Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1670
As You Like It presents many views about the issue of love. The primary plot involves the love of Rosalind and Orlando, and several other characters in the play are either in or out of love. This provides the characters in the play the opportunity to wax philosophical about the subject, expressing views about the different types of love experienced not only by the characters, but also in life in general.
The first scene of the play introduces the concepts of brotherly love and the lack of it. Oliver is portrayed as a villain because he does not "love" his brother Orlando. Oliver has neglected his brother by refusing to educate him and by treating him as a servant. Thus we see that to be a proper older brother, one should care for and improve the status of one's younger siblings. As if all of this did not already violate what the love of a sibling is supposed to be, Oliver is also physically abusive to his brother and even plots Orlando's demise by spurring Charles against him. However, younger brothers can also be cruel, which is portrayed in the situation of the two dukes. Duke Frederick has deposed his older brother, Duke Senior, and has banished him—clearly not the act of a loving younger brother. Duke Frederick, like Oliver, is a villain because of his treatment of his brother and his niece. Thus Oliver and Duke Frederick are the antagonists of the play because they are first and foremost bad brothers.
Healthy sibling love is portrayed in the play through the relationship between Rosalind and Celia. Although technically only cousins, Rosalind and Celia have become as close as sisters during the overthrow of Duke Senior, and they show this in their dealings with each other in the first act. Celia mentions the first aspect of sibling love, putting the feelings of the sibling before one's own, in Act I, scene 2, when she tells Rosalind that she should be happy because Celia is happy, as she would have been had their situations been reversed. Orlando attempts to do this for Oliver at the end of the play when he is to marry Celia. Good siblings also sacrifice for one another. When Rosalind is banished in Act I, scene 3, Celia immediately volunteers to go with her, despite her ties to her father and the dangers that leaving home will present. This is in direct contrast to Oliver and Duke Frederick, who attempt to sacrifice their brothers instead of sacrificing for them. This issue of sacrificing for a sibling is a major aspect of the relationship, and Shakespeare demonstrates its importance throughout the play. In fact, it is only when Orlando somewhat reluctantly sacrifices his own life to save his brother from the lion that Oliver is converted, and becomes a good brother once again. After this event, Oliver is willing to sacrifice everything he owns to his brother so that he can stay with Aliena (Celia). Celia's sacrifice also allows the resolution of the play. Thus, good love between siblings helps to contribute to the successful conclusion of the play.
Another type of love in the play is that of a ruler for his people. . In Elizabethan sensibility, it is the duty of a monarch to act as a loving parent to her/his country. Duke Senior, when he was in power, loved his country well and was much loved in return. This is the reason why several lords come flocking to him in the Forest of Arden. He has acted as a good ruler and is eventually rewarded at the end of the play. Duke Frederick, by contrast, abuses his power and becomes a tyrant. Unlike Duke Senior, who has followers who will give up their comforts in the city to come live with him in the country, Duke Frederick can only motivate his subjects by threatening death and seizing property. The message here appears to be that because Duke Frederick does not know how to love his brother or his subjects, he can only maintain his power through tyranny. Only through the love of God is Duke Frederick converted, which leads him to relinquish the dukedom and the seized property. The dukedom is then returned to the ruler that truly loves it.
This love between monarch and subject is similar to the love between master and servant, demonstrated in this play by Orlando and Adam. Because Sir Rowland was a benevolent master, Adam is willing to give everything that he has in order to support his new master, Orlando. Orlando, in turn, carries Adam through the Forest of Arden and is even willing to kill Duke Senior and his comrades for food in order to save Adam's life. The loyalty of the servant, like that of the loyalty of the lords for Duke Senior, is inspired by the love and care of the master, who functions as the servant's monarch.
Although sibling, monarch, and master/servant love are prominent concerns in As You Like It , the primary type of love in the play is romantic love. By the end of Act I Rosalind and Orlando are already in love with each other. While both fall in love at first sight, Rosalind is additionally encouraged by the knowledge that Orlando is the son of the late Sir Rowland de Boys, who was one of her father's favorite courtiers. While physical attraction is important in romantic love, personality and morals must be just as important, and Rosalind assumes that Orlando has his father's good character. However, Shakespeare reminds us that identity cannot count for too much, as Celia points out, because if Rosalind is going to love Orlando only because he is Sir Rowland's son, then Celia should hate him for the same reason. This warning compels Rosalind to be somewhat sensible in her affection for Orlando, which is what allows her to discover Orlando's true feelings in his "therapy sessions" during Acts III and IV.
