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Table of Contents
Type of Work
Composition, Publication and
Other Figures of Speech
Allusions and Symbolism
Encroachment on Nature
Use of Disguises
Questions, Essay Topics
Study Guide Prepared by Michael J.
Revised in 2010, 2011 ©
Type of Work
As You Like It is a
stage comedy. Its rural locale and subject
matter also qualify it as a pastoral romance.
Pastoral means having to do with
shepherds and rural life. Shakespeare wrote the lines of
the play in verse and in prose. For more
information about Shakespeare plays that mix
verse and prose, click here.
Publication, and Performance
Date Written: 1599 or
First Printing: 1623 as
part of the First Folio,
the first authorized collection of
First Performance: No authentic records exist to
establish a date when the play debuted in
Shakespeare based As You
Like It on Rosalynde: Euphues Golden
Legacie (1590), a prose romance
by Thomas Lodge (1557-1625).
Lodge based his romance, in turn, on The
Tale of Gamelyn, an anonymous poem of nine
hundred lines written in the middle of the
fourteenth century. That poem tells the story of
Gamelyn de Boundys, a young man whose brother
confiscates his inheritance. Gamelyn is forced
to live as a forest outlaw but eventually
recovers what is rightfully his.
In explaining the title of the
play, Shakespeare scholar G.B. Harrison wrote,
"[As You Like It] is a lighthearted
comedy which appeals to readers at all stages
and in all lighter moods. It pleases some by
its idyllic romance, others by its optimistic
philosophy of simple goodness, and yet others
by its cynical irony. Indeed, you can take
this play just as you like it."—Shakespeare: The Complete
Works. New York: Harcourt, 1952 (page
action takes place in a palace in the Arden
Forest. There is an Arden Forest in
Warwickshire, England, and an Ardennes Forest in
continental Europe. The latter forest
encompasses parts of Belgium, Luxembourg, and
France. Thomas Lodge, who wrote a play that
Shakespeare used as the source for As You
Like It, earned a medical degree in France
and practiced medicine in Belgium, not far from
the Ardennes forest.
Antagonist: Duke Frederick
Senior: Rightful duke living in banishment
with his followers in the forest of Arden. He is
reminiscent of Robin Hood.
Frederick: Duke Senior’s brother, who
usurps Senior's dominions.
Jaques: Lords attending on the banished
Oliver, Jaques de Boys: Sons of Sir
Rowland de Boys. Orlando is in love with
Rosalind, daughter of Duke Senior. Oliver, the
eldest son, maltreats Orlando and denies him his
full share in their father's bequest. Jaques
(not to be confused with the lord of the same
name) is away at school, prospering.
Daughter of Duke Senior. She is the ideal
heroine—intelligent, beautiful, courageous,
cheerful, morally upright.
Daughter of Duke Frederick and good friend of
Beau: Courtier attending upon
Wrestler in the service of Frederick.
Dennis: Servants of Oliver. Adam, an old
man who is mistreated by Oliver, befriends
Clown. His presence in the play makes others
react in a way that reveals their qualities;
hence, he lives up to his name. Literally a
touchstone is a black stone used to assay the
purity of precious metals. When a sample
believed to contain gold or silver is rubbed
against a touchstone, the sample leaves a streak
on the stone. Acid is then used to burn away
impurities that adulterate the gold or silver in
the sample, leaving behind only the precious
metal. Assayers then can evaluate the quality of
Oliver Martext: A vicar.
Country fellow in love with Audrey.
The god of marriage in Greek mythology.
