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Irony in As You Like It

Irony Examples in As You Like It:

Act I - Act I, Scene 3

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"Beauty provoketh thieves sooner than gold. ..."   (Act I - Act I, Scene 3)

This line offers some insight into Rosalind as a character and prefigures her plans to dress as a man. In shedding her beauty, she is no longer the object of both male desire and power. Ironically, she gains power in ridding herself of something others consider precious.

"Thou art a fool..."   (Act I - Act I, Scene 3)

Duke Frederick says this to Celia to insult her. However, in the last scene fools were said to have great insight while wise men were presented as fools. In a twist of dramatic irony, the Duke means to discredit Celia but unwittingly points out that her refusal to follow his orders is shrewd.

"More villain thou..."   (Act III - Act III, Scene 1)

Frederick makes the claim that rejecting his brother Orlando tarnishes his class. The claim is ironic: Frederick has done the same thing to his own brother Duke Senior. The Duke lives like a peasant in the forest because Frederick banished him.

"And I am your Rosalind...."   (Act IV - Act IV, Scene 1)

Remember that Rosalind is posing as Ganymede in this scene. Each time she insists that she is “your Rosalind” it is embedded with irony: she simultaneously is Rosalind and is merely playing the part of Rosalind.

"Can a woman rail thus? SILVIUS. Call you this railing?..."   (Act IV - Act IV, Scene 3)

Despite the amorous nature of the letter, Rosalind accuses Phebe of railing—complaining bitterly. The irony is that Silvius, unbeknownst to Rosalind, loves Phebe. Thus his reply, “Call you this railing?” carries a deeper significance. On one level, he calls into question whether Phebe is truly railing. On a deeper level, Silvius is jealous; he wishes the letter were addressed to him.

"For well I know he was unnatural...."   (Act IV - Act IV, Scene 3)

Oliver’s claims about Orlando’s brother are an example of dramatic irony because the audience knows that Oliver is Orlando’s brother. Oliver does not reveal this fact until the end of this scene, perhaps because he wants to first explain that he has mended his relationship with his brother before revealing his identity.

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