As You Like It By William Shakespeare (1564 - 1616) Essay

As You Like It
by William Shakespeare
(1564 – 1616)
Type of Work:
Romantic comedy
France; Duke Frederick’s court and Forest
of Arden; 1500s
Principal Characters
Duke Senior, exiled rightful ruler
Duke Frederick, usurper of his brother’s
Oliver and Orlando, sons of Sir Rowland
de Boys
Adam, long-time servant to Sir Rowland
Rosalind, Duke Senior’s daughter
Celia, Duke Frederick’s daughter
Phebe, a shepherdess
Silvius, a shepherd with unrequited love
for Phebe
Touchstone, a “motley fool” jester who
provides good-humor throughout the play
Story Overveiw
Orlando was angry with his older brother
Oliver for giving him nothing from their father’s estate. He complained
loudly to Adam, an old family servant. just then, in walked Oliver, the
object of Orlando’s ire. They quarreled, and though Adam pled with them”for your father’s remembrance” not to fight, Orlando continued to demand
his share of the inheritance – which Oliver at last reluctantly granted
in order to avoid violence. Then, as Orlando left, Oliver drove Adam out
as well: “Get you with him, you old dog.” Left alone, Oliver summoned mighty
Charles, the court wrestler. The next day Orlando was to wrestle Charles,
and Oliver charged him, “I had as lief thou did’st break his neck as his
finger.” Meanwhile, at the court of Duke Frederick, his daughter Celia
consoled melancholy Rosalind, her cousin – and the daughter of the recently
deposed duke Senior. But Celia’s consolations were futile; Rosalind could
not “forget a banished father.” Only when Celia promised that she would
turn over her whole future inheritance – the dukedom itself – to Rosalind,
did Rosalind grow “merry” again. The cousins then decided to go watch the
wrestling match. Meeting Orlando on the way, they tried to persuade him
to “give over this attempt” at besting Charles, who had already crushed
the ribs of three challengers. But Orlando would not be dissuaded.

The match ended quickly; to the astonishment
of all, Charles was thrown and Orlando declared the victor. Duke Frederick
called the champion forward to receive his reward, but upon learning that
Orlando was the son of his enemy, Sir Rowland, he angrily sent the young
man on his way. Rosalind, on the other hand, offered her hero a chain:
“Wear this for me,” she told him. Then she blushingly added, “Sir, you
have wrestled well, and overthrown more than your enemies.”
Just days later, Duke Frederick gruffly
took Rosalind aside. “Within these ten days” he warned, “if that thou be’st
found so near our public court as twenty miles, thou diest for it.” When
Rosalind protested that she was not a traitor, her uncle was unmoved. As
the daughter of Duke Senior, Frederick’s deposed brother, Rosalind was
unwelcome in his realm. But unbeknownst to Frederick, his own daughter
Celia offered to join her cousin in exile. That night the girls would depart
for the forest of Arden, where Duke Senior now lived. Since the forest
was a dangerous place for two women alone, the taller Rosalind dressed
as a pageboy, calling herself “Ganymede,” while Celia put on the rags of
a shepherdess, and called herself “Aliena.” They also invited the “clownish
fool of [the] court,” Touchstone, to accompany them. That evening, the
three fugitives escaped, undetected.

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Now that same night, Adam warned Orlando
of Oliver’s plan to burn Orlando’s house, leaving him no safe refuge. Adam
offered Orlando his life’s savings and asked, “Let me be your servant.”
Orlando gladly accepted and together they, too, left for the forest of

As Celia, Touchstone, and Rosalind – she
in boy’s clothing – made their way through the woods, they overheard a
shepherd, Silvius, pouring out his heart to his friend Corin: “O Corin,
that thou knew’st how I do love her [Phebel!” With this, the distraught
shepherd ran away. Rosalind and company, “with travel much oppressed,”
then approached Corin, and he extended an invitation for them to eat and
rest in his own humble cottage.

Meanwhile, in another part of the forest,
Adam, faint after their long journey, complained to Orlando: “Dear master
… I die for food.” Orlando promised he would bring victuals to the faithful
old servant, or die trying. As he searched for food, he came upon the exiled
Duke Senior and his men, who were about to eat. Orlando strutted towards
them and menacingly decreed, “Forebear, and eat no more! … He dies that
touches any of this fruit till I and my affairs are answered.” Duke Senior,
unoffended, invited Orlando to sit down and join them. Then, embarrassed
by his own behavior, Orlando begged their forgiveness and hurried to retrieve
Adam. As everyone ate, Orlando revealed to Duke Senior that he was the
son of Sir Rowland, where upon the Duke exclaimed, “I am the Duke that
loved your father.”
Back at court, Duke Frederick, believing
that Orlando had helped Celia and Rosalind escape, threatened Oliver with
the seizure of his lands unless he brought his brother back to him in chains.

