he says: he speaks of "the icy fang" and
the "churlish chiding" of the winter wind—"fang" is a very meaningful word; he speaks of the wind "biting"
his body and of himself "shrinking" with cold, and we feel that the words themselves have bite. We have just
got into the forest, and Shakespeare takes care to make us fully aware at the very start that this is a place
where life is physically difficult, in contrast to life at court. Life in Arden is hard, physically uncomfortable,
but the moral atmosphere is pure; life at court is physically comfortable, but the moral atmosphere is corrupt,
If we do not realize the physical hardship of life in Arden, then we do not appreciate the distinction between
Arden and the court in all its fullness: we blunt an essential point in the play. The Duke Senior speaks of
Arden as "this desert city" [II. i. 23] and it is interesting to observe how often this word "desert" is used by
those who come to Arden. It may be pointed out that in Shakespeare's day this word could be used to indicate
simply an unfrequented place, as opposed to a town or city. But in As You Like It we observe that words such
as "wild", "abandoned", "uncouth", and "savage" are used in connection with the forest. In II, vi, Orlando calls
it "this uncouth forest" and a little later "this desert". In II, vii, he speaks of "this desert inaccessible", and he
says: "I thought that all things had been savage here". In V, iv, Jaques de Boys speaks of "this wild wood" and
the melancholy Jaques speaks of the Duke Senior's "abandon'd cave". "Uncouth", "savage", "wild",
"abandoned"—the impression that such words are intended to convey is quite clear.
We have this fundamental antithesis, then, between Duke Frederick's court where there is physical comfort
but moral corruption, and the forest of Arden where there is physical discomfort but moral purity. It is an
antithesis between an evil life and a good life; but the matter is not just so simple as that.
The forest of Arden has its critics within the play. The melancholy Jaques is one of them. In II, v, Amiens
sings the song "Under the greenwood tree", lyrically glorifying the life in Arden:
Dualities 96
Here shall he see
No enemy
But winter and rough weather.
[II. v. 6-8]
And Jaques proceeds to parody the song:
If it do come to pass
That any man turn ass,
Leaving his wealth and ease,
A stubborn will to please,
Ducdame, ducdame, ducdame:
Here shall he see
Gross fools as he,
An if he will come to me.
[II. v. 50-7]
According to Jaques, the Duke Senior and the others are gross fools to have left the wealth and ease of their
former life at court and to have accepted instead the rigours of life in Arden. Now it is unquestionably true
that Shakespeare satirizes Jaques in the play: but Touchstone also criticizes Arden. "Well", says Rosalind on
their arrival, "this is the forest of Arden." "Ay," replies Touchstone, "now am I in Arden; the more fool I;
when I was at home, I was in a better place: but travellers must be content" [II. iv. 15-18].
This is the attitude of the Fool in King Lear also. Having rejected the homes of his unnatural daughters, Lear
is out on the heath, with the Fool. And the Fool's attitude is that "court holy-water in a dry house is better than
this rain-water out o' door" (by "court holy-water" he means the well-sounding but empty promises that
people make to each other at court). According to the Fool in Lear "he that has a house to put's head in has a
good headpiece" [III. ii. 10, 25]. That is Touchstone's view in As You Like It
Now Touchstone and the Fool in Lear are both, like Feste in Twelfth Night, examples of the wise fool— the
fool who can often see truth when supposedly wiser men deceive themselves. But in connection with
Touchstone and the Fool in Lear we must be careful. The words they speak in the passages just quoted are not
meant by Shakespeare as a full statement of the attitudes he wants us to take up. Shakespeare is not saying to
us in either As You Like It or King Lear that a life of ease which involves corruption is actually better than a
physically hard life which does not involve corruption. The truth which Shakespeare wants us to extract from
those words of Touchstone and the Fool in Lear is simply that there is something to be said against fleeing to
Arden, there is something to be said against going out into the storm. Touchstone and the Fool in Lear see
that. We are meant to see it. Touchstone's criticism of Arden is valid to that extent. But we are not meant to
accept as desirable the evil that the Duke Senior and his friends have escaped from.
As regards the antithesis between the corrupt court of Duke Frederick and the forest of Arden, we are, as we
have said, expected to take Arden as morally a better place. But, having established that, Shakespeare very
quickly lets us see that there are things to be said against Arden. When you are faced with a corrupt world,
Shakespeare seems to say in this play, you should not just run away from it and stay away from it. At the end
we have most of the courtier-inhabitants of Arden returning home, and we have the definite prospect of a
purification of the court environment itself, the inspiration for the purification having been supplied by the
moral atmosphere of Arden. Arden justifies itself by virtue of the fact that it does supply that purifying
The villainous Oliver and Duke Frederick both come to Arden with hostile intentions, and both are there
converted from their evil thoughts and ways. Oliver is saved by Orlando from dangers of the forest. Orlando
Dualities 97
has always behaved towards Oliver as a brother should behave towards a brother, but this had never had any
salutary effect on Oliver until now in the forest of Arden. I think that Shakespeare means us to regard it as
significant that this conversion of Oliver takes place in Arden—Arden is the morally pure place where such
conversions naturally happen. Duke Frederick comes to Arden with a force of soldiers, intending to kill his
brother: on the very skirts of the forest he meets with "an old religious man" and is converted from his
enterprise. Again, I think that Shakespeare means us to take it as significant that this happens in this place, in
Arden. The atmosphere of Arden, then, suggests purification. But that purification should, and must be
applied to the world outside it. Escapism is condemned in this play.
Now, while we are in the forest of Arden we hear a great deal about love, that so frequent theme of
Shakespearian comedy. Arden is the place where Silvius and Phebe live, and in them we have reflections of
the conventional figures of Arcadian love-literature. Silvius is the adoring shepherd, Phebe the disdainful
shepherdess. And they are both satirized. Silvius is a self-deluder. Phebe herself reproves him for uttering
love-conceits of the conventional kind. Silvius tells her such things as that her eyes will kill him—a conceit of
old vintage (compare Chaucer's "Your yen two wol slee me soden-ly"). Phebe herself brings the light of cold
fact to bear on this, exposing it as a foolish fiction—"there is no force in eyes That can do hurt" [III. v. 26-7].
But Phebe too is a self-deluder. She affects disdainfulness, she puts on airs; but she has little call to do so—she
is not by any means so beautiful as she (or Silvius) thinks, and Rosalind, speaking words of true
wordly-wisdom, bids her accept a husband while she has a chance—"Sell when you can: you are not for all
markets" [III. v. 60]—not everyone would have her. Rosalind chides them both for self-deception and tells
them to face facts. To her Silvius is a "foolish shepherd":
'Tis not her glass, but you, that flatters her.
[III. v. 54]
And to Phebe she recommends self-knowledge:
But, mistress, know yourself: down on your knees,
And thank heaven, fasting, for a good man's love.
[III. v. 57-8]
Self-delusion is exposed to the light of down-to-earth common sense. And Touchstone is in agreement with
Rosalind in this. The Jane Smile whom Touchstone professes in II, iv, to have loved once, and the Audrey
whom he takes in marriage in the forest of Arden, may be crude and unlovely creatures, but they are at least
real. The lover Orlando, too, is good-naturedly satirized in Arden—the lover who affixes rather poor
love-verses to the barks of trees. In the forest of Arden, then, we have the pastoral love scene, and we have the
extravagances and sentimentalities and illusions of conventional pastoral love exposed by having the
standards of real-life common sense applied to them.
It must be pointed out that Shakespeare is not against romantic love as such, nor does he mean that all men
should marry women like Jane Smile and Audrey. It is the extravagances and foolishnesses common amongst
some romantic lovers that he satirizes. He attacks the unrealities in the minds of foolish romantic lovers. Jane
Smile and Audrey are real. But they are not the only reality. Romantic love purged of extravagance and
foolishness is to Shakespeare a fine thing. In this play, romantic love triumphs in the end. It may be pointed
out that in the masque of Hymen we have something about as conventional as it might well be. But
Shakespeare has made his point, and he can allow himself and his audiences the pleasure of a formal,
artificial, but quite beautiful and amusing finish.
In As You Like It then, we again have a Shakespearian comedy which is critical. Both vice and folly are
exposed for what they are. And the tissue of criticism is quite complicated. Its complicated nature may be
further exemplified by noting the fact that while, as we have seen, the moral atmosphere in Arden is pure, yet
Dualities 98
Arden is also the home of the shepherd Corin's master who is a man
of churlish disposition
And little recks to find the way to heaven
By doing deeds of hospitality.
[II. iv. 80-2]
And if Touchstone satirizes Arden, he also satirizes the court—
I have trod a measure; I have flattered a lady; I have been politic with my friend, smooth with
mine enemy; I have undone three tailors; I have had four quarrels, and like to have fought
[V. iv. 44-7]
Again and again we find in dealing with Shakespeare's comedies that we are not dealing in simple blacks and
whites. A person or a way of life may be criticized by a standard which is itself then found to be open to
criticism. As regards As You Like It, it is, I think, fair to say that one way of life (the court life at the
beginning) is criticized by a comparison with a second way of life (that in the forest of Arden): but that is in
its turn criticized, and what emerges at the end as the dominant impression is a third way of life consisting of
an amendment of the first (the purified court), the amendment being due to the influence of the second, (pp.
George Ian Duthie, "Comedy," in his Shakespeare, Hutchinson's University Library, 1951, pp. 57-88.
John A. Hart
[Hart maintains that Shakespeare depicts two contrasting worlds in As You Like It: Duke Frederick's court,
which is governed by Fortune, and Arden forest, which is dominated by Nature. Here, Fortune signifies not
only power and material wealth, but the greed and envy that results from possessing them. By comparison,
Nature reflects a more virtuous order that promotes humanity's higher qualities. According to Hart, the
corrupt court gradually becomes absorbed by the more harmonious world of Arden until it disappears from
the play altogether. The critic ultimately asserts that those characters who have assimilated the lessons from
both worlds—significantly, Rosalind, Orlando, and Duke Senior— emerge from the forest at the end of the play
to redeem the degenerate court, replacing it with a more balanced and harmonious order.]
As You Like It presents an ideal world, just as The Merchant of Venice did. The Forest of Arden has as much
romance, as many delightful lovers, more laughter and joy. Like A Midsummer Night's Dream and The
Merchant of Venice, it is built by means of two worlds: the world ruled by Duke Frederick and the world of
the Forest of Arden. The effect is not the "separate but equal" envelope structure of A Midsummer Night's
Dream, nor the interlocking and necessary alternation of The Merchant of Venice; instead, Frederick's world
first seems dominant and then dissolves and disappears into the world of Arden. Its life seems to be in the play
not so much for itself as to help us understand and read its successor.
There is a set of contrasts between the two worlds of this play, but the contrasts are describable not in terms of
opposition of power, as in A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Merchant of Venice, but in terms of attitudes
of the dominant characters, as in Much Ado About Nothing, and in terms of differences in the settings and of
changes in behavior for those characters who are part of both worlds. These contrasts are easy to describe
because Shakespeare points the way clearly, making each world an extreme. Our approach will be to examine
the qualities of Frederick's world, then to examine the qualities of Arden, and finally out of this contrast to see
how the characters behave in each world.
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We have seen power presented in A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Merchant of Venice. In the former,
Theseus rules according to judgment or reason; in the latter the Duke of Venice rules according to the laws of
the city. Frederick's world is like neither of these. Frederick is in complete command of his court. He has
taken his brother's place as Duke, exiled him with many of his followers, seized their lands for his own, and
now rules. His high-handed behavior is illustrated by his usurpation of his brother's dukedom, his immediate
displeasure at Orlando, the sudden dismissal of Rosalind, the quick seizure of Oliver's lands. What is most
characteristic of his power is that it is arbitrary; neither reason nor law seems to control it.
When we look for his motives, we discover two kinds. His greed for power and possessions is obvious. But
personal attitudes are just as strong. He treats Orlando rudely because he is the son of Sir Rowland de Boys,
an old enemy of his. He comes to hate Rosalind, giving as his reasons that he does not trust her, that she is her
father's daughter, that his own daughter's prestige suffers by comparison; all these are half-hearted
rationalizations rooted in jealousy and envy.
Frederick's behavior is echoed if not matched by Oliver's treatment of his brother Orlando and of his servant
Adam. Oliver demeans and debases his younger brother; he plots his serious injury and later his death. He acts
ignobly toward his faithful household servant Adam. Again, the motivations are mixed. He states explicitly
that he wants Orlando's share of their father's bequest. But, beyond that, he wants to get rid of Orlando out of
envy, out of fear of comparison made by others:
… my soul (yet I know not why) hates nothing more than he. Yet he's gentle, never school'd
and yet learned, full of noble device, of all sorts enchantingly belov'd, and indeed so much in
the heart of the world, and especially of my own people, who best know him, that I am
altogether mispris'd.
[I. i. 165-71]
Thus, "tyrant Duke" and "tyrant brother" are described in tandem, public and private images of the same
behavior. They have the power; they control their world; they do not fear disapproval or reprisal. Charles the
wrestler, Lebeau and other lords surrounding Frederick, however many reservations they may have about the
morality of their leaders, do not dare to question their authority. They have their own positions to protect.
Those chiefly harmed by the ruthless domination of these men are Orlando and Rosalind. They have
committed no fault but they are hated. Their presence too gives definition to Frederick's world. Orlando has
virtue, grace, beauty, and strength. Rosalind is beautiful, intelligent, virtuous, honest. Their actions, their
reputations, the loyalty they command all testify to these wonders. Yet both of them are conscious of what
they do not have—their proper place and heritage in this world. Orlando feels deeply his brother's injury in
depriving him of his education and his place in the household. Rosalind is sad at her father's banishment and
then indignant at her own dismissal. Both are too virtuous to think of revenge; but they are fully aware that
they are being wronged. Having all the graces, they are nevertheless dispossessed of their rightful positions.
Yet, these two have their own power. When they leave Frederick's world, they draw after them others, too
loyal, too loving to remain behind. Celia, meant to profit from her cousin's departure, follows Rosalind into
banishment without question or remorse. She has already promised that what her father took from Rosalind's
father by force, "I will render thee again in affection" [I. ii. 20-1]. And when the test occurs soon after, she
meets it at once. In her, love triumphs hands down over possession and prestige.
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Marjorie Yates as Celia, Greg Hicks as Silvius, and Sara Kestelman as Rosalind in a 1979 National Theatre
production of As You Like It.
Her example is followed by the Clown. Not only will he "go along o'er the wide world" [I. iii. 132] with Celia
out of loyalty to her; he has also, in Frederick's world, lost place just as Rosalind has. There "fools may not
speak wisely what wise men do foolishly" (I. ii. 86-7]. Since he has lost his usefulness as a fool, he may as
well leave with Celia and Rosalind. And Adam is in comparable situation. To Oliver, he is an "old dog," to be
thrust aside. But so strong is his loyalty to Orlando that he will give him his savings, serve him, accompany
him wherever he goes.
These gifted models of humanity, Rosalind and Orlando, draw out of Frederick's world the loving, the
truthful, the loyal. Frederick and Oliver, seeking to control and ultimately to crush their enemies, only succeed
in driving away other worthwhile characters with them.
The world of Frederick is simple in structure. The powerful control, but they envy the virtuous; the virtuous
attract, but they want to have their rightful place. Those in authority triumph in their own terms, but things
happen to them in the process. They turn against each other—Frederick would devour Oliver as he has so
many others. Their world, as it grows more violent, diminishes in importance until it disappears altogether.
The virtuous are undefeated though displaced.
In contrast to the specific placing of Frederick's world, the Forest reaches beyond the bounds of any particular
place, any specific time. Its setting is universalized nature. All seasons exist simultaneously. Duke Senior
speaks of "the icy fang And churlish chiding of the winter's wind" [II. i. 6-7]: but Orlando pins verses to "a
palm tree," "abuses our young plants with carving," and "hangs odes upon hawthorns, and elegies on
brambles" [III. ii. 360-62]: and Rosalind and Celia live at the "tuft of olives." Again, Orlando does not wish to
leave Adam "in the bleak air"; but in the next scene Jaques has met a fool who "bask'd him in the sun." The
songs continue this mixture: "Here shall he see No enemy But winter and rough weather" [II. v. 6-8] alongside
"the greenwood tree" and "the sweet bird's throat" [II. v. 1, 4] both in the same song, or the alternation
between the "winter wind" [II. vii. 174] and the "spring time, the only pretty ring time" [V. iii. 19], dominant
notes in two other songs. If the Forest is not to be defined in season, neither is it limited to any particular
place. The variety of trees already indicates this; the variety of creatures supports it: sheep, deer, a green and
gilded snake, a lioness. Meek and domestic creatures live with the untamed and fierce.
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Yet the Forest is more than an outdoors universalized, which largely accommodates itself to the mood and
attitude of its human inhabitants. It is a setting in which the thoughts and images of those who wander through
it expand and reach out to the animate, as if the Forest were alive with spirits taken for granted by everyone.
Even so mundane a pair as Touchstone and Audrey, discussing her attributes—unpoetical, honest, foul—assign
these gifts to the gods. Orlando, who is able at first meeting Rosalind only to utter "Heavenly Rosalind," is
suddenly released to write expansive verses in praise of her, some of which place her in a spiritual context:
… heaven Nature charg'd
That one body should be fill'd
With all graces wide-enlarg'd. …
Thus Rosalind of many parts
By heavenly synod was devis'd. …
[III. ii. 141-43, 149-50]
Phoebe seconds his view by giving Rosalind qualities beyond the human:
Art thou god to shepherd turn'd,
That a maiden's heart hath burn'd? …
Why, thy godhead laid apart,
Warr'st thou with a woman's heart?
[IV. iii. 40-1, 44-5]
And Rosalind, replying to Celia's finding Orlando under a tree, "like a dropp'd acorn," says, "It may well be
call'd Jove's tree, when it drops such fruit" [III. ii. 235-37]. Elsewhere he is "most gentle Jupiter." And she
herself takes the name of Ganymed, cupbearer to Jupiter. Further, in her games with Orlando, she describes
"an old religious uncle" who taught her (or him, for she is then playing Ganymed) how to speak well and who
imparted knowledge of love, of women's faults, of the forlorn look of the true lover. To this fiction, she joins
the later story of how, "since [she] was three year old, [she has] convers'd with a magician, most profound in
his art, and yet not damnable" [V. ii. 60-1 ]. She improvises, but it fits the expansive attributes of the Forest.
But in addition to mind-expanding qualities, the Forest produces some real evidence of its extraordinary
powers. Oliver, upon his first appearance in the Forest, is beset by the green and gilded snake (of envy?) and
by the lioness (of power?), but when these two are conquered, his whole behavior changes. And Frederick,
intent on destroying his brother, meets an "old religious man" and
After some question with him, was converted
Both from his enterprise and from the world.
[V. iv. 161-62]
And these events harmonize with Rosalind's producing Hymen, the god of weddings, to perform the ceremony
and bless the four pairs of lovers. The Forest is a world of all outdoors, of all dimensions of man's better
nature, of contact with man's free imagination and magical happenings.
The Forest has still another quality in its setting. It is not timeless but it reflects the slow pace and the
unmeasurable change of the earth. The newcomers notice the difference from the world outside. Orlando
comments that "there's no clock in the forest" [III. ii. 300-01]; Rosalind tells us "who Time ambles withal,
who Time trots withal, who Time gallops withal, and who he stands still withal" [III. ii. 309-11]. And
Touchstone, as reported by Jaques, suggests the uselessness of measuring changes in the Forest by the clock:
"Tis but an hour ago since it was nine,
And after one hour more 'twill be eleven,
Dualities 102
And so from hour to hour, we ripe and ripe,
And then from hour to hour, we rot and rot;
And thereby hangs a tale.
[II. vii. 24-8]
But he does notice, too, the withering away of man at the Forest's slow changes, a truism later elaborated by
Jaques in his seven-ages-of-man speech.
But the qualities of the setting are only part of what goes into the definition of the Forest world. The natives to
the Forest make their contributions as well. Corin and Silvius and Phoebe, Audrey and William and Sir Oliver
Martext all appear, without seeming consequence or particular plot relevance, put there to show off different
dimensions of the Forest, to strike their attitudes, to stand in contrast with the characters newly come from
another world, and then, like the deer and the sheep and the snake and the lioness, to retire into the Forest
again until or unless called upon by their visitors.
These characters have their separate occupations. Corin is an old shepherd, Silvius a young one, Phoebe—his
beloved—a shepherdess, Audrey a goat girl, William a country bumpkin, Martext a clergyman. But these
assignments are vaguely expressed. Martext, for instance, has professional status but mainly in his own eyes:
"ne'er a fantastical knave of them all shall flout me out of my calling" [III. iii. 106-07]. But Jaques dismisses
him as a phony and Touchstone wants him to officiate at his marriage to Audrey because he believes him to
be a fake. They all seem satisfied to have the name of an occupation rather than the function itself.
But their thoughts are also dissociated from ownership, ambition, achievement. Corin, wanting to help
Rosalind and Celia, says:
[I] wish, for her sake more than for mine own,
My fortunes were more able to relieve her;
But I am shepherd to another man,
And do not shear the fleeces that I graze.
[II. iv. 76-9]
The man who owns the sheepcote is not hospitable, is not even there, and has his land up for sale. Silvius,
who is supposed to be buying the flock and pasture, "little cares for buying any thing" [II. iv. 90]. Ownership
is several steps removed from Corin, and until Rosalind offers to make the purchase he is uncertain who the
landlord employing him is; nor does he particularly care.
Later, he generalizes his attitude toward life:
I am a true laborer: I earn that I eat, get that I wear, owe no man hate, envy no man's
happiness, glad of other men's good, content with my harm, and the greatest of my pride is to
see my ewes graze and my lambs suck.
[III. ii. 73-7]
The other natives share his view. William, Audrey's country lover, confesses to his name, to a certain
unspecified amount of wealth, to having "a pretty wit," to loving Audrey, and to lack of learning; but when he
is threatened by Touchstone and told to stay away from Audrey, he departs with "God rest you merry, sir" [V.
i. 59], and we see no more of him or his love for Audrey. If it is love, it is love detached, without passion or
Silvius dedicates himself entirely to love, Phoebe to being the scornful beloved and later the impassioned
wooer of Ganymed. They do not express conflict or even action so much as attitude, as pose. "Loose now and
Dualities 103
then A scatt'red smile," Silvius says to Phoebe, "and that I'll live upon" [III. v. 103-04].
Audrey would be an honest woman, "a woman of the world," but she will not choose between lovers, she will
not question Martext's legitimacy, she will be led by Touchstone wherever he wishes. Her future with
Touchstone is not bright, as Jaques points out, but she doesn't question it.
In all these natives there is a non-critical quality, an innocence, a lack of competitiveness that suits well with
the Forest world and helps to describe it. But Shakespeare gives us still other ways of distinguishing this
world from Frederick's. Early in the play Celia and Rosalind engage in idle banter about the two goddesses,
Fortune and Nature, who share equally in the lives of men. Fortune "reigns in gifts of the world," Rosalind
says, "not in the lineaments of Nature" [I. ii. 41-2]. It is a shorthand way of distinguishing the Forest world
from Frederick's. Frederick's world is a world of Fortune, from which the children of Nature are driven.
Power, possession, lands, titles, authority over others characterize that world, and men to live there must
advance their careers or maintain their positions in spite of everything. The Forest world is completely
Nature's. In its natives the idleness, the lack of ambition and combativeness, the carelessness about ownership
and possession, the interest in the present moment without plan for the future, all are signs of a Fortune-less
world. Instead there is awareness of the gifts inherent from birth in the individual, no matter how untalented or
unhandsome (Audrey's response to her foulness or William's self-satisfaction, for instance). These are "the
lineaments of Nature," the basic materials of one's being. In the Forest, the natives neither can nor aspire to
change them. And the qualities of the setting—universality, gradual rather than specific change, a linkage
between the outdoors world and ture, Fortune having been removed. Both Fortune and Nature, then, are
abbreviated terms to epitomize the kinds of worlds represented by Frederick's on the one hand and the Forest's
on the other.
One further means of defining the Forest world emerges with the character of Jaques. He has been in the
outside world, but he has chosen the Forest and he is its most eloquent spokesman. He is the personification of
the speculative man. He will not react when Orlando threatens his life: "And you will not be answer'd with
reason, I must die" [II. vii, 100-01]. He will not dance or rejoice in the final scene. He would prevent action in
others if he could. He weeps that the Duke's men kill the deer, he would keep Orlando from marring the trees
with his poems, he advises Touchstone not to "be married under a bush like a beggar" [III. iii. 84]. He is like
the natives of the Forest, ambitionless, fortuneless, directionless.
Instead, he gives his attention to the long view and the abstract view. He is delighted when he overhears
Touchstone philosophizing about time; he projects human neglect in the deer at the coming of death for one of
their company; he argues the innocent indifference of the deer to corruption and inhumanity in man:
Thus most invectively he pierceth through
The body of the country, city, court,
Yea, and of this our life, swearing that we
Are mere usurpers, tyrants, and what's worse,
To fright the animals and to kill them up
In their assign'd and native dwelling-place.
[II. i. 58-63]
When he would invoke the privilege of the fool to "Cleanse the foul body of th' infected world" [II. vii. 60]
the Duke replies that with his past experience of evil he would succeed only in doing "Most mischievous foul
sin" [II. vii. 64]. In the abstract (in the Forest), his proposal sounds good; in the world of action it would be
But his greatest eloquence is saved for his seven-ages-of-man speech [II. vii. 139-66]. It is an official
acknowledgement of Nature's supremacy over man and the insignificance of man's affairs on the stage of the
Dualities 104
world. The movement of the speech is circular, from Nature through the efforts to shape natural gifts in man,
to Fortune's world, and back to Nature again. Thus, the helplessness of infancy gives way to "the whining
schoolboy" which in turn is followed by "the lover, Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad Made to his
mistress' eyebrow." In the first three, we find pleasantly humorous recognition of the supremacy of Nature and
the attempts to shape and apply natural gifts in man. The fourth and fifth, the soldier and the justice, suggest
the ascendancy of Fortune in man's life—the soldier seeking the "bubble reputation," the justice "Full of wise
saws and modern instances." But these temporary achievements disappear as Nature reclaims her own, first in
the "slipper'd pantaloon" whose "big manly voice" turns "again toward childish treble" and finally in
frightening second childishness, "Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans every thing." In such a view, and in
the view most congenial to the Forest world, "All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely
players." There are no consequences that matter.
Duke Senior, like Jaques, has had experience in both worlds. He too is being "philosophical." Their life in the
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in every thing.
[II. i. 16-17]
He and his men "fleet the time carelessly, as they did in the golden world" [I. i. 118-19]. But for the Duke and
his men, it is only play-acting. They appear in one scene as Foresters, in another as outlaws. He himself has
lost his name: he is Duke Senior, not specifically named like Frederick. More than that, he has nothing serious
to do. While his brother is seizing Oliver's lands and organizing a search for his daughter and seeking to
destroy him, he is contemplating a deer hunt or asking for Jaques to dispute with or feasting or asking
someone to sing. Duke Senior has no function to perform; he cannot be a Duke except in title. All the
philosophical consolations he may offer himself and his men cannot alleviate the loss he feels at being
usurped and banished by his brother. When Orlando reminds him of the outside world, he confesses: "True is
it that we have seen better days" [II. vii. 120] and reinforces this reminiscence of the past by commenting on
his present condition:
Thou seest we are not all alone unhappy:
This wide and universal theatre
Presents more woeful pageants than the scene
Wherein we play in.
[II. vii. 136-39]
He is remarking on shared misery; he is using the same imagery of playing used by Jaques. But for Jaques it is
made speculative, objectified; for Duke Senior, he and his fellows are participating in a play. His longings are
elsewhere. It is not surprising that at the end, he resumes leadership over everyone and plans to return to
active rule of his dukedom.
