Act Three: Of Pursuers, Pursuees, Poems and Play-Acting

Act Three of As You Like It takes us back to where “we hates it”: the court of Duke Frederick. And he’s unhappy to say the least. He tells Oliver that he has one year to bring Orlando “dead or living” (III.i.6) to Frederick. And if he doesn’t? Well, then the duke will exile him and his “lands, and all things (he) dost call (his) // Worthy seizure, do we seize” (III.i.9-10). When Oliver tries to curry favor by saying he “never loved (his) brother in (his) life” (III.i.14), Frederick’s response is interesting:

More villain thou. Well, push him out of doors;
And let my officers of such a nature
Make an extent upon his house and lands:
Do this expediently and turn him going.
  • III.i.15-18

conversion alert?

Frederick calls Oliver a villain for never loving his brother. It’s a pretty interesting statement to make, given the fact that Frederick usurped his brother’s dukedom and sent him running. Regardless, he sends Oliver off and, without even allowing him to leave the stage, tells him men to either take Oliver’s property or take inventory of it (it’s unclear which meaning of “make an extent” is being used here).

From the pursuer to the pursuee, Act Three, Scene Two opens back in the Garden of Eden, er, sorry, Forest of Arden, and Orlando is running around “hang(ing)… verse” (III.ii.1) on any tree he can find. It’s clear from his speech that his poetry all concerns Rosalind. Gee, you think there’s any chance she might find a missive or thirteen? Before the end of this paragraph? He exits, and in come Touchstone and Corin (he previously of the master who is trying to sell his land and belongings, and now of the new mistress… seems the sale has gone through and escrow has closed). The two spend the next six dozen or so lines debating the relative merits of court and country life. Wit followed by not a little bit of animal husbandry-based bawdy, followed by (before we can descend into Love’s Labor’s Lost levels of “greasy” (III.ii.51) -ness) the entrance of Rosalind, who carries with her papers and reads from them.

From the east to western Ind,
No jewel is like Rosalind.
Her worth, being mounted on the wind,
Through all the world bears Rosalind.
All the pictures fairest lined
Are but black to Rosalind.
Let no fair be kept in mind
But the fair of Rosalind.
  • III.ii.85-92

Not exactly poet laureate stuff (but Shakespeare nonetheless), and Touchstone tells her so, and recites some off-the-cuff verse of his own … which we’ll discuss when we get to Bawdy-ville later this month (or next, as we’re in two-month discussion cycles now).

Touchstone continues

This is the very false gallop of verses: why do you infect yourself with them?
Peace, you dull fool! I found them on a tree.
Truly, the tree yields bad fruit.
I’ll graff it with you, and then I shall graff it with a medlar
  • III.ii.110-115

He comments on their poor meter (“false gallop”) of the poem, and asks why she would waste her time reading them (you mean, other than the fact that they are about her? duh.). She found them on a tree, she says; a tree that grows bad fruit he responds; then she puns Touchstone as both a “medlar”–a fruit himself–and a “meddler”–who should keep his nose out of her business. Within a handful of lines, Celia arrives with more “bad fruit.”

The two ladies joke and pun about the poor poetry, but Celia has one more piece of information for her cousin: the name of the author. What follows is either two dozen lines of Rosalind playfully playing dumb, or two dozen excruciating lines of Rosalind not being very bright. Alas, I fear it’s the latter, as she then says to Celia after her cousin has revealed the name,

Alas the day! what shall I do with my doublet and hose? What did he when thou sawest him? What said he? How looked he? Wherein went he? What makes him here? Did he ask for me? Where remains he? How parted he with thee? and when shalt thou see him again? Answer me in one word.
  • III.ii.214-219

One word?

Great joke.

