As You Like It: Act 1, Scene 3 - Summary & Analysis

Also Read

ACT I. Scene III.


Introduction to the Scene

      We can divide the scene into three sections, each bringing out some special trait in a character.

      The conversations between Rosalind and Celia — Rosalind’s love for Orlando, the main theme. Prose, as we find the case throughout the play when Rosalind and Celia are alone.

      Duke Frederick banishes Rosalind. Note — Rosalinds’ spirited defense of her father (62—68). Celia’s warm espousal of Rosalind’s cause (72-79). Verse, as mere consonant with the excitement of feeling.

      The cousins prepare for flight (96-143). Verse, for the two girls, are much excited. (a) The affection of Touchstone for Celia is pointed out. (b) The dramatic irony in the bantering conversation between the cousins. (c) Le Beau’s information to Orlando in the preceding scene has prepared the audience for the action of Duke Frederick. The sentence of banishment surprises Rosalind “Me uncle?” Content, strikes the keynote of the Second Act. (d) Compare Rosalind’s speech on donning man’s attire with that of Portia in The Merchant of Venice.

      The duke makes no specific charge against Rosalind. His own “rough, envious disposition” engenders mistrust.

      The importance of the scene lies in the development of love of Rosalind for Orlando. We witness the sincerity and intensity of Rosalind’s love. With the banishment of Rosalind, there is a pause in the action and so rightly the first act comes to a close.


Then there were two cousins tied up when the one should be lamed with reason, and the other mad without any. (Act I, Scene III, Lines 7-9)

      Rosalind it tongue-tied since she has fallen in love at first sight with Orlando. Celia says to her ‘cupid’ ‘have mercy! not a word.’ She asks her to cast reasons at her and lame her with them, just as she may lame a dog by throwing stones at him. Rosalind replies that it will cripple both of them. The one will be wounded with reason and the other without reason, having lost all power of reasoning (it throws away all her reason, she will be left without it, and she will become unreasonable, insane, mad). Rosalind here plays on the alternative meaning or reason, ‘reasonableness,’ with probably a further allusion to reason as the opposite of madness. ‘Laid up’—here means silence, indicating mental abstraction of Rosalind consequent upon her falling in love with Orlando.

No, some of it is for my child’s father. O how full of briers is this working-day world. (Act I, Scene III, Lines 11-12)

      Rosalind is very sad. Celia asks her if she is sad because of her banished father. Rosalind replies that her present sorrow is caused not because of remembering her father in exile, but because of concern for her future husband (for my child’s father) This manner of speech would be considered very indelicate in modem times. But this speech belongs to the age of Shakespeare and reflects no blemish on the character of Rosalind. Coleridge was, however, shocked at the indelicacy of ‘father’s child.’

      Then Rosalind says that the ordinary daily life in this work a day world is full of thorny bushes symbolizing troubles and anxieties. Lovesick Rosalind finds the world a miserable place after all, for her man’s life consists mostly of pain and he cannot have what he most desires. The point of her speech is that she cannot have Orlando near her, though her heart is bleeding for him.

They are but burs, cousin, thrown upon thee in holiday foolery: if we walk not in the trodden paths, our very petticoats will catch them. (Act I, Scene III, Lines 11-16)

      Rosalind while speaking of this world, full of troubles uses the word briers’ Celia takes the clue from the word and says that they are burs, the prickly beads of the seeds of certain plants, which attach themselves tenaciously to clothes. Celia says that they are briers thrown upon her in a merry holiday mood, with no intention of injuring.

      Celia has taken the metaphorical sense of trouble. She continues the sense in a metaphor which means literally: “these prickly things have been thrown at you in mere sport, and the reason for their catching your petticoat is that you went astray from the public way,” (If the women move out of the path of conventionalism, they are sure to meet with annoyances now and then.) “The troubles of which the world seems to be filled to Rosalind have not been put on her by anybody in a spirit of malice; they have come upon her only as she was a bit careless in regard to her feelings, and quite in a holiday mood. Celia with her good store of common sense warns her cousin that unless women take care to be modest and reserved as they have done from times immemorial, they are in danger of falling into trouble like Rosalind from time to time.”

If she be a traitor
Why so am I: we still have slept together
Rose at an instant, learnt’d, played, eat together,
And where soe’r like Juno’s swans,
Still we went coupled and inseparable.
(Act I, Scene III, Lines 74-79)

      The wayward whimsical Duke Frederick has banished Rosalind. Celia defends her and tries that the duke should cancel his orders. She wants to emphasize that she and Rosalind are so bound to each other in heart and soul that they cannot bear the pain of separation and that therefore the banishment of one will amount the same to other. So she pleads. If Rosalind is traitor, she is also one, for both of them have sung and swung together. She wants to impress on the mind of her father that the sentence of banishment is too harsh for Rosalind and that therefore he should reconsider his decision.

