Act Three, Scene One
Duke Frederick has not been able to find Orlando at Oliver's house. As a result he tells Oliver that he has a year to find his brother and bring him back, either dead or alive. In the interim Duke Frederick seizes all of Oliver's estate and will hold it until Orlando is brought to him. Oliver comments that he never loved his brother.
Act Three, Scene Two
Orlando enters with a piece of paper on which he has written a sonnet to Rosalind. He says that he will write his love poems on the bark of the trees. Orlando then hangs his sonnet on a tree and leaves it there, commenting, "Run, run, Orlando; carve on every tree" (3.2.9).
Corin and Touchstone enter. Touchstone tells Corin what he thinks about the shepherd's life and then asks Corin if he was ever at court. Corin tells him "no" and Touchstone then says that Corin is therefore damned. He reasons that if Corin was never in court he never learned good manners, so his manners must be wicked, and if he has wicked manners then he is damned. Corin does his best to protest but cannot win the verbal battle against Touchstone.
Rosalind, dressed as Ganymede, enters reading a poem that she has found on a tree. Every other line rhymes with Rosalind and Touchstone mocks it when she is done. He then composes a poem that has the same rhyme structure but insults Rosalind by comparing her either to animals or prostitutes. He then remarks, "Truly, the tree yields bad fruit" (3.2.105).
Celia, dressed as Aliena, enters with a poem as well. She proceeds to read it and it turns out to also be addressed to Rosalind. Celia sends away Corin and Touchstone before turning to Rosalind and asking if she knows who is hanging her name on every tree. Rosalind says that she does not and then pleads with Celia to tell her. Celia finally reveals that Orlando is the man leaving all the verses.
Orlando and Jaques enter, and the two women hide in order to listen to them. Jaques tells Orlando that he would have been just as happy without his company, and Orlando says the same thing. Orlando then agrees to not mar any more trees with his writing as long as Jaques does not mar the verses by reading them unsympathetically. Jaques tells Orlando that he was seeking a fool when he met him. Orlando quips, "He is drowned in the brook. Look but in, and you shall see him" (3.2.626-263). Jaques gets up and leaves after he realizes that he has been called a fool.
Rosalind comes out and speaks to Orlando, asking him what the time is. He tells her there is no time in the forest, but she points out that time moves at different speeds for everyone. She then introduces Celia as a shepherdess and also her sister. Orlando, thinking she is a young man, remarks that she has a superb accent for a rustic man. Rosalind pretends to have had an uncle from the inland who taught her how to speak.
Rosalind tells Orlando that a man has been going around the forest ruining the trees by carving the name Rosalind on the them. He admits to being that man and asks if she knows a remedy. She tells him that he is obviously not in love with Rosalind since his cheeks are not lean, nor is he disheveled enough to be in love. Orlando swears that he is in love with Rosalind and asks her if there is a cure. She tells him she once before cured a man of his love by making the man pretend that she was his mistress. After much acting the man went truly man and ended up living a monastic life.
Orlando tells her that he does not want to be cured, but Rosalind says that if he pretends she is Rosalind she will do her best to cure him. He agrees to go to her cottage and to start calling her Rosalind.
Act Three, Scene Three
Touchstone has fallen in love with a goatherd named Audrey. She is a simpleton and does not even know what the word "poetical" means. Touchstone comments on the fact that she is chaste and good looking, but Audrey wishes that she were "foul", obviously thinking that "foul" is a term of praise. Touchstone ignores her nonsense and tells her that he will marry her. Throughout this scene Jaques is in the background watching and making sarcastic comments
Sir Oliver Martext, a vicar in the nearby village, arrives to marry them. He asks if there is someone to give away Audrey, telling Touchstone that someone must give her or the marriage is not lawful. Jaques emerges from his hiding place and agrees to give her away. However, before the wedding takes place Jaques asks Touchstone whether an educated man such as himself really wants to be married in the middle of nowhere. After listening to Jaques, Touchstone finally agrees to postpone his marriage and allow Jaques to counsel him.
Act Three, Scene Four
Rosalind and Celia are waiting for Orlando to arrive. Rosalind gets worried when he does not appear, and Celia tells her that a promise from a lover means nothing. Corin, the old shepherd, enters and tells Rosalind that he has located Silvius and Phoebe. He informs her that she can watch the two lovers together if she comes with him. Rosalind says, "Bring us to this site, and you shall say / I'll prove a busy actor in their play" (3.4.52-53).
Act Three, Scene Five
Silvius is begging Phoebe to show him some mercy and say that she loves him. She scorns his love and tells him she does not pity him for the pain he feels while loving her. Rosalind emerges from where she was watching their exchange and tells Phoebe that she is rather plain looking. She further informs Silvius that he flatters Phoebe too much for her own good. Turning back to Phoebe, Rosalind says, "down on your knees / And thank heaven, fasting, for a good man's love; / For I must tell you friendly in your ear, / Sell when you can. You are not for all markets" (3.5.58-61).
