As You Like It

As You Like It is one of Shakespeare's "marriage" comedies in which love's complications end in recognition of the true identity of the lovers and celebration in marriage. This teacher's guide includes discussion questions, activities, and guidelines for teaching the play.
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As You Like It

by William Shakespeare


Shakespeare seems to be everywhere these days. Romeo and Juliet and Midsummer Night's Dream, starring contemporary movie stars, have been box office hits. The film Shakespeare in Love, depicting how the playwright's experiences inspired him to write Romeo and Juliet, won multiple Oscars at the 1999 Academy Awards. These popular films have made the plays more accessible to students by exposing them to Elizabethan language and the action that brings the words to life. So teachers can expect a certain amount of positive interest among students when they begin to read a Shakespearean play. As You Like It, although not well known by students, will certainly delight and build on students' positive expectations.

As You Like It, like Twelfth Night and A Midsummer Night's Dream, is one of Shakespeare's "marriage" comedies in which love's complications end in recognition of the true identity of the lovers and celebration in marriage. This is a pattern still followed in today's romantic comedies. This play can lead to discussions of the nature of true love versus romantic love.

Other themes, which spin off from the duality between the real and unreal, include appearance versus reality, nature versus fortune, and court life of sophisticated manners contrasted with the natural life. All of these ideas are within students' experiences allowing for immediate responses and interesting discussions.

This guide includes a variety of activities and discussion questions to stimulate students' reactions and responses to the play before they begin to read, while they are reading, and after they have read the play.

Teachers should choose the activities which best meet students' needs and interests.

List of Characters by Relationship

The Court:
Duke Frederick - Usurped the throne from Duke Senior
Celia - Daughter of Duke Frederick
Rosalind - Cousin to Celia, niece to Duke Frederick, daughter to Duke Senior
Touchstone - Clown of the court

Sons of Sir Rowland de Boys:

Oliver - Eldest son
Jaques - Middle Son who appears in the final scene
Orlando - Youngest son who loves Rosalind
Adam - Servant to Oliver who follows Orlando to Arden

Forest of Arden:
Duke Senior - Eldest brother of Duke Frederick
Amiens and Jaques - Two Lords attending Duke Senior
Aliena - Celia's name in Arden
Ganymede - Rosalind's name in Arden
Corin and Silvius - Two shepherds
Phebe - Shepherdess Silvius loves
Audrey - Country girl Touchstone loves


Act I, scene i
As the play begins Orlando complains about his brother's failure to give him the education that befits his station in life as a gentleman. In this opening, Shakespeare introduces themes of nature versus fortune and appearance versus reality. When Oliver, the older brother, comes out to speak with Orlando, they quarrel and fight.

Oliver strikes Orlando, and Orlando grabs him by the throat. Adam, an old servant of the family, steps between the two brothers, and is called an "old dog" by Oliver for his pains. Orlando demands either to be allowed to live as a gentleman or to receive his inheritance so he can seek his fortune in the world.
Oliver hopes to get rid of Orlando and keep the inheritance by inciting Orlando to fight the Duke's expert wrestler, Charles, at court. When Charles warns Oliver to keep his brother at home, Oliver slanders Orlando, saying he's stubborn and foolhardy and will be a menace to Charles unless he is severely beaten in the match.

Act I, scene ii
At the Duke's palace, Celia urges her cousin Rosalind not to be sad while Rosalind laments that it is difficult to forget about her father who has been banished. To take their minds off their problems, Rosalind suggests they make a game of love, but Celia suggests that they should rail at Fortune instead.

Touchstone, the Court Fool, calls Celia to her father, but soon they are engaged in word play about the common and meaningless use of oaths since so many swear by an honor they do not possess. LeBeau, a courtier, arrives with news of the wrestling match at the court and how Charles, the Duke's wrestler, has cracked the ribs of three brothers. Now another bout is about to begin just at the place where the two girls are standing.
Duke Frederick, Celia's father and Rosalind's uncle, asks the girls to dissuade the young and inexperienced Orlando from fighting, but he is determined to wrestle the champion. The women are impressed with his words and wish him success.

In the match Orlando throws Charles who is so winded he cannot speak when Orlando says he wants to have another round. Duke Frederick is impressed with Orlando until he learns that he is the youngest son of Rowland de Boys, his enemy and friend of Rosalind's father. Celia and Rosalind congratulate Orlando, and Rosalind gives him a chain to wear as a token of her esteem. Orlando is so charmed with Rosalind that he cannot speak when she addresses him.