What is true of him is true with more immediacy of others newly arrived in the Forest. The clown, who
assumes the name Touchstone, undergoes the same ambivalence. His first reaction to the Forest is negative:
"Ay, now am I in Arden, the more fool I. When I was at home, I was in a better place" [II. iv. 16-17]. He is no
longer practicing his profession of fool, since he is in a fortuneless world: "Call me not fool till heaven hath
sent me fortune" [II. vii. 19]. Instead, he assumes several other roles, a liberating exercise for him; the Forest
allows him to become expansive, imaginative, to take on the personage of the courtier, of the philosopher, of
the wit, of the lover, to condescend to others at random and without consequence. To be able to speak his
mind, to express himself, is the Forest's gift to him.
Dualities 105
On the other hand, in all these poses, he undercuts the natives of the Forest. He mocks the passionate outbursts
of Silvius in praise of his mistress by making the extravagant claim but changing the imagery to mundane and
sensual terms: "I remember the kissing of her batler and the cow's dugs that her pretty chopp'd hands had
milk'd" [II. iv. 48-50]. He further shows off the silly self-absorption of Nature's pastoral lovers: he himself
plays the lover in the Forest. The object of his love, Audrey the goat girl, has neither understanding nor
beauty. He sees the disparity between his wit and her simplicity; he would have her poetical, "for the truest
poetry is the most feigning" [III. iii. 19-20], he would not have her honest; he is glad she is foul. He strongly
suspects that marriage to her would mean cuckoldry, yet he will have her at whatever cost: "man hath his
desires; and as pigeons bill, so wedlock would be nibbling" [III. iii. 80-2]. He joins the others in the rush to be
married at the end of the play:
I press in here, sir, amongst the rest of the country copulatives, to swear and to forswear,
according as marriage binds and blood breaks.
[V. iv. 55-7]
At other times he has confrontations with Corin and with William, the two natives seemingly most attuned to
Nature's laws. Touchstone condescends to them, playing the courtier and the man of the world to men he
treats as simpletons and inferiors. William, the rival for Audrey's hand, he questions as one would a child, and
then threatens as one would an inferior being, and William, with no knowledge of position, with no wit, with
no competitiveness, is easily routed. Touchstone challenges Corin too. Having never been in court, Corin is
damned, says Touchstone. When Corin tries to defend life in the Forest, claiming that the manners of the court
are not suitable to life in the country, Touchstone parries every explanation Corin gives with a witty
rationalization. By measuring the life of the Forest against life at court, he brings together separate standards
in the light of which either life by itself is preposterous. The Forest, which is the only way of life for all six of
these natives, is by other values extremely limited. The importance of physical desire (the love affair with
Audrey), of competitive relationships (the rivalry with William), of realistic appraisal (the reduction of
Silvius's outbursts) is inherent in Touchstone's behavior; finally, the need for place, for function, for
relationships with others runs throughout his criticism of Forest life:
Corin. And how like you this shepherd's life, Master Touchstone?
Touch. Truly, shepherd, in respect of itself, it is a good life; but in respect that it is a
shepherd's life, it is naught.
[III. ii. 11-15]
Touchstone's is the outsider's view of the Forest. His responses are the touchstones which set off the Forest
natives most clearly. As Jaques is the "official" voice of the Forest, Touchstone is the "official" voice of the
world outside.
The Forest is liberating for the newly arrived lovers, too. Oliver is freed from the burden of envy and
absorption with power; and as a consequence he and Celia can fall immediately in love. So satisfying is it that
Oliver would give up his possessions to Orlando and live a shepherd's life forever. Celia has assumed the
name Aliena, left her father's court so completely that she never thinks of him again, and falls utterly in love
when she meets the reformed Oliver. She has never been tied to the idea of possession or prestige and so she
is easily open to the lures of the Forest.
Whereas Oliver's and Celia's love experience is muted, described rather than dramatized, Orlando's and
Rosalind's is the heart of the play. Orlando, idle in the Forest and "love-shak'd," expresses his love for the lost
Rosalind by writing passionate verses for her and hanging them on the trees; later he plays the game of
wooing the young man Ganymed as if he were his Rosalind. He makes his protestations of love, he makes
pretty speeches of admiration, he takes part in the mock-marriage ceremony, he promises to return to his
wooing by a certain time. But his playing the game of courtship is as nothing compared to the game of
Dualities 106
deception and joyful play that Rosalind, safe in her disguise as Ganymed, engages in when she is with him.
Her spirits soar and her imagination and wit expatiate freely and delightedly on the subject of men in love, on
their looks, on their behavior, on the cure of their disease, and then specifically on Orlando's mad humor of
love, on how he should woo, on how he can be cured through the lore she (he) acquired from the "old
religious uncle." The Forest gives both of them an opportunity to play parts free of the restraints that might
accompany acknowledged wooing.
But though their fanciful indulgence leads them to forget the rest of the world—Rosalind cries out, "But what
talk we of fathers, when there is such a man as Orlando?" [III. iv. 38-9]—the play is only play and basically
incompatible with their real natures.
Orlando's behavior outside and in the Forest suggests responsibility, suggests need for significant action. To
him the Forest is a "desert inaccessible" and those in it "Lose and neglect the creeping hours of time" [II. vii.
110, 112]; he himself will keep appointments with Duke Senior, he will care for his loyal servant Adam, he
will save his brother's endangered life. He has a general distaste for the company of the speculative Jaques,
and he finally gives up the wooing game entirely: "I can live no longer by thinking" [V. ii. 50]. He is Nature's
child, but he insists on living by Fortune's standards.
And Rosalind is even more emphatic in the attitudes founded in the outside world. Her first act in coming into
the Forest is to buy a sheepcote; she uses the imagery of the market place when she is judging others: "Sell
when you can, you are not for all markets" [III. v. 60], she says to Phoebe; "I fear you have sold your own
lands to see other men's; then to have seen much, and to have nothing, is to have rich eyes and poor hands"
[IV. i. 22-5], she says to Jaques. With Silvius and Phoebe, she has small patience. To him she says, "Wilt thou
love such a woman? What, to make thee an instrument, and play false strains upon thee? … I see love hath
made thee a tame snake" [IV. iii. 67-8,69-70]. The natives receive short shrift from her, but she herself is in
the depths of love for Orlando, and in her playing with Orlando partly mocks her own condition.
These two lovers, thoroughly based in the real world, are given the opportunity to exhibit, to spell out, a
private love relationship thwarted or only implicit in earlier comedies. Portia and Bassanio, we pointed out,
meet publicly and Bassanio has only begun to recognize the individuality of Portia at the end of the play; their
public figures and their public relationships are the essential ones in The Merchant of Venice. In Much Ado
About Nothing Beatrice and Benedick meet as private individuals, but they do not know or at least
acknowledge their love for one another until very late in the play, and their recognition coincides with a
discovery of the empty world in which they must live. But Rosalind and Orlando have a chance to meet and to
play in a world where public cares are temporarily set aside, where each can express love for the other without
embarrassment, where each can feel the presence and the personality of the other, and especially where we
can watch these most gifted of Nature's children completely free and private with one another. Though the
world of Fortune is part of their consciousness and their future, this holiday of love is a complement to the
all-public relationship of Portia and Bassanio and an equal complement to the ever-present social pressures on
Beatrice and Benedick.
Given the characteristics of the Forest world, given the attachments of Duke Senior, Touchstone, Orlando, and
Rosalind to the outside world, the resolution of the play can be foreseen. Under the spell of the Forest,
pretended marriage takes place between Orlando and Rosalind (as Ganymed) with Celia officiating. Marriage
almost takes place between Touchstone and Audrey with Martext officiating. In the last scene, all four couples
are married in the only way possible in the Forest, by the appearance of Hymen, god of marriage, to perform
the ceremony: "Then is there mirth in heaven, When earthly things made even Atone together" [V. iv.
108-10]. Hymen joins the lovers and reintroduces the Duke to his daughter: "Good Duke, receive thy
daughter, Hymen from heaven brought her, …" [V. iv. 111-12]. He thus re-establishes the father-daughter
relationship first devised through his means at Rosalind's birth. The hiatus caused by the Duke's exile and by
Dualities 107
the disguises in the Forest is broken and the societal structure of father and daughter is made clear once again.
With the appearance of Touchstone another relationship is given social standing. When he is introduced to
Duke Senior by Jaques, Touchstone immediately resumes his professional position as fool. His comment on
the life of the courtier, his long argument on "the quarrel on the seventh cause" is appreciated by the Duke: "I
like him very well"; "By my faith, he is very swift and sententious"; "He uses his folly like a stalking-horse,
and under the presentation of that he shoots his wit" [V. iv. 53, 62-3, 106-07]. A rapport is established
between them which suggests that Duke will be Duke and master again and Fool will be Fool and servant.
Adam, nearing Jaques' seventh age of man, has disappeared into the world of nature. But a new loyalty and
interdependence is about to begin.
A final relationship is re-established among the sons of Rowland de Boys. Through its magic the Forest has
brought Orlando and Oliver together. Now a third brother appears, carrier of the news of Frederick's
resignation—"His crown bequeathing to his banish'd brother" [V. iv. 163]—and agent for restoring his own
brothers to the outside world. His coming not only reunites all three but makes a necessary link to the outside
world for them. It also sounds an echo: Charles the Wrestler sought advancement and distinction by breaking
the ribs of three of his victims, all brothers. That was a symbol of the way power broke blood relationships in
Frederick's world—Frederick with his niece and daughter, Oliver with his brother. Now separated families are
reunited and friends.
That he is young, Jaques is also significant, arriving as the melancholy Jaques prepares to go off to another
part of the forest. This young man prepares the way to future life in the world outside; the older is bound to
the inactivity and the speculation of the Forest world.
But they have not yet left the Forest. Duke Senior's speech assuming his authority shows that he is in
command of both the Forest world and his former Dukedom and that each of them is part of his experience
and momentarily under his perfect control. Duke Senior's reference to the lands which will be given to the
brothers is balanced and ambiguous:
Welcome, young man;
Thou offer'st fairly to thy brothers' wedding:
To one his lands withheld, and to the other
A land itself at large, a potent dukedom.
[V. iv. 166-69]
To Oliver, the lands taken from him by Frederick are returned; to Orlando, his son-in-law, the heritage of his
dukedom is given. Yet there is just a suspicion that the gifts might be directed the other way: to Orlando,
whose lands have been taken from him by Oliver, will be returned his father's lands; to Oliver, the Forest
world where he has determined to remain; for the Forest is without a ruler and without bounds, a place where
he who does not have to own or possess anything may feel himself a powerful ruler.
This distinction between the brothers is followed by a statement of the Duke's own intention in regard to the
Forest and the world outside it:
First, In this forest let us do those ends
That here were well begun and well begot;
And after, every of this happy number,
That have endur'd shrewd days and nights with us,
Shall share the good of our returned fortune,
According to the measure of their states.
[V. iv. 170-75]
Dualities 108
By "those ends," presumably, he means the marriages which have been the contribution and the fruit of the
Forest world. Then his attention will be turned to the world outside the forest, where they will enjoy their
"returned fortune, According to the measure of their states." Place and prestige are implied here, possession a
necessary element. Both Forest and his Dukedom are in his mind and paired. And the retention of both worlds
continues right to the end when he repeats the words fall and measure once to apply them to Nature's world
and once to apply them to Fortune's:
Mean time, forget this new-fall'n dignity,
And fall into our rustic revelry.
Play, music, and you brides and bridegrooms all,
With measure heap'd in joy, to th' measures fall.
[V. iv. 176-79]
"New-fall'n" applies to his returned Dukedom, "fall" applies to the current Forest life. "Measure heap'd in joy"
could apply to both worlds, but it recalls for us "the measure of their states" and the assumption of rank and
position looked upon as normal in Fortune's world; the final "measures" refers to the dance they will do in the
Forest. We are left, after this balanced holding of both worlds at once, with the departure of Jaques and with
the dance which is the sign of the harmony of the moment.
The Epilogue is all that marks the return to the workaday world, spoken by the boy who has played Rosalind.
He has gone from the heights of role-playing—this boy playing Rosalind playing Ganymed playing
Rosalind—step by step back down the ladder of fantasy to speak directly to the men and women in the
audience before him. He speaks of attraction between the sexes, of possible kisses, of the need for
appreciation and applause. It is not the Forest nor the Duke's realm. It is the theater, the living reality of the
image used so extensively in the play.
What is left of the play? A dream of power and evil transmuted into a dream where power and evil have
disappeared. The result has been joy, romance, and various dimensions of love. The lovers of the earlier plays
are translated in As You Like It into a world which suggests they can combine completeness of personality
with private expression of love; but the world is a dream, a play world. As You Like It is the closest
Shakespeare gets to the realization of such a dream; Twelfth Night explores its comic failure. (pp. 81-97)
John A. Hart, "As You Like It: The Worlds of Fortune and Nature," in his Dramatic Structure in
Shakespeare's Romantic Comedies, Carnegie-Mellon University Press, 1980, pp. 81-97.
John Shaw
[Shaw focuses on the meaning of Rosalind's and Celia's debate over Fortune and Nature (I. ii. 40ff.),
determining that this is a philosophic controversy with which Shakespeare's Elizabethan audience would have
been plainly familiar. In Renaissance tradition, the goddess Fortune is depicted as the symbol of inconstancy
and change. She is illustrated as either blind or blindfolded, sitting on a spherical throne with one foot either
on a slippery ball or a trap and one hand placed upon a wheel. The goddess Nature, on the other hand,
represents beauty, strength, nobility, courage, and—most significantly—wisdom and virtue. With open eyes, she
sits firmly on a four-square pedestal, holding the mirror of Prudence that represents self-knowledge. In the
classical tradition, whenever a conflict arose between Fortune and Nature, the latter, through her superior
wisdom and virtuousness, would prevail. In this essay, Shaw examines how the properties of both goddesses
affect the plot and character development of As You Like It, asserting that each of the major characters is in
some way affected by the conflicts between them. In observance with the classical tradition, these conflicts are
resolved at the end of the play when Nature overthrows Fortune and restores a more harmonious order for
the characters.]
Dualities 109
When Rosalind draws a careful distinction between the gifts of Fortune and the gifts of Nature in the second
scene of As You Like It she is alluding to a familiar conception of the separate offices of the two goddesses.
Few in Shakespeare's audience could have failed to recognize the Renaissance cliche that Fortune did indeed
reign "in the gifts of the world", while Nature's bounties were to be found in the "lineaments" of the face and
character [I. ii. 40ff.]. Moreover, Celia's reply that "Nature hath given us Wit to flout at Fortune" further refers
to the philosophical tradition which considered the two goddesses as rivals, a conception current in
Elizabethan times, and one reaching back to antiquity. A careful reading of the play will in fact show that
behind the gay romancing of the characters throughout As You Like It there is a basic philosophic strife
between Fortune and Nature that would be obvious to the Renaissance. Although it would be far from the
point to be like Jaques and "moralize this spectacle" by insisting that Shakespeare's delightful comedy be read
didactically, still the underlying philosophical str
Disguise and Role-Playing
Nancy K. Hayles
[In the excerpt below, Hayles discusses Shakespeare's use of sexual disguise in As You Like It. The critic
argues that this device is developed in distinct stages: first, Rosalind assumes layers of disguise for the
journey to Arden, then the layers are slowly removed as she gradually renounces the role of Ganymede, and
finally they are eliminated altogether when the heroine abandons her disguise to marry Orlando. The
layering-on movement, Hayles contends, suggests selfish control and creates conflict in the play, while the
removal of layers fosters reconciliation. Moreover, the critic remarks, this unlayering allows Rosalind to
convey her true personality to Orlando, which ultimately supplants his idealized notion of her. Hayles also
explores how Shakespeare extended the pattern of sexual disguise and unlayering to the play's epilogue.]
As You Like It opens with scenes that emphasize rivalry and competition. Orlando has been mistreated by his
brother Oliver, and Oliver in turn feels that Orlando has caused him to be 'altogether misprised' and
undervalued by his own people. The rivalry that Duke Frederick still feels with the rightful Duke is also
apparent. Moreover, the chief event of the opening scenes, the wrestling match between Charles and Orlando,
is a formalized and ritualistic expression of male rivalry. Against the backdrop of male rivalry, the female
intimacy between Celia and Rosalind makes a striking contrast. It is an intimacy, however, maintained at
some cost. When Duke Frederick peremptorily orders Rosalind into banishment, Celia's protest is countered
by her father's attempt to transform intimacy into rivalry between the two girls, too:
Thou art a fool; she robs thee of thy name,
And thou wilt show more bright and seem more virtuous
When she is gone. Then open not thy lips.
[I. iii. 80-2]
The opening scenes of the play, then, draw a society where intimacy among women is implicitly contrasted
with the rivalry among men. When the scene changes to the forest, several incidents seem designed as signals
that the forest is a world where co-operation rather than competition prevails. Orlando meets with civility
instead of hostility when he seeks meat for the fainting Adam; Rosalind and Celia find the natives to be kind
shepherds rather than would-be rapists; and the exiled Duke hails his followers as 'Co-mates and brothers'. But
we soon discover that competition is not altogether absent from the Forest of Arden. Jaques accuses the Duke
of himself usurping the forest from its rightful owners, the deer; Touchstone confronts and bests his country
rival, William; and Silvius discovers that his beloved Phebe has fallen in love with a courtly newcomer. The
situation is thus more complicated than a simple contrast between court competition and pastoral
co-operation, or between female intimacy and maleriivalry. The sexual disguise of Rosalind mirrors the
complexities of these tensions.
Disguise and Role-Playing 110
We can consider the disguise as proceeding in two separate movements. First, the layers of disguise are added
as Rosalind becomes Ganymede, and then as Ganymede pretends to be Orlando's Rosalind; second, the layers
are removed as Ganymede abandons the play-acting of Rosalind, and then as Rosalind herself abandons the
disguise of Ganymede. The layering-on movement creates conflict and the layering-off movement fosters
reconciliation as the disguise confronts and then resolves the issue of competition versus co-operation.
In the most complex layering, Rosalind-as-Ganymede-as-Orlando's Rosalind, Rosalind presents Orlando with
a version of his beloved very different from the one he imagines in his verses. When Rosalind-as-Ganymede
insists that Orlando's Rosalind will have her own wit, her own will and her own way, implicit in the portrayal
is Rosalind's insistence that Orlando recognize the discrepancy between his idealized version and the real
Rosalind. In effect, Rosalind is claiming the right to be herself rather than to be Orlando's idealized version of
her, as female reality is playfully set against male fantasy. In playing herself (which she can apparently do
only if she first plays someone else) Rosalind is able to state her own needs in a way she could not if she were
simply herself. It is because she is disguised as Ganymede that she can be so free in portraying a Rosalind
who is a flesh and blood woman instead of a Petrarchan abstraction. Rosalind's three-fold disguise is therefore
used to accentuate the disparity between the needs of the heroine and the expectations of the hero.
Celia, Orlando, and Rosalind. Act 1, scene ii. By Schwoerer. The Department of Rare Books and Special
Collections. The University of Michigan Library.
Even the simpler layering of Rosalind-as-Ganymede accentuates conflict, though this time the couple being
affected is Phebe and Silvius. Rosalind's guise as Ganymede causes Phebe to fall in love with her. Rosalind's
on-layering, which inadvertently makes her Silvius's rival, causes Phebe's desires to be even more at variance
with Silvius's hopes than before. It takes Ganymede's transformation into Rosalind to trick Phebe into
accepting her swain, as the off-layering of Rosalind's disguise reconciles these two Petrarchan lovers. The
Silvius-Phebe plot thus shows in simplified form the correlation between on-layering and rivalry, and
off-layering and co-operation. It also gives us a standard by which we can measure the more complicated
situation between Orlando and Rosalind.
Disguise and Role-Playing 111
Phebe and Silvius are caricatures of courtly love, and through them we are shown female manipulation and
male idealization in a way that emphasizes the less pleasant side of the courtly love tradition. But it is
important to see that this rustic couple merely exaggerates tendencies also present in Rosalind and Orlando.
Rosalind's disguise creates an imbalance in her relationship with Orlando because it allows Rosalind to hear
Orlando's love-confession without having to take any comparable risks herself. Rosalind's self-indulgence in
demanding Orlando's devoted service without admitting anything in return could become a variation of the
perversity that is anatomized for us in the relationship between Phebe and Silvius. Thus the expectations of
Rosalind and the desires of Orlando are not only the responses of these two characters, but are also reflections
of stereotypical male and female postures, familiar through the long tradition of courtly love. The layering of
the disguise has served to accentuate the conflict between men and women; now the unlayering finally
resolves that traditional tension between the needs of the female and the desires of the male.
The unlayering begins when Oliver appears to explain why Orlando is late. Oliver's tale reveals, in almost
allegorical fashion, the struggle within Orlando when he sees his brother in peril, and the tale has as its point
that Orlando put the needs of his brother before his own natural desire for revenge. More subtly, the tale with
its depiction of the twin dangers of the snake and lioness hints at a symbolic nexus of male and female threats.
The specificity of the imagery suggests that the details are important. The first beast is described as a lioness,
not a lion; moreover, she is a lioness in suck, but now with teats sucked dry. her hunger presumably made
more ferocious by her condition. The description thus links a specifically female animal, and a graphically
specific female condition, with the threat of being eaten. The details, taken in sum, evoke the possibility of
female engulfment. The snake about to enter the sleeping man's mouth, again a very specific image, suggests
even to a non-Freudian the threat of phallic invasion. But perhaps most significant is simply the twinning of
the threats itself, which suggests the presence of two different but related kinds of danger.
By overcoming the twin threats, Orlando conquers in symbolic form projections of both male and female
fears. Rosalind responds to Oliver's account by swooning. Her faint is a literal relinquishing of conscious
control; within the conventions of the play, it is also an involuntary revelation of female gender because
fainting is a 'feminine' response. It is a subtle anticipation of Rosalind's eventual relinquishing of the disguise
and the control that goes with it. The action surrounding the relation of the tale parallels its moral: Orlando
performs a heroic and selfless act that hints at a triumph over threatening aspects of masculinity and
femininity, and Rosalind responds to the dangers that Orlando faces with an unconscious gesture of sympathy
that results, for a moment, in the loss of her conscious control over the disguise and with it, the loss of her
manipulative control over Orlando. Rosalind's swoon thus provides a feminine counterpart to Orlando's
Orlando's struggle and Rosalind's swoon mark a turning point. When they meet again, Rosalind tries at first to
re-establish their old relationship, but when Orlando replies, 'I can live no longer by thinking' [V. ii. 50], she
quickly capitulates and re-assumes control only in order to be able to relinquish it. From this point on, the
removal of the disguise signals the consummation of all the relationships as all four couples are married. The
play suggests that control is necessary to state the legitimate needs of the self, but also that it must eventually
be relinquished to accommodate the needs of another. Consummation is paradoxically achieved through an
act of renunciation.
The way that sexual disguise is used reflects the play's overall concern with the tension between rivalry and
co-operation. The disguise is first used to crystallize rivalry between the woman's self-image and the man's
desires; in this sense it recognizes male-female discord and implicitly validates it. But because the disguise
can be removed, it prevents the discord from becoming perpetual frustration. The workings of the disguise
suggest that what appears to be a generous surrendering of self-interest can in fact bring consummation both
to man and woman, so that rivalry can be transcended as cooperation brings fulfillment. In As You Like It,
fulfillment of desire, contentment and peace of mind come when the insistence on self-satisfaction ceases.
Duke Senior's acceptance of his forest exile and the subsequent unlooked-for restoration of his dukedom; the
Disguise and Role-Playing 112
reconciliation between the sons of Rowland de Boys, in which Oliver resigns his lands to Orlando and finds
forgiveness and happiness in love; the miraculous conversion of Duke Frederick by the old hermit and the
voluntary abdication of his dukedom—all express the same paradox of consummation through renunciation
that is realized in specifically sexual terms by the disguise.
When the boy actor who plays Rosalind's part comes forward to speak the epilogue, the workings of the
sexual disguise are linked with the art of the playwright. The epilogue continues the paradox of consummation
through renunciation that has governed sexual "disguise within the play, as the final unlayering of the disguise
coincides with a plea for the audience to consummate the play by applauding [Epilogue, 11-23].… At this
moment the playwright relinquishes control of the audience. As with Rosalind and Orlando, his success is
marked by a control that finally renounces itself, a control which admonishes only to release as the audience is
asked to 'like as much … as please you' [Epilogue, 13-14]. Our applause is a gesture of acceptance which
encompasses both the working of sexual disguise within the play, and the art whose operation parallels it as
the play ends. At the same time, the boy actor alludes to the fact that he is not after all the woman he plays 'if I
were a woman' [Epilogue, 18], and so relinquishes the last level of the sexual disguise. For the last time, the
unlayering of the disguise is linked with a reconciliation between the sexes as the boy actor speaking the
epilogue appeals separately to the men and women in the audience. Within the play these two perspectives
have been reconciled, and the joint applause of the men and women in the audience re-affirms that
reconciliation and extends it to the audience.
The sexual disguise in As You Like It therefore succeeds in interweaving various motifs. Many of the
problems considered in the play (Duke Frederick's tyranny, Oliver's unfair treatment of Orlando, Phebe's
exultation over Silvius) stem from excessive control, and the heroine exercises extraordinary control over the
disguise. The removal of the disguise signals a renunciation of control on her part, and this in turn is linked
with a voluntary renunciation of control by others, so that the unlayering and the resolution of problems neatly
correspond. Moreover, the sexual reversal inherent in the disguise, which itself implicitly promises a
reconciliation of male and female perspectives, is used to reconcile the men and women in the play. Since the
key to reconciliation has been the renunciation of control, the playwright uses his relinquishing of control over
the play to signal a final reconciliation between the men and women in the audience. Because of the
correspondence between Rosalind as controller of the disguise, and Shakespeare as controller of the disguised
boy actor who plays Rosalind's part, Rosalind's control over her disguise is paradigmatic of the playwright's
control over the play. Both use their control creatively and constructively, but for both the relinquishing of
control corresponds with the consummation of their art.
The means by which resolution is achieved in As You Like It says a great deal about the kinds of problems the
play considers. By having Rosalind as surrogate playmaker, the playwright must not pose problems that are
beyond her power to solve. There are a few hints that Rosalind's control exceeds the merely human; she tells
Orlando she possesses magical powers, and Hymen mysteriously intervention—witness Duke Frederick's
miraculous conversion. But positing a human problem-solver almost necessitates limiting the problems to
human scale. Moreover, because the disguise is the key to Rosalind's ability to solve problems, the emphasis
on male and female perspectives inherent in the sexual disguise places the problems in the context of the
social roles of each sex. The disguise thus gives the play artistic unity, but it also imposes limitations on the
play's thematic scope. The brilliance of As You Like It is that it so perfectly matches what the play attempts to
the inherent limitations of its techniques that it makes us unaware there are limitations. (pp. 64-8)
Nancy K. Hayles, "Sexual Disguise in 'As You Like It' and 'Twelfth Night'," in Shakespeare Survey: An
Annual Survey of Shakespearian Study and Production, Vol. 32, 1979, pp. 63-72.
Thomas F. Van Laan
[Van Laan points out several instances where the characters in Arden either take part in or discuss
role-playing sessions, proposing that the forest in a sense becomes the stage for these brief "playlets."
Disguise and Role-Playing 113
Shakespeare composed variations of this theme, the critic continues, to explore the circumstances
surrounding the way in which the play's four couples fall in love. Van Laan concludes that if being in love
means assuming a role, then Shakespeare assures us in As You Like It that there is more than one way to
play the lover.]
The adherence of a character to one or more pre-formulated roles, his deriving his identity therefrom, by no
means necessitates his being a lifeless stereotype, even if he is a character of type one and only a single role is
involved. Some of the roles Shakespeare utilizes are themselves sufficiently fresh and new because they come
into being, in effect, only through his work, through his supplying familiar social or literary categories (such
as daughter, friend, fortune hunter) with gestures and moves so appropriate and convincing that they suggest
the existence of a lengthy literary or dramatic tradition. Other roles achieve freshness and newness as well as a
sense of living vitality through the richness of their execution. Dogberry [in Much Ado About Nothing] is
more attractive and appealing than Shakespeare's two other versions of the malapropian constable, Dull and
Elbow [in Love's Labour's Lost]—especially Dull, whose name is so apt—but the reason for his greater appeal
has little to do with his possessing a larger percentage of genuinely felt life. It is a matter partly of
Shakespeare's having given him more stage time and partly of his having a clearer and more consequential
involvement with the action of his play, but mostly, it seems to me, it results from his having better material
and being a more thoroughly rendered version of the role than the others. A more significant example of
richness of execution can be found in Jaques, whose portrayal evokes the feeling that one is observing not
simply the reworking of a familar literary-dramatic stereotype but its perfection.
