Who sings the song “Under the Greenwood Tree” in As You Like It?

Amiens, one of the Duke Senior’s followers, begins singing “Under the Greenwood Tree.” A little later, everyone in the scene, including melancholy Jaques and the Duke’s followers, sings the second verse of of the song. Jacques sings the third verse alone, because he wrote the third verse only yesterday and nobody else knows the words.

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Act 2, scene 5 of William Shakespeare’s pastoral comedy As You Like Itopens with the song “Under the Greenwood Tree” being sung by Amiens, one of the lords who joined Duke Senior in exile in the Forest of Arden.

Although there are only two characters who speak in...

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Act 2, scene 5 of William Shakespeare’s pastoral comedy As You Like It opens with the song “Under the Greenwood Tree” being sung by Amiens, one of the lords who joined Duke Senior in exile in the Forest of Arden.

Although there are only two characters who speak in the scene—Amiens and Jaques, a melancholy courtier—there’s reference to a number of other characters in the scene. There’s a stage direction, at the beginning of the scene, that says, “Enter Amiens, Jaques, and others,” although the “others” aren’t named. At one point during the scene, Jaques says, “Come, sing; and you that will / not, hold your tongues” (2.5.27–28), and there’s another stage direction, “All together here,” just before the second verse of the song at line 36.

Duke Senior doesn’t appear in the scene, although the lines at the end of act 2, scene 1 might lead the reader to believe that Duke Senior follows the First Lord into the forest to find Jaques.

DUKE SENIOR. Show me the place:

I love to cope him [Jaques] in these sullen fits,

For then he's full of matter.

FIRST LORD. I'll bring you to him straight. (2.1.70–73)

It’s unlikely that Duke Senior appears in act 2, scene 5 with Amiens, Jaques, and his followers, since it would be the only scene in the play in which the Duke appears but doesn’t speak. This the first scene in the play in which Jaques appears, and Shakespeare no doubt wanted Jaques, rather than the Duke, to be the focus of attention.

The order of who sings "Under the Greenwood Tree" is as follows. Amiens sings the first verse of the song at lines 1–8. Everyone who’s in the scene, including Amiens, Jacques, and the Duke’s followers, sings the second verse of the song at lines 36–43. Jaques sings the third verse of the song alone at lines 48–55. No one else sings with him because Jaques wrote that verse himself just the day before and nobody else knows the words.

JAQUES. I’ll give you a verse to this note that I made

yesterday in despite of my invention. (2.5.4445)

It’s in this verse that Jaques includes the repeated nonsense term “ducdame” (2.5.52). Amiens questions Jaques about the meaning of the word, and Jacques simply can’t resist the opportunity to make fun of everyone gathered around him.

JAQUES. ‘Tis a Greek invocation to call fools into a circle. (2.5.57–58)

The scene ends with everyone except Jaques going off to join the Duke for dinner in another part of the forest, possibly humming or singing “Under the Greenwood Tree” on their way.

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