The therapy sessions of Acts III and IV allow Rosalind to prove to herself (and to the audience) that she and Orlando are properly suited toward each other and toward marriage. While she chides Orlando for not conforming to the expectations of a lover (he is always late, he does not pine away, etc.), he does demonstrate his love for Rosalind through his poetry and his devotion to her despite all of Ganymede's (Rosalind's) teasing banter about women. He also shows his intelligence (despite his lack of education) and his quick wit in his encounters with Jaques. The development of Rosalind's and Orlando's relationship throughout the play demonstrates that successful romantic love needs more than just the physical—people must be well suited to one another in order to have a happy marriage.
Romantic love is not always so reasonable, however, and other characters in the play will not have relationships nearly so happy as that of Rosalind and Orlando because of the nature of their love. Phebe and Silvius are an example of love based on abuse. Silvius, who is in love with Phebe throughout the play, claims that love means constant pining, constant crying, and constant folly. While Orlando writes his share of bad poetry, he does not follow Silvius' directives for love but still loves Rosalind. Also, Silvius is only in love with Phebe because she treats him badly, and Phebe falls in love with Ganymede (Rosalind) for the same reason. Both characters are willing to literally beg in order to win the love of their intended, despite the horrible treatment that they receive from that person. Silvius carries a love letter from Phebe to Ganymede and endures complete humiliation for it without being willing to let his love for Phebe go. Phebe not only writes a love letter to the abusive Ganymede, but also wants to marry him despite his treatment of her. While Silvius gets what he wants at the end of the play by marrying Phebe, Phebe must give up her freedom, which she has relinquished because she loves the verbally abusive Ganymede. This is clearly not the beginning of a happy marriage.
Another imbalanced relationship in the play is that of Touchstone and Audrey. Touchstone, the city-born clown who accompanies Rosalind and Celia to the Forest of Arden, has a great deal of wit, but no wisdom to go with it. He uses this wit to abuse others, including Corin (who manages to hold his own with Touchstone), Oliver Mar-Text, and William. It is this use of wit that impresses Audrey, a simple country girl who does not understand Touchstone's ramblings, and leads her to fall in love with him. Her lack of knowledge allows Touchstone too much power over her, and he almost marries her illegally in order to be able to leave her later on (Fortunately for Audrey, Jaques prevents this). This message about love is fairly clear—those who marry people who are too different in ability are doomed to an unhappy relationship where one will take advantage of the other. Both Hymen, god of marriage, and Jaques point out the folly of this relationship at the end of the play, likening the relationship to the marriage of winter and foul weather and to a voyage without supplies. Because Touchstone and Audrey are so different, and because Touchstone uses his wit to put himself over others, they cannot have Rosalind and Orlando's happiness.
While people who love often cannot control their feelings, the characters of As You Like It are permitted to explore their own notions of what love is and to pursue them. For the most part, the characters of the play are granted what they seek—Duke Senior gets his dukedom back, the lovers all marry, and Jaques escapes company by retreating to the holy man. However, while they receive what they pursue, they may not necessarily get what they want. It is only those who have truly learned to love others that have successful relationships at the end of the play.
Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1401
When Rosalind decides to cross dress as the shepherd Ganymede in Act I, scene 3 of As You Like It, she highlights the conceptions of gender as a central theme of the play. While As You Like It presents common Elizabethan notions of what it means to be male and female, it also makes an important point about the intelligence and capability of women by portraying clever and powerful girls who are capable of holding their own in a man's world. By giving these women power and intelligence, Shakespeare reminds us that although his contemporaries (and many of our contemporaries as well) assume that men and women fulfill certain stereotypes, both genders are more than capable of superseding those limitations in order to attain their goals.
As You Like It first establishes what it means to be male in Elizabethan society. Orlando criticizes his brother Oliver for raising him improperly because he has not educated him so that he can be a gentleman. While Orlando, as Oliver notes, is learned without an education, it is expected that Orlando, as the son of a nobleman, will be educated because he is male. We also learn in the first scene that Orlando is one of the heroes of the play because he is noble, good looking, and strong (qualities which make Oliver, one of the villains, hate him). Rosalind also notes that he is of good character because he has inherited his father's spirit. Later on in the play, Orlando writes several love poems and remains steadfast in his love despite Ganymede's "attempts" at driving him away from it. Orlando's example of what it means to be male is the standard by which all of the other males (including Rosalind when she pretends to be Ganymede) will be measured.
