As You Like It | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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



Audrey and Touchstone are eagerly discussing their upcoming nuptials when two of Duke Senior's pages arrive. Touchstone asks for a song, and they sing of how "between the acres of the rye/... These pretty country folks would lie/In springtime, the only pretty ring time,/When birds do sing." The song urges lovers to make the most of the present time and the height of love. When they finish, Touchstone says that "there was no great matter in the ditty" and criticizes the pages for singing out of tune and wasting their time.


The pages' song reminds the listener of the birds and bees, both literally and metaphorically, calling to the forefront the play's theme of love and marriage. It is spring, and certainly the birds and bees are out in forest and field, but they're not the only creatures stirring in the field. Country lovers, too, lie between the acres of rye—whether or not the "ring time," or wedding, has happened just yet. Touchstone's displeasure may show that he doesn't approve of how the song portrays love. To Touchstone, who has now set his mind to be properly married, love is no longer frivolous. Lying in the fields with his lady before marriage may now seem dishonorable to him, though indeed it was his initial aim with Audrey when they first met. The song may also remind Touchstone that he hasn't yet had the pleasure of bedding Audrey, hence his impatience to be married.

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