As You Like It abbreviated

The play is set in a mysterious community, in a mysterious land, now led by a duke who very recently has wrested control of the community from his older brother.  The community is located on the edge of a unique forest, the Forest of Arden.  Most of the play takes place in this Forest of Arden, a fantasy forest of sorts where lions attack people while sheep graze nearby, and where fools and exiled men live.  But there was a Forest of Arden near Shakespeare’s native Stratford.

Early on we learn that the late Sir Rowland de Boys, a man well respected in the community, left three sons as his descendents, all young, none married, Oliver, Jaques and Orlando.  But Oliver is the oldest and thus the beneficiary of his father’s estate. The custom of the time was known as primogeniture, a custom where the oldest son inherits the whole of his father’s estate.  Speaking to Oliver, Orlando (the youngest brother) acknowledges the primogeniture custom, saying “The courtesy of nations allows you my better, in that you are the first-born.”  Jaques, Sir Rowland’s second son, is away at school, entering only late in the play as the Second Brother and then only briefly.  As the heir to his father’s resources, Oliver abuses his inherited privileges, mistreating Orlando, and Orlando justifiably resents it.

An older man named Adam is Oliver’s servant, Oliver inheriting him from his father.  But Adam, no longer a young man, has genuine sympathy for Orlando’s plight and is looking for some adventure, figuring he has only so much time left. (Resentment, Act 1, Scene 1) Shakespeare gave Adam a very nice role, honoring him and giving him some real good lines covering the nature of people.

The de Boys live in this unnamed community, a community that had been politically controlled for some time by a Duke Senior.  But Duke Senior was recently overthrown, as we say, by his younger brother, Duke Frederick.  Along with a group of lords and others, Duke Senior has been banished to the Forest of Arden, the fantasy island of its time.  The usurped Duke Senior has a beautiful daughter, Rosalind, and she is the play’s lead.  Is she ever!  The other female lead is Celia, the usurping Duke Frederick’s daughter, therefore Rosalind’s cousin, but also Rosalind’s very good friend and confidant. As background, neither Rosalind nor Celia has brothers or sisters.  The exiled Duke Senior and Sir Rowland de Boys were friends; Duke Frederick and Sir Rowland de Boys were enemies. 

The play opens with a serious quarrel between the de Boys brothers, Oliver and Orlando.  Early on Adam comes to Orlando’s defense when Oliver tells Orlando to “be better employed, and be quiet awhile.”  Orlando responds “Shall I keep your hogs and eat husks with them?”  Responding to the comment, an angry Oliver grabs Orlando by the throat, at which point Adam enters saying “Sweet masters, be patient. For your father’s remembrance, be at accord.”  Oliver dismisses the two of them, saying to Adam “Get you with him, you old dog.”  Orlando and Adam exit.

At about this time Charles enters, Charles being Duke Frederick’s wrestler.  Charles and Oliver have a small-talk conversation, Charles letting Oliver know that he’s heard that “your younger brother Orlando hath a disposition to come in disguised against me to try a fall.”  Oliver responds that “if he do grace himself on thee, I had just as soon thou didst break his neck as his finger.” 

Rosalind anguishes over the banishment of her father; her cousin Celia comforting her, suggesting she try falling in love. The two girls hear about the planned wrestling match, Rosalind asking Celia “Shall we see this wrestling, cousin?”  Rosalind and Celia meet Orlando at the match, Rosalind asking him “Young man, have you challenged Charles the wrestler?”  Orlando responds “I come to try with him the strength of my youth.”  Celia responds “Young gentleman, your spirits are too bold for your years.”  To the surprise of everyone, Orlando throws Charles, Charles being carried off by attendants, all of which infuriates Duke Frederick.  Rosalind and Celia meet with Orlando after the match, Rosalind giving him a chain from her neck, saying “Wear this for me --- out of Fortune’s favor.”  They instantly fall for each other. (Counsel, Act 1, Scene 2)

Seriously upset with Charles’ loss to Orlando, Duke Frederick arbitrarily dismisses Rosalind from his court, having cared for her as if she were his daughter since her father’s exile.  He tells her “Mistress, get you from our court.”  Rosalind asks “did I offend your Highness?”  Duke Frederick responds “let it suffice thee that I trust thee not.”  Celia promptly tells her father to “pronounce that sentence then on me, my liege,” at which point an irrational Duke Frederick tells his daughter Celia that “she is banished.”  When Celia tells Rosalind of her falling-out with her father, Rosalind asks her “Why, whither shall we go?”  Celia answers “To seek my uncle in the Forest of Arden.”  For the sake of safety, Rosalind decides that she will disguise herself as a man, she being the taller, saying to Celia “therefore look you call me Ganymede.”  She asks Celia “What will you be called?”  Celia answers “No longer Celia, but Aliena,” now pretending to be Ganymede’s sister.  The girls leave for the Forest of Arden, but not before Celia has convinced Touchstone, Duke Frederick’s court jester, to join them on their adventure trip “to liberty, and not to banishment.” 

