Act Five: Play Acting and Changes for Real (part two), PLUS Four Weddings (and no funeral)

Act Five of As You Like It takes us back to Touchstone and his bride-to-be “not a slut” Audrey. She complains that the priest from before was fine for her, but Touchstone disagrees. The rest of the scene is Touchstone’s verbally dismantling of a former suitor of Audrey’s, William. It’s funny, but it’s brutal. And unless I’m missing something, it does nothing to push the plot forward.

What it does do is get Oliver off the stage with Rosalind at the end of Act Four, so he can reappear with his brother Orlando in Scene Two, after a seeming passage of time. Orlando marvels at how quickly the love between Oliver and Celia/Aliena has blossomed, as the couple appears ready to marry. And from the text, we’re shocked, too. There’s nothing in Celia’s lines in that last scene of Act Four that gives us an inkling of romance.

Way, back when, I talked about stage directions hidden from the text but revealed in the dialogue (or even in the pauses between or overlapping of lines because of the poetry’s meter). Is this a case of stage directions being hidden but revealed by the dialogue being mum? discuss.

Anyway, Oliver had confessed a “conversion” (IV.iii.135) earlier, and now we see what the repercussions are: He says that his marriage

shall be to (Orlando’s) good; for (their) father’s house and all the revenue that was old Sir Rowland’s will (Oliver) estate upon (Orlando).
  • V.ii.9-11

We get one of those stage directions in dialog here when Orlando says that it’s his arm and not his heart that he “wear(s)…in a scarf” (V.ii.20)

Orlando proclaims that tomorrow will be the wedding day, and he will invite the duke. Oliver exits to be with Aliena/Celia, and Ganymede/Rosalind enters. Ganymeded/Rosalind asks if Oliver told Orlando about the “counterfeit” (V.ii.25), and he responds, “Ay, and greater wonders than that” (V.ii.27). There is a possiblilty that he’s talking about the possibility that Ganymede might not be a man (it’s possible). And Rosalind’s response shows at least a fear of that: “O, I know where you are!” (V.ii.28). But she brushes this aside and moves on to what he was probably talking about, the marriage of Oliver and Aliena, and Ganymede even goes so far as to make a slightly bawdy joke, as if this was a pastoral locker room; she says Oliver and Aliena have made

pair of stairs to marriage which they will climb incontinent, or else be incontinent before marriage
  • V.ii.36-8

“Incontinent” had a double meaning in Shakespeare’s day and Ganymede plays on both meanings here: immediate (as in the first use), and sexually unrestrained or uncontrolled (as in the second)… they better hurry up and get married, or they’re going to have sex anyway. All of this marriage talk has saddened Orlando as he admits to Ganymede, “Oh, how bitter a thing it is to look into happiness though another man’s eyes!” (V.ii.41-2). Ganymede/Rosalind asks if she can stand in place of the real Rosalind at the wedding. It’s an interesting question, full of meanings, but Orlando answers bluntly, “I can live no longer by thinking” (V.ii.48). Imagining Ganymede as Rosalind will no longer cut it, and Rosalind makes her move. In a speech filled with subliminal imagery of sex and childbirth (the true outcome of comedy), she claims to be a kind of magician, and promises that she can bring his Rosalind to the wedding tomorrow, if he will “marry her” (V.ii.61).

Orlando doesn’t even get a chance to answer when they are interrupted by Phebe and Silvius, with the former angry that Ganymede shared the letter to Silvius, and the latter following (as always). In a great ensemble scene, Silvius proclaims what it is to be in love, with the others in attendance responding and repeating over and over, as in a call-and-response: “I for Ganymede” (Phebe), “I for Rosalind” (Orlando), and “I for no woman” (Rosalind). Rosalind brings it to an end by saying that they should all meet at the wedding tomorrow:

[To PHEBE] I will marry you, if ever I marry woman, and I’ll be married to-morrow: [To ORLANDO] I will satisfy you, if ever I satisfied man, and you shall be married to-morrow: [To SILVIUS] I will content you, if what pleases you contents you, and you shall be married to-morrow. [To ORLANDO] As you love Rosalind, meet: [To SILVIUS] as you love Phebe, meet: and as I love no woman, I’ll meet. So fare you well: I have left you commands.
  • V.ii.107-115

We get another short blast of Touchstone and Audrey in Act Five, Scene Three, and this is the excuse for another song… and if you’re thinking that this play has a lot of songs, you’re right. As You Like It has more songs than any other play. So you better like it.

