As You Like It | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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As You Like It | Act 5, Scene 2 | Summary

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Summary

Orlando is surprised to discover that Oliver has fallen in love with Aliena (Celia) on very short acquaintance. Oliver asks for his blessing and offers to relinquish his estate and wealth to Orlando since he intends to stay in the forest and live as a shepherd with his lady love. Orlando consents, and they set the wedding for the next day. Oliver departs to tell Aliena the good news.

Rosalind then enters as Ganymede, and the two marvel at the sudden love of Oliver and Aliena. Rosalind says that they have "made a pair of stairs to marriage, which they will climb incontinent, or else be incontinent before marriage." Orlando assures her that the wedding will happen tomorrow, but complains, "O, how bitter a thing it is to look into happiness through another man's eyes." Rosalind then astonishes him by swearing that he, too, shall be married on the morrow if he so wishes it—to none other than his beloved Rosalind.

Silvius and Phoebe then arrive, and Phoebe scolds Ganymede for showing her love letter to Silvius. This sets off a cascade of commiseration, in which Silvius describes what it means to love. "It is to be all made of sighs and tears,/And so I am for Phoebe." Each then chimes in on the statement: Phoebe feels so for Ganymede; Orlando feels so for Rosalind; and Rosalind feels so "for no woman." How then can any blame the others for loving who they love? Rosalind gets fed up with the conversation and promises to help each of them if they will let her arrange it all. In the sticky matter of Phoebe, she vows, "I will marry you if ever I marry woman, and I'll be married tomorrow." She promises to fulfill Orlando and Silvius's wishes as well. They all agree to meet the next day to see these miracles made manifest.

Analysis

The unexpected arrival of Oliver on the scene now bears further fruit. He has conveniently fallen in love with Celia and wants to leave behind the courtly lifestyle, transferring his wealth to his brother instead. This sets up a happy ending and triumphant return to court for Orlando. It's not all sewn up for Orlando yet, though, as he still has not secured his Rosalind to complete the picture. And no matter how happy Orlando is for his brother, he can't help but envy that Oliver has found his happiness while he himself has not.

Rosalind is equally surprised by this turn of events and is concerned that the couple had better be married right away, lest they fall into bed before they can be properly wed. (In the line she utters above, "incontinent" means "immediately" in the first instance and "unchaste" in the second instance.) Neither Rosalind nor Orlando seems to recognize that they, too, fell in love just as quickly as Oliver and Celia—because of course, one's own love life always makes more sense than the love lives of other people. Shakespeare is likely making the point here that love turns us all into fools, but fools who are happy to be foolish. The cascade of conversation between the many lovers in the scene reinforces this idea: Silvius is a fool for Phoebe, Phoebe is a fool for Ganymede, Orlando is a fool for Rosalind, and so on.

The arrival of Oliver, his sudden engagement to Celia, and Orlando's reversal of fortune all add fuel to Rosalind's fire to bring events to their conclusion: marriage all around. Besides, her disguise is slipping and she knows it! Her cleverness now pays off in the form of an elaborate plan to make it all happen.

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