Adam advises Orlando that he must immediately leave the community since “your virtues are sanctified and holy traitors to you. Your brother has heard your praises, and this night he means to burn the lodging and you within it. Do not enter it.” Adam persuades Orlando to take him with him, saying “from seventeen years till now almost fourscore have lived I, but now live here no more.  At seventeen years, many their fortunes seek, but at fourscore, it is too late a week.  I have five hundred crowns, the thrifty hire I saved under your father.  Take that, and He that doth the ravens feed, yea, providently caters for the sparrow, be comfort to my age.  Here is the gold.  All this I give you.  Let me be your servant.”  (Pleading, Act 2, Scene 3) Unable to resist that request, Orlando says “We’ll go along together.”  They leave for the Forest of Arden. 

Duke Frederick seeks out Oliver, having discovered that his daughter is missing and having heard the rumor that she and Rosalind may have left the community, perhaps to follow Orlando.  His plan is to require Oliver to find his brother Orlando.  Meanwhile, Rosalind, Celia and Touchstone have left, and now find themselves on the edge of the Forest of Arden. By happenstance they meet a shepherd, Corin, who tells them that his master’s cottage, pasture and sheep are for sale.  Celia buys the property and the chattel.  Separately and independently, Orlando and Adam also have arrived in this mystical forest, famished and exhausted, particularly the almost eighty year old Adam, who says “O, I die for food.  Here lie I down and measure out my grave.  Farewell kind master.”  As Orlando leaves to find some food for the two of them, he tells Adam to “hold death awhile at the arm’s end. I will here be with thee presently, and if I bring thee not something to eat, I will give thee leave to die.”  Meanwhile, Duke Senior and his men are about to sit down to dinner when Jaques, Duke Senior’s want-to-be fool tells the duke that “I met a fool i’ th’ forest, a motley fool.  As I do live by food, I met a fool, who spoke in well composed language, and yet a motley fool.”  But we don’t know quite who the motley fool was. (Fantasy, Act 2, Scene 7)

Orlando rushes in, interrupting Jaques, saying “Forbear, and eat no more,” brandishing a sword, confronting Duke Senior and his entourage, demanding to be fed.  To his surprise, he is warmly greeted, Jaques saying “Why, I have eat none yet.”  Taken back, Orlando tells them of Adam, saying “till he be first sufficed, oppressed with two weak evils, age and hunger, I will not touch a bit.”  Duke Senior responds “go find him out, and we will nothing waste till you return.”  As Orlando exits, Jaques shares his most famous soliloquy “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” (Insight, Act 2, Scene 7) Orlando soon returns with Adam, Duke Senior saying “Welcome. Set down your venerable burden, and let him feed.”  Orlando thanks him.  Adam says “I scarce can speak to thank you for myself.” 

We then learn that Orlando has been traipsing through the forest hanging love verses written for Rosalind on the branches of bushes and trees.  A mystified Rosalind sees and reads the verses; Touchstone mocks them; Celia knows the writer.  Reading the poems, Touchstone says “This is the very false canter of verses. Why do you infect yourself with them?”  Rosaline snaps back, “Peace, you dull fool. I found them on a tree.”  Touchstone responds “Truly, the tree yields bad fruit.”  Celia says “Can you guess who hath done this?”  Rosalind asks “Is it a man?”  Celia says “And with a chain, that you once wore, about his neck.”  And Rosalind asks “I prithee, who?  Nay, but who is it?”  Celia shouts “O wonderful, wonderful, and most wonderful, and yet again wonderful, and after that out of all whooping!” Celia tells her who he is.  Rosalind says “How looked he?  Did he ask for me?  Answer me in one word.” Orlando soon enters. Rosalind, disguised as Ganymede, greets him and brings up the matter of the love verses. Ganymede says to him that “there is a man haunts the forest that abuses our young plants with carving ‘Rosalind’ on their barks, hangs odes upon hawthorns, all, forsooth, deifying the name of Rosalind.  If I could meet that fancy-monger, I would give him some good counsel.” Orlando says “I am he that is so love-shaked.  I pray you tell me your remedy.”  Rosalind as Ganymede says “Love is merely a madness. I profess curing it by counsel.”  He says “I would not be cured, youth.” (Enchantment, Act 3, Scene 2) And she says “I would cure you if you would but call me Rosalind and come every day to my cottage and woo me.”  He says “I will. Tell me where it is.”  She says “Go with me to it, and I’ll show it you.”  He says “With all my heart, good youth.”  And she says “Nay, you must call me Rosalind.”

