Act IV, Scene 1

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1489

Summary Rosalind and Celia, still in their disguises, enter with Jaques, who expresses a desire to become better acquainted with Ganymede. Rosalind comments that she has heard that Jaques is "a melancholy fellow." Jaques admits this is true; he tells Rosalind that he likes melancholy better than laughter. Rosalind cautions...

(The entire section contains 1489 words.)

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Rosalind and Celia, still in their disguises, enter with Jaques, who expresses a desire to become better acquainted with Ganymede. Rosalind comments that she has heard that Jaques is "a melancholy fellow." Jaques admits this is true; he tells Rosalind that he likes melancholy better than laughter. Rosalind cautions against going to extremes of either melancholy or mirth, and Jaques retorts that "tis good to be sad and say nothing." In that case, Rosalind replies wittily, it is good to be a post. Jaques remarks that his melancholy was acquired during his travels abroad, but Rosalind is skeptical of his tale. Orlando enters soon afterward. Jaques bids farewell to Ganymede and departs.

Orlando, late for his rendezvous, casually explains to Rosalind that he has come within an hour of the appointed time. Rosalind chides him for being tardy; true lovers, she reminds him, arrive promptly. She tells him, "I had as lief be wooed of a snail," and she adds mischievously that a snail, like many husbands, has "horns." Women, she reminds him, can't be trusted to be faithful. Orlando protests that his Rosalind is virtuous. "And I am your Rosalind," Ganymede proclaims, elated by the compliment. Celia, worried that Orlando might realize the truth of this statement, quickly interjects, "It pleaseth him to call you so: but he hath a Rosalind of a better leer than you." However Orlando is none the wiser, and Ganymede bids Orlando to "Come, woo me." She asks Orlando what he would say if the "real" Rosalind were there. Orlando replies that he would kiss before he spoke. Rosalind tells him bluntly it would be better to speak first. After bantering merrily with Orlando, Ganymede plays the devil's advocate, telling him, "I will not have you."

Orlando protests that he would die if this were the case, but Rosalind replies skeptically that "men have died from time to time and worms have eaten them, but not for love." Orlando tells her he would not have his Rosalind "of this mind," for her frown might kill him. Ganymede then agrees to play Rosalind in a more receptive mood. 'Ask me what you will, I will grant it," she remarks. Orlando asks her to love him. Rosalind, as Ganymede, replies that she will, "Fridays and Saturdays and all," although she jests that she will also have twenty more men like him, since one cannot have "too much of a good thing." She then asks Celia to perform a mock marriage ceremony. Rosalind and Orlando exchange vows with Celia serving as "priest," but when they have finished, Ganymede cautions that women often change after they are married. She warns Orlando that his Rosalind will be jealous, clamorous, and giddy, will "weep for nothing," and will "laugh like a hyena" when he is trying to sleep.

Orlando tells Ganymede that he must leave for two hours to attend Duke Senior at dinner, but he promises to return. Rosalind warns him not to be late again, telling him that another lateness will prove him a "most pathetical break-promise" and a man unworthy of Rosalind's love. With a pledge to return on time, Orlando exits.

After he is gone, Celia chides Rosalind for having "misused our sex" in her role playing with Orlando. She jokingly threatens to pull off her doublet and hose to reveal her masquerade. Rosalind protests that she is more deeply in love than Celia realizes; My affection hath an unknown bottom, like the Bay of Portugal." She tells Celia that she cannot bear to be out of Orlando's sight and plans to "go find a shadow, and sigh till he come." While Rosalind is sighing, Celia will be doing something far more mundane: taking a nap.

Rosalind's reaction to Jaques is similar to Orlando's response in an earlier scene. Again, we are greeted by a classic conflict between youth and age. Rosalind would rather have a fool to make her merry than experience to make her sad. Her romanticism, like Orlando's, stands in sharp contrast to Jaques' cynical view of the world.

In this scene, Jaques attempts to define his melancholy as unique, commenting that it is unlike the scholar's melancholy, the musician's, the soldier's, the lawyer's, the lover's, or the lady's. In sum, he briefly catalogues the varieties of melancholy as he had previously categorized the ages of man at greater length. Elizabethan audiences took particular delight in complex flights of rhetoric such as Jaques offers here; earlier, we heard similarly detailed discussions of fortune, nature, and time.

