In As You Like It, discuss the relationship between the two brothers in contrast to the intimate bond that exists between the two cousins.

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The relationship between Oliver and Orlando is a volatile one steeped in enmity. Oliver, the elder brother, reneged on his promise and responsibility to care for Orlando and raise and educate him according to the ways of a gentleman. Ironically, Oliver did raise their younger brother Jaques with all a gentleman’s advantages--we are left to wonder what is the root of Oliver’s animosity toward Orlando. Though the relationship between the two has never been good, as is witnessed by Orlando’s rough means of living and lack of proper education--a lack that later shows itself in his poor attempts at poetry in Arden (or should I say “on Arden” as he wrote his verse upon the tree trunks of Arden fores!?), at the time of As You Like It, their relationship hits an extremely low level. Orlando challenges Oliver by demanding to know why he has been neglected by Oliver.Orlando looses his temper and, since Orlando is now a powerful and skilled wrestler of great strength, springs to physically assault Oliver. Oliver mistreats Orlando beyond endurance.

the spirit of my father, which I
think is within me, begins to mutiny against this
servitude: I will no longer endure it, (I.i)

Oliver sets Orlando’s spirit aflame. Oliver lies in wait--or has his men lie in wait--to do murder to Orlando. He thereby forces Orlando to flee for his life while taking with him his devoted and nurturing, though aging, man servant, Adam. Oliver is reprimanded by Duke Frederick for letting Orlando slip away, and the Duke forces Oliver to go in pursuit on pain of the loss of all his property and lands. Incidentally, Orlando and Duke Frederick have very similar temperaments and personalities--steeped in greed and lust for power--and therefore very similar relationships with their brothers. Frederick usurped the throne from his older brother’s grasp thus forcing Duke Senior to flee for safety and refuge to Arden forest.

In contrast to the men’s relationships, Rosalind and Celia have a relationship that has an intimate bond and is steeped in true loving friendship and devotion to each other’s well fare. This is very different from the relationship between either the brothers or the dukes. When Rosalind’s father, the overthrown Duke Senior, fled to Arden, Celia pleaded for Rosalind to remain at court with her since the two girls were inseparable playmates. They grew up in accord and harmony as they shared everything and were educated together. When Duke Frederick exiles Rosalind from court after the match between Orlando and Charles, Duke Frederick’s champion wrestler, Celia honors their relationship of mutual devotion by determining to accompany Rosalind and is the one to come upon an idea of how and where to go.

Shall we be sunder'd? shall we part, sweet girl?
No: let my father seek another heir.
Therefore devise with me how we may fly,
Whither to go and what to bear with us;
And do not seek to take your change upon you,
To bear your griefs yourself and leave me out;
To seek my uncle in the forest of Arden.
I'll put myself in poor and mean attire ...
The like do you: (I.iii)

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As You Like It

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