As You Like It Act II, Scene 4
by William Shakespeare

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Act II, Scene 4

New Characters
Corin: an old shepherd who dwells near the Forest of Arden

Silvius: a young shepherd who is in love with Phebe, a shepherdess

Rosalind and Celia, now disguised as Ganymede, a young man, and Aliena, a peasant girl, arrive in the Forest of Arden along with Touchstone. All three are weary in body and spirit after their long journey. As they rest, Corin, an old shepherd, and Silvius, a young shepherd, enter. Rosalind, Celia, and Touchstone overhear their conversation. Silvius sighs that he is hopelessly in love with Phebe, a disdainful shepherdess who has spurned his affections. Corin offers his advice. He assures Silvius that in his younger years, he, too, had been driven to madness by love. However Silvius refuses to believe that anyone could love as he does. He remarks that if Corin has never "broke from company/Abruptly as my passion now makes me," he has never experienced love. Distraught, and true to his word, he runs off, calling Phebe's name. After he exits, Rosalind is reminded of her longing for Orlando, and Touchstone recalls one of his own youthful romantic adventures.

Celia, famished, asks Touchstone to inquire if Corin can provide them with food. Corin tells the visitors from the court that he is merely the hired shepherd of an uncharitable landowner and cannot grant their request. He adds, however, that the cottage, land, and sheep owned by the man whose herd he tends are for sale. Silvius is the intended buyer, but at present he is so obsessed by his love for Phebe that he "cares little for buying anything." Rosalind tells Corin to purchase the flock and property for her, and she promises to retain Corin as shepherd and raise his wages.

Early in this scene, Rosalind proclaims: "Well, this is the Forest of Arden." This announcement would have served a practical purpose for Shakespeare's audience. The theatre of Shakespeare's time featured little or no scenery-a single tree may have sufficed for the entire forest. Thus, Rosalind's comment would have established the locale.

Rosalind and Celia have now adopted their disguises, in which they will remain until the last scene of the play. Rosalind comments early in this scene on the disparity between her outward appearance and her inner feelings: "I could find in my heart to disgrace my man's apparel and to cry like a woman." In Shakespeare's time, the role of Rosalind was portrayed by a young man. Elizabethan audiences would have appreciated the irony of a young man playing a young woman disguised as a man.

The young, lovelorn shepherd was one of the conventions of pastoral romance. Here we see a romantic infatuation similar to that felt by Rosalind and Orlando, yet Silvius' yearning for Phebe is more comically extravagant. He talks about sighs "upon a midnight pillow," and he refuses to believe that anyone could ever have felt the same passion he does. Even so, Rosalind is moved by his declarations of love. She is reminded of her own romantic misfortune...

(The entire section is 773 words.)