But perhaps the chief reason why Shakespeare's characters avoid flatness and repetitiveness is his highly
flexible conception of individual roles: often enough a given character is recognizably fulfilling a specific role
while nevertheless executing it in an unquestionably unique way. This flexibility can be glimpsed, for
example, in the portrayal of the role of lover in the early comedies (from Love's Labour's Lost to Much Ado
About Nothing, say), not only in the way that the various lovers differ one from another but also in the many
shifts in Shakespeare's attitude towards the conventional literary version. The flexibility can also be glimpsed,
just as clearly and more conveniently, in the unusual portrayal this role receives in the second half of As You
Like It.
Time and time again, in the second half of As You Like It the forest landscape becomes the stage for clearly
defined momentary playlets, like those referred to by Rosalind when she tells Celia 'I will speak to [Orlando]
like a saucy lackey, and under that habit play the knave with him' [III. ii. 295-97], and by both Rosalind and
Corin when he, having found Silvius wooing Phebe, invites the others to 'see a pageant truly play'd' [III. iv.
52] and Rosalind promises to 'prove a busy actor in their play' [59]. In form, these playlets underscore the
resemblance between the forest and a stage which is a central element in the play's contrast between forest and
court. In content, however, the playlets utilize this stage as an arena for exploring one of the theatre's most
familiar and popular roles, that of the lover. What takes place in the remarkably static second half of As You
Like It—both in these playlets and elsewhere—is not action in the usual sense but, instead, an elaborate
anatomy of the varieties of love.
The range of this anatomy is broad enough to include a 'Character' of the conventional stereotype (in
Ganymede's account of its essential 'marks,' III. ii. 369ff.), several varieties of romantic love (Rosalind and
Orlando, Celia and Oliver, Phebe and Silvius, Phebe and Ganymede), a parody of these relationships (in
Touchstone's marrying the 'foul slut,' Audrey, in order to avoid living 'in bawdry,' III. iii. 36, 97), and the
outright rejection of love (by Jaques, whose only 'mistress' is the world he loathes so much, III. ii. 278).
Because of her dual role, Rosalind occupies a special position in the anatomy. In her own person she
experiences and exhibits as intense a passion as anyone in the play. But as Ganymede, she is able to
encompass as well the opposite extreme, to articulate for herself and the spectators the anti-love that Jaques
for the most part can only enact.
Disguise and Role-Playing 114
Relationships like those linking Orlando and Adam and Rosalind and her father extend the range of the
anatomy to include both friendship and familial love. But it is primarily the varieties of romantic love with
which Shakespeare is concerned, and in the final act he underscores the importance of their portrayal for the
meaning of the play through the three passages that juxtapose them rhetorically just as they have already been
juxtaposed in the action [V. ii. 83ff., V. iv. 4ff., V. iv. 116ff.]. These three passages thus call attention to the
dramatic design of the second half of As You Like It. Also suggesting this design is a passage that has little to
do with love, Jaques' and Rosalind's anatomy of melancholy:
JAQUES I have neither the scholar's melancholy, which is emulation; nor the musician's,
which is fantastical; nor the courtier's, which is proud; nor the soldier's, which is ambitious;
nor the lawyer's, which is politic; nor the lady's, which is nice; nor the lover's, which is all
these; but it is a melancholy of mine own, compounded of many simples, extracted from
many objects, and, indeed, the sundry contemplation of my travels; in which my often
rumination wraps me in a most humorous sadness.
ROSALIND Farewell, Monsieur Traveller; look you lisp and wear strange suits, disable all
the benefits of your own country, be out of love with your nativity, and almost chide God for
making you that countenance you are; or I will scarce think you have swam in a gondola.
[IV. i. 10-20, 33-8]
Rosalind corrects Jaques' attempt to claim uniqueness and originality for his melancholy by assuring him that
it is as conventional a pose as any of those he mocks. She thus completes the partial awareness of the first half
of his speech: there is not merely a single variety of melancholy, but several, and each of them is a role with
specific dictates that its player must observe. Similarly, in the forest scenes as a whole, Shakespeare
dramatizes an analogous awareness about the ceremony of love: that although falling in love means assuming
a role, there is more than one way to 'play the lover.' (pp. 38-40)
Thomas F. Van Laan, "Identity and Role," in his Role-playing in Shakespeare, University of Toronto Press,
1978, pp. 21-42.
Jay L. Halio
[Halio describes time's two functions in As You Like It: first, as a foil whose two extremes—timelessness and
time-consciousness—favorably contrast virtuous rustic life in Arden with dissolute court life, and second, as
timelessness alone, as a link between life in the present and life in an earlier, less corrupt, generally better
time. The critic maintains that Shakespeare perceives the city and court to be ruthless and degenerate,
threatening places from which Arden's timeless world is a refuge, a world where past and present merge and
people flourish. Surveying the dramatic and thematic juxtapositions of these two worlds, Halio especially
focuses on Rosalind's awareness of time; he notes how, unlike Touchstone's fascination with time's power to
ripen things and rot them, Rosalind is strongly influenced by time's regenerative power, particularly as it
concerns lovers.]
In As You Like It Shakespeare exploits timelessness as a convention of the pastoral ideal along with other
conventions taken from pastoralism, but unlike his treatment, say, of Silvius and Phebe, his treatment of time
is not so thoroughly satirical. Though neither will quite do, timelessness in Arden (on the whole) contrasts
favorably to the time-consciousness of court and city life which. Touchstone, for example, brings to the forest.
In addition, timelessness links life in Arden with the ideal of an older, more gracious way of life that helps
regenerate a corrupt present.
Time 115
Orlando's first speech immediately voices several aspects of the time theme. Speaking to Adam, he recalls his
father's will and its provision that Oliver, the eldest son, should educate the younger brothers. This Oliver has
failed to do, at least with respect to Sir Rowland's youngest son; but despite his enforced rusticity, Orlando
reveals an innate gentility so wonderful that even his tyrannical brother is brought to remark: "Yet he's gentle,
never schooled, and yet learned, full of noble device, of all sorts enchantingly beloved. . . " [I. i. 166-68].
These innate qualities derive directly from old Sir Rowland, for the identification between Orlando and his
father, as we shall see, is repeatedly and pointedly made. Moreover, Orlando twice remarks in this scene that
it is his father's spirit within him that prompts him to revolt against his present humiliation—a revelation which
has more than ordinary implications later.
Unlike his counterpart Sir John of Bordeaux in Lodge's Rosalynde, Sir Rowland de Boys is dead before the
play opens, but his memory is kept studiously alive. In the opening lines of Lodge's novel we can get some
idea of what he stood for:
There dwelled adjoining to the city of Bordeaux a knight of most honorable parentage, whom
fortune had graced with many favors, and nature honored with sundry exquisite qualities, so
beautified with the excellence of both, as it was a question whether fortune or nature were
more prodigal in deciphering the riches of their bounties. Wise he was as holding in his head
a supreme conceit of policy, reaching with Nestor into the depth of all civil government; and
to make his wisdom more gracious, he had that salem ingenii and pleasant eloquence that was
so highly commended in Ulysses: his valor was no less than his wit, nor the stroke of his
lance no less forcible than the sweetness of his tongue was persuasive; for he was for his
courage chosen the principal of all the Knights of Malta.
But we need not go outside the play to discover what Sir Rowland represents. Adam, the old retainer of the de
Boys household and himself a living reminder of the former age, provides some important clues. When Oliver
apparently consents to his brother's departure, he throws Adam out, too:
Oliver. Get you with him, you old dog.
Adam. Is "old dog" my reward? Most true,
I have lost teeth in your service. God be
with my old master! He would not have
spoke such a word.
[I. i. 81-4]
Later, when Adam warns Orlando to run from Oliver's treachery and even offers his life's savings—and his
life—to assist in the escape, Orlando recognizes the gesture for what it is—the product of a gracious ideal:
O good old man, how well in thee appears
The constant service of the antique world,
When service sweat for duty, not for meed!
Thou aft not for the fashion of these times,
Where none will sweat but for promotion,
And having that do choke their service up
Even with the having. It is not so with thee.
[II. iii. 56-62]
The two dukes also furnish evidence of the esteem in which Sir Rowland was universally held: Duke
Frederick, villainously, found him an enemy, but Duke Senior (to Rosalind's evident gratification) "loved Sir
Time 116
Rowland as his soul" [I. ii. 235]. Orlando, who functions in the play partly to bear out the spirit of his father,
naturally attracts similar feelings. It is not for nothing that he attaches to himself repeatedly the clumsy-naive
epithet "old Sir Rowland's youngest son" [I. iii. 28]; besides, his name is both an anagram of Rowland and its
Italian translation. The predicament in which the young man eventually discovers himself will test his true
mettle and, more importantly, the worth of all that he and his name may symbolize. Adam awakens in him
some sense of his plight when Orlando returns home after throwing Charles the wrestler:
O you memory
Of old Sir Rowland! Why, what make you here?
Why are you so virtuous? Why do people love you?
And wherefore are you gentle, strong, and valiant?
Why would you be so fond to overcome
The bonny prizer of the humorous Duke?
Your praise is come too swiftly home before you.
Know you not, master, to some kind of men
Their graces serve them but as enemies?
No more do yours. Your virtues, gentle master,
Are sanctified and holy traitors to you.
Oh, what a world is this when what is comely
Envenoms him that bears it!
[II. iii. 3-15]
Orlando's world of court and city is a far different world from his father's. It is a perverse world, where
brother plots against brother and virtues become "sanctified and holy traitors" [II. iii. 13]. It is a world ruled
over by the usurping Frederick (the "new" Duke), who banishes his elder brother (the "old" Duke) and keeps
his niece only so long as convenience allows. When he fears Rosalind as a threat to the fame and popularity of
his own daughter, he drives her out also—just as Oliver plans to kill the brother he fears he can no longer
suppress. In short, it is a world based on expediency and the lust for power [III. i. 15-18], not a brave new
world, but a degenerate new one. With no obligation to tradition—to the past—it is ruthless in its self-assertion.
But while this "new" world may banish its principal threats, Rosalind and Orlando, it does not thus destroy
them (we are, after all, in the realm of romantic comedy). In the timeless pastoral world of the Forest of
Arden, where past and present merge, they find refuge and there flourish.
The first mention of the life led by Duke Senior and his fellows in the Forest of Arden occurs early in the play
in the dialogue between Charles and Oliver. Oliver has decided to use the wrestler to rid himself of Orlando
(thus perverting the intention of Charles's visit), but first he inquires into the "new news at the new Court" [I.
i. 96-7]. Charles recounts what Oliver already knows: the new Duke has driven out the old Duke, and a
number of lords have voluntarily accompanied him into exile. For no apparent reason, Oliver next inquires
into Rosalind's position, and then asks where the old Duke will live. Charles replies:
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 their time carelessly as they did in the golden world.
[I. i. 114-19]
Here Oliver abruptly changes the subject to the next day's wrestling match. Now, merely as dramatic
exposition this dialogue is at least ingenuous—if not downright clumsy. Obviously it must serve another
function to justify itself; that is, by describing the conflict between the two dukes, it provides a parallel to the
decisive quarrel between Orlando and Oliver which has just taken place. The inversion of roles played by the
younger and older brothers is merely a superficial variation of the plot; the point is to suggest an alignment
Time 117
between Duke Senior and Sir Rowland de Boys, between the "golden world" and the "antique world," which
coalesce in the fabulous Robin Hood life now led by the banished Duke. Should we require any further
evidence of this significance, the change in Sir Rowland's name from its source is clear enough. The anagram
Rowland-Orlando has already been explained, but the change from de Bordeaux is otherwise meaningful: de
Boys is simply de Bois, "of the forest." Elizabethan spelling commonly substitutes y for i, as everyone knows,
but the pronunciation is the same. While older editors, such as Malone and Dyce, modernize the spelling
(without comment), more recent ones prefer the spelling of the Folios, a practice which tends to obscure the
reference. And Dover Wilson's note [in his New Cambridge edition of the play], recording the fact that the de
Boyses were an old Arden family, gives us more light than it perhaps suspects—or intends.
Lest there be any mistake about the kind of forest in which Duke Senior and (later) Orlando, Rosalind, and the
others find themselves, we must listen carefully to the Duke's first speech [II. i. 1ff.]. Its theme is "Sweet are
the uses of adversity"; only in this way can he and his followers discover "tongues in trees, books in the
running brooks / . . . and good in everything." Here, unlike the conventional pastoral, others besides
unrequited lovers may feel the shrewdness of the winter wind; shepherds will confess to smelling of sheep
dip; and a Sir Oliver Martex is available for weddings as well as Hymen. The forest maybe enchanted—the
appearance of a god is only the least subtle indication that it is—but the enchantment is of an unusual kind; the
forest still admits of other, qualifying realities. For the right apprehension of a natural, humane order of life,
which emerges as Shakespeare's standard, takes account of both the ideal (what should or could be) and the
actual (what is). By contrast, the standard of life in court and city is unnatural insofar as it stifles the ideal
aspirations of the human imagination and sinks to the level of a crude, animal existence. If Duke Senior
finally returns along with the others to his dukedom (despite his earlier assertion that he would not change his
"life exempt from public haunt"), he returns not only because his dukedom is ready to receive him, but also
(we must infer) because he is prepared to resume his proper role. Tempered by adversity, his virtue matures.
To provide this temper, or balance, is the true function of the forest, its real "magic." Neither the Duke nor
anyone else who comes to Arden emerges the same.
The trip to the forest is itself exhausting and fraught with danger. Rosalind and her little company are quite
unable to take another step. Similarly, Adam is close to expiring when he arrives with Orlando. But on each
occasion the forest at once works its charm. Corin and Silvius are at hand to entertain Rosalind and her friends
and to provide them with a gentle welcome and a home. At the end of the scene even the fainting Celia
quickens to remark, "I like this place, / And willingly could waste my time in it" [II. iv. 94-5]. Orlando,
seeking food in what he calls an "uncouth" desert [II. vi. 6], comes upon the banquet of the banished Duke.
Showing the valor of his heritage, he opposes single-handed the entire host of the Duke and his men. Under
the conventions of this romance, this show of valor is not quixotic—it fits rather with Orlando's defeat of
Charles. But, though hardly despised (except by Jaques), it is misdirected; and Orlando is made to recognize
the code that here reigns:
Speak you so gently? Pardon me, I pray you.
I thought that all things had been savage here,
And therefore put I on the countenance
Of stern commandment. But whate'er you are
That in this desert inaccessible,
Under the shade of melancholy boughs,
Lose and neglect the creeping hours of time,
If ever you have looked on better days,
If ever been where bells have knolled to church,
If ever sat at good man's feast,
If ever from your eyelids wiped a tear
And know what 'tis to pity and be pitied,
Let gentleness my strong enforcement be.
Time 118
In the which hope I blush, and hide my sword.
[II. vii. 106-19]
Gentleness joins with gentleness; golden world merges with antique world—at least through their modern
representatives. If the parvenu at first mistakes the appearance of his surroundings, he is soon instructed: this
is no ordinary forest. At the same time, he reminds us of what civilization might be like, or once was.
Certainly he perceives another aspect of his new environment accurately, one he will quickly cultivate: the
meaninglessness of time in the forest.
For unlike the life of the court and the city, "men fleet the time carelessly" in Arden, as Charles earlier
remarked. Here are no power-seekers like Oliver and Duke Frederick, impatient to rid themselves of
encumbrances [I. i. 124, I. iii. 52 ff.], but men who love to lie under the greenwood tree seeking—only the food
they eat. Appropriately, this casualness is the theme of many of their songs. Touchstone's comment on the
last—"I count it but lost time to hear such a foolish song" [V.iii. 39-40]—briefly expresses the opposing attitude
brought from court into the forest. The attitude is shared by the malcontent Jaques, his fellow satirist, and in
some respects by Rosalind. Touchstone is, in fact, the play's timekeeper, as Harold Jenkins has called him [in
his "As You Like It," Shakespeare Survey VII (1955): 40-51], and his most extended disquisition on time is
fittingly recounted by Jaques:
... he drew a dial from his poke,
And looking on it with lack-lustre eye,
Says very wisely, "It is ten o'clock.
Thus we may see," quoth he, "how the world wags.
'Tis but an hour ago since it was nine,
And after one hour more 'twill be eleven;
And so, from hour to hour, we ripe and ripe,
And then, from hour to hour, we rot and rot;
And thereby hangs a tale,"
[II, vii. 20-8]
Later in the same scene Jaques in propria persona also "morals on the time" in his speech on the Seven Ages
of Man, calling our attention to the broader divisions of time's progress and pageant. Between these speeches,
it should be noted, occur Orlando's entrance and his words, quoted above, on the neglect of time by the Duke
and his forest-time-ridden preoccupations of court and city life, but here the juxtaposition is both dramatically
and thematically emphasized. For the court and city habitues, time is a measured progress to the grave—or
worse! But for the foresters, time is merely "the stream we go a-fishing in" (to borrow the phrase of a later
pastoralist [Henry David Thoreau in Walden]). Neither attitude, of course, will quite do in this sublunary
world; hence, to present a more balanced view of time—as of love, pastoralism, and poetry—Shakespeare uses
the dialectic characteristic of this play and centers it upon his hero and heroine.
For Rosalind's awareness of time, however related to the preoccupation imported from the "outside" world, is
different from Touchstone's obsession with "riping and rotting." It is, partly, the awareness of a girl in love
and impatient for the attentions of her lover, a healthy consciousness that recalls Juliet's except as it is
undarkened by tragic fate. But her awareness has further implications. When she and Orlando first meet in the
forest, their dialogue, appropriately enough, is itself about time. Rosalind's question, "I pray you, what is't
o'clock?" [III. ii. 299], although banal, suits the occasion; for despite her boast that she will speak like a saucy
lackey, she is momentarily confused by confronting Orlando and scarcely knows how to begin. What follows
in her account of Time's "divers paces" [III. ii. 308-33], however, is something more than a verbal
smokescreen to help her collect her wits, detain her lover, and make sure he keeps coming back: it is a
development of Jaques' Seven Ages speech with important thematic variations. Jaques' speech describes a
Time 119
man in his time playing many parts and suggests that his speed, or "pace," will vary along with his role; the
series of vignettes illustrates the movement of a person in time. Rosalind not only adds appreciably to Jaques'
gallery, but showing profounder insight, she shifts the emphasis from the movement of a person, to the
movement of time as apprehended, for example, by the young maid "between the contract of her marriage and
the day it is solemniz'd. If the interim be but a se'ennight, Time's pace is so hard that it seems the length of
seven year" [III. ii. 314-17]. In this way, she more thoroughly accounts for duration, or the perception of time,
which, unlike Jaques' portrait of our common destiny, is not the same for everyone.
Naturally, Rosalind is most concerned with the perception of time by the lover, and here her behavior is in
marked contrast to Orlando's. Quite literally—and like any fiancee, or wife—she is Orlando's timekeeper. When
he fails to keep his appointments, she suffers both pain and embarrassment (III. iv) that are relieved only by
the greater follies of Silvius and Phebe that immediately follow. When he finally does turn up an hour late—as
if to dramatize his belief that "there's no clock in the forest" [III. ii. 300-01]—Rosalind rebukes him severely:
Rosalind. Why, how now, Orlando?
Where have you been all this while?
You a lover? An you serve such another trick,
never come in my sight more.
Orlando. My fair Rosalind, I come within
an hour of my promise.
Rosalind. Break an hour's promise in love?
He that will divide a minute into a thousand
parts and break but a part of the
thousand part of a minute in the affairs of love,
it may be said of him that Cupid hath clapp'd him
o' th' shoulder, but I'll warrant him heart-whole.
Orlando. Pardon me, dear Rosalind.
Rosalind. Nay, an you be so tardy,
come no more in my sight.
I had as lief be woo'd of a snail.
[IV. i. 38-52]
Rosalind's time-consciousness goes beyond the mere moment: she knows the history of love— witness her
speech on Troilus and Leander [IV. i. 94-108]—and she predicts its future, as she warns Orlando of love's
seasons after marriage [IV. i. 143-149]. Her ardent impulse is thus in comic juxtaposition with her realistic
insight, just as Orlando's "point-device" attire and time-unconsciousness comically contrast with his rimes and
other protestations of love.
In this fashion we arrive at the theme's center, or balance. If Orlando, as we have seen, is an agent of
regeneration, he appears through his forgetfulness of time to be in some danger of not realizing his function.
He might like Silvius, were it not for Rosalind, linger through an eternity of unconsummated loving; certainly,
like the Duke, he feels in the forest no urgency about his heritage—at least not until he comes upon his brother
sleeping beneath an ancient oak tree and menaced by a starved lioness (the symbolism is obvious). Oliver's
remarkable conversion after his rescue and his still more remarkable engagement to Celia pave the way for
Rosalind's resolution of the action, for under the pressure of his brother's happiness, Orlando can play at
games in love no longer. And despite the play's arbitrary finale—Duke Frederick's conversion and the end of
Time 120
exile, in all of which she has had no hand—nevertheless, it is again Rosalind who has had an important share in
preparing the principals for this chance. Like her less attractive counterpart Helena in All's Well That Ends
Well, she remains a primary agent for the synthesis of values that underlies regeneration in Shakespeare's
comedy. At the very outset we see her, the daughter of Duke Senior at the court of Duke Frederick, as a link
between two worlds, not unlike Orlando's representative linking of two generations. In love, she is realistic
rather than cynical, but not without a paradoxical—and perfectly human— romantic bias. So, too, with regard to
time she moves with Orlando to a proper balance of unharried awareness. For all of these functions—as for
others—the timeless world of the forest, with its complement of aliens, serves as a haven; but more
importantly, it serves as a school.
Neither the extremes of idealism nor those of materialism, as they are variously represented, emerge as "the
good life" in As You Like It. That life is seen rather as a mean of natural human sympathy educated—since that
is a major theme in the play—by the more acceptable refinements of civilization (II. vii) and the harsh realities
of existence ("winter and rough weather" [II. v. 8]). The "antique world" stands for a timeless order of
civilization still in touch with natural human sympathy that, under the "new" regime (while it lasted), had
been forced underground. To the forest, the repository of natural life devoid of artificial time barriers, the
champions of regeneration repair in order to derive new energy for the task before them. There they find
refuge, gain strength, learn—and return, (pp. 197-207)
Jay L. Halio, "'No Clock in the Forest': Time in 'As You Like It,'" in Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900,
Vol. II, 1962, pp. 197-207.
Frederick Turner
[Turner maintains that the concept of measurable, social time prevalent at Duke Frederick's court is
suspended by the holiday atmosphere of Arden. Time in the forest is a more natural time, governed by the
seasons, not the clock. The critic then examines different characters' perspectives of time. In his "Seven Ages
of Man" speech (II. vii. 138ff.), Jaques presents two notions of time: first, that human beings exist in time as
they would in a play on stage, and second, that life is a history determined by distinct stages. Unlike Jaques's
assumption that death is the ultimate realization of time, Touchstone perceives time in relation to physical
love or sex in conjunction with the "natural order," in which Nature's purpose is to propagate itself. Time for
Orlando and Rosalind, however, is more dynamic and personal. It represents their anticipation of love in
which clock time drags and personal time is in a furious hurry. Turner concludes his essay with an
examination of the idea of musical time in the play's final songs and dances.]
As You Like It opens with two characters who, in terms of the hierarchy of social power, are weak and
inferior: Orlando, the younger brother, and Adam, the old man. One is denied his place in society; the other is
past his usefulness. Orlando tellingly distinguishes between the 'gentle condition of blood' and the 'courtesy of
nations' [I. i. 44-6]; between what is owed him as a member of society, and what is due to his status as a
human being. Adam has 'lost' his 'teeth' 'in service', and though his master's legal obligation to him has been
fulfilled, Oliver refuses to honour his human obligations to look after the faithful servant in his old age.
Those who are weak in the power structure of society—children, old men, beggars, strangers, the insane—can
possess the most potent moral power in the human community. But this moral power must be recognized, if it
is to exist; Malvolio's crime [in Twelfth Night), we shall see, is to deny the moral power of the Fool.
Orlando's description of his 'keeping' as no different from the 'stalling of an ox' [I. i. 10], and Oliver's
characterizing Adam as an 'old dog', suggest that the socially strong in this play consider those who are
socially weak to be no better than beasts, outside the community of man, and therefore ineligible for the basic
human rights. But piety (or pité), insists that such figures are the true representatives of the human
community, that we should treat them with the respect due to common humanity, whose dignity transcends
the evanescent privileges of rank, wealth, or birth. There is only one thing that Orlando and Adam can do:
leave the society which has rejected them.
Time 121
Outcast also are the Duke Senior and his friends, and Rosalind, Celia and Touchstone. Where can they go?
What region of Shakespeare's poetic, philosophical, and moral world is appropriate to them?
If one escapes from the ordinary routine of society, one is on holiday. Rosalind can see nothing but 'briers' in
this 'working-day' world; on 'holiday' they are but 'burs'. If, says Celia, 'we walk not in the trodden paths'—if
we do not conform to the routines of society—'our very petticoats will catch them' [I. iii. 13-15]. The holiday
that the outcasts must take is partly a holiday of the mind. 'Briers' become 'burs' when their attitude changes
from 'working-day' to 'holiday'. Rosalind and Celia come to accept their existence with patience, but without
paying the price of a vitiating and stoic detachment. On holiday life is only a game, even when it is a game of
life and death. Rosalind and Celia are delightful partly because of their holiday attitude to the world—an
attitude which combines levity with involvement, wisdom with feeling. Rosalind can satirize love and be in
love at the same time.
Orlando, Rosalind, and the Duke Senior are all victims of injustice. They reject and are rejected by the
power-structure of their society; and this structure includes its laws. The 'courtesy of nations' has become a
tyranny for Orlando; for the Duke Senior it has been overturned. The accusation of treachery levelled by Duke
Frederick at Rosalind is a legality divested of its sanctifying ritual of evidence, fair play, and impartiality.
Thus the exiles become outlaws: they live 'like the old Robin Hood of England' [I. i. 116]. This brings to mind
the connection of Robin Hood with the old holiday ritual of rural England, and the enormous popularity of his
story among the common folk. He was the hero of the socially weak; the semi-pagan god of Holiday. The
Puritans recognized this strain in his cult when they abolished it nearly fifty years later.
Time in the forest is not social time. The exiled nobles 'fleet the time carelessly, as they did in the golden
world' [I. i. 118-19]. They 'lose and neglect the creeping hours of time' [II. vii. 112]; the human measurement
of time has no meaning here. In Thomas Mann's Magic Mountain, holiday has a similar effect:
Such is the purpose of our changes of air and scene, of all our sojourns at cures and bathing
resorts; it is the secret of the healing power of change and incident. Our first days in a new
place, time has a youthful, that is to say, a broad and sweeping flow, persisting for some six
or eight days. Then, as one 'gets used to the place', a gradual shrinkage makes itself felt. He
who clings or, better expressed, wishes to cling to life, will shudder to see how the days grow
light and lighter, how they scurry by like dead leaves, until the last week, of some four,
perhaps, is uncannily fugitive and fleet.
Here Mann is more interested in the subjective changes in the rate of time occasioned by circumstances than
in the nature of holiday itself; but one interest tends to suggest the other, and we will find Shakespeare himself
fascinated with subjective time in turn.
