Note on the Character Analysis

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Note: As You Like It is a formulaic comedy in which love and good must ultimately triumph. As such, it is filled with stock character types. While each of the play's main characters is distinct and none, save the least important (Charles the wrestler), is purely one-dimensional, the figures that appear on stage in As You Like It are not complex in the sense that Shakespeare's Hamlet or Lady Macbeth is complex. The two exceptions are Rosalind and Jaques, the poles of the play's "optimism/pessimism" opposition.

Celia (Character Analysis)

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Celia is the daughter of Duke Frederick and lives at the palace. After her father ousts Duke Senior, Duke Senior's daughter Rosalind, Celia's cousin, comes to live with her, and the two seem to be very close. They are like two schoolgirls exchanging witticisms about all they observe in their somewhat sheltered world. Celia takes an active part in the witty exchanges with Le Beau, in which the two girls and Touchstone engage in endless wordplay. She, along with her cousin, tries to convince Orlando that he will be injured if he wrestles Charles, and during the wrestling match, Celia encourages him. After the match, Celia and Rosalind pun on wrestling terms like "fall" and "throw," using these terms in the language of love to discuss Rosalind's infatuation with Orlando. Celia is excited for her cousin, but much of her energy at Duke Frederick's court is siphoned into distancing herself from her father's actions, most noticeably his banishment of Orlando after the wrestling match.

When Duke Frederick suddenly demands that Rosalind leave his household, Celia does not hesitate; she decides to share Rosalind's fate and travel with her to the Forest of Arden. The two adopt disguises because traveling in the sometimes violent Elizabethan underworld was a dangerous undertaking for two women. Celia assumes the persona of a woman being escorted by "Ganymede," Rosalind's male persona, significant since Celia is the less dominant of the two women. It is also significant that Celia takes the name "Aliena." In an obvious sense, she is alienated from her father and the world of Duke Frederick's court. In another sense, she seems alienated from herself; in the Forest of Arden she seems different from the carefree adolescent she is in earlier scenes. She becomes a woman of means living in the world, buying the cottage of Corin's master and establishing a household. As a character, she recedes into the background of the pastoral world of Arden, becoming merely the go-between for Rosalind and Orlando. Her relationship with Oliver is reported to rather than witnessed by the audience. Of the two female friends in the play, Rosalind is clearly the more dynamic, Celia, perhaps, giving modern audiences the glimpse of another dimension of female identity in Elizabethan England.

Frederick (Character Analysis)

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Duke Frederick is the younger brother of Duke Senior and has somehow gained enough power to banish him from the court. He plunders the estates of those lords who have accompanied Duke Senior into exile. Duke Frederick seems to be acting capriciously and arbitrarily when he banishes Rosalind, but her banishment probably stems from the animosity that exists between himself and Duke Senior. She is, after all, Duke Senior's daughter, and Duke Frederick has only taken her in to appease his own daughter Celia. It may also be conjectured that he has witnessed or heard reports of Rosalind's attraction to Orlando and her gift of a necklace to him and is upset with her for befriending the son of Sir Rowland de Boys, his avowed enemy. Again, this probably stems from the quarrel between Duke Frederick and Duke Senior, the latter having had a great affection for Sir Rowland. Duke Frederick has already banished Orlando for his paternity and will eventually banish Oliver for the same reason, after Oliver has failed to produce and punish Orlando in accordance with Duke Frederick's desires. Duke Frederick becomes alarmed at the popularity enjoyed by his older brother in the forest, and he sets out to remove Duke Senior and his followers by force. He is dissuaded from this purpose and is miraculously converted to the contemplative life by a religious man in the Forest of Arden.

The rupture in the relationship between Duke Frederick and Duke Senior parallels that of Oliver and Orlando although the virtuous brother is younger in the latter pair and older in the former. Fraternal envy and disharmony is a common theme in several of Shakespeare's plays (for example, Hamlet and The Tempest), often recalling the Biblical story of Cain and Abel. For Shakespeare, it is necessary to reconcile these fraternal feuds in order to restore the fabric of social order. It is perhaps this necessity for restoring order that accounts for Duke Frederick's sudden conversion by the religious hermit in Arden, a place where the ill effects of desire and ambition are temporarily suspended.

