As You Like It by William Shakespeare Act 4 Summary

As You Like It by William Shakespeare Menu

Scene 4.1 – In the Forest of Arden.

Rosalind, Celia, and Jacques are walking together in Arden Forest, with Rosalind and Celia in their disguises as “Ganymede” and “Aliena.” Jacques would like to get to know “Ganymede” better, but Rosalind/”Ganymede” is not impressed by Jacques’ melancholy ways and perpetual depression.
Orlando enters, since it is his appointed hour to court “Ganymede.” Jacques, who does not get along well with Orlando (as the two discovered in Scene 3.2), leaves. Orlando now begins to address “Ganymede” as “Rosalind,” and to compliment “him” as if “he” were the woman Orlando loves. (This is part of the agreement they made in Scene 3.2 – that Orlando will pretend to court “Ganymede” in order to help him fall out of love with the absent Rosalind. Of course, this has led to a ludicrous tangle: in this scene Orlando is pretending that the handsome boy he knows as “Ganymede” is really his beloved Rosalind, but, as Rosalind and Celia know, “Ganymede” really is Rosalind in disguise! At this point Rosalind is a girl pretending to be a boy pretending to be a girl, and Orlando is romantically courting somebody whom he believes to be a boy – but is pretending, for the moment, to think of as a girl.)
Rosalind – now in two layers of disguise, as Rosalind/”Ganymede”/”Rosalind” – scolds Orlando for having arrived late to his appointment. “Teaching” him in the ways of love, she changed moods quickly, instructs him in how to speak to a woman, and then undercuts his romantic sighing by sharply reminding him, in a well-known and often-quoted speech, that no one has ever really died of love. Then the two become more intimate: when Orlando pleads with Rosalind/”Ganymede”/”Rosalind” to love him and marry him, she tells him that she will. Rosalind then urges the uncomfortable Celia to act the part of a priest and pretend to marry them. Orlando and his “beloved” enact the ritual of a marriage, and then Rosalind swiftly tells Orlando that after marriage people change: he should not idealize his Rosalind too highly, for he will find her very difficult when he is really married to her, and she will certainly never stop talking or using her sharp wit. But despite all this, Orlando will not back down from his claim to love his Rosalind.
Orlando tells Rosalind/”Ganymede”/”Rosalind” that he must leave for two hours, to be with the Duke for dinner (the afternoon meal). Rosalind lets him go, but only after making him swear up and down to return at exactly two o’clock in the afternoon. After Orlando leaves, Celia tells Rosalind that she has been unfair to all womankind in her speeches to Orlando, but Rosalind is not paying attention: she is too obsessed by her love for Orlando. They go off to seek the shade of a tree: Rosalind says she will sigh longingly under it until Orlando returns, and the practical Celia says she’ll take a nap.

Scene 4.2 – In the Forest of Arden.

Jacques and Duke’s Senior’s lords have been out hunting in the forest, and have killed a deer. They decide to make a ceremony out of presenting it to the Duke. To accompany this, the men sing a strange hunting song, which describes the honor of the victorious hunter, and refers to the myth of “horns”: the old idea that a man whose wife was cheating on him – that is, who was a cuckold – wore horns like those of a deer. The song suggests that all men, throughout all history, have worn the cuckold’s horns.

Scene 4.3 – In the Forest of Arden.

Rosalind/”Ganymede” is complaining to Celia/”Aliena” about Orlando’s lateness: it is now past two, and he has not returned. Suddenly, Silvius enters in search of “Ganymede,” bringing “him” a letter from Phoebe. (This must be the letter which Phoebe decided to write at the end of Scene 3.5.) Opening it, “Ganymede” acts shocked at how rude and insulting Phoebe’s words are. But when “Ganymede” reads the letter aloud, we hear that the letter actually contains Phoebe’s love-lorn praises of “Ganymede’s” beauty, and her requests for “him” to return her love. Silvius is clearly hurt by hearing this, and Celia pities him, but “Ganymede” says Silvius does not deserve pity – not if he’s foolish enough to love a woman like Phoebe! He returns the letter to Silvius, giving him a message for Phoebe: if Phoebe really loves “Ganymede,” then she should do as he wishes – and that is to love Silvius instead of him.
Just as Silvius is leaving, Oliver enters – the first time we have seen him since Scene 2.2 – looking for “Ganymede” and “Aliena.” Oliver hands the surprised “Ganymede” a handkerchief stained with blood, and recounts an astonishing story: Less than an hour ago, Orlando, walking in the forest, came across a ragged man sleeping under a tree. He saw a snake about to bite the man, but the snake was startled by Orlando’s approach and slithered away – only to crawl under a bush near which a lioness was waiting for the man to awake, so she could kill and eat him. Orlando nearly abandoned the sleeping man, but finally his noble nature caused him to turn back and battle the lioness, saving the man’s life. Finally, Oliver reveals the tale’s two great secrets: that he himself was the man under the tree, and that he is none other than Oliver, the wicked brother they have so often heard Orlando curse!
In reaction to the astonishment of Rosalind/”Ganymede” and Celia/”Aliena,” Oliver assures them that he has changed. Finishing his story, he relates how the two brothers had a tearful reunion, and how Orlando brought Oliver back to the Duke’s cave with him. But it turned out that during his battle with the lioness, Orlando had been badly wounded in the arm. That was how his handkerchief had been stained with blood. Even as he had fainted, Orlando had cried out the name of Rosalind, and had sent Oliver to bring the blood-stained token to the “boy” whom he called his Rosalind, in order to try to explain why he had broken his promise to meet “her.”
Overcome with emotion, Rosalind/”Ganymede” faints. Oliver and Celia bring him around, and “Ganymede” tries to look cheerful and pretend he did it on purpose, as part of his courting game with Orlando. Worried about his health, Celia/”Aliena” draws “Ganymede” toward their home, and Oliver comes with them, still waiting to hear what answer “Ganymede” will send back to the anxious Orlando.