Helen Gardner discusses this subject illuminatingly in the context of the romantic comedies in general: 'In
Shakespeare's comedies time ... is not so much a movement onward as a space in which to work things out: a
midsummer night, a space too short for us to feel time's movement, or the unmeasured time of As You Like It
or Twelfth Night [in her "As You Like It" inMore Talking about Shakespeare, ed. John Garrett], Of Much Ado
About Nothing she says: 'A sense of holiday, of time off from the world's business, reigns in Messina.'
Twice in As You Like It the absurdity of social, measurable time is suggested:
And then he drew a dial from his poke,
And, looking on it with lack-lustre eye,
Says very wisely 'It is ten o'clock;
Thus we may see' quoth he 'how the world wags;
"Tis but an hour ago since it was nine;
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And after one hour more 'twill be
eleven; … '
… When I did hear
The motley fool thus moral on the time,
My lungs began to crow like chanticleer
That fools should be so deep contemplative;
And I did laugh sans intermission
An hour by his dial.
[II. vii. 20-33]
Is it significant that Jaques compares his laughter to the sound of the chanticleer, the marker of natural time as
opposed to the time of clocks?—
Ros: I pray you, what is't o'clock?
Orl: You should ask me what time o'day;
there's no clock in the forest.
[III. ii. 299-301]
This last is reminiscent of Falstaff 's first words in Henry IV, and Hal's reply:
Fal: Now, Hal, what time of day is it,
lad? . . . etc.
[I. ii. 1
The Boar's Head is similarly on holiday from ordinary time. It is interesting that what follows in each case is
also similar. Rosalind asserts that
Then there is no true lover in the forest,
else sighing every minute and groaning
every hour would detect the lazy foot of
Time as well as a clock.
[III. ii. 302-05]
Hal says to Falstaff:
What a devil hast thou to do with the time
of the day? Unless hours were cups of
sack, and minutes capons, and clocks the
tongues of bawds . . . etc.
[I. ii. 6-8]
Time in each case is transmuted from the measurable, social time of clocks into the subjective time of
experience. Falstaff now introduces another element:
... we that take purses go by the moon
and the seven stars, and not by Phoebus,
he 'that wand'ring knight so fair'.
[I. ii. 14-16]
Time 123
Falstaff operates, so he claims, according to the natural and mysterious time of the moon and the stars, rather
than the tamed and social time of the sun—which he anthropomorphizes with impunity.
The Forest of Arden is a poetic region which contains, as well as holiday and outlawry, the forces of natural
time, the time of the seasons, of the great rhythms of nature; 'time not our time', as T. S. Eliot puts it [in "The
Dry Salvages"].
Under the greenwood tree
Who loves to lie with me,
And turn his merry note
Unto the sweet bird's throat …
… Here shall he see
No enemy
But winter and rough weather.
[II. v. 1-8]
Here feel we but the penalty of Adam,
The seasons' difference …
[II. i. 5]
Blow, blow, thou winter wind,
Thou are not so unkind
As man's ingratitude …
[II. vii. 174ff.]
Shakespeare's Arden contains other seasons than a perpetual springtime. It can be 'melancholy', 'uncouth', a
'desert inaccessible'; it contains real, as well as conventional, shepherds. Most important of all, it works
convincingly by natural time. It is a place one lives in, not an abstraction of the poet's mind; it has the
obduracy and unconcern for human desires that we recognize as authentic in nature. People can get old here in
the forest; time rules over man, but it is the time of the seasons and not the time of the clock.
The exiles carry with them into the forest many of their human attitudes and preconceptions. Jaques
relentlessly anthropomorphizes the deer; the nobles are seen as 'usurpers' on the life of the forest, which is
contrasted with the human domains of 'country, city, court'. For our purposes one of the most significant
importations into the forest is Jaques' attitude to time in human existence:
All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts.
His acts being seven ages …
… Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion;
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.
[II. vii. 139-66]
This passage resembles the conventional picture of the attitude of the philosopher. Jaques is above it all; he
preserves a lofty detachment from the affairs of the common herd. But his detachment denies to him much of
the truth about human existence. This celebrated passage is oddly hypermetropic: Jaques is longsighted, and
cannot see the trees for the wood. The statistical studies of sociologists frequently give the same impression of
Time 124
selective blindness. The individual is devalued, exceptions are discounted, particulars yield to trends, freedom
and significance are made to seem absurd or irrelevant.
Two elements of this speech are of particular interest: first, the life of man in time as a stage play; and second,
that life as a 'history', a succession of ojectively observable characteristics of behaviour.
'All the world's a stage.' In a play, the actor is bound to the lines that the dramatist has written for him. He is
not free to say or do what he likes; man, according to Jaques, is only reading off a preordained script. A play
exists before it is performed; time is like a motion picture, every frame of which has already been prepared.
Life is only the playing-out of a set sequence of events, the projection of a reel of scenes. Part of the irony of
Jaques' speech is that it is, of course, delivered by an actor who is himself keeping to his part.
Walter Bagehot makes an interesting point about Jaques' speech in a passage which David Cecil quotes and
discusses in his charming essay, 'Shakespearean Comedy', from The Fine Art of Reading. Bagehot's treatment
deserves repetition:
There seems an unalterable contradiction between the human mind and its employments.
How can a soul be a merchant? What relation to an immortal being have the price of linseed,
the fall of butter, the tare on tallow, or the brokerage on hemp? Can an undying creature debit
'petty expenses,' and charge for 'carriage paid'? All the world's a stage;—'the satchel, and the
shining morning face'—the 'strange oaths';—'the bubble reputation'—the
Eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances.
Can these things be real? Surely they are acting. What relation have they to the truth as we
see it in theory? What connection with our certain hopes, 'in respect of itself, it is a good life;
but in respect it is a Shepherd's life, it is nought'. The soul ties its shoes; the mind washes its
hands in a basin. All is incongruous.
In a play the actors are not being themselves, but donning masks and acting a pretence. Jaques' vision of
human life is essentially external. For him all there is is the pretence, the mask, the actor's part, the accidents.
He describes behaviour, but not experience. Jaques is, perhaps, the first of those great satirical personae that
Hugh Kenner discusses with such penetration and wit in his 'historical comedy', The Counterfeiters. Like
Gulliver describing the Yahoos [in Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels], like the extraordinary counterfeit
sociologist who seems to have written A Modest Proposal, like the bad poet Pope invents to write the Art of
Sinking in Poetry, Jaques is concerned not with the inner nature of a person, but with his surface, not with
another 'I' but with an 'it'.
The reader, abetted by many critics, is often deceived in this passage by its breadth, inclusiveness, and
metaphysical pathos into feeling that this is Shakespeare's viewpoint on the world, that here is some kind of
ultimate wisdom about human life. On the contrary, Jaques' description of the schoolboy, lover, soldier, is
only a series of brilliantly evoked stereotypes. If in some respects Shakespeare is creating or originating
stereotypes (like Chaucer in the Prologue to the Canterbury Tales), this does not alter the fact that we are not
being told the whole story about human existence; the sample of human information Jaques has chosen is not
a fair one, and whole areas have been suppressed. Equally as important as what Jaques says is the insight we
get into Jaques' point of view, and indeed into the flaws and virtues of a whole way of, looking at existence.
Jaques' speech contains a certain cynicism, a mood alien, in some respects, to Shakespeare's own, as far as we
can judge from his poems and sonnets, as well as from his plays. The other passages we should bear in mind
when we read or hear 'All the world's a stage' include not only Prospero's 'our revels now are ended' [The
Time 125
Tempest, IV. i. 148], and 'as an unperfect actor on the stage' [Sonnet 23]; but also Macbeth's poor player, That
struts and frets his hour upon the stage' [Macbeth, V. v. 24-5], and Lear's 'great stage of fools' [King Lear, IV.
vi. 183]. Jaques' vision of human life ends as it began: with second childishness, sans everything; nothing has
been gained, life is meaningless, it's all only a play. As soon as Jaques has finished his speech, Orlando, the
young man and the lover, enters carrying Adam, the old man who is almost in his 'last scene'; the two are
united and ennobled by a sense of love and care which somehow transcends and contradicts the stereotypical
categories that would divide and degrade them.
The other theme of Jaques' speech that concerns us here is that of man's life as a history. 'History' can have
two meanings, both of which are relevant in this context: 'story', and 'history' in the modern sense. The
essential element in both is their dialectic: time in both is something expressed in terms of 'before' and 'after'
rather than 'past', 'present', and 'future'. Time for 'history' is something static. The most obvious characteristic
of Jacques' speech is the way for him human life seems to go in stages, each of which is changeless and
restrictingly self-consistent. We can all remember our sense of chagrin and frustration when we were told by
our parents that we were 'just going through a stage'. Our individuality, the validity of our ideals and feelings,
seemed threatened. When, we asked, would we be real people, when would we cease to be merely the result
of a biological or social situation? Jaques would, it seems, reply 'never'.
'His acts being seven ages.' This ignores a fundamental characteristic of time—time as flux, time as dynamic
process. Jaques' human actor develops in a curiously jerky fashion. We cannot for the life of us see how that
particular kind of lover can become that particular kind of soldier or lawyer. How does the plump Justice
become the 'lean and slipper'd pantaloon'? We have no sense of this man being one person. In our own lives
we can look back and sometimes fail to recognize what we call 'I'; but usually beneath the affectations and
obsessions, the attempts to be what we were not, we can see one person whom we greet with almost the
delighted shock of meeting an old friend unexpectedly. There is none of this in Jaques' creed. Yet time is
seamless. It has no stages. And it is in this intimate connection of each moment of time with the next that the
possibility of being one person, not just an infinite sequence of stages, can exist. If one takes an individual out
of his temporal context at various stages of his development, as Jaques does, one will inevitably falsify as well
as omit much of what he is.
Jaques sees himself as an 'historian', chronicling the life of man. Now 'history' in this sense is concerned with
events and states; it cannot afford to occupy itself with the subtle rhythms of gradual growth. The dialectic of
'historical' time, as I have pointed out …, is based on terms like 'before', 'after', 'earlier', and 'later', not on 'past',
'present', and 'future'. But the rhythm of growth is the rhythm of continuous, imperceptible change; and the
growing-point of a human life is the present moment which carries with it the concepts of 'past' and 'future' as
indications of the direction of growth. To take temporal cross-sections is to ignore the process of growth,
concentrating only on its effects and results.
'History' in Jaques' sense, moreover, like philosophy, is a map; a map cannot reproduce the whole landscape in
its minute detail. Yet we can only really know the landscape ('known' as connaitre, not savoir), if we have all
its details about us. A work of art can give us a sense of this but the pre-rational and personal principles of
selection which are available to the artist are denied to Jaques' 'historian', who is in pursuit of impersonal
truth, whose satire 'like a wild-goose flies, Unclaim'd of any man' [II. vii. 86-7], and who professes a
disillusioned rationality.
Part of the force of Falstaff [in I and 2 Henry IV and The Merry Wives of Windsor], perhaps, is that he is a
dynamic character who changes and evolves in an environment of static, 'historical' time—the time of events
and states. Falstaff is a work of art, and in fact develops from a wildly inaccurate selection and exaggeration
by Shakespeare of meagre details in his sources.
Time 126
Jaques' 'historical' viewpoint has other characteristics. One is that it is objective, rather than subjective. Jaques
does not take into account what is almost the most important feature of time—the peculiar sensation, common
to the human race, and therefore taken for granted, of living in time. What does it feel like to live in time?
Everything that comes under that question is absent from Jaques' point of view. Since values and meaning
exist only in the subjective sphere, Jaques is presenting a view of existence as valueless and meaningless.
Since the sense of the living self exists only in the present moment (which is given no particular significance
by Jaques), he is describing people who seem to have no self.
Jaques describes 'dead time'—time with no present moments. The advantage the dissector has when working
with a dead body rather than a live one is that there is no change in the material being dissected: the body can
get no deader. The vivsectionist, on the other hand, has always to beware of the fact that, like Heisenberg's
electrons, his subject will be altered by the process of observation. Jaques is safe, working with dead time, and
indeed his analytical method is appropriate to his subject. When we work with live time, however, we will
find the present moment slipping away in an instant, and other methods of comprehension than Jaques'
analytical and objective one must be found.
Finally, we may give attention to Jaques' use of generalization in this speech. 'In all cases, or at least in a good
statistical majority, human beings will act in such and such a way' he seems to say. To generalize requires an
initial comparison, or 'making equal', of those things about which one generalizes. If I use the generalizing
word 'tree', I am assuming a priori that oaks, pines, elms, palms, etc., are all in some way basically the same.
Indeed, generalization, like the historical dialectic, like objectivity, like the analytic method of thought itself,
is essential in order to come at many kinds of truth. About human beings themselves we can and must
generalize to a large extent in order to obtain the most primary understanding. But there seems to be
something in every sane, undefeated human being that cries out for uniqueness, peerlessness, a sense of his
own incomparability. Again, Jaques is not telling the whole story about human existence.
Both Jaques and Touchstone satirize the extravagant claims of love; but their points of view should not be
confused. What Jaques says is 'see how absurd is the lover, with his sighs and ballads; for what is he, when his
act is past? What a puny figure he cuts in the perspective of history! Does he not swiftly turn into something
quite different? Surely his self-importance is misplaced. He is only a stage between schoolboy and soldier. His
transports and agonies have no significance.' What Touchstone says is subtly different: 'What is love but
Nature's mechanism for repeopling the earth? When it comes down to it, sex is what the whole thing amounts
to after all. I myself, with all my wit, "press in" among the "country copulatives" [V. iv. 55-6], we are all part
of the same natural rhythm, there is no qualitative difference between true lovers and the mating of beasts.
The true significance of love is biological; the rest only icing on the cake.' Jaques sees the lover in the
perspective of history; Touchstone, against the backdrop of brute nature; Jaques' ultimate reality is death,
Touchstone's the natural cycle of reproduction; Jaques questions value, Touchstone's values are materialistic.
Posed against both viewpoints are the attitudes of the lovers. If Jaques in his great speech expresses the
'historical' view of time, Rosalind and Orlando are the representatives of 'personal' time. Time for them is
Orl: And why not the swift foot of Time?
Had not that been as proper?
Ros: By no means, sir. Time travels in
divers paces with divers persons. I'll tell you
who Time ambles withal, who Time trots
withal, who Time gallops withal, and who
he stands still withal.
Time 127
Orl: I prithee, who doth he trot withal?
Ros: Marry, he trots hard with a young
maid between the contract of her marriage
and the day it is solemniz'd; if the interim
be but a se'nnight Time's pace is so hard
that it seems the length of seven year.
Orl: Who ambles Time withal?
Ros: With a priest that lacks Latin and a
rich man that hath not the gout; for the
one sleeps easily because he cannot study,
and the other lives merrily because he
feels no pain; the one lacking the burden
of lean and wasteful learning, the other
knowing no burden of heavy tedious
penury. These Time ambles withal.
Orl: Who doth he gallop withal?
Ros: With a thief to the gallows; for though
he go as softly as foot can fall, he thinks
himself too soon there.
Orl: Who stays it still withal?
Ros: With lawyers in the vacation; for they
sleep between term and term, and they
perceive not how Time moves.
[III. ii. 306-33]
Here time is a pace or journey. At first glance this dialogue appears fairly simple: a witty expression of the
commonplaces contained in such phrases as 'how time drags!' and 'time flies'. But in fact this passage is
extravagantly difficult. Surely the conventional way of describing the young maid's suspense would be in
terms of the slowness of time. Time 'crawls', we would imagine, for the waiting girl. But for Shakespeare it
'trots'. Why? Perhaps Shakespeare means that, for her, every moment is crowded with emotions, fancies, and
anticipations. Clock time inches past; her own personal time is in a furious hurry. A week contains seven
years' subjective events. The actual sense of motion is important here. When a horse trots, it throws one about
a good deal more than when it gallops. One is not actually progressing as fast as at a gallop, but a half-hour's
trot can leave as many unpleasant after-effects as a whole morning's gallop. Shakespeare is talking here as
much about the rhythm of time as about anything else.
With the priest and the rich man the emphasis is different. Time 'ambles' for them because there is little in
their lives of excitement, anticipation, or pain: but chiefly because an amble connotes indirection and a sense
of 'let time take me where it will'. An ambling horse will stray off the path to munch at choice greenery; the
rider does not care where he is going, or at any rate how soon he gets there.
The thief's progress again implies a different temporal epistemology; this time it is quite easily understood.
Time 'flies' for the condemned man in its conventional way.
Time 128
The lawyers present interesting problems. If they 'sleep between term and term', surely for them clock time
flits by instantaneously: but according to Shakespeare it 'stands still'. What Shakespeare means, perhaps, is
that subjective time is composed of changes and becomingness: if there is no change of becoming, time stands
still. The lawyers 'perceive not how Time moves'.
It is clear that the operative words one would use to describe time in this passage would be 'past', 'present', and
'future'. Time here is movement, pace, change; man's life as the journey, not the road. Equally important here
is the subjectivity of the temporal viewpoint. Rosalind sees her young maid, priest, rich man, thief, and
lawyers not from the point of view of an impartial objective observer, but from their own point of view. Each
has his own individual way of existing, his own perception of time. Rosalind is concerned not with what they
appear to be externally, but what they feel themselves to be inside. Time is not something laid out inevitably
before one, but is the motion of the present moment on which one rides into the unknown and non-existent
world of the future, making it first exist and then part of the past. Man's life from this viewpoint can be full of
meanings and direction: the young maid and the thief on his way to the gallows both see all their lives in
relation to one hoped for or feared event, some central fact that gives everything significance.
Rosalind, as we have seen earlier, is not 'above it all'; although her philosophy is more profound, perhaps, than
Jaques', she is not 'philosophical'; she herself is in a plight not much different from that of her 'young maid'.
Elsewhere in the play the lovers' view of time is enlarged and elucidated for us. One of the most important
aspects of it is the true lover's insistence on punctuality:
Orl: My fair Rosalind, I come within an
hour of my promise.
Ros: Break an hour's promise in love! He
that will divide a minute into a thousand
parts, and break but a part of the thousand
part of a minute in the affairs of love,
it may be said of him that Cupid hath
clapp'd him o' th' shoulder, but I'll
warrant him heart-whole.
[IV. i. 42-9]
The true lover is concerned not with measurable and divisible time, but with moments. The punctuality
Rosalind insists on can be explained in terms of the etymology of the world. The Latin punctus means 'point';
for 'punctual' Webster gives '1. of or like point'. The lovers' time is a series of points; a temporal
approximation is not good enough. The present moment is not an infinitesimal portion of the minute in which
we are …; it is like a point, it has no temporal thickness, (pp. 28-41)
The present is what is of importance to the Shakespearean lover:
This carol they began that hour,
With a hey, and a ho, and a hey nonino,
How that a life was but a flower,
In the spring time, etc.
And therefore take the present time,
With a hey, and a ho, and a hey nonino,
For love is crowned with the prime,
In the spring time, etc.
Time 129
[V. iii. 26-33]
This is living time, the only time we exist, the present moment.
The enemy and test of lovers' time is 'historical' time. 'Well,' says Rosalind, 'Time is the old justice that
examines all such offenders, and let Time try [IV. i. 199-200]. Teasingly she assumes the attitudes of Jaques
or Touchstone in order to wring denials out of Orlando: 'Say "a day" without the "ever". No, no, Orlando; men
are April when they woo, December when they are wed: maids are May when they are maids, but the sky
changes when they are wives' [IV. i. 146-49]. This echoes Jaques' view in its generalization and assumed
'philosophical' detachment; and Touchstone's in its subordination of love to the natural cycle. True love must
ultimately deny both 'historical' and 'natural' time; though it must also find some reconciliation or modus
vivendi with them. (The tragedy of Romeo and Juliet is that the reconciliation is not made with 'historical'
time, the time of the Montagues and Capulets; and it is snuffed out or smothered by it. The tragedy of Troilus
and Cressida and Othello, on the other hand, is that there is a compromise with 'historical' and 'natural' time,
and not a true reconciliation.
In As You Like It such a reconciliation can and does take place. In the 'lover and his lass' song, love is
reconciled with the natural cycle:
It was a lover and his lass,
With a hey, and a ho, and a hey nonino,
That o'er the green corn-field did pass
In the spring time, the only pretty ring time
When birds do sing, hey ding a ding, ding.
Sweet lovers love the spring.
[V. iii. 16-21]
The great seasons allow a time for love: nature is not essentially opposed to the spiritual movements of man.
This reconciliation is brought about thematically by the use of the idea of musical 'time': the rhythm and
temporal order of a song can form a bridge between the great natural rhythms and the smaller human ones.
The pages who sing the song indicate its significance: 'We kept time, we lost not our time' [V. iii. 37-8]
Touchstone, who has consistently reduced human significances to subhuman natural drives, cannot accept the
musical reconciliation: 'I count it but time lost to hear such a foolish song' [V. iii. 39-40]; applying the
judgments of expediency to it. 'What use is it? It is only a waste of time.' The verdict of Jaques on Touchstone
is that 'Time, the old justice that examines all such offenders', will find him wanting: ' … thy loving voyage Is
but for two months victuall'd' [V. iv. 191 -92]. It is significant that when Hymen characterizes the nature of
Touchstone's alliance with Audrey, she uses a seasonal image: 'as the winter to foul weather' [V. iv. 136]. But
Touchstone has served his purpose. He too is a test, an assay. His function, as his name implies, is to point out
true love where it exists, to distinguish gold from base metal.
Touchstone rejects the song; Jaques rejects the dance. At the end of the play, we are shown another rhythmic
… you brides and bridegrooms all.
With measure heap'd in joy, to th' measures fall.
[V. iv. 178-79]
Dancing is one of the ways we ritually reconcile the individual with society. The measures of the dance bring
together moderation and joy; social, or 'historical' time is reconciled with individual or 'personal' time. Jaques
cannot accept this. Though he recognizes Orlando's 'true faith,' he states that he is 'for other than for dancing
measures'; 'to see no pastime I' he insists—a sentiment almost identical to Touchstone's when he reacts to the
Time 130
'spring time' song [V. iv. 188-96].
Obviously the most important thing about the last scene of As You Like It is its marriages. Helen Gardner, in a
penetrating discussion of the difference between comedy and tragedy, declares: 'The great symbol of pure
comedy is marriage by which the world is renewed, and its endings are always instinct with a sense of fresh
beginnings. Its rhythm is the rhythm of the life of mankind, which goes on and renews itself as the life of
nature does.' Marriage is the reconciliation of the subjective faith, love, and hope of the individual, the
objectivity and commonsense of society, and the mighty forces of fertile nature:
You to a love that your true faith doth merit;
You to your land, and love, and great allies;
You to a long and well-deserved bed …
[V. iv. 188-90]
Marriage can contain love, a legal contract, and sex in an extraordinary harmony. 'Personal', 'historical', and
'natural' time are reconciled in its sacrament, its 'blessed bond':
Then is there mirth in heaven,
When earthly things made even
Atone together.
[V. iv. 108-10]
What Jaques and Touchstone have to say is indeed valid, within limits. If their basilisk eye of satire and
cynicism were not open in all of us, we should be very impractical creatures. More important, if their
viewpoints were not represented in the play we should soon lose sympathy with the highfalutin' dialectics of
romantic love. Jaques and Touchstone inoculate us: and they prepare us for the grand reconciliation that is to
be performed by the other great comic character in the play, Rosalind herself, (pp. 42-4)
Frederick Turner, "As You Like It: 'Subjective', 'Objective', and 'Natural' Time," in his Shakespeare and the
Nature of Time: Moral and Philosophical Themes in Some Plays and Poems of William Shakespeare, Oxford
at the Clarendon Press, 1971, pp. 28-44.
Thomas Kelly
[Kelly provides an extensive analysis of Orlando's character, asserting that he is distinct from Shakespeare's
other romantic heroes who, as a rule, tend to be portrayed as inept and slightly ridiculous. The critic regards
Orlando as generally self-possessed and capable of controlling events in As You Like It; according to Kelly,
he also demonstrates a wisdom that sets him apart as a "romantic hero of a new stamp." For further
commentary on Orlando's character, see the excerpts by Alfred Harbage, Brigid Brophy, Kenneth Muir, John
A. Hart, and Nancy K Hayles.]
As a rule … we are inclined to regard Shakespeare's romantic heroes as peculiarly inept and slightly ridiculous
figures. The generalization seems warranted and may, in addition, offer a valuable insight into the deepest
nature of Shakespearean comedy. Like all powerful generalizations, however, its very strength constitutes a
danger. If our recognition of a pattern in many plays disposes us to discover less obvious but similar patterns
in a few others, we can record a critical gain. But what if the general pattern prejudices our reading of
apparently similar plays? What if it thereby threatens to subvert the special meaning a given work should
Orlando 131
I belabor what may be an obvious point because the abuse toward which it looks may well be responsible for
the relative neglect of at least two of Shakespeare's romantic heroes. Both Florizel in The Winter's Tale and
Orlando in As You Like It seem to me to deserve more credit than it is customary to give them. Florizel's is the
simpler and the less crucial case. Like The Tempest (and unlike Two Gentlemen of Verona), The Winter's Tale
is concerned with restoring, rather than rejuvenating, the old order. Thus, although Florizel may be more
perceptive and more effective in shaping events than Perdita is, they are both clearly subordinate to Leontes
and Hermione. Redressing an imbalance in favor of Florizel is therefore a marginal undertaking. The center of
the play lies elsewhere.
This is patently not the case in As You Like It. Since the play is closer to the design of the earlier comedies, its
primary interest is naturally the romance between Orlando and Rosalind. The values of the older generation
are important, but they are subsumed under the various attributes of the two lovers. Consequently, to overlook
Orlando or to see in him another Valentine [in The Two Gentlemen of Verona], Bassanio [in The Merchant of
Venice), or Claudio [in Much Ado about Nothing] is, in a sense, to appreciate only half the play. To
characterize him as the least conscious of Shakespeare's unconscious heroes … is certainly to misread the play.
But even to patronize him, as is more often the case, is to obscure the fact that As You Like It, with its more
"serious" and competent hero, is a nexus between the early and the late comedies—and perhaps between the
early comedies and the tragedies as well. Orlando, in short, is a breed apart. Helen Gardner's observation that
"Orlando has to prove that he truly is, as he seems at first sight, the right husband for Rosalind and show
himself gentle, courteous, generous and brave, and a match for her in wit" is exceptionally perceptive [in her
"As You Like It." Reprinted in Discussions of Shakespeare's Romantic Comedy, ed. Herbert Weil (1966)].
Another way of putting it is that in Orlando, the romantic hero overcomes his earlier failings: he is, for the
first time, a match for the heroine not only in wit but also in awareness and control.
Not everyone, of course, will agree. A fair measure of the general tendency to scant Orlando, for example, is
the cursory analysis customarily accorded the events of the first act. The critical consensus seems to be that
Shakespeare was in great haste to get his characters into the Forest of Arden. This, some would say, accounts
for the confusion of the heights of Rosalind and Celia, of the ages of the two Dukes, and of the time since
Frederick usurped the throne. Nothing could be further from the truth. The discrepancies can be discovered,
but noticing them hardly strikes at the heart of Shakespeare's method in As You Like It. What should be
noticed instead is the typical economy with which one scene in the first act is used to prefigure the rest of the
play. The wrestling match may, as Bernard Shaw implied, have pleased the groundlings, but it requires only a
little attention to detail to see how much more it does simultaneously.
In the broadest thematic terms, it is a graphic metaphor for the discord announced by the first lines of the play.
"The spirit of my father, which I think is within me, begins to mutiny against this servitude," Orlando tells
Adam [I. i. 22-4], and when Oliver enters Orlando is shortly at his throat. Discord at a higher level, in the state
itself, is next disclosed by Charles, the professional wrestler. His reply to Oliver's request for news tells us of
the overthrow of the old Duke and of his banishment. For the unruly, not to say chaotic, condition of public
and private life in the world of the play, the wrestling match becomes a fitting visual symbol. Viewed from a
distance, the movement of the play thus turns from the hurly-burly of the wrestling to the forester's informal
march with the carcass of the slain deer, to the ritual harmony of the "dancing measures" with which the play
Yet this only begins to disentangle the meanings worked into the "breaking of ribs" interlude. Because the
match between Orlando and Charles occurs late in the act, they are each able to represent various aspects of
the play's several themes when they finally meet. For example, by accepting Oliver's false report of Orlando's
treachery, Charles becomes an agent, if not a surrogate, for Oliver. "This wrestler," Oliver says, "shall clear
all," [I. i. 171-72].
