Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1396
Audrey: a countly wench
Sir Oliver Martext: a clergyman
Phebe: a shepherdess who dwells near the Forest of Arden
Touchstone, in a merry mood, enters with Audrey, a goatherd who lives near the Forest of Arden. Jaques also arrives on the scene; he stands aside, eavesdropping on their conversation. Touchstone attempts to woo Audrey, asking, "Am I the man yet? Doth my simple feature content you?" His witticisms are lost on the simple country goatherd, who does not understand the meaning of the word "poetical." Touchstone has no illusions about Audrey's morals; he suspects her of being a "foul slut." Audrey protests that she is not "a slut," but she adds, "I thank the gods I am foul." Jaques, in a series of asides, comments cynically on the scene that is unfolding.
Touchstone tells Audrey that he has met with Sir Oliver Martext, a clergyman who lives nearby. Sir Oliver has promised to meet him in the forest to perform a marriage ceremony. Touchstone realizes, however, that after he is married to Audrey she is likely to be unfaithful to him. He wittily resigns himself to this fact.
Sir Oliver Martext arrives and Touchstone asks him to officiate at the wedding, but Sir Oliver comments that the marriage will not be lawful unless someone is there to give the bride away. Jaques immediately steps forward to volunteer his services. He comments that a man of Touchstone's "breeding" should not be "married under a bush like a beggar" and urges him to go to a church, where a "good priest" might marry him. Touchstone, in an aside, remarks that he prefers to be married by Sir Oliver, for the marriage might not be legal, thus leaving him free to abandon his wife and make a better marriage. He agrees to listen to Jaques' advice, however, and proclaims, "Come, sweet Audrey./ We must be married, or we must live in bawdry" He exits with Jaques and Audrey, singing merrily, while a bewildered Sir Oliver stares after them.
In Scene 4, Rosalind, close to tears, worries that Orlando may have forsaken her because he has not arrived at the scheduled time for their meeting. Celia reminds her that tears are inappropriate to her masculine disguise; she reassures her cousin that Orlando is simply attending Duke Senior. Rosalind tells Celia that she had met the Duke the previous day. Her father had not recognized her in her disguise, and when the Duke inquired of her parentage, Rosalind answered wittily that it was "as good as he."
Corin enters and tells Rosalind and Celia that Silvius, the lovelorn shepherd they had often asked about, is at that moment wooing Phebe, the shepherdess he loves. Corin remarks that if they would care to "see a pageant truly played/Between the pale complexion of true love/ And the red glow of scorn and proud disdain" they are welcome to accompany him. Rosalind agrees, commenting: "The sight of lovers feedeth those in love./ Bring us to this sight, and you shall say/ I'll prove a busy actor in their play."
Scene 5 takes place in a nearby part of the forest. Silvius begs the disdainful Phebe for even the smallest kindness: "Sweet Phebe, do not scorn me; do not, Phebe!/ Say that you love me not, but say not so/ In bitterness." Rosalind, Celia, and Corin enter and observe their conversation from a distance. Silvius tells Phebe that if she falls in love one day she will sympathize with his anguish. However Phebe tells him bluntly, "till that time/ Come not near me .... As till that time I shall not pity thee."
At this point, Rosalind steps forward to interrupt their conversation. She angrily chastises Phebe for being "proud and pitiless," and she tells Silvius that he is foolish to pursue Phebe, since Silvius is "a thousand times a properer man/ Than she is a woman." Phebe, Rosalind remarks, should be thankful to have a good man's love, since she is not the charming beauty she thinks herself to be. "Sell when you can," Rosalind admonishes her, "you are not for all markets." She urges Phebe to love Silvius and to "take his offer" of marriage.
By that time, however, Phebe has become hopelessly captivated by Rosalind in her Ganymede disguise. Rosalind attempts to discourage her interest by speaking harshly, telling her, "I am falser than vows made in wine" and "I like you not." She urges Silvius to keep at his courtship, and she tells Phebe to "look on him better/ And be not proud." With that, she turns and exits with Celia and Corin.
Phebe instantly confesses that now she understands what it means to love. Transformed by her encounter with Ganymede, she admits that she feels sorry for Silvius. Again, she tells the lovelorn shepherd that she has no romantic interest in him, but since he can talk of love, she will tolerate his company. She contradicts her statement of a moment earlier, however, by claiming petulantly the Ganymede, though attractive in certain ways, does no really interest her. She resolves to write a taunting letter to the "peevish boy" to repay him for his rudeness. Silvius agrees to deliver the letter after it is written.
Touchstone's courting of Audrey in Scene 3 represents a different type of love than those we have already seen. He candidly confesses to Jaques his reasons for wanting to marry his earthy goatherd: "as the ox hath his bow, sir, the horse his curb, and the falcon her bells, so man hath his desires." Here, he burlesques the romantic idealism we have seen in Orlando and Silvius. He is not seeking beauty and wit; he merely wishes to fulfill his physical cravings.
Touchstone's obscene jests with Audrey were a convention of Elizabethan comedy, one that Shakespeare's audience would have looked forward to eagerly. When Touchstone engages in a witty yet introspective series of puns comparing a deer's antlers to the "horns" he expects to wear, he is creating a variation on one of the most popular jokes in Shakespeare's time. In Elizabethan England, "horns" were the symbol of a cuckold, a man whose wife was cheating on him. The world "cuckold" is derived from the cuckoo-a bird that lays its eggs in other birds' nests. According to Elizabethan legend, cuckolds grew horns on their foreheads. Touchstone, pragmatic about the future, resigns himself to the fact this will be his inevitable fate is he marries Audrey.
Scene 4 reveals Rosalind's insecurities about Orlando's true feelings for her. She also discloses the extent of her love for Orlando. She is upset with him for not arriving at the scheduled time of their meeting, but Celia, a calm voice of reason, assures her that Orlando is busy attending Duke Senior. Again, we are greeted by the theme of role playing when Corin invites Rosalind and Celia to witness "a pageant truly played" by observing Silvius' courtship of Phebe, and in Rosalind's subsequent declaration that she will "prove a busy actor in their play."
Lovelorn shepherds such as Silvius were a convention of pastoral romance. In Scene 5, Shakespeare satirizes those conventions by depicting Silvius' unrequited passion as comically excessive. There seems to be no end to his misery. Here, we are exposed to yet another aspect of love. Silvius is much like Orlando in his ardor, but instead of writing poems, he sighs pathetically about the "wounds invisible/ That love's keen arrows make." It is easy to see why Phebe might be weary of his relentless pursuit. Yet Phebe, as Rosalind points out, is no prize herself. She is vain, petulant, and hindered by her false pride. Just as Shakespeare satirizes the lovelorn shepherd in Silvius, he satirizes another familiar literary type, the "poetic shepherdess," in Phebe. Note that Audrey, a rustic goatherd, did not understand the meaning of the word "poetical," yet Phebe speaks in verse and quotes from a poem by one of Shakespeare's contemporaries Christopher Marlowe when she proclaims, "Who ever loved that loved not at first sight?"
Rosalind's harsh criticism of the shepherdess has the opposite effect of what is intended, for Phebe is immediately captivated by Rosalind in her Ganymede disguise. Nevertheless, she craftily misleads Silvius by disparaging Ganymede and playing down the extent of her interest. Thus, additional comic complications are added to the plot as the third act draws to a close.
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