LeBeau returns to urge Orlando to leave the court as the Duke has become angry and may do him some harm. Orlando asks who the two women were and learns that one is Rosalind, daughter of the usurped Duke. Le Beau also tells Orlando that lately the Duke has begun to be displeased with his niece, mainly because he is jealous that the people praise her goodness. Orlando plans to return home but his mind is on "heavenly Rosalind!"

Act I, scene iii

Celia sees that Rosalind is distracted and thinking about Orlando. They joke about her sudden affection, and Celia wonders how it is possible that Rosalind could fall in love so quickly.

Just then Duke Frederick walks in and orders Rosalind to leave the court. She is banished or will face death. When Rosalind asks for reasons, the Duke answers that he no longer trusts her and fears she will prove a traitor like her father. His answers to Celia, however, make it clear he is jealous of Rosalind. She is also a reminder of how he treated his own brother, the true Duke.

Celia loves Rosalind so much that she will not continue to live in the court without her and proposes that they should go to find her uncle, Rosalind's father, in the Forest of Arden. Fearful of the danger they would face as unprotected women, Rosalind suggests that she should disguise herself as a soldier. They choose new names to reflect their changed natures. Rosalind will now be Ganymede, the name of Jove's page, and Celia will be Aliena, which means "the estranged one." As they leave to make preparations, Rosalind decides to take along the Clown as a traveling companion and Celia readily agrees.

Act II, scene i
In the Forest of Arden, Duke Senior celebrates the simplicity of their new way of life, free of the customs and intrigues of the court. He is only sorry that they must kill the deer, "native burghers" of the woods in order to eat. Jaques, one of Senior's lords, is so saddened by the death of a deer that he weeps and sermonizes about how badly they are treating the animals of the woods.

Act II, scene ii
Meanwhile at the palace Celia and Rosalind are missing. Duke Frederick sends for Orlando's brother to make him help in the search.

Act II, scene iii
Orlando is returning to his home when he is warned by Adam, a faithful servant, not to trust his brother who is so jealous that he means to burn Orlando's house in the night. Adam gives Orlando his savings and asks to be his servant in his exile. He boasts that even though he is old (almost eighty) he will serve as well as a much younger man. Orlando is touched by his loyalty, so unlike the ambitions and expediencies of most people.

Act II, scene iv
Rosalind disguised as Ganymede, Celia as Aliena, and Touchstone are wandering in the Forest of Arden, exhausted and weak. Two shepherds, Corin and Silvius, come near the travelers. Silvius is telling the older man how much he loves his mistress, more than Corin could have ever loved a woman. Rosalind is reminded of her own wounded heart.

When Rosalind asks Corin if there is any shelter or food to be had in the area, he reports that he is poor but knows of a cottage and some land that is for sale. The travelers decide to purchase the place so they can stay in this place for awhile.

Act II, scene v

In another part of the forest, Amiens sings a sad song while Jaques begs him to sing again even though it makes him melancholy. He has avoided the Duke all day, preferring his solitary contemplations of nature.

Act II, scene vi

Adam and Orlando enter the woods at another place. Adam is so hungry and tired that he fears he will die. Orlando begs him to hold on a little longer while he seeks for food and shelter.

Act II, scene vii

Duke Senior is still looking for Jaques who suddenly appears before the company, excited that he has met a fool in the forest who spoke with great wisdom about fortune and man's life. Jaques wants to be like this fool, to freely speak whatever he pleases and to point out the folly of men.

Orlando comes upon the company with his sword drawn, demanding food, but Duke Senior invites him to eat what he needs. Orlando is ashamed that he acted so violently. He takes some food to feed Adam while Duke Senior and Jaques comment on the misfortunes of life.

Later Duke Senior reveals his identity. He realizes that Orlando is the son of his faithful retainer Sir Rowland, and he desires to hear how Orlando came into such misfortune.

Act III, scene i

Back at the palace, Duke Frederick banishes Oliver and seizes his fortune and lands until he delivers up his brother.

Act III, scene ii
Orlando hangs verses written in praise of Rosalind on the trees while Corin and Touchstone try to outdo each other to show their wit. Rosalind (disguised) and Celia (Aliena) enter reading some of the verses written by Orlando. Celia wonders if Rosalind can guess the identity of the poet. When she reveals that she has seen Orlando in the woods, Rosalind is upset. She wants to see Orlando but how can she let him see her when she is dressed as a man?

Orlando and Jaques pass by the women. Jaques complains that Orlando is marring the trees with his verses, and Orlando complains that Jaques recites them in a poor manner. Both men want to be left alone.

