As You Like It Act IV Scene 3
by William Shakespeare

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Act IV Scene 3

It is now past two o'clock, the appointed hour of Rosalind and Orlando's meeting, but Orlando has not appeared. Celia teases Rosalind by telling her that Orlando is so deeply in love that he has probably fallen asleep.

Silvius enters and presents Ganymede with the letter Phebe has written to her. He confesses that he does not know the contents, but tells her that he believes the letter was written in anger, judging by Phebe's expression while she was writing it. Rosalind pretends to Silvius that Phebe has been harsh in her criticism of Ganymede. She playfully accuses Silvius of writing the letter himself and comments that it appears to be in a man's handwriting. But Silvius innocently denies any knowledge of the letter's contents.

Rosalind reads the letter aloud, insisting all the while that Phebe is insulting Ganymede. However it is actually a love letter, and when Silvius hears Phebe's impassioned sentiments he realizes the truth and is heartbroken. Celia feels sorry for Silvius, but Rosalind comments that he is foolish to love a woman as false of Phebe. She commands Silvius to return to the shepherdess to inform her that Ganymede will love her only when she loves Silvius. She also tells him to deliver the message that Ganymede will "never have her" unless Silvius pleads for her cause. Silvius exits meekly to do her bidding.

As stranger enters immediately afterward, inquiring as to the whereabouts of "that youth" whom Orlando "calls his Rosalind." It is Orlando's brother Oliver, and he is bearing a token from Orlando: a bloody handkerchief. He explains why Orlando was unable to keep his promise to return at two o'clock. While wandering in the forest, Orlando had come across "a wretched, ragged man, o'er grown with hair" sleeping beneath an ancient oak tree. A snake was entwined around his neck, but seeing Orlando, the snake slithered away. Greater peril lay nearby, however, for a hungry lioness was lurking in the bushes. Orlando saw the lioness, yet approached the sleeping man and discovered that it was his brother who had plotted to take his life. Twice, Orlando thought about leaving Oliver in peril, but his kind nature, "nobler ever than revenge," led him to wrestle with the lioness, whom he quickly killed.

Oliver admits to Rosalind and Celia that he is the man Orlando rescued, the same man who had often contrived to kill his younger brother. He tells them that he is no longer the villain he once was; grateful to Orlando for saving his life, he has reconciled with his brother. After Oliver related to Orlando the story of how he had arrived in the forest, Orlando had taken him to meet Duke Senior. While visiting the Duke at his cave, Orlando discovered that the lioness had wounded his arm. Oliver bound his wound, and Orlando had sent his brother into the forest with the bloody handkerchief to find "the shepherd youth/ That he in sport doth call his Rosalind," and to apologize for his missed appointment. When Rosalind hears that Orlando has been wounded and realizes the handkerchief is stained with his blood, she faints.

Oliver, unaware that Ganymede is Rosalind in disguise, observes that "many will swoon when they look on blood," but he chides her for lacking "a man's heart." Rosalind acknowledges that his last statement is true, but she makes the excuse that she was simply absorbed in her role. She asks Oliver to tell his brother "how well I counterfeited." Yet Oliver observes that Ganymede's passion for Orlando seems real. Celia remarks that Ganymede looks pale, and Oliver and Celia lead her away toward her cottage.

Orlando, as we have seen, is a young man of many virtues, but promptness is not one of them. In the first scene of the act, he was warned by Rosalind that his next lateness would be his last, thus setting up potential complications if he is late to their next meeting. But this time, as we learn, he has a good excuse.

Rosalind, as Ganymede, toys with Silvius in much the same way as she had teased Orlando in...

(The entire section is 1,091 words.)