Touchstone has met and fallen for Audrey, a goat-keeper.  They hope to marry.  Orlando re-enters and again lets Ganymede know how much he loves Rosalind.  Rosalind as Ganymede insists he call her Rosalind as she acts out her plan.  Separately the too-meek Silvius, the apprentice to the shepherd Corin, has fallen for Phoebe, a shepherdess.  But Phoebe treats him poorly, saying such things like “Now I do frown on thee with all my heart, and if mine eyes can wound, now let them kill thee.”  Rosalind, overhearing Phoebe berate Silvius, enters the conversation as Ganymede and sternly lets Phoebe know that she should “thank heaven for a good man’s love” and that “you should sell when you can; you are not for all markets.” Accepting the harsh criticism, Phoebe instantly falls for Ganymede, falling for his strength and boldness.  Ganymede tells her “I pray you, do not fall in love with me, for I am falser than vows made in wine.”  Nonetheless, Phoebe tells Silvius she’ll write to Ganymede letting him know her feelings for him and that “thou shalt bear it.”  And he does. (Infatuation, Act 3, Scene 5)

Rosalind holds another counseling session with Orlando. At the end of the session he exits, promising to return by two o’clock that afternoon. (Love, Act 4, Scene 1) Rosalind confides in Celia that she is head-over-heels in love with Orlando, telling her “O coz, coz, coz, thou doth know how many fathom deep I am in love.”  But Orlando is late for his pre-determined, time-certain date with Rosalind, and she is crushed.  Celia doesn’t help her much.  Meanwhile Silvius enters with the letter from Phoebe to Ganymede; the letter that lets him know of Phoebe’s love for him.  Ganymede tells Silvius to “go your way to her, for I see love hath made thee a tame snake.”  As Silvius exits, Oliver enters, having been absent from the play for three acts, telling the two of them that he is on a mission from Orlando, asking the girls if they know about the “cottage fenced about with olive trees” and if they know of “that youth he calls his Rosalind.”  Rosalind quickly says “I am. What must we understand by this?”  Oliver then proceeds to tell them how he was threatened by a lioness and that Orlando saved him from certain death, but that Orlando was seriously injured in the doing, the reason his brother missed the two o’clock meeting.  (Shock, Act 4, Scene 3) Rosalind as Ganymede faints, overwhelmed as she is by the story.  When she recovers, she embarrassingly claims that the fainting was just an act.  Oliver tells her “you lack a man’s heart.”  She says “I do. I confess it.”  As Oliver exits, Rosalind as Ganymede asks him “to commend my counterfeiting to your brother.” 

Oliver instantly fell for Celia as Aliena, having kept his eye on her as he was telling the two young women of the story of his seriously injured brother.  When he returns to Orlando, Oliver tells him that “I love Aliena” and asks his brother to consent to their marriage and that “my father’s house and all the revenue that was old Sir Rowland’s will I estate upon you, and here live and die a shepherd.”  Events then move even more quickly.  With his arm in a sling, Orlando agrees that Oliver and Aliena may be married the next day, their father being deceased and Jaques being away at school.  With all the confidence in the world, Rosalind as Ganymede later tells Orlando to “put on your best array; for if you will be married tomorrow, you shall, and to Rosalind, if you will.” (Love, Act 5, Scene 2) She proceeds to tell Phoebe she’ll marry her “if ever I marry a woman,” but firmly suggests to her that she turn her full attention to Silvius.  Skillful Rosalind as Ganymede causes all four parties to be prepared to be married the next day, drawing in her father, he still unaware that Ganymede is his daughter.  Rosalind is at her very best here.  As Ganymede, she asks her father, who as we say still doesn’t recognize her, that “if I bring in your Rosalind, you will bestow her on Orlando here?”  He responds “That would I, had I kingdoms to give with her.”  The next day Rosalind and Celia, no longer masquerading, enter the forest as they really are.  Duke Senior rejoices in being with his daughter and his niece. Orlando cries “You are my Rosalind.”  All four couples are married, the men being Oliver, Orlando, Silvius and Touchstone.  The Second Brother, Jaques, enters to say that Duke Frederick has returned the crown to his older brother, Duke Senior.  At the end, Duke Senior says “all will share in the good of our returned fortune.”  (Counsel, Act 5, Scene 4)