As You Like It: Summary

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      A French Duke has been deprived of his throne by his younger brother Frederick and is now living like Old Robin Hood of England in the Forest of Arden with many merry men about him. Similarly, another pair of brothers, the sons of Sir Roland de Boys are at odds. Oliver, die elder, though charged with his younger brother’s education, keeps him “rustically at home” and the younger, Orlando begins to rebel against this unnatural treatment. Hearing that Orlando is planning to try his strength against Charles, the Duke’s wrestling champion, Oliver incites Charles to foil his brother. Orlando, however, despite the fears of Celia and Rosalind, the Duke’s daughter and niece, wins the match. When he learns that Orlando is the son of an old friend of the banished Duke’s ’Frederick snubs the lad instead of rewarding him; but Rosalind having already conceived an interest in Orlando, presents the tongue-tied victor with a chain from her neck. Meanwhile, because of this reminder of his brother, Frederick grows more and more angry, and banishes Rosalind, the old Duke’s daughter, whom he has tolerated at court as a companion of Celia. Celia, however, insist upon accompanying her cousin, and together they plan to seek the old Duke in Arden. For safety, Rosalind, the taller, disguises as a boy, and Touchstone, her father’s jester, goes along as a companion.


      In the meantime, Oliver’s anger is so aroused against Orlando that he, too, must flee accompanied by Adam, a faithful old servant. Worn out from travel, first, the girls and then Orlando arrive in Arden. Rosalind and Celia purchase a flock of sheep and a pasture and adopt the life and garb of shepherds, under the names of Ganymede and Aliena. Orlando, who is destitute, rushes with drawn sword upon the followers of the banished Duke and demands food of them, but is welcomed to their table and invited to join the band of foresters, who spend their time in hunting and singing. So completely has the Duke Senior translated the stubbornness of fortune into a quiet and sweet existence, that all of his followers, except Jaques, a cynical melancholy railer-profess they feel ‘no enemy but winter and rough weather.’ In addition to the make-believe shepherds and the make believe foresters, Arden is inhabited by some Arcadian beings—Corin, a feeder of flocks, Silvius, a shepherd, and Phebe, a disdainful little shepherdess with whom Silvius is desperately in love.


      Back at the Court, in the belief that Orlando and the girls have run away together, Duke Frederick sends for Oliver and orders him to produce his younger brother on pain of losing his lands. Thus the fates of the two brothers are linked. In Arden, love turns Orlando into a versifier, and he hangs his composition on the trees and carves the name of Rosalind on their bark. There his tokens are found by the disguised lady, who is impressed by them, until Touchstone parodies them and offers to rhyme her so ‘eight years together, dinners and suppers and sleeping hours excepted’. As Ganymede, she meets Orlando in the forest, twits him about disfiguring the trees, and protesting that he hardly looks like a lover being so point device in his attire, offers to cure the love-sick swain if he will but woo her as if she were Rosalind. Amused by the saucy youth but hardly wishing to be cured, Orlando agrees. Still, in her role as a railer on love, Ganymede speaks sharply to Phebe about her indifference to Silvius, and so charms that little shepherdess by her chiding that on the pretext of writing a bitter rejoinder to her raillery Phebe sends a declaration of love by the unsuspecting Silvius. Meanwhile, Touchstone, who still wears his motley in the forest and allows his wit to play amusingly over all this Arcadian make-believe, in paying his court to Audrey, a sluttish country wench whom he has found in the forest.


      As they have agreed, Orlando carries on his wooing of Ganymede, who stands for his Rosalind, and who banters him saucily as long as he is present, but is overwhelmed with love for him when he is out of sight. On one occasion, while on his way to meet Ganymede, Orlando comes upon his brother Oliver asleep under an oak with a green and gilded snake about his neck and a hungry lioness crouching in the bushes waiting for him to stir. Orlando saves his brother’s life, but being wounded in the encounter, sends his converted brother to explain to Ganymede why he is late for tryst. When she sees a bloody handkerchief Oliver has brought as proof Ganymede faints.


      One result of the reunion of the brothers is still another love affair in the forest of Arden. Oliver and Celia have no sooner met than they fall in love and plan matrimony. The wedding is to take place next day and to Orlando’s complaint that “it is a bitter thing to look into happiness through another man’s eyes.” “Ganymede promises to do wonders. By means of magic, she says that she can produce Rosalind on the morrow. Meanwhile, Phebe comes to rebuke Ganymede for so ungraciously showing Silvius her love letter and to renew her ardent declaration by word of mouth, and Ganymede promises on the morrow also to unravel to everyone’s satisfaction the love tangle in which the three find themselves, on condition that Phabe marries the faithful Silvius should she change her mind about marrying Ganymede. On the morrow, with the banished Duke and his followers as guests, Rosalind appears in feminine attire, and with great rejoicing, a quadruple ceremony is performed—Orlando is united to Rosalind, Oliver to Celia, Silvius to Phebe, and Touchstone to Audrey. Moreover, the joy of the occasion is immeasurable increased by word that the evil Duke Frederick, on his way into Arden with an expedition to kill his elder brother, has also been converted and put on a religious life, restoring all their lands to those who were in exile.

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