As You Like It Summary and Analysis
Act Five, Scene One
Touchstone and Audrey are still together. Audrey is anxious to get married and Touchstone promises they will soon find someone who can perform the ceremony. He then asks her about another man who claims her. Before Audrey can speak the other man, named William, enters.
He is a polite man who is in love with Audrey. After being polite for a short while, Touchstone orders him to leave Audrey and allow her to marry him instead. He threatens to kill William if he should try to approach Audrey again. William leaves and Corin arrives and tells them that Rosalind orders them to come to her.
Act Five, Scene Two
Oliver has fallen in love with Celia at first site. Orlando is amazed by this, asking his brother, "Is't possible that on so little acquaintance you should like her?" (5.2.1-2). Oliver is so excited that he even promises to give Orlando all of his estate so that he may remain in the country with Celia (whom he thinks is Aliena). Oliver further announces that he plans to get married the next day.
Orlando consents to the marriage but feels heavy hearted because he misses Rosalind. She arrives, still pretending to be Ganymede, and Oliver leaves in order to allow his brother to speak with her. They both remark on how fast Celia and Oliver fell in love, but Orlando comments, "I, how bitter a thing it is to look into happiness through another man's eyes" (5.2.38-39). He complains that in spite of his brother's happiness, he will be depressed the next day during the wedding because he wants to be with Rosalind. Rosalind asks him, "tomorrow I cannot serve your turn for Rosalind?" (5.2.43-44). In a turning point in the play, Orlando tells her, "I can live no longer by thinking" (5.2.45).
Rosalind tells Orlando that she can perform seemingly magical things. She promises that if he consents, she will arrange it so that he can marry Rosalind the next day at the same time Oliver and Celia get married.
Silvius and Phoebe arrive together. Phoebe is still in love with Ganymede (Rosalind) and Silvius still loves Phoebe. Rosalind tells Phoebe to look at Silvius and love him instead. Phoebe turns to Silvius and asks him to inform Rosalind of what it is like to love. He replies, "It is to be all made of sighs and tears" (5.2.74). All of the various lovers agree with him, naming the person they love. Rosalind finally gets fed up with the nonsense and emotional excess around her. She turns to each of them and orders them to show up tomorrow, promising that she will make sure they all get married.
Act Five, Scene Three
Touchstone and Audrey are commenting on how wonderful the next day will be when they get married. Two of Duke Senior's pages arrive and Touchstone asks them to sing a song for him. They do, after which he gets up and comments that it was a waste of time to listen to such a foolish song.
Act Five, Scene Four
Duke Senior is gathered with all of his men, Orlando, Oliver and Celia. The Duke asks Orlando whether he believes Ganymede will be able to do everything he said he would. Orlando tells him he can only hope it is true.
Rosalind arrives with Phoebe and Silvius. She then asks the Duke if he will marry his daughter Rosalind to Orlando if she can make Rosalind appear. He agrees that he will. Orlando further agrees to marry Rosalind if she shows up. Phoebe has meanwhile promised that she will marry Ganymede, but that if she should refuse to marry Ganymede then she will accept Silvius as her husband. Rosalind and Celia then disappear in order to change their appearances.
Touchstone and Audrey arrive, and Jaques remarks, "There is sure another flood toward, and these couples are coming to the ark" (5.4.35-36). Touchstone then discourses on the proper etiquette about challenging someone to a duel. He makes fun of the procedures, naming seven degrees of accusing someone of lying before a duel must be fought. Touchstone finishes his discourse by explaining how using the word "if" can settle all disputes.
Once Touchstone is finished, Hymen, the god of marriage, enters with Rosalind and Celia. Hymen rhymes every line and gets all four couples to join together. They are all married at once.
Jaques De Bois, the middle brother of Orlando and Oliver, shows up to inform them that Duke Frederick had gathered an army and planned to round up all the men in the forest. However, on the way there he met a religious man and was converted. Duke Frederick resigned his crown and returned it to Duke Senior, choosing instead to join a monastery. Jaques, the melancholy character, decides to leave the woods and spend time with the newly converted Duke. Orlando becomes the heir to the entire Dukedom as a result of his marriage to Rosalind.