With this, he sent the young man packing for the forest of Arden.

Now as Orlando made his way through the
forest, he went about carving poems into trees declaring his love for Rosalind.

Dressed as Ganymedc, Rosalind found one of the verses: “Let no face be
kept in mind but the fair of Rosalind.” Celia also happened on one of the
poems, goodnaturedly teased Rosalind, and revealed that Rosalind’s own
Orlando was the author. Suddenly, up strode Orlando himself with one of
Duke Senior’s men. Rosalind – as Ganymede decided to “play the knave with
him” and addressed him “like a saucy lackey.” Eventually, “Ganymede” posed
a remedy for Oriando’s love: Orlando was to woo Ganymede as though he were
Rosalind. The “boy” would then run the gambit of emotions with his “suitor,”
thereby curing him of his passion.

The next morning “Ganymede” awaited Orlando,
but he failed to come. As the disguised Rosalind confided her misery to
Celia, Corin came to announce the approach of Phebe and Silvius. Sure enough,
Silvius appeared, once more pleading with his shepherdess – “Sweet I’hcbe,
do not scorn me” -which only made Phebe scorn him more. Then Rosalind stepped
forward to berate them both. But even as “Ganymede” chidcd Phebe for her
disdain and scolded Silvius for putting up with it, Phebe was enchanted
by “his” beauty. “I had rather hear you chide,” she simpered, “than this
man woo.”
Finally Orlando arrived. “Orlando, where
have you been all this while? You a lover? . . . ” Rosalind wailed, as
if she were a boy mimicking a lady. Orlando begged her pardon, and, at
last Rosalind forgave him: “Come, woo me, woo me; for now I am in a holiday
humor and like enough to consent. What would you say to me now, and I were
your very very Rosalind?” and they bantered back and forth until Rosalind
maneuvered Orlando into asking for her hand in marriage. Orlando later

Soon after, Oliver came upon the boy Ganymede,
whose name he recognized. Displaying Oriando’s bloody handkerchief, Oliver
explained his brother’s earlier delay. It seems that while Oliver napped
beneath a free, Orlando, passing by on his way to woo Ganymede, had come
upon his sleeping brother in mortal danger from a lurking lioness – and
turned back to the rescue…… Kindness, nobler even than revenge, And
nature, stronger than his just occasion, made him give battle to the lioness.”
Orlando’s intervention had converted his brother’s hatred into love; the
two were reconciled.

At the sight of Orlando’s blood-stained
handkerchief, however, Rosalind swooned, a most unmanly act. Though she
quickly regained herself – “I pray you tell your brother how well I counterfeited”
– Oliver was not fooled. “It was a passion of earnest,” he was certain.

When Oliver returned to Orlando, he recounted
all that had transpired. He also confessed his love for Aliena (Celia)
and swore that Orlando could keep their father’s entire estate; he, Oliver,
would now prefer to stay in the forest to “live and die a shepherd.”
Ganymede then advanced toward Orlando,
offering once more to substitute for his beloved Rosalind. But Orlando
could not play the part; his sadness was too deep. Filled with compassion,
Ganymede promised him that on the morrow, by magical art, he would “set
[Rosalind] before your eyes.”
Then up walked Phebe, still in a huff,
and still followed by the devoted Silvius. Ganymede once more chided her:
“. . . You are followed by a faithful shepherd: Look upon him, love him;
he worships you.” Phebe, however, still proclaimed her love for Ganymede.

So, Rosalind struck a bargain with Phebe: If on the following day Phebe
still wanted to marry Ganymede, they would marry. But if Phebe refused,
then she must wed the scorned Silvius. Phebe agreed.

The next day, as all the suitors waited
in the forest, Hymen, the goddess of marriage, entered the clearing with
Rosalind – dressed finally as herself. Orlando was thrilled; Phebe was
shocked. “If sight and shape be true, why then, my love adieu!” she wailed.

Orlando and his Rosalind, Oliver and Celia,
Phebe and Silvius – and even Touchstone with Aubrey, a “homely wench” from
the forest joined hands in marriage as Hymen chirped:
Whiles a wedlock we sing,
Feed yourself with questioning,
That reason wonder may diminish,
How thus we met, and these things finish.

One of Shakespeare’s most famous works,
As You Like It possesses many classic elements of comedy. The personal
divisions at the outset (two Duke-brothers at war, two other brothers filled
with hate for one another, daughters separated from their fathers) all
strike a discordant note central to the comedic form. Moreover, the device
of Rosalind being mistaken for a man creates humorous tension throughout.

As in most comedies, though, by the end of the play all wrongs are somehow
righted; brothers come together and every Jack has his Jill.


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