As You Like It: Act 3, Scene 5 - Summary & Analysis

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ACT III. Scene V.


Introduction to the Scene

      We should compare the love of Phebe for Rosalind with that of Oliver for Viola (a woman in love with a woman) in Twelfth Night We may note how skilfully Shakespeare depicts the vacillation of Phebe between Silvius whom she wishes to conciliate, and her new passion which she desires to conceal. “This scene serves to bind together the main plot of the loves of Rosalind and Orlando with the underplot of Silvius and Phebe.” (A.R. Weakes)

      Silvius loves Phebe deeply, but Phebe hates him and loves Rosalind as soon as she sees her. The mystery of love and hate cannot be explained. The ‘saw of might’ is taken from Marlowe’s “Hero and Leander.” There is also in this scene the natural corollary of ‘love at first sight’—which is that the ‘course of true love never did run smooth’.


Scratch thee but with a pin, and there remains
Some scar of it; lean but upon a rush,
The cicatrice and capable impressure
Thy palm some moment keeps.
(Act III, Scene V, Lines 21-24)

      The conversation between Silvius and Phebe is going on. Phebe has jilted Silvius and so he says that she has been very cruel on him and that her eyes are murderous. Phebe snubs and rebukes Silvius. She reasons that the eyes are the softest things which shut themselves immediately at the approach of even the least particle.

      How can they be murderous? Phebe thus takes the literal meaning of the killing eyes. She says that if we scratch the body with a pin, there is some remark left on it. Even if we press a rush upon our palm it leaves a perceptible impression at least for a short moment. Silvius can show no visible mark of wound on his body caused her eyes.

Dead shepherd, now I find thy saw of might,
Whoever loved, that loved not at first sight.
(Act III, Scene V, Lines 82-84)

      Phebe who hated her true lover is herself hated by one (Rosalind) whom she loves passionately. She has fallen in love with the disguised Rosalind at first sight and expresses the idea, admitting the force of the sway of love at first sight. She quotes a line from Marlowe whose words are now to hear the gospel of truth. The quotation is from Marlowe’s Hero and Leander. The lines are-

It lies not in our power to love, or hate,
For will in us is ever-ruled; by Fate,
Where two are stripped, long ere the course begun
We wish that one should lose, the other win.
The reason no man knows; let it suffice
What we behold is censured by the eyes;
Where both deliberate, the love is slight
Whoever loved that loved not at first sight?

But that’s all one; omittance is no quittance
(Act III, Scene V. Line 133)

      Phebe has fallen deeply in love with Rosalind in the disguise of a beautiful young man. When Phebe expresses her mad love, Rosalind jilts her by the words ‘No, faith proud mistress, hope not after it’ Rosalind goes away thus snubbing Phebe. But even the rebukes and rebuffs of a lover are sweet. Phebe wants to write a letter to Rosalind in which she wants to beg for his (her) love. She wants to use Silvius, the poor foolish man, as a messenger. She asks him to bring her letter to Rosalind. She therefore softens herself apparently towards Silvius. She pretends that Rosalind has rebuked her. At that time she did not pay him (her) in the same coins by rebuking him (her). But she has not lost her right to retort. A debt is not cancelled, she says because the creditor omits to demand it. Therefore she will write, she says letter in which she will be harsh to Rosalind and rebuke him (her).

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