Act IV - Act IV, Scene 3

SCENE III. Another part of the Forest.


How say you now? Is it not past two o'clock?
And here much Orlando!

I warrant you, with pure love and troubled brain, he hath
ta'en his bow and arrows, and is gone forth--to sleep. Look,
who comes here.

[Enter SILVIUS.]

My errand is to you, fair youth;--
My gentle Phebe did bid me give you this:

[Giving a letter.]

I know not the contents; but, as I guess
By the stern brow and waspish action
Which she did use as she was writing of it,
It bears an angry tenor: pardon me,
I am but as a guiltless messenger.

Patience herself would startle at this letter,
And play the swaggerer; bear this, bear all:
She says I am not fair; that I lack manners;
She calls me proud, and that she could not love me,
Were man as rare as Phoenix. Od's my will!
Her love is not the hare that I do hunt;
Why writes she so to me?--Well, shepherd, well,
This is a letter of your own device.

No, I protest, I know not the contents: Phebe did write it.

Come, come, you are a fool,
And turn'd into the extremity of love.
I saw her hand: she has a leathern hand,
A freestone-colour'd hand: I verily did think
That her old gloves were on, but 'twas her hands;
She has a huswife's hand: but that's no matter:
I say she never did invent this letter:
This is a man's invention, and his hand.

Sure, it is hers.

Why, 'tis a boisterous and a cruel style;
A style for challengers: why, she defies me,
Like Turk to Christian: women's gentle brain
Could not drop forth such giant-rude invention,
Such Ethiop words, blacker in their effect
Than in their countenance.--Will you hear the letter?

So please you, for I never heard it yet;
Yet heard too much of Phebe's cruelty.

She Phebes me: mark how the tyrant writes.
'Art thou god to shepherd turn'd,
That a maiden's heart hath burn'd?'

Can a woman rail thus?

Call you this railing?

'Why, thy godhead laid apart,
Warr'st thou with a woman's heart?'

Did you ever hear such railing?

'Whiles the eye of man did woo me,
That could do no vengeance to me.'--

Meaning me a beast.--

'If the scorn of your bright eyne
Have power to raise such love in mine,
Alack, in me what strange effect
Would they work in mild aspect?
Whiles you chid me, I did love;
How then might your prayers move?
He that brings this love to thee
Little knows this love in me:
And by him seal up thy mind;
Whether that thy youth and kind
Will the faithful offer take
Of me and all that I can make;
Or else by him my love deny,
And then I'll study how to die.'

Call you this chiding?

Alas, poor shepherd!

Do you pity him? no, he deserves no pity.--Wilt thou love
such a woman?--What, to make thee an instrument, and play false
strains upon thee! Not to be endured!--Well, go your way to her,
--for I see love hath made thee a tame snake,--and say this to
her;--that if she love me, I charge her to love thee; if she will
not, I will never have her unless thou entreat for her.--If you
be a true lover, hence, and not a word; for here comes more


[Enter OLIVER.]

Good morrow, fair ones: pray you, if you know,
Where in the purlieus of this forest stands
A sheep-cote fenc'd about with olive trees?

West of this place, down in the neighbour bottom:
The rank of osiers, by the murmuring stream,
Left on your right hand, brings you to the place.
But at this hour the house doth keep itself;
There's none within.

If that an eye may profit by a tongue,
Then should I know you by description;
Such garments, and such years: 'The boy is fair,
Of female favour, and bestows himself
Like a ripe sister: the woman low,
And browner than her brother.' Are not you
The owner of the house I did inquire for?

It is no boast, being ask'd, to say we are.

Orlando doth commend him to you both;
And to that youth he calls his Rosalind
He sends this bloody napkin:--are you he?

I am: what must we understand by this?

Some of my shame; if you will know of me
What man I am, and how, and why, and where,
This handkerchief was stain'd.

I pray you, tell it.

When last the young Orlando parted from you,
He left a promise to return again
Within an hour; and, pacing through the forest,
Chewing the food of sweet and bitter fancy,
Lo, what befell! he threw his eye aside,
And, mark, what object did present itself!
Under an oak, whose boughs were moss'd with age,
And high top bald with dry antiquity,
A wretched ragged man, o'ergrown with hair,
Lay sleeping on his back: about his neck
A green and gilded snake had wreath'd itself,
Who, with her head nimble in threats, approach'd
The opening of his mouth; but suddenly,
Seeing Orlando, it unlink'd itself,
And with indented glides did slip away
Into a bush: under which bush's shade
A lioness, with udders all drawn dry,
Lay couching, head on ground, with cat-like watch,
When that the sleeping man should stir; for 'tis
The royal disposition of that beast
To prey on nothing that doth seem as dead:
This seen, Orlando did approach the man,
And found it was his brother, his elder brother.

