Symbols are objects, characters, figures, or colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts.
The poems that Orlando nails to the trees of Ardenne are
a testament to his love for Rosalind. In comparing her to the romantic
heroines of classical literature—Helen, Cleopatra, Lucretia—Orlando takes
his place among a long line of poets who regard the love object as
a bit of earthbound perfection. Much to the amusement of Rosalind,
Celia, and Touchstone, Orlando’s efforts are far less accomplished
than, say, Ovid’s, and so bring into sharp focus the silliness of
which all lovers are guilty. Orlando’s “tedious homil[ies] of love” stand
as a reminder of the wide gap that exists between the fancies of literature
and the kind of love that exists in the real world (III.ii.
In Act IV, scene ii, Jaques and other lords in Duke Senior’s
party kill a deer. Jaques proposes to “set the deer’s horns upon
[the hunter’s] head for a branch of victory” (IV.ii.
Rosalind’s choice of alternative identities is significant. Ganymede is the cupbearer and beloved of Jove and is a standard symbol of homosexual love. In the context of the play, her choice of an alter ego contributes to a continuum of sexual possibilities.