As You Like It By William Shakespeare Summary and Analysis Act IV: Scene 1

Summary

While Celia listens to their arguing, Rosalind (still disguised as Ganymede) and Jaques banter about his melancholy; Jaques maintains that it is "good to be sad and say nothing," while Rosalind maintains that if one is sad and silent, one might as well "be a post." When Orlando finally arrives (late for his appointment), Jaques bids Ganymede goodbye. Turning to Orlando, Ganymede berates him for his tardiness, then lovingly invites him to woo Ganymede as if he were Orlando's beloved Rosalind; in turn, Ganymede will tease and taunt Orlando as if he were Rosalind. Ganymede wittily instructs Orlando thus in the wily ways of love and women. "You shall never take her without her answer, unless you take her without her tongue," Orlando is warned. At this point, Orlando says that he must leave to attend Duke Senior at dinner, but he promises to return at two o'clock. After he has gone, Celia accuses Rosalind of speaking ill of women; she suggests that perhaps Rosalind should have her doublet and hose "plucked over [her] head in order to show the world what the bird hath done to her own nest." Rosalind, in answer, says that love has made her a bit mad; she has such a love for Orlando that she cannot bear to be out of his sight. With that, she leaves and goes to "find a shadow and sigh till he come." Celia decides to take a nap.

Analysis

It is easy fun for the witty and clever Rosalind to tease Jaques, and while she does so, we should be aware that she also satirizes many Elizabethan Englishmen who traveled to the Continent acquiring affected behavior. Jaques of course, is unaware of her satirical teasing, and so he continues on in his sober manner.

Other clues as to Jaques' character are provided in this scene when Rosalind describes him as speaking with a "lisp"; to speak with a lisp meant that he spoke with an affected mannerism, probably acquired on his travels to the Continent. She also chides Jaques for turning his back, as it were, on his native country and wearing "strange suits."

Orlando's entrance here has been much discussed. Obviously, Jaques and Rosalind are downstage (near the audience) and begin moving upstage, probably when Jaques decides to leave Rosalind since she insists on talking "in blank verse," meaning in the poetic language of love. Jaques notices Orlando's entrance and acknowledges his greeting. Rosalind pretends not to notice his entrance and moves along, continuing to talk to Jaques. As they move upstage, then, Orlando moves downstage. Thus when Jaques exits, Rosalind turns and pretends surprise.

In the encounter between Ganymede and Orlando, Rosalind almost gives herself away because she is so delighted that she is being wooed by Orlando, who, of course, is unaware of her identity. It is Rosalind's utter delight that gives the scene an extraordinary depth of sweetness and gentle humor.

In the mock wedding scene, it is important to note that Rosalind's fondest wish is almost made a reality; she is putting the vows of marriage upon Orlando's lips, and she herself replies, "I do take thee, Orlando, for my husband." Even in a comedy such as this, such vows are serious. Rosalind realizes this just in time and teases Orlando that men are "like April when they woo" and that they are "December when they are wed." If she was, as Celia accused her of being earlier, harsh on women, she now turns her witty jesting toward the men. Furthermore, she warns the lovesick Orlando that she, the "Rosalind" of his dreams, will be "more jealous of [him] than a Barbary cock-pigeon over his hen, more clamorous than a parrot against rain, more new-fangled than an ape, more giddy in my desires than a monkey." All this is possible. She is every bit as in love with Orlando as he is with her. Lovers, she is saying, are a bit mad; she realizes this truth about herself, and, thus, she half-teasingly, half-seriously, promises him that Rosalind will "weep for nothing, like Diana in the fountain" and that Rosalind will weep when Orlando is "dispos'd to be merry." Rosalind-as-wife will be no soft, pliant, submissive lady. Rosalind will, in fact, be herself — high-spirited and bewitchingly exciting.

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