O, I have heard him speak of that same brother;
And he did render him the most unnatural
That liv'd amongst men.

And well he might so do,
For well I know he was unnatural.

But, to Orlando:--did he leave him there,
Food to the suck'd and hungry lioness?

Twice did he turn his back, and purpos'd so;
But kindness, nobler ever than revenge,
And nature, stronger than his just occasion,
Made him give battle to the lioness,
Who quickly fell before him; in which hurtling
From miserable slumber I awak'd.

Are you his brother?

Was it you he rescued?

Was't you that did so oft contrive to kill him?

'Twas I; but 'tis not I: I do not shame
To tell you what I was, since my conversion
So sweetly tastes, being the thing I am.

But, for the bloody napkin?--

By and by.
When from the first to last, betwixt us two,
Tears our recountments had most kindly bath'd,
As, how I came into that desert place;--
In brief, he led me to the gentle duke,
Who gave me fresh array and entertainment,
Committing me unto my brother's love,
Who led me instantly unto his cave,
There stripp'd himself, and here upon his arm
The lioness had torn some flesh away,
Which all this while had bled; and now he fainted,
And cried, in fainting, upon Rosalind.
Brief, I recover'd him, bound up his wound,
And, after some small space, being strong at heart,
He sent me hither, stranger as I am,
To tell this story, that you might excuse
His broken promise, and to give this napkin,
Dy'd in his blood, unto the shepherd-youth
That he in sport doth call his Rosalind.

[ROSALIND faints.]

Why, how now, Ganymede! sweet Ganymede!

Many will swoon when they do look on blood.

There is more in it:--Cousin--Ganymede!

Look, he recovers.

I would I were at home.

We'll lead you thither:--
I pray you, will you take him by the arm?

Be of good cheer, youth:--you a man?--You lack a man's heart.

I do so, I confess it. Ah, sir, a body would think
this was well counterfeited. I pray you tell your brother how
well I counterfeited.--Heigh-ho!--

This was not counterfeit; there is too great testimony
in your complexion that it was a passion of earnest.

Counterfeit, I assure you.

Well then, take a good heart, and counterfeit to be a man.

So I do: but, i' faith, I should have been a woman by right.

Come, you look paler and paler: pray you draw homewards.--
Good sir, go with us.

That will I, for I must bear answer back
How you excuse my brother, Rosalind.

I shall devise something: but, I pray you, commend my
counterfeiting to him.--Will you go?