Rosalind decides to use her disguise to speak with Orlando and tease him. When Orlando admits he is the poet who has covered the trees with his verses, Rosalind counters that he does not have the signs of a person who is lovesick. She says she can cure him of love if he will call her Rosalind and woo her every day. At first Orlando is reluctant, but then he thinks that he will have an opportunity to prove his love.

Act III, scene iii
Touchstone has met a simple country girl, Audrey, and woos her while Jaques, unobserved, comments on Touchstone's foolishness. Touchstone has engaged a vicar, Sir Oliver Mar-text, to wed him and Audrey in the forest. However, when Jaques questions him, Touchstone decides he's not in the mood to be married after all.

Act III, scene iv

Rosalind and Celia wait on Orlando who has failed to meet them at the appointed time. Rosalind thinks he is a true lover while Celia criticizes him as false and changeable. Corin arrives to invite them to view the spectacle of his friend wooing his disdainful mistress. Rosalind goes willingly so she can see what other lovers are going through.

Act III, scene v

Silvius pleads with Phebe not to be harsh with him even if she cannot find it in her heart to love him. Phebe contends that love cannot really hurt a person. Because she has never experienced what Silvius is going through, she has no pity for him.

When Rosalind upbraids Phebe for her hardheartedness, Phebe falls in love with Rosalind. Now Phebe, like Silvius, knows the hopelessness of unrequited love, so she finds his company more acceptable since he understands how she feels. Also Phebe wants him to deliver a letter to Rosalind since he knows her. Phebe pretends she doesn't love Rosalind, but she recalls details about her appearance, showing she has been deeply smitten.

Act IV, scene i
Rosalind meets Jaques in the forest, and they talk about why he is so melancholy. When Orlando arrives late, Rosalind chides him but then asks him to woo her as if she were truly his Rosalind. He agrees so he can pretend to talk to his love.

Orlando says he would die if Rosalind did not love him, while Rosalind says there are no cases where anyone has died for love. Then in another mood, Rosalind calls on Celia to marry the two of them in a mock wedding. Then she wonders if Orlando will love her forever as wives are so changeable and difficult.
When Celia complains that Rosalind has abused women in her "play," Rosalind says she can't help herself. She is so deeply in love.

Act IV, scene ii
Jaques and the other lords sing about the deer they have killed. They place the deer's horns on the head of the hunter.

Act IV, scene iii
Silvius brings the note to Rosalind from his love, Phebe. He thinks it must be a nasty note, judging from Phebe's manner when writing it, but it turns out to be a complaint of love. Rosalind orders Silvius to tell Phebe that Rosalind will never love her unless Phebe loves Silvius.

Oliver comes in with a bloody handkerchief searching for Celia and Rosalind. He tells how Orlando found him sleeping beneath a tree, threatened by a snake and then a lion. Orlando recognized his brother Oliver, who had treated him so shamefully, but he couldn't leave him to be eaten alive. He fought the lion and saved Oliver. The brothers reconciled and went to the Duke where Orlando fainted from a flesh wound he had received in the fight. He sent Oliver to Celia and Rosalind to make his excuses for not keeping the meeting with them. On hearing this news, Rosalind faints.

Act V, scene i
Touchstone and Audrey encounter William, Audrey's old beau. Touchstone demands that he relinquish all claims to her. Hearing Touchstone's wild speech, William is eager to get away.

Act V, scene ii
Oliver and Celia have fallen in love and are to be married the next day. Rosalind describes to Orlando the quick progression of stages that led them to marriage. While happy for his brother, Orlando is also heartsick that he cannot enjoy his own love. Rosalind, claiming to have magical powers, promises that Orlando also will wed his love tomorrow.

Phebe describes the state of being in love and Silvius and Orlando agree with her on every count. Rosalind promises all their needs will be fulfilled the next day and bids them to all meet together.

Act V, scene iii

Touchstone promises to marry Audrey tomorrow. Two pages sing a song of love.

Act V, scene iv
Everyone meets together in the forest, and all promise Rosalind to fulfill their oaths to marry. While she goes out, Touchstone enters with Audrey to join the other couples.
Rosalind and Celia enter with Hymen, the god of marriage, and all the confusions are revealed and four couples agree to marry.

Jaques de Boys, the second son of Sir Rowland, arrives to announce that Duke Frederick has had a religious conversion and returned the throne to Duke Senior. This welcome news now provides a backdrop for the merriment of the wedding festivities. But Jaques decides to learn more about the Duke's conversion and so bids all well-deserved happiness. The play ends with dancing and a speech by Rosalind that the audience applaud the play according to how much they love the ladies or the men.

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