As You Like It | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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As You Like It | Act 4, Scene 1 | Summary

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Summary

Jaques hails Ganymede (Rosalind) to make his (her) acquaintance. They discuss Jaques's melancholy nature, which he loves better than laughing. His demeanor is "a melancholy of mine own," he explains—unlike the melancholy of musicians, lovers, or other average people. It has many causes, including "contemplation of my travels, in which my often rumination wraps me in a most humorous sadness." Rosalind says, "I fear you have sold your own lands to see other men's," and points out that he has nothing to show for his travels but experiences that now make him sad. "I had rather have a fool to make me merry than experience to make me sad," she says.

Jaques departs as Orlando arrives, an hour late for his meeting with Ganymede, whom he calls Rosalind, as they've previously agreed. Rosalind is sternly displeased, telling him not to come around anymore if he ever pulls such a trick again. He begs pardon, but she continues to rail, saying she'd rather be wooed by a snail. A snail, though slow, at least brings his house with him—more than Orlando can offer—and brings also his destiny, horns on his head. Orlando protests that "Virtue is no hornmaker, and my Rosalind is virtuous." Rosalind then abruptly changes her tune, "for now I am in a holiday humor," and gives him leave to woo her. She answers his every word with sharp wit and retorts, pretending to scorn him as "Rosalind": "I say I will not have you." He answers that he will die, and she mocks the notion, saying that no man has ever actually died for love. She then declares that she will have him after all and proposes that Celia play the part of a priest and marry them.

The three of them stumble through a mock ceremony, and Orlando says that he will love her "Forever and a day." Rosalind dismisses the notion, saying that love changes quickly once a couple is married as the passions of spring change to the chill of winter. For her part Rosalind swears that she will vex her new husband constantly through jealousy, noisy chatter, and unpredictable moodiness, among other unpleasantness. He responds that the true Rosalind is wise, implying that she would not do such things. "The wiser, the waywarder," quips Rosalind, explaining that a truly witty woman cannot be silenced. She will never be caught without an excuse for her behavior; even if she sneaks off to the neighbor's bed she'll simply say that she went to look for her husband there. Orlando excuses himself to attend on Duke Senior, earnestly promising to return in two hours. Celia, disgusted with her cousin, lectures, "You have simply misused our sex in your love-prate" and she should be exposed so the world could see "what the bird hath done to her own nest." Rosalind tries to convince Celia how deeply she is in love, but her cousin remains skeptical.

Analysis

Jaques and Rosalind present different approaches to life. Jaques purposefully sinks into the sad depths of life, perhaps finding it more "real" or worthy than mere happiness, while Rosalind would rather live a lighter, merrier life. Both probably think themselves wise and the other a fool. Shakespeare again avoids giving a clear opinion on the matter, leaving the reader to decide.

When Orlando at last arrives, Rosalind blasts him on purpose rather than out of real anger. In doing so she sets the precedent for their relationship: she expects specific, nonnegotiable behavior from Orlando, and if he doesn't toe the line he can hit the road. In a nod to the theme of disguises, her guise as Ganymede emboldens Rosalind to act more harshly and speak more bluntly than she might if she were being herself. But the true thrust of this scene has to do with the themes of love, marriage, and loyalty. Rosalind tests Orlando's love and loyalty in many ways, trying to find out if he is truly ready for (and serious about) marriage to her. First she teases that she might cheat on him to see how he reacts (as referenced in the snail's horns, which are a symbol for cuckolding in the same way that deer's horns are in other scenes). Naturally he defends his Rosalind's honor. Then she coquettishly demands that he now woo her; but even though she has asked for the wooing, Rosalind doesn't let up. She continues poking holes in Orlando's courtly notions of love with her slippery wit. It isn't courtly love she wants, as courtly love often proves false. Everything she says and does is to determine if Orlando really loves her. Orlando responds gamely to all her ploys and doesn't so much as flinch when Rosalind suggests the mock wedding. He is able to take whatever she dishes out—even her warnings that she will be a difficult, moody wife. His response is that the Rosalind he knows would not act in such a way. This again raises the question of whether Orlando knows Ganymede's true identity and is merely indulging her in her playacting. Rosalind's cautions do ring true in one regard, though: she will not want to be silenced in marriage, and Orlando had best expect that she will continue to speak her mind.

Rosalind may go a bit too far in her description of the witty, cheating wife who has a smooth answer for every situation. Celia calls her on it, saying that Rosalind is a hypocrite for putting down her own sex in such an unjust way. Practical, not-in-love Celia doesn't see how Rosalind's actions spring from her deep love and from her need for proof of Orlando's love. Celia's love and loyalty still belongs to Rosalind, but Rosalind's love and loyalty has shifted away to Orlando. Her reprimand of Rosalind may serve as a means of venting her frustration with how the situation has changed; there is nothing she can do to change things, but perhaps it feels good to get in a barb or two at her cousin's expense.

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