Jaques (Character Analysis)

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

A lord attending the banished Duke Senior, Jaques seems less enthusiastic about the natural simplicity of Arden as the other characters there, but he does not entirely dampen their enthusiasm. Rather, Duke Senior and his followers are amused by his pessimism about an environment which they celebrate as basic and unflattering, an environment which allows them to be themselves. For example, they are highly amused when Jaques empathizes with the deer wounded by one of them, moaning and weeping for the pain of the deer, the killing of which is seen by Duke Senior and his followers as sad but necessary for survival and part of the correct order of things. Jaques's identification with the deer is illustrative of the alternative perspective he provides throughout the play.

The alternative perspective Jaques provides allows the audience to see the duplicitousness that invades even the Forest of Arden. He accuses Duke Senior and his followers of having usurped the claim that the deer have to the forest as its natural inhabitants. Although Duke Senior regrets having to gore them, he does not see, as Jaques does, that his dominance over the deer is similar to the law of "right by power" Duke Senior thinks he has escaped by fleeing the court and taking refuge in the forest. Jaques also sees through Touchstone's relationship with Audrey. If Touchstone thinks he can feign affection for Audrey and hide ''amongst the rest of the country copulatives," (V.iv.55-6) Jaques sees the relationship for what it is, simple lust and a denigration of the institution of marriage.

In his "Seven Ages of Man Speech" (II.vii.139-66), Jaques says, "All the world's a stage, / And all the men and women merely players" (II.vii.139-40). He seems to see nothing of lasting value in life because these players come and go; it would seem that one player is as good as another. About the stages humans pass through as they mature, he has nothing good to say: infants are "mewling" and "puking''; the schoolboy is ''whining''; lovers sigh melodramatically; the soldier fights for as inconsequential a thing as reputation; the judge is corpulent and self-indulgent; the aged man shrinks in his clothes and wheezes; and finally, near death, man becomes a child again with no teeth, failing eyesight, and a loss of appetite. Jaques expresses a pessimism here that reins in the optimism expressed by Duke Senior and his followers.

Jaques is not unaffected by the transforming power of the Forest of Arden. He has been a libertine, pursuing his appetites and ambitions. The forest has made him contemplative of life and sorry for his past mistakes. It seems fitting that at the end of the play he announces his intention to go and inquire about the contemplative religious life now embraced by Duke Frederick and forego the group weddings and communal celebrations with which the play concludes.

Oliver (Character Analysis)

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Oliver is Orlando's older brother and takes over the responsibility of raising him. He so dislikes Orlando that when the brothers quarrel, Oliver strikes Orlando and then orders him out of the house. Oliver even goes so far as to assure Duke Frederick that he hates Orlando as much as the duke does, knowing full well that the duke intends to apprehend him and punish him.

As the eldest son of Sir Rowland de boys, Oliver has inherited the entire estate. The play never explains why he elects to send the second brother, Jaques, off to school but neglects the education of Orlando. Perhaps, as some critics have suggested, he is extremely envious of his younger brother's talent, generosity, and aristocratic impulses and wishes to be rid of Orlando so that he might appear in a better light without competition from his younger sibling. This explanation of Oliver's behavior must remain a matter of conjecture only. It is likely, though, that Shakespeare is using Oliver, as he uses Duke Frederick, to emphasize the social upheaval that results when brothers fight. Like Duke Frederick, Oliver has a sudden, almost unbelievable change of heart toward his brother. Since social order is symbolically restored only when brothers reconcile, it may sometimes be necessary for Shakespeare to effect this reconciliation even if it is sometimes unbelievable within the plot. In As You Like It, bringing the feuding brothers together again takes precedence over consistent and plausible characterization.

Like so many of the other characters, Oliver changes when he enters the Forest of Arden. Not only is his attitude toward Orlando changed, but his capacity for feeling emotion seems to increase also. Although his betrothal to Celia is somewhat quick, his feelings for her seem genuine. Just as important is Celia's affection for Oliver. Oliver is from an aristocratic family, but Celia is the daughter of a duke, a member of the nobility. This is yet another example of the transforming power of the forest, in that arbitrary social distinctions are suspended. The forest setting allows Oliver's true nature to reveal itself and shows him fit to marry a noblewoman, just as it does with Orlando.

