Please comment on the character of Silvius in As You Like It.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Silvius is a character who we first meet in the play in Act II scene 4. He is a young shepherd who is overwhelmed by his feelings of love for Phoebe and is shown to be completely obsessed by his thoughts of her. Note how he describes his love to Corin, arguing that Corin could not possibly have loved if he has not felt the same sort of all-consuming love:

Or if that hast not broke from company

Abruptly as my passion now makes me,

Thou has not loved.

O Phoebe, Phoebe, Phoebe!

Although he had planned to buy the cottage that Corin's master owned, such practical concerns have been swept away by his love for Phoebe. However, in spite of his love for Phoebe, Silvius is shown to be treated harshly by the object of his affection as every attempt to draw close to her is spurned. Silvius is presented as being a conventional character in the play representing a conventional lover trying to express his affections through the norms of courtly love. His speech is dominated by hyperbole and unrealistic descriptions of Phoebe, being blind to the reality of her appearance and looks. Likewise he appears to deliberately enjoy in a kind of masochistic way the terrible manner in which his love treats him:

So holy and so perfect is my love,

And I in such a poverty of grace,

that I shall think it a most plenteous crop

To glean the broken ears after the man

That the main harvest reaps. Loose now and then

A scattered smile, and that I'll live upon.

Shakespeare in Silvius seems to be presenting us with a stock pastoral character, who, in accordance with pastoral literature, seems to be more in love with the feeling of being in love than the person he claims to be in love with.

 

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