Characters: Lords, pages, forester, and
By Michael J. Cummings...©
Sir Rowland de Boys died, he made Oliver, his
older son, promise to rear and educate Orlando,
his younger son. But after Sir Rowland’s death,
Oliver virtually imprisons Orlando in their
home. The younger brother receives no schooling,
no guidance, and almost no money—unlike a third brother, Jaques,
who lives away at school, prospering. In the
orchard of Oliver’s house, Orlando complains to
Adam, an old servant, that Oliver even pays more
attention to his horses. When Oliver enters the
orchard, Orlando tells him:
father charged you in his will to give me good
education: you have trained me like a peasant,
obscuring and hiding from me all gentleman-like
qualities. The spirit of my father grows strong
in me, and I will no longer endure it; therefore
allow me such exercises as may become a
gentleman, or give me the poor allottery my
father left me by testament; with that I will go
buy my fortunes. (1.1.23)
two other men—Duke Frederick and his younger
brother Duke Senior—also live at odds. Frederick
had unjustly seized the dukedom of Senior and
banished him to the Forest of Arden. There, Senior
and his loyal followers learn to live like Robin
Hood and his merry men, enjoying all the simple
pleasures of a rustic existence. As Senior
And this our life exempt from
daughter, Rosalind, remains behind at the court of
Frederick. Rosalind is the central character in
the play, the hub around whom the wheel of fortune
revolves. At Duke Frederick’s behest, Rosalind is
to serve as a companion for his daughter, Celia.
It so happens that Rosalind has a sympathizer in
Celia, for the two of them have been best friends
since childhood. Whenever Rosalind pines for her
missing father, Celia is there to comfort her. She
says, “I pray thee, Rosalind, sweet my coz, be
merry” (1.2.3). Rosalind soon will have good cause
to be merry, for she is destined to fall in love
with Orlando, the young man maltreated by his
brother Oliver. Here is what happens:
tongues in trees, books in the running
in stones and good in every thing.
would not change it. (2.1.17-20)
Orlando somehow flourishes on his own, like an
unattended flower, displaying the spirit and
courtly bearing of his father, Rowland de Boys.
However, restricted as he is by his brother,
Orlando lapses into melancholy. When he learns
that Duke Frederick’s champion wrestler, Charles,
will take on challengers, Orlando bids to compete.
After all, he has nothing to lose but his
miserable life. Oliver, jealous of the fine young
man that his brother is becoming, urges Charles to
break Orlando’s neck during the match. Rosalind
and Celia, present to witness the competition, try
to dissuade Orlando from competing. Rosalind even
attempts to have the match canceled.
But the match goes on and Orlando, heartened by
the kindness shown by Celia and Rosalind, defeats
Charles! Duke Frederick admires the young man for
his courage and skill. But when Frederick learns
Orlando is the son of Sir Rowland, who was a
friend of the banished Duke Senior, he leaves the
scene in a huff. Rosalind, however, rewards
Orlando with a chain from her neck. Later, when
Rosalind and Celia are discussing Orlando,
Frederick bursts in and banishes Rosalind, for she
reminds him too much of her father, Duke Senior,
and his late friend, Sir Rowland. Frederick
these ten days if that thou be’st [be]
as a man and calling herself Ganymede, Rosalind
leaves to seek out her father in the forest of
Arden. Celia accompanies Rosalind, wearing the
clothes of a country maid and posing as Ganymede’s
sister, Aliena. Tagging along is Duke Frederick’s
saucy-tongued court jester, Touchstone. In the
forest, they first encounter an old man, Corin,
talking with a young shepherd, Silvius. Silvius is
deep in the throes of melancholy because the woman
he loves, a shepherdess named Phebe, does not
return his love. Rosalind empathizes with Silvius,
for she now knows what it is like to be in love
but not be united with the beloved. Rosalind
contracts with Corin to buy a cottage for her, and
she and Celia move in.
near our public court as twenty miles,
diest for it. (1.3.27-29)
Orlando, too, must leave. Oliver’s elderly
servant, Adam, has warned Orlando that the evil
Oliver vows to burn Orlando’s chamber that very
night as Orlando sleeps. Orlando flees with Adam
to the safety of the forest. Rosalind and Celia
buy a flock of sheep and become shepherds. When
old Adam complains of hunger, Orlando, sword in
hand, demands food from Duke Senior’s followers;
but they generously share their food. When Senior
learns Orlando is the son of his old friend, Sir
Rowland, he takes Orlando under his
Meanwhile, Duke Frederick, believing that Celia
and Rosalind have run off with Orlando, orders
Oliver to find his brother and bring him back dead
or alive. If he fails in this task, he will lose
all of his possessions.
