What is the gist of the play in "As You Like It"?

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amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Orlando, youngest son of the de Boys family, complains that his elder brother, Oliver, has unfairly withheld their late father's inheritance and prevented Orlando from being educated as a gentleman. The two are ill at odds with one another to the extent that when Oliver discovers that Orlando plans to challenge Charles, Duke Frederick's huge wrestler, Oliver plots with Charles to break his brother's neck during the match so he'll be rid of Orlando for good.

Orlando defeats Charles and Rosalind, Duke Senior's daughter, has fallen for Orlando and given him her own neckchain to reward him for his victory. Orlando is equally taken by her, but is unable to voice his feelings. Duke Frederick is infuriated at the victory since Orlando's father was the Duke's bitter enemy.

Rosalind and Celia, Duke Frederick's daughter, are friends.  Rosalind is banished from court (despite pleas from Celia) due to her love for Orlando and Frederick's hatred for both her father and Orlando's family.

As a result, the girls flee together. Duke Frederick is enraged when he learns that his daughter and Rosalind have fled, and since he believes Orlando is with the, he sends a search party led by Oliver after them. Orlando learns in the meantime that Oliver is trying to have him killed, so he plans to leave for the country to live in safety.

True to a Shakespearean comedy, everyone (the girls--dressed as boys--, Orlando and Adam, Duke Senior, etc.) end up in the same forest.

After lots of funny events with disguises, love triangles, poetry readings and critiques, stories of love from the servants, everyone's true identity is revealed and all works out well for everyone.  The banished Duke witnesses the marriages of Rosalind and Orlando, Oliver and Celia, and Silvius and Phebe.  In the midst of celebrating the marriages, a messenger arrives to tell the party that Frederick has decided to pardon Duke Senior and restore his Dukedom.  There is more cause for celebration, and the play ends on a happy ever after note.

Read the study guide:
As You Like It

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