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. Though, it isn’t without its dark edges.
But whether you are looking to learn more about this delightful play, or find a great monologue, I’m here to help. First of all what on earth is this play all about? Whether you skim read it (never a great idea with Shakespeare) or just can’t be bothered, 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. 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 Arden forest.
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.
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 Orlando, and doubtful on his motives, convinces him to woo her/him every day to prove his love.
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.
Orlando soon tires of his love games with Ganymede. And it seems like the game might have to come to an end!
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. And so 4 marriages take place mostly very happy love stories coming together.
To cap off the already convivial mood, a messenger comes informing the Duke that his brother has retreated to a monastery, meaning they can all go and party at home!
This is my attempt at a synopsis, and hopefully goes some way in explaining the plot of this twisting pastoral comedy. As always 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)
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
As You Like It Monologues
Female As You Like It Monologues
Act 3 Scene 5
Phoebe: 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.
Act 3 Scene 5
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.
Act 3 Scene 5
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
Act 1 Scene 1
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
Act 2 Scene 7
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.
For full Jaques monologue breakdown.
Act 4 Scene 3
Includes some interjections, but a lovely monologue.
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.
And he did render him the most unnatural
That liv’d ‘mongst men.
And well he might so do,
For well I know he was unnatural.
Food to the suck’d and hungry lioness?
Twice did he turn his back and purpos’d so;
But kindness, nobler ever than revenge,
And nature, stronger than his just occasion,
Made him give battle to the lioness,
Who quickly fell before him: in which hurtling
From miserable slumber I awak’d.
[Ros.] Was it you he rescu’d?
[Cel.] Was’t you that did so oft contrive to kill him? [‘Twas I; but ’tis not I. I do not shame
To tell you what I was, since my conversion
So sweetly tastes, being the thing I am. [Ros.] But, for the bloody napkin?
By and by.
When from the first to last, betwixt us two,
Tears our recountments had most kindly bath’d,
As how I came into that desert place:.
In brief, he led me to the gentle duke,
Who gave me fresh array and entertainment,
Committing me unto my brother’s love;
Who led me instantly unto his cave,
There stripp’d himself; and here, upon his arm
The lioness had torn some flesh away,
Which all this while had bled; and now he fainted,
And cried, in fainting, upon Rosalind.
Brief, I recover’d him, bound up his wound;
And, after some small space, being strong at heart,
He sent me hither, stranger as I am,
To tell this story, that you might excuse
His broken promise; and to give this napkin,
Dy’d in his blood, unto the shepherd youth
That he in sport doth call his Rosalind.