As You Like It

William Shakespeare

Act V, scene iv & Epilogue

Summary Act V, scene iv & Epilogue

The Epilogue, in which one of the actors remains onstage after the play has ended, was a standard part of many plays in Elizabethan times. An epilogue proves a convenient way to tie up loose ends, to distill the thematic concerns of the play into a neat speech, and to ask the audience for applause. But Shakespeare explodes the conventions of the form when he allows Rosalind to take the stage. Not only has Rosalind dropped her disguise as Ganymede, but the boy actor playing Rosalind lets slip the mask of Rosalind. When he solicits the approval of the men in the audience, he says, “If I were a woman I would kiss as many of you as had beards that pleased me” (Epilogue, 1416). The dizzying intermingling of homosexual and heterosexual affections that govern a man pretending to be woman pretending to be a man pretending to be a woman in the hopes of seducing a man reiterates the play’s celebration of the wonderful complexities of human life.