As You Like It

by: William Shakespeare

  Act 4 Scene 2

page Act 4 Scene 2 Page 6

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OLIVER

When last the young Orlando parted from you,
He left a promise to return again
Within an hour, and pacing through the forest,
125Chewing the food of sweet and bitter fancy,
Lo, what befell. He threw his eye aside—
And mark what object did present itself:
Under an old oak, whose boughs were mossed with age
And high top bald with dry antiquity,
130A wretched, ragged man, o'ergrown with hair,
Lay sleeping on his back. About his neck
A green and gilded snake had wreathed itself,
Who with her head, nimble in threats, approached
The opening of his mouth. But suddenly,
135Seeing Orlando, it unlinked itself
And, with indented glides, did slip away
Into a bush, under which bush’s shade
A lioness, with udders all drawn dry,
Lay couching, head on ground, with catlike watch
140When that the sleeping man should stir—for ’tis
The royal disposition of that beast
To prey on nothing that doth seem as dead.
This seen, Orlando did approach the man
And found it was his brother, his elder brother.

OLIVER

When young Orlando left you last, he promised to return within an hour. He was pacing through the forest, thinking bittersweet thoughts of love, and listen what happened! He looked to the side, and pay attention to what he saw then: under an oak tree—whose lower branches were mossy with age and top branches ancient and brittle—he saw a wretched beggar, with overgrown hair and beard, asleep on his back. A green and gold snake had wound itself around this man’s neck and was slowly making its way toward the man’s mouth. However, when it saw Orlando, it unwound itself and slunk away into a bush. But there happened to be a lioness crouching under that bush. Her cubs had nursed from her until she was dry, so she was ravenously hungry, and she was lying with her head on the ground, watching the man as cats do and waiting to see if he would wake up—a lion won’t prey on anything that seems dead. Seeing the lioness, Orlando approached the sleeping man. He discovered that the man was his older brother.

CELIA

145Oh, I have heard him speak of that same brother,
And he did render him the most unnatural
That lived amongst men.

CELIA

Oh, I’ve heard him talk about that brother, and he described him as the most inhumane man alive.

OLIVER

And well he might so do,
For well I know he was unnatural.

OLIVER

And he was right. I know exactly how inhumane he was.

ROSALIND

150But to Orlando: did he leave him there,
Food to the sucked and hungry lioness?

ROSALIND

But, back to Orlando, did he leave his brother there, to be food for the hungry mother-lioness?