When Act Five, Scene Four (our final scene) opens, it is in Duke Senior’s camp and it is the next day, marriage day, and the old man asks Orlando, “Dost thou believe, Orlando, that the boy // Can do all this that he hath promised?” (V.iv.1-2). Orlando goes back and forth between belief and disbelief. Rosalind as Ganymede enters and goes straight to her father, and asks if she brings back Rosalind, will he give her to Orlando. She gets a positive response to this and the questions that follow:

  • will Orlando marry Rosalind?
  • will Phebe marry Ganymede if he is willing?
  • but if Phebe refuses then to marry “Ganymede” will she then marry Silvius?
  • and will Silvius marry Phebe?

Confident in their responses, she exits to “make all this matter even” (V.iv.18).

Once she’s gone, Duke Senior notes “in this shepherd boy // Some lively touches of my daughter’s favor” (V.iv.26-7), and Orlando says, “Yeah, I thought that, too. But he’s lived her all his life and works for a great magician.”

Ah, this sort of comedy just doesn’t play if the characters are too smart or cynical…

my favorite line in the play

Touchstone and Audrey enter for their nuptials, and we get threescore or more lines of banter between Touchstone, Jaques, and the duke, with the clown naming the seven steps of quarrel-making. But even at the seventh and presumably irrevocable cause of quarrel, the Lie Direct, the fight can be avoided with an “if”: “Your If is the only peacemaker. Much virtue in if” (V.iv.101).

And on that ever-optimistic note, Hymen, the classical god of marriage arrives with two brides-to-be: Celia and Rosaline, “dressed as themselves” (V.iv.105 SD ff). Hymen sings (yes, more songs), and the father and child reunion is wonderfully sweet and solemn, interrupted only by the comedy of Phebe bidding “(her) love adieu!” (V.iv.119). More song. Uncle and niece reunion, broken again by Phebe agreeing to marry Silvius.

And into the scene enters Jaques.

I know what you’re thinking, “But Bill, Jaques is already there.”

And you’e be right. But still wrong. Because I’m not talking about that Jaques. I’m talking about Jaques de Boys.

Name sound familiar? It should. Go back to the Act One synopsis… in that very first paragraph… “Orlando’s late father Rowland de Boys”

This Jaques is the “second son of old Sir Rowland” (V.iv.150) and middle brother between Oliver and Orlando. And he’s got news: Duke Frederick has amassed a large troop (“a mighty power” [V.iv.154]) and comes to “put (Duke Senior) to the sword” (V.iv.156).


But… along the way Frederick met “an old religious man, // (and) After some some question with him, was converted” (V.iv.158-9). Frederick has banished himself, and given up his crown to his brother, and the seized lands back to all the men who followed his brother into the Forest of Arden.


The (now restored) duke welcomes Jaques to both his brothers’ weddings where one (Orlando) is getting back “his lands (which had been) witheld” (V.iv.166), because of Oliver’s conversion, and where the other (Oliver) is gaining “a potent dukedom” (V.iv.167) because of Frederick’s conversion and Oliver’s marriage with Celia.

Happy ending for all, and (you knew this was coming) “Play music” (V.iv.176), the duke commands.

But wait. Even into this sunny scene a cloud must pass. And that melancholic cloud is the other Jaques, who has decided to search out Frederick and “hear… and learn” (V.iv.183) from him. And he goes. And the cloud passes. And the play ends.

As The Kinks might say, “It’a crazy, mixed-up, f@cked-up world”… and ain’t that song appropriate.

Except for the Epilogue, spoken by Rosalind, calling attention to her gender, “It is not the fashion to see the lady the epilogue” (Epil.1-2). Ironic, given that she’s played by a boy, but as Rosalind she dressed as a boy for much of the play, and for part of that time played a woman. But then the actor calls attention to his gender (“If I were a woman” [Epil.16]), before asking the audience to “bid (him) farewell” (Epil.21) with applause.

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