Orlando (Character Analysis)

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Orlando is the youngest son of the deceased Sir Rowland de Boys and a brother to Oliver. He resents the harsh treatment he receives at Oliver's hands and complains that Oliver neglects to educate him. Orlando feels that he is being ''kept'' like the livestock. He is fed and he grows physically but not intellectually or socially. Despite this neglect, Orlando's talents and his aristocratic nature reveal themselves. Although there is no mention of Orlando having had formal training in the sport of wrestling, he defeats someone who makes his living wrestling. Having seen the match, Rosalind becomes attracted to Orlando, and gives him her necklace.

After escaping to the Forest of Arden, Orlando encounters Rosalind, who is posing as Ganymede. Again, although he has not been taught to write formal verse, Orlando's instinct is to write poetry to Rosalind and express his feelings for her. According to Rosalind and Touchstone, the verse is stiff and halting, yet Orlando's inclination to turn to poetry as an emotive outlet attests to his aristocratic nature. Thinking that Ganymede (Rosalind) is a young man knowledgeable about the relationships between men and women, Orlando allows himself to be educated in the finer points of courtship.

In a comical scene, Jaques and Orlando meet as strangers and speak to each other according to polite convention. Each tells the other that he would rather be alone, and they agree that they should meet less often. The polite veneer of their speech does not quite fit with the content of their speeches. We get the sense that Jaques and Orlando are complete opposites—Jaques a pessimistic and brooding character, and Orlando an optimistic fellow intent upon experiencing life to the fullest.

Another indicator of Orlando's virtuous nature is his treatment of Adam. As the two make their way to the Forest of Arden, the trip proves too arduous for the faithful, old servant. When he can no longer go on, Orlando is ready to fight Duke Senior and all of his attendant lords in order to procure food for him. And when Jaques expresses a characteristic pessimism about the value of human life, Orlando carries Adam into the company of exiles, mute testimony for the value of mutual respect and support between human beings.

As a disadvantaged younger brother, Orlando probably would have been received sympathetically by a good portion of Shakespeare's audience. Under the system of primogeniture, the eldest male child inherited the entire estate, leaving younger male children to make their own marks in the world. These younger brothers would often have to learn a profession and would apprentice themselves to master craftsmen in London. Shakespeare's professional theater was a major source of diversion and entertainment for these young apprentices, and we should expect that they would have identified, to some degree, with Orlando's situation.

Although Orlando's intelligence may seem to be in question because he fails to recognize Rosalind in her disguise as Ganymede in the Forest of Arden, his failure to recognize Rosalind and his willingness to be manipulated by her are better attributed to his eagerness to compensate for his lack of education and become a student of the formal art of courtship. He proves to be a good student and passes the tests Rosalind presents him as she assesses his faithfulness and devotion. In the last act, Rosalind reveals herself, and she Orlando are married.

Rosalind (Character Analysis)

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Rosalind is Celia's cousin and daughter to Duke Senior. When her father is banished by Celia's father, Duke Frederick, Rosalind lives with Celia until Duke Frederick banishes her, too. She adopts a male disguise as a measure of security for her journey with Celia and Touchstone to the Forest of Arden. She adopts the name ''Ganymede," a telling name since, in Greek mythology, Ganymede was an androgynous youth raped by Zeus. When she arrives in Arden, Rosalind keeps her male disguise even though she is now safe and has no reason to do so.

When Celia discovers Orlando's poetry to Rosalind marring the tree trunks, she informs Rosalind of the author's identity. Initially, it seems as though Rosalind hangs onto her disguise in order to have some fun with Orlando. As the play progresses, Rosalind realizes that her male disguise gives her a certain power that she does not have as a woman. She is able to manipulate Orlando and extract from him his deepest secrets concerning her. Disguised as a man, she has power over other characters too. She is pursued by Phebe and can intervene in her relationship with Silvius.

