As You Like It by William Shakespeare Act 3 Summary

As You Like It by William Shakespeare Menu

3.1 – In Duke Frederick’s palace.

Duke Frederick has summoned Oliver, and demands that Oliver find his brother Orlando and bring him to Frederick. He tells Oliver that he is seizing all Oliver’s land and property until Orlando is produced, and that if Oliver cannot find his brother within a year, he will be banished from Duke Frederick’s realm forever. Oliver vainly protests that he did not help Orlando escape and does not know where he is, since he never loved his brother in the first place. But Duke Frederick icily criticizes him for saying such a heartless thing, and turns him out of the palace.

Scene 3.2 – In the Forest of Arden.

Orlando walks into a clearing in Arden Forest and hangs a love poem upon the branches of a tree. He has been writing poetry in praise of his beloved Rosalind, and announces his plan to hang poems on branches and carve verses into the bark until every tree is covered with poetry in her praise.
Orlando goes off to find more trees, and Touchstone comes in accompanied by Corin the shepherd, who is asking him how he likes forest life. Touchstone replies with his usual contradictions and puns. When he half-jokingly criticizes Corin for never having been at court, however, Corin seriously responds that he does not believe he’s missed anything; after all, country ways may seem silly to fine courtiers, but the manners that people use at court would be just as inappropriate in the country. For instance, courtiers are always kissing their hands to their superiors, and shepherds could never do this – they’re always handling their sheep, and it would be unsanitary! To this Touchstone has no reply.
Suddenly Rosalind – in disguise as “Ganymede” – walks into the glade, reading aloud a poem. It is one of Orlando’s poems, which she has plucked from a tree, and it is in praise of the virtues of Rosalind. (Of course, Rosalind knows the poem is about her, and so does Touchstone; but Corin knows her only as the boy named “Ganymede,” and has no idea who “Rosalind” might be.) The verses are very silly, and Touchstone promptly rattles off some parodical lines making fun of them – they are much funnier than Orlando’s lines and are mildly obscene. The annoyed “Ganymede” yells at him.
Celia comes in, reading another of Orlando’s poems, which she has also found on a tree. She tells Touchstone and Corin to go away, and they do, leaving her alone with Rosalind. Alone, the girls make fun of the poems together, and then Celia coyly asks Rosalind if she knows who hung them on the trees. When she discovers that Rosalind does not, she teasingly reveals who the writer is – the young man who wears Rosalind’s chain around his neck! (Rosalind gave Orlando this chain in Scene 1.2.) Rosalind is practically overwhelmed, for she is helplessly in love with Orlando, and bombards Celia with questions. When Celia teases her for it, Rosalind says that although she is dressed as a man, her heart and tongue are still a woman’s: she is overwhelmed by her feelings and must speak them aloud.
Celia points out that Orlando himself is now coming back into the glade, so Rosalind can satisfy her curiosity for herself. The two girls hide themselves to watch. Orlando enters, accompanied by Jacques. The two are holding a polite but acidic conversation: Jacques begs Orlando not to damage any more trees by carving poetry in their bark, and Orlando begs Jacques not to read any more of his poems aloud in a funny voice. They spar verbally for a while – Jacques calling Orlando a fool for being so much in love, and Orlando just calling Jacques a fool- and when Orlando refuses Jacques’ invitation to sit down with him and complain about the miserable state of the world, the insults degenerate quickly, and Jacques leaves in a huff.
Rosalind decides to approach Orlando and speak to him like a bold young man, since this is the only way she can think of to get closer to him. Still in her boy’s clothes, and now behaving like her male persona of “Ganymede,” she approaches Orlando and impresses him with her quick wit as she makes rapid-fire puns and metaphysical commentary about the passing of time. Impressed and clearly intrigued, Orlando asks this “pretty youth” where “he” lives; in response to Orlando’s comment that his accent is more refined than that of most people who live in the forest, “Ganymede” explains that he had an uncle who taught him fair speech – and who also taught him to hate women for their many faults, and never to act like or fall in love with one. When Orlando asks “Ganymede” to tell him some of these bad things about women, “Ganymede” explains that he’s saving that information for one person in particular: “Ganymede” wants to find the poor fool who’s littering the forest with love poems to some woman named “Rosalind,” and to help him snap out of it.
Orlando confesses that he is the one who is in love with Rosalind, and “Ganymede” offers to cure him of his “lunacy.” “Ganymede” explains his method for curing men of love – which, he claims, he has successfully used before: “Ganymede” will pretend to be Orlando’s beloved, and Orlando must come to court him daily and call him by Orlando’s beloved’s name – in this case, “Rosalind.” “Ganymede” will behave as – so he says – women do when they are being courted: he will be “moonish” and hysterical, tearful and unpredictable, demanding and hysterical, clingy one moment and cruel the next. This, he says, will remind Orlando of what women are really like, and will cure him of his crazy desire to actually win his Rosalind. (“Ganymede” also adds that boys are also like this when they are being courted, leaving the question open as to which gender Orlando is meant to think of “Ganymede” as being.)
“Ganymede” promises that his method will work to cure Orlando of love: the last man he used it on was driven half crazy, swore off women forever, and went to live as a monk. At first Orlando refuses, but “Ganymede” softly pleads with him to come by “Ganymede’s” house every day and court him like a woman, swearing he can cure Orlando’s misery. Orlando suddenly changes his mind and agrees, and the delighted “Ganymede” invites him to come along with him so “Ganymede” can show him where he lives; at the same time, he wants to know where Orlando makes his home. And from now on, he reminds Orlando, Orlando must not call him Ganymede, but “Rosalind.” Along with Celia (still in disguise as “Ganymede’s'” sister “Aliena”), the two head off to “Ganymede” and “Aliena’s” house.