While the definition of male in the play is fairly straightforward, the idea of what it means to be a woman is far more problematic. The first time female characters appear in the play is in the second scene, where we find two princesses making fun of fortune and nature. Both Celia and Rosalind are portrayed as both intelligent and beautiful, a rare combination that breaks from the "dumb female" stereotype. From their first exchange, it is clear that either character could easily outwit any male in the play, especially in terms of conversation, as they manage to quickly subdue Touchstone. It is also clear that while Celia is intelligent, Rosalind is more so. However, since both are female, their actions are limited, and they have no ability to act on their intelligence while they are in court.
The situation changes, however, when Rosalind is banished by Duke Frederick. Although Celia is the taller of the two girls, Rosalind insists that she will play the man. The first thing she thinks of to do in order to become a man is to arm herself, since weapons are "manly" and will cover up the "womanly" fear in her heart of being in the forest. She also cannot cry once she gets there, even though she is about to, and must instead comfort the "weaker vessel" Celia like a good brother. However, pretending to be a male will allow Rosalind to actually act on the intelligence with which she has been gifted, and she will begin to manipulate other characters in the play because of her new gender status.
Rosalind's manipulative acts as Ganymede help to bring the play to a happy conclusion. Her first act is to offer to "counsel" Orlando out of his love for her. Rosalind proposes to do this by fulfilling all of the stereotypes associated with women in romantic relationships. In Act III, scene 2, she tells Orlando that she will "grieve, be effeminate, changeable, longing and/liking, proud, fantastical, apish, shallow, inconstant, full of tears, full of smiles; for every passion something/and for no passion truly anything" (ll. 385-388). Ganymede will act like this because women in love are supposed to be fickle and flighty. By portraying women in their most stereotypical (and unrealistic) light, Rosalind pretends that she will cure Orlando despite the fact that she really has no intention of doing so. Her main reason for these sessions is to, of course, be near Orlando and uncover just how much he loves her before she risks herself by revealing her identity to him.
Rosalind goes on to further expose the fallacies of the stereotypes of women in Act IV, scene 1. After pointing out that both men and women are like spring when they woo and winter when they wed (a metaphor that only fits bad relationships), Rosalind proceeds to completely denounce women. First, she accuses women of acting before thinking, and then claims that women are more giddy (silly) in their desires than a monkey. Women, according to Rosalind, will also use their wit to blame their husbands for all of their own faults, and will be unreasonably emotional at the most inappropriate times. However, neither Orlando nor the audience is meant to believe these accusations. If all of these were true, then Rosalind would not be able to control herself and play Ganymede so successfully. She would not be able to deceive her father or Orlando, and also would not be able to manipulate Silvius and Phebe into marrying each other at the end of the play. So although a female character proposes this ideas, we are clearly not meant to really believe that women are quite so ridiculous, as Celia immediately reminds us with her outburst that Rosalind has "misused" the female gender by making these completely false claims. Celia also goes so far as to say that Rosalind has played a male too long because she is forgetting what women are really like. Celia's intelligent observations, made by a female who clearly does not conform to the stereotypes put forth by Rosalind in her conversations with Orlando, demonstrate a woman who is definitely as wise as any man.
Rosalind's other major act of manipulation relates to the relationship between Silvius and Phebe. Silvius, like Orlando, is very much in love, but unlike Orlando, is completely consumed by it. He is willing to make a complete fool of himself for Phebe, and constantly pines for her despite the fact that she is both proud and extremely disdainful of his affections. Because of she is so intelligent, Rosalind quickly perceives that Silvius loves Phebe because she is so abusive to him, and Phebe will fall in love with her as Ganymede if she is mean to Phebe as well. This astute observation helps Rosalind to help Silvius by making Phebe promise to marry Silvius if she refuses to accept Ganymede. It should also be noted here that Phebe, despite her pride, does not fulfill all of the female stereotypes, either. Although she spurns Silvius and refuses to give up on her love for Ganymede until the final scene, she does fulfill her word and marry Silvius, and even promises to unite her love to that of Silvius when she marries him.
Despite being more than capable of solving the problems of the play as a woman, Rosalind would not have been able to accomplish her successes in either of these situations (Silvius/Phebe and Orlando) had she not been dressed as a man. Not only would Orlando have recognized her if she appeared as a female, but he also would have been much less likely to confess his feelings to Rosalind directly if she had not been dressed as Ganymede. Phebe would not have been able to be influence by Rosalind if she had not fallen in love with Ganymede, rendering Rosalind incapable of assisting Silvius in his pursuit of her. The appearance of being male gives Rosalind the authority to work all of these situations into a successful conclusion. This is the reason why Rosalind must appear one last time as Ganymede in the final scene—in order to cement the bargains she makes through her power as a man. Once Rosalind returns to her true identity, she must accept the power of her father and of her husband over her, but it is clear that she is still the most intelligent and most able character in the play. This serves as a reminder to us that although we make certain assumptions about people's abilities based on their gender, our assumptions may not always be the case.
Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1710
The ability to make witty comments is an important one to several characters in As You Like It. When the heroine of the play, Rosalind, is first introduced, she engages in a verbal game of wits with her cousin Celia about the nature of Fortune. Several other characters, including Orlando, Jaques, and Touchstone, also make several clever comments in an effort to outwit characters in the play. The characters' possession of wit and the ability to use it properly not only makes the play more entertaining, but also teaches an important point about the use of words—that words without wisdom or compassion have no meaning at all.
Rosalind, as heroine, is the character who is most visible in her use of words. Although she begins Act I, scene 2, depressed because of her situation, she is more than capable of rising to Celia's challenge to be merry by making fun of Fortune. This discussion, which shows both Celia's and Rosalind's impressive verbal abilities, is relatively meaningless because they are arguing just to see who can make the wittiest comment. However, their abilities are put to the test in the next scene, when Duke Frederick banishes Rosalind. Duke Frederick banishes Rosalind because she is her father's daughter and therefore a threat. However, Rosalind correctly points out that treason is not an inherited trait, and that she is no more dangerous now than she was when Duke Frederick first agreed to keep her at court. Celia then pleads Rosalind's case by stating that she must also be a traitor because she has become so close to Rosalind that they are essentially the same kind of person. Both Rosalind's and Celia's arguments, which are very logical especially in light of the emotion of the moment, are rejected not because they are insufficient, but simply because of Duke Frederick's villainy.
Another example of Rosalind using her linguistic abilities occurs in her meetings with Orlando, Silvius, and Phebe. When Rosalind, dressed as Ganymede, attempts to "counsel" Orlando out of his love for her, she uses a great deal of wit to do so. First of all, Rosalind uses her wit to protect her disguise. When Orlando asks her if she is a native of the Forest of Arden, Rosalind makes an ambiguous remark about being as much of a native as a rabbit is to the place where it is born. In other words, she never quite answers the question directly. She uses this kind of verbal sidestepping again in Act V, scene 2, when she says that she is in love with no woman and that she will marry Phebe is she is going to marry any woman at all. She also makes Phebe promise that if she refuses to marry her, she will marry Silvius. Rosalind manipulates the other characters through her use of language, but she does so for one purpose—to ensure a happy ending to the play.
Although Rosalind does use her verbal abilities to help others in the play, she will occasionally use her wit for sport. Act I, scene 2 is an example of this. Another example is Act IV, scene 1, when she talks Orlando into pretending to marry her. She proposes this as part of the "cure" for Orlando's love madness, but the staging of the marriage has no real purpose. She also constantly insults and makes fun of Touchstone (although his job is to entertain her), and she outwits Jaques for the fun of it. This differentiates Rosalind from Celia. Although Rosalind is clearly the better wit, Celia refuses to use her language to hurt others. When Rosalind proposes to stage the wedding, Celia cannot bring herself to participate because she knows that they should not be making fun of Orlando in this fashion. She also chastises Rosalind for abusing women verbally in her conversations with Orlando. While Rosalind can and does occasionally use language at the expense of others (harmless though it is), Celia does not, and is rewarded for it at the end of the play with marriage to Oliver and acceptance by Duke Senior. Rosalind, however, is also rewarded with marriage to Orlando because she is the one to use her language to bring about the successful resolution of the play.
While Rosalind and Celia are rewarded for their good use of their verbal abilities in the play, those who misuse language in As You Like It do so to their detriment. Touchstone is the primary example of this. When he is introduced in Act I, scene 2, it is clear that he too is capable of using words well (Rosalind and Celia can outwit him, but they are both exceptionally witty). Touchstone also makes a particularly astute remark about love in Act II, scene 4, when he witnesses Silvius' pining: "We that are true lovers/run into strange capers; but as all is mortal in nature, so/is all nature in love mortal in folly" (ll. 49-51). Even Rosalind notes the intelligence of this remark by stating that Touchstone speaks wiser than he is aware of. The problem with Touchstone's wit is that he only uses it for his own entertainment or to make himself appear superior to someone else. When Corin asks him if he is enjoying life as a shepherd, Touchstone uses his wit to try to make city life appear superior to that of the country. He also tries to draw Corin into a verbal argument by insulting country behavior and claiming that Corin is damned because he has never seen good manners. Corin, however, refuses to be dazzled by Touchstone's words, and claims that he is happy. He then starts to make fun of Orlando's love poem without any sympathy for the feeling behind it.