Like her father, Duke Senior, Rosalind is a dominant presence in the play. She mediates many of the contradictions posed by the play. For example, Orlando wants to be a student of the formal patterns of courtship, but this desire is out of place in Arden where conventions are unimportant. Rosalind teaches him that, in romantic love, faithfulness and devotion are more important than any prescribed steps in a process of wooing. Orlando passes the test and is rewarded with Rosalind's reciprocal love. Faced with Phebe's ill treatment of Silvius, Rosalind teaches her a lesson about the importance of considering others' pain and suffering.

Rosalind's dual nature serves to mediate between the pastoral world of Arden and the rule-bound world of the court. Nature is often characterized as feminine—"Mother Nature"—nurturing growth and diversity. The masculine world is bound by time and conventions, rules and regulations devised to insure order and conformance. Rosalind/Ganymede knows what it is like to be both a man and a woman, and this knowledge enables her to understand the conflicts between the masculine and feminine worlds, the court and the Forest of Arden respectively, and better equips her to deal with those conflicts. It is the increased power granted by Rosalind's dual gender that differentiates her from Celia, the two characters seeming so much alike in the play's earlier scenes. Celia is in a sense bound by her inflexible identity.

Rosalind, like Phebe, represents an aspect of Queen Elizabeth, who liked to speak of her ''two bodies"—her frail womanly body and her body politic, the masculine identity she derived from being the monarch of England. The Queen dressed in masculine attire at Tilbury in order to rally her English soldiers as they awaited an invasion by the Spanish. It is this kind of gender confusion that Elizabethan audiences would have been aware of, and it is perhaps inevitable that they would have seen Rosalind as an allusion to the Queen, at once feminine and powerful.

Rosalind is the moral center of As You Like It, the character with whom our sympathies lie and through whose eyes we experience and evaluate the play's events and other characters. She is at the start an innocent victim of her uncle's mistrust, and there is nothing in her actions or words to justify Duke Frederick's treatment of her. Rosalind perseveres, however; and in most of the exchanges that take place while she is disguised as Ganymede, she controls the situation by being privy to knowledge, such as her own female identity, of which others (Orlando, Phebe, her father Duke Senior) are ignorant. Rosalind can be forceful, as in her rejection of Jaques and her treatment of Phebe, but she stands at the positive end of regenerating Christian values and social harmony. To be sure, Rosalind is subject to Cupid's arrow and falls in love with Orlando shortly after meeting him. But it is also plain that Orlando is a worthy match for her and that her instinctive choice of him is ultimately wise.

Touchstone (Character Analysis)

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Touchstone is a clown, or fool, in Duke Frederick's household. He may not be a vigorous male character, but he is a man nonetheless, and Celia and Rosalind decide to take him along as an extra measure of security on their journey to the Forest of Arden. When he arrives in the forest he finds that his familiarity with the language and customs of the court impress the simple shepherds and goatherds, so he uses this advantage to further his lustful designs on Audrey and marry her in what is typically described as a travesty of romantic love and marriage.

The Elizabethan term "clown" could be applied to any simple yokel. The term ''fool" referred to a court jester often wearing motley, a kind of multi-colored and outlandish attire. Elizabethan fools were very often "naturals," simple unassuming idiots who amused the courtiers with their naiveté or misunderstanding. In Shakespeare's plays, fools arguably function as either the conscience of some basically noble but misled character (for example, in King Lear) or as a device to deflate and expose the pomposity of characters who overstep their proper positions (for example, in Twelfth Night). Additionally, Shakespeare's fools amuse with their convoluted logic and witty plays on words. In As You Like It, Touchstone, although he delights with his wit, serves a somewhat different purpose.

A "touchstone" was a stone that was used to determine if metals were precious. Rubbed against a touchstone, gold and silver would leave a distinguishable mark. ''Touchstone'' has come to signify anything that tests and reveals virtue or worth. This is the purpose Touchstone serves in the play. When he is in the company of other characters, he brings out their true virtue. For example, when he debates Corin, the audience sees the true value of Corin's simple philosophy in contrast to Touchstone's argument for argument's sake, and Corin's pastoral life seems to have real substance—it is not a life based solely on witticisms and conventional language. In another example, Touchstone discusses with Jaques the "lie circumstantial," one step in an elaborate form of argumentation that replaces genuine passion with social convention. The fact that Jaques participates in this discussion at all reveals that he values that social convention beyond the simple life he is trying to imitate.

