As You Like It is a comedy play that examines the family rivalries between siblings, and the role that love can play in overcoming disputes.
Orlando and Oliver are brothers who are fighting bitterly over their inheritance. Oliver is the older brother so after the death of their father, he assumes control of the wealth and the household. He denies Orlando his education in becoming a gentleman. Charles, Duke Frederick’s champion wrestler, believes that Orlando will challenge him, and it is considered taboo for a commoner to defeat a nobleman in a sport. However, Oliver convinces Charles that Orlando is unworthy, setting Charles up to badly hurt or kill Orlando in their match.
Meanwhile, in the Forest of Arden, Duke Senior has fled there to escape his brother Duke Frederick, who usurped the throne. His daughter Rosalind is still allowed at Frederick’s court because she is best friends with his daughter Celia. They all watch the match, and Orlando’s size and speed enable him to outmaneuver the lumbering Charles. Rosalind confesses her attraction to Orlando after the match. Frederick returns after the match and accuses Rosalind of conspiring against him for her father, and throws her out of court. Celia and Rosalind decide to move to Arden together in disguise: Celia is “Aliena” and Rosalind is a man named “Ganymede” They also bring Frederick’s jester Touchstone with them. They purchase a cottage with some sheep and settle down to a quiet life. They befriend a shepherd named Silvius who is in unrequited love with a woman named Phoebe. At the same time, Orlando learns of a plot against his life by his brother Oliver, so he and Adam also set out to live in Arden.
Frederick is furious at his daughter’s departure, so he orders Oliver to find Orlando and he himself begins to raise an army against Duke Senior. Orlando runs into Ganymede one day and confesses he is lovesick over a girl named Rosalind, not realizing it is her. She pledges to help him get over his lovesickness if he comes to woo her each morning. Ganymede tries to intervene with Silvius and Phoebe, but Phoebe ends up falling in love with Ganymede. Ganymede runs into Oliver, who reveals that Orlando saved him from a poisonous snake and a lioness. Meanwhile, Oliver and Aliena stumble across each other and fall in love instantly, and Touchstone falls for a goat herder named Audrey. Ganymede decides to come clean with her identity the next day, arranging a wedding first.
Rosalind, still disguised as Ganymede, secures a promise from Phoebe that she will marry Silvius if for whatever reason she cannot marry Ganymede. She also gets Duke Frederick to agree that his daughter could marry Oliver if she were around to do so. The two girls take off their disguises, and the four couples are wed: Orlando and Rosalind, Celia and Oliver, Silvius and Phoebe, and Touchstone and Audrey. Frederick announces that on his way to attack Duke Senior, he met a holy man that made him reevaluate his life. He puts down his arms against his brother and returns the throne to him.
Date Published: 1599
Major Themes: Love; Gender Roles; Family Relationships
Famous Quote: “All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players; they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.”