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As You Like It

As You Like It Summary


Here you will find a As You Like It summary (William Shakespeare's book).
We begin with a summary of the entire book, and then you can read each individual chapter's summary by visiting the links on the "Chapters" section.

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Last Updated: Monday 1 Jan, 2024

As You Like It Summary Overview

Following the death of Sir Rowland de Bois, his eldest son Oliver inherits the majority of his estate, per the tradition of primogeniture. Despite his father's counsel to provide for his younger brother, Orlando, Oliver spitefully denies him the education and property befitting a gentleman. When Charles, a court wrestler, hears that Orlando plans to challenge him to a fight, he implores Oliver to intervene. However, Oliver manipulates Charles into believing Orlando is a dishonorable sportsman, leading Charles to promise to thrash Orlando, much to Oliver's delight. Simultaneously, the court experiences its upheaval as Duke Frederick usurps his brother, Duke Senior’s throne, forcing him to take refuge in the Forest of Ardenne with loyal followers. Fortunately, Duke Frederick allows Duke Senior’s daughter Rosalind to stay at court due to her close bond with his daughter, Celia. The situation takes a dramatic turn when Rosalind and Celia witness the wrestling match between Orlando and Charles, where Orlando emerges victorious and captures Rosalind's heart. Following the match, Orlando learns of Oliver's plot against his life and flees to Ardenne. In an unexpected twist, Duke Frederick banishes Rosalind from court, prompting her, Celia and the court jester, Touchstone, to escape to Ardenne. For safety purposes, Rosalind disguises herself as a young man named Ganymede, and Celia as a shepherdess named Aliena. In Ardenne, Duke Senior happily embraces the simple forest life. When an exhausted Orlando and his loyal servant Adam appear in search of food, Duke Senior welcomes them warmly after learning Orlando is the son of his old friend. The disguised Rosalind (Ganymede) and Celia (Aliena) also make their way to the forest, where they meet a lovestruck shepherd, Silvius. Rosalind later encounters Orlando, who confides his love for Rosalind to Ganymede. Taking advantage of the situation, Rosalind promises to cure Orlando of his lovesickness, leading to an intricate game of love and disguises. This game culminates in a grand wedding ceremony officiated by the god of marriage, Hymen, where Ganymede (Rosalind) and Orlando, Aliena (Celia) and Oliver, Phoebe and Silvius, and Audrey and Touchstone are married. The festivities are only interrupted by the news of Duke Frederick's change of heart and decision to return the throne to Duke Senior, adding a cherry on top of the joyful occasion.

act 1 scene 1

Orlando, youngest son of the late Sir Rowland de Bois, shares his woes with the former loyal servant, Adam. Since his father’s death, he's received a meager inheritance of 1,000 crowns, which isn't much for a man of his status. His only chance of improving his situation lies in his brother, Oliver, who inherited most of their father's estate, providing him with a proper education. But instead of fulfilling their father's wishes, Oliver denies Orlando an education, treating him like an animal. Tired of his poor treatment, Orlando confides in Adam about his growing resentment towards his subservient life. When Oliver arrives, the tension between the brothers escalates into a physical fight. Orlando challenges the inheritance system that favors the eldest son, arguing it doesn't lessen the worth of the other sons. The brothers ignore Adam's attempts to make peace. Orlando, stronger than Oliver, demands that Oliver either treat him properly or give him his rightful share of their father's wealth. In his anger, Oliver reluctantly agrees to give Orlando a portion of his inheritance and sends both him and Adam away, calling Adam an “old dog” (I.i.69). Soon after, Oliver's servant Denis brings in Charles, the court's wrestler, who's been waiting to speak to Oliver. Oliver inquires about the court's news, learning from Charles that Duke Senior has been overthrown by his younger brother, Duke Frederick, and has fled to the Forest of Ardenne with his loyal followers. Duke Frederick doesn't interfere with them since they've given up their land and wealth. Upon knowing that Duke Senior's daughter, Rosalind, remains at court, Charles shares that Duke Frederick loves her like his own daughter and that she shares a close bond with the duke's daughter, Celia. Charles then reveals his concern about Orlando planning to compete in a wrestling match at the court, disguised. He worries about causing harm to Orlando due to his aggressive wrestling style. Despite Charles's plea to prevent Orlando from participating, Oliver portrays Orlando as a deceitful trickster, convincing Charles that Orlando might resort to unfair means. Charles vows to retaliate, while Oliver, satisfied with Charles's response, schemes to ensure Orlando competes in the match.

