Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1445
Hymen: the god of marriage
Jaques de Boys: second son of the late Sir Rowland de Boys; brother of Oliver and Orlando
The next day, Duke Senior, Amiens, Jaques, Orlando, Oliver, and Aliena gather in the forest. Duke Senior asks Orlando whether he feels Ganymede can do all he has promised. Orlando replies that he has been wavering between belief and disbelief; he is afraid of being disappointed. Rosalind, still disguised as Ganymede, enters with Silvius and Phebe and asks those who have assembled to have patience while she confirms that everyone has agreed to keep their promises. Duke Senior pledges his permission for Rosalind to marry Orlando if Rosalind appears. Orlando declares that he will marry Rosalind. Phebe says she will marry Ganymede if "he" is willing, but she promises if for any reason she decides not to marry Ganymede she will marry Silvius, who quickly agrees to marry Phebe if she will have him. Rosalind reaffirms her pledge to solve everyone's problems. After cautioning the lovers to "keep your word," she exits with Aliena. Duke Senior remarks that "I do remember in this shepherd boy/ Some lively touches of my daughter's favor." Orlando comments to the Duke that the first time he saw Ganymede he thought "he" was "a brother to your daughter." However he insists that Ganymede is "forest-born."
Touchstone and Audrey enter, and Jaques observes that there seems to be a flood in store, for couples are arriving two by two as they did when the Biblical Noah built his ark. Touchstone and Audrey, he remarks, seem "a pair of very strange beasts, which in all tongues are known as fools." Jaques tells Duke Senior that Touchstone has claimed to have been a courtier. Touchstone immediately retorts that if anyone doubts his word, they may put him to the test. At Jaques' prodding, he launches into witty discourses on the habits of courtiers, their quarrelsome natures, and the seven types of lies they practice. Duke Senior, pleased with Touchstone's wit, agrees with Jaques' observation that Touchstone is "a rare fellow."
Rosalind and Celia, now dressed in feminine attire, enter along with Hymen, the god of marriage. Soft music is heard, and Hymen asks Duke Senior to receive his daughter. Rosalind gives herself, in turn, to her father and to Orlando, and Phebe comments that "If sight and shape be true,/ Why then, my love adieu/ " Hymen remarks that confusion has now been brought to an end, and that it is time to "make conclusion/ Of these most strange events." The four pairs of lovers join hands, and Hymen blesses their union. A joyous wedding song follows. Duke Senior welcomes Celia, and Phebe pledges herself to Silvius.
The wedding festivities are interrupted by the sudden entrance of Jaques de Boys, the second son of the late Sir Rowland. He brings the news that Duke Frederick, having learned that every day "men of great worth" were fleeing into the forest of Arden, had raised an army and headed toward the forest with the intention of killing Duke Senior. When Duke Frederick arrived on the outskirts of the forest, however, he met an old religious hermit. After speaking with the hermit, Duke Frederick decided to abandon his deadly mission and forsake the world for a religious life. He also restored his dukedom to his banished brother.
Duke Senior is overjoyed at this news. He welcomes Jaques de Boys and remarks that he has brought additional happiness to his brothers' wedding. He pledges to restore to Oliver the lands Duke Frederick had confiscated, and he names Orlando as his heir. He also promises that the courtiers who have joined him in his exile will share in his good fortune when he returns to his dukedom. He calls for music and a wedding dance.
Only Jaques does not share in the festive spirit. He tells Duke Senior that he plans to join Duke Frederick in an austere religious life, remarking that "Out of these convertites/ There is much matter to be heard and learned." Jaques bestows his blessings upon Duke Senior, Orlando, Oliver, and Silvius, but he cautions Touchstone that his marriage to Audrey is likely to last only two months. He announces his intention to leave the wedding festivities, commenting, "I am for other than for dancing measures." Duke Senior pleads for Jaques to remain, but Jaques refuses, telling the Duke he will find a home in Duke Seniors abandoned cave. He exits, and Duke Senior gives the instruction for the couples to begin their joyous wedding dance.
In spite of Orlando's skepticism at the beginning of the scene, everything is happily resolved. While waiting for Rosalind's inevitable entrance, this time in feminine clothes, we are treated to one last debate on the virtues of city life versus country life. Touchstone wittily describes the affectations one might encounter at court: flattery, craftiness, expensive clothing, quarreling. The quarrels he depicts are governed by set rules; the same holds true for the degrees of the lies told by courtiers.
Critics differ in their views of Touchstone in this scene. Some commentators feel that his vein is still satirical: he parodies the language of the affected courtier and burlesques a courtly due. Other critics are of the opinion that Touchstone's remarks are ironic, and that he is clearly "putting on airs." In Act I, Scene 2, Rosalind called Touchstone "Nature's natural," but some observers feel that life in the forest has transformed this witty fool; he is no longer a critic of courtly manners, but rather their staunch defender. Either way, Touchstone's extended flights of rhetoric serve a practical dramatic purpose: they give Ganymede and Aliena time to change their costumes and emerge once again as Rosalind and Celia.
In classical mythology; Hymen was the god of marriage. The name of the god symbolizes the impending consummation of the marriages that will take place. Here, it is interesting to note that in ancient Greek dramas, plays were often resolved by what: we known as a deus ex machina, literally, a "god from the machine." When mortals were unable to solve their problems, a god was lowered to the stage at a climactic moment to resolve the action-a convention Shakespeare would have been aware of. In this instance, however, the god does not solve the problems of the lovers but merely solemnizes their wedding festivities. Those onstage might well assume that Hymen represents the "magic" that Ganymede has promised; indeed, we are told that "Hymen from heaven" has brought Rosalind. But the audience (or the reader) is aware that it is Rosalind, rather than Hymen, who has brought an end to the "confusion."
With the entrance of Hymen, the play becomes a masque-a popular court entertainment in Shakespeare's time. Masques were usually characterized by music, dancing, and the appearance of supernatural or mythological personages. They featured far less plot than a play, and much of their impact was visual. Generally speaking, masques were allegorical in nature and took as their theme an idealized vision of the power of the reigning monarch and the ruler's divine right to govern. The masque of Hymen serves much the same function. Order has been restored to the proceedings; the chaos brought about when Duke Frederick usurped his brother's dukedom is resolved almost immediately after the wedding song.
In Jaques de Boys' tale of Duke Frederick's encounter with the "old religious man" we see the same type of miraculous conversion we had witnessed earlier in Oliver's transformation. If anything, Duke Frederick's sudden metamorphosis seems more implausible. Still, it is in keeping with the fairy tale nature of much of the play.
There are a number of ironies in the play's resolution. Note that Duke Senior, who has praised the pastoral life, plans a return to the court as soon as the opportunity presents itself. Yet Jaques, who has criticized life in the forest, chooses to remain.
At the end of the play, the caprices of fortune have been corrected; those of good nature have been rewarded, and those who were of evil nature have seen the error of their ways. All are not content, however. Jaques' decision to forego the wedding merrymaking and join Duke Frederick in a religious order lends a jarring note to the festivities, although it is one we might have expected from such a character. Yet his curiosity about Duke Frederick and his new way of life seems genuine, and it is easy to imagine that he well find satisfaction in his company. The ending of the play is by no means completely symmetrical, but the final scene concludes in a joyous spirit of communion and celebration.
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