As You Like It by Shakespeare: Summary, Analysis & Characters

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  • 0:00 ''As You Like It''…
  • 4:43 Analysis of ''As You Like It''
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Ryan Hultzman
In this lesson, we will explore Shakespeare's comedy 'As You Like It,' an adventurous tale with the flavor of Robin Hood, a tale in the Forest of Arden with romance around every tree. It is a story of disguise and love triangles, and all of the confusion gets sorted out in the end.


As You Like It Characters & Plot

The play As You Like It is considered to be one of Shakespeare's finest comedies. Its got something for everyone: villainy, romance, humor and a happy ending. The setting is France. The play begins with the close friendship of two young cousins, Rosalind and Celia. It would be difficult to find a closer pair than this; they are in essence, BFFs, like a classical era Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. Rosalind's father, Duke Senior, has been banished by his own brother, Celia's father, Duke Frederick. Frederick is the villain of the tale. Although he banishes Rosalind's father, he allows her to stay for some time because she is so close to Celia. However, his patience runs out, and he decides to banish Rosalind as well. In fact, he swears she will die if she is within 20 miles of the castle after ten days have passed.

Now we have Oliver and Orlando. These two are brothers who inherit their father's estate after he passes. However, the greedy and cruel Oliver neglects Orlando's schooling and gentlemanly upbringing, keeping the best of the estate for himself. Rosalind meets Orlando at a wrestling match, and the two fall in love without revealing their feelings to each other. Oliver eventually tries to have Orlando killed, so Orlando and an elderly, faithful servant flee to the Forest of Arden where Duke Frederick and his merry men live. By the way, Orlando carves Rosalind's name in the bark of the trees in the forest, and hangs love poems for her on the tree branches.

Seeing as they are true BFFs, Rosalind and Celia obviously can't be parted, so they both disguise themselves: Rosalind as a gentleman named Ganymede and Celia as a shepherdess named Aliena, and together with the jester Touchstone, they escape to the Forest of Arden. They buy a small cottage on the forest's edge. One day, Rosalind begins to find the love notes Orlando has written to her. That must have been pretty weird, right? Who would hang love notes on trees in the Forest of Arden? Celia observes Orlando carving the notes and reveals this to Rosalind, who is thrilled with this discovery.

Rosalind sees Orlando coming through the woods, and decides to confront him, still disguised as Ganymede. She tells Orlando that he can't possibly be in love because he did not show physical signs such as a 'lean cheek' and a 'neglected beard' (3.2). Rosalind disguised as Ganymede tells Orlando that she can cure him of being in love if he drops by the cottage and tries to woo her, calling her 'Rosalind.' This all seems very confusing, but I suspect Rosalind wants Orlando to prove that he really loves her. Orlando visits Rosalind at her cottage on the edge of the woods, and she does put Orlando through a test of wits, finally realizing his love is genuine. Orlando says he must leave to have lunch with the Duke, but that he will be back at 2:00. But 2:00 comes, and he doesn't show up.

In a strange twist of events, his brother Oliver arrives at the cottage, instead, with an odd tale to tell. He was asleep under a tree, and a green snake had wrapped itself around his neck and was about to strike a killing blow when Orlando found him. Orlando rescues Oliver from the snake, but a lioness in the bushes nearby attacks Orlando, severely injuring his arm. Oliver is so grateful to Orlando that he repents of his evil intents and no longer wants to kill him. Orlando gives Oliver a bloody rag and implores him to find Ganymede (remember, this is Rosalind) and explain why he didn't show up by 2:00.

When Rosalind hears the story, she faints, but later says she was only pretending to faint. Meanwhile, Oliver and Celia fall in love at first sight and plan to be married the following day in the forest. Rosalind visits the wounded Orlando and vows she will produce the real Rosalind the next day for a double wedding.

In shedding her disguise, Rosalind is both happily reunited with her father, Duke Senior, and married to Orlando. Celia is also married to Oliver. In fact, two other couples are united as well in this quadruple forest wedding. Another brother of Oliver and Orlando's then arrives with the joyful news that Duke Ferdinand has returned his brother's throne, choosing rather to live in a monastery.

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