act 1 scene 2

Rosalind is upset due to her father, Duke Senior's, exile. Her cousin Celia tries to make her feel better, promising that she will pass on the throne to Rosalind when the current holder, Duke Frederick, dies. Grateful, Rosalind agrees to be less sad and they both engage in a playful conversation about the influence of "Fortune" and "Nature" on one's life (I.ii.26–47). Their talk is cut short by the court jester, Touchstone, who humorously shares a story about a dishonorable knight. The arrival of Le Beau, a fashionable courtier, stirs their interest with news of a wrestling match involving the formidable wrestler, Charles. The wrestling contenders enter along with Duke Frederick and a crowd from the court. He greets Rosalind and Celia warmly, then notes the risk faced by Charles's young opponent. He proposes that the ladies discourage the young man from wrestling. After agreeing to do so, they find out the contender is Orlando. Regardless of their efforts, he refuses to back down, implying that he has nothing left to lose. Astonishingly, Orlando outmatches and beats Charles. Duke Frederick, stunned, asks Orlando his name. On learning that Orlando is the youngest son of his sworn foe, Sir Rowland de Bois, the duke regrets his identity. Rosalind and Celia quickly express their admiration and Rosalind reveals how much her father respected Orlando's. This interaction leaves Orlando and Rosalind enamored, though they both hesitate to admit their attraction. Following the ladies' departure, Le Beau informs Orlando that despite his admirable performance and behavior, Duke Frederick will not commend him. Le Beau further warns that the Duke might soon lose his temper. This, coupled with his instant infatuation for Rosalind, prompts Orlando to plan an escape from Duke Frederick's oppressive reign.

act 1 scene 3

Rosalind finds herself smitten with Orlando, much to Celia's surprise. However, their conversation is interrupted by Duke Frederick, who orders Rosalind to leave the court immediately, accusing her of treachery. He threatens her life if she is spotted within a twenty-mile radius of the court. Rosalind is shocked and maintains her innocence, but the duke is unmoved. He merely tells her that being her father's daughter is sufficient reason for her banishment. Celia tries to defend Rosalind but Duke Frederick remains unswayed. He criticizes Rosalind's demeanor and tells Celia her beauty and virtue would be more apparent without Rosalind around. Undeterred, Celia resolves to leave with Rosalind, stating that the duke has effectively banished her as well. They plan to find Duke Senior in the Forest of Ardenne, but acknowledging the risks of two wealthy, attractive ladies journeying alone, they opt for disguises: Celia as a shepherdess named Aliena and Rosalind as a young man named Ganymede. They also decide to enlist Touchstone, a jester, for their travels.

act 2 scene 1

Duke Senior, exiled in the woods, shares with his companions his appreciation for the forest life over the superficial glamour of court life. He insists that life in Ardenne is safer, with their biggest concern being the chilly wind. He considers the woods a place for conversation, learning, and spiritual upliftment, as he sees expressions in trees, wisdom in brooks, teachings in stones, and goodness all around. Lord Amiens concurs with him. Duke Senior proposes a deer hunt, although he pities the deer, the rightful inhabitants of Ardenne, who are brutally killed. Another lord shares that the gloomy Lord Jaques holds a similar sentiment and even accuses Duke Senior of unlawfully taking more than his own brother, Duke Frederick. Unfazed, Duke Senior asks his man to fetch Jaques for a lively debate.

act 2 scene 2

Duke Frederick is livid when he finds out about the sudden vanishing of Celia, Rosalind, and Touchstone from court. The idea that they slipped away without anyone realizing astounds him. A lord in attendance shares a piece of information: Celia’s lady-in-waiting once heard Celia and Rosalind praising Orlando. Thus, it's possible that Orlando might be with the women wherever they are. Seizing this lead, Frederick orders that Oliver be brought in to seek his brother.

