What is the significance of pathos in As You Like It, Act 1, Scenes 2 and 3?

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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Pathos--a speaker's rhetorical technique for evoking strong emotions that may include joy or anger etc. but usually evokes deep suffering--in literature in a critical sense signifies a passage or scene in which pity and/or sympathetic sorrow are evoked in the reader or audience (Professor Kit Wheeler, Carson-Newman College). Act I, Scenes 1 and 2 of As You Like It both contain passages of pathos.

For example, in scene 2, Celia comes upon Rosalind in a melancholy (gloomy, pensive) mood and petitions her to "be merry" if for no other reason than out of love for Celia. In this passage of exchange between the two young ladies, Rosalind and Celia together reveal Rosalind's background and her reason for sorrow. Shakespeare writes the scene with such authenticity that, even though word play is present ("I show more mirth than I am mistress of; / and would you yet I were merrier?"), the audience/reader feels genuine pity and sympathetic sorrow for both Rosalind and Celia, who seems to as slighted as she feels.

Scene 3 evokes further pity and sorrow for Rosalind (and Celia, although pity and sorrow for her is mixed with admiration for her quick thinking and virtue) when Duke Frederick calls her a traitor ("Thus do all traitors") and banishes her from the dukedom he usurped from Duke Senior, who is his elder brother and Rosalind's father and Celia's uncle. Rosalind requires to hear the charges against her, then pleads her case as being innocent of all charges. Her banishment stands; she is distracted by profound anxiety, and the audience/reader is moved to pity and sympathetic sorrow at her plight.

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