Jaques, who is greatly amused by Touchstone, reports that the clown has produced a timepiece from his pocket during their encounter in the forest. Touchstone has brought the "dial" with him from Duke Frederick's court where the timepiece was perhaps essential. In the timelessness of the Forest of Arden, the appearance of the watch draws attention to the conflicting values the two different realms place on the experience of time, and the timepiece is as out of place in the forest as Touchstone himself.

Other Characters (Descriptions)

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Adam is the faithful, old servant of Sir Rowland de Boys, father to Oliver and Orlando. When Sir Rowland dies, Adam remains as a servant to the household which is now governed by the elder Oliver. He recognizes a certain inherent nobility in Orlando and sympathizes with the younger brother in his complaints against Oliver for neglecting his education and breeding. Adam is ill-treated by Oliver, and after the two brothers quarrel and physically struggle, he sides with Orlando and casts his fortune with him. He gives Orlando all of the money he has managed to save and travels with him to the Forest of Arden. In a society like Elizabethan England with rigid class distinctions, Adam represents the ideal of service, one who is motivated by loyalty and affection rather than greed and ambition. When Jaques, the pessimistic courtier in attendance upon the exiled Duke Senior, utters his fatalistic "Seven Ages of Man" speech (II.vii.139-66), concluding with a description of old age as isolated dependence, Orlando enters carrying Adam. Orlando defiantly protects the servant who has given everything to him, and the mutual generosity and dependence between Orlando and Adam contradicts the dismal picture drawn by Jaques's speech.

See Celia

Amiens is one of the lords in attendance upon Duke Senior in the Forest of Arden. He is not in servitude to Duke Senior; he has voluntarily joined him in exile. Any distinction in social standing is diminished in the egalitarian environment of Arden. He sings several songs or snatches of songs, mostly at the insistence of Jaques, all of which express the sentiment that, even in its extremities of climate, the forest is a simple and direct place, without the dishonesty that sometimes accompanies the communal associations of humans. He appears in the last scene of the play but does not speak.

They are the servants of Duke Frederick. They appear along with Duke Frederick, his lords, Charles, and Orlando in I.ii, a scene in which all are trying to dissuade Orlando from wrestling Charles. They do not have speaking parts.

Audrey is a goatherd and is even less sophisticated than the shepherds in the play. Even Touchstone impresses her, and she agrees to marry him. That marriage appears to be, as some have argued, more the product of lust and Touchstone's desire for conquest than it is of any deep affection between the two. She abandons another suitor, William, in order to be with Touchstone. In a parody of romantic love, Touchstone so twists the simple logic by which Audrey lives that she says, "I am not a slut, though I thank the gods I am foul" (III.iii.38), uttering this statement in response to the convoluted logic he has offered about court values of beauty and chastity. Audrey and Touchstone get married at the end of the play, but they have attempted to marry earlier than this. They arrange to be married by Sir Oliver Martext, but Jaques interrupts the ceremony and argues that the marriage will not be legitimate if it is performed by Sir Oliver. Jaques's argument does not convince Touchstone, but he delays the wedding anyway. Audrey does not express her feelings about the interrupted wedding either way, and this is typical of her reliance on Touchstone's more worldly knowledge.

Charles is the king's wrestler, who travels about the countryside challenging all comers to best him in a match. When Charles finds out Orlando has challenged him, he informs Oliver of the fact and that his reputation as a strongman is at stake, and he is confident that he cannot lose. He asks Oliver to intervene and discourage Orlando from what he considers a foolhardy enterprise, believing that Orlando's defeat will disgrace the de Boys name. Oliver misrepresents Orlando to Charles as a dangerous villain, and the wrestler leaves with a firm resolve to punish and defeat Orlando thoroughly. In the arranged matches, Charles, not surprisingly, convincingly beats the first three challengers, but he mocks Orlando and is greatly surprised when Orlando bests him through a combination of the incentive of revenge for that mockery and Orlando's own ability. Charles informs the audience of several important plot details early in the play: Duke Frederick's banishment of his brother Duke Senior; Duke Senior's residence in Arden; Rosalind's living arrangements; and Celia's great affection for Rosalind.

