As You Like It. One of Shakespeare’s most celebrated comedies. I see As You Like as a close cousin of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Young love, running off into the forest, and plenty of fun and silliness for everyone involved. However, it is a much knottier play, that isn’t without its dark edges.
Even though this play is often lumped into the category of “fun” Shakespeare play, this is a far more complex and unwieldy text. Considered to be an early inspiration for Chekhov, this is a far more philosophic play than any of the other comedies. It features long scenes, and lots of debate and reflection. One common criticism of the play is that simply nothing happens. And to an extent I would agree. As You Like It doesn’t have that forward moving energy of something like A Midsummer Night’s Dream, or simple Rom-Com build of Much Ado About Nothing. Instead this play leaves it’s audience with constant questions, and provocations, rendering it a tricky play for many theatre-goers. However, this complexity also makes it a source of profound insight and endless stimulation for actors, and passionate Shakespeare readers.
Whether you are looking to learn more about this delightful play, or find a great monologue, we’re here to help! First of all, we will discuss what on earth is this play all about? Here is a short summation:
As You Like It Synopsis
If you’re anything like me, I think you’ll find this short synopsis really helpful. And it’s the RSC (so you’re in safe hands):
As You Like It is all about varieties of love!
So if that short video didn’t clear it up for you, here we go…
The play is set in France. We don’t know exactly where, but it’s ruled by a Duke (this is known as a duchy if you want to sound smart). To set the scene, Duke Frederick has usurped the the duchy and from his brother, Duke Senior. The banished Duke Senior has run off with a few mates into the Forest of Arden (the main location for the action of the play). Rosalind, Duke Seniors daughter, has been permitted to remain at court as she is a close friend of Celia, Duke Fredrick’s daughter. The two Cousins are inseparable.
Meanwhile Orlando, a son of Sir Rowland de Boys (a wealthy noble), has been robbed of an education and his inheritance by his older brother Oliver, who hates his younger brother Orlando. Orlando is living such a meaningless life, he decides to fight Charles the Wrestler. At the fight he meets Rosalind and in typical Shakespearean fashion falls in love at first sight. This new motivation allows him to win, and beat the undefeated Charles the Wrestler. Threatened by Rosalind’s power, the Duke banishes Rosalind. Celia, ever faithful to Rosalind, decides to stay with her cousin and they too run away into the Forest.
For safety reasons they decide to disguise themselves, Rosalind as a man Ganymede, and Celia as Aliena. Touchstone, the local clown, also goes along for the ride. Orlando around the same time hears of a plot that his brother intends to murder him. Orlando decides he should get out of town and heads off into the forest with one of the trusty old servants, Adam.
Welcome to the forest. Here, the play changes gears and we are taken into the wild and unpredictable forest of Arden.
Orlando soon finds the old Duke in the forest. His first interaction isn’t all that courteous. He’s so hungry from his long journey, he tries to demand food from the Duke, but the kindly Duke calms the hungry man down and freely offers him some supper. Orlando profusely apologies and soon he and Adam are sharing in the feast. It is assumed Orlando from here on is accepted into the banished Duke’s “court” and lives with them in the forest.
Now well-looked after, he starts to feel the love of Rosalind stronger than ever. He begins posting love poems on every tree he can find (though he’s not very good). Rosalind (now disguised) stumbles upon these terrible poems and finds out that it is her love – Orlando. Eventually Orlando stumbles on Rosalind (dressed up as Ganymede). Rosalind decides that instead of revealing her true identity she will put Orlando through a sort of “love test”. Doubtful on his motives, he convinces him to woo her/him every day to prove his love is true.
Elsewhere in the forest the Shepherd, Silvius, feels the pangs of unrequited love for Phebe, a shepherdess. In one scene Rosalind comes across this pair fighting and she reprimands Phebe for her snobbery, saying that she doesn’t deserve the love of someone like Silvius. This harsh diatribe actually makes Phebe then fall in love with Ganymede. (That’s love for you!) Touchstone, meanwhile, is enjoying his time in the forest. He seems to have his eyes set on the goat herder, Audrey, but has to marry her to get what he’s after.
Meanwhile, Oliver is on route to kill his brother Orlando. But on the way has his life saved by his brother (who saves him from a Lioness) and Oliver feels the weight of his guilt. Oliver then falls in love with Aliena (Celia). With such a labyrinth of love Rosalind takes the lead to sort everything out.
Orlando soon tires of his love games with Ganymede. And it seems like the game might have to come to an end! But Rosalind assures him that if he does truly love Rosalind, she will arrange a marriage. Before she can explain, Phebe and Silvius enter into one of the most manic scenes in the play and by the end everyone is declaring their unrequited love. Rosalind finally resolves that everyone will be married tomorrow and all will be well.