Scene 3.3 – In the Forest of Arden.

Touchstone comes into a glade accompanied by a new character: Audrey, a shepherdess/goatherder, whom Touchstone is courting. It is quickly apparent that Audrey is none too bright, for she doesn’t even understand some of the simple words Touchstone uses, like “features” and “poetical” – and she certainly doesn’t understand his fast, complicated puns. Jacques, who has followed them and is now observing from a distance, comments to himself on Touchstone’s swiftness of thought. Touchstone himself is disappointed that Audrey is not more intelligent, for he finds it depressing that she never gets his jokes. He also wishes she were not so “honest” – that is, chaste – for if she wasn’t, he would be able to sleep with her more easily.
However, Touchstone plans to marry Audrey, and for that purpose he has called Sir Oliver Martext – the vicar, or country priest, from a nearby village. Touchstone rattles on to himself for a while, making meaningful and pun-filled ruminations on marriage – including comparisons between the “horns” of deer and goats, and the “horns” which he says husbands often wear. (In the Renaissance, horns were a universally understood symbol which indicated that a man was a cuckold – that is, someone whose wife was sleeping around on him.)
Sir Oliver Martext arrives, but the wedding is held up because there is no one there to give away the bride. Jacques finally comes out of hiding and offers to participate. Touchstone greets him warmly, reminding him of their earlier meeting in the forest (which Jacques told Duke Senior about in Scene 2.7). But Jacques sternly points out that Sir Martext is not a very well-educated vicar, and that getting married in the woods might not be legal; Touchstone should take Audrey to a real church and find a proper clergyman. Touchstone, privately, is disappointed about this, for he had rather been hoping that the marriage would actually turn out to be illegitimate – then he would have a good excuse if he wanted to leave Audrey later. But, as he explains to Jacques, he must give in to his human desires and needs; just as horses have reins that they must yield to, so he must marry Audrey to have female companionship. They go off to find a real church, and a better priest.

Scene 3.4 – In the Forest of Arden.

