Act I - Act I, Scene 1

ACT I.

SCENE I. An Orchard near OLIVER'S house.

[Enter ORLANDO and ADAM.]

ORLANDO.
As I remember, Adam, it was upon this fashion,--bequeathed me by
will but poor a thousand crowns, and, as thou say'st, charged my
brother, on his blessing, to breed me well: and there begins my
sadness. My brother Jaques he keeps at school, and report speaks
goldenly of his profit: for my part, he keeps me rustically at
home, or, to speak more properly, stays me here at home unkept:
for call you that keeping for a gentleman of my birth that
differs not from the stalling of an ox? His horses are bred
better; for, besides that they are fair with their feeding, they
are taught their manage, and to that end riders dearly
hired; but I, his brother, gain nothing under him but growth;
for the which his animals on his dunghills are as much bound to
him as I. Besides this nothing that he so plentifully gives me,
the something that nature gave me, his countenance seems to take
from me: he lets me feed with his hinds, bars me the place of a
brother, and as much as in him lies, mines my gentility with
my education. This is it, Adam, that grieves me; and the spirit
of my father, which I think is within me, begins to mutiny
against this servitude; I will no longer endure it, though yet I
know no wise remedy how to avoid it.

ADAM.
Yonder comes my master, your brother.

ORLANDO.
Go apart, Adam, and thou shalt hear how he will shake me up.

[ADAM retires]

[Enter OLIVER.]

OLIVER.
Now, sir! what make you here?

ORLANDO.
Nothing: I am not taught to make anything.

OLIVER.
What mar you then, sir?

ORLANDO.
Marry, sir, I am helping you to mar that which God made, a
poor unworthy brother of yours, with idleness.

OLIVER.
Marry, sir, be better employed, and be naught awhile.

ORLANDO.
Shall I keep your hogs, and eat husks with them? What
prodigal portion have I spent that I should come to such penury?

OLIVER.
Know you where you are, sir?

ORLANDO.
O, sir, very well: here in your orchard.

OLIVER.
Know you before whom, sir?

ORLANDO.
Ay, better than him I am before knows me. I know you are
my eldest brother: and in the gentle condition of blood, you
should so know me. The courtesy of nations allows you my better
in that you are the first-born; but the same tradition takes not
away my blood, were there twenty brothers betwixt us: I have as
much of my father in me as you, albeit; I confess, your coming
before me is nearer to his reverence.

OLIVER.
What, boy!

ORLANDO.
Come, come, elder brother, you are too young in this.

OLIVER.
Wilt thou lay hands on me, villain?

ORLANDO.
I am no villain: I am the youngest son of Sir Rowland de
Bois: he was my father; and he is thrice a villain that says such
a father begot villains. Wert thou not my brother, I would not
take this hand from thy throat till this other had pulled out
thy tongue for saying so: thou has railed on thyself.

ADAM.
[Coming forward] Sweet masters, be patient; for your
father's remembrance, be at accord.

OLIVER.
Let me go, I say.

ORLANDO.
I will not, till I please: you shall hear me. My father
charged you in his will to give me good education: you have
trained me like a peasant, obscuring and hiding from me all
gentleman-like qualities: the spirit of my father grows strong in
me, and I will no longer endure it: therefore, allow me such
exercises as may become a gentleman, or give me the poor
allottery my father left me by testament; with that I will go
buy my fortunes.

OLIVER.
And what wilt thou do? beg, when that is spent? Well, sir,
get you in; I will not long be troubled with you: you shall
have some part of your will: I pray you leave me.

ORLANDO.
I no further offend you than becomes me for my good.

OLIVER.
Get you with him, you old dog.

ADAM.
Is "old dog" my reward? Most true, I have lost my teeth in
your service.--God be with my old master! he would not have
spoke such a word.

[Exeunt ORLANDO and ADAM.]

OLIVER.
Is it even so? begin you to grow upon me? I will physic
your rankness, and yet give no thousand crowns neither.
Holla, Dennis!

[Enter DENNIS.]

DENNIS.
Calls your worship?

OLIVER.
Was not Charles, the duke's wrestler, here to speak with me?

DENNIS.
So please you, he is here at the door and importunes access to
you.

OLIVER.
Call him in.

[Exit DENNIS.]

--'Twill be a good way; and to-morrow the wrestling is.

[Enter CHARLES.]

CHARLES.
Good morrow to your worship.

OLIVER.
Good Monsieur Charles!--what's the new news at the new court?

CHARLES.
There's no news at the court, sir, but the old news; that
is, the old duke is banished by his younger brother the new duke;
and three or four loving lords have put themselves into voluntary
exile with him, whose lands and revenues enrich the new duke;
therefore he gives them good leave to wander.

OLIVER.
Can you tell if Rosalind, the duke's daughter, be banished
with her father?