At the wedding Rosalind is revealed and Orlando and Rosalind marry. Phebe, now with no Ganymede to marry, is obliged to marry Silvius, and Oliver and Celia marry. Marriages abound!
To cap off the already convivial mood, a messenger enters, informing the Duke that his brother has retreated to a monastery. He declares their “lands are restored to them again”. They have one final party, and end the play on a high! (However, Jaques – the melancholy Duke is unconvinced and decides he will reject this “pompous court” and pursues a “religious life”
This synopsis sticks to the main plot pots, missing many of the rich conversational elements that define this pastoral comedy. The genius of this play is not so much in the plot, but in the insights that comes from its many twists. I strongly recommend reading or watching the play to get a true understanding of the play.
As You Like It – Character List
Duke Frederick: Celia’s father, Duke Senior’s younger brother and the current Duke (after usurping his brother).
Celia: Duke Frederick’s daughter and cousin to Rosalind (Later Aliena)
Le Beau: a courtier (advisor to the Duke Frederick)
Charles: a wrestler
Duke Senior: a banished Duke. Duke Frederick’s older brother and Rosalind’s father
Rosalind: Duke Senior’s daughter, cousin to Celia (Later Ganymede)
Jaques: a discontented, melancholic lord (attending on Duke Senior) (Prounounced JAY-QUEEZ)
Amiens: a lord and musician (attending on Duke Senior)
Oliver de Boys: the eldest son and heir (Son of Sir Rowland de Boys)
Jacques de Boys: the second son (Son of Sir Rowland de Boys)
Orlando de Boys: the youngest son (Son of Sir Rowland de Boys)
Adam: a faithful old servant who follows Orlando into exile
Dennis: Oliver’s servant
Touchstone: a court fool or jester (clown)
Phebe: a shepherdess
Silvius: a shepherd
Corin: an elderly shepherd
Audrey: a country girl
William: a country youth in love with Audrey
Sir Oliver Martext: a country vicar
Hymen: A masquer representing Hymen (Hymen is the god of marriage)
As You Like It Monologues
Female As You Like It Monologues
Phebe: I would not be thy executioner:
I fly thee, for I would not injure thee.
Thou tell’st me there is murder in mine eye:
‘Tis pretty, sure, and very probable,
That eyes, that are the frail’st and softest things,
Who shut their coward gates on atomies,
Should be call’d tyrants, butchers, murderers!
Now I do frown on thee with all my heart;
And if mine eyes can wound, now let them kill thee:
Now counterfeit to swoon; why now fall down;
Or if thou canst not, O, for shame, for shame,
Lie not, to say mine eyes are murderers!
Now show the wound mine eye hath made in thee:
Scratch thee but with a pin, and there remains
Some scar of it; lean but upon a rush,
The cicatrice and capable impressure
Thy palm some moment keeps; but now mine eyes,
Which I have darted at thee, hurt thee not,
Nor, I am sure, there is no force in eyes
That can do hurt.
Rosalind: And why I pray you? Who might be your mother,
That you insult, exult, and all at once,
Over the wretched? What though you have no beauty –
As by my faith I see no more in you
Than without candle may go dark to bed –
Must you be therefore proud and pitiless?
Why, what means this? Why do you look on me?
I see no more in you than in the ordinary
Of nature’s sale-work. ‘Od’s my little life,
I think she means to tangle my eyes too!
No faith proud mistress, hope not after it.
‘Tis not your inky brows, your black silk hair,
Your bugle eyeballs, nor your cheek of cream
That can entame my spirits to your worship.
You foolish shepherd, wherefore do you follow her
Like foggy South puffing with wind and rain?
You are a thousand times a properer man
Than she a woman. ‘Tis such fools as you
That makes the world full of ill-favour’d children.
‘Tis not her glass but you that flatters her,
And out of you she sees herself more proper
Than any of her lineaments can show her.
But mistress, know yourself. Down on your knees,
And thank heaven, fasting, for a good man’s love;
For I must tell you friendly in your ear,
Sell when you can, you are not for all markets.
Cry the man mercy, love him, take his offer;
Foul is most foul, being foul to be a scoffer.
So take her to thee shepherd. Fare you well.
Phebe: Think not I love him, though I ask for him.
‘Tis but a peevish boy; yet he talks well;
But what care I for words? yet words do well,
When he that speaks them pleases those that hear.
It is a pretty youth: not very pretty:
But, sure, he’s proud; and yet his pride becomes him:
He’ll make a proper man: the best thing in him
Is his complexion; and faster than his tongue
Did make offence his eye did heal it up.
He is not very tall; yet for his years he’s tall:
His leg is but so so; and yet ’tis well:
There was a pretty redness in his lip,
A little riper and more lusty red
Than that mix’d in his cheek; ’twas just the difference
Betwixt the constant red and mingled damask.