Phoebe falls in love with Rosalind in spite of her harsh words. Rosalind urges Phoebe to listen to Silvius and scorns her love. However, she does tell Phoebe where to find her house in the forest. Rosalind then leaves with Celia and Corin.
Phoebe is so enamored with Rosalind that she finally is able to empathize with Silvius. She agrees to stay and talk about love with him. Phoebe decides to write a love letter to Rosalind (whom she thinks is Ganymede). Silvius agrees to help her.
Orlando, having been seen as the silent lover of Rosalind in the first act, now progresses to the literary stage of love. He mimics the role of a Petrachian lover, a man who writes sonnets to his beloved and adores her beyond compare. Thus, we see Orlando leaving sonnets on the trees and carving Rosalind's name into every trunk. But in a sense he is only a parody of a true Petrarchian lover. After all, Orlando never really sees Rosalind or gets to speak with her, thereby invalidating everything he is writing about her. This excess of emotion is what Rosalind, now in the form of Ganymede, is going to try and stop. She will prefer a mature love that is based on speaking rather than ephemeral notions of womanly virtue.
The emotional and literary excess portrayed by Orlando is of course made fun of by Touchstone. He takes advantage of the fact that Rosalind's name is scrawled on every tree to comment, "Truly, the tree yields bad fruit" (3.2.105). Touchstone not only mimics the writing of lover's names on the trees, but once again serves as a mirror by reflecting the fact that the poems are awful. He goes so far as to make up a poem that derides Rosalind rather than praises her, a parody that clearly shows how bad the other poems are.
Act two already showed Jaques as a fool after his encounter with Touchstone. Here he is also seen to be a narcissus, a self-absorbed person. Orlando mimics him by telling him to look for the fool in a literal mirror, quipping, "He is drowned in the brook. Look but in, and you shall see him" (3.2.626-263). Jaques is slow to realize that he has been insulted here, a fact that is even more damning to his character.
One of the great fears the men have in all of Shakespeare's comedies is being a cuckold.Essentially this is a fear that once married, they will be unable to sexually satisfy their wife, and she will end up sleeping with other men. The primary image of a husband who is duped by his wife is a man wearing a bull's horns. However, underlying this fear is also the necessity of marriage as a social institution. Touchstone put is best, "As horns are odious, they are necessary" (3.3.42). Thus in spite of his intelligence, he will marry the simpleton Audrey. "As the ox hath his bow, sir, the horse his curb, and the falcon her bells, so man hath his desires" (3.3.66-67). For Touchstone this is a necessity in order for him to become a fully mature individual.
One of the characteristics of Rosalind is that she is dealing with a play that is primarily created for her pleasure. She therefore becomes the director of the play, managing all of its subplots and influencing the action. She says, "Bring us to this site, and you shall say / I'll prove a busy actor in their play" (3.4.52-53). In this sense Rosalind is like Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream. She can intervene in others' lives and play games with them. However, at the same time that she is controlling others, Rosalind is still unliberated from Celia. By being a part of the play and directing the actions of the other characters, Rosalind will achieve a liberation from Celia that will allow her to marry Orlando.
Much the way Orlando dotes on the unseen Rosalind, the love of Silvius for Phoebe is also a Petrarchian love in excess. Rosalind sees the similarity between the way Silvius and Orlando are acting and tries to cure Orlando of it. She alone realizes that a woman is not worth such an idolization given that women have flaws as well, flaws that the man will have to deal with in marriage. Thus when Phoebe scorns Silvius, Rosalind intelligently points out, "down on your knees / And thank heaven, fasting, for a good man's love; / For I must tell you friendly in your ear, / Sell when you can. You are not for all markets" (3.5.58-61). This clearly undermines the virtuous deification of women that Silvius and Orlando initially aspire to. Instead, it bluntly lays out the fact that women are human as well and that the man must know both their faults and virtues before actually marrying them.
Although it seems obvious that Rosalind is inclined towards Orlando, she still plays with the female-female relationship alluded to in the beginning. Thus when Phoebe falls in love with her she does not completely ignore Phoebe's advances. Instead, Rosalind flirts with Phoebe and tells her where her house is. This is surprising because it contradicts her very words and sets up the homosexual nature of her character. We can never be sure whether Rosalind/Ganymede prefers being a man or a woman as a result of the ambiguous sexuality that she displays.
Phoebe herself quickly becomes an inversion of the stereotypical female character. She quotes Marlowe's Hero and Leander and writes poetry with Silvius. This is of course backwards, she as the woman should be wooed with poetry, not forced to write it herself. This inversion of her sexual identity further plays into the homo-eroticism between Rosalind and Phoebe that may underline the plot.