As You Like It | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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As You Like It | Act 3, Scene 2 | Summary

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Summary

Orlando writes love poems to Rosalind and posts them on the trees of the forest. Meanwhile, Corin and Touchstone discuss philosophy and compare shepherding life in the forest to life at court. Touchstone states that "thou art damned" for not having been at court, since only at court can one learn good manners, and any other manners must be wicked. Corin replies, "Those that are good manners at the court are as ridiculous in the country as the behavior of the country is most mockable at the court."

Rosalind enters dressed as Ganymede, reading one of Orlando's love poems. Touchstone immediately begins mocking the poetry, making up his own ludicrous verses about Rosalind. Celia then enters, disguised as Aliena, also reading one of Orlando's poems, and chases off Corin and Touchstone so that she can speak privately with Rosalind. She asks if her cousin has seen the verses, and Rosalind replies by making fun of their poor quality, calling them a "tedious homily of love" that others must bear. Celia hints that she knows the author of the poems and that he had "a chain, that you once wore, about his neck. Change you color?" She is amazed at Rosalind's eager desire to know who it is and teases her for a bit but then admits that it is indeed Orlando. Rosalind peppers her with questions about her encounter with Orlando and constantly interrupts with exclamations and more questions as Celia tries to relate the details. Before Celia can fully answer, Jaques and Orlando enter nearby, bantering about Orlando's poetry and shooting barbs at one another. They commiserate about their worldly miseries and faults, and Jaques takes a parting shot at Orlando as he leaves: "Farewell, good Signior Love." Orlando dishes it right back, with "Adieu, good Monsieur Melancholy."

Rosalind then whispers to Celia that she will "speak to him like a saucy lackey" and play a trick on him. She calls to him, asking the time, and he answers that there are no clocks in the forest. She then explains how time runs differently for different people, dragging for the maid awaiting her wedding day but galloping for the condemned man on his way to the gallows. Orlando seems taken in by Rosalind's disguise and inquires where the "pretty youth" was born, pointing out that her accent is more refined than the usual country dweller. Rosalind claims an old religious uncle taught her to speak and at the same time schooled her in the "many giddy offenses" of women. These secrets she will only share with "those that are sick" with love—such as the poor man pinning love notes on the trees around the forest.

Orlando admits that it is he, and asks for her remedy for love. Skeptical Rosalind says he bears no signs of love: no lean cheek, no neglected beard, no carelessness in his dress, and no general sense of desolation. "But you are no such man," she claims, for he is too well dressed, which shows that he loves himself more than any lover. Orlando is eager to prove his love of Rosalind, who says she will cure him of his love through wise counsel. She will pretend to be his love, and he will woo her by the name of Rosalind. In doing so she will exhibit all the worst qualities of women, from pride to fickleness, and thus change his love to anger. Orlando says that he does not want to be cured but agrees to the scheme anyway.

Analysis

Touchstone has an unshakeable belief that the people of the court are superior to country folk. However, his logic doesn't hold up under Corin's common sense, who shoots down his argument with the simple opinion that the court appears equally ridiculous to those who live in the country. The contrast in the way the two men reason reflects how different the court and the country are. Touchstone uses twisted logic and fancy verbal footwork to try to prove his point, while Corin's speech is straightforward and sensible.

Orlando's love poems quickly become the talk of the forest. He's not a very good poet, as Rosalind points out in making fun of them—of course that's before she knows that Orlando wrote them. Celia, though, knows the author and enjoys tormenting her cousin by withholding the information. Rosalind can't hide her excitement when she believes it is Orlando—she is too far gone in love to dissemble that it doesn't matter to her.

Shakespeare then pens another convenient happenstance, with Jaques and Orlando strolling onto the scene just at that moment. Their banter seems genial enough, like a harmless insult-fight between acquaintances, but they also don't pull punches. Each nails the other's personality on the head with the labels of "Signior Love" and "Monsieur Melancholy." By now Rosalind knows for certain that Orlando has authored the poems, and she is eager to speak with him even if she's in disguise and can't speak as herself. She seizes on a dull conversational opener by asking him the time, but that's all she needs—an opening—and after that there is no stopping her rambling wit. Rosalind is eager to discover if Orlando truly loves her and craves his attention and wooing. She makes up the elaborate story about her ability to cure love as an excuse to see him again and as a way to elicit the words of love that she longs to hear.

Orlando seems taken in by her disguise, but is he really? That's unclear. He calls Ganymede a "pretty youth," which seems a bit odd—would he normally call an unknown man "pretty"? He also seems quite content to indulge her silly proposal to cure him of his love, agreeing to meet with Ganymede even though he doesn't actually want to be cured. What's more, Orlando later admits to Duke Senior that "the first time that I ever saw him/Methought he was a brother to your daughter" (Act 5, Scene 4). It's possible that he isn't fooled by her disguise at all. It's also possible that Shakespeare is playing with some gender-bending here, introducing an element of homoeroticism between Orlando and this other "man." Perhaps Orlando is attracted to Ganymede and does in fact think he is a man, or perhaps he knows it is Rosalind and it is she he is attracted to. Or maybe he just doesn't have anything better to do and decides it's an amusing enough pastime for a while. The reader may interpret this ambiguous scene "as you like it," choosing the explanation they prefer. In any interpretation this second meeting of Orlando and Rosalind increases the rising action of the play, setting events into faster motion toward the eventual climax.

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