As You Like It: Act 4, Scene 3 - Summary & Analysis

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Act IV. Scene III.


Introduction to the Scene

      Two sections (1) Silvius brings Phebe’s letter to Rosalind (2) Orlando, wounded is unable to come and sends Oliver with a message to Rosalind. This serves to introduce Oliver to Cell a As Oliver tells the story of his own rescue, the noble nature of Orlando is further displayed to the two ladies. The scene winds up all the material facts tending to unite all the dramatis personae in the forest of Arden and thus prepares the way for the last Act.

      This is particularly the climax of the plot as it reconciles Oliver and Orlando. It also confirms the depth of Rosalind’s love for Orlando. When she hears that Orlando is wounded, she swoons.


Twice did he turn his back, and proposed so;
But kindness nobler ever than revenge,
And nature, stronger than his just occasion,
Made him give battle to the lioness.
(Act IV, Scene III, Lines 141-145)

      When Orlando saw that his brother Oliver was in danger of his life, open to the attack by the snake and the hungry lioness, he (Orlando) was in double mind. On the one hand, if he did not help his brother, he was sure to die. but this was an opportunity for wreaking revenge against his brother who had ill-treated him and wronged him. He could have easily availed of this opportunity and seen his brother torn to pieces and devoured up by the fierce lioness. On the other hand, his heart was prompted by the sway of natural kindness and kinship of brotherly love. For a time being, ther was a struggle in the heart of Orlando. He could not choose either of the two courses open for him. But at last the feelings of mercy and the ties of kinship triumphed over his baser feelings. He saved his brother from the jaws of death.

We have to note three points in this connection.

     These lines are the turning point of the action. When Oliver shall know that his younger brother has paid his villainy with kindness, he will feel ashamed of his conduct. He will then be totally changed.

      The notion of poetic justice is flouted. Poetic justice demands that the good should be rewarded while the evil should be punished. Poetic justice demands that Oliver should be punished. Poetic justice demands that Oliver should have been punished. But Shakespeare wished his As You Like It to be a sweet comedy. So there are no pains here, no punishment of severe nature. Oliver is, however, punished by himself He is tormented by his own sense of guilt and the following shame.

      Kindness and nature have double meanings. Kindness means (1) natural kinship of brotherly love (2) generosity, nature means (1) natural impulses (2) fellow feelings.

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