As You Like It

As You Like It Summary and Analysis of Act 4

Act Four, Scene One

Rosalind, dressed as Ganymede, meets with Jaques for the first time. He explains that he prefers to be melancholy because he has seen the world and his ruminations on what he has seen make him sad. Rosalind tells him that she prefers a fool to keep her merry than experience (from traveling) to make her sad. Orlando arrives and Rosalind says goodbye to Jaques.

Orlando approaches her and calls her Rosalind. She chides him for being an hour late and accuses him of not really being in love. Rosalind finally tells Orlando that she is in a good enough humor to allow him to woo her. He tells her he would rather kiss her than speak to her, but she asks Orlando what he would do if she refused. He claims he would die of love. Rosalind laughs at his naivete and tells him no man has ever died of love since the earth began.

Orlando finally asks her if she will love him. Rosalind says she will and asks her sister Celia (still disguised as Aliena) to pretend to marry them. Orlando takes her hand and they perform a mock wedding ceremony. Rosalind then asks him how long he plans to love her. Orlando claims "for ever and a day" (4.1.123). Rosalind replies, "men are April when they woo, December when they wed" (4.1.124-125). She then gives Orlando a lecture about the way that women really act once they are married.

Orlando is forced to leave her and meet the Duke for dinner, but he promises to return that afternoon. She warns him not to be late this time or she will consider him unworthy to call her Rosalind and pretend she is his lover. After Orlando departs, Celia tells Rosalind that she has slandered the entire female sex the way she is treating Orlando. Rosalind laughs and admits that she is deeply in love with him but cannot yet reveal who she is.

Act Four, Scene Two

One of the Duke's lords has just killed a deer. Jaques, opposed to killing animals (see Act Two), tells the men present that they should present it to the Duke. He then makes the lords sing a hunting song which describes them wearing the deer's horns, a sign of cuckoldry.

Act Four, Scene Three

Rosalind is waiting for Orlando to meet her but he is late again. Silvius instead arrives and hands her a letter that he claims Phoebe wrote. He denies knowing what the letter says other than that its tone is angry, but Rosalind does not believe him. Finally she takes out the letter and reads it in front of Silvius. The letter is a love poem and does not chide her in the least. Instead Phoebe declares her love for Rosalind. Silvius is taken aback by the contents of the letter. Rosalind, feeling sorry for him, sends him back to Phoebe with the message that Phoebe must love Silvius or she (Rosalind) will never love Phoebe.

Oliver, Orlando's older brother, shows up and asks if the women can tell him how to get to Rosalind's house. He is still searching for Orlando whom Duke Frederick ordered him to bring back to court. He asks if they are the owners, and Celia admits that they are. Oliver then presents Rosalind, whom he thinks is a man, with a bloody handkerchief that Orlando asked him to give.

Oliver tells Rosalind that while he was asleep in the forest, Orlando happened to come across him sleeping under an oak tree. A large green snake had curled herself around Oliver's neck and was about to enter into his open mouth. When Orlando arrived it uncurled itself and crept into some bushes. Under those bushes a lioness lay waiting, her udders nursed dry, thereby making her ferociously hungry. Orlando, having seen all this, approached his older brother.

Orlando almost left his brother sleeping there but instead chose to battle the lioness and kill her. Oliver woke up at the noise of Orlando fighting and realized that his brother had saved his life. He immediately regretted ever trying to kill Orlando. Orlando took Oliver to the Duke's cave and made sure his brother received hospitality. Orlando then fainted from loss of blood and Oliver had to bind up his brother's arm. Once Orlando woke up again, he asked Oliver to take the handkerchief to Rosalind and tell her the story. Rosalind faints once Oliver presents her with the handkerchief.

Celia calls Rosalind, "Ganymede, sweet Ganymede!" until she wakes up. Oliver tells Rosalind that she does not have a man's heart. She admits as much, but asks him to tell Orlando that she faked fainting. Oliver says that it was too real to have been faked and tells her to fake being a man a little more. He finally leaves her to return to Orlando and tell him how she reacted to the story.


One of the great problems for all the characters in As You Like It is the fact that they need to have sustainable happy marriages. Rosalind points out the problem when she tells Orlando that, "men are April when they woo, December when they wed" (4.1.124-125). This issue of sustaining the fervor with which the married couple loves one another is crucially tied up with the ability to know the virtues and faults of the other person ahead of time. Thus Rosalind takes the time to make Orlando bond with Ganymede. This serves as a way to break his silence towards Rosalind. Not only is the silence gotten rid of, but Rosalind is able to profit from the excesses of the other lovers such as Silvius and Phoebe. Having seen their romantic excess, Rosalind will work to cure Orlando of the same problem.

Part of the underlying themes in the play focus on the danger and attraction of the female. This is more apparent than ever before when Orlando comes across Oliver with a female snake around his neck, about to enter his mouth. Having frightened the snake away, Orlando must next fight a female lioness and spill his own blood in the process of defeating it. Only once the female animals have been beaten back can Oliver and Orlando be reunited as brothers. Indeed, this entire scene may indicate the real reason that Orlando was forced to flee from Oliver's house. It is likely that Oliver was jealous of Orlando, who is obviously stronger (evidenced by his choking of Oliver in the first act). This jealousy could be bound up in the issue of marriage, meaning that Oliver was afraid Orlando would be able to marry into a higher social class and thereby achieve dominance over his brother.