In the forest, Orlando thinks often of Rosalind
and carves her name on trees and attaches love
poems. At the same time, Touchstone tests the
worth of every character he meets in the forest
with his quick-witted rejoinders—the kind he
delivered at court as a fool—spicing his language
with puns and paradoxes to lay bare the marrow of
his interlocutors. After Touchstone teases
Rosalind about how her name is appearing on trees
everywhere in the forest, Rosalind (still
disguised as Ganymede) crosses paths one day with
Orlando and playfully chides him about abusing the
trees by carving his poems into them. Then she
asks whether his rhymes truly reflect the love
that he feels. Orlando replies, “Neither rime nor
reason can express how much” (3.2.152).
Rosalind says Orlando can cure himself of his
foolish love if he will come to her cottage each
day and woo her as if she were Rosalind. In this
way, he will learn of the ways of whimsical ladies
and gradually fall out of love. Intrigued by this
proposal, Orlando does as she asks. However,
Orlando only falls more deeply in love with the
memory of Rosalind as he takes part in the mock
courtship. Rosalind’s love also deepens.
While searching for Orlando, Oliver falls asleep
under a tree. A green snake entwines his neck,
preparing to kill him. Nearby a lioness awaits her
turn at Oliver. Orlando happens upon the scene on
his way to woo Ganymede. He scares off the snake
and, as Oliver awakens, draws his sword and kills
the lion at the cost of a deep wound to an arm.
Suddenly, Oliver repents and becomes a loving
brother. Because Orlando’s wound has made him too
weak to continue to Ganymede’s cottage, Oliver
goes in his stead and explains what happened,
displaying a bloody handkerchief as proof of
Orlando’s wound. Rosalind faints.
While at the cottage, Oliver falls in love with
Celia, and they vow to marry the next day.
Rosalind (as Ganymede) goes to Orlando and tells
him she is versed in magic and will conjure up
Rosalind the following day so that he can marry
her. On the appointed day, Rosalind appears as
herself while the wedding guests, including Duke
Senior and his followers look on. By this time,
Touchstone has found a love of his own—Audrey, a
country wench. In addition, Phebe, through a
little trickery worked by Rosalind, agrees to
marry Silvius. Thus, on the wedding day, four
couples exchange vows: Orlando and Rosalind,
Oliver and Celia, Silvius and Phebe, and
Touchstone and Audry. But it so happens that there
is also another event to celebrate. Jaques de
Boys, the third son of Rowland de Boys and the
brother of Orlando and Oliver, arrives to announce
that a holy man has shown Duke Frederick the error
of his ways. Consequently, Frederick has ceded his
crown back to Duke Senior and retired from the
corrupt and wordly life.
Presumably everyone lives happily ever after.
main conflicts in the play center on the discord
between Orlando and Oliver, Duke Frederick and
Duke Senior, Celia and her father (Duke
Frederick), and the struggles of the lovers to
overcome the obstacles that separate them.
tone of the play is lighthearted and carefree.
The playgoer and reader sense that the discord
between several characters will eventually
resolve itself into amity and goodwill.
presentation of the conflicts—as well as the use
of Rosalind's disguise to create suspense—takes
place quickly in the play. The audience can then
settle back and delight in the complications
that follow. Overall, the plot structure moves
along smoothly and plausibly, with Rosalind—an
appealing, well-developed character—controlling
the direction of the story. However, the change
of heart of the two villains, Oliver and Duke
Frederick, seems contrived and forced. Oliver
reforms, unqualifiedly contrite, after his
brother Orlando saves him from a lion (leo ex
machina). Then, Orlando's other brother,
Jaques de Boys, pops up from nowhere in Act V to
tell us that an "old religious man" has
converted Duke Frederick, turning him into an
upright man who has yielded his crown to his
banished brother, Duke Senior.