      Celia argues that if Rosalind is a traitor, she is also a traitor, and should therefore be sentenced alike along with Rosalind. From their infancy they have slept together, risen together, learned their lessons at the school together, have played and eaten together, They are attached to each other like the sacred swans of Juno. They are inseparable to each other.

      It has been noted that in classical mythology the swan was sacred to Venus, not to Juno (whose sacred bird was the peacock. Cf The Tempest IV, 1 74). In matters of mythology, Shakespeare is not impeccable. Probably most of what he knew about it came from Goldin’s translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses.

      These lines show the intensity of love between Rosalind and Celia.

Thou art a fool; she robs thee of the name. And thou wilt show more bright, and seem more virtuous, when she is gone. (Act I, Scene III, Lines 83-85)

      When Celia interferes on behalf of Rosalind, the duke feels annoyed. He blames his daughter saying that she is foolish and innocent and does not know the ways of the world.

      He says that if Celia wants to live with Rosalind, she is a fool. She is raw, inexperienced and innocent. Rosalind, he says, out shines her and she (Celia) suffers in contrast. Rosalind is so dazzling in her beauty and so popular because of her virtues that she distracts the personality of Celia. If Rosalind goes into banishment, she (Celia) will have no rival, and shall appear to be more endowed with virtuous qualities.

      These lines show that (1) the duke knows that Rosalind is more virtuous and popular than his own daughter. (2) The duke Frederick is full of sound common sense. He is practical and knows that his daughter suffers in contrast and that if Rosalind goes away, Celia will shine, unrivaled.

      There is no reason why the duke should banish Rosalind at this stage. If he thinks that Rosalind is dangerous to his reign, why did he keep her so long? This seems to be the weakness of the plot. Shakespeare wants hurriedly to send all the important characters to the forest of Arden. And for this, he suffers even inconsistencies in plot. The banishment of Rosalind is harsh, cruel and sudden and does not seem to be natural. It does not grow out of the plot. The banishment can however be justified if we take into consideration the capricious character of the duke.

Alas, what dangers will it be to us
Maids as we are, to travel forth so far!
Beauty provoketh thieves sooner than gold
(Act I, Scene III, Lines 113-115)

      Rosalind feels afraid at the idea, of leaving the city and going to the forest. She thinks that it will be a great danger to them because they are women, and it is dangerous for women to travel for a long distance, unguarded. The reason is that the bubbling youth and dazzling beauty of the young beautiful maidens, with their attractive eyes, blooming face and round creamy breasts, are more inviting and tempting than even wealth to the young persons.

A gallant curtle-axe upon my thigh,
A Boar spear in my hand; and in my heart
Lie there what hidden woman’s fear there will—
We’ll have a swashing mid a martial outside,
As many other mannish cowards have
That do outface it with their semblances (Act I, Scene III, Lines 122-127)

      Rosalind and Celia have decided to run away from the court. They are thinking the ways and means of their flight. They fear because they are women and so tempting to other. The young girls cannot walk freely unprotected like the young men. So they think of disguising themselves. Rosalind shall dress like a man, while Celia would walk like a country girl. Rosalind would wear a short sword her thigh and a spear. It will not matter if she would hide the womanly timidity in her heart. It will give her a swaggering and bold exterior, such as those who, though men, are just as coward at heart as she is, but who (men) carry it (their cowardice) off with a bold face of pretended, valor.

      These lines are picturesque and can be compared to the verse of Spenser.

      The romantic appeal of disguise and the exploitation of its possibilities are made a natural feature of the plot.

      For a somewhat similar but more elaborate scene compare The Merchant of Venice III 4.60-78 where Portia proposes to Nerissa that they shall dress as “Young men” and thus disguised go to Venice to see the trial. In a note Furness writes: “The Elizabethan audience seemed to find special pleasure in seeing female characters disguised as men to judge from the lightness with which, throughout the drama, women slipped into doublet and hose. Rosalind and Imogen occur to us at once.” Brandes says: ‘‘the fact that female parts were played by youths had, of course, something to do with the frequency of these disguises.”

      The device was a favorite because it gives much scope for the use of the ‘irony’ which arises when the audience knows facts of the story which the characters, or some of them, are supposed not to know. Thus in Twelfth Night the honor and interest of the scenes, in which Viola is with Olivier and Orsino, turn largely upon the fact that they do not know her to be a girl while the audience does. Shakespeare purposely makes Oliver and Orsino say things which have for the audience a point where of the speaker is quite unconscious. In the same way many of Viola’s remarks contain veiled allusions to her sex which the audience perceives at once, whereas Oliver or Orsino sees no allusion at all. It is a dramatic artifice which Greek dramatists employ much for tragic effect. The device of disguising a girl as a boy is to have been first used, on the Elizabethan stage by Lyly (another of Euphues).

Previous Post Next Post