Act 1 Summary

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Last Updated February 7, 2023.

Scene 1

Orlando complains to his servant, Adam, that his brother, Oliver, has treated him unjustly. Their father, Sir Rowland de Boys, left most of his wealth to Oliver, with the stipulation that he should look after his two brothers, Orlando and Jaques. However, Orlando says that, while Oliver has fulfilled his obligations to Jaques, he himself has been neglected. 

Oliver enters, and the two brothers quarrel violently. Finally, Oliver assures his brother that he will receive at least part of his inheritance, and Orlando leaves. 

Charles, a wrestler at the ducal court, enters and tells Oliver that Duke Frederick has seized control of the court and banished his elder brother, Duke Senior, who has taken up residence in the Forest of Arden. Rosalind, Duke Senior’s daughter, remains at the court. Charles also tells Oliver that he will wrestle against Orlando tomorrow and advises him to dissuade his brother from fighting. Orlando pretends that he has already attempted to do so, and, after Charles’s departure, reveals the depth of his hatred for Orlando in a soliloquy.

Scene 2

At the ducal court, Celia, Duke Frederick’s daughter, tries to comfort her cousin, Rosalind, after her father’s banishment. She promises that Duke Frederick will be like a father to Rosalind, and says that she can even be heir to the throne in Celia’s place. Rosalind is consoled, and the two cousins begin to talk about love but are interrupted by Touchstone, the Duke’s Fool. Touchstone says that Duke Frederick wishes to see Celia, after which Monsieur Le Beau, one of the courtiers, enters and informs them of the wrestling match that is about to take place. 

When they see Orlando, Rosalind and Celia try to convince him not to wrestle against Charles, but he insists on doing so and wins the match. He then reveals that he is the son of the recently deceased Sir Rowland de Boys, which irritates Duke Frederick, because de Boys was a friend and supporter of Duke Senior. For the same reason, this information makes Rosalind favor Orlando even more than she was already inclined to.

Scene 3

Rosalind is telling Celia that she has fallen in love with Orlando when Duke Frederick enters and suddenly orders her to leave the court on pain of death. Rosalind is bewildered, and asks what she has done wrong, but the Duke responds that being her father’s daughter is a grave enough fault. Celia says that she will go wherever Rosalind goes. 

Rosalind decides to disguise herself as a man, adopting the name Ganymede, while Celia dresses as a shepherdess and calls herself Aliena. The two cousins take Touchstone with them and depart for the Forest of Arden.

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Act 2 Summary