In As You Like It, what is meant by "the lazy foot of Time"?

Expert Answers
William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When Rosalind first encounters Orlando in Act 3, Scene 1, they begin their conversation with the following dialogue:


I pray you, what is't o'clock?


You should ask me what time o' day: there's no clock
in the forest.


Then there is no true lover in the forest; else
sighing every minute and groaning every hour would
detect the lazy foot of Time as well as a clock.


And why not the swift foot of Time? had not that
been as proper?


By no means, sir: Time travels in divers paces with divers persons. I'll tell you who Time ambles withal, who Time trots withal, who Time gallops withal and who he stands still withal.

They go on to have a discussion of how time travels at different paces for different persons in different situations. For lovers, time would seem to be traveling at a very slow rate if they were separated from the ones they loved. Rosalind knows very well that Orlando is one such lover, but she is disguised as a young man and is pretending to know nothing about Rosalind or Orlando's feelings about her. There is something almost suggestive of Albert Einstein's relativity in this 16th-century play. One of the attractive things about the mystical Forest of Arden is that time is of no consequence.

Rosalind's remark about the lazy foot of time is both true and amusing. She says that a true lover when separated from the one he loves is sighing every minute and groaning every hour on the hour. She suggests that the same is true for females in love.

Marry, he [Time] trots hard with a young maid between the contract of her marriage and the day it is
solemnized: if the interim be but a se'nnight, Time's pace is so hard that it seems the length of seven year.

Shakespeare says something similar about Juliet in Romeo and Juliet. When Romeo is absent, time is moving much too slowly for her. When he is with her, time is passing much too swiftly. On the morning after their wedding night, she tells Romeo, in some of the most touching lines of the play:

Wilt thou be gone? it is not yet near day:
It was the nightingale, and not the lark,
That pierced the fearful hollow of thine ear;
Nightly she sings on yon pomegranate-tree:
Believe me, love, it was the nightingale.

He replies:

It was the lark, the herald of the morn,
No nightingale: look, love, what envious streaks
Do lace the severing clouds in yonder east:
Night's candles are burnt out, and jocund day
Stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops.
I must be gone and live, or stay and die.

But she protests, irrationally and emotionally:

Yon light is not day-light, I know it, I:
It is some meteor that the sun exhales,
To be to thee this night a torch-bearer,
And light thee on thy way to Mantua:
Therefore stay yet; thou need'st not to be gone.                                        (III.5)

Read the study guide:
As You Like It

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question