Orlando 132
Still more important is the alignment between Charles and the Court itself. Adam, at one point, speaks of
Charles as "the bonny prizer of the humorous Duke" [II. iii. 8], and Charles himself admits to being as
ambition-ridden and jealous of his position as any of the courtiers. Like them, he regards his footing atop
Fortune's wheel as a precarious station, one which cannot be shared:
To-morrow, sir, [he tells Oliver] I wrestle for my credit, and he that escapes me without some
broken limb shall acquit him well. Your brother is but young and tender, and for your love I
would be loath to foil him, as I must for my own honour if he come in.
[I. i. 126-31]
Charles, it is true, speaks handsomely about the merry young gentlemen who have joined the exiled Duke in
the golden world of the Forest, but his secondhand judgment of Arden is as impersonal as Oliver's unexpected
praise of Orlando's gentleness, learning, and "noble device."
Charles, Duke, Frederick, Celia, Rosalind, Touchstone, Orlando, and others. Act I, scene ii. By Daniel
As Charles' opponent. Orlando rightly embodies the values of nature and of a less competitive but more
peaceful past. Both literally and figuratively, he stands for the Forest of Arden itself. Translated from the
French, his surname (de Bois in its original spelling) identifies Orlando as certainly as any morality figure
with the pastoral ideal. Moreover, the frequent reminders that he is the youngest son of Sir Rowland (Orlando
is in fact an anagram for Rowland) make clear that the virtues of the antique world still live in Orlando.
Adam's greeting after Orlando has bested Charles is especially pointed:
O my sweet master! O you memory
Of old Sir Rowland! Why, what make you here?
Why are you virtuous? Why do people love you?
And wherefore are you gentle, strong, and valiant?
O. what a world is this, when what is comely
Envenoms him that bears it!
[II. iii. 3-15]
Orlando 133
A second but no less effective indication of Orlando's position is Adam's explicit assertion, however illogical
and bumbling, that Oliver is not Sir Rowland's son:
Within this roof
The enemy of all your graces lives.
Your brother (no. no brother! yet the son—
Yet not the son—I will not call him son
Of him I was about to call his father.)
[II. iii. 17-21]
The awkwardness of the lines may even be informative. May it not typify the disjointed times over which
Oliver and Duke Frederick preside?
The more purely natural aspect of Orlando's character is established by his account of his training at his
brother's charge. "He keeps me rustically at home" [I. i. 7], Orlando tells Adam. And to Oliver himself he
complains, "You have trained me like a peasant obscuring and hiding from me all gentlemanlike qualities" [I.
i. 68-70]. That Orlando goes on to demand "such exercises as may become a gentleman" [I. i. 74] need
discomfort no one. Touchstone, it is true, makes memorable sport of such gentlemanly exercises as poison,
bastinado, faction, and policy, just as Oliver shows them in practice. But the irony of Orlando's demanding
membership in such a class, like the irony of his competing with Charles, has been carefully measured.
Because of it, Orlando is saved from becoming either a stereotyped prig or a sentimental cartoon.
Still, for those who prefer to take their heroes straight, the play permits the feeling that Orlando is neither
corrupted nor corruptible. There is nothing to suggest and much to deny that, as a member of the Court,
Orlando would also succumb to its code of expediency and lust for power and privilege. Hence, when the
wrestlers meet, we are prepared to take one, Charles, as the hireling of the Court and Fortune, and the other,
Orlando, as the champion of Nature and the pastoral ideal.
The Wrestling Scene is instructive, furthermore, in confirming that comic time governs As You Like It. The
news that the old Duke and the many young gentlemen who surround him "fleet the time carelessly" [I. i. 118]
merely posits an alternative to the brawling present. Somewhat more hopeful is the early speech by Celia, the
immediate purpose of which is to declare the deep regard in which she holds Rosalind:
You know my father hath no child taut I, nor none is like to have; and truly, when he dies,
thou shalt be his heir; for what he hath taken away from thy father perforce, I will render thee
again in affection.
[I. ii. 17-21]
The secondary effect of such a promise, it seems to me, is to commit time to a redemptive role, rather than a
destructive one. It remains, however, for Orlando to dramatize, in the wrestling match, the full vigor of comic
time, to demonstrate that our normal causative expectations can be upset. Life, in Susanne Langer's terms,
triumphs over Fate when Orlando throws Charles, the man who, by all odds, ought to have won. Other
"accidents" abound in the play and finally crown it, but most of them are only actions which had no reason to
happen. Orlando's success is in another class altogether—it has a reason not to happen. For once, not even
Rosalind is able to see beyond appearance. "Pray heaven I be deceived in you," she says to Orlando [I. ii.
197-98], And, of course, she is—a fact commonly disregarded by critics who want Orlando always to play the
dupe to Rosalind's Ganymede.
Rosalind's other remarks at the wrestling also deserve attention. As surely as Charles is leagued with Oliver,
Rosalind leagues herself with Orlando. "The little strength I have, I would it were with you" [I. ii. 194-95],
she says. But Oliver and Rosalind are clearly passive participants. For the moment, the stage is the wrestlers'
Orlando 134
and, after Charles is borne away speechless, Orlando's alone. Later, in a thinly disguised rehearsal for the
wedding to come, Rosalind claims her share of the victory by placing a lightly ironic chain around Orlando's
neck. "Wear this for me, one out of suits with Fortune" [I. ii. 246], are her words as she links Nature with
Nature's own. How Shakespeare could have done more in one act to give Orlando a place equal in every
respect to Rosalind's I find hard to imagine.
A single scene, however, especially a symbolic one, does not constitute a play. The sense that Orlando
determines the final shape of the comedy may be conveyed in the Wrestling Scene, but his ability to recognize
more of reality than its conventional surface must be proved in Arden. This is not to say that he must possess
either perfect vision or complete knowledge. Probably no one does: each of the likely contenders for such
perfection in As You Like It fails one or more times to comprehend fully the experience in which he is
involved. Thus, though the old Duke can find "tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in
stones, and good in everything" [II. i. 16-17], he does not recognize his daughter; Rosalind, as we have
already seen, is deceived in Orlando's power; and Touchstone, the play's great realist, mistakes among other
things the author of the verses which Rosalind enters reading. (He is also blind to parody of any but the most
gross kind—that is, his own.)
A more reasonable criterion of Orlando's perception therefore is whether he sees as much or as deeply as the
best of the others. His understanding, to be estimable, must rival Rosalind's, not ours. Consequently, it is
worth noting several passages which show that his perceptions and hers are admirably alike. Consider, for
example, their initial responses to the "green world" of the Forest of Arden. Despite Duke Frederick's
imperious threats, the departure of Celia and Rosalind for Arden retains the character of a prank. One is
reminded most perhaps of The Merchant of Venice. The distinction between a daughter's manners and her
father's, the gathering of jewels, and the masquerade all echo the elopement of Lorenzo and Jessica. But
Arden, like Prospero's island [in The Tempest], is a more subjective paradise than Belmont, a lesson that both
Rosalind and Orlando quickly learn from appropriate "counselors."
The notable lack of enthusiasm in Rosalind's lines when she, Celia, and Touchstone arrive at Arden has often
been remarked:
0 Jupiter, how weary are my spirits!
I could find it in my heart to disgrace my
man's apparel and to cry like a woman.
Well, this is the Forest of Arden.
[II. iv. 1-15]
To quicken her spirits she has to observe and to talk to Corin, the old shepherd who has so thoroughly
assimilated Nature's lessons that he cannot utter an unsound word or do an ungenerous deed. His advice to
Silvius is compassionate, humble, and wise. Within Rosalind's hearing Corin admits to having been drawn by
his fancy into a thousand actions "most ridiculous." (One thinks, without disapproving, of Orlando's dashing
from tree to tree, carving Rosalind's name.) Moreover, when Rosalind asks help for the fainting Celia, Corin's
instinctive response pointedly affirms the true and permanent value of the pastoral ideal:
Corin. Fair sir, I pity her
And wish, for her sake more than for mine own,
My fortunes were more able to relieve her;
But I am shepherd to another man
And do not shear the fleeces that I graze.
My master is of churlish disposition
And little recks to find the way to heaven
Orlando 135
By doing deeds of hospitality.
By reason of his absence, there is nothing
That you will feed on; but what is, come see,
And in my voice most welcome shall you be.
[II. iv. 75-87]
Were Touchstone allowed to intrude, he would doubtless observe that one can make but a poor meal of words.
It is Celia, however, surely speaking for Rosalind as well as herself, who responds "I like this place and
willingly could waste my time in it" [II. iv. 86-7].
Orlando's initiation to the forest is strikingly similar. When Adam, like Celia, "can go no further" and calls a
temporary halt, Orlando sees around him an "uncouth forest," a "desert." The air, he says, is "bleak." He
discovers the genius of the place, however, when, searching for food for Adam, he comes upon the banquet
spread for the old Duke and finds his rude demands answered by gracious, natural hospitality:
Duke Senior. What would you have? Your gentleness shall force
More than your force move us to gentleness.
Sit down and feed, and welcome to our table.
[II. vii. 102-05]
But Orlando, much like Rosalind, had been playing a part to protect himself:
Speak you so gently? Pardon me, I pray you.
I thought that all things had been savage here.
And therefore put I on the countenance
Of stern commandment.
[II. vii. 106-09]
Moreover, in his response to the Duke's assurance of "what help we can," Orlando quietly discloses a revised
view of Arden:
Then but forebear your food a little while,
Whiles, like a doe, I go to find my fawn
And give it food.
[II. vii. 127-29]
The ease and clarity with which Rosalind and Celia on the one hand and Orlando on the other perceive the
moral climate of Arden is in pointed contrast to the hypercritical vision of Jaques and to the sharp, but
essentially superficial, vision of Touchstone. Although Jaques' moralizing on the deer "that from the hunter's
aim had ta'ken a hurt" shows "a mind full of matter," it is a mind unable to conceive solutions for the discords
it sees everywhere. He can pierce through "the body of the country, city, court; Yea, and of this our life" [II. i.
34, 59-60], but he cannot ascend to the irrational world of love and grace.
As a cynic, Jaques is one of two real aliens in Arden's green world. The other, of course, is Touchstone.
Jaques dissolves the distinctions between Court and country by regarding them through the prism of his
pessimism; Touchstone dissolves them through his unrefracted realism. When he arrives at Arden, not his
spirits but his legs are tired. Given the opportunity to make sport of Orlando's parody of romantic verse,
Touchstone is careful to exempt time for "dinners, and suppers and sleeping hours" [III. ii. 97]. His offer of
marriage to Audrey, the goatgirl, is the fitting expression of a frank, physical need. How close, yet how far,
Orlando 136
Touchstone stations himself from Corin's natural perspective can be seen by the fine line that separates the
focus of two of their juxtaposed speeches:
Corin. Sir, I am a true labourer; I earn that I eat, get that I wear; owe no man hate, envy no
man's happiness; glad of other men's good, content with my harm; and the greatest of my
pride is to see my ewes graze and my lambs suck.
Touchstone. That is another simple sin in you: to bring the ewes and the rams together and to
offer to get your living by the copulation of cattle; to be bawd to a bellwether, and to betray a
she-lamb of a twelve-month [Audrey] to a crooked-pated old cuckoldy ram [himself] out of
all reasonable match.
[III. ii. 73-83, italics added]
The relative awareness of Orlando, Rosalind, Touchstone, and Jaques can also be plotted by analyzing their
respective perceptions of another of Arden's defining parameters—time. Touchstone's attitude toward time has
been accurately understood when we see him as Fortune's timepiece. He does not, however, hold that office
alone. Because his famous "And so from hour to hour we ripe and ripe and then from hour to hour we rot and
rot" [II. vii. 26-7], is related with approval by Jaques, and because he (Jaques) has his own set speech on time,
the moribund Seven Ages, the honor should be shared between them. Touchstone's time, moreover, strongly
resembles the Court's time. Like Touchstone, Duke Frederick rules, in a sense, by the clock. When he exiles
Rosalind, for example, he leans heavily on temporal terms for force:
Duke Frederick. Mistress, dispatch you
with your safest haste
And get you from our court!
Rosalind. Me, uncle?
Duke Frederick. You, cousin.
Within these ten days if that thou beest found
So near our public court as twenty miles,
Thou diest for it.
[I. iii. 41-4]
Moreover, lest the point be missed, the threat is repeated fifty lines later. "If you outstay the time," Frederick
tells his niece, "you die" [I. iii. 88-9].Again, after learning that Celia has fled with Rosalind, he commands
that Orlando or Oliver be brought before him "suddenly." And when Oliver appears, he is told to produce his
Within this twelvemonth, or turn thou no more
To seek a living in our territory.
[III. i. 7-8]
Time therefore is inflexible and threatening for the Court, as for the realist and the cynic. Like Fortune's
wheel, its movement is inexorable and destructive. It is a primary source of limitation. In another context, it
would be tragic: it leads forth death.
The natural time of Arden, on the other hand, is comic: it leads forth life. As Jaques concludes his "strange
eventful history" of man in
Orlando 137
Second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything
[II. vii. 165-66]
Orlando enters with the fawn-like Adam. It is Orlando, moreover, who comments most often and most
explicitly on this special quality of Arden's time scheme. His comments come, furthermore, in those two
encounters with the disguised Rosalind which have always been regarded as the great comic heart of the play.
The first is unusual inasmuch as Orlando is allowed to exploit one of Rosalind's few failures of poise. Having
learned from Celia that the verse hung "upon hawthornes" is Orlando's work, Rosalind is distracted with
nervous anticipation:
Alas the day! what shall I do with my doublet and hose? What did he when thou saw'st him?
What said he? How looked he? Wherein went he? What makes he here? Did he ask for me?
Where remains he? How parted he with thee? and when shalt thou see him again? Answer me
in one word.
[III. ii. 219-24]
Orlando's entrance a moment later unquestionably increases her girlish excitement. His parody of courtly
manners as he takes his leave of Jaques ("I do desire we may be better strangers" [III. ii. 258]) and his defense
of Rosalind ("There was no thought of pleasing you when she was christened" [III. ii. 266-67]) prompt even
the cynic to grant Orlando's "nimble wit." And when Jaques invites him to join in railing against the world,
Orlando answers, "I will chide no breather in the world but myself, against whom I know most faults" [III. ii.
280-81]. It is an answer steeped in the humility of self-knowledge. If it is also obtruded somewhat
heavyhandedly into a satiric scene, it is nonetheless irrefutable evidence that Orlando is, indeed, an
exceptional romantic hero.
From Rosalind's point of view, however, the next exchange may be more precious still:
Jaques. The worst fault you have is to be in love.
Orlando. "Tis a fault I will not change for your best virtue.
[III. ii. 282-84]
Love wedded to wit and humility! Is it any wonder, then, that as Rosalind steps forward to "speak to him like
a saucy lackey," she blunders and asks lamely, "I pray you, what is it o'clock?" [III. ii. 295-96, 299] Orlando's
reply, fortunately, gives unexpected point to the question. "You should ask me, what time o' day," he says.
"There is no clock in the forest" [III. ii. 300-01]. Rosalind's rejoinder that time is relative, traveling in "divers
paces with divers persons" [III. ii. 308-09], is a brilliant recovery but does not erase Orlando's equally shrewd
Because so much more than a statement of Arden's comic time is accomplished in the second encounter
between Orlando and "Ganymede," it would perhaps be wise to approach the scene more broadly, noting
Orlando's superiority within the context of his and Rosalind's total achievement. That achievement, one might
begin by noticing, is partly the product of the action which surrounds it. The first encounter takes place at the
end of the longest scene in the play and gains, as I have intimated, from what precedes it. Following it is a
scene between Audrey and Touchstone. The scene between Silvius and Phoebe, which follows next, precedes
in turn the second and principal encounter between Rosalind and Orlando. The principle of juxtaposition is
important, of course, throughout As You Like It. Once the action has moved to the Forest of Arden, however,
the ideas which are juxtaposed are not always the narrow dichotomies of Court versus country, Fortune versus
Nature. The hierarchy represented by the three pairs of lovers, for example, can hardly continue the contrast
between Court and country since only one of the number, Touchstone, can be taken in any sense as a courtier.
Orlando 138
Yet there is a thematic element common to them all. One ambitious suggestion is that the second and deeper
theme is "the relation of love and wisdom" [Harold C. Goddard, The Meaning of Shakespeare] . A less
abstract, and perhaps more defensible, way of putting it might be that the second theme is the definition of
wisdom as comic flexibility. Rigidity, like limitation and Fate, denies life. In Arden, where perception is the
index of character, the ability to recognize multiple levels of experience is salutary. It is superseded, in fact,
only by the ability to move at will between various levels, to realize in practice several modes of experience
without being locked in the iron embrace of any one. This, I submit, is the profound truth which determines
our preference for Rosalind and Orlando. The flesh-bound life of a Touchstone and Audrey, we see, is as
much a dead end as the fossilized conventional ideal of a Silvius and Phoebe. By achieving a fluid synthesis
between these frozen poles, Orlando and Rosalind infuse life with a comic warmth in which we can bask with
That Rosalind possesses the requisite imagination for such a synthesis is, as I understand it, the thematic
import of Ganymede's proposing to cure Orlando's love if he would but come every day to the sheep cote and
woo a make-believe lover. The dazzling circumstance of a child actor playing Shakespeare's Rosalind playing
Rosalind's Ganymede playing Ganymede's Rosalind is, by general agreement, the finest moment in the play.
Since we must simultaneously cope with a choice of speaker—Rosalind, Ganymede, or "Rosalind"—and with
the possibility that two or more of these speakers may share some speeches, the multiple layers of character
create seemingly inexhaustible layers of irony. Between Shakespeare's Rosalind and Ganymede's Rosalind we
sense a variable field of force which often holds the figures apart but which sometimes collapses to let them
overlap and occasionally merge.
Unfortunately, the delight we take in Rosalind's marvelous virtuosity seems to have obscured the fact that
Orlando is her imaginative equal. Rosalind, we have already seen, is not the only one to enter Arden
disguised: Orlando's countenance of stern commandment at the forester's feast was also "put on." Armed with
the memory of that charade, we may suspect that the Silvius side of Orlando:
I would not have my right Rosalind of this
mind, for I protest her frown might kill me
[IV. i. 109-10]
is no more "real" and no more limiting than the Touchstone side of Rosalind:
Maids are May when they are maids, but the sky changes when they are wives. I will be more
jealous of thee than a Barbary cock-pigeon over his hen [sic], more clamorous than a parrot
against rain, more newfangled than an ape, more giddy in my desires than a monkey.
[IV. i. 148-53]
The body of external evidence which supports the feeling that while Ganymede is playing "Rosalind" Orlando
is playing "Orlando," is not inconsiderable. Perhaps the clearest sign of the distance which separates the two
Orlando's is his pointed failure to dress as becomes his assumed part. The marks of the conventional prisoner
of love are "a lean cheek … a beard neglected … sleeve unbuttoned … shoe untied, and everything …
demonstrating a careless desolation." But, says Rosalind to Orlando, "You are no such man: you are rather
point-device in your accoutrements, as loving yourself, than seeming the lover of any other" [III. ii. 373-84].
Additional indications that Orlando has adopted a role for the nonce frame the Wooing Scene. Orlando's
greeting to Rosalind ("Good day and happiness, dear Rosalind" [IV. i. 30]) is jeered at by Jaques as "blank
verse"—as language, in other words, appropriate to artificial discourse, if not explicitly to the stage. Moreover,
Orlando proves as shamelessly tardy a lover as earlier he had proved point-device. "I come within an hour of
my promise," he says [IV. i. 42-3], provoking from Rosalind both some courtly railings about lovers being
prompt to the thousandth part of a minute and a Touchstonesque quip about horned snails and cuckoldry.
Orlando 139
The importance of the exchange is confirmed, I think, when Rosalind returns to the question in her last full
speech in the scene:
Rosalind. … if you break one jot of your promise or come one minute behind your hour, I will
think you the most pathetical break-promise, and the most hollow lover … therefore beware
my censure and keep your promise.
[IV. i. 190-96]
Orlando's rejoinder, "With no less religion than if thouwert indeed my Rosalind" [IV. i. 197-98], is as steeped
in irony as any line spoken by Rosalind. On the level of the private play in which Orlando and Rosalind have
been engaged, the vow is securely within the courtly convention. (We may remember Silvius protesting, "So
holy and so perfect is my love, and I in such a poverty of grace" [III. v. 99-100].) The ironic coloring—the
strength of the vow depends on a fact which Orlando does not know to be true—complicates, but does not
subvert, the convention. If, on the other hand, the speaker is the Orlando who overthrew Charles and who fed
Adam, the vow is a useful means of demonstrating where Orlando's values lie. Since, in effect, Orlando fails
to keep his hour when he elects to save Oliver from the "sucked and hungry lioness" [IV. iii. 126], we must
either applaud his breach of romantic faith or, much better, see that conventional romanticism as a momentary
A final sign that Orlando has consciously adopted a momentary role deserves special attention. The decision
to bring down the curtain on the masquerade within Arden is, not without reason, given to Orlando. His "I can
live no longer by thinking" [V. ii. 50] is the cue for Ganymede's metamorphosis, but it is also a reminder of
Orlando's initiative. Moreover, it shows that Orlando knows what Shakespeare never forgets, namely, that
Arden, like the theater itself, is only a means to an end. It is misleading, therefore, to think of As You Like It as
a test of Orlando. From the moment he triumphs over Charles, Orlando establishes himself as a romantic hero
of a new stamp. The succeeding scenes may fill in the outline and deepen the colors, but there should never be
the least doubt of Orlando's unique stature. Unlike his peers among Shakespeare's romantic heroes, Orlando is
self-possessed and possessed of exceptional self-knowledge. (pp. 13-24)
Thomas Kelly, "Shakespeare's Romantic Heroes: Orlando Reconsidered," in Shakespeare Quarterly, Vol.
XXIV, No. 1, Winter, 1973, pp. 12-24.
Lorentz Eckhoff
[In the following excerpt, Eckhoff examines Rosalind's character, particularly the "sparkling gaiety and wit"
she maintains even in the face of adversity. It is the heroine's "proud and benevolent nature, "according to the
critic, that makes her not only a stable person, but a source of encouragement for other characters in the
play. For further commentary on Rosalind's character, see the excerpts by Alfred Harbage, Brigid Brophy,
Kenneth Muir, John A. Hart, Nancy K. Hayles, Thomas F. Van Laan, Thomas Kelly, and Clara Claiborne
Let us consider Rosalind in As You Like It. It goes without saying that she is closely related to many others of
Shakespeare's favourite daughters, such as Viola [in Twelfth Night], Imogen [in Cymbeline] and Marina [in
Pericles]. She has their wisdom, their firmness of character, and at the same time their pliancy, their
indomitable courage in the face of adversity. On the other side of the family tree she is related to Portia from
The Merchant of Venice, and has in common with her a precious gift, which is invaluable if one is to play the
part of heroine in a comedy: sparkling gaiety and wit.
Rosalind 140
When the duke banishes her, she has to all appearances no complaint to make, no bitterness to vent. Her
conduct is as impeccable and sensible as that of the lamb in the fable faced with the provocations of the wolf.
She only asks what wrong she has done, and thereby brings into full relief the duke's cowardice and brutality.
I do beseech your Grace,
Let me the knowledge of my fault bear with me.
[I. iii. 45-6]
She is told that she is her father's daughter, and replies:
So was I when your highness took his dukedom;
So was I when your highness banish'd him.
Treason is not inherited, my lord;
Or, if we did derive it from our friends,
What's that to me? My father was no traitor:
Then, good my liege, mistake me not so much
To think my poverty is treacherous.
[I. iii. 59-65]
Life is not easy for her at court, her father has been exiled, and she senses no doubt that the fate which
overtook her father is hanging over her own head. When Celia, rather exacting, bids her be merry, Rosalind
can with justice reply:
Dear Celia, I show more mirth than I am mistress of, and would you yet I were merrier?
Unless you could teach me to forget a banished father, you must not learn me how to
remember any extraordinary pleasure.
[I. ii. 3-7]
But since Celia bids her, she is at once ready with a merry thought: what think you of falling in love?—little
knowing that before the hour is past her jest will be reality. Later they reach the forest, Celia and Touchstone
are fainting with weariness, and Rosalind herself is on the point of disgracing her man's apparel and weeping
like a woman. But she must comfort the weaker vessels, "as doublet and hose ought to show itself courageous
to petticoat: therefore, courage, good Aliena!" [II. iv. 6-8].
She meets the peasant Corin, buys his farmstead, and thus procures a solid foundation for her bodily comforts;
and soon after she gets as sure a foundation for her merriment, namely the poems which Orlando has hung up
in the trees, and which in bad verse declare his love for Rosalind. At first she is terrified, what can she do now
in her doublet and hose? But he comes in person, and fails to recognise her, and Rosalind is bursting with
suppressed gaiety; what a wonderful chance she has to act! And at the same time to hear him in person, every
hour of the day, re-assure her of his great love for Rosalind! And without having to blush at his declarations!
And she finds a delightful pretext for keeping the game up. Love, she declares,—or rather he, Ganymede,
declares, is sheer madness, and should be cured, and if only the patient will submit to his treatment, he
Ganymede will cure him. He has been successful in his treatment before, and knows the remedy. The only
thing required is for Orlando to pretend that Ganymede is his beloved, his beloved mistress, and woo him each
day; and Ganymede guarantees "he" will be able to "wash his liver as clean as a sound sheep's heart, that there
be not one spot of love in't" [III. ii. 422-23]. Orlando is not exactly keen to be cured of his passion, but he
would like to come each day and call Ganymede Rosalind, and woo her each day. He, Ganymede, is however
not quite convinced that Orlando is a prisoner in love's "cage of rushes" [III. ii. 371], for he can find none of
the marks of that madness on him, which she enumerates:
Rosalind 141
A lean cheek, which you have not; a blue eye and sunken, which you have not; an
unquestionable spirit, which you have not; a beard neglected, which you have not; but I
pardon you for that, for, simply, your having in beard is a younger brother's revenue. Then,
your hose should be ungartered, your bonnet unbanded, your sleeve unbuttoned, your shoe
untied, and everything about you demonstrating a careless desolation. But you are no such
man: you are rather point-device in your accoutrements; as loving yourself than seeming the
lover of any other.
[III. ii. 373-84]
Such is the nature of Rosalind's wit and merriment. It springs first and foremost from a proud and benevolent
nature, jealous of its own honour, which demands of itself the ability to gladden other people and give them
courage, and not burden them with its own sorrows. It springs also from the abounding joy of living which
fills a resolute and courageous woman, who is sure of her own youth and beauty, knows that she is beloved,
and is determined to make the best out of life. And may be more than that, she has imagination, and
understanding of human nature, and a loving tolerance toward its weaknesses and foibles. Let us look at
another sample. Orlando is unable to tell her what the time is, as there is no clock in the forest.
Rosalind: Then there is no true lover in the forest; else sighing every minute and groaning
every hour would detect the lazy foot of Time as well as a clock.
Orlando: And why not swift foot of Time? had not that been as proper?
Rosalind: By no means, sir. Time travels in divers paces with divers persons. I'll tell you who
Time ambles withal, who Time trots withal, who Time gallops withal, and who he stands still
Orlando: I prithee, who doth he trot withal?
Rosalind: Marry, he trots hard with a young maid between the contract of her marriage and
the day it is solemnized; if the interim be but a se'nnight, Time's pace is so hard that it seems
the length of seven years.
Orlando: Who ambles Time withal?
Rosalind: With a priest that lacks Latin, and a rich man that hath not the gout; for the-one
sleeps easily because he cannot study, and the other lives merrily because he feels no pain;
the one lacking the burden of lean and wasteful learning, the other knowing no burden of
heavy tedious penury. These Time ambles withal.