CHARLES.
O, no; for the duke's daughter, her cousin, so loves her,--being
ever from their cradles bred together,--that she would have
followed her exile, or have died to stay behind her. She is at
the court, and no less beloved of her uncle than his own
daughter; and never two ladies loved as they do.

OLIVER.
Where will the old duke live?

CHARLES.
They say he is already in the Forest of Arden, and a many
merry men with him; and there they live like the old Robin Hood
of England: they say many young gentlemen flock to him every day,
and fleet the time carelessly, as they did in the golden world.

OLIVER.
What, you wrestle to-morrow before the new duke?

CHARLES.
Marry, do I, sir; and I came to acquaint you with a matter. I am
given, sir, secretly to understand that your younger brother,
Orlando, hath a disposition to come in disguis'd against me to
try a fall. To-morrow, sir, I wrestle for my credit;
and he that escapes me without some broken limb shall acquit him
well. Your brother is but young and tender; and, for your love, I
would be loath to foil him, as I must, for my own honour, if he
come in: therefore, out of my love to you, I came hither to
acquaint you withal; that either you might stay him from his
intendment, or brook such disgrace well as he shall run into; in
that it is thing of his own search, and altogether against my
will.

OLIVER.
Charles, I thank thee for thy love to me, which thou shalt
find I will most kindly requite. I had myself notice of my
brother's purpose herein, and have by underhand means laboured to
dissuade him from it; but he is resolute. I'll tell thee,
Charles, it is the stubbornest young fellow of France; full of
ambition, an envious emulator of every man's good parts, a secret
and villainous contriver against me his natural brother:
therefore use thy discretion: I had as lief thou didst break his
neck as his finger. And thou wert best look to't; for if thou
dost him any slight disgrace, or if he do not mightily grace
himself on thee, he will practise against thee by poison, entrap
thee by some treacherous device, and never leave thee till he
hath ta'en thy life by some indirect means or other: for, I
assure thee, and almost with tears I speak it, there is not one
so young and so villainous this day living. I speak but brotherly
of him; but should I anatomize him to thee as he is, I must
blush and weep, and thou must look pale and wonder.

CHARLES.
I am heartily glad I came hither to you. If he come
to-morrow I'll give him his payment. If ever he go alone again
I'll never wrestle for prize more: and so, God keep your worship!

[Exit.]

OLIVER.
Farewell, good Charles.--Now will I stir this gamester: I
hope I shall see an end of him: for my soul, yet I know not
why, hates nothing more than he. Yet he's gentle; never schooled
and yet learned; full of noble device; of all sorts enchantingly
beloved; and, indeed, so much in the heart of the world, and
especially of my own people, who best know him, that I am
altogether misprised: but it shall not be so long; this
wrestler shall clear all: nothing remains but that I kindle the
boy thither, which now I'll go about.

[Exit.]

Footnotes

  1. Oliver’s final lines reveal one of the major plots in this play: sibling rivalry. Oliver states that his “soul” hates Orlando above all else and that he “knows not why.” This statement suggests a type of inherent hatred an older brother directs towards his younger brother.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  2. “The golden world” is an allusion to Ovid’s Metamorphosis. It signifies a type of Eden and represents the primal age of innocence from which humankind was thought to have come. With this allusion, the countryside is figured as an edenic paradise.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  3. This first scene sets up the two worlds in which this play will take place: the green, pastoral world of exiled Duke Frederick's court and the corrupt city dominated by politics. Throughout the rest of the play, characters will explore the merits of both the pastoral and the city scape as they attempt to resolve their conflicts.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  4. Orlando’s separation from the courtly education and upbringing he desires places him in between the two thematic spheres of court and country. The tension between these two cultures is one of the play’s central themes.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  5. 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.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  6. This is an allusion to the Biblical Parable of the Prodigal Son. In it, a father grants equal estate to his two sons. The younger squanders his wealth and continually demands more. This prodigal son is then forced to become a swineherd, and his greed causes him to envy the pigs their “husks” (Luke 15:11-32). In this allusion, Orlando distinguishes himself from the prodigal son because he has not spent his earning recklessly yet is still being punished as if he is the character in this parable.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  7. The Robin Hood story also connects to As You Like It’s theme of court versus country. Robin Hood and his band of thieves inhabit the woods, and represent a rural, earthy way of life. Robin Hood’s goal is to steal from the wealthy, those who inhabit the courts. In subsequent scenes, Duke Frederick's choice to live in the woods with his men mirrors Robin Hood’s way of life.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  8. “Mutiny against servitude” introduces the theme of upsetting the social order. This theme will resurface throughout the play. Orlando does not simply accept his fate within the classed system but rather challenges that which he finds unfair.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  9. The reference to Robin Hood relates deeply to the central themes and conflicts of the play. The Robin Hood story deals with class conflict, with a hero who champions the lower classes in a struggle against the landed gentry. Orlando, a nobleman left without wealth, mirrors this struggle.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  10. By “spirit of my father,” Orlando means his father’s noble birth, blood, and attitude. Orlando uses this reference to claim that his noble blood cries out against this treatment that degrades him. However, rather than strongly claiming this right to his title, Orlando says “I think,” which undermines his argument. Because of the system of primogeniture, he cannot know with certainty that he can “mutiny against his servitude.”

