Summary: Act 3: Scene 1

Oliver, who has been unable to locate Orlando, reports to Duke Frederick at court. The duke chastises him for his failure and commands him to find Orlando within a year’s time or else forfeit the whole of his property. Frederick turns Oliver out to search for Orlando and seizes his lands and worldly goods until Orlando is delivered to court.

Read a translation of Act 3: Scene 1.

Summary: Act 3: Scene 2

Orlando runs through the Forest of Ardenne, mad with love. He hangs poems that he has composed in Rosalind’s honor on every tree, hoping that passersby will see her “virtue witnessed everywhere” (3.2.8). Corin and Touchstone enter, but are too engrossed in a conversation about the relative merits of court and country life to pay attention to Orlando’s verses. Corin argues that polite manners at court are of no consequence in the country. Touchstone asks him to provide evidence to support this thesis and then challenges the shepherd’s reasoning.

Rosalind enters, disguised as Ganymede. She reads one of Orlando’s poems, which compares her to a priceless jewel. Touchstone mocks the verse, claiming that he could easily churn out a comparable succession of rhymes. He does so with couplets that liken Rosalind to a cat in heat, a thorny rose, and a prostitute who is transported to the pillory on a cart. Rosalind rebukes Touchstone for his meddling. Just then, Celia enters disguised as the shepherdess Aliena. She, too, has found one of Orlando’s verses and reads it aloud. The women agree that the verses are terribly written, yet Rosalind is eager to learn the identity of their author. Celia teases her friend, hesitating to reveal this secret until Rosalind is nearly insane with anticipation. When Celia admits that Orlando has penned the poems, Rosalind can hardly believe it. Like a smitten schoolgirl, she asks a dozen questions about her intended lover, wanting to know everything from where he is to what he looks like.

As Celia does her best to answer these questions, despite Rosalind’s incessant interruptions, Orlando and Jaques enter. Hiding, the women eavesdrop on their conversation. Orlando and Jaques clearly do not care for one another’s company and exchange a series of barbed insults. Jaques dislikes Orlando’s sentimental love, declaring it the worst possible fault, while Orlando scoffs at Jaques’s melancholy. Eager to part, Jaques walks off into the forest, leaving Orlando alone. Rosalind decides to confront Orlando. She approaches him as the young man Ganymede, and speaks of a man that has been carving the name Rosalind on the trees. Orlando insists that he is the man so “love-shaked” and begs her for a “remedy” (3.2.332333). She claims to recognize the symptoms of those who have fallen under the spell of true love, and assures Orlando that he exhibits none of them. He is, she says, too neatly dressed to be madly in love. She promises to cure him if he promises to woo Ganymede as though Ganymede were Rosalind. As Ganymede, Rosalind vows to make the very idea of love unappealing to Orlando by acting the part of a fickle lover. Orlando is quite sure he is beyond cure, but Rosalind says, “I would cure you if you would but call me Rosalind and come every day to my cot, and woo me” (3.2.381382). With all his heart, Orlando agrees.

Read a translation of Act 3: Scene 2.

Analysis: Act 3: Scenes 1 & 2

In Act 3, as the play moves from Duke Frederick’s court into the Forest of Ardenne, Shakespeare explores more fully the complexities of his major themes: the merits of country versus city life, and the delights and dismays of romantic love. The conversation between Touchstone and Corin in Act 3, Scene 2 provides interesting insight into the matter of city versus country living. Although Corin concedes the argument to Touchstone, calling the clown’s high but hollow rhetoric “too courtly . . . for me,” we note that Corin’s speech is much clearer and his logic more sound than Touchstone’s (3.2.61). Corin’s declaration that “[t]hose that are good manners at the court are as ridiculous in the country as the behaviour of the country is most mockable at the court” is not only sensible, it is also in keeping with the guiding philosophy of the play: that the world is full of contradictions that do not cancel one another out, but exist side by side (3.2.4042). Corin’s willingness to rest, then, is not so much an admission of defeat as a recognition that court and country, along with the style and the substance that they respectively represent, must coexist.

Read more about pastoral literature as a means of social criticism.

As the argument between Touchstone and Corin plays out, we witness the repercussions of Orlando’s lovesickness. When characters fall in love in As You Like It, they invariably fall hard and fast, abandoning all reason in their desperate attempts to win the object of desire. Orlando is no exception, as the silly and unskilled poems he tacks on the trees make clear. Here, Orlando’s behavior accords with the Petrarchan model of romantic love (Petrarch is a 14th-century Italian poet whose lyrics elevate the woman he loves to an unattainable, semidivine status). Orlando’s behavior leads him to great folly and prompts Jaques’s sour declaration: “The worst fault you have is to be in love” (3.2.258). But, sour though it is, the sentiment is not Orlando’s alone. As Rosalind reads Orlando’s verses, she comments on their poor composition, but this shortcoming does not stop her from enjoying them. It is much to the play’s credit that it conceives of such irrational devotion as both a virtue and a vice. It is also the greatest testament of the depth of Rosalind’s character: only she is capacious and generous enough to welcome and thrive on such contradictions.

Read more about the delights of love as a theme.

The play also adds an interesting twist on the stage convention of cross-dressing as Rosalind decides to use her disguise as Ganymede, in effect, to woo Orlando. The erotic possibilities here are nearly endless, considering that Rosalind dresses as a rather effeminate man and offers to provide Orlando with love lessons so that Orlando may win his beloved Rosalind. The complexities of the situation multiply when we consider that in Shakespeare’s era, Rosalind would have been played by a boy actor. As the audience watches a boy playing a woman who plays a man in order to win a man’s love, the neat borders of gender and sexuality become hopelessly muddled.

Read more about what Rosalind’s behavior suggests about gender.