The climax of a play or another
narrative work, such as a short story or a
novel, can be defined as (1) the turning point
at which the conflict begins to resolve itself
for better or worse, or as (2) the final and
most exciting event in a series of events. The
climax of As You Like It occurs,
according to the first definition, when Rosalind
faints after learning that a lion has wounded
Orlando, then decides to reveal her true
identity to bring about a resolution to the plot
complications. According to the second
definition, the climax occurs when Hymen, the
god of marriage in Greek mythology, enters in
the fourth scene of Act V with Rosalind, who is
no longer wearing her disguise as the male
Ganymede. Hymen then unites Rosalind with her
father, Duke Senior, and her beloved, Orlando,
by reciting these lines:
Then is there mirth in
others follow up with these lines:
earthly things made even
duke, receive thy daughter
from heaven brought her,
brought her hither,
thou mightst join her hand with his
heart within his bosom is. (5.4.60-67)
Senior] To you I give myself, for I am
give myself, for I am yours.
be truth in sight, you are my daughter.
truth in sight, you are my Rosalind.
Love as Life's Greatest Joy
Romantic, brotherly, and
humanitarian love all bring great joy to the
major characters in the play after they
overcome the obstacles that separate them from
Love: a Many-Splintered Thing.
Although romantic love
triumphs in the end, all of the lovers undergo
trials that divide them. Touchstone observes,
"We that are true lovers run into strange
capers" (2.4.35). Celia tells Rosalind, "It is
as easy to count atomies [tiny creatures] as
to resolve the propositions of a lover
Nature as a
Notice that everyone who
enters the forest becomes better for the
experience. Shakespeare used the "nature
heals" theme in other plays as well, including
A Midsummer Night's Dream, Love's
Labour's Lost, and The Tempest.But
nature does not always behave well in
Lear found that out during a raging
storm, and Macbeth
fell victim to the trees of Birnham Wood.
In world literature, the theme
of brother against brother is as old as the
story of Cain and Abel in Genesis, the first
book of the Old Testament. Shakespeare
presents this theme anew in Act 1 when he
reveals that Oliver despises his younger
brother Orlando and fails to provide for him
in accordance with their father's will. In the
same act, Shakespeare also reveals that Duke
Frederick despises his older brother, Duke
Senior, and has usurped his lands political
power. However, Oliver reconciles with Orlando
after the latter saves Oliver from a snake and
a lion. Later, through the intervention of a
holy man, Duke Frederick reforms his ways and
surrenders his dukedom to Senior. These
developments demonstrate that even the deepest
family divisions are not beyond repair.
and Nature: How They Differ
Act 1, Shakespeare personifies fortune and
nature in order to convey a central theme of the
play: that fortune and nature often work at
odds. For example, fortune may bestow such gifts
as wealth, position, and power on a person
simply because he was born into the right
family. However, if he lacks certain gifts of
nature—such as nobility, foresight, courage, and
wisdom—he will not have the wherewithal to
manage his material gifts properly. On the other
hand, nature may bestow a bounty of gifts on a
person whom fortune has ignored. This person
will have the faculties to make his way in the
world but not the material gifts to succeed
without a struggle. Following is the passage
focusing on this theme.
Let us sit and mock the good housewife
Fortune from her wheel, that her gifts may
henceforth be bestowed equally.
apparently benefited more from nature than from
fortune; the opposite is true of Oliver.
ROSALIND: I would we could
do so, for her benefits are mightily misplaced,
and the bountiful blind woman doth most mistake
in her gifts to women.
CELIA: 'Tis true; for
those that she makes fair she scarce makes
honest, and those that she makes honest she
makes very ill-favouredly.