Orlando: Who doth he gallop withal?
Rosalind: With a thief to the gallows; for though he go as softly as foot can fall he thinks
himself too soon there.
Orlando: Who stays it still withal?
Rosalind: With lawyers in the vacation; for they sleep between term and term, and then they
perceive not how Time moves.
[III. ii. 302-33]
Rosalind 142
So she keeps the fun going until one day she is quite put out when he comes a few minutes late for their
rendezvous, and Oliver, frightens her out of her wits, and she swoons at the sight of a handkerchief red with
Orlando's blood. Then she finds it difficult to play her part and in a sudden spirit of "let's get it done with" she
Come, woo me, woo me; for now I am in a holiday humour, and like enough to consent.
[IV. i. 68-9]
(pp. 163-68)
Lorentz Eckhoff, "The Merry Ones," in his Shakespeare: Spokesman of the Third Estate, translated by R. I.
Christophersen, Basil Blackwell, 1954, pp. 163-82.
Clara Claiborne Park
[In the excerpt below, Park maintains that Shakespeare belongs to a small minority of authors in the history
of western literature who created influential woman characters in his works. Rosalind's actions control the
progression of events in As You Like It, the critic remarks, and it is through her machinations that the four
couples assemble for the multiple marriages at the end of the play. According to Park, Shakespeare is careful,
however, to make sure that Rosalind's wit in no way oversteps the feminine domain of "love-matters."
Ultimately, the critic points out, Rosalind willingly and unregrettably relinquishes her male disguise infavor
of her more traditional female role. For further commentary on Rosalind's character, see the excerpts by
Alfred Harbage, Brigid Brophy, Kenneth Muir, John A. Hart, Nancy K. Hayles, Thomas F. Van Laan, Thomas
Kelly, and Lorentz Eckhoff. This essay was recently reprinted in Clara Claiborne Park, Rejoining the
Common Reader: Essays, 1962-1990 (Northwestern University Press, 1991).]
In the major literature there are no useful Bildungsromans [novels about the moral and psychological growth
of the main character] for girls. A boy's development into manhood through testing experience is one of the
oldest themes in literature; Homer's Telemachus presents the first model of how to grow into the kind of man
one's society approves and has need of. From the [Homer's] Odyssey to [William Faulkner's] "The Bear,"
literature affords a long procession of raw youths; almost all manage to become men. Girls, however, had to
wait out a twenty-five-hundred-year literary history before anyone made fiction of their growth. When
Evelina and Emma did at length appear on the scene, a capable girl—let us imagine, for example, the young
Florence Nightingale—might have been pardoned for feeling that whatever else they did, these characters
scarcely enlarged her sense of possibility. The scope of their activities was even more restricted than that of
the ladies who created them—who did, at least, write books. Only the dearth of images of the possibilities open
to a developing girl can explain the immense influence of a novel that most males never read—Louisa May
Alcott's Little Women.
Yet young females, like young males, create themselves according to the models their society provides for
them; and like young males, those who read look in literature for images of what they could be and what they
ought to be. Stories of female trial and initiation are by their nature difficult for male writers to provide, and
we should remember that from Sappho—floruit 600 B.C.—to Jane Austen there were hardly any writers who
were not male. Male writers, of course, can and do provide models for females, but not very many. A cursory
check of the dramatis personae of any Elizabethan play will demonstrate what is still true of modern fictions:
female characters are greatly outnumbered. (A London director estimated last year that there are five times as
many parts for actors as for actresses.) Still, quantity is not everything. Literate girls could find without
difficulty images which, although they lacked the dimension of development, still provided a warm variety of
ways of being female. They could—like everybody else-read Shakespeare.
As classics go, Shakespeare isn't bad reading for a girl. The conventions of tragedy and romance offer
horizons considerably wider than those available in Fanny Burney and Jane Austen; the courts of Europe and
the seacoasts of Bohemia provide backgrounds in which a girl can imagine herself doing far more interesting
Rosalind 143
things than she could at home. It is true that, unlike those paradoxical dramatists of male-chauvinist Athens,
Shakespeare never allows a woman a play of her own. He provides neither Antigones nor Medeas; no
feminine name appears in his titles except as the second member of a male-female pair. Yet a girl can read
Shakespeare without calling upon the defenses necessary for [John] Milton or [Ernest] Hemingway, or [D. H.]
Lawrence or [Norman] Mailer—writers she must read calloused for survival, a black in Mr. Charlie's land.
Shakespeare liked women and respected them; not everybody does. We do not find him, like Milton,
luxuriating in the amoebic submissiveness of an Eve in Paradise, and we can surmise that he would have
found little interest in the dim Marias and complaisant Catherines whom Hemingway found nonthreatening.
He is not afraid of the kind of assertiveness and insistence on her own judgment that Eve displays when she
gets busy bringing death into the world and all our woe; the evidence of the plays is that he positively enjoyed
From Mrs. Jameson [the nineteenth-century literary critic] on, critics, male and female, have praised
Shakespeare's women. "The dignity of Portia [in The Merchant of Venice], the energy of Beatrice [in Much
Ado About Nothing], the radiant high spirits of Rosalind [in As You Like It], the sweetness of Viola [in
Twelfth Night]"—William Allan Neilson's encomia can stand for thousands of others. Juliet, Cordelia [in King
Lear], Rosalind, Beatrice; Cleopatra, Hermione [in The Winter's Tale], Emilia [in Othello], Paulina [in The
Winter's Tale]—Shakespeare's girls and mature women are individualized, realized, fully enjoyed as human
beings. His respect for women is evident in all the plays, but it is in the middle comedies that the most
dazzling image recurs. It is an image significant for what it can tell us about the extent—and the limits—of
acceptable feminine activity in the Shakespearean world, a world which in this as in other things remains,
over time and change, disconcertingly like our own. (pp. 262-64)
Neilson [an early twentieth-century scholar and educator] describes [Rosalind] as having "the wit of Portia
and Beatrice softened by the gentleness of Viola"—exactly as we like it. In As You Like It, however,
Shakespeare does not hesitate to tip the equal balance that affords the fun of Much Ado in favor of the lady; in
wit and energy, Rosalind has no male rival. Insofar as any other character is able to match her repartee, it is
Celia, who although she is usually remembered as the gentle foil, the "other kind" of girl, turns out to have a
surprising number of the snappy lines. Orlando, however, is merely a nice young man; as is true at Radcliffe
and Harvard, the girls come out with noticeably higher College Entrance Examination Board verbals.
Rosalind, however, is more than witty. As You Like It is her play. This is, of course, unusual in Shakespeare.
Heroes act, but heroines commonly do not, which is why, unlike Antigone and Lysistrata, none of them gets a
Shakespearean title to herself. Neither does Rosalind—although Thomas Lodge had accorded her one [in
Rosalynde]—but nevertheless it is she who moves the play. She is energetic, effective, successful. She has the
courage to accept exile; she decides to assume male dress, and, playing brother, she guides her friend to the
Forest of Arden. The late comedies no longer present these forceful young women, and the faithful Imogen of
Cymbeline retroactively exposes the extent of Rosalind's autonomy. It is not Imogen but her husband's servant
who originates the idea of male disguise; the necessity for her journey originates not in her own position but
in her relation to her husband, and as soon as she lacks a man to guide her, she gets lost. Her complaint at this
point measures her distance from Rosalind: "I see a man's life is a tedious one" [Cymbeline, III. vi. 1]. (Her
previous remark to Cloten also bears thinking about: "You put me to forget a lady's manners / By being so
verbal" [II. iii. 105-06].) Through Imogen we can appreciate the unique position of Rosalind in her play.
Rosalind's decisions control the progress of As You Like It, and it is by her agency that the four couples
assemble in the concluding nuptial dance which, as in The Boke of the Governor, "betokeneth concord" and
embodies for the audience the harmony restored that is the essence of Shakespearean comedy.
Yet Shakespeare arranges for her to do all this without making the ladies censorious or the gentlemen nervous.
He has various methods of rendering her wit painless and her initiatives acceptable. The most obvious way is
to confine them to love matters, a proper feminine sphere. Rosalind is a political exile, but she shows no
disposition to meddle in politics; it is not through her agency that her father is restored to his rightful place.
Rosalind 144
Her wit is not, like Portia's, exercised in the service of sensible men engaged in the serious business of the
world, nor are her jokes made at their expense. Her satire is, in fact, narrowly directed at two classes of
beings—sighing lovers, and women. In the course of the fun she works her way through most of the
accusations already traditional in a large anti-feminist literature (inconstancy, contrariness, jealousy,
unfaithfulness, et cetera) to the point where Celia tells her, "We must have your doublet and hose plucked
over your head, and show the world what the bird has done to her own nest." [IV. i. 202-04]. Add that we
know all along that she herself is the butt of her own jokes, being herself both lovesick and female, and it
would be a fragile Benedick indeed who could feel himself stabbed by her poniard.
The most useful dramatic device for mediating the initiatives of the female, however, is the male disguise.
Male garments immensely broaden the sphere in which female energy can manifest itself. Dressed as a man, a
nubile woman can go places and do things she couldn't do otherwise, thus getting the play out of the court and
the closet and into interesting places like forests or Welsh mountains. Once Rosalind is disguised as a man,
she can be as saucy and self-assertive as she likes. (We can observe a similar change come over sweet Viola
of Twelfth Night as soon as she begins to play the clever page.) The male characters will accept her behavior
because it does not offend their sense of propriety, the female characters because (like the audience) they
know she's playing a role. With male dress we feel secure. In its absence, feminine assertiveness is viewed
with hostility, as with Kate the Shrew, or at best, as with Beatrice, as less than totally positive. Male dress
transforms what otherwise could be experienced as aggression into simple high spirits.
The temporary nature of the male disguise is of course essential, since the very nature of Shakespearean
comedy is to affirm that disruption is temporary, that what has turned topsy-turvy will be restored. It is
evident that Rosalind has enjoyed the flexibility and freedom that come with the assumption of the masculine
role, but it is also evident that she will gladly and voluntarily relinquish it. "Down on your knees," she tells the
proud shepherdess who scorns her faithful swain, "and thank Heaven, fasting, for a good man's love" [III. v.
57-8]. Rosalind, clearly, is thankful for Orlando's, and although she is twice the person he is, we are willing to
believe that they live happily ever after, since that's obviously what she wants. (pp. 269-71)
Clara Claiborne Park, "As We Like It: How a Girl Can Be Smart and Still Popular," in The American Scholar,
Vol. 42, No. 2, Spring, 1973, pp. 262-78.
John Palmer
[In the following excerpt, Palmer discusses Touchstone's character in As You Like It. According to the critic,
Touchstone is a wise fool who acts as a kind of guide or point of reference throughout the play, putting
everyone, including himself, to the comic test. This function is apparent in Touchstone's parodic exchanges
with Corin, Silvius, Audrey, and—especially—Jaques, with whom the fool acts as a foil throughout the play.
For further commentary on Touchstone's character, see the excerpts by Alfred Harbage, Kenneth Muir, John
A. Hart, and Enid Welsford.]
In most of Shakespeare's comedies there is a character who stands, as it were, at the centre. To get a clear
view of the composition as a whole we must take up our position as near as possible beside him.
In 'Love's Labour's Lost' we found our point of reference for the comic values of the play in Berowne. In 'A
Midsummer Night's Dream' it may be said concerning Bottom that 'if he comes not, the play is marred'. For As
You Like It the author has named his own Touchstone. It is as though Shakespeare, setting out for Arden,
where so many excellent poets have lost themselves in affected sentiment, mislaid their common sense in
refining upon their sensibility and, in their self-conscious pursuit of nature, found themselves grasping a pale
misfeatured shadow, had determined in advance to take with him a guide who should keep him in the path of
Touchstone 145
sanity. Touchstone puts all things and every person in the play, including himself, to the comic test. Entering
Arden with Touchstone you cannot go astray or mistake the wood for the trees.
It is his function to 'speak wisely what wise men do foolishly' [I. ii. 86-7] and he loses no time about it. We
are to accept him at once as no respecter of false persons:
TOUCHSTONE: Mistress, you must come away to your father.
CELIA: Were you made the messenger?
TOUCHSTONE: No, by mine honour, but I was bid to come for you.
ROSALIND: Where learned you that oath, fool?
TOUCHSTONE: Of a certain knight, that swore by his honour they were good pancakes, and
swore by his honour the mustard was naught: now I'll stand to it, the pancakes were naught
and the mustard was good, and yet was not the knight forsworn.
CELIA: How prove you that, in the great heap of your knowledge?
ROSALIND: Ay, marry, now unmuzzle your wisdom.
TOUCHSTONE: Stand you both forth now: stroke your chins, and swear by your beards that
I am a knave.
CELIA: By our beards (if we had them) thou art.
TOUCHSTONE: By my knavery (if I had it) then I were: but if you swear by that that is not,
you are not forsworn:
[I. ii. 57-77]
We are next to observe that this Touchstone has a lively sense of the fitness of things. Le Beau enters to tell
the ladies of much good sport—how Charles, the wrestler, has broken the ribs of three proper young men, of
excellent growth and presence:
TOUCHSTONE: But what is the sport, monsieur, that the ladies have lost?
LE BEAU: Why, this that I speak of.
TOUCHSTONE: Thus men may grow wiser every day. It is the first time that ever I heard
breaking of ribs was sport for ladies.
[I. ii. 134-39)
We are to esteem him also as a loyal servant who, without any illusions as to the sequel, is ready at a word to
'go along o'er the wide world' [I. iii. 132] with his mistress. This is no merely incidental touch. That
Touchstone should set out in sturdy devotion, with an agreeably romantic expectation, is a fact essential to our
appreciation of his quality. His part in the comedy is to shed the light of reality and common sense upon its
fanciful figures and diversions. To play such a part he must be either a true cynic or one that affects his
cynicism to mask a fundamentally genial spirit. Now a true cynic would be out of place in the forest of Arden.
So Touchstone must be a thoroughly good fellow at heart. His brain may be as dry as the remainder biscuit
after a voyage but he must be essentially a genial spirit. His acidity must be no more than skin-deep. He will
Touchstone 146
see things as they are but without malice. He will have a keen flair for absurdity in people and things—not
least for his own infirmities. He will, moreover, bring all things to the test of action, and the climax of his
comedy will be to marry a slut so that he may embrace in reality the simple life which for his companions is
no more than a holiday affectation.
How characteristic is his entry into the pastoral pleasaunce:
ROSALIND: O Jupiter! How weary are my spirits!
TOUCHSTONE: I care not for my spirits, if my legs were not weary.
ROSALIND: Well, this is the forest of Arden.
TOUCHSTONE: Ay, now am I in Arden, the more fool I. When I was at home, I was in a
better place, but travellers must be content.
[II. iv. 1-3, 15-18]
This is wholesome correction and it comes most aptly between a touching scene in which Adam displays 'the
constant service of the antique world' [II. iii. 57], and our first encounter with Silvius and Corin—a young man
and an old in solemn talk. Note, too, how he pricks the bladder of sentiment not by rejecting its appeal, but by
claiming a share in its manifestations. The love of Silvius for Phebe and of Rosalind for Orlando prompts him
to declare: 'We that are true lovers run into strange capers; but as all is mortal in nature, so is all nature in love
mortal in folly' [II. iv. 54-6]; and he is driven to remember—nor do we doubt the fidelity of the
reminiscence—his own love for Jane Smile and the kissing of her batler and the cow's dugs that her pretty
chopt hands had milked. All Touchstone is in that little speech—his quaint pretension to philosophy and a
capacity for romance, rooted in nature but aware of its own excess. Jane Smile's hands were pretty but the eye
of the realist could not avoid noticing that they were chopt.
Touchstone, coming to terms with the simple life, cannot forget that he has been, and remains, a courtier. He
cannot refrain from airing his graces and indulging his gentility. But there is no conceit nor any hint of
unkindness in his teasing of a country bumpkin. It is a fault in him to show off in this way and he knows it for
It is meat and drink to me to see a clown. By my troth, we that have good wits have much to
answer for; we shall be flouting; we cannot hold.
[V. i. 10-12]
But even his flouting has about it a quality which distinguishes him from all the rest. Touchstone, 'above all
things', is interested in people and places and ways of life. He must get to the bottom of a subject and take its
measure. Of Corin he asks, as much in an honest desire to know as in a spirit of mockery: 'Hast any
philosophy in thee, shepherd?' [III. ii. 21-2] And when Corin expounds—
No more, but that I know the more one sickens, the worse at ease he is; and that he that wants
money, means and content is without three good friends; that the property of rain is to wet
and fire to burn; that good pasture makes fat sheep; and that a great cause of the night is lack
of the sun;
[III. ii. 23-8]
Touchstone's rejoinder ('Such a one is a natural philosopher' [III. ii. 32]) is a shrewd companionable comment
and no sneer. He must, as he confesses, be flouting. He takes an impish pleasure in maintaining that Corin,
never having been at court or seen good manners, is damned; but Corin takes it all—as Touchstone intends
Touchstone 147
it—in good part and serenely states his simple faith in the knowledge that, though it maybe amiably mocked, it
will nevertheless be respected:
Sir, I am a true labourer. I earn that I eat, get that I wear, owe no man hate, envy no man's
happiness, glad of other men's good, content with my harm; and the greatest of my pride is to
see my ewes graze and my lambs suck.
[III. ii. 73-7]
The whole thing is an epitome of Shakespeare's management of the pastoral theme. He presents the simple life
with a most convincing innocence, but Touchstone is there to relate it justly to the scheme of things entire:
CORIN: And how like you this shepherd's life, Master Touchstone?
TOUCHSTONE: Truly, shepherd, in respect of itself, it is a good life; but in respect that it is
a shepherd's life, it is naught. In respect that it is solitary, I like it very well; but in respect that
it is private, it is a very vile life. Now in respect it is in the fields, it pleaseth me well; but in
respect it is not in the court, it is tedious. As it is a spare life, look you, it fits my humour well;
but as there is no more plenty in it, it goes much against my stomach.
[III. ii. 11-21]
Even the incomparable Rosalind, whose tide of wit and flush of love set her above any need of correction by
the comic spirit, must be brought to the test if only to show how triumphantly she survives it. Orlando's
rhymes are redeemed by the sincerity of his passion. But some of them have more feet than the verses will
bear and the feet are lame. Indeed they are very tedious homilies of love, and all this she merrily declares.
And Touchstone must also have his say. It is he who, on his author's behalf, must intimate very clearly that
poetasters of the pastoral school are more deserving of mockery than imitation:
ROSALIND: From the east to western Ind,
No jewel is like Rosalind.
Her worth being mounted on the wind,
Through all the world bears Rosalind.
All the pictures fairest lined
Are but black to Rosalind.
Let no face be kept in mind
But the fair of Rosalind.
TOUCHSTONE: I'll rhyme you so eight years together, dinners,
and suppers, and sleeping-hours excepted: it is the
right butter-women's rank to market.
ROSALIND: Out, fool!
TOUCHSTONE: For a taste:
If a hart do lack a hind.
Let him seek out Rosalind:
If the cat will after kind.
So be sure will Rosalind:
Wintered garments must be lined.
So must slender Rosalind.
They that reap must sheaf and bind,
Then to cart with Rosalind.
Touchstone 148
Sweetest nut hath sourest rind,
Such a nut is Rosalind.
He that sweetest rose will find,
Must find love's prick and Rosalind.
This is the very false gallop of verses.
Why do you infect yourself with them?
ROSALIND: Peace, you dull fool! I found them on a tree.
TOUCHSTONE: Truly, the tree yields bad fruit.
[III. ii. 88-116]
Orlando's poem is itself a parody. Touchstone's is a parody twice over. Again he plays for us the author's trick.
The pastoral exercise is pleasant in itself but still more pleasant for being so easily mocked, (pp. 35-9)
Rachel Roberts as Audrey and Paul Rogers as Touchstone in a 1955 production of As You Like It. Act III,
scene iii.
The supreme test for Touchstone is his encounter with Jaques. But it is well, before we examine an incident
which will determine our outlook on the entire comedy, to become more intimately acquainted with the man
himself. Shakespeare affords us an opportunity in the episode of Touchstone's courting of Audrey. Here we
behold the man who has no illusions concerning nature frankly responding to her call. The others merely trifle
with her; Touchstone sees, hears and obeys:
As the ox hath his bow. sir, the horse his curb, and the falcon her bells, so man hath
his desires; and as pigeons bill, so wedlock would be nibbling.
Touchstone 149
[III. iii. 79-82]
He has found rich honesty, dwelling like a miser in a poor house, 'as your pearl in your foul oyster' [V. iv. 61],
and. having found it. has the courage of his convictions and will not let it go. His wooing of Audrey is at the
same time a burlesque and a true reflection in nature of the three romantic courtships among which it intrudes.
There is conscious irony in his claim to be pressing in 'among the rest of the country copulatives, to swear and
to forswear, according as marriage binds and blood breaks' [V. iv. 55-7], for none knows better than
Touchstone himself that he alone is paying a genuine tribute to the ancient gods of the forest. His surrender to
the great god. Pan, is the more complete, and certainty the more entirely comic, for his being clearly aware of
what he is doing. He is still the courtier and he must still be flouting—even at the 'poor virgin, sir, an
ill-favoured thing, sir, but mine own' [V. iv. 57-8]. He will go so far as to suggest that 'not being well-married,
it will be a good excuse hereafter to leave my wife' [III. iii. 92-4]. But all these floutings are superficial.
Touchstone's comedy, in fact, shows all the rest of the comedy in reverse. His wooing of Audrey is irony in
action. Orlando. Rosalind, Silvius, Phebe and the rest affect their pastoral simplicity but remain entirely
civilised. Touchstone affects his urbanity but is at heart a truly natural philosopher. None knows better than he
what he is doing, for it is of the essence of his character to see himself as he sees everyone else in the play in
A man may, if he were of a fearful heart,
stagger in this attempt; for here we have
no temple but the wood, no assembly but horn-beasts.
But what though? Courage!
[III. iii. 48-51]
He begins his courtship with a double pun and a sidelong mockery of the whole pastoral outfit:
I am here with thee and thy goats, as the
most capricious poet, honest Ovid was
among the Goths—
[III. iii. 7-9]
but his deeds in plain English speak louder than the word-play in Latin.
Now that we begin to know our Touchstone we can have no doubt of what really happened upon his first
encounter with Jaques. It is Jaques himself who describes the meeting:
A fool, a fool! I met a fool i' th' forest,
A motley fool—a miserable world!—
As I do live by food, I met a fool,
Who laid him down and basked him in the sun,
And railed on Lady Fortune in good terms,
In good set terms, and yet a motley fool.
Good morrow, fool,' quoth I: 'No, sir,' quoth he,
Call me not fool till heaven hath sent me fortune.'
And then he drew a dial from his poke,
And looking on it with lack-lustre eye,
Says very wisely, 'It is ten o'clock:
Thus we may see', quoth he, 'how the world wags:
"Tis but an hour ago since it was nine,
And after one hour more 'twill be eleven,
And so from hour to hour, we ripe, and ripe.
Touchstone 150
And then from hour to hour, we rot, and rot—
And thereby hangs a tale.' When I did hear
The motley fool thus moral on the time,
My lungs began to crow like chanticleer,
That fools should be so deep-contemplative;
And I did laugh, sans intermission.
An hour by his dial. O noble fool!
O worthy fool! Motley's the only wear.
[II. vii. 12-34]
Jaques relates how he has been amusing himself with a fool, but Touchstone, we perceive, has been amusing
himself—and more to the purpose—with a philosopher. While Jaques was laughing at the fool, the fool was
taking his measure and pulling his leg. Here Touchstone saw at once was a fashionable cynic, venting a
shallow disappointment with men and things in well-turned homilies upon the way of the world. Playing up to
his man the fool rails on Lady Fortune in good set terms. The philosopher is hooked and the fool lands his fish
with a solemn descant upon the passage of time. Jaques, completely taken in, marvels that a fool should be so
deep-contemplative. (pp. 43-6)
The relations between the pair are unobtrusively maintained throughout the play. When Jaques, in search of
someone from whom to suck melancholy as a weasel sucks eggs, follows Touchstone and Audrey through the
forest and overhears their conference, Touchstone, though Jaques has laughed sans intermission an hour by
his dial, does not even remember his name—or affects not to remember it. 'Good-even, good Master
What-ye-call 't' is his greeting [III. iii. 73]. Touchstone, in fact, is as indifferent in his dealings with Jaques as
Jaques is eager to improve the acquaintance. For Jaques, Touchstone is a collector's piece—un objet d'art et de
vertu. He introduces him to the Duke with a 'Good my lord, give him welcome: this is the motley-minded
gentleman that I have so often met in the forest; he hath been a courtier, he swears' [V. iv. 40-2]. Touchstone
plays up to Jaques in their last as in their first encounter. He gives the Duke, as we have noted, a taste of his
quality. Jaques plays the part of a delighted compère, showing off the paces of the fool like a circus master,
prompting him to perform worthily before company and not to let his sponsor down. 'Good my lord, like this
fellow. … Is not this a rare fellow, my lord? He's as good at anything and yet a fool' [V. iv. 51-2, 104-05]. And
the cream of the jest is that Jaques casting himself for the part of exhibitor is really the exhibitionist.
Touchstone is only too willing to give the Duke a run for his money but pays not the slightest attention to
Monsieur Melancholy.
But what of the seven ages of man? They too serve the double purpose. The speech is good hearing. It holds
the stage and lingers in the memory. It is the most successful example of sententious commonplace
declamation in English literature. At the same time it exposes the speaker for what he is and puts a final touch
to his character. It is a good summary of life lived on the average. It has no depth, not a touch of magic, no
suggestion of anything beyond its narrow limits; and it is coloured throughout by the bilious disposition of the
orator. The infant mewls, the schoolboy whines, the lover sighs, the soldier swears, the judge proses, the
pantaloon shrinks and the old man loses his teeth. Nor is there any indication anywhere that anyone has truly
striven, aspired, suffered, meditated or seen beyond the end of his nose.
'As You Like It' has been the least fortunate in its critics of all the plays of Shakespeare. It has often been
injudiciously praised—or scandalously dispraised—for its obvious merits to the neglect of its finer qualities.
Shakespeare in this play brought off two achievements on two different lines of appreciation. The first was to
present his native Arden, to show us true love running happily to a foregone conclusion (no easy matter), to
convey in his own sweet idiom the pastoral pleasures of woodland and sheep-cote, to moralise agreeably on
the changes of fortune and the simple life—in a word to give us a sample of the pastoral-comical stripped of its
more elaborate affectations. This part of his task he performed so well that it has been praised with eloquence
and propriety by many critics who are content to look no further.
Touchstone 151
Shakespeare's second achievement has been obscured by the success of his first. The charming, life-like,
conversible comic figures of the story have been too easily accepted at their own valuation. The gentle irony
that plays about them and their relationships, the constant reference of character, conduct and environment to
the test of nature, the poise maintained in every scene between permitted romance and prohibitive
reality—these often tend to be partly misconceived or wholly ignored. (pp. 50-2)
John Palmer, "Touchstone," in his Comic Characters of Shakespeare, Macmillan and Co., Limited, 1946, pp.
Enid Welsford
[In the following excerpt, Welsford regards Touchstone as a kind of intermediary between the playwright and
the audience, and is literally what his name implies: a "test of the quality of men and manners." The critic
considers both Touchstone and Jaques social commentators in As You Like It, but while Touchstone is
sympathetic and truly partial, Jaques is a superficial critic whose chief interest is with his own, not society's,
reactions. For further commentary on Touchstone's character, see the excerpts by Alfred Harbage, Kenneth
Muir, John A. Hart, and John Palmer.]
In As You Like It the fool's name indicates his dramatic role: he serves as a touchstone or test of the quality of
men and manners, and so helps to poise an otherwise somewhat kaleidoscopic play. For here, as elsewhere,
Shakespeare expresses a complex point of view, making the most of the comic as well as of the romantic
possibilities of his theme, and even at times burlesquing the pastoral convention in which his play is written.
