What is a brief character sketch of Oliver in As You Like It?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Oliver confesses to Duke Frederick that he has never loved his brother Orlando although he never professes any animosity toward their other brother Jaques (not the same melancholic Jaques of The Forest of Arden). Shakespeare never says why Oliver hates Orlando but there was undoubtedly some form of competition over differing innate qualities or over favoritism displayed by their deceased father. Whatever the cause, Oliver consigns Orlando to a penniless life and deprives him of benefits and education, even though Jaques is given these things. Oliver has done nothing but evil to Orlando including trying to murder him.

When Duke Frederick orders Oliver to bring Orlando to his court, "dead or living," Oliver goes to Arden Forest. There he falls asleep, is wrapped about by a snake and is stalked by a crouching lioness, all the while sleeping. Orland happens by and sees an unrecognized sleeping figure, "A wretched man, o'ergrown with hair," at the mercy of the lioness. Orlando starts to rescue him, finally recognizes his brother, turns to leave, is torn by higher values, turns back and wrestles the lioness to save his unworthy brother. Oliver awakens after Orlando kills the lion. The knowledge that Orlando saved him fills him with a spiritual epiphany of the highest kind and he has a conversion of heart right at that instant. The brothers are reconciled amidst tears that "our recountments had most kindly bathed."

It is hard to pinpoint a character trait that foreshadows Oliver's epiphany and conversion and that may be Shakespeare's exact point, that epiphanies and conversions are not tied to character traits but are tied to the sudden awakening of a new vision of life, moral value and love, thereby answering Amiens' song about the bitterness of the betrayal of friendship.

swarajghosh | Student

Oliver is the eldest son of sir Rowland de Boys.In the beginning he appears to be a usurper like Duke Frederick.He ill-treats his younger brother and denies him education and a decent .Oliver,like Duke Frederick may be considered as a villain in the play.But later on....he reforms;and that contributes to the happy ending of the main story......


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As You Like It

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