While attempting to lure Corin into a debate in order to demonstrate his verbal superiority is most certainly a character flaw in Touchstone, it is small in comparison to what he attempts to do in his relationship with Audrey. Audrey is a simple, honest country girl who does not understand anything that Touchstone says. Although Touchstone says that he wishes Audrey were "poetical," he is more than content to speak over her head. Even Jaques, who only uses language for his own benefit, laments Touchstone's misuse of his verbal abilities: "O knowledge ill-inhabited, worse than/Jove in a thatched house!" (Act III, scene 3, ll. 7-8). Touchstone even goes so far as to talk Audrey into allowing Oliver Mar-Text to marry them illegally so that he can justifiably leave her when he tires of her. Only Jaques, who is depressed but not morally bankrupt, prevents this false marriage from occurring. Touchstone will abuse language one last time to get Audrey by scaring off William, another country simpleton who thinks he has a "pretty" wit. Touchstone uses his wit to threaten William's life and point out William's foolishness: "'The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool'" (Act V, scene 1, ll. 30-31). Once again, Touchstone speaks more wisely than he is capable of understanding, because he too is a fool who thinks he is wise. At the end of the play, Touchstone seems to be rewarded with marriage to Audrey, but both Hymen and Jaques warn that their marriage will be an unhappy one indeed. Hymen likens their coupling to winter and foul weather, and Jaques states that they are doomed to fighting after the first two months because they are so different. Although Touchstone gets what he wants through the use of his verbal talents, his wit will eventually be his undoing because he will be trapped in an unhappy and completely legal marriage.
Another character that uses witty language to his own benefit is Jaques. When Duke Senior first mentions Jaques in the beginning of Act II, he is portrayed as melancholy and sullen. While Duke Senior finds this a means of entertainment, Jaques is almost constantly melancholy (except when Touchstone makes him laugh), and only uses his language to reinforce that melancholy on himself and others. When he tells Duke Senior that he should be a clown, he says that he wishes to do so so that he can spread his point of view to the world and get paid for it. He does not wish to share his verbal gifts to help others, but rather to make fun of them. He then attempts to dismiss all of the important things in life with the famous Seven Ages of Man speech, in which he reduces all of the stages of life into meaningless oblivion. Another attempt that Jaques makes to use his wit to reinforce his own depression is when he tries to get Orlando to rail against life's misfortunes with him in Act III, scene 2: "Will you sit down with me? And we/two will rail against our mistress the world and all our misery" (ll. 264-266). Jaques does not use his language to help Orlando as does Rosalind later on in the scene, but hopes to indulge his own depression by adding Orlando's witty comments to reinforce it. He attempts to do this one last time with Rosalind in the beginning of Act IV by wittily explaining that his melancholy is different from everyone else's because it is a combination of many things and many travels. Instead of being impressed by his comments, Rosalind outwits Jaques by telling him that he is a traveler, and it is a shame that he spends so much energy travelling if doing so only depresses him. Jaques' selfish use of language and wit in order to maintain his own depression renders him unfit for return to city life with the rest of the characters, which leads him to seek out the holy man who has converted Duke Frederick in the final scene of the play. However, it should be noted that Jaques does prevent Touchstone from taking advantage of Audrey. He seems to be rewarded for this by going to the holy man so that he can learn important matters. It may be that by beginning to do something for someone else by talking Touchstone out of the illegal marriage, Jaques may learn to use language to help others, as Rosalind and Celia have done, and live happily for it.
Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1486
Shakespeare opens Act II of As You Like It with a speech in which the Duke Senior attests to the value of the life which he and his entourage have found in the Forest of Arden (II, i, 11.1-17). The exiled nobleman's initial oration performs several key functions within the play. It presents us with a balanced and tempered vision of the natural world which serves as a foil to both previous intimations about the Forest and to life as we have seen it in the superficial and deceptive court over which the usurper Duke Frederick now presides. It also reveals the salient personality traits of Duke Senior, establishing a pattern whereby the Forest mirrors the essential character of each figure who enters into it. The passage is dominated by a conjoined Biblical and bestial imagery which recurs throughout the play. Perhaps most significantly, it underscores the fundamental purpose of the natural world as being one of moral education and personal insight. This purpose is ultimately embodied in Duke Senior's decision to leave his sylvan realm following his brother's conversion and the "old" Duke's restoration to his rightful throne.