There be some women, Silvius, had they mark’d him
In parcels as I did, would have gone near
To fall in love with him; but, for my part,
I love him not nor hate him not; and yet
Have more cause to hate him than to love him:
For what had he to do to chide at me?
He said mine eyes were black and my hair black;
And, now I am remember’d, scorn’d at me.
I marvel why I answer’d not again:
But that’s all one; omittance is no quittance.
I’ll write to him a very taunting letter,
And thou shalt bear it: wilt thou, Silvius?
Male Monologues As You Like It
Orlando: As I remember, Adam, it was upon this fashion bequeathed me by will but poor a thousand crowns, and, as thou sayest, charged my brother on his blessing, to breed me well: and there begins my sadness. My brother Jaques he keeps at school, and report speaks goldenly of his profit: for my part, he keeps me rustically at home, or, to speak more properly, stays me here at home unkept; for call you that keeping for a gentleman of my birth, that differs not from the stalling of an ox? His horses are bred better; for, besides that they are fair with their feeding, they are taught their manage, and to that end riders dearly hired: but I, his brother, gain nothing under him but growth, for the which his animals on his dunghills are as much bound to him as I. Besides this nothing that he so plentifully gives me, the something that nature gave me, his countenance seems to take from me: he lets me feed with his hinds, bars me the place of a brother, and, as much as in him lies, mines my gentility with my education. This is it, Adam, that grieves me; and the spirit of my father, which I think is within me, begins to mutiny against this servitude. I will no longer endure it, though yet I know no wise remedy how to avoid it
What! my young master? O my gentle master!
O my sweet master! O you memory
Of old Sir Rowland! why, what make you here?
Why are you virtuous? Why do people love you?
And wherefore are you gentle, strong, and valiant?
Why would you be so fond to overcome
The bony priser of the humorous duke?
Your praise is come too swiftly home before you.
Know you not, master, to some kind of men
Their graces serve them but as enemies?
No more do yours: your virtues, gentle master,
Are sanctified and holy traitors to you.
O, what a world is this, when what is comely
Envenoms him that bears it!
[Orl.] Why, what’s the matter?
O unhappy youth!
Come not within these doors; within this roof
The enemy of all your graces lives.
Your brother,’no, no brother; yet the son,.
Yet not the son, I will not call him son
Of him I was about to call his father,.
Hath heard your praises, and this night he means
To burn the lodging where you use to lie,
And you within it: if he fail of that,
He will have other means to cut you off.
I overheard him and his practices.
This is no place; this house is but a butchery:
Abhor it, fear it, do not enter it.
Jaques: All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players.
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
Then, the whining school-boy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then, a soldier,
Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly, with good capon lin’d,
With eyes severe, and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws, and modern instances,
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper’d pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose, and pouch on side,
His youthful hose well sav’d, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.
As You Like it (Act 4 Scene 3)
Oliver: When last the young Orlando parted from you
He left a promise to return again
Within an hour; and, pacing through the forest,
Chewing the food of sweet and bitter fancy,
Lo, what befell! he threw his eye aside,
And mark what object did present itself:
Under an oak, whose boughs were moss’d with age,
And high top bald with dry antiquity,
A wretched ragged man, o’ergrown with hair,
Lay sleeping on his back: about his neck
A green and gilded snake had wreath’d itself,
Who with her head nimble in threats approach’d
The opening of his mouth; but suddenly,
Seeing Orlando, it unlink’d itself,
And with indented glides did slip away
Into a bush; under which bush’s shade
A lioness, with udders all drawn dry,
Lay couching, head on ground, with catlike watch,
When that the sleeping man should stir; for ’tis
The royal disposition of that beast
To prey on nothing that doth seem as dead:
This seen, Orlando did approach the man,
And found it was his brother, his elder brother.
Best Quotes in As You Like it
Here are some of my favourite quotes/lines from As You Like It:
Thus must I from the smoke into the smother,
From tyrant duke unto a tyrant brother
(Orlando: Act 1 Scene 2)
The more pity, that fools may not speak wisely what
wise men do foolishly.
(Touchstone: Act 1 Scene 2)
Beauty provoketh thieves sooner than gold.
(Rosalind: Act 1 Scene 3)
In thy youth thou wast as true a lover
As ever sighed upon a midnight pillow.
(Silvius: Act 2 Scene 4)
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts
(Jaques: Act 2 Scene 7)
Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly.
(Amiens: Act 2 Scene 7)
Do you not know I am a woman? When I think, I must speak.
(Rosalind: Act 3 Scene 2)
For I must tell you friendly in your ear,
Sell when you can; you are not for all markets.
(Rosalind: Act 3, Scene 5)
O, how bitter a thing it is to look into happiness through another man’s eyes!
(Orlando: Act 5 Scene 2)