Corin is an old shepherd living in the Forest of Arden. He tends sheep for his master, a man who, according to Corin, is not very generous. The cottage of Corin's master is bought by Celia, and she becomes Corin's new mistress. His lot is improved by this transaction. Corin is first seen in the company of Silvius as the latter bemoans the intensity of his love for Phebe. When Corin cannot identify with Silvius's hyperbolic protestations of love, Silvius accuses him of never having experienced that emotion. But Corin is old and pragmatic, and his inability to share Silvius's current emotional state suggests either that time dissipates the capacity for feeling or that the emotional states of love and rationality are, perhaps, mutually exclusive. Corin lives by a simple philosophy: He is content with the knowledge that rain makes things wet, that fire burns, and that sheep are fattened by grazing on pasture. He eats what he can get with his own hands, wears the clothes he makes himself, and is not envious of the success of others. He debates the virtues of court and country living with Touchstone, and although Touchstone declares victory in this debate, Corin's simple and direct logic contrasts with Touchstone's witty wordplay, exposing the superficiality of court life and revealing its enslavement to convention. Corin's simple honesty and Silvius's lovelorn agitation are split aspects of the stock pastoral figure employed by elite writers to comment on social and political circumstances at court and in the city.

Dennis is another servant in the de Boys household, which is now in the sole possession of Oliver. He appears briefly in an early scene, performing the task of announcing a guest.

Duke Frederick
See Frederick

Duke Senior
See Senior

There are no actual foresters in the play, only Duke Senior's attendant lords dressed as foresters. They are playacting in a way that parallels the pastoral mode itself since the literary pastoral voice of the lowly shepherd was invented by aristocrats as they imagined shepherds would speak. See Lords.

See Rosalind

Hymen is the Greek god of marriage. In As You Like It, a person representing Hymen officiates at the marriages of the betrothed couples, symbolically blessing those unions.

Jaques (brother of Oliver and Orlando)
This is a son of Sir Rowland de Boys and brother of Oliver and Orlando. He is referred to in the beginning of the play when Orlando remarks that Oliver has done the right thing with Jaques, sending him to school where he is reported to be doing well. He does not appear in the play until the final scene and has only a brief role reporting the sudden conversion of Duke Frederick. He is referred to only as "Second Brother'' in this instance. Having two Jaques in the play leads to some confusion, and the question of whether the confusion is the result of revision or Shakespeare's inadvertent mistake has not been resolved.

Le Beau
Le Beau is a courtier, presumably in the court of Duke Frederick. He reports to Celia and Rosalind the result of Charles's earlier wrestling matches and announces that the two cousins will witness the match between Orlando and Charles if they remain where they are. He serves as the pivot point, the straight man, for the witty vollies of Celia, Rosalind, and Touchstone. He later warns Orlando that Duke Frederick is displeased with Orlando's success and advises him to leave the vicinity, suggesting that not all the courtiers have been compromised by the influence of Duke Frederick's ambition, but suggesting, also, the necessity for masking one's true feelings at court.

When Duke Senior seeks refuge in the forest from the persecution of his brother, a number of lords, or wealthy landholders, go along with him. In II.i, two characters designated as "1. Lord'' and ''2. Lord" inform Duke Senior of Jaques's melancholy weeping for the "sobbing deer" which has been wounded in the hunt. Duke Frederick, too, is surrounded by several lords. We can distinguish Duke Senior's lords and Duke Frederick's lords only by setting and context. Amiens and Jaques are lords as are the foresters.

Martext (Sir Oliver Martext)
Sir Oliver Martext is a country vicar, a parish priest. He is consulted by Audrey and Touchstone concerning their impending marriage. Since the text of the spoken marriage ceremony is what makes the wedding official, his name is appropriate: he will mar the text of that ceremony, which is itself a travesty of what a real marriage should be. His name may also suggest the Martin Marprelate controversy of the late sixteenth century. In 1598, an anonymous pamphleteer, adopting the persona Martin Marprelate (to mar or injure a prelate, namely a Protestant bishop), published a series of attacks vilifying and discrediting the Protestant episcopacy (church government based on the hierarchy of bishops). These pamphlets were a matter of great concern to religious and governmental officials. It is appropriate that a character named Sir Oliver Martext is consulted about a marriage that discredits the very institution with which the vicar is intimately connected.