ROSALIND:. Nay, now thou
goest from Fortune's office to Nature's: Fortune
reigns in gifts of the world, not in the
lineaments of Nature. (1.2.11-14)
Figures of Speech: Extended Metaphor on
the 'Ages of Man'
an extended metaphor, Shakespeare philosophizes
through Jaques (spelled without a c before
the q), a lord in the service of Duke
Senior. The metaphorical passage—focusing on "The
Seven Ages of Man"—is one of the most famous
passages in Shakespeare. It is stunning poetry—in
fact, it is often included in anthologies as a
separate poem demonstrating the remarkable power
and beauty of Shakespeare's words.
However, the passage is cynical and pessimistic in
its metaphorical message, which makes the world a
stage and human beings actors in the gloomy drama
of life. Each man, it says, goes through life
playing various parts and ends up old and
toothless, without being the better for his
experience, wondering, What was life all
about, anyway? However, although this
passage seems out of place in this mostly
uplifting play, it does serve a purpose: to
illuminate, by comparison and contrast, the
enthusiasm and optimism of other characters in the
play as they pursue their heart's desires.
Following is the passage:
world's a stage,1
And all the men and women merely
They have their exits and their
And one man in his time plays
His acts being seven ages. At
first the infant,
Mewling2 and puking in the nurse's
And then the whining school-boy,
with his satchel
And shining morning face,
creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then
Sighing like furnace, with a
Made to his mistress' eyebrow.
Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded
like the pard,4
Jealous in honour, sudden and
quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble
Even in the
cannon's mouth.6 And then the justice,
In fair round
belly with good capon lined,7
With eyes severe and beard of
Full of wise saws8 and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The
sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon,9
With spectacles on nose and pouch
His youthful hose,
well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk
shank;10 and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish
And whistles in his sound. Last
scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful
childishness11 and mere oblivion,
Sans12 teeth, sans eyes, sans taste,
sans everything. (2.7.139-166)
are examples of other figures of speech in the
play. For definitions of figures of speech, see
When Nature hath made a fair creature, may she not by Fortune fall
into the fire? (1.2.16)
Stand you both forth now:
stroke your chins, and
swear by your beards that I
am a knave. (1.2.26)
then the love
thee that thou and I am one.
churlish chiding of the
winter’s wind (2.1.9)
should in my old limbs
lie lame (2.3.44)
That is another
simple sin in you, to
bring the ewes
the rams together,
and to offer to get your
living by the
a she-lamb (3.2.35)
blessed bond of board and bed!
By my troth, thou sayest true; for
since the little
wit that fools have was silenced, the little
foolery that wise men have makes a great show.
So was I when your
highness took his
So was I when your
highness banish’d him.
I have trod a
measure; I have
flattered a lady; I
have been politic with my
friend, smooth with mine enemy; I have undone
three tailors; I
have had four quarrels, and
like to have fought one. (5.4.42)
blow, thou winter wind,
art not so unkind
man’s ingratitude (opening lines of a song at
addresses the wind.
there, my verse, in witness of my love:
thou, thrice-crowned queen of night,
thy chaste eye, from thy pale sphere
huntress’ name, that my full life doth sway.
the queen of night in alluding to the
goddess of the moon
the hunt in Greek mythology. Her name is
Artemis (Roman name: Diana).
Are all thrown down, and that
which here stands up
Is but a quintain, a mere
lifeless block. (Orlando, 1.2.129-131)
Comparison of a man to a
quintain, a practice target for knights
the bed untreasur’d of their mistress.
of Celia to a treasure
ne’er be ware of mine own wit till I break
my shins against it. (Touchstone, 2.4.37)
of wit to a solid object
these trees shall be my books,
And in their barks my thoughts
I’ll character. (Orlando, 3.2.5-6)
of trees to books and barks to pages of
began to crow like chanticleer. (2.7.33)
Metonymy: Use of lungs
Simile: Comparison of the sound
of the human voice to the sound of crowing
My [old] age
is as a lusty winter. (2.3.55)
Adam is old but he is a
youthful old person (lusty winter).
Know you not,
master, to some kind of men
Their graces serve them but as
Graces become enemies.