  1. The reference to the lioness offers connotations of royalty which pull together two traditions. On an immediate level, the lion is the symbol for the English throne. The fact that it is a lioness with “udders all dry” brings to mind the mythical she-wolf who reared the twin founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus. The image of the lioness serves to relocate the she-wolf in an English context. From this perspective, we can see how the rival brothers Romulus and Remus serve as a fitting allegorical backdrop for Orlando and Oliver, themselves brothers locked in a rivalry for their father’s title.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  2. 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.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  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.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  4. Rosalind’s metaphor for Phebe’s offensive actions draws on the history of the Crusades. From the 12th to 14th centuries, numerous Catholic kingdoms in Europe banded together to launch a series of invasions in the Middle East, valued as the “Holy Land.” The “Turk” Rosalind alludes to stands in more broadly for the muslim populations of the Middle East, the enemies of Christendom.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  5. The image of the gloves serves as a symbol of class and courtly behaviour. Aristocratic women in Elizabethan England would have worn gloves, a fashion which metaphorically conveys inactivity: to wear gloves is to be passive, to not dirty one’s hands. That Phebe does not wear gloves suggests both her lower class and also her active role in courting Silvius.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  6. Rosalind’s fainting spell demonstrates her soft “woman’s heart” that she has insisted lies inside her throughout the play. When she wakes up she repeatedly says that this was not a genuine fainting spell but “counterfeiting.” In this way, Rosalind tries to rewrite the story and continues to exercise her control over the narrative—a characteristic that demonstrates her strength rather than her weakness.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  7. While Oliver takes to calling “Ganymede” Rosalind, it is unclear whether or not he actually realizes that this is Rosalind and not a man. However, his insistence that “Ganymede’s” fainting was real and not “counterfeiting” suggests that he does know who she is. If nothing else, Oliver expresses more suspicion than his brother.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  8. Here, Oliver repeats Rosalind’s own reasoning from the beginning of the play: she wears a man’s clothing but carries within her a female disposition. Notice that Oliver is the only character thus far who has questioned Rosalind’s manliness.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  9. 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.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  10. The presence of both a snake and a lion in this story vaguely reference mythology and the Bible. Both animals are negative omens that foreshadow doom. Oliver’s story builds tension for both the audience and the characters as these animals suggest Orlando will die.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  11. The Lion appearing and threatening the lives of lovers is a reference to Pyramus and Thisbe, a tragic love story from antiquity. In the myth, Pyramus and Thisbe fall in love with each other through a hole in their shared wall. When they decide to run away together, they agree to meet outside a mausoleum. Thisbe arrives before her lover and encounters a Lion. Frightened, she runs away dropping her scarf on the ground. Pyramus arrives to find his beloved’s scarf and the lion, and commits suicide because he believes that the lion has eaten Thisbe. Thisbe then kills herself when she finds her lover dead.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  12. Phebe’s letter resembles typical love poetry in which a speaker gazes on a desired object who is indifferent to him. However, here Phebe takes on the role of the love poet and reverses the gaze: it is from a woman to a man instead of a man to a woman. This makes Phebe a “tyrant” rather than a lover, revealing a disparity between gender expectations in love.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  13. This idea that a “woman’s gentle brain” could not produce such angry words is exactly opposite of the argument that Rosalind made in the previous scene. When educating Orlando on how to woo her, Rosalind emphasizes women’s wit. Here she denies the women are capable of this kind of thought. From this discrepancy, the audience learns that Rosalind is a type of Trickster: we cannot believe what she says to reflect her actual opinion.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  14. Rosalind uses the color and texture of Phebe’s hands as proof that she could not have written this letter. Phebe has “leathern” hands the color of stone, so rough they look like leather gloves. These hands demonstrate that Phebe does manual labor and is therefore a member of the low working class. Rosalind takes this to mean that Phebe cannot write and is not clever enough to put these ideas and words on paper.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  15. Shakespeare is on a witty roll in this interchange between Oliver and Rosalind.

    — Stephen Holliday
  16. Another play on words: Ganymede's fainting is counterfeit because Ganymede is counterfeit, so everything that Ganymede does is false.  Rosalind's fainting spell, of course, is not counterfeit.

    — Stephen Holliday
  17. In Shakespeare's time, any area that was not populated might be referred to as a desert because it lacked comforts.

    — Stephen Holliday
  18. A realistic description of a tree dying of old age from the top down.

    — Stephen Holliday
  19. That is, the words are black (as in the color of print) but they have an even more devastating effect.

    — Stephen Holliday
  20. Rosalind most likely has two meanings here: 1) make sure you tell Orlando that I fainted and 2) praise the skill with which I faked my fainting (as Ganymede).

    — Stephen Holliday
  21. This is a good example of the word play, verbal wit and dramatic irony that characterize the dialogue in the play.  As in all cases with Rosalind-as-Ganymede, we know more than some of the characters (dramatic irony).  Rosalind's response to Oliver's "you lack a man's heart" has a double meaning (double entendre). * When she says "I do so, I confess it," Oliver understands her to mean that, as a young man, she has a weak heart.  We know, of course, that she lacks a man's heart because she is a woman. *

    — Stephen Holliday
  22. That is, it was me then, but it is not me now [that I have changed].

    — Stephen Holliday
  23. That is, while you rebuked me (or quarreled with me), I loved you.  If you had returned my love, imagine what we could have had.

    — Stephen Holliday
  24. That is, if someone would bear this insult, he or she would bear any insult.

    — Stephen Holliday
  25. Being nursed to dryness. The lion would then be very hungry.

    — Jamie Wheeler
  26. Another Elizabethan prejudice was against black people. Ethiopians were very dark skinned and dark, or blackness, was equated with evil.

    — Jamie Wheeler
  27. A common Elizabethan prejudice was against Turks, whom they believed to be an enemy to Christian countries.

    — Jamie Wheeler
  28. A yellow-brown limestone whose color is easily transferable to skin and clothing.

    — Jamie Wheeler
  29. The Phoenix is a bird from Arabian legend. This bird lived for five hundred years, died in flames, then rose from its own ashes to live again.

    — Jamie Wheeler