In such a play as this, where so much depends on a skilful use of allusion, contrast, and a variety produced by
constant shift of focus, the role of the court-jester can be turned to very useful account. As privileged
truth-teller, he can both serve as a mouthpiece for his author's criticism of prevailing literary fashions, and
also by an occasional tartness preserve the play from the insipidity which so often mars pastoral literature. As
an onlooker by profession he can supply us with that punctum indifferens, or point of rest, which … is
particularly necessary for the enjoyment of a complicated work of art.
The plan of As You Like It is indeed unexpectedly subtle. Touchstone is, as it were, the authorized
commentator, but he has a rival in the person of that self-constituted critic of society, the melancholy Jaques.
It is as though, the curtain which veils Arcadia having been drawn aside, two of the inhabitants separate
themselves from the rest, and step forward to the front of the stage offering themselves as guides to the
spectators in the auditorium. Both of them are equally ready to act as showmen, but in every other respect
they are sharply contrasted: the one a sophisticated traveller, professedly intellectual, melancholy and dressed
in black, the other a natural court-jester, professionally mad, merry and dressed in motley. This contrast of
colour is not unimportant in a play which derives much of its charm from its picturesque qualities, and has
many affinities with masque and ballet. But the contrast of outward appearances corresponds to a contrast of
critical attitudes, which is still more significant. In spite of his varied experiences, Jaques is a superficial critic
of life, because his apparent curiosity as to the doings of other people is really only an intense interest in his
own reactions. He is essentially a poseur. Touchstone, on the other hand, exposes affectation; but he is
capable of sympathy as well as of criticism, and his judgments are really impartial because his mental
peculiarities and his degraded social position prevent him from having any private axe to grind. So, although
Jaques and Touchstone stand side by side as showmen, their points of view are not equally valid; and it is the
fool, not the cynic, who is the touchstone of the play. But although, like the shepherd whom he twits, 'such an
one is a natural philosopher' [III. ii. 32], he is not to be taken over-sadly; for, after all, he jests in an
evanescent world of romantic freedom where the only touchstones are beauty and delight. For all his protests
the fool is at home in Arden, as he was long ago in the fairy-haunted town of Arras, and it is only the
over-clever, introverted victim of ennui who excludes himself from the jovial harmony and hymeneal mirth
'when earthly things made even, atone together' [V. iv. 109-10].
Touchstone 152
The use made of the fool in the play is a striking illustration of Shakespeare's successful craftsmanship. Ben
Jonson's verdict that 'Shakespeare wanted arte' becomes amusing when we compare the subtly conceived role
of Touchstone with the repulsive clowns of Volpone, who may well be lifelike portraits of the more
unpleasant inmates of an Italian palace, but contribute practically nothing to the meaning of the comedy. In
fact, although Shakespeare's fecundity was too great to allow him to be over-meticulous, he excelled his
fellow-playwrights not only as a poet and student of human nature, but also as a thinker and as an artist. He
was the only dramatist of the time to make use of the technical peculiarities of the dramatic tradition which he
inherited, and in the creation of Touchstone he did very nearly, though not quite, succeed in making the fool's
role as potent a theatrical device as the Greek chorus. (pp. 249-51)
Enid Welsford, "The Court-Fool in Elizabethan Drama," in his The Fool: His Social and Literary History,
1935. Reprint by Farrar & Rinehart, 1936, pp. 243-72.
Oscar James Campbell
[Campbell interprets Jaques from a historical perspective, noting events in Shakespeare's own lifetime that
strongly influenced his dramatization of the character. According to the critic, Jaques reflects the stock
Elizabethan literary figure of the malcontent traveler who, upon returning home from his sojourn to other
countries, is corrupt, bitter, and bored with life. Jaques's melancholy, like that of the character-type in
Elizabethan literature, is thus both real and exaggerated, Campbell states. The critic further maintains,
however, that Jaques is also "something much more significant," namely Shakespeare's "amusing
representative of the English satirists whose works streamed from the press during the years from 1592 to
1599 inclusive." Importantly, Campbell argues that Jaques's pessimistic tirades against humanity—even his
famous soliloquy on the seven ages of man in Act II, scene vii— are never accepted by Shakespeare as
complete "truths, "but are always shown to be "ridiculously false" and "blind to the realities of the world."
For further commentary on Jaques's character, see the excerpts by Alfred Harbage, Kenneth Muir, John A.
Hart, Frederick Turner, John Palmer, and Harold C. Goddard.]
In As You Like It (1600) and Twelfth Night (1601), we enter a brave new world of comedy. These plays reveal
a larger poetic reach and an ampler view of human absurdity than Shakespeare's earlier comedies. In them,
too, the dramatist seasons romance with a liberal admixture of satire. Two events in the world of letters at the
turn of the century suggested to Shakespeare ways of making pungent his satiric spice.
The first was the order of 1 June 1599 …, which suppressed the formal satires of a number of authors
mentioned by name and prohibited the further printing of any satires or epigrams [short satirical poems or
paradoxical sayings]. Despite these vigorous efforts at suppression, the ecclesiastical censors [church
authorities] did not succeed in forcing into duress the satiric spirit then abroad in English literature. Almost
immediately dramatists, led by Ben Jonson, devised a form of comedy which preserved the subject matter, the
salutary purpose, and the methods of the proscribed literary form. Shakespeare was perfectly familiar with this
contest between ecclesiastical authorities and rebellious artists. He observed the struggle with the detachment
of a great artist and transformed into high comedy some of the issues of the quarrel. He went even further, and
adapted to his own uses the devices which Jonson invented to circumvent the angry suppression of the
While Shakespeare was composing As You Like It, a change took place in the personnel of his company which
exerted almost as much influence upon his methods of writing comedy as did the progress of the satiric
movement. In 1599 Will Kemp left the Lord Chamberlain's Men [Shakespeare's acting company] to be
succeeded by Robert Armin.… Shakespeare had provided Kemp with parts filled with more and more amusing
ridicule of folly. Beginning as the conventional type figure of the stupid lout, the talented comedian had
Jaques 153
gradually been promoted to parts like the Bastard and Falstaff, in which he could give rein to a keen spirit of
joyous satire. Kemp's successor, Robert Armin, by the time he entered the company had developed a different
clownish line. Hence Kemp's departure forced Shakespeare to abandon one of his most successful forms of
comic invention in order to create parts better suited to Armin's peculiar talents.
For these reasons the satire in As You Like It is quite different from that which Shakespeare had introduced
into his earlier comedies. An informed reader of the play soon realizes that the dramatist was thoroughly
familiar with the temper and achievements of the satiric movement in poetry which came to an abrupt end in
1599. (pp. 44-5)
Though disturbed social conditions in England gave the initial impulse to the satiric movement, once
launched, it slavishly imitated Latin satire.… Some members of this English school—Sir John Davies, Sir John
Harington, Thomas Bastard, and John Weaver—wrote only epigrams. Though their master [the Roman
epigrammatist] Martial composed epigrams of many sorts, they seem to have been aware only of his satiric
vein. Hence an epigram to them was merely a short satire, less severe in tone. It attacked social absurdity
rather than sin. (p. 45)
The members of [the] English school repeatedly asserted that their satires were always impersonal, that they
attacked not individuals but general faults. Therefore only those guilty of the follies assailed were justified in
taking umbrage at any particular charge. [Thomas] Lodge, in a preface to A Fig for Momus, thus explains the
significance of the poems in the volume: 'In them (under the names of certain Romaines) where I reprehend
vice, I purposely wrong no man, but observe the lawes of that kind of poeme [that is, a satire]. If any repine
thereat, I am sure he is guiltie, because he bewrayeth himself.' Such a pronouncement was intended to close
the mouths of everyone who objected to any expression of the wrathful spirit then abroad. Jaques, we shall
see, represents Shakespeare's idea of one of these satirists of the old school. In characterizing him the
dramatist expresses his opinion of the entire group. But Jaques' temper is quite unlike that which establishes
the tone of As You Like It. It is just because his sour comments on life are discordant with the spirit of Arden
that they are so arresting.
The comedy, as everyone knows, is the dramatization of a very popular pastoral romance, Thomas Lodge's
Rosalynde, first published in 1590. It should be, therefore, completely romantic in key. To be sure, heroic
adventures told at length in the novel do not appear in the comedy. Such incidents as the capture of the
heroine by a band of robbers and her subsequent rescue by the hero and her brother were obviously too violent
for the atmosphere of a pastoral play. But Orlando is the typical love-shaken, sonneteering lover of romance.
Rosalind and Celia are the perfect friends of idealistic fiction. That they are women is a late Renaissance
variation of the conventional theme. Adam is the extravagantly loyal retainer of medieval tale, representing
'the constant service of the antique world.' The play is also filled with surprising adventures and strange
incidents, and it ends, as all romantic comedies should, with marriages galore.
Yet as a reader explores more deeply the meaning of the play, he finds in it much besides the high spirits and
thoughtless gaiety of pure romance. Externally the setting is that of a conventional pastoral play. The forest is
full of shepherds, foresters, and other creatures who could live together only in an Elysium of escape from the
real world. But the Forest of Arden is no mirage of wish-fulfilment. It is not like the world of Italian pastoral
romance, not a country in which the longings of those bored with city life were realized. It is an actual English
woodland through which real winds blow, a region near the haunts of Robin Hood and his merry men.
This is the place to which Orlando and Rosalind flee when driven away from society by injustice and tyranny.
They hope to find in the Forest of Arden that life in accord with nature which they had read about in some
Italian pastoral.… The authors of these works celebrate a natural habitat of dreamy indolence and idyllic
freedom, where none of the restraints and artifices of society prevail. Erasmus in his Praise of Folly, taking
the side of nature as against art, writes, 'Nature hates all false coloring and is ever best where she is least
Jaques 154
adulterated with art.'
It is the Nature imagined by such writers that Orlando and Rosalind seek in the Forest of Arden. And what
creatures do they find there? They meet characters who belong to the most artificial of all worlds of fiction,
the pastoral romance. Silvius, the sighing love-sick swain, is there, and Phebe, the obstinately chaste
shepherdess. So are William and Audrey, neither of whom has ever been washed by the romantic imagination
or any other known cleansing agent. They are the shepherd and his lass as they really are, ignorant dirty
louts-simple folk who know nothing but what Nature has taught them. 'Here,' says Shakespeare, 'are two
authentic children of Nature.' This is the heterogeneous company to which Rosalind and Orlando must belong
if they prefer Arcadia to the artifices of civilized life. The play thus ridicules the belief that life close to Nature
is best. (pp. 46-8)
In this Utopian pastoral world the fugitives also come upon the melancholy Jaques. He has no counterpart in
Lodge's novel; he is entirely Shakespeare's invention. Because his only part in the comedy is to stand aloof
from the action and make satiric comment upon all that happens, critics have been tempted to regard him as
Shakespeare's mouthpiece. Many readers have therefore mistaken the famous soliloquy beginning 'All the
world's a stage' [II. vii. 139ff.] for a succinct revelation of the pessimism which captured Shakespeare's mind
about 1600. Life to him, they say, had then become just the pageant of futility of the melancholy Jaques'
This is a naive view of a highly effective dramatic figure—one that had become a popular stage type. Jaques is
Shakespeare's representative of the traveller recently returned from a sojourn on the continent, laden with
boredom and histrionic pessimism. His melancholy is artificial and his disgust with everything at home is a
pose. (pp. 48-9)
It is true that in Shakespeare's day melancholy was thought often to be an affectation, an imitation of a foreign
fashion. Shakespeare makes Prince Arthur in King John say:
Yet I remember, when I was in France,
Young gentlemen would be as sad as night
Only Tor wantonness.
[IV. i. 14-16]
But the travellers' melancholy was sometimes clearly a mental disorder produced by the diseases they had
contracted while abroad. It was an unnatural melancholy caused by what the Elizabethans called adustion, but
what we should diagnose as a persistent fever. The doctors believed that a melancholy disposition heated by
high temperature produced that mixture of understanding and imagination which made its possessor prone to
figurative and sententious utterance.
Jaques exhibits all the characteristics of the type, except the foppery. His licentious life abroad has fired his
naturally phlegmatic nature to a point at which he can make pithy comment upon the ridiculous spectacle of
life even as it is lived in the Forest of Arden. Being by temperament averse to action, he has plenty of leisure
for meditation upon the ways of mankind. And his pathological melancholy renders him incapable of taking
delight in anything he sees or hears. Life, so he believes, is nothing but folly and futility. In brief, Jaques is a
malcontent traveller anatomized according to the approved psychology of Shakespeare's day.
Jaques' utterances resemble those of the typical returned traveller, except that they are directed not so much
against the corrupted age as against all human life. Moreover Shakespeare's superior eloquence gives Jaques'
tirades a poetic sincerity which is easily mistaken for the author's passionate convictions. This has been
particularly true of his most famous soliloquy [II.vii. 139-66], a speech which expresses more than the
disillusionment of an old roué. Its pessimism, though profound, is relieved by flashes of humor. The whining
Jaques 155
schoolboy creeping like snail unwillingly to school; the lover sighing like furnace; the justice full of wise
saws and modern instances; the futility of each of these human creatures is drawn with broad ludicrous
strokes. The satire levelled against them is seasoned with laughter.
It should now be clear that, like all of his fellow malcontent travellers, Jaques is usually the object of his
author's ridicule, but on occasions he is just as clearly the mouthpiece of Shakespeare's own satiric comment.
In playing this dual role he combines the functions of two characters who had appeared in some plays written
just before As You Like It was produced, notably Labesha and Dowsecerin [George] Chapman's An Humorous
Day's Mirth. The first was a social would-be who affected melancholy because the pose was fashionable. The
second was a man of strong native intelligence whose mind had nevertheless been invaded by melancholy. As
a result, his intellect had been put into the service of a misanthropic spirit. His insight enabled him to ferret
out hidden abuses in society and absurdities in human beings. But his persistent low spirits filled his just
comments with so much bitterness that they seemed ludicrously exaggerated. Jaques is an amalgam of the two
types. He is both affected malcontent and true melancholiac.
In the first role Jaques is self-conscious about his melancholy and proud of its singularity. He warms to
self-analysis when he explains his humor to Rosalind:
I have neither the scholar's melancholy,
which is emulation; nor the musician's,
which is fantastical; nor the courtier's,
which is proud; … but it is a melancholy
of mine own, compounded of many
simples, extracted from many objects; and
indeed the sundry contemplation of my
travels, in which my often rumination wraps
me in a most humorous sadness.
[IV. i. 10-20]
It is his travels on the continent, of this he is sure, that have reduced him to habitual gloom and melancholy
reflection. Rosalind immediately recognizes him as a disillusioned traveller:
'Farewell, Monsieur Traveller,' she cries. 'Look, you lisp and wear strange suits, disable all
the benefits of your own country, be out of love with your nativity, and almost chide God for
making you that countenance you are; or I will scarce think you have swam in a gondola.'
[IV. i. 33-8]
(pp. 50-2)
Jaques, then, is for the most part Shakespeare's portrait of a familiar satiric type. But on occasions he becomes
something much more significant. He stands forth as an amusing representative of the English satirists whose
works streamed from the press during the years from 1592 to 1599 inclusive. Jaques enunciates the critical
doctrines of these writers in a form only a little exaggerated.
The satirists took great pains to justify the critical freedom which they assumed by insisting that their satire
was all impersonal. They attacked the vice, not the individual. Sir John Davies in one of his epigrams states
this principle with becoming terseness:
But if thou find any so grosse and dull,
That think I do to private taxing leane,
Bid him go hang, for he is but a gull
And knowes not what an epigramme doth meane:
Jaques 156
Which taxeth under a particular name,
A general vice that merits publike blame.
(p. 53)
Jaques in one of his soliloquies expands and illustrates this tenet of the satiric school with his characteristic
imaginative reach.
Why, who cries out on pride
That can therein tax any private party?
Doth it not flow as hugely as the sea
Till that the wearer's very means do ebb?
What woman in the city do I name
When that I say the city woman bears
The cost of princes on unworthy shoulders?
Who can come in and say that I mean her,
When such a one as she, such is her neighbour?
Or what is he of basest function
That says his bravery is not on my cost,
Thinking that I mean him, but therein suits
His folly to the mettle of my speech?
There then! how then? what then? Let me see wherein
My tongue hath wrong'd him. If it do him right,
Then he hath wrong'd himself. If he be free,
Why, then my taxing like a wild goose flies,
Unclaim'd of any man.
[II. vii. 70-87]
The formal satirists also filled their work with expressions of fierce zeal to purge the world of its foulness.
Asper's threat in [John Marston's] Every Man Out of his Humor is a succinct expression of the mood:
I'll strip the ragged follies of the time,
Naked, as at our birth.
(pp. 53-4)
All of the satirists at frequent intervals echo these expressions of moral fervor. And Jaques joins their chorus,
… Give me leave
To speak my mind, and I will through and through
Cleanse the foul body of the infected world,
If they will patiently receive my medicine.
[II. vii. 58-61]
These resemblances between Jaques and the English satirists have led some critics to believe that he is portrait
of Sir John Harington, Ben Jonson, or some other author famous at the moment. But Jaques is not a caricature
of any one satirist. He is merely a character through whom Shakespeare expresses his unfavorable opinion of
the entire group.
The dramatist manipulates his dramatic action in such a way that Jaques' sour generalities are immediately
shown to be ridiculously false. The wretched malcontent urges Orlando 'to rail against our mistress the world
and all our misery' [III. ii. 278-79] just before the lover meets his Rosalind for a joyous antiphonal. The poet
Jaques 157
also places the famous soliloquy of the seven ages of man in a context which neutralizes its tone and
contradicts all its assumptions. Adam's hunger and Orlando's desperation stimulate Jaques' cynical review of
the seven futile stages of man's life. But the Duke's sympathy and benevolence turn the woeful pageant into a
scene of contentment and joy. Amien's song which follows undergoes the same transformation. He begins
with a lyric variation on Jaques' eternal theme.
Blow, blow, thou winter wind,
Thou art not so unkind
As man's ingratitude.
[II. vii. 174-76]
But this mood artfully reminiscent of court life cannot survive in the sunlight of Arden. It cannot persist to the
end of any of the stanzas ostensibly dedicated to lamentation. They all close with:
Then, heigh ho, the holly!
This life is most jolly.
[II. vii. 182-83]
In such indirect ways the play at every turn is made to contradict the skillfully turned phrases of the pessimist.
Events reveal him as blind to the realities of the world into which he has intruded. Shakespeare's ridicule of
Jaques is in this way much more significant than derision of a roué's scorn of life in England. It is amused
disapproval of the headlong moral ardor which the satirists in both poem and play felt or pretended to feel.
Such a temper, Shakespeare says, is ridiculous and utterly destructive to the comic spirit. (pp. 54-6)
Oscar James Campbell, "'As You Like It'," in his Shakespeare's Satire, Oxford University Press, 1943, pp.
Harold C. Goddard
[In the following excerpt, Goddard maintains that Jaques cannot completely withdraw from the society he
hates because he needs an audience for his tirades against humanity. In his philosophical debates with both
Rosalind and Orlando, the critic declares, Jaques is upstaged by the lovers because their lives are not
governed by self-pity as is his. Jaques's "Seven Ages of Man" speech (II. vii. 139ff.), Goddard continues, does
not deserve to be called a lesson in wisdom, for Shakespeare invalidates the character's reasoning at the end
of his speech by presenting Adam—an old man who has just completed an arduous journey—in refutation of
Jaques observation that old age leaves human beings "Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans every thing." For
furrther commentary on Jaques's character, see the excerpts by Alfred Harbage, Kenneth Muir, John A. Hart,
Frederick Turner, John Palmer and Oscar James Campbell.]
One way of taking Jaques is to think of him as a picture, duly attenuated, of what Shakespeare himself might
have become if he had let experience sour or embitter him, let his critical powers get the better of his
imagination, "philosophy" of poetry. As traveler-libertine Jaques has had his day. Now he would turn
spectator-cynic and revenge himself on a world that can no longer afford him pleasure, by proving it foul and
infected. The more his vision is darkened the blacker, naturally, what he sees becomes in his eyes. He would
withdraw from society entirely if he were not so dependent on it for audience. That is his dilemma. So he
alternately retreats and darts forth from his retreat to buttonhole anyone who will listen to his railing. But
when he tries to rationalize his misanthropy and pass it off as medicine for a sick world, the Duke Senior
administers a deserved rebuke. Your very chiding of sin, he tells him, is "mischievous foul sin" itself [II. vii.
Jaques prides himself on his wit and wisdom. But he succeeds only in proving how little wit and even
"wisdom" amount to when indulged in for their own sakes and at the expense of life. His jests and
Jaques 158
"philosophy" give the effect of having been long pondered in solitude. But the moment he crosses swords with
Orlando and Rosalind, the professional is hopelessly outclassed by the amateurs. Extemporaneously they beat
him at his own carefully rehearsed game. Being out of love with life, Jaques thinks of nothing but himself.
Being in love with Rosalind, Orlando thinks of himself last and has both the humility and the insight that love
bequeaths. When the two men encounter, Jaques' questions and answers sound studied and affected, Orlando's
spontaneous and sincere.
JAQ.: Rosalind is your love's name?
ORL.: Yes, just.
JAQ.: I do not like her name.
ORL.: There was no thought of pleasing you when she was christened.
JAQ.: What stature is she of?
ORL.: Just as high as my heart.
JAQ.: You are full of pretty answers. Have you not been acquainted with goldsmiths' wives,
and conn'd them out of rings?
ORL.: Not so; but I answer you right painted cloth, from whence you have studied your
JAQ.: You have a nimble wit: I think 'twas made of Atalanta's heels. Will you sit down with
me? and we two will rail against our mistress the world, and all our misery.
ORL.: I will chide no breather in the world but myself, against whom I know most faults.
[III. ii. 263-81]
There is not atrace of any false note in that answer. It has the ring of the true modesty and true wisdom that
only true love imparts. Jaques, of course, misses the point diametrically:
JAQ.: The worst fault you have is to be in love.
ORL.: 'Tis a fault I will not change for your best virtue. I am weary of you.
[III. ii. 282-84]
(To tell the truth we are a bit weary of him too.)
And Rosalind outphilosophizes Jaques as utterly as Orlando has outjested him.
JAQ.: I prithee, pretty youth, let me be better acquainted with thee.
ROS.: They say you are a melancholy fellow.
JAQ.: I am so; I do love it better than laughing.
ROS.: Those that are in extremity of either are abominable fellows, and betray themselves to
every modern censure worse than drunkards.
Jaques 159
JAQ.: Why, 'tis good to be sad and say nothing.
ROS.: Why, then, 'tis good to be a post.
JAQ.: I have neither the scholar's melancholy, which is emulation; nor the musician's, …
[IV. i. 1-11]
and after enumerating seven different types of melancholy, he concludes,
… but it is a melancholy of mine own, compounded of many simples, extracted from many
objects; and indeed the sundry contemplation of my travels, in which my often rumination
wraps me in a most humorous sadness—
ROS.: A traveller! By my faith, you have great reason to be sad. I fear you have sold your
own lands to see other men's; then, to have seen much, and to have nothing, is to have rich
eyes and poor hands.
JAQ.: Yes, I have gained my experience.
ROS: And your experience makes you sad. I had rather have a fool to make me merry than
experience to make me sad; and to travel for it too!
[IV. i. 15-29]
Love bestows on those who embrace it the experience and wisdom of the race, compared with which the
knowledge schools and foreign lands can offer is at the worst a mere counterfeit and at the best a mere
beginning. What wonder that Jaques, after being so thoroughly trounced by the pretty youth whose
acquaintance he was seeking a moment before, is glad to sneak away as Orlando enters (what would they have
done to him together?), or that Rosalind, after a "Farewell, Monsieur Traveller," turns with relief to her lover.
Even Jaques' most famous speech, his "Seven Ages of Man" as it has come to be called [II. vii. 139ff.], which
he must have rehearsed more times than the modern schoolboy who declaims it, does not deserve its
reputation for wisdom. It sometimes seems as if Shakespeare had invented Adam (that grand reconciliation of
servant and man) as Jaques' perfect opposite and let him enter this scene, pat, at the exact moment when
Jaques is done describing the "last scene of all," as a living refutation of his picture of old age. How
Shakespeare loved to let life obliterate language in this way! And he does it here prospectively as well as
retrospectively, for the Senior Duke a second later, by his hospitable welcome of Adam and Orlando,
obliterates or at least mitigates Amiens' song of man's ingratitude ("Blow, blow, thou winter wind" [II. vii.
174-90]) that immediately follows. (pp. 283-85)
HaroldC. Goddard, "As You Like lt," in his The Meaning of Shakespeare, The University of Chicago Press,
1951, pp. 281-93.
As You Like It: Selected Quotes
Not a whit, Touchstone; those that are good manners at the court are as ridiculous in the
country as the behaviour of the country is most mockable at the court. (III, ii)
The natural world of Arden is used in the play as a contrast to the civilized courtly life. Shakespeare initially
presents an idealized version of "country" life, but later also includes negative aspects. Here Corin highlights
the vast difference between the two ways of life in a conversation with Touchstone. The gist of the
As You Like It: Selected Quotes 160
conversation seems to be that wherever you choose to live, it is what you make of it that is important.
All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages...
(II, vii)
The beginning of the play's most famous quote, the pessimistic Jaques meditates on the seeming predictabilty
and futility of life. In each of man's "acts" he is worthy of ridicule and powerless.
Well, I will forget the condition of my estate, to rejoice in yours.
(I, ii)
Rosalind can be juxtaposed with Jaques, in that she sees the good things in life, and is not overwhelmed with
the kind of negative observations made by Jaques. Confronted with the banishment of her father and the
treachery of her uncle, she nonetheless speaks these words to Celia, demonstrating her ability to find
something good amidst other hardships.
Twice did he turn his back, and purpos'd so;
But kindness, nobler ever than revenge,
And nature, stronger than his just occasion,
Made him give battle to the lioness,
Who quickly fell before him; in which hurtling
From miserable slumber I awak'd.
(IV, iii)
Spoken by Oliver, this quote is a good example of the theme of Christian virtue found in the play. He is
referring to Orlando, who, despite his mistreatment by Oliver, saves him from the sleeping beast. This in turn,
results in a reformed and "Christianized" Oliver.
...but it is a melancholy of mine own, compounded of many simples, extracted from many
objects: and, indeed, the sundry contemplation of my travels; in which my often rumination
wraps me in a most humorous sadness
As You Like It: Selected Quotes 161
(IV, i)
Jaques explains to Rosalind that his melancholy is all his own, arrived at from his experience and
self-absorbtion. He is melancholic because he is Jaques, juxtaposed with Rosalind's goodness.
full of ambition, an envious emulator of every man's good parts, a secret and villainous
contriver against me his natural brother:
(I, i)
Oliver's unfounded description of his brother Orlando at the beginning of the play, it is in fact a more fitting
description of Oliver himself. At the end of the play, of course, Oliver is reformed through the good deeds of
the very brother he vilifies here.
Virtue is no horn-maker; and my Rosalind is virtuous.
(IV, i)
Spoken by Orlando to "Ganymed" -- who is actually Rosalind in disguise. The quote is simply one example of
many ironically comic exchanges that take place in the play.
As You Like It: Suggested Essay Topics
Act I
1. Discuss the concepts of fortune and nature as they apply to Orlando and Oliver.
2. Compare and contrast the relationship of Oliver and Orlando with that of Rosalind and Celia.
3. Explore the ways that Shakespeare uses witty wordplay based on "sport" and "wrestling" analogies to
reveal his characters' views on the subject of love.
4. Compare the impressions we get of court life and country life in the first act.
Act II
1. Discuss the ways in which Shakespeare reveals that life in the Forest of Arden, while in many ways an
idealized existence, also has its hardships.
2. Explore the many images of the natural world in the second act.
3. Compare and contrast the many sides of Jaques' character revealed in the scenes in which he is referred to
or appears.
4. Discuss the concept of loyalty as it applies to Orlando and Adam in the second act, and the ways in which it
defines their characters.
As You Like It: Suggested Essay Topics 162
1. Compare and contrast the attitudes toward love expressed by Orlando, Touchstone, Jaques, and Silvius in
the third act.