O, what a
world is this, when what is comely
Envenoms him that bears it!
which is comely (attractive, beautiful) is
nut hath sourest rind. (3.2.41)
which is sweet is also sour.
the following prose passage, Rosalind and
Orlando speak of time as a person.
in divers paces with divers persons. I’ll tell
you who Time ambles withal, who Time trots
withal, who Time gallops withal, and who he
stands still withal.
prithee, who doth he trot withal?
he trots hard with a young maid between the
contract of her marriage and the day it is
solemnized; if the interim be but a se’nnight,
Time’s pace is so hard that it seems the length
of seven year.
ambles Time withal?
a priest that lacks Latin, and a rich man that
hath not the gout; for the one sleeps easily
because he cannot study, and the other lives
merrily because he feels no pain; the one
lacking the burden of lean and wasteful
learning, the other knowing no burden of heavy
tedious penury. These Time ambles withal.
doth he gallop withal?
a thief to the gallows; for though he go as
softly as foot can fall he thinks himself too
soon there. (3.2.125-131)
went, like Juno’s swans,
Allusions and Symbolism
we went coupled and inseparable.
compares herself and Rosalind to swans.
. . is as dry as the remainder biscuit
a voyage. (2.7.41-43)
of the brain to a biscuit
found him under a tree, like a dropped acorn.
compares Orlando to an acorn.
is possible that Shakespeare intended the rifts
between the two sets of brothers in the play—(1)
Duke Frederick and Duke Senior and (2) Oliver and
Orlando—to symbolize the deadly rift between Cain
and Abel as described in Chapter 4 of Genesis, the
first book of the Old Testament. Cain and Abel
were sons of Adam.
In Shakespeare’s play, Adam is an elderly servant
who attempts to pacify Orlando and Oliver—as if
the biblical Adam had come alive to temper the
anger between his sons. Shakespeare’s Adam is
described as very old, like the biblical Adam, who
lived to an extremely old age. There is also a
direct reference to the biblical Adam by Duke
Now, my co-mates and brothers in
also appears that the Forest of Arden is the
Garden of Eden, a new Eden that brings only
happiness to those who enter it. Orlando does not
eat of forbidden fruit on a tree. Rather, he
carves on trees poems to lovely Rosalind. When
Rosalind shows his poems to Touchstone, the latter
says—in an apparent biblical allusion (and a play
on words)—“Truly, the tree yields bad fruit”
(3.2.44). However, although the poems are less
than sterling, they do bear good fruit: Rosalind.
After discovering the identity of the author,
Orlando, her love for him intensifies.
not old custom13 made this life more sweet
that of painted pomp?14 Are not these woods
free from peril than the envious court?
feel we but the penalty of
seasons’ difference, as the icy fang
churlish chiding of the winter’s wind. (2.1.3-9)
presents several songs in As You Like It
that bolster the lighthearted tone of the play.
Perhaps the most famous and most delightful of
the songs are the following. The first merrily
reproves man's ingratitude and his tendency to
forget a friend. The second celebrates the joy
of springtime love.
Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind
Encroachment on Nature
As man’s ingratitude;
not so keen,
heigh-ho! unto the green holly:
is feigning, most loving mere folly.
bite so nigh
As benefits forgot:
not so sharp
heigh-ho! unto the green holly:
is feigning, most loving mere folly.
most jolly. (2.7.184)
Lover and His Lass
was a lover and his lass,
and a ho, and a hey nonino,
o’er the green corn-field did pass,
time, the only pretty ring time,
birds do sing, hey ding a ding, ding;
lovers love the spring.
acres of the rye,
With a hey, and a ho, and a hey nonino,
pretty country folks would lie,
In the spring time, &c.
they began that hour,
With a hey, and a ho, and a hey nonino,
that a life was but a flower
In the spring time, &c.
take the present time,
With a hey, and a ho, and a hey nonino;
love is crowned with the prime
In the spring time, &c. (5.3.11)
Frederick usurped Duke Senior's property. In turn,
Duke Senior expropriated the domain of deer and
other animals, according to Jaques. The following
passage focuses on Jaques' reaction to Senior's
DUKE SENIOR: Come, shall we
go and kill us venison?
yet it irks me, the poor dappled fools,
native burghers of this desert city,
in their own confines with forked heads
their round haunches gor’d.