act 2 scene 3

Orlando arrives back at his old residence, met by his servant, Adam. Word of Orlando's win over Charles has reached their ears, and Adam, fearing that his young master's courage may lead to his undoing, pleads with him not to enter Oliver's house. According to Adam, on hearing of Orlando's victory, Oliver intends to set Orlando's sleeping place ablaze to harm him. Adam cautions him: “Abhor it, fear it, do not enter it” (2.3.29). Orlando ponders his future, considering that he may be forced to become a common highway thief without a home. Adam proposes that they hit the road with the small savings he has accumulated over the years. Orlando, moved by Adam’s steadfast loyalty, consents.

act 2 scene 4

Rosalind, Celia, and Touchstone, having safely reached the Forest of Ardenne, take a break due to fatigue. Their rest is cut short by two shepherds, Corin and Silvius, who are engrossed in their conversation about Silvius's unrequited love for Phoebe, a fellow shepherdess. They fail to acknowledge the presence of the three travelers. Corin, who boasts about his multiple love affairs, attempts to counsel Silvius. But Silvius, believing that Corin can't comprehend his profound feelings, walks away. When Rosalind, Celia, and Touchstone consult Corin about a resting site, he admits that his master's humble estate is on the market. Consequently, Rosalind and Celia opt to purchase the land.

act 2 scene 5

In the Forest of Ardenne, Amiens is singing a tune, requesting his audience to join him "[u]nder the greenwood tree" (2.5.1) where the only enemies are "winter and rough weather" (2.5.8). On hearing the song, Jaques urges Amiens to continue. However, Amiens is reluctant, believing the song might make Jaques sad. But Jaques dismisses the warning, stating he can "suck melancholy out of a song as a weasel sucks eggs" (2.5.11–12). The other lords present are arranging Duke Senior's meal while Amiens ends the song. Jaques adds his own verse to the same song, which he wrote, criticizing those who abandon their comfort and wealth to live in the forest. Amiens then goes to call the duke for dinner.

act 2 scene 6

Orlando and his trusty retainer, Adam, make their way into the Ardenne Forest. Adam is fatigued and nearing his limit, voicing concerns of dying from starvation. However, Orlando promises to secure him some sustenance. Despite his worry about leaving Adam in "the bleak air", Orlando decides to search for food. Before embarking on his quest, he ensures Adam is settled in a sheltered location.

act 2 scene 7

Duke Senior discovers Jaques is missing upon getting back to camp. His worries escalate on hearing from a lord that Jaques was last noticed in an unusually joyful mood, as Jaques is typically morose. The duke orders the lord to locate Jaques, who shows up soon after, strangely cheerful. He shares how he happened upon a jester in the forest, whose clever comments on Lady Fortune have inspired him to want to be a fool. According to Jaques, this role would enable him to express his thoughts candidly, with his critique serving as a curative for "the foul body of th’infected world" (2.7.60–61). Duke Senior however cautions him about the sinfulness of chastising others for faults he himself possesses. Suddenly, the light-hearted dispute is disrupted as Orlando storms in, brandishing his sword and asking for food. The duke questions Orlando's impoliteness, attributing it to either urgency or poor upbringing. Once Orlando calms down, he's invited to join the feast. Orlando excuses himself to bring Adam. The duke, in his absence, remarks on the universal nature of unhappiness and discontentment, with Jaques responding that life is a stage and "all the men and women merely players" (2.7.139). He outlines the life stages all humans pass through: infancy, childhood, adulthood, love, honor-seeking, eventual decline in old age, and eventual "mere oblivion" (2.7.164). When Orlando reappears with Adam, everyone starts eating. The duke soon identifies Orlando as the offspring of his old friend Sir Rowland, and warmly welcomes him.

act 3 scene 1

Oliver faces the duke's disappointment as he fails to track down Orlando. Duke Frederick imposes a harsh ultimatum: Oliver must find Orlando within twelve months or risk losing all his possessions. The duke banishes Oliver, taking over his estate and assets until Orlando is brought to court.

