Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1543
Rosalind: daughter of the exiled Duke Senior
Celia: daughter of Duke Frederick and Rosalind's loyal friend
Touchstone: Duke Frederick's court jester
Le Beau: a foppish courtier
Duke Frederick: usurper of his brother's dukedom; Celia's father and Rosalind's uncle
The next day, Rosalind, daughter of the banished Duke Senior, and Celia, Duke Frederick's daughter, are encountered at Duke Frederick's palace. Celia urges her cousin to "be merry," but Rosalind is still upset by her father's banishment. Celia attempts to cheer her up by pledging her friendship and affection. Rosalind agrees to be joyful for her sake, and to "devise sports." She asks Celia what she would think of falling in love, to which Celia replies that love is best treated as a "sport" rather than in earnest. The young women banter lightheartedly about the caprices of "fortune" and "nature." Touchstone, Duke Frederick's court jester, arrives on the scene. He engages in witty chatter and tells Celia that her father has summoned her. Le Beau, one of Duke Frederick's courtiers, enters and informs Rosalind and Celia that the wrestling matches are underway. Charles has defeated his first three challengers, doing bodily harm in the process.
Duke Frederick and his court, along with Orlando and Charles, arrive for the next match. Duke Frederick is worried for Orlando's safety and urges his daughter and niece to dissuade him from competing. Their attempts are met by Orlando's firm declaration that "If killed...I shall do my friends no wrong for I have none to lament me; the world no injury; for in it I have nothing." The match begins and Rosalind and Celia cheer for Orlando. Then, to the astonishment to the onlookers, Orlando throws his opponent. Duke Frederick orders the match to a halt. Orlando wants to continue, but Charles is vanquished and is carried off.
Duke Frederick inquires of the victor's name, but when he learns that Orlando is the son of the late Sir Rowland de Boys, an ally of the banished Duke, his manner becomes harsh. "I would thou hadst been son to some man else," he remarks. Although the world esteemed Sir Rowland as honorable, Frederick considered him an enemy. He exits with his court. Rosalind and Celia remain.
Orlando proclaims that he is proud to have been Sir Rowland's son and Rosalind comments that her father "lov'd Sir Rowland as his soul." She gives Orlando a chain from around her neck, but Orlando, who has fallen in love at first sight, is speechless and unable to thank her. Rosalind and Celia exit and Le Beau warns Orlando that the Duke is furious at his victory. He advises him to "leave this place" and also tells him that the Duke has recently "ta'en displeasure 'gainst his gentle niece" since the people "praise her for her virtues" and "pity her for her father's sake." Le Beau exits and Orlando, alone, notes that he must now go from facing "a tyrant Duke" to facing a "tyrant brother." Yet at the same time he has something to cheer his spirits: "heavenly Rosalind."
In Scene 3, also set at Duke Frederick's palace, Rosalind confesses to Celia that she has fallen in love with Orlando. Their conversation grinds to a halt, however, when Duke Frederick enters "with his eyes full of anger" and banishes Rosalind from the court. When Rosalind asks for an explanation she is told, "Thou art thy father's daughter, there's enough." Celia pleads with her father for Rosalind to remain, but the Duke refuses. Celia tells him that if Rosalind is banished she will go as well. Duke Frederick calls her a fool and exits.
Celia suggests that they join Rosalind's father in the Forest of Arden. Rosalind protests that the journey will be dangerous for young women: "Beauty provoketh thieves sooner than gold." Celia proposes that they travel in disguise and resolves to dress in peasant attire and call herself Aliena. Rosalind, the taller of the pair, decides to dress as a young man and call herself Ganymede. They make plans to lure Touchstone along for the journey to divert them. They exit to pack their "jewels" and "wealth" and view their flight from the court as a journey "to liberty, and not to banishment."