2. Compare and contrast the attitudes of Corin and Touchstone toward country life and city life in Act III,
Scene 2.
3. Explore the ways that Rosalind's Ganymede disguise affects her behavior in this act.
4. Discuss the ways in which the developments in the third act foreshadow further comic complications.
Act IV
1. Examine the ways that Rosalind tests Orlando's love for her in Act IV Scene 1.
2. Explore the ways in which what we have already learned about Orlando foreshadows his courageous
actions in saving his brother's life.
3. Discuss the ways that Rosalind's Ganymede disguise proves an advantage and a disadvantage in Act IV,
Scenes 1 and 3.
4. Contrast the changing roles of Celia and Oliver in the fourth act with their characterizations earlier in the
Act V
1. Compare and contrast the realistically drawn rural characters Corin, William, and Audrey to Silvius and
Phebe, who are many ways the conventional "poetic shepherds" of pastoral romance.
2. Explore the ways that Touchstone's behavior differs when he is in the company of "city" and "country"
3. Discuss the role of Jaques in the play and the reasons that may underlie his decision to remain in the forest.
4. Explain the reasons why Duke Senior, after praising the pastoral life, might want to return to the court.
As You Like It: Sample Essay Outlines
The following paper topics are based on the entire play. Following each topic is a thesis and a sample outline.
Use these as a starting point for your paper.
Topic #1
Fortune and nature are two of the central themes of William Shakespeare's As You Like It. Write an essay that
discusses the role of these elements in the lives of Orlando, Oliver, Duke Senior, Duke Frederick, and
Rosalind. Nature, in this instance, refers to human nature rather than to the natural world.
I. Thesis Statement: Fortune and nature play key roles in the lives of Orlando, Oliver, Duke Senior, Duke
Frederick, and Rosalind.
II. Orlando
As You Like It: Sample Essay Outlines 163
A. Fortune has deprived Orlando of his rightful inheritance.
B. Fortune enables Orlando to win his wrestling match with Charles and earn the love of Rosalind.
C. Orlando's relationship with Adam reveals that he is noble by nature.
D. Orlando must leave his home after learning that his brother plans to kill him, but fortune rewards him when
he woos and wins Rosalind in the forest.
E. At the end of the play, fortune bestows gifts on the deserving Orlando: he marries the woman he loves and
is named heir to a dukedom.
III. Oliver
A. Fortune rewards Oliver with control over his late father's estate.
B. Oliver is revealed by his words and actions as a villain by nature.
C. Fortune prevents Oliver's murderous plots against his brother from succeeding.
D. Oliver encounters ill fortune when his estate is seized by Duke Frederick and he is banished from the court
until he finds Orlando.
E. Fortune rewards the undeserving Oliver; Orlando saves his life when he is threatened by a snake and a
F. Oliver's nature changes after he is rescued by Orlando; he is rewarded by fortune with Celia's love.
IV Duke Senior
A. Fortune has deprived Duke Senior of the dukedom to which he is the rightful heir.
B. Duke Senior makes the most of his misfortune by establishing a happy life in the Forest of Arden; his
optimistic nature enables him to find sweetness in his adversity.
C. Duke Senior reveals by his words and actions that he is generous and kind; for example, he invites Orlando
and Adam to share in his feast.
D. Fortune rewards Duke Senior by restoring his dukedom and uniting his daughter in marriage with a man
who is also noble in nature. Sample Analytical Paper Topics 97
V. Duke Frederick
A. Fortune has unfairly rewarded Duke Frederick with a dukedom to which he is not entitled.
B. Duke Frederick is revealed as a villain by nature; he despises Orlando and Rosalind because they are
virtuous and well-liked.
C. Fortune miraculously thwarts Duke Frederick's plan to capture and kill Duke Senior when he encounters an
old religious hermit on the outskirts of the forest.
As You Like It: Sample Essay Outlines 164
D. Duke Frederick, like Oliver, undergoes a sudden change in his nature and renounces his former ways.
VI. Rosalind
A. Fortune has deprived Rosalind of her father and her status as daughter of the reigning duke; she describes
herself as "one out of suits with fortune."
B. In Rosalind's witty dialogue with Celia in Act 1, Scene 2, she comments that fortune's benefits are
"mightily misplaced," and that the goddess Fortune is, by tradition, blind and bestows her gifts unequally.
C. Rosalind is revealed as romantic and kind by nature; the people of the dukedom "praise her for her virtues."
D. The apparent misfortune of Rosalind's banishment is, in fact, a stroke of good fortune, for Orlando has also
arrived in the forest; Rosalind is granted the opportunity to test Orlando's love for her while she is disguised as
E. At the end of the play, fortune rewards Rosalind with a reunion with her father, whose dukedom has been
restored, and marriage to the man she loves.
VII. Conclusion: In As You Like It, many of the characters have just cause to "rail on Lady Fortune" and the
caprices of human nature. By the end of the play, however, those who were of evil nature have changed for
the better, and fortune's gifts have been fairly bestowed.
Topic #2
In As You Like It, Shakespeare often contrasts city life and country life. The pastoral life is praised by a
number of characters in this play, yet Shakespeare suggests frequently that it is not as ideal a life as many of
the characters believe. In doing so, Shakespeare also satirizes the conventions of pastoral romance. Write an
essay in which you discuss Shakespeare's portrayal of city life and country life in each of the play's five acts.
I. Thesis Statement: In As You Like It, Shakespeare presents multiple views of city life and country life.
II. Act I
A. The court is shown to be a place of corruption and villainy through the actions of Oliver and Duke
B. Courtly manners are satirized as "affected" in the character of Le Beau.
C. The banished Duke Senior's life in the Forest of Arden is idealized when Charles describes the Duke and
his men as fleeting the time carelessly "as they did in the golden world."
D. Celia comments that she and Rosalind, in leaving the court for the countryside, are going "To liberty, and
not to banishment."
A. Duke Senior praises the virtues of the pastoral life, which is also celebrated in Amiens' songs; life in the
forest seems far removed from life at the "envious court."
As You Like It: Sample Essay Outlines 165
B. Jaques comments on the irony of the Duke and his men killing and frightening the animals in the forest,
which they have usurped just as Duke Frederick has usurped his brother's dukedom.
C. Duke Senior and Amiens reveal that country life has its hardships: winter and rough weather.
D. Touchstone comments wryly that "When I was at home, I was in a better place," and Jaques remarks that a
man is a fool to "leave his wealth and ease" to live in the forest.
E. Corin remarks that the landowner he serves is "of churlish disposition" and unlikely to get into heaven;
unjust behavior is not confined to the city.
F. Adam almost starves to death in the forest, where food isn't readily available.
A. Touchstone praises some elements of the pastoral life, but he also remarks that it is tedious and austere.
B. Corin extols the virtues of his simple life as a shepherd and makes fun of the formal manner of the court.
C. Orlando remarks on the timelessness of the forest-a departure from the regimentation of the court.
D. Audrey is revealed as a simple, unsophisticated rustic who does not understand Touchstone's witticisms as
the "city" characters do.
E. Silvius is disclosed as miserable and comically extreme in his passion, while Phebe is depicted as vain and
petulant; Shakespeare satirizes the conventional view of idealized shepherds living in a harmonious pastoral
V. Act IV
A. The deer killed by the Forest Lords is another reminder that the pastoral life has its harshnesses.
B. Oliver reveals that the forest can be a dangerous place; wild beasts-a snake and a lioness lurk as a threat.
VI. Act V
A. The character of William again reveals that the country dwellers are often unsophisticated and "unlearned."
100 As You Like It
B. The song sung by the two Pages, with its images of green cornfields and singing birds, celebrates the
virtues of a country spring.
C. Touchstone's speeches about courtly manners and the "rules of quarreling" at court are reminders of the
"painted pomp" and affectation of city life.
D. The forest is shown to be a magical place; Duke Frederick need only arrive at its outskirts to be converted.
E. Duke Senior, who has praised the pastoral life, decides to return to the city at the first opportunity; only
Jaques, a critic of life in the forest, chooses to remain.
As You Like It: Sample Essay Outlines 166
VII. Conclusion: Shakespeare, in As You Like It, often seems to be praising the virtues of the pastoral life at
the expense of city life, yet ultimately he offers a more balanced view. Both city life and country life are
shown to have their advantages and disadvantages.
Topic #3
As You Like It offers a number of differing perspectives on the forms that love can take. These range from
love at first sight (with resulting complications) to unrequited passion to frank desire to satisfy one's physical
needs. Write an essay that describes and analyzes the courtships of the four couples who are married at the
end of the play.
I. Thesis Statement: In his depiction of the four couples-Orlando and Rosalind, Silvius and Phebe, Oliver and
Celia, and Touchstone and Audrey-Shakespeare offers four differing perspectives on love and its many
II. Orlando and Rosalind
A. Rosalind falls in love with Orlando at first sight at the wrestling match.
B. Orlando falls in love with Rosalind at first sight but he is speechless to thank her when she gives him a
chain as a reward for his victory.
C. Orlando expresses his love for Rosalind by writing poems to her and carving her name on trees.
D. Rosalind panics when she learns Orlando is in the Forest of Arden and wonders how her Ganymede
disguise might complicate matters, but she turns her disguise into a advantage when she decides to test the
extent of Orlando's love for her.
E. In her conversations with Orlando while she is in disguise, Rosalind punctures Orlando's conventional
notions of how a lover should act; she gets him to adopt a realistic attitude toward the woman he loves.
F. Orlando proves to the disguised Rosalind that he is truly in love, and Rosalind realizes how deeply she
loves Orlando, thus allowing Rosalind to abandon her disguise and marry him.
III. Silvius and Phebe
A. Silvius' love for Phebe is unrequited, leaving him in agony.
B. Phebe, a "poetic shepherdess," is disdainful of Silvius, spurning his advances.
C. Silvius uses the conventional language of love; like Orlando he claims he will die if the woman he is
obsessed with does not love him.
D. Rosalind chastises Phebe for her pride, but Phebe falls in love with Rosalind in her Ganymede disguise.
E. Phebe, now in love with Ganymede, is more charitable toward Silvius, but she deceives him by making
him deliver a poetic love letter.
E Rosalind employs a ruse to bring Silvius and Phebe together; her folly exposed, Phebe falls in love with
Silvius and agrees to marry the shepherd who adores her.
As You Like It: Sample Essay Outlines 167
IV. Oliver and Celia
A. Celia, perhaps feeling left out after her best friend has fallen in love with Orlando, takes the lead in
questioning a stranger who arrives in the forest.
B. Oliver, having learned to love his brother after years of hatred and resentment, tells Orlando that he has
fallen in love with Aliena.
C. Orlando is incredulous that his brother has fallen in love at first sight, but he realizes his brother is sincere
in his affections.
D. The love of Oliver and Celia seems as sudden as Oliver's "miracuous" conversion, but it is in keeping with
the play's conventions; Orlando and Rosalind also fell in love at first sight and Phebe had the same experience
when she met Ganymede.
V. Touchstone and Audrey
A. Touchstone and Audrey are an odd couple from the first; the unsophisticated Audrey does not understand
Touchstone's witticisms.
B. Touchstone is certain that Audrey will make him a cuckold after they are married, but he still resolves to
marry her.
C. Touchstone confesses candidly to Jaques that he is marrying Audrey because "man hath his desires."
D. Touchstone want Sir Oliver Martext to perform the wedding ceremony because the marriage might not be
legal, thus leaving him free to eventually abandon his wife.
E. Touchstone deliberately puts off the marriage, but when William appears, Touchstone asserts his claim to
Audrey, who has eyes only for her sophisticated "man of the court."
F. At the wedding festivities, Jaques predicts that Touchstone and Audrey's marriage will last only two
VI. Conclusion In As You Like It, Shakespeare provides a comic glimpse at the foibles of love through the
disparate romantic experiences of four couples. Three of the marriages at the end of the play promise to be
happy ones, yet the fourth is unlikely to last.
Topic #4
Role playing is one of the central themes of As You Like It. Jaques remarks that "one man in his time plays
many parts" and the action of the play reveals this to be true. As You Like It also contains a number of
additional theatrical analogies. For example, Duke Senior remarks that "This wide and universal theatre/
Presents more woeful pageants that the scene/ Wherein we play in." Later, Corin invites Rosalind and Celia to
witness a "pageant truly played" in Silvius' courtship of Phebe, and Rosalind replies, "I'll prove a busy actor in
their play." Write an essay in which you discuss the character of Rosalind and the many roles she plays.
Thesis Statement: Jaques' observation that "one man in his time plays many parts" is particularly appropriate
in the case of Rosalind, the main character of the play.
II. Rosalind's role at court
As You Like It: Sample Essay Outlines 168
A. The royal princess lamenting for her banished father.
B. The loyal friend to her cousin Celia.
C. The young woman falling in love with an attractive young man after his heroic victory.
III. Decision to adopt the role of Ganymede
A. Rosalind comments on the disparity between "a hidden woman's fear" and the "swashing and maritial
outside" of the disguise she will adopt.
B. Rosalind's new role is necessary to assure her safety (and Celia's) in the countryside.
IV Arrival in the forest
A. Rosalind, now disguised as Ganymede and weary after her journey, comments that she could find it in her
heart to "disgrace my apparel and cry like a woman"; she will continue to play the role of a woman to those
aware of her true identity.
B. Rosalind's disguise as Ganymede passes its first test when Corin calls her "gentle sir"; she plays the role of
a young man to those unaware of her disguise.
V. Act III, Scenes 2, 3, and 5
A. Rosalind responds to Orlando's presence in the forest like a woman, and she wonders what to do with her
doublet and hose; when she is with Celia she plays a woman in love.
B. Rosalind decides to "play the saucy lackey" when Orlando enters, using her disguise to her advantage.
C. Rosalind pledges to play the role of "psychologist/physician" to cure Orlando of his lovesickness.
D. Rosalind attempts to play the role of matchmaker with Silvius and Phebe, but her efforts backfire when
Phebe falls in love with Ganymede.
VI. Act IV Scenes 1 and 3
A. Rosalind, as Ganymede, confidently plays Rosalind for Orlando; she first plays "Rosalind" as a skeptic.
B. Ganymede then plays a second Rosalind, this time in a more receptive mood.
C. Ganymede plays the role of a bride in the mock marriage ceremony while Celia plays the priest.
D. Rosalind again plays matchmaker for Silvius and Phebe.
E. Ganymede reacts as a woman at the sight of Orlando's blood; she faints and makes the excuse to Oliver that
it was a result of playing a woman's role too well.
VIII. Act V Scenes 2 and 4; Epilogue
A. Rosalind promises to play the role of a sorceress to solve Orlando's problems.
As You Like It: Sample Essay Outlines 169
B. Rosalind again plays the role of matchmaker/problem solver for Silvius, Phebe, and Orlando.
C. With everyone's problems solved, Rosalind realizes her male role is no longer necessary and resumes her
female role.
D. Rosalind adopts new roles as both crown princess and wife at the end of Scene 4.
E. Rosalind drops character in the Epilogue to admit what Shakespeare's audience knew all along; "she" is
now a male actor who has played the role of a woman impersonating a man.
IX. Conclusion: In keeping with the many theatrical analogies in As You Like It, the character of Rosalind
does indeed "play many parts."
Topic #5
Time is one of the many themes in William Shakespeare's As You Like It. Write an essay in which you explore
Shakespeare's references to time in the play.
I. Thesis Statement: In As You Like It, Shakespeare explores the theme of time in many different ways.
II. Act I
A. We learn that Duke Senior and his court-in-exile "fleet the time carelessly as they did in the golden world."
B. Court life seems far more regimented than the description of life in the forest.
A. Adam's faithful nature is underscored by the fact that he has served the household of Sir Rowland de Boys
from the age of seventeen "till now almost fourscore."
B. We hear that Touchstone withdrew a sundial from his pocket and commented comically on time, and that
Jaques laughed an hour by his dial.
C. Orlando comments that the Duke and his followers "lose and neglect the creeping hours of time."
D. Amiens' songs evoke the changing of the seasons.
E. Jaques' "Seven Ages of Man" speech charts man's progress from infancy to death.
A. Duke Frederick commands Oliver to find Orlando within a year or he will forfeit his lands and goods.
B. One of Orlando's poems, read by Celia, comments, "How brief the life of man."
C. Orlando remarks to Ganymede that "There's no clock in the forest," and Rosalind replies that true lovers
are prompt.
D. Rosalind comments that "Time travels in diverse paces with diverse persons" and gives several examples.
As You Like It: Sample Essay Outlines 170
V. Act IV
A. Orlando, careless about time, arrives nearly an hour late for his meeting with Ganymede.
B. Rosalind again reminds Orlando that true lovers arrive on time and chides him for being as slow as a snail;
she warns him that his next lateness will be his last.
C. Rosalind tells Orlando that the world is six thousand years old and in that time no one has ever died for
love; she tells him to be realistic and asks him not to promise he will love her "for ever and a day."
D. Orlando promises to return in two hours, and Rosalind cautions him to be on time.
E. Orlando is again late for his appointment, setting up potential complications, but this time he has a good
VI. Act V
A. Touchstone has delayed his marriage to Audrey but tells her "we shall find a time."
B. Oliver, like Orlando, Rosalind, and Phebe, falls in love in an instant.
C. The song sung by the two Pages contains references to time, and Touchstone comments that the moment he
spent listening to it was "time lost."
D. Jaques predicts that the marriage of Touchstone and Audrey will last only two months.
VII. Conclusion: The theme of time, present throughout the play, has both serious and comic implications. In
the end, time has healed all wounds, and most of the principal characters look forward to a happy future.
As You Like It: Modern Connections
Like many modern television situation comedies, the humor of As You Like It depends upon the audience's
suspension of disbelief. We are asked, for example, to believe that Duke Senior does not recognize his own
daughter in disguise. Similarly, although Orlando does not know Rosalind all that well, we would still expect
that he would be able, eventually, to recognize some quality in Ganymede that would remind him of Rosalind.
And also like modern sitcoms, Shakespeare's comedy also resolves all problems neatly and quickly at the end.
The conversions of the early villains, Duke Frederick and Oliver, are perhaps too neat and too quick to be
believable. Similarly, the marriage combinations—Oliver and Celia; Phebe and Silvius; and Touchstone and
Audrey—seem to defy rationality. Beyond the confines of the play, we might imagine that the marriages
between these couples might not work, since they know each other so shallowly. The coercion and deception
upon which the marriage of Phebe and Silvius is based, for example, is hardly an ideal circumstance, and the
marriage of Audrey and Touchstone, as Jaques suggests, "Is but for two months victuall'd" (V.iv.192),
meaning that as an emotional expedition it is meagerly supplied and cannot last. The real function of neat and
quick comic resolutions in this play, as in modern sitcoms, is to suggest and reinforce social values. In the
idealized Elizabethan world that As You Like It presents, marriage represents an important element in social
The idealized world of the Forest of Arden also functions in another way; it can be seen as a critique of the
worlds of Duke Frederick's court and Oliver's hierarchical household. As You Like It is a pastoral drama, and
the pastoral mode was generally accepted in Shakespeare's day as a technique for thinly veiled criticism of
As You Like It: Modern Connections 171
social institutions. Shepherds were presented as living simply in a kind of "Garden of Eden" environment
remote from the ambition and deception of the court and the city. The simple basic values these shepherds
living close to nature express, then, become implicit condemnations of the artificiality of all that is not natural,
all that is competitive, coercive, and hierarchical. In this play, Corin is such a pastoral figure, and the simple
philosophy of life he espouses can be compared with the elaborate and systematized philosophies of Jaques
and Touchstone, often rendering them ridiculous in contrast. The pastoral Forest of Arden is a place in which
the characters can be themselves, unpressured by the hidden desires of others. It is the modern equivalent of
what we would call an emotional haven from the "rat race" of daily living, a paradisal vacation spot where a
person's essence seems to surface.
The Forest of Arden operates on yet another level. It is a magical place with religious suggestions, some
critics have argued. Oliver tells of a struggle in the Forest of Arden involving a serpent, typically
representative of evil, and a lioness, perhaps representative of Christianity. The presence of such animals in
what is ostensibly the English countryside is unexpected and certainly allows the possibility that the encounter
is meant to be read allegorically. Similarly, Duke Frederick has encountered an "old religious man" (V.iv.160)
and has abandoned both worldly pursuits and his plans to subdue the exiles by force. On this level, the Forest
of Arden is symbolic of a spiritual realm, while Duke Frederick's court and Oliver's household represent an
earthly world subject to the whims of human frailty.
As You Like It treats time in a way that is significant to our own modern era. In the Forest of Arden, there
exists a timelessness in which the characters are free to pursue possibilities and live unfettered by time's
constraints. In our own time, so driven by and dependent on technology, we know what it is like to be harried
and constrained by time's fleeting moments. We also know, if only occasionally, the feeling of freedom from
time's constant presence, those precious, unpressured moments when we can relax and be ourselves. And like
the characters in As You Like It, we can decide which condition we prefer.
As You Like It: FAQs
Was there an actual Forest of Arden?
The maiden name of Shakespeare's mother was Mary Arden and her father, Robert Arden (died 1556) owned
substantial parcels of rich farmland around Stratford that he leased to farmers, including Richard Shakespeare,
the playwright's father. Richard Arden may have been a descendant of the Ardens of Park Hall, the largest
owners of land in England prior to the Norman Conquest in 1066. We have some grounds to believe that
Shakespeare had the woods around his boyhood home in mind when he named the rustic setting of As You
Like It. Nevertheless, some Shakespeare scholars argue that the "Arden" of the play is simply an English
translation of Ardennes, a heavily wooded region that spans France Belgium and Luxembourg. Whatever the
provenance of its name, the Forest itself is not a real locale. It is an idyllic and imagined realm akin to
Prospero's Island in The Tempest or Portia's home at "fair" Belmont in The Merchant of Venice.
Which "side" did Shakespeare favor in the play's division
between town and country?
As You Like It is a genial satire of the pastoral romance genre, and plainly Shakespeare recognized that his
London audiences would enjoy humor at the expense of bucolic pretensions and country bumpkins. Even
before we enter the forest we are told that Duke Senior and his exiled court live off the land "like Robin
Hood" in a "golden age." The Duke and his men are a merry crew, but the forest has its hardships, and the
play clearly punctures romantic myths surrounding idealized living in a primitive realm. This is evident in the
rather foolish passion of the shepherd youth Silvius for his beloved Phebe. Shakespeare does furnish us with a
As You Like It: FAQs 172
positive picture of country life in the person of Corin, a "real" shepherd who apprises Rosalind of the
deprivations and drudgery of his bucolic vocation (see Act II, scene iv., ll.73-84). But in Corin himself,
Shakespeare provides praise for the rural: Corin is a down-to-earth type, hospitable to strangers according to
his limited means, and is completely unmoved by Touchstone's jabs at the simple joys of living outside the
pale of court and refined civilization.
Why is Jaques so sad?
Even before he appears on stage, we learn through a report by Duke Senior's men that Jaques is given to a
chronic melancholy as they humorously relate how he has pined over the death of a stag that they have
merrily shot. When we first see him, Jaques is engaged in lively repartee with the Duke and his followers as
they assault his pessimistic airs and he parodies their pretentious rural songs and adopted folkways. There is
no reason that Jaques is sad, no tragic circumstance in his background that would explain his negative
worldview. We are by his tormentors to look upon his melancholic attitude as an affectation, an assumed
posture of cynical boredom. In a play with virtually no dramatic substance, Jaques functions as a foil to its
life-affirming characters, most notably, to Rosalind, the heroine who disguise herself as Ganymede and retains
hope despite the harsh treatment she (and her father) have received from Duke Frederick. Although urged to
return to court with the other members of Duke Senior's party at the end of the play, Jaques refuses. Yet this
final negation carries with it the seeds of a prospective change in outlook, for Jaques decides to go to the side
of the converted Duke Frederick, asserting that "there is much matter to be heard and learn'd" from those who
have undergone a spiritual awakening.
What is Touchstone's function in the play?
Touchstone is one of the many "fools" who populate Shakespeare's comedies, romances, and tragedies.
Touchstone has absolutely no part in the central proceedings of the play, nor does he represent any distinct
worldview, outlook or ideology as Jaques embodies affected pessimism. As his name connotes, the clown of
As You Like It is a "touchstone" to the other characters, for he tests their perspectives and their pretensions
with his humor. Touchstone mixes the altruistic with the expedient; he readily abandons his service to the evil
Duke Frederick to go with Rosalind and Celia into the forest, but he has little real choice in the matter.
Touchstone takes what life presents him without any anguish, the ease of his courtship of and marriage to
Audrey standing in sharp contrast to the overly complicated affair between Silvius and Phebe.
As You Like It: Bibliography and Further Reading
Barber, C. L. Shakespeare's Festive Comedy. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1959.
Berry, Edward. Shakespeare's Comic Rites. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985.
Bloom, Harold, ed. Major Literary Characters: Rosalind. New York: Chelsea House, 1992.
Bloom, Harold, ed. Modern Critical Interpretation: William Shakespeare's As You Like It. New York: Chelsea
House, 1988.
Bonazza, Blaze O. Shakespeare's Early Comedies: A Structural Analysis. The Hague: Mouton, 1966.
Brown, John Russell. Discovering Shakespeare: A New Guide to the Plays. New York: Columbia University
Press, 1986.
Which "side" did Shakespeare favor in the play's divisionbetween town and country? 173
Bush, Geoffrey. Shakespeare and the Natural Condition. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1956.
Campbell, Oscar James, and Edward G. Quinn, eds. The Reader's Encyclopedia of Shakespeare. New York:
Crowell, 1966.
Champion, L. S. The Evolution of Shakespeare's Comedy: A Study in Dramatic Perspective. Cambridge:
Harvard University Press, 1970.
Derrick, Patti S. "Rosalind and the Nineteenth-Century Woman: Four Stage Interpretations." Theatre Survey
26 (November 1985): 143-162.
French, Marilyn. Shakespeare's Division of Experience. New York: Summit Books, 1981.
Frye, Northrop. "Characterization in Shakespeare's Comedy." Shakespeare Quarterly 4 (1953): 271-277.
Granville-Barker, Harley. Prefaces to Shakespeare. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1965/1978.
Grebanier, Bernard. Then Came Each Actor. New York: David McKay, 1975.
Halio, Jay L., and Barbara C. Millard. As You Like It. An Annotated Bibliography, 1940-1980. New York:
Garland, 1985.
Kott, Jan. Shakespeare Our Contemporary. Trans. Boleslaw Taborski. Rev. ed. Garden City: Anchor Books,
McFarland, Thomas. Shakespeare's Pastoral Comedy. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1972.
Nevo, Ruth. Comic Transformations in Shakespeare. New York: Routledge, Chapman & Hall, 1981.
Odell, G. C. D. Shakespeare from Betterton to Irving. 2 vols. New York: Scribner's, 1920.
Palmer, John. Comic Characters of Shakespeare. London: Macmillan, 1946.
Parrott, Thomas M. Shakespearean Comedy. New York: Russell & Russell, 1962.
Partridge, Eric. Shakespeare's Bawdy. Rev. ed. New York: Dutton, 1969.
Reynolds, Peter. Penguin Critical Studies: As You Like It. London: Penguin, 1988.
Shakespeare, William. As You Like It. London: Penguin Books, 1981.
Shaw, John. "Fortune and Nature in As You Like It." Shakespeare Quarterly 6 (1955): 45-50.
Speaight, Robert. Shakespeare On the Stage. Boston: Little, Brown, 1973.
Tillyard, E. M. W. Shakespeare's Early Comedies. London: Athlone Press, 1965.
Van Doren, Mark. Shakespeare. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1939.
Ward, John Powell. As You Like It: Twayne's New Critical Introductions to Shakespeare. New York: Twayne,
As You Like It: Bibliography and Further Reading 174
Wells, Stanley, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
Wilson, Edwin, ed. Shaw on Shakespeare. New York: Dutton, 1961.
Wilson, John Dover. Shakespeare's Happy Comedies. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1962.

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