act 3 scene 2

Orlando, totally smitten, scatters self-composed poems about Rosalind throughout the Forest of Ardenne. He hopes people will read them and admire her virtues. But when Corin and Touchstone come across the poems, they're too caught up in a debate on court versus country life to take note. Rosalind, in her Ganymede disguise, stumbles upon one of Orlando's writings. These verses liken her to a precious gem. Touchstone teases her by making fun of the verse and suggesting he could write something similar. He spins out verses that compare Rosalind to a love-struck cat, a prickly rose, and a loose woman. Rosalind scolds him for his interference. Celia, disguised as the shepherdess Aliena, also discovers one of the poems and reads it. Although they agree the poetry is terrible, Rosalind is keen to know who wrote them. Celia toys with her, holding back the truth until Rosalind is busting with curiosity. When she finally discloses that Orlando is the poet, Rosalind is in disbelief and bombards Celia with questions about him. As they chat, Orlando and Jaques appear. The women hide and listen to the men's conversation, which is full of prickly comments. Jaques finds Orlando's romantic feelings annoying, while Orlando scoffs at Jaques's gloominess. When Jaques wanders off, leaving Orlando alone, Rosalind seizes the opportunity to talk to him. Pretending to be Ganymede, she informs him about someone who has been tagging the name Rosalind on the trees and Orlando confesses it's him. Ganymede/Rosalind declares she can cure him of love, only if he promises to court Ganymede as if he were Rosalind. She pledges to make love seem unattractive by acting like an unpredictable lover. Orlando doubts he can be cured, but Rosalind/Ganymede insists she can, if he calls her Rosalind and courts her daily. Orlando wholeheartedly accepts the deal.

act 3 scene 3

Touchstone and Audrey, a local goatherd, stroll in the woods, with Jaques secretly trailing them. Touchstone wishes Audrey had a greater appreciation for poetry, as he believes this would equip her with the skill to appreciate lovers' lies and encourage her to be less honest, a trait he desires in her. He draws a comparison between the combination of beauty and honesty to "honey a sauce to sugar" (3.3.25). He's set up a wedding with Audrey, with Sir Oliver Martext, a nearby village's vicar, presiding over the ceremony. He acknowledges the commonality of wives' infidelity but suggests that embarrassment about this is unnecessary. As the ceremony is about to commence, Oliver Martext insists someone "give the woman" to legitimize the event (3.3.55–58). Jaques steps forward and persuades Touchstone to have the wedding in a proper church. Touchstone initially argues that a less formal marriage will make it easier to abandon his spouse if need be, but eventually agrees. The scene ends with Jaques, Touchstone, and Audrey deserting a confused vicar in the forest.

act 3 scene 4

Rosalind, disguised as Ganymede, is upset when Orlando doesn't turn up for their scheduled meeting and she feels like crying. She likens Orlando's hair to Judas's, the betrayer of Christ. Celia, however, convinces her that Orlando's hair is darker, helping her come to terms with the idea that Orlando isn't a traitor. Still, Celia hints that Orlando might be untrustworthy in matters of love, comparing a lover's pledge to a bartender's promise. Their conversation is cut short by Corin's entrance. He informs them that Silvius, a young shepherd they had previously overheard lamenting about love, has made up his mind to court Phoebe. Corin invites the women to watch this futile love pursuit and the disdainful response of the one being pursued. Intrigued, Rosalind decides not just to observe but to also meddle in the unfolding situation.

act 3 scene 5

Silvius professes his affection for Phoebe, yet she remains indifferent and cold. He implores her to not be as ruthless as the “common executioner” who seeks mercy from his victims. Nearby, Rosalind and Celia, still under their disguises, along with Corin, watch Phoebe's harsh reaction. Phoebe ridicules Silvius's exaggerated claims, questioning why he's not collapsing if her gaze is as lethal as he suggests. Silvius maintains that love's injuries can't be seen, to which Phoebe commands him to stay away until she can experience these unseen hurts. At this point, Rosalind reveals herself, rebuking Phoebe for not appreciating Silvius's affection since she isn't particularly attractive herself. When she is sternly addressed by the seemingly attractive young man (Rosalind in disguise), Phoebe promptly develops an infatuation for Ganymede. Seeing this, Rosalind teases Phoebe even more. Rosalind and Celia leave the scene, leaving Silvius, the eloquent lover, to assist Phoebe in her pursuit of Ganymede. Phoebe denies having feelings for Ganymede, puzzled as to why she didn't counter the criticism. She decides to write Ganymede “a very taunting letter,” tasking Silvius with its delivery.

