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 As You Like It -=- William Shakespeare


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: 17/06/2008

: As You Like It -=- William Shakespeare    15, 2008 4:41 am

As You Like It
William Shakespeare

Plot Summary

Before Sir Rowland de Boys died, he made Oliver, his eldest son, promise to rear and educate Orlando, his youngest son. But after Sir Rowlands death, Oliver virtually imprisons Orlando in their home. The younger brother receives no schooling, no guidance, and almost no moneyunlike a third brother, Jaques, who lives away at school, prospering. In the orchard of Olivers house, Orlando complains to Adam, an old servant, that Oliver even pays more attention to his horses. When Oliver enters the orchard, Orlando tells him:
My father charged you in his will to give me good education: you have trained me like a peasant, obscuring and hiding from me all gentleman-like qualities. The spirit of my father grows strong in me, and I will no longer endure it; therefore allow me such exercises as may become a gentleman, or give me the poor allottery my father left me by testament; with that I will go buy my fortunes.

Meanwhile, two other menDuke Frederick and his younger brother Duke Senioralso live at odds. Frederick had unjustly seized the dukedom of Senior and banished him to the Forest of Arden. There, Senior and his loyal followers learn to live like Robin Hood and his merry men, enjoying all the simple pleasures of a rustic existence. As Senior says,
And this our life exempt from public haunt
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones and good in every thing.
I would not change it.

Seniors daughter, Rosalind, remains behind at the court of Frederick. Rosalind is the central character in the play, the hub around whom the wheel of fortune revolves. At Duke Fredericks behest, Rosalind is to serve as a companion for his daughter, Celia. It so happens that Rosalind has a sympathizer in Celia, for the two of them have been best friends since childhood. Whenever Rosalind pines for her missing father, Celia is there to comfort her. She says, I pray thee, Rosalind, sweet my coz, be merry . Rosalind soon will have good cause to be merry, for she is destined to fall in love with Orlando, the young man maltreated by his brother Oliver. Here is what happens:
Orlando somehow flourishes on his own, like an unattended flower, displaying the spirit and courtly bearing of his father, Rowland de Boys. However, restricted as he is by his brother, Orlando lapses into melancholy. When he learns that Duke Fredericks champion wrestler, Charles, will take on challengers, Orlando bids to compete. After all, he has nothing to lose but his miserable life. Oliver, jealous of the fine young man that his brother is becoming, urges Charles to break Orlandos neck during the match.
Rosalind and Celia, present to witness the competition, try to dissuade Orlando from competing. Rosalind even attempts to have the match canceled
But the match goes on and Orlando, heartened by the kindness shown by Celia and Rosalind, defeats Charles! Duke Frederick admires the young man for his courage and skill. But when Frederick learns Orlando is the son of Sir Rowland, who was a friend of the banished Duke Senior, he leaves the scene in a huff. Rosalind, however, rewards Orlando with a chain from her neck. Later, when Rosalind and Celia are discussing Orlando, Frederick bursts in and banishes Rosalind, for she reminds him too much of her father, Duke Senior, and his late friend, Sir Rowland. Frederick declares:
Within these ten days if that thou best [be] found
So near our public court as twenty miles,
Thou diest for it.
Disguised as a man and calling herself Ganymede, Rosalind leaves to seek out her father in the forest of Arden. Celia accompanies Rosalind, wearing the clothes of a country maid and posing as Ganymedes sister, Aliena. Tagging along is Duke Fredericks saucy-tongued court jester, Touchstone. In the forest, they first encounter an old man, Corin, talking with a young shepherd, Silvius. Silvius is deep in the throes of melancholy because the woman he loves, a shepherdess named Phebe, does not return his love. Rosalind empathizes with Silvius, for she now knows what it is like to be in love but not be united with the beloved. Rosalind contracts with Corin to buy a cottage for her, and she and Celia move in.
Orlando, too, must leave. Olivers elderly servant, Adam, has warned Orlando that the evil Oliver vows to burn Orlandos chamber that very night as Orlando sleeps. Orlando flees with Adam to the safety of the forest. Rosalind and Celia buy a flock of sheep and become shepherds. When old Adam complains of hunger, Orlando, sword in hand, demands food from Duke Seniors followers; but they generously share their food. When Senior learns Orlando is the son of his old friend, Sir Rowland, he takes Orlando under his protection.
Meanwhile, Duke Frederick, believing that Celia and Rosalind have run off with Orlando, orders Oliver to find his brother and bring him back dead or alive. If he fails in this task, he will lose all of his possessions.
In the forest, Orlando thinks often of Rosalind and carves her name on trees and attaches love poems. At the same time, Touchstone tests the worth of every character he meets in the forest with his quick-witted rejoindersthe kind he delivered at court as a foolspicing his language with puns and paradoxes to lay bare the marrow of his interlocutors. After Touchstone teases Rosalind about how her name is appearing on trees everywhere in the forest, Rosalind (still disguised as Ganymede) crosses paths one day with Orlando and playfully chides him about abusing the trees by carving his poems into them. Then she asks whether his rhymes truly reflect the love that he feels. Orlando replies, Neither rime nor reason can express how much .
Rosalind says Orlando can cure himself of his foolish love if he will come to her cottage each day and woo her as if she were Rosalind. In this way, he will learn of the ways of whimsical ladies and gradually fall out of love. Intrigued by this proposal, Orlando does as she asks. However, Orlando only falls more deeply in love with the memory of Rosalind as he takes part in the mock courtship. Rosalinds love also deepens.
While searching for Orlando, Oliver falls asleep under a tree. A green snake entwines his neck, preparing to kill him. Nearby a lioness awaits her turn at Oliver. Orlando happens upon the scene on his way to woo Ganymede. He scares off the snake and, as Oliver awakens, draws his sword and kills the lion at the cost of a deep wound to an arm. Suddenly, Oliver repents and becomes a loving brother. Because Orlandos wound has made him too weak to continue to Ganymedes cottage, Oliver goes in his stead and explains what happened, displaying a bloody handkerchief as proof of Orlandos wound. Rosalind faints.
While at the cottage, Oliver falls in love with Celia, and they vow to marry the next day. Rosalind (as Ganymede) goes to Orlando and tells him she is versed in magic and will conjure up Rosalind the following day so that he can marry her. On the appointed day, Rosalind appears as herself while the wedding guests, including Duke Senior and his followers look on. By this time, Touchstone has found a love of his ownAudrey, a country wench. In addition, Phebe, through a little trickery worked by Rosalind, agrees to marry Silvius. Thus, on the wedding day, four couples exchange vows: Orlando and Rosalind, Oliver and Celia, Silvius and Phebe, and Touchstone and Audry. But it so happens that there is also another event to celebrate. Jaques de Boys, the third son of Rowland de Boys and the brother of Orlando and Oliver, arrives to announce that a holy man has shown Duke Frederick the error of his ways. Consequently, Frederick has ceded his crown back to Duke Senior and retired from the corrupt and wordly life.
Presumably everyone lives happily ever after.


The action takes place in a palace in northern Europe and in the Arden Forest. There is an Arden Forest in Warwickshire, England, and an Ardennes Forest in continental Europe. The latter forest encompasses parts of Belgium, Luxembourg, and France. Thomas Lodge, who wrote a play that Shakespeare used as the source for As You Like It, earned a medical degree in France and practiced medicine in Belgium, not far from the Ardennes forest.

As You Like It -=- William Shakespeare
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