As You Like It | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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As You Like It | Act 3, Scene 5 | Summary

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Summary

Rosalind, Celia, and Corin eavesdrop as Silvius, a lovelorn shepherd, begs his love Phoebe not to be so scornful. Phoebe doesn't want to hurt him and argues that her scornful looks cannot truly hurt him. To prove her point, she gives him a nasty look, saying, "if mine eyes can wound, now let them kill thee." She then challenges him to show her where he has been wounded, which of course, he cannot. Silvius retorts that if Phoebe should ever fall in love, "Then shall you know the wounds invisible/That love's keen arrows make." Phoebe gives him leave to mock her and to show her no pity if she should fall in love, just as she shows him no pity now.

Rosalind (as Ganymede) bursts in and reprimands the girl for acting so high and mighty to the wretched shepherd. She points out that Phoebe herself isn't all that pretty and is "proud and pitiless" without reason to be so. Phoebe gives her a funny look, and Rosalind realizes that she has caught the girl's fancy. "No, faith, proud mistress, hope not after it," she declares firmly, then turns to ask Silvius why on earth he follows her around like a fool. "You are a thousand times a properer man/Than she a woman," she declares. She encourages Phoebe to accept this good man's love, "For I must tell you friendly in your ear,/Sell when you can; you are not for all markets."

Phoebe responds that she would rather hear Rosalind scold her than Silvius's words of love. Rosalind tells her in no uncertain terms not to fall in love with her but to take Silvius up on his offer instead—for no one else may ever think she is beautiful as he does. Rosalind, Celia, and Corin exit, leaving Phoebe to admit to Silvius that she now understands what it means to fall in love at first sight. She now feels sorry for him, and he proposes the cure: if she would love him back, both his grief and her sorrow would disappear. She concedes that though she still doesn't love Silvius, at least she doesn't hate him anymore. She decides to let him tag along with her because he could be useful but states clearly he shouldn't expect anything further. Silvius happily agrees, asking only that she give him an occasional smile to keep him going.

Phoebe then asks who this boy was who so disdained her. She speaks of Ganymede's good looks and fine speech and says that some other woman might fall in love with such a man, but not her. "I have more cause to hate him than to love him," she assures Silvius. She decides she will write Ganymede (Rosalind) "a very taunting letter" and tell him off for being rude to her, and she enlists Silvius to deliver it to him (her).

Analysis

Shakespeare uses Phoebe and Silvius to present a different version of the romantic love theme to the reader. While Rosalind and Orlando share a mutual love, Silvius's love is one sided and seems hopeless. Phoebe could not be less interested in Silvius, which she makes abundantly clear with her sharp, honest tongue. She rationally debunks the "if looks could kill" metaphor that Silvius uses to woo her, but Silvius's response reminds the reader that love isn't logical—it strikes when and where it will, and it may even strike Phoebe someday.

Phoebe's disdain gets Rosalind riled up, and she can't resist poking her nose into their business. Perhaps herself being in love, she identifies and sympathizes with the shepherd and thus wants to come to his aid. Phoebe's character actually mirrors that of Rosalind (Ganymede), though, when it comes to wooing: both poke holes in their lovers' inflated ideas about love. Ganymede seeks to "cure" Orlando of his love while Phoebe tries to strip away Silvius's unwanted love through her scornful, pitiless treatment of the man. The difference is that Phoebe is doing so in earnest while Ganymede only pretends to want to cure Orlando.

Until now Rosalind's disguise has been beneficial, allowing her to travel safely and act freely. However, as with most deceptions, there comes a time when the lies begin to create problems. Rosalind's life becomes more complicated when Phoebe falls in love with her. If only she could take off her disguise she could end the confusion immediately, but Rosalind feels she still has need of her male persona, so she is stuck dealing with this ludicrous situation. She then treats Phoebe to some of the same blunt honesty that Phoebe has dished out to Silvius. "Hope not after it," she warns—in other words, "you don't stand a chance with me." Her advice to "sell when you can; you are not for all markets" is clearly a putdown meant to detach Phoebe's love from Ganymede and transfer it to Silvius.

Nonetheless, Phoebe has now learned the lesson that love, indeed, is not logical, as she herself has fallen helplessly in love. While she claims to hate Ganymede, she has also been quite complimentary of the "pretty youth." Thus her declaration that she will write him a "taunting" letter is suspect, at best.

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