act 4 scene 1

Jaques seeks to know disguised Rosalind, alias Ganymede, better. However, Rosalind takes issue with his excessive gloominess. As Jaques notes, “’tis good to be sad and say nothing,” Rosalind likens such behavior to being “a post” (4.1.8–9). Despite Jaques’ defense about the distinctness of his sorrow, Rosalind outsmarts him and he leaves. Orlando shows up late for his love tutorial. He proceeds to treat Ganymede as Rosalind and apologizes for his delay, which Rosalind rejects. She argues true lovers should never waste “a part of the thousand part of a minute in the affairs of love” (4.1.40–41). Rosalind compares his love to that of a snail, slow yet carrying his home on his back. Eventually, she softens and asks Orlando to court her. During the lesson, she urges him to reserve his kiss for moments of awkward silence. Orlando is worried about the denial of a kiss, but Rosalind assures him that such rejection gives new topics for discussion (4.1.69–70). When Rosalind rejects him, Orlando threatens to die, to which she replies that no man has ever died from love. Rosalind shifts her attitude, adopting a “more coming-on disposition” (4.1.96). She reciprocates Orlando's love and requests Celia to act as a priest and marry them. She warns Orlando that women can become unpleasant after marriage, which Orlando dismisses. He requests leave to join Duke Senior for dinner, assuring her of his return within two hours. Rosalind teases him for leaving but warns him not to be late. After Orlando's exit, Celia criticizes Rosalind for her negative portrayal of women. Rosalind retorts by expressing her profound love for Orlando, stating that only Cupid can understand the extent of her affection.

act 4 scene 2

Jaques along with a group of Duke Senior's adherents kill a deer and decide to give it to the duke. Their idea is to place the deer's horns on the hunter's head as a victory symbol. Jaques prompts the men to sing a song suitable for the event. The group breaks into a melody about infidelity, represented by a man wearing horns on his head. The song asserts that infidelity is an age-old occurrence experienced by all men, hence, it's not a matter of disgrace.

act 4 scene 3

Rosalind and Celia, still in their disguises, briefly mention Orlando's delay. Two hours have already passed and he hasn't come back to continue his romance lessons. Suddenly, Silvius delivers a letter to Ganymede from Phoebe. He warns Rosalind, in disguise as Ganymede, that the letter contains harsh words. Phoebe was visibly upset when she wrote it. Rosalind reads it and finds that Phoebe thinks poorly of Ganymede, considering him unattractive and rude. She blames Silvius for writing the letter, but he denies it. She states that no woman would write such a letter, and to prove her point, she reads it aloud. To her surprise, the letter is filled with romantic comparisons of Ganymede to a god who has broken Phoebe’s heart. Confused, Silvius asks if this is what Ganymede considers a scolding. Celia expresses sympathy for him, but Rosalind disagrees, saying he deserves none for loving Phoebe, who she thinks ill of. She tells Silvius to relay her message to Phoebe that Ganymede will never love her unless she loves Silvius. As Silvius departs, Oliver comes in, asking for directions to Ganymede and Aliena's house. He then inquires if they are the siblings who live there, which they confirm. Oliver comments that Orlando's description of them was very precise. He hands Ganymede a bloody handkerchief from Orlando, which prompts Rosalind to ask what has happened. Oliver tells a detailed story. Shortly after leaving Ganymede, Oliver fell asleep in the forest. A snake was attempting to attack him when Orlando scared it off. But a lioness came out of nowhere. Orlando recognized that the sleeping man was his brother. Despite their tumultuous relationship, he couldn't let Oliver die and fought off the lioness, getting injured in the process. This act of bravery has made Oliver regret his past wrongdoings and he confessed feeling guilty about his past behaviors. They reconciled and went to see the duke, where Orlando fainted due to blood loss from his injury. Before fainting, he gave Oliver the bloody handkerchief to deliver to Ganymede as an apology. On hearing this, Rosalind faints. Celia and Oliver help her up. Oliver comments that Ganymede lacks courage. Rosalind asks him to tell Orlando how well she pretended to react to his injury, sticking to their lessons. Oliver insists that her reaction was real because her face turned red, but Rosalind assures him that she was just acting.

