As You Like It | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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As You Like It | Act 5, Scene 4 | Summary

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Summary

The couples and their friends gather for the wedding. Rosalind, as Ganymede, reaffirms that everyone is on board with her plans: Duke Senior will give Rosalind as a bride if she appears; Orlando will have her; Phoebe will marry Silvius if she refuses to marry Ganymede; and Silvius will have her. Rosalind and Celia then exit to make the necessary preparations, leaving Duke Senior and Orlando scratching their heads. "I do remember in this shepherd boy/Some lively touches of my daughter's favor," Duke Senior muses. Orlando also comments that when he first met Ganymede, he thought it was Rosalind's brother.

Touchstone and Audrey arrive, and Jaques introduces the much-loved fool to Duke Senior, stating that the fool was once a courtier. Touchstone offers proofs of his former gentility, such as having danced, having flattered a lady, and having put three tailors out of business. He boasts he had almost gotten into a fight over how a man's beard was cut, but then they realized that "the quarrel was upon the seventh cause." Jaques asks him to explain this, and Touchstone outlines the seven stages of his argument with the man: "the retort courteous," "the quip modest," "the reply churlish," "the reproof valiant," "the countercheck quarrelsome," "the lie circumstantial," and "the lie direct." Both gentlemen realized they could only take the argument so far, neither willing to lie outright, "so we measured swords and parted." He concludes by instructing that the word if is a saving grace in such arguments, as it allows both parties to save face and walk away from the fight. Jaques and Duke Senior agree that Touchstone is a remarkable wit, indeed.

Rosalind and Celia reenter, dressed as themselves, escorted by the mythological god of marriage, Hymen. Music plays, and Hymen begins to sing of the joy in heaven when people come together to be united. He bids Duke Senior to bestow Rosalind's hand upon Orlando, and Rosalind confirms, first to her father and then to Orlando, "To you I give myself, for I am yours." With her disguise removed, all recognize the Ganymede that was is now changed into Rosalind. Hymen asks the four couples to join hands so that they may marry, offers insights to each couple, and sings a hymn praising marriage. True to her word, Phoebe marries Silvius, saying "now thou art mine;/Thy faith my fancy to thee doth combine."

Out of nowhere enters Orlando and Oliver's brother, Jaques de Boys ("Second Brother"), bearing news. Duke Frederick had raised an army to come and kill Duke Senior but met "an old religious man" near the forest and was converted to a spiritual life. He has given up both his fight with his brother and his worldly goods, leaving his crown to Duke Senior and restoring the lands to those who were exiled with him. Duke Senior welcomes the brother and his news but urges all to focus on the joyful reason they are gathered together, marriage and celebration. "Forget this new-fall'n dignity," he urges, "And fall into our rustic revelry." Unlike the rest of the company, Jaques decides to join Duke Frederick rather than return to court. He wishes all well and departs just before the wedding ceremony takes place, leaving the revelers to dance and make merry.

Analysis

Touchstone's speech is meant to impress Duke Senior and Jaques with his worldliness and knowledge of life at court. His anecdote about the escalating stages of an argument, which begin with courteous quips and go all the way up to bald lies, reflects the convoluted world of courtly conversation. Wit is highly prized, and the argument seems more of a game than anything serious—especially since the so-called offense given in the first place was a frivolous statement about a man's beard. While both men in the argument have no problem being rude and hurling insults, neither one wants to back up their talk with action. Instead, they "measured swords and parted," making a show of their dangerous weapons but having no intention of using them. Jaques and Duke Senior finally find something to agree on, though: Touchstone is a most amusing fool.

Rosalind's plan comes together beautifully, and although people have begun to suspect that Ganymede was not what he appeared to be, it no longer matters. Rosalind has kept up the charade just long enough to pull off her marital coup. Following the custom of the day in which women were subordinate to men, Rosalind gives herself first to her father to give her away, and then to her new husband. Even Phoebe has had a change of heart; Silvius's faith has at last won her over, and she marries him willingly. The presence of Hymen as the ceremony's officiant emphasizes the notion that marriage is ordained by the gods and also lends an element of fantasy to the play that allows the audience to enjoy it as a light farce, rather than serious fare.

A final convenient twist in the plot wraps up the happy ending for pretty much all of the characters in the play. Duke Frederick's renunciation of his crown shifts wealth and status back to Duke Senior and his loyal followers, and Rosalind will be able to return to court with her beloved Orlando, triumphant in their good fortune. Despite the happy news, Duke Senior urges the party to focus on the merriment at hand, forgetting the "new-fall'n dignity" that a return to the formality of court life will mean. Their time of life in the forest is coming to a close, but they can still kick up their heels together in "rustic revelry" one last time. Jaques will have none of it; he doesn't want to return to the court nor to partake in the festivities—both probably sound like too much fun. His choice to stay with Duke Frederick instead shows that his character remains steadfast; he will continue to indulge his melancholy and live life in his own style, not according to the dictates of society.

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