As You Like It

by: William Shakespeare

Important Quotations Explained

3
No, faith; die by attorney. The poor world is almost six thousand years old, and in all this time there was not any man died in his own person, videlicet, in a love-cause. Troilus had his brains dashed out with a Grecian club, yet he did what he could to die before, and he is one of the patterns of love. Leander, he would have lived many a fair year though Hero had turned nun if it had not been for a hot midsummer night, for, good youth, he went but forth to wash him in the Hellespont and, being taken with the cramp, was drowned; and the foolish chroniclers of that age found it was Hero of Sestos. But these are all lies. Men have died from time to time, and worms have eaten them, but not for love.
         (IV.i.8192)

In Act IV, scene i, Rosalind rejects Orlando’s claim that he would die if Rosalind should fail to return his love. Rosalind’s insistence that “[m]en have died from time to time, and worms have eaten them, but not for love” is one of the most recognizable lines from the play and perhaps the wisest (IV.i.9192). Here, Rosalind takes on one of the most dominant interpretations of romantic love, an understanding that is sustained by mythology and praised in literature, and insists on its unreality. She holds to the light the stories of Troilus and Leander, both immortal lovers, in order to expose their falsity. Men are, according to Rosalind, much more likely to die by being hit with a club or drowning than in a fatal case of heartbreak. Rosalind does not mean to deny the existence of love. On the contrary, she delights in loving Orlando. Instead, her criticism comes from an unwillingness to let affection cloud or warp her sense of reality. By casting aside the conventions of the standard—and usually tragic—romance, Rosalind advocates a kind of love that belongs and can survive in the real world that she inhabits.