Near their house, Rosalind and Celia are walking together. Rosalind is crying, and Celia begs her not to – after all, tears are not appropriate for a young “man” like “Ganymede.” But Rosalind is unhappy because Orlando has apparently broken his promise to come by and pay court to “Ganymede”: he has missed the time of his appointment. The two girls alternately praise Orlando’s handsomeness and mock his untrustworthiness; but the unhappy Rosalind is afraid that Orlando’s failure to show up for “Ganymede’s” cure means that he is no longer in love with Rosalind after all.
Rosalind mentions that she ran into Duke Senior in the forest yesterday. When he asked her (as “Ganymede”) who her father was, she answered that he was someone as good as the Duke himself, and the Duke laughed and let the matter drop. (Of course, the Duke doesn’t know that Rosalind really is his daughter, in disguise as a man. Rosalind and Celia have not offered any good reasons for not yet revealing their real identities to Duke Senior, except that they seems to be having fun with their disguises.)
Corin approaches the two women – addressing them as “master and mistress,” of course, since to him they are “Ganymede” and “Aliena” – and invites them to come with him and see a sight. He reminds them that they have often asked about the love-lorn shepherd they saw when they first came to the forest. (This is Silvius, who was seen in Scene 2.4). It seems that Silvius is trying to court his beloved right now, but she is rejecting him with great scorn and pride. “Ganymede” and “Aliena” decide that they have to see this, and agree to go with Corin.

Scene 3.5 – In the Forest of Arden.

Silvius, the hapless shepherd, is pleading with a shepherdess named Phoebe to take pity upon him. He insists that he will die without her love, and that when she is scornful towards him, she is more cruel than any executioner. Phoebe answers, sounding frustrated as well as scornful: she tells Silvius that she doesn’t want to hurt him, but she does not and never will love him. She says angrily that it’s ridiculous for him to compare her eyes to murderers, and other such poetic exaggerations – and to prove the point, she scowls at him ferociously, and demands of him whether or not he has actually just dropped down dead. It is clear that Silvius and Phoebe have been having arguments just like this one for a long, long time; by this point, Silvius is desperate for Phoebe’s love, and Phoebe is maddened because Silvius won’t accept her rejection and leave her alone.
Rosalind, Celia, and Corin have quietly stolen in to watch the scene. Finally, Silvius warns Phoebe that some day she, too, will know the pain of being unrequitedly in love; she haughtily answers that when that happens, he may laugh at her as she now laughs at him. Rosalind, unable to sit by quietly any longer, suddenly springs up and strides forward to yell at Phoebe and Silvius. She – or, rather, “he,” for Rosalind is as usual disguised as “Ganymede” – tells Phoebe that Phoebe is not nearly as beautiful as she thinks she is, and that it is a foolish pride which makes her scorn the love of this honest shepherd. “Ganymede” advises Phoebe to accept Silvius’ offer, for not many other people would want her.
But Phoebe reacts strangely to “Ganymede’s” insults. She stares at “him” with an odd intensity, and begs him to keep on insulting her; she says that she’d rather listen to him shout at her than listen to Silvius compliment her. “Ganymede,” correctly interpreting the symptoms, says in astonishment that just as Silvius has fallen in love with Phoebe’s ugliness, Phoebe seems to have fallen in love with “Ganymede’s” anger. “Ganymede” warns Phoebe not to love him, since he is dishonest and is not what he seems – “I am falser than vows made in wine,” he says – and adds that he will never return her love. But then, in the same breath, “Ganymede” tells Phoebe where his house is, as if inviting her to pursue him. Urging Silvius to keep trying and telling Phoebe she had better take Silvius’ offer, “Ganymede” gathers up Corin and “Aliena”/Celia, and leaves.
But Phoebe cannot forget “Ganymede” so easily. She has fallen in love at first sight: even though the young “man” was insulting her the whole time, Phoebe’s heart has been stolen by the sharpness of “his” wit, the fairness of his skin his graceful height, the shapeliness of his legs, and even the arrogant, manly way he wears his own pride and scornfulness. Talking half to herself and half to Silvius, Phoebe tries to decide whether she loves or hates the young man (it doesn’t seem like much of a contest). She winds up deciding she will write “Ganymede” a “very taunting” letter, which presumably will serve the purpose both of insulting him and of letting him know of her love. Turning to Silvius, she repeats that she doesn’t love him, but adds that since he knows how to talk about love, she has some work for him to do, if he’s willing to help her with it and not expect anything more. Silvius replies that his love is so pure, he’d do anything for Phoebe.