As You Like It: Act 4, Scene 1 - Summary & Analysis

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Act IV. Scene I.


Introduction to the Scene

      The Scene is divided into two parts. Dialogue between Rosalind and Jaques, which represents an encounter of affection with nature.

      The continuation of the wooing between Orlando and Rosalind proposed in Act III Scene II. But the lovers are not much more intimate, and take part in a mock marriage in which Celia plays the priest.


.....I fear you have sold your own lands to see other men’s then to have seen much and to have nothing, is to have rich eyes and poor hands. (Act IV, Scene I, Lines 24-27)

      Jaques has explained to Rosalind the character of his peculiar melancholy. His melancholy is caused as he says, by the sundry contemplation of his travels. Rosalind ridicules the affection. She says that in order to travel foreign countries, Jaques might have sold his own land and property to meet the expenses. Jaques has had a lot of experience but he now owns no property. He has returned home rich in experience, but empty-handed. Thus the experience of foreign travels (which has caused his melancholy) has been very costly. It is foolish on the part of Jaques to have purchased such costly experience.

      Incidentally, Rosalind has satirized the prevailing craze of foreign travels in Elizabethan times. In those time Italy was the Mecca of the travelers. Culturally she (Italy) led the whole of Europe in the sixteenth century.

Troilus had his brains dash’d out by a Grecian club; yet he did what he could to die before, and he is one of the patterns of love. (Act lV. Scene I Lines 101-104)

      The romance of Orlando and Rosalind is in progress. Rosalind is curing the love-sickness of Orlando (a novel method of really his sweet Rosalind). During their conversation Rosalind asks Orlando what he will do in case she decieves her and does not love him any longer. Orlando replies that he will die. Rosalind suggests that he should die by proxy. Rosalind says that though pretty long period has passed since the creation of this world, yet not a single person has died for love. Persons have died by accidents, but their death has always been wrongly attributed to some love affair. She illustrates by the love story of Troilus and Cressida. People say that Troilus died for Cressida, but in reality Troilus was killed on the battlefield by a Greek.

      Troilus was a Trojan warrior who loved Cressida, a beautiful maiden. But she forsook her Trojan lover for the Greek warrior Diomede, and so became a type of faithless woman. Troilus was actually killed by the sword of Achilles, and certainly not by the club of Achilles.

      Rosalind means that no man dies for his beloved and Orlando is no exception. His love for his Rosalind is not genuine and deep. It is a passing fancy. In reality, this heightens the pure love of Orlando.

For, good youth, he went but forth to wash him in the Hellespont and being taken with the cramp was drowned; and the foolish chronicles of that age found it was Hero of Sestos. (Act IV, Scene I, Lines 108-111)

      The mock courtship between Rosalind and Orlando is going on. During their conversation, Rosalind asks Orlando what he will do in case she deserts him. Orlando replies that he will die. Rosalind wittily declaims against dying for love. She says that six thousand years have passed since the creation of the world. During all this time there was not a single person who died for a love-cause. She has illustrated her statement by the story of Troilus and Cressida. And now she gives another illustration. People say, she argues, that Leander died for the love of Hero, but this is wrong. Leander would have lived for hundred years even if Hero had become a nun. What brought about Leander’s death was not love but a hot mid-summer night. He went to take his bath in Hellespont on a hot summer night. While bathing he was seized with cramps and was drowned. He did not die for Hero and yet persons attribute his death to his beloved.

      Rosalind has given a distorted turn to the story in order to prove his remark.

      Leander of Abydos in Asia was in love with Hero, the priestess of Aphrodite in Sestos on the opposite side of Hellespont. He used to swim by night across the Hellespont to visit her and returned before the day break. One stormy night, while trying to keep his trust, he drowned and died. His body was washed ashore in the morning at Sestos; whereupon Hero threw herself into the sea.

Men are April when they woo,
December when they wed:
Maids are May when they are maids
But the sky changes when they are wives.
(Act IV, Scene I, Lines 151-154)

      During the mock courtship, Rosalind asks Orlando how long he would have her after he has possessed her. Orlando replies ‘forever and a day’. Rosalind asks him to say ‘for a day’ and drop the word ‘ever’. She argues that men and women are not constant, men are sweet, warm and genial like April which in England is spring, when they are wooing their beloveds, but as soon as they marry them and have them in possession, they become cold and harsh like December. So is the case with the girls. They are smiling and sweet like May when they are courting. But as soon as the romance of courting is over, they become suspicious, jealous, noisy and fickle (when they are married).

I’ll weep for nothing, like Diana in the fountain and I’ll do that when you are disposed to be merry. (Act IV, Scene I, Lines 168-170)

      Rosalind and Orlando are conversing in their mock-courtship. Rosalind says that girls are very sweet and genial when they are maidens and are wooing their lovers. But after they are married they change. So is Rosalind. She will grow more suspicious than the male of a Barbary pigeon, more noisy than a parrot, more newfangled than an ape and more sensual than a monkey. She will weep without rhyme or reason.

      Like that ornamental fountain, the stone figure of Diana, which seems to weep as the water trickles from its body over its eyes, Rosalind will weep without any reason and weep even at a time when Orlando is in jolly mood.

      The importance of the allusion to ‘Diana’ is that it throws some light on the probable date of composition of As You Like It.

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