Jaques remarks that his world weariness is a result of his travels abroad. To Rosalind, however, his speech, dress, and general demeanor seem merely an exaggerated pose. Here, Shakespeare was satirizing the Englishmen of his own time who returned from the Continent and expressed dissatisfaction with life at home. Earlier, Touchstone had stated that "Travellers must be content." Jaques, on the other hand, asserts that his travels have made him a malcontent. We already know that Duke Senior likes to contend with Jaques when he is in his melancholy moods, but he does not take him seriously. Rosalind, the Duke's daughter, seems even less impressed by Jaques' gloomy philosophy.

When Orlando enters the scene, he is almost an hour late for his appointment with Ganymede. Apparently he is caught up in the timelessness of the forest, but Rosalind is not. Jaques notices him when he enters, but Rosalind, peeved at his lateness, ignores him. She comments on the departing Jaques for a moment before turning to greet him with mock surprise: "Why, how now, Orlando, where have you been all this while?" One more lateness, she warns him, and he will be banished from her sight.

Clearly, Rosalind is delighted by the opportunity to again "play the saucy lackey" with the man she loves. The character of Rosalind is one of Shakespeare's most vivacious, charismatic heroines. She is witty and wise, with a playful sense of humor, yet she, too, is not immune to the wonders of love. When she proclaims to Orlando, "I am your Rosalind," she is, of course, speaking the truth. Celia is concerned that Orlando might see through Rosalind's disguise, but Orlando, in keeping with the play's conventions, gives no indication that he suspects Ganymede's true identity.

As Ganymede, Rosalind has the opportunity to present Orlando with not one but two Rosalinds. The first is somewhat of a skeptic. Playfully, she puts Orlando to the test, mocking his romantic assertions that he will die if Rosalind rejects him. (Note that Orlando, in his comments, echoes Silvius' remarks to Phebe in the previous scene that he, too, will die if Phebe does not love him.) Rosalind quickly rebuts his conventional sentiments, citing the supposedly tragic examples from classical literature of Troilus and Cressida and Hero and Leander. She tells him bluntly, "These are all lies." However when Orlando objects to Ganymede's "characterization," Rosalind tries a different approach: playing "Rosalind" in a more pliant mood. She enjoys hearing Orlando's declarations of love, and her own responses to his wooing and genuine, both here and in the mock wedding that follows.

Afterward, however, she cautions Orlando that "Men are like April when they woo, December when they wed. Maids are May when they are maids, but the sky changes when they are wives." Given the many contrasts we have already seen between the green world of spring and the "icy fang" of winter, her analogy seems apt. Yet here again, Rosalind is playing devil's advocate. She is putting Orlando to the test with generalized observations on the foibles of human nature rather than predicting what might occur in her own marriage. Her comments on "horns" and infidelity, for instance, are made playfully rather than in earnest.

There is probably some truth in Ganymede's warning to Orlando about the "irrational" behavior he might expect from his wife, however, given what we have already seen of Rosalind's many moods. Yet Orlando is undaunted, and Rosalind is reluctant to see him depart to attend the Duke. His response to Ganymede has made it obvious that he loves the "real" Rosalind. After he is gone, Rosalind abandons her role playing. She confesses to Celia that she is deeply in love. However Celia wryly punctures Rosalind's romanticism with bawdy jests and skepticism, just as Rosalind has teased Orlando moments earlier.

Note that Celia, although present throughout this scene, plays a diminishing role as the play progresses. Earlier, Celia commented that the cousins "have slept together,/ Rose at an instant, learned, played, eat together,/ And wheresoe'r we went, like Juno's swans,/ Still we went coupled and inseparable." Yet now we see their relationship changing; Celia is almost silent as Rosalind and Orlando engage in their courting. She is watching her friend's affections being shifted to Orlando, and we are aware that the longstanding relations between the two loving cousins will be transformed as they move toward maturity and marriage.

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Act III, Scenes 3-5


Act IV, Scene 2