Can you explain what is happening in Act I of "As You Like It"?the play As You Like It being taught at my school, I need to understand it properly. Please help.

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blacksheepunite eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There is an excellent summary and study guide for this play on the enotes site.

There are a couple of different things going on in this Act, both involving brothers.

Act 1 Scene 1 opens with the first set of brothers, Orlando and Oliver. Their father has recently died, and Oliver is supposed to be responsible for giving Orlando a proper upbringing. Instead, he is keeping him like a servant. Orlando is not happy with this situation, and tries to speak with his brother about it, but nothing good comes of it.

At the end of this scene, we are introduced to Charles, the Duke's wrestler, and he tells us what has happened to the Duke. The Duke has been thrown from power by HIS younger brother (second set of brothers), and is now living in exile in a nearby forest.

Charles also tells Oliver (Orlando's mean older brother) that he hears that Orlando is going to try to wrestle him. Charles is a good wrestler, and he knows that the best Orlando can hope for if he fights him is a broken bone, and he is worried that he might kill him.

Charles tries to talk Oliver into talking out of Orlando the fight. Oliver says that he has already tried to talk his brother out of it, and then lies and tells the wrestler to watch his back because his brother can't be trusted and is a villian at heart (that's ironic, because it is Oliver and not Orlando who can't be trusted).

After Charles leaves, Oliver tells us (the audience) that he hates his brother more than anything, and he hopes he dies in the fight. Then he goes off, not to talk his brother out of the fight, but to "kindle" it.

Act 1 Scene 2 Skips to the new Duke's palace. We meet Rosalind and Celia. Rosalind is the old (banished) Duke's daughter, and Celia is the new Duke's daughter. They're cousins, but close, more like sisters. Celia promises to share everything she has with Rosalind after her father dies.

Orlando comes, wrestles Charles, and wins. We hear that the new Duke secretly hates Rosalind and it is probably just a matter of time before his anger bursts out at her.

Act 1 Scene 3 The Duke suddenly banishes Rosalind. He tells her that she has to leave immediately, and that in ten days time, if he finds her within 20 miles of his place, he'll have her killed. Celia tries to argue for her, but her father won't hear it. He says he is convinced that Rosalind is a traitor (despite the fact that there is no evidence of this at all). The two girls decide to go off into the woods to try to find Rosalind's father, the real (old) Duke. Because it is dangerous for women to travel alone, they decide to disguise themselves as boys, and change their names to Ganymede and Aliena.

Read the study guide:
As You Like It

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