LORD: Indeed, my lord,
melancholy Jaques grieves at that;
in that kind, swears you do more usurp
doth your brother that hath banish’d
my Lord of Amiens and myself
steal behind him as he lay along
an oak whose antique root peeps out
the brook that brawls along this
the which place a poor sequester’d stag,
from the hunters’ aim had ta’en a hurt,
come to languish; and, indeed, my lord,
wretched animal heav’d forth such
their discharge did stretch his leathern
to bursting, and the big round tears
one another down his innocent nose
piteous chase; and thus the hairy
marked of the melancholy Jaques,
on the extremest verge of the swift brook,
it with tears. (2.1.24-47)
passage appears to suggest that Shakespeare was
aware more than four hundred years ago of the
deleterious effects of man's encroachment on his
natural surroundings. Jaques' concern for nature
may in part account for his melancholy demeanor.
Use of Disguises
Time and again, Shakespeare
disguises women as men to further a plot. For
example, In All's Well That Ends Well,
Helena wears the attire of a pilgrim to get
to Bertram. In Cymbeline,
Imogen becomes a page boy to win back
Posthumous. Julia also becomes a page boy in The
Two Gentlemen of Verona, as does Viola
in Twelfth Night. In The Merchant
of Venice, Portia disguises herself as a
male judge to save the friend of her lover in
a court of law. Rosalind, in As You Like
It, dons the garb of a man to become a
shepherd as she seeks out her love, Orlando.
In each of these plays, the women disguised as
men eventually reveal their true female
All of this trickery could
have been quite confusing to playgoers in
Shakespeare's day, for only men played women's
roles. Thus, in the above-mentioned plays, men
played women disguised as men who at some
point doffed their male identities to reveal
themselves as females.
Duke Senior, branded an outlaw,
is really the rightful ruler; his younger
brother, the usurping duke, is really an
Study Questions and Essay Topics
- .Rosalind falls in
love with Orlando upon first seeing him.
Likewise, Oliver falls in love with Celia when
they first meet. In an informative essay,
define “love at first sight” and explain
whether it can really be true love or is
- Why does Oliver
- Which character in
the play is the most admirable? Which
character is the least admirable?
- Duke Senior lives in
the Forest of Arden like Robin Hood. Who was
Robin Hood? Did Robin Hood actually
- After Rosalind
disguises herself, she calls herself Ganymede.
In Greek mythology, who was Ganymede?
- All the world’s a
stage: This clause is the English
translation of the Latin motto of the Globe
Theatre: Totus mundus agit histrionem.
The clause begins the extended metaphor in
which the world becomes a stage and the
people—in various stages of their lives—become
- ballad: Poem.
- pard: Leopard
- bubble reputation:
Fame is like a bubble: it develops quickly,
- Even in the
cannon’s mouth: To achieve fame, the
soldier will even charge when enemy cannons
- justice . . .
lined: Some judges in Shakespeare’s time
accepted gifts, such as capons (immature
roosters that are castrated and well fed to
improve the quality of their meat), in return
for a favorable ruling.
Proverbs, maxims, aphorisms, sayings.
Foolish old man. Pantaloons were stock
characters in a type of Italian comedy called
commedia dell’arte, which became popular in
the middle of the sixteenth century. Actors
improvised their parts after receiving an
outline of the plot.
. . . shank: His knee-high stockings
(hose) no longer fit his shrinking, withering
shank (lower leg).
French for without. (French
pronunciation: sahn, spoken nasally; English
pronunciation: sanz. Shakespeare used the
- custom: The
experience of life in the forest.
- painted pomp:
Life at court, with all of its artificial
of Adam . . . wind: As descendants of Adam
and inheritors of original sin, the men—though
they may live in a kind of Eden—do feel the
sting of a cold wind.