In Act V, Touchstone encounters two pages who are probably the servants of Duke Senior or the lords who have joined him in exile. They sing a song and quibble with Touchstone about their execution of that song. Quite fittingly, the song is about love and springtime in nature, the Forest of Arden seeming to promote feelings of love in those who venture into its confines.

Phebe is the proud and disdainful mistress of Silvius. She is callous to his feelings and apparently wants nothing to do with him. Ironically, Phebe finds herself in a situation similar to that of Silvius, who is in love with her, when she falls in love at first sight with Rosalind disguised as Ganymede and is rebuked by him/her. She agrees to marry Silvius if she should decide for any reason that she does not want to marry Ganymede. Of course, she will reject Ganymede when she discovers that he is really Rosalind. We may think that Phebe will be upset with her consolation prize of Silvius, feeling somehow duped into marrying someone for whom she has no affection. But perhaps her own experience of unrequited love will make her sympathetic to his experience and provide a basis for their relationship.

Phebe is really a character of convention. She is the typical object of poetic and pastoral longing, depicted as unattainable in order to make her worthy of intense pursuit. If she were too easily caught, she would not be worth the chase. For Elizabethans especially, the creation of the idealized woman as distant and disdainful was a reaction to Queen Elizabeth, the Virgin Queen, who became a symbol for unattainable desire. In regard to Phebe's pursuit of Ganymede, it is appropriate here to bring up a convention of Shakespearean theater: young boys played the parts of the female characters. It has not been resolved whether Shakespearean audiences suspended disbelief entirely and accepted fully the characters as female or were constantly amused by the gender confusion. In any event, the prospect of a boy playing Rosalind playing a boy and being pursued by a boy playing Phebe is one that would boggle the imagination of most people.

Senior (Duke Senior)
Duke Senior is the virtuous elder brother of Duke Frederick and is banished by him from the court. He takes up residence in the Forest of Arden and is joined by his loyal followers there. He attracts followers because it is reported that he is living a life there that is simple and attractive, the life lived in the ''golden age'' when men did not work for other men but lived off the land and took care of themselves. Duke Senior praises the environment of Arden as devoid of flattering ambition. He hears honest counselors in the babbling brooks and whispering winds. He feels uncompromised reality in the biting wind and soaking rain.

Although he retains the title of ''duke'' in the forest, he does not rule by force or coercion; in fact, he does not seem to rule at all. The society formed in the Forest of Arden is an egalitarian one, a society based on equality. At the end of the play, Duke Senior regains all of his hereditary rights befitting his commendable nature. It is also made clear that Duke Senior and the others will return to the court which they have left behind, and we can only assume that the lessons learned in the Forest of Arden will be applied in social relationships when all return to the society from which they have been temporarily banished. Duke Senior does not have a large part in As You Like It, but his presence is felt throughout the play as a cohesive force pulling together both discrete characters and situations.

Silvius is a young shepherd deeply in love with Phebe. She is the sole object of his thoughts; he cannot keep his mind on anything else. He has intended to purchase the cottage owned by Corin's master, but, as Corin tells us, this kind of financial concern is the furthest thing from his mind as he dotes on Phebe. Phebe treats Silvius harshly. In one scene, Corin tells Rosalind and Celia that if they wish to witness how the poor lovelorn shepherd, Silvius, is getting on they should follow him. In the spectacle that follows, Phebe not only rejects Silvius's offers of devotion but tells him that if looks could kill he would be at that moment slain.

Like Phebe, Silvius is a conventional character. He speaks the language of hyperbole, perhaps grossly exaggerating his feelings for Phebe, certainly exaggerating her qualities. She is, after all, a working woman with a working woman's chapped and callous hands. Silvius disparages himself and disallows that anyone else might have experienced love as deeply as he, in an attempt to elevate Phebe. As a conventional pastoral character, it might be said that he is more in love with the idea of being in love than he is truly enamored of Phebe.

William is a simple goatherd and suitor to Audrey. Like the other unsophisticated pastoral figures, he is impressed by Touchstone, and he allows himself to be intimidated by him. He is thoroughly cowed by Touchstone's threats and relinquishes his claims to Audrey with little or no resistance.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

List of Characters