As You Like It | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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As You Like It | Act 2, Scene 4 | Summary



Rosalind, Celia, and Touchstone arrive in the Forest of Arden, weary from their flight. As two shepherds approach, the threesome conceal themselves to eavesdrop. The young shepherd, Silvius, pines for his love, Phoebe, while the older shepherd Corin offers the advice, "That is the way to make her scorn you still." He also empathizes with the younger man, stating that he, too, has been in love. Silvius will have none of it, claiming that he loves more deeply than an old man like Corin could ever understand, and that a true lover will do all manner of foolish things in pursuit of his love. Silvius departs, unable to bear any human company other than his love. Silvius's speech reminds Rosalind and Touchstone of their own loves. Touchstone relates some of his past foolish acts perpetrated for the sake of love, including kissing the udders of the cow that his girlfriend had milked. Both Rosalind and Touchstone declare that they are in the same boat as the poor shepherd, though for Touchstone, "it grows something stale with me."

Meanwhile, Celia entreats Rosalind and Touchstone to question Corin about finding food, as she nearly faints from hunger. Rosalind, disguised as Ganymede, speaks with Corin, offering to pay for his help. Corin apologizes that he has little to offer but will try to find something for them. He explains that he tends another man's flocks, a master "of churlish disposition" who doesn't care about offering hospitality or doing good deeds. He also mentions that his master currently isn't home because his property is for sale. Rosalind seizes on the opportunity and asks Corin to act as go-between in buying the property for them. Corin agrees to do so and to continue tending the estate's flocks for them as well.


The journey to Arden has been exhausting, but the threesome arrive safely at their destination. Their first encounter in the forest with Corin and Silvius sets the tone for their entire sojourn in the woods: it's all about love. Rosalind and Touchstone immediately engage with the shepherds' topic of conversation and willingly indulge in thoughts of their own current and past loves. Rosalind is young and in love for the first time, while Touchstone is more experienced in romance and thus views it with somewhat more cynicism than she does. Love "grows something stale," he says: he's had time enough to see both the joys and the folly of it. Meanwhile, Celia's mind is on far more practical matters: survival. Since she is not currently in love, she couldn't care less about love talk, particularly when her stomach is growling from hunger. Once again it is she who initiates action, just as it was she who concocted their plan for escaping court.

Silvius and Corin's conversation examines a major theme of the play, romantic love. Their perspectives as a young man and as an old one cast very different lights on the theme. In Corin's statement, "That is the way to make her scorn you still," the reader doesn't know what "that" is, but based on Silvius's speech and later actions it's clear that he is being a doormat to Phoebe. The more he loves her, the more she scorns him, yet Silvius lets her walk all over him. Corin seems to be advising Silvius to play it cool, or maybe even be a little harder to get, in order to entice the girl. Like many youths, Silvius is sure he knows it all and dismisses Corin's advice without even considering it. Silvius's ideas of love are rather overblown and ridiculous: he believes that the more foolish he acts the more he proves his love. In reality he's just acting foolish, as youth in love are apt to do. Touchstone gives further proof of this universal experience in his admission of kissing a cow's udder!

Conveniently, Corin presents the traveling trio with an opportunity to gain exactly what they need: food and shelter. His offer moves the plot along and handily solves a problem. Such coincidental or "lucky" happenstances are common in Shakespeare's comedies, where the focus is not necessarily on creating a realistic story but rather on entertaining the audience and exploring themes.

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