Act Five, Epilogue
Rosalind performs the Epilogue and tells the audience that she hopes they enjoyed the play. She then makes a pointed reference to the fact that "If [she] were a woman" (5.Epilogue.14-15) she would kiss the men present. This reference to the fact that a male is playing her role is unusual. Rosalind ends the play with a curtsy and bids the audience farewell.
The brutishness of the court when transplanted into the countryside is again made apparent in the final act. Touchstone sends William away from Audrey and threatens his life. This is an inversion of the stereotype that brutality comes in from the country, not the other way around. William is even excessively polite in spite of the threats that Touchstone makes toward him, undermining the necessity of the threats in the first place..
The true turning point for Orlando and Rosalind is when Oliver and Celia fall in love. The reason is that Celia now leaves Rosalind and shifts her focus onto Oliver. The love at first site of Oliver and Celia even causes Orlando to exclaim, "I, how bitter a thing it is to look into happiness through another man's eyes" (5.2.38-39). Rosalind asks him, "tomorrow I cannot serve your turn for Rosalind?" (5.2.43-44). Orlando tells her, "I can live no longer by thinking" (5.2.45). This last line marks the true turning point. Orlando can no longer live by thinking, by imagining that Ganymede is his Rosalind. He instead is ready to have the real Rosalind for his wife and therefore refuses to play the game with Ganymede. Understanding this, Rosalind immediately promises to arrange for Orlando to marry her the next day.
One of the most unusual scenes is where Silvius, Phoebe and Orlando tells Rosalind what it is like to be in love. Silvius describes it as, "It is to be all made of sighs and tears" (5.2.74). This is again the overdone love that Rosalind avoids, she is too wise for this excess. However, Orlando is not yet past this point. He willingly mimics the other two by inserting Rosalind's name after each phrase. Rosalind eventually gets fed up with this entire production and orders them to stop.
Shakespeare pokes a great deal of fun at the institution of marriage at the very end. He introduces the character of Hymen, the god of marriage, into what has turned into four marriages. Jaques alone seems to realize how funny and pathetic this is, "There is sure another flood toward, and these couples are coming to the ark" (5.4.35-36). He sees the scene for what it is, a ceremony in which the characters are herded, two by two, into the ark of marriage.
A strong theme that emerges at the end is the language of wanting. In fact, this theme has always been present, but never to such a blatant degree. The title itself suggest the act of wanting, "As You Like It". Touchstone is the character who makes it obvious in his speech about lying and dueling. He indicates the many uses of "if" to avoid a duel, stating that "Your if is the only peacemaker" (5.4.91). The "if" represents the possibilities that are inherent in each situation, "if I bring...you will bestow" (5.4.6-7), "you'll marry me if I be willing?" (5.4.11), "you'll have Phoebe if she will" (5.4.16). Each of these "ifs" indicates another possible outcome to the play, a different path other than the one that is eventually chosen.
The Epilogue is unique because it is done by Rosalind in her woman's clothes. This makes As You Like It the only Elizabethan play known where a woman ends the play. Rosalind thus goes from a woman to a man, and reemerges as Rosalind for her wedding. However, to confuse the plot even more, Shakespeare makes her point out the fact that she is only a male playing a female role, "If I were a woman" (5.Epilogue.14-15). This breaking down of the sexual boundaries results in forcing the audience to confront their own sexuality and to question whether it is as absolute as assumed.
As usual in a Shakespearian comedy there are excluded characters at the end, namely Jaques and Adam. However, this ending is inclusionary. Rosalind mentions all the men and women present, thereby breaking down the barrier between the stage and the audience. Where the play at first excluded Jaques, Adam and Orlando's father, they are now all included again. This serves to further draw the audience into the play and make the themes present more a part of everyday life rather than an anomaly seen on stage.
As You Like It Essays and Related Content
- As You Like It: Essays
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- William Shakespeare: Biography
- As You Like It Summary
- About As You Like It
- Character List
- Summary and Analysis of Act 1
- Summary and Analysis of Act 2
- Summary and Analysis of Act 3
- Summary and Analysis of Act 4
- Summary and Analysis of Act 5
- About Shakespearean Theater
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