56 pages 1 hour read

William Shakespeare

As You Like It

Fiction | Play | Adult | Published in 1599

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Summary and Study Guide


As You Like It is a pastoral comedy by William Shakespeare. The date of its first performance is unknown, but it is believed to have been written in 1599. As You Like It was first published in 1623 in the First Folio, the first of the posthumously published collections of Shakespeare’s plays.

This summary refers to the 2019 Folger Shakespeare Library updated edition. Your edition’s line numbers and spellings may vary slightly.

Plot Summary

When the play begins, Duke Frederick has usurped and exiled his older brother Duke Senior. Duke Senior’s daughter Rosalind is permitted to remain in court because she is the dearest friend of Duke Frederick’s daughter Celia. The play opens with a near fight between two sons of the deceased Sir Rowland de Boys: Oliver and his youngest brother Orlando. Orlando travels to Duke Frederick’s court to take part in a wrestling match, which Rosalind and Celia watch. There, Orlando and Rosalind fall in love at first sight. Duke Frederick, now displeased with Rosalind’s presence, banishes her from court. Celia decides to follow Rosalind into exile. For their own safety, the two ladies decide to escape to the Forest of Arden in disguise with the fool Touchstone.

Duke Senior and his attendants, including the discontented lord Jaques, enter the stage in the Forest of Arden, where they now reside. They discuss their preference for life in the forest over life in court. Back in court, Duke Frederick and his lords realize that Rosalind and Celia are missing, and they hear that the two ladies had been admiring Orlando. Orlando and his servant Adam, now feeling like they are in danger, also decide to leave court. Back in the forest, Rosalind, Celia, and Touchstone—now in disguise—find food and shelter with some shepherds. Also in the forest, some of Duke Senior’s attendants sing songs about court and country life. Meanwhile, Orlando and Adam enter the forest and ultimately join Duke Senior’s table, becoming his allies.

Duke Frederick orders Oliver to return Orlando to court. In the forest, Orlando writes poetry about his love for Rosalind. Rosalind, in disguise as a man named Ganymede, and Celia, in disguise as a peasant woman named Aliena, find these poems. Eventually, Celia reveals that Orlando wrote them. Rosalind concocts a plan to speak with Orlando while she is in disguise. When she finds Orlando, Rosalind-as-Ganymede proposes that Orlando pretend Ganymede is Rosalind and woo her. Meanwhile, Touchstone intends to marry Audrey, a country woman, although Jaques convinces them to wait for a proper church ceremony. Phoebe, another country woman, falls in love with Ganymede. This displeases the shepherd Silvius, who loves Phoebe.

As suggested, Orlando pretends to court Ganymede disguised as Rosalind. The two decide to get married, although Celia disapproves of this mockery. In the interim, Jaques and the lords in the forest complete their hunt and celebrate with song. While waiting for Orlando and their pretend marriage, Rosalind receives a letter from Phoebe professing her love for Ganymede. Rosalind rebuffs Phoebe, and Oliver enters to announce that Orlando is late due to being wounded.

Touchstone and Audrey continue to delay their own marriage. Orlando and Oliver, now in the forest, discuss Oliver’s newfound love for Aliena, who is really Celia. Rosalind then enters, as Ganymede, and tells Orlando that he will make Rosalind magically appear at their wedding. Ganymede also cryptically invites all the couples intending to get married to appear at this ceremony. He tells Phoebe that if she decides not to marry Ganymede, she must marry Silvius. In line with this plan, Touchstone and Audrey set their marriage date for the next day.

On the day of the wedding ceremonies, Ganymede enters and reiterates all the marriage plans. Ganymede and Aliena exit. Then Hymen, the god of marriage, returns and presents Rosalind and Celia. Phoebe realizes now that she cannot marry Ganymede, who is actually Rosalind. The four couples—Orlando and Rosalind, Oliver and Celia, Phoebe and Silvius, and Audrey and Touchstone—get married. At the end, Rosalind delivers an epilogue, telling all members of the audience to take enjoyment from this play.