The loyal friendship between Rosalind and Celia contrasts sharply with the antagonistic relationship between their fathers and that of Orlando and Oliver. Earlier, we have been told that they were "ever from their cradles bred together" and that "never two ladies loved as they do." Now we see their relationship firsthand. This continues a pattern of hearing about a relationship before it is shown on stage. In the first scene, for example, we heard of Oliver's unjust treatment of Orlando, then Oliver entered and confirmed his account. We already know that Duke Senior and his court are living in the forest of Arden like Robin Hood and his Merry Men; later we will see them doing just that.
Early in the second scene, Shakespeare introduces two additional themes: fortune and nature. Rosalind and Celia engage in witty wordplay in their discussion of these elements. Celia comments that: fortune's gifts are not bestowed equally and Rosalind adds that the "goddess" fortune is, by tradition, blind. As we have seen, even those who are gifted by nature can suffer the caprices of fortune. Orlando, for example, is noble by nature, yet fortune has deprived him of his father's bequests. These thematic motifs will recur many times in the play. Later in this scene, for example, Rosalind, after giving Orlando her chain, describes herself as "one out of suits with fortune." This scene also introduces the theme of love, which will be explored in many of its aspects. In the opening exchange between Celia, and Rosalind, the platonic love among cousins is contrasted with romantic love. Celia advises Rosalind to view romance as a "sport" but not in earnest. By the end of the scene, however, Rosalind will have fallen in love with Orlando. We also learn that Rosalind's father had loved Orlando's father "with all his soul."
The characters of Touchstone and Le Beau serve particular functions in As You Like It. Touchstone, a witty court fool, impudent, wise, shrewd, and verbally dextrous, has a special license to speak his mind freely. He comments on the action with subtle irony. When Rosalind and Celia are summoned to the wrestling match after Charles has injured three opponents, for instance, he remarks wryly that "It is the first time that ever I heard breaking of ribs was sport for ladies." In Shakespeare's time, a "touchstone" was the stone on which precious metals were rubbed to test their genuineness. The character of Touchstone similarly exposes the inner natures of those he meets. Le Beau, on the other hand, is revealed through his pompous speech and dandified dress as a character who is affected rather than "natural." He represents the formality of the court as opposed to the freer, more spontaneous life many of the characters will encounter in the Forest of Arden.
In Scene 3, we learn that Rosalind's thoughts have now turned, in part, from her father to the future and her "child's father." As in the previous scene, Shakespeare uses clever wordplay that builds on a wrestling analogy: Celia urges Rosalind to "wrestle with her affections" and comments on her sudden "fall" into "so strong a liking" for Orlando.
Duke Frederick further reveals his villainous nature when he forces Rosalind into banishment as he had earlier banished her father. Celia demonstrates her loyalty to her cousin by resolving to accompany her. Their decision to travel in disguise has a practical purpose, for as Rosalind comments, it is dangerous for women to venture forth alone in the countryside. Her determination to travel in a man's apparel as Ganymede will help to assure their safety.
In classical mythology, Ganymede, a beautiful Trojan youth who was seized and carried to Mount Olympus by Zeus' eagle, was the cup bearer of the gods. By tradition, he was beloved by Zeus, the king of the gods (also known as Jupiter and Jove). When Rosalind declares, "I'll have no worse a name than Jove's own page," many in Shakespeare's audience would have known that this myth, with its connotations of same sex romantic love, would underscore the comic action of the play. This reference also foreshadows the appearance of a mythological god in the final scene.
Rosalind's new identity will also serve a purely dramatic purpose. Disguise was an essential convention of Elizabethan drama and Shakespeare's plays in particular. This device will later prove to be an important element of the plot. Many of the complications in the acts that follow will result from other characters believing that Rosalind is a young man. Thus, the audience (or the reader) is in on a secret that many characters in the play will not know.
With Celia's declaration in the concluding line that the young women are going "to liberty, and not to banishment," Shakespeare again contrasts city life and pastoral life. The court, as we have seen, is a place of tyranny and corruption, yet the Forest of Arden, although not without its perils, will be revealed mainly as an idyllic green world of harmony and understanding.
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