The passage under scrutiny furnishes us with a firsthand vision of the Forest of Arden that stands in contrast with the two alternative "hints" about what life is like there previously given by Charles the wrestler and by Rosalind. Our first image of the Forest of Arden is the idyllic depiction presented by Charles in Act I, scene ii. After drawing an analogy to the legendary realm of Robin Hood and his merry men, Charles tells Oliver about Duke Senior's current estate, "they say many young gentleman flock to him every day, and fleet the time carelessly as they did in the golden world" (11.120-125). An altogether different image of the Forest is evoked when Celia suggest that she and Rosalind sojourn to that wild quarter and her cousin responds, "Alas, what danger will it be to us, Maids as we are, to travel so far forth! Beauty provoketh thieves sooner than gold" (I, iii, 11,110-112).
The view expressed by Duke Senior, however, is neither the idealized portrait presented by Charles nor the ruffian world which Rosalind fears. It is harsh but by no means inherently evil. Clearly the passage's account of the natural world in Arden stands in direct relief to life in Duke Frederick's court with its "painted pomp" and superficial sycophants. The forest, in effect, mirrors the predisposition of the characters which enter into it. We note that both Touchstone and Jaques, the two principal clowns of As You Like It. find little of value in the Forest, with the latter subsequently rendering a parody of the idealized song about life in Arden canted by Duke Senior's followers (II, v, 11.52-59). When the feral and combative Oliver comes to Arden, he naturally encounters a lioness, its presence reflecting Oliver's rapacious side.
Consistent with this pattern, the speech which opens Act II establishes the hallmark of Duke Senior's character as that of a truly benign spirit developed through a wisdom stemming from direct but deeply considered experience. Unlike Frederick and Oliver, Duke Senior embraces those around him as spiritual peers, as "co-mates" and "brothers in exile." The nobleman Amiens is clearly correct in his observation that the speech reflects Duke Senior's disposition, "Happy is your Grace/, That can translate the stubbornness of fortune/Into so quiet and so sweet a style" (II, i, 11.18-20). Plainly the Duke is consistently benevolent in translating "sweet adversity" into gain. Indeed, when Orlan-do demands that the Duke and his company provide him with food, he is taken aback by the good Duke's hospitality, inquiring, "Speak you so gently?" (II, vii, 1.106). By the play's conclusion, we must concur with Jaques that owing to his "patience" and virtue" Duke Senior deserves restoration to this rightful position.
If there is a key word in the speech, it is "find." Here a close distinction must be made between "find" in the objective sense of to merely come across and "find" in its subjective denotation as to penetrate or apprehend via tempered discernment. While he would not change the Forest, Duke Senior is fully aware of its harsh aspects -and emphasizes them in his speech. This measured assessment is reiterated when the Duke tells Orlando, "thou seest we are not all alone unhappy" ((II, vii, 1.136). The Duke recognizes the true value of the natural world as being that of moral insight, a point to which we shall return later in this explication.
There are two consistent strands of imagery incorporated into Duke Senior's speech, one a Biblical motif rooted in the Old Testament book of Genesis, the second being that of wild beasts. The Duke alludes to the Fall and to Adam and Eve's expulsion from the Garden of Eden, "Here we feel but the penalty of Adam" (1.5). Nevertheless, it is less the Fall that fraternal rivalry between Cain and Abel which his Old Testament allusion evokes in our minds. Like Abel, Duke Senior has been wronged by the "envious" court which reflects Duke Frederick's character. Even stronger, the submerged allusion to Cain and Abel places the relationship between Oliver and Orlando into a Biblical context. This is emphasized by the rough treatment accorded to the minor figure of Adam, the faithful and fatherly old retainer of the de Boys household whom Oliver grossly mistreats. Here Shakespeare invites us to consider fraternal conflict within the play as a manifestation of an adamantine struggle between respectively innocent and envious brothers.
While the Duke's speech exhibits his appreciation of the simplicity of the natural world, as noted above, it is also replete with references to the bestial aspect of nature, to the "icy fang" of the winter which "bites" the Duke's body as he figuratively encounters the ugly and venomous (but bejewelled) toad. The imagery which the Duke uses in his initial speech resonates with Oliver's account of his being saved by Orlando and then converted. Specifically, the "green and gilded snake" which wreath's itself around the hermit's neck (IV, iii, 1.109) recalls the jewelled toad, while the lioness from whom he is saved displays tooth and claw which harkens back to the stabbing and biting experience which Duke Senior describes here.