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  11. Robin Hood is a bandit hero who originated in ballads in Renaissance England. The reference to Robin Hood would have been widely understood by Shakespeare’s audiences. Shakespeare penned As You Like It in 1599, a year after the appearance of a pair of popular plays about Robin Hood by the playwright Anthony Munday.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  12. Here, Orlando complains that his older brother strips him of his nobility by denying him an education. This establishes two prominent themes in the play. First, that education is a means by which one can gain power; second, the scrutiny of a feudal class system based on primogeniture, the right of succession going to the firstborn son.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  13. It is worth noting that when Oliver speaks, he communicates through the same prose as Orlando and Adam. Despite his superior level of education, Oliver does not speak in the blank verse typical for Shakespearean noblemen. It is likely that the crudeness of Oliver’s speech is meant to parallel the crudeness of his character.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  14. For those that know this play, Orlando referring to “Jaques” as his brother may at first be confusing. However, Orlando is speaking of his brother Jaques de Boys rather than Jaques the fool who has a more substantive role in the play.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  15. From the opening words of the play, it is apparent that Shakespeare has decided to use prose to express much of the characters’ dialogue. Prose is language that is more conversational than poetic, structured according to meaning rather than sound. Shakespeare wrote a great deal of his dialogue in what is known as blank verse: lines of unrhymed iambic pentameter. Blank verse generally conveys education and royalty. It is thus notable that the characters in this scene do not speak in blank verse. In the case of Orlando, this makes sense, given his lack of education.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  16. That is, his legitimate brother, as opposed to an illegitimate brother

    — Stephen Holliday
  17. Robin Hood, a strong cultural mythical figure in Medieval and Renaissance England, symbolizes the freedom from oppression and control that a life in nature offers.

    — Stephen Holliday
  18. This exchange sets up the court versus country theme.  In this exchange, the court is described as permanently corrupt.

    — Stephen Holliday
  19. The forest of Arden--the wood--becomes the symbol of nature and its goodness later in the play.  It is no coincidence that Shakespeare chooses as Orlando's family name de Bois ("of the wood").  Oliver can be seen initially as the perverse side of the family name.

    — Stephen Holliday
  20. In Shakespeare's time, villain meant a person of low birth; later, it came to mean thug.

    — Stephen Holliday
  21. Loved by everyone, as if magic has been used to enchant them. 

    — Jamie Wheeler
  22. A reference to Ovid's *Metamorphoses *myth of perpetual spring and abundance that once existed but humans lost.  This "golden world" was often linked to the pastoral life. 

    — Jamie Wheeler
  23.  Also spelled "Ardenne," this is the ancient, enormous forest that stretches across parts of France, Belgium, and Luxembourg..  

    — Jamie Wheeler
  24. There are two possible meanings for "rankness":

    1. Overgrown vegetation.  In Shakespeare's time, this was a common metaphor for an ill-tended life. 

    2. Diseased blood. Another common belief in the Elizabethan era was that of bodily "humors."  The humors consisted of black bile, yellow bile, blood, and phlegm.  If any of these were to much in abundance, or too lacking, the result would be an imbalance life.

    — Jamie Wheeler
  25. This is an allusion to the English custom of primogeniture (the transfer of property to the eldest son). 

    — Jamie Wheeler
  26. We share noble blood; therefore, you must acknowledge me as a brother. 

    — Jamie Wheeler
  27. This is an allusion to the "Parable of the Prodigal Son" told in Luke 15:11-32. In this story, a rich man's son squanders his share of his father's fortune while his brother stays home and works and tends to his father's property and needs. The foolish son loses so much that he envies the swine he observes their food; he decides to go home. The squandering son returns but instead of being shunned for his immature and irresponsible behavior, the  son is welcomed with open arms and a feast is held in his honor, for the father is happy that he is alive and forgives the rest. 

    — Jamie Wheeler
  28. A mild oath invoking the name of the biblical Virgin Mary. 

    — Jamie Wheeler
  29. This is the modern-day equivalent to about 250 English pounds. Compare Orlando's inheritance to Adam's life savings of only about 125 pounds (See 2.3.39).

    — Jamie Wheeler
  30. The orchard is located in France, near the court of Duke Frederick.  

    — Jamie Wheeler