More witty wordplay between the cousins precede the entrance of Orlando and Jaques, who gives the young man grief for such bad poetry. Post-grief giving, Jaques leaves, and Rosalind (as Ganymede) approaches Orlando and begins to quip with him about time. As that subject dies off, Orlando asks her, “Where dwell you, pretty youth?” (III.ii.325). Notice that he doesn’t call Ganymede (Rosalind in disguise) “handsome.”

S/he tells Orlando that she and her “shepherdess” (III.ii.326) live in the forest (as with the “cony” [III.ii.329], rabbits, as in Coney Island, which was heavily populated by rabbits years ago… end of tangent), then bemoans the existence of a young man who “abuses our young plants with carving ‘Rosalind’ on their barks” (III.ii.349-50). When Orlando admits to his crime against nature, she tells him that she can “cur(e) it by counsel” (III.ii.390), by having him call her “Rosalind” and wooing her, while she breaks his spirit. And off the ladies go, taking Orlando to show him their new home.

Act Three, Scene Three is another scene of country courtship, with Touchstone and the “not a slut” (III.iii.35) Audrey, with commentary in asides by Jaques. There’s some nice bawdy in there (which again, we’ll get to later in the months). A country priest comes in to marry them, but Jaques comes forward and convinces them to wait and be married in a church, an idea that Touchstone agrees to, but not necessarily agrees with, as he says in an aside:

I am not in the mind but I were better to be married of him than of another: for he is not like to marry me well; and not being well married, it will be a good excuse for me hereafter to leave my wife.
  • III.iii.82-5

Always looking for an exit strategy, that Touchstone.

The fourth scene of the act finds Rosalind again in sadness, ready to “weep” (III.iv.1), as Orlando has promised to come for his first love-lesson in his woo-aversion course, but hasn’t arrived. Celia offers that maybe he is no longer in love with Rosalind, or as she puts it “‘Was’ is not ‘is’” (III.iv.28).

Interestingly, we also learn that Orlando did tell Rosalind that “he attends…in the forest on the duke (her) father” (III.iv.30-1). Even more interesting is that Rosalind as Ganymede met the duke:

I met the duke yesterday and had much question with him: he asked me of what parentage I was; I told him, of as good as he; so he laughed and let me go. But what talk we of fathers, when there is such a man as Orlando?
  • III.iv.32-36

You could get whiplash with a change-of-subject that quick.


And, WHOA… she met her father, was hugged by her father, was questioned by her father… but NEVER REVEALED HERSELF TO HER FATHER???

Post-quick-change-of-subject, Celia makes some potentially bawdy jokes at Orlando’s expense (“a puny tilter” [III.iv.40] who “breaks his staff” [III.iv.41]), then just as quickly, their newly hired man (because of their newly purchased home) Corin enters to take them to watch the “pageant” (III.iv.48) of a shepherd and his “disdainful” (III.iv.46) shepherdess. Rosalind says that she’ll “prove a busy actor in their play” (III.iv.55), as they head off, and lead us to the last scene in Act Three, where we meet Silvius and Phebe.

Silvius follows and praises Phebe, and she responds that the doesn’t want to hurt him, she just wants to get away from him. Rosalind comes forward and slams Phebe for her “insult (and) exult… all at once” (III.v.36) of the poor Silvius. She tries to buttress the boy, while criticizing the girl, concluding, “Sell when you can, you are not for all markets” (III.v.60).

And just as Silvius cannot not love Phebe, even as she chides him, Phebe “had rather hear (Ganymede) chide more than (Silvius) woo” (III.v.65).


Even after Ganymede implores Phebe “not (to) fall in love with” him, and Rosalind and Celia leave, Phebe is so smitten that she quotes Christopher Marlowe: “Who ever loved that loved not by first sight” (III.v.82).

Barely even using Silvius as a sounding board–she can accomplish this all by herself–she rationalizes her love for the “pretty youth; not very pretty” (III.v.113). Phebe decides to write Ganymede “a very taunting letter” (III.v.134), and by the end of the act has convinced Silvius to deliver it, with her smitten shepherd following her offstage like a puppy.

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