As You Like It: Act 1, Scene 1-3 - Summary

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      Literary critics have described the comedy As You Like It as both a celebration of the spirit of pastoral romance and a satire of the pastoral ideal, where the term pastoral refers to the simple, innocent life of the countryside. Audiences usually prefer the light-hearted, love-oriented banter and whimsy that dominate the scenes in the Forest of Arden to the sorrowful, battle-filled atmospheres at the home of Oliver and the court of Duke Frederick. The forest is conceivably a reference to both the Arden woodlands near Shakespeare's hometown and the region of Ardennes, in northeast France, where Shakespeare sets the action of the play. In its tranquility, the forest enchants the visitors, who, after securing nourishment and shelter, think of little but love during their wanderings. The non-romantic plot threads established in the first act essentially resolve themselves in the final scenes, in large part because the forest seems to also enchant the antagonists as soon as they arrive. The play's naturally magical aspect is made tangible When Hymen, the Greek god of marriage, appears to officiate at the weddings that close the play.

      The final three acts, then, give the audience a chance to feel how "Time ambles" for those with plenty of leisure and no obligations, as is the case with the main characters. Although Rosalind presumably needs to disguise herself to ensure her safety, nothing actually threatens her union with Orlando; the two are mutually infatuated from their first meeting. Thus, most of the tension in the play, with the original plot threads picked up only during the scene at the duke's palace at the beginning of the third act, stems from the various witty exchanges. Touchstone and Jaques contribute to the play, not through love affairs - the former woos Audrey only halfheartedly, while the latter seems incapable of love - but through philosophical reflection, which the solitude of the pastoral setting encourages.

      Shakespeare derived the plot of As You Like It directly from the novel Rosalynde, or Euphues' Golden Legacy, published in 1590 by Thomas Lodge. (Copyright protection did not exist in the Elizabethan era.) Lodge's novel in turn was based on a more action-oriented fourteenth-century poem entitled "The Tale of Gamelyn." While veering little from Lodge's straightforward pastoral tale, Shakespeare did strengthen the character of Rosalind and add his two philosophers, Jaques and Touchstone, providing the opportunity for greater reflection among the cast as a whole.

      Although critics remain divided on whether As You Like It should be read as a satire or a celebration of the pastoral ideal, readers can take pleasure in the play's festive atmosphere and its various love affairs. As You Like It is one of Shakespeare's most popular and best-loved Comedies.

Act 1, Scene 1

      In the opening scene of As You Like It, Orlando tells the old family servant Adam of his discontent with his brother Oliver's management of the family fortune and his treatment of him, for he is being allowed no education and thus will have no means to advance in the world. This speech, with Orlando's referring to "the spirit of my father, which I think is within me", introduces a filial connection that establishes Orlando as the novel's hero in both a romantic and a moral sense. When Oliver arrives, Orlando bests him first with wit, then with strength, ultimately demanding the share that their deceased father had allotted to him. Oliver placates Orlando, then curses Adam, who reveals his fond remembrance of their father, Sir Rowland de Boys, and effectively allies himself with Orlando.

      Left alone, Oliver summons the court wrestler, Charles, who provides an account of the state of the ducal court (largely for the audience, in that he is only delivering "old news": the elder Duke Senior has been ousted and banished by his younger brother Frederick. Rosalind, the daughter of the banished Duke Senior, has remained at the court only because she is highly favored by her cousin Celia. Meanwhile, Duke Senior and the lords who joined him in exile have settled in the evidently idyllic Forest of Arden, where they "fleet the time carelessly, as they did in the golden world". As Charles will be wrestling a disguised Orlando the following day, Oliver entreats him to do as much harm as possible. Oliver's scene-closing monologue leaves no doubt about his role as a villain: he despises Orlando solely because the youngest of the three brothers is so benevolent and beloved.

Act 1, Scene 2

      Upon their first appearance in the play, Rosalind mourns the absence of her father while Celia tries to persuade her to content herself with the friendship they share. Rosalind suggests that falling in love might distract her from her sorrows, and Celia agrees that she could "make sport withal", which she will indeed do, but Cautions against loving "in good earnest", which she will also do. After ruminating on the god-desses Fortune and Nature, the two women greet Touchstone, the court fool, who marks his entrance with a trivial display of wit regarding knightly honor. The courtier Monsieur Le Beau Then arrives to inform the three of the wrestling match about to take place there.

      When Duke Frederick enters-accompanied by a shift from prose to blank verse, which endows the action with greater gravity until the end of the scene - he entreats the ladies to persuade the young challenger to stand down. When they cannot refute Orlando's tragically heroic reasons for fighting - no one would truly regret the loss of his life anyway, and he wishes to test himself - he proceeds to defeat the champion, Charles, to Rosalind's cry of "Hercules be thy speed, young man!". In turn, Frederick expresses disappointment, because he was an enemy of Orlando's father - while Rosalind's father, Duke Senior, had held Sir Rowland de Boys in the highest esteem. The ladies commend Orlando, with Rosalind dramatically giving him a chain from around her neck, before exiting, leaving Orlando dumbfounded by his growing passion for Rosalind.

      Le Beau then returns, first warning Orlando that he ought to leave the dukedom, as he has aroused Frederick's displeasure, then informing Orlando about the identities of Rosalind and Celia.

Act 1, Scene 3

      Rosalind discusses her adoration for Orlando with Celia, exchanging a fair amount of wit and referring to him as potentially being her "child's father''. Duke Frederick, however, interrupts the scene - to the return of blank verse - to banish Rosalind, citing a general mistrust of her intentions; also, just as Oliver dislikes Orlando for his virtue, Frederick takes issue with the fact that "Her very silence, and her patience, Speak to the people, and they pity her". Frederick also tries to convince his daughter that she would be better off without her cousin as a rival. The two women then decide to journey to the Forest of Arden disguised as peasants, with the taller Rosalind posing as a man named Ganymede and Celia posing as a woman named Aliena; gathering the clown Touchstone and their "jewels" and "wealth", they depart.

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