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Metaphor in As You Like It

Metaphor Examples in As You Like It:

Act I - Act I, Scene 3

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"CELIA. Come, come, wrestle with thy affections. ROSALIND. O, they take the part of a better wrestler than myself...."   (Act I - Act I, Scene 3)

Celia evokes the wrestling event from earlier in the act, retooling it into a metaphor for Rosalind’s struggle with her emotions. Rosalind then cleverly points to Orlando — the “better wrestler” — as the source of her current emotional state.

"They are but burs, cousin..."   (Act I - Act I, Scene 3)

Celia’s pun, an alteration of “briers” to “burs” is telling. A brier is a thorny bush, whereas a bur refers specifically to the thorns of a flower. As flowers are a classic symbol of love and fertility, the metaphor of the bur is fitting. Rosalind’s emotions are the result of her newfound feelings for Orlando.

"'Sweep on, you fat and greasy citizens; 'Tis just the fashion; wherefore do you look Upon that poor and broken bankrupt there?'..."   (Act II - Act II, Scene 1)

Jaques uses cosmopolitan and monetary language to refer to the deer and their fallen comrade: the fleeing deer are “citizens” who follow the “fashion” to look upon the dead; the fallen deer is “bankrupt.” Notice that though this account of his language comes from the Lords, it is filtered through their perspective. This either signals that the Lords have shaped his woe into their own frame of reference, the moral landscape of the city, or that Jaques had to explain his woe using their frame of reference. Jaques’ language, imagined or real, reveals the Lords’ distance from the green world.

"I rather will subject me to the malice Of a diverted blood and bloody brother...."   (Act II - Act II, Scene 3)

The image of “diverted blood” is a subtle metaphor that operates on several levels. “Diverted blood” refers to Oliver, also called the “bloody brother” here. The word “diverted” suggests that the proper du Boys bloodline has been diverted, wrongly altered to put Oliver in a place of power. “Diverted blood” also suggests bloodshed, blood “diverted” from its normal course. The accompanying image of Oliver as “bloody brother” hints at a situation in which he is bloodied by violence.

"This wide and universal theatre Presents more woeful pageants than the scene Wherein we play in. ..."   (Act II - Act II, Scene 7)

These lines create a metaphor that compares real life to the theatrical world. On one level, these lines are self-consciously about the theater and speaking explicitly to the audience watching the play. This theater, meaning the theater in which they sit, will display “more woeful pageants” than the ones in which audience members will “play.” In other words, the theater displays how much worse life could be and therefore no one in the theater should feel self-pity.

"plays many parts,..."   (Act II - Act II, Scene 7)

This metaphor that "all the world's a stage" touches on the theme of wearing costumes and “playing parts” in order to shape the way in which one is perceived. To “play many parts” is to put on multiple costumes and have multiple identities, much like an actor within a play.

"All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players;..."   (Act II - Act II, Scene 7)

This famous line spoken by Jaques creates a metaphor that links everyday life to the events in a play. It fashions people as “merely” players, meaning each person’s purpose is no greater than playing a part. This metaphor suggests that life is ephemeral and has no greater meaning. It therefore functions as a lesson in humility that points out man’s lack of inherent purpose.

"Or rather, bottomless; that as fast as you pour affection in, it runs out...."   (Act IV - Act IV, Scene 1)

Celia’s claim that Rosalind’s love is “bottomless” suggests that her infatuation with Orlando is less about him and more about a desire to be in love. In this metaphor, Rosalind “pours affection” into the vessel that is Orlando. Yet the more she pours, the less substantial their love is.

"he carries his house on his head;..."   (Act IV - Act IV, Scene 1)

Here, Rosalind claims that a snail is a better wooer than Orlando because he “carries his house” with him. Rosalind’s humorous metaphor here suggests that a woman looks for security when considering marriage and love; she needs the promise of a secure “destiny.”

"deer's horns upon his head..."   (Act IV - Act IV, Scene 2)

“His” in this context refers to the Duke. Jaques suggests that they arrange the deer’s horns on top of the Duke’s head to signify the Duke’s victory. However, horns were also symbolic of being cuckolded. Metaphorically, Jaques gives the horns to the Duke because something has been taken from him—his throne and title.

"There is, sure, another flood toward, and these couples are coming to the ark. Here comes a pair of very strange beasts which in all tongues are called fools. ..."   (Act V - Act V, Scene 4)

Jaques uses the metaphor of Noah’s ark—a tale originally from the Book of Genesis—to describe the procession of couples headed to the wedding. The “flood toward” does not have a specific tenor, but connotatively suggests a raising of tension as the plot draws to a close.

"That would I, had I kingdoms to give with her. ..."   (Act V - Act V, Scene 4)

Orlando’s metaphor for his willingness to marry Rosalind carries an important connotation. The image of Orlando being “of all kingdoms king” foreshadows Orlando’s return to a state of grace.

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