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Vocabulary in As You Like It

Vocabulary Examples in As You Like It:

Act I - Act I, Scene 1

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"villain..."   (Act I - Act I, Scene 1)

At this time, “villain” meant someone of low born or rustic class. In calling Orlando a villain, Oliver diminishes the class and status that his birth should have granted him. This term subtly reveals the problems with primogeniture: because second sons do not by law receive inheritance, noblemen could have as much wealth as a low born individual.

"hath sent this natural for our whetstone: for always the dullness of the fool is the whetstone of the wits.-..."   (Act I - Act I, Scene 2)

A “whetstone” was a tool used for sharpening knives or smoothing surfaces. Celia uses this metaphor to suggest that the fool approaching is like a whetstone while they are like the knife. This metaphor speaks to the theme of gender boundary crossing in which both Celia and Rosalind assert power and intellect beyond their expected gender roles.

"Something that hath a reference to my state: No longer Celia, but Aliena...."   (Act I - Act I, Scene 3)

The name Celia takes on, “Aliena,” comes from the Latin noun “alienus,” which means “alien” or “stranger.” As she notes herself, this new name has “a reference to my state.” By journeying with Rosalind, Celia is estranging herself from her father. In effect, she becomes an alien.

"A gallant curtle-axe upon my thigh, A boar spear in my hand;..."   (Act I - Act I, Scene 3)

Here Rosalind characterizes the “curtle-axe,” or short sword, and spear as symbolic of masculinity. When she claims that she will pose as a man, she points to these external, violent items to construct her masculine identity. In this way, gender is portrayed as an external mask that can be put on and taken off.

"burghers..."   (Act II - Act II, Scene 1)

A burgher is a citizen of a town, typically someone who is part of the aristocracy. Notice here that Duke Senior uses this classed term to apply to venison, the deer that live in the Forest of Arden. This use of the term signifies an upset in the social order within the forest.

"Your praise is come too swiftly home before you. ..."   (Act II - Act II, Scene 3)

“Grace” invokes a double meaning here. It both signifies “grace” as in the praise he receives for his victory and “grace” meaning elevated class and the social refinement that comes with it. Here, Adam claims that Orlando’s “graces” work against him. Metaphorically, Adam usurps his class because he receives praise meant for a nobleman; he owns “graces” that he should not have and threatens his brother’s status. Thus, these “graces” do not help him achieve better social standing, but rather threaten his life.

"doublet and hose..."   (Act II - Act II, Scene 4)

The “doublet” and the “hose” were male clothing items while a “petticoat” was an underskirt worn by women. In this line, Rosalind uses the doublet and hose as a symbol for a man and the petticoat as a symbol for a woman. She claims here that men have to show themselves courageous to woman in much the same way that she must show herself courageous to the “weaker vessel,” which is her female identity.

"'Tis a Greek invocation, to call fools into a circle...."   (Act II - Act II, Scene 5)

Here, Jaques means that “ducdame” is an invented word that only fools would try to parse. It “draws fools into a circle” because fools would sit around discussing what it meant rather than recognizing that it was gibberish.

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

“Villain” in this context means someone low-born or base-minded. The word signifies how one’s class causes unprincipled or depraved behavior. Here, Frederick claims that Oliver’s hatred for his brother makes him a “villain,” or someone who is low-born, base. In not caring for his brother, Oliver defies the class system in which aristocrats are born into their social status. By rejecting his brother, Oliver diminishes Orlando’s class and by extension his own.

"and in all this time there was not any man died in his own person, videlicet, in a love-cause...."   (Act IV - Act IV, Scene 1)

Countering Orlando’s claim that “in mine own person, I die,” Rosalind claims that men do not die for love. The word “videlicet” is Latin in origin and means, “that is to say.” It is a word often used in courts of law, giving Rosalind’s speech a legal tone. In this context, her opening sentence, “No, faith, die by attorney,” suggests that Rosalind metaphorically kills Orlando with the argument she lays out.

"Why, horns; which such as you are fain to be beholding to your wives for..."   (Act IV - Act IV, Scene 1)

Rosalind, in her continued teasing of Orlando, subtly shifts from the image of the snail to that of “horns.” Snails have horns, which warrants the transition. Horns are also the symbol of the cuckold, the husband whose wife cheats on him. The symbol finds its origins in the mating practices of male deer, who lock horns over the right to mate with female deer.

"a better jointure..."   (Act IV - Act IV, Scene 1)

A “jointure” is the groom’s version of a dowry. It refers to the estate, land, and wealth a potential husband offers his bride. Rosalind teases the disowned, penniless Orlando by saying that a snail would be a better suitor.

"What, of my suit?..."   (Act IV - Act IV, Scene 1)

“Suit” in this context means both one’s clothing and courtship. While Orlando uses this question to ask about his apparel, Rosalind uses wordplay to mock his courtship.

"She Phebes me: mark how the tyrant writes...."   (Act IV - Act IV, Scene 3)

In a characteristically clever repurposing of language, Shakespeare turns Phebe’s name into a verb. When Rosalind claims that Phebe “Phebes me,” she alludes to Greek mythology. Phebe is an alternate name for Artemis, the Greek goddess known for her hunting prowess and her wrath. Thus, to “Phebe” likely means to enrage, a fitting definition given the context.

"untimeable..."   (Act V - Act V, Scene 3)

“Untimeable” in this context means both out of tune and off rhythm. Touchstone uses this word to mock the singer’s poor performance.

"ditty..."   (Act V - Act V, Scene 3)

A “ditty” is a frivolous song used to signify a celebration or joy. The players sing this song in order to signal the comedic resolution to the play; we end with a joyous celebration.

"amongst the rest of the country copulatives..."   (Act V - Act V, Scene 4)

Touchstone’s phrase is a clever pun. Copulation works on two levels here. The series of soon-to-be-wedded couples are copulatives in the sense of sexual union. Copulation also refers to linguistic union, and so the phrase “country copulatives”—with its noticeable alliteration—is in itself copulative.

"conjure..."   (Act V - Act V, Scene 4)

Once again, Rosalind “conjures,” implores someone to do something, other people to do her will. Even after she has orchestrated the happy ending of this play, she continues to command the audience and act as a playwright.

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