Of summary significance, the passage at hand underscores that the purpose of the Forest is that of moral education grounded in direct experience upon the "body." What the Duke finds in Arden is a lesson given to him through "tongues in trees, books in the running brooks/Sermons in stones, and good in everything." (11.16-17). The elemental forces of raw nature strip away the paint and pomp of civilized existence and thereby serve as a source of deep personal insight that "feelingly persuade me what I am" (1.11). We note that in Duke Frederick's worldly court, there is no moral educative function at work. As the wrestler Charles informs Oliver, "there's no news at the court, sir, but the old news" (I, i, 1.102). The same, of course, cannot be said of Arden. With the exception of Jaques, who is later excluded from the play's concluding masque, each of the characters in the play undergoes a moral transformation or regeneration during his or her time in the natural world of Arden.
In the final scene of As You Like It. the Second Brother brings news of Duke Frederick's religious conversion (V, iv, 11.159-172), and Duke Senior is restored to his rightful position. Upon learning of this, Duke Senior again exhibits his "balanced" nature. He first directs his subjects to the pleasures available at the moment through the multiple wedding rites which remain to be performed. He then tells the assembled characters, "And after, every of this happy number/That have endur'd shrewd days and nights with us/ Shall share the good of our returned fortune/According to the measure of their states" (V, iv, 11.178-181). The Duke and his "merry men" have indeed been shrewd, not in their capacity to survive life in the Forest of Arden, but in their ability to profit from sweet adversity.
At the play's end, we note that Duke Senior acts in a manner which contradicts his sentiments in the speech under scrutiny. He elects to leave Arden for the civilized world. This, in turn, reinforces the function of the natural world as being one of moral education. Arden is not preferable to life in court; both are valuable when one "finds" the lessons being related. From experience in the natural world, we learn about ourselves and the use of that self-knowledge allows us to find our proper place in a larger order which encompasses God's plan and his lowliest creatures. Consequently, having absorbed all the lessons that the elements of Arden can teach him, Duke Senior is now fully prepared to resume his position as each of the four pairs of lovers finds their proper mates within a unified natural-civil order.
Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1397
In her disguise as Ganymede, Rosalind in Shakespeare's As You Like It has the opportunity to observe the varieties of love, and the behaviors it produces in different people. Her disguise allows her to be privy to information that she would not otherwise receive, such as Phebe's letter, which reveals how love can make one deceive, and Orlando's feelings of love for herself. She gives advice on love, as well as receives it, obtaining a full education on the many ways and manifestations of love.
Before Rosalind ever puts on her disguise she is aware that love and friendship exist in many forms. Though Frederick has banished her own father and usurped his dominions, he allows her to remain as companion to his daughter Celia, because of his love for her. Because of Celia'a friendship for Rosalind, and Frederick's love for his daughter, Rosalind is not banished along with her father, and remains at court, bearing no malice towards Frederick, despite what he has done to her father. Nonetheless, she cannot be happy as long as she lives with the knowledge that her father is banished.
Rosalind falls in love with Orlando when she meets him at the wrestling match, and he with her. She loves him the more after he has unexpectedly wins the match, when it is revealed that he is the youngest son of Sir Rowland de Boys, who was much beloved by her father before his death. Ironically, Frederick, in his fear and malice, brings Rosalind and Orlando together, for they meet in the forest after Rosalind has been banished and Orlando warned to quit the court if he would save his life. But by this time, Rosalind has taken on her disguise, and she observes Orlando's love for herself through the guise of Ganymede. To test and measure the full extent of Orlando's love for herself, she urges him to pretend that "she," Ganymede, is Rosalind, and to woo "him" as he would woo Rosalind. By this means Orlando's love for her as Rosalind is revealed.
Already, before being banished, Rosalind has learned that love can make one lose one's prize, for she turns back to speak with Orlando when he calls to her. With her banishment, she also learns that a jealous mind can put a false interpretation on love, as occurs when Frederick accuses her of subtly pretending to love Celia, meanwhile plotting to rob her friend of her name and wealth by winning the sympathies of the people. Celia proves the real meaning of love and friendship when she chooses to accompany Rosalind into the forest rather than believe her father's jealousies, For Celia, love makes her and Rosalind one, and what is done to her dearest friend is done to herself. She asserts that she, too, has bean banished, and when Rosalind denies it remarks:
No hath not? Rosalind lacks than the love
Which teachath thee that thou and I am one :
Shall we be sunder*d? shall we part, sweet girl?