act 5 scene 1

Touchstone and Audrey are in the forest, discussing why they didn't get married. Despite Jaques' opinion, Audrey believes the priest could've officiated their wedding. Touchstone tells Audrey about a young man in the forest who is in love with her. This young man, named William, shows up and confirms his love for Audrey and his lack of education when questioned by Touchstone. Touchstone attempts to teach him a lesson, asserting that Audrey, his fiancée, is off-limits to others. He uses various expressions to make sure William understands and leaves. Corin comes in after William leaves to pick up Touchstone and Audrey for Rosalind.

act 5 scene 2

Orlando struggles to accept that his brother Oliver has fallen deeply in love with Aliena so swiftly. Oliver, however, asserts his feelings and promises to transfer his entire inheritance to Orlando after his marriage to Aliena. Having received Orlando's approval, they plan a wedding for the next day. When Orlando is left alone, Rosalind, still in her Ganymede disguise, comes in. Orlando shares his mixed feelings - joy for his brother's newfound love and sadness for missing Rosalind. Upon Rosalind's proposition, Orlando accepts that playing lover's games with Ganymede is not the same as Rosalind. Rosalind assures him that she can perform magic to make his wish come true; he will wed when Oliver marries Aliena. Soon, Phoebe and Silvius join them. Phoebe criticizes Ganymede for being unkind, but Rosalind nudges her towards Silvius. Amidst the ensuing love declarations, Rosalind, tired of their laments, likens them to "Irish wolves against the moon". She puts forth a condition - if Ganymede were to marry a woman, it would be Phoebe. She asks them all to gather for the upcoming wedding the next day. All parties agree, and they part ways until the wedding celebration.

act 5 scene 3

Touchstone and Audrey are set to get married and both are eager for the big day. Audrey, however, is worried that her keenness doesn't disrupt her virtue. They cross paths with two pages of Duke Senior. In high spirits, Touchstone requests a song. The pages perform a song about spring and blossoming love. Once the song concludes, Touchstone criticizes it, claiming it made no sense and that the tune was off. The pages don't agree with Touchstone's critique, but he stands firm in his view that the song was utterly ludicrous.

act 5 scene 4

Upon the next day, Duke Senior quizzes Orlando about his faith in Ganymede's promises. Oliver, Celia pretending to be Aliena, Amiens, Jaques, and others are present, hoping to witness a slew of weddings. Rosalind, dressed as Ganymede, appears with Silvius and Phoebe, restating the earlier commitments: the Duke will consent to Orlando and Rosalind's marriage, and Phoebe will wed Ganymede, unless she changes her mind, in which case Silvius will be her groom. Everyone concurs and Rosalind, along with Celia, retreats into the woods. Meanwhile, Duke Senior and Orlando comment on Ganymede's striking similarity to the Duke's daughter. Touchstone and Audrey join the festivities, with Touchstone amusing the crowd with a tale of a past argument. After their comic interlude, Rosalind and Celia reappear, sans disguises and escorted by Hymen, the marriage god. Phoebe, understanding her paramour is actually a woman, agrees to marry Silvius. Hymen unites four couples in matrimony: Orlando and Rosalind, Oliver and Celia, Phoebe and Silvius, and Touchstone and Audrey. A grand wedding feast ensues. In the midst of this, Jaques de Bois, brother to Oliver and Orlando, arrives with news: Duke Frederick had intended to attack Duke Senior, but was instead converted to pacifism by a priest. Even more, Frederick has given up his throne to his brother and has sought a monastic life. The crowd is elated with the news of their return to court, except for Jaques who chooses a monastic life as well. The merriment carries on, with everyone but Rosalind leaving the stage.


Rosalind takes center stage, acknowledging that a woman delivering the epilogue violates theatrical norms. However, she insists the play benefits from it, requesting the audience's understanding. Unlike a beggar, she won't ask for their approval but will "conjure" them (Epilogue, 9). She first addresses the women, hoping they enjoyed parts of the play "for the love [they] bear to men" (Epilogue, 10–11). She extends this request to the men, stating that if she were a woman—given that men played all women's roles in Renaissance theatre—she'd kiss all the good-looking, clean men. She's confident they'd reciprocate with applause as she bows.

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