As You Like It: Act 2, Scene 4 - Summary & Analysis

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ACT II. Scene IV.


The purpose of this scene is

      To introduce the love of Silvius and Phebe, and to locate Rosalind and Celia in a forest dwelling.

      In this scene, there are many changes from the play. With the arrival of Rosalind in the Forest of Arden, her character reveals itself fully. Boas says, “From the earlier scenes we should Scarcely guess that the dramatist destined Rosalind for so pre-eminent a part. In the palace of Duke Frederick she is over-shadowed by Celia, and her fits of melancholy, coupled with the sudden surrender of her heart to the scarcely seen Orlando, might seem to indicate that in her we have yet another of Shakespeare’s sentimentalists. But from the moment that she arrays herself in her masculine attire, with a gallant curtle-axe upon her thigh, and a boar-spear in her hand, she seems transformed, though in truth it is in her real nature that she displays itself under the shelter of her disguise. Henceforth, it is she who takes the lead, though she is as wearied as Celia by the journey to the forest, she feels that she must comfort the weaker vessel, as doublet and hose ought to show itself courageous to petticoat. On no one does the air of Ai den work so powerfully. The very spirit of the woodlands seem to enter into her being and to throng her pulses with its gladfulness of life,”


For my part - I would rather bear with you than bear you; yet I should bear no cross if I did bear you, for I think you have no money in your purse. (Act II, Scene IV, Lines 1-14)

      Rosalind and Celia have arrived in the forest of Arden. Touchstone the court fool is also with them. They are all very much tired. Celia says to Touchstone “I pray you, bear with me; (do not be angry with me) I cannot go no further.” Touchstone in his reply plays upon the words bear and cross. Quibbling on the different meanings of the word is characteristic of the professional fool.

      Touchstone says to Celia that he is ready to tolerate her (bear with) but he cannot bear her (carry her perhaps on his shoulders because she complained that her spirits were weary and she could not walk). He then tells her that even if he should carry her, he will not get any money as his reward of his labor in carrying her, because he thinks, she has no money in her purse.

      As a cross was marked on the penny we have here a play on the world ‘cross’. To bear one’s cross means to endure the sufferings ( Matthew X 38: He that takes not his cross). The allusion is to the practice of the Romans compelling the condemned man to carry the cross to the place of execution. The word cross, again in the coinage of Shakespeare’s times, refers to the old penny which had a double cross upon it. It became a common phrase to say that a man had not a single cross, when he had no money with him.

      There seems to be some inconsistency in the remark of Touchstone. We know that Celia and Rosalind had collected money and gold before they ran away.

      Touchstone’s remark that she had no money in her purse is wrong. Perhaps he could not avoid the temptation to play on the word, and therefore he did not care even for the consistency.

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. (Act II, Scene IV. Lines 54-57)

      During their conversation Silvius speaks of his jilted love. Touchstone also narrates his own love affairs. As a matter of fact he has had no love affairs of his own. He invents them intentionally to ridicule the romantic love affairs. Mock—seriously he describes that when he was in love he broke his sword upon a stone, thinking it rival to his love and kissed the stick and the cow’s dugs. And instead of kissing and wooing his beloved he had wooed the peascod. He now concludes his experience and says that lovers have no sense or reason and indulge in all sorts of funny kinds of behavior. They play queer pranks. To make his idea clear Touchstone quibbles and plays on the world mortal. In the first case it means ‘subject to death’; in the second case it means ‘extravagantly foolish’. He thus makes a travesty of the love of Silvius and Rosalind.

      The gist of these linces is that lovers have no sense or reason and commit even incredible follies. The extravagances of people - in love are really comic. Nothing lasts. Even love is forgotten. The remark of Touchstone is the criticism of the romantic love full of extravagance and follies.

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