No : let my father seek another heir. (II, I, 98-101)
Frederick has every reason to fear the power of love, for Orlando is much loved, because he is strong, yet virtuous and valiant, and all people love him, making him a threat to the Duke.
Rosalind, as Ganymede, discovers Orlando's love for her through the songs he writes to her and pins to the trees. "Ganymede" tests Orlando by teasing him about his condition, suggesting that he does not appear like a man in love, and claiming that woman have many faults. Orlando responds by declaring his love for Rosalind all the more, to the extent that "Neither rhyme nor reason can express how much" (III, ii, 1.419). "Ganymede" responds that love is a madness, which "he" will cure Orlando of by counsel. "He" claims to have cured another by pretending to be the object of the suitor's love, and this Ganymede now proposes with Orlando. "He" proposes to cure Orlando's love by pretending to be Rosalind, and Orlando accepts the challenge.
Rosalind learns that love can make the carrier of that emotion impatient and sorrowful, fickle and jealous. Celia warns her that lovers are deceitful, and Rosalind believes ill of Orlando when he is away from her. She accuses him of winning her by flattery —speaking as Ganymede, but In Rosalind's words, and with her emotions—and warns him that he oust come to her within the minute of the time promised, or she will think him a hollow lover. But she is convinced of his capacity for love when she hears of how Orlando saves his elder brother, Oliver, from death, though Oliver has contrived to bring about Orlando's downfall. The power of brotherly love reunites the two after Orlando, risking his own life, proves that hatred is unnatural. Oliver is converted, and Celia is consequently able to fall in love with him, and he with her, for he is no longer contemptible. Rosalind observes the process of love at first sight, as it occurs between Oliver and Cella, and which has already brought herself and Orlando together.
Orlando proves his love for Rosalind and she, as Ganymede, learns the power of love, its openness and strength. Yet her disguise also makes her privy to a different kind of love, that of Phebe, who also believes her to be a man. Silvius is in love with Phebe, and admits that love can make the lover act in ridiculous ways. One has not loved, he declares, until one has committed so many follies in the name of love that they cannot even be remembered; or until one has wearied one's listener with praise of the loved one, or scorned company because of the emotions aroused by love. Yet Phebe scorns him, rejecting his love with bitterness. Rosalind observes Silvius' love sickness, and Phebe's treatment of him. As Ganymede, she scorns Phebe for responding to Silvius' love with a mixture of insults and exultations. Phebe takes pleasure in torturing Silvius because he loves her, showing Rosalind a very different face to love than that which Orlando has shown her. Having felt the power of love she warns Phebe:
And thank heaven, fasting, for a good man's love:
For I must tell you friendly in your ear,
Sell when you can: (III,v,ll.58-60).
for real love is not easily come by.
The consequence of Ganymede's rebukes is that Phebe falls in love with "him" and on the pretense of writing a letter to "him," complaining of "his" treatment of her, writes a love letter, which she sends to Ganymede by way of Silvius. Silvius believes the letter is a taunting one, expressing Phebe's bitterness at being scolded. He delivers it, though he bears no malice against Ganymede, because Phebe asks him to and he will not refuse her
request. Rosalind is surprised by the letter because it reveals to her how a woman can be made bold by love, to the extent that she takes on a man's qualities. But it also shows her that love can make its bearer a deceiver. Phebe writes in her letter that she loved Ganymede while "he" scolded her and offers herself to Ganymede while urging him not to reveal the contents of the letter to her lover Silvius, who has delivered it. Silvius, she points out, does not know of her real feelings for Ganymede.
The example of Silvius and Phebe shows how a man can be tamed by love, and a woman emboldened by it. Rosalind warns Silvius not to accept Phebe’s deceit, but to pursue her and act like a true lover. And she has to betray Phebe's confidence and act in an ungentle manner towards her, to bring the two lovers together, for she recognizes Silvius’ great love for Phebe, and knows its value. It is Silvius who describes the constituent parts of love; it is faith, service, passion, adoration, duty, observance, humbleness, patience, impatience, purity, and trial. Rosalind's experience, as Ganymede, has taught her to recognize all these aspects of love, and more, for she has seen how it affects different people, and observed the actions it forcers lovers to participate in, against their will and judgement. She has seen Orlando's pure love and Phebe's guile and exultation in the power of love as a weapon. And she has observed brotherly love conquer hatred.
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