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As You Like It summary available at eNotes

Language in As You Like It

The ability to make witty comments is an important one to several characters in As You Like It. When the heroine of the play, Rosalind, is first introduced, she engages in a verbal game of wits with her cousin Celia about the nature of Fortune. Several other characters, including Orlando, Jaques, and Touchstone, also make several clever comments in an effort to outwit characters in the play. The characters' possession of wit and the ability to use it properly not only makes the play more entertaining, but also teaches an important point about the use of words—that words without wisdom or compassion have no meaning at all. Rosalind, as heroine, is the character who is most visible in her use of words. Although she begins Act I, scene 2, depressed because of her situation, she is more than capable of rising to Celia's challenge to be merry by making fun of Fortune. This discussion, which shows both Celia's and Rosalind's impressive verbal abilities, is relatively meaningless because they are arguing just to see who can make the wittiest comment. However, their abilities are put to the test in the next scene, when Duke Frederick banishes Rosalind. Duke Frederick banishes Rosalind because she is her father's daughter and therefore a threat. However, Rosalind correctly points out that treason is not an inherited trait, and that she is no more dangerous now than she was when Duke Frederick first agreed to keep her at court. Celia then pleads Rosalind's case by stating that she must also be a traitor because she has become so close to Rosalind that they are essentially the same kind of person. Both Rosalind's and Celia's arguments, which are very logical especially in light of the emotion of the moment, are rejected not because they are insufficient, but simply because of Duke Frederick's villainy. Another example of Rosalind using her linguistic abilities occurs in her meetings with Orlando, Silvius, and Phebe. When Rosalind, dressed as Ganymede, attempts to "counsel" Orlando out of his love for her, she uses a great deal of wit to do so. First of all, Rosalind uses her wit to protect her disguise. When Orlando asks her if she is a native of the Forest of Arden, Rosalind makes an ambiguous remark about being as much of a native as a rabbit is to the place where it is born. In other words, she never quite answers the question directly. She uses this kind of verbal sidestepping again in Act V, scene 2, when she says that she is in love with no woman and that she will marry Phebe is she is going to marry any woman at all. She also makes Phebe promise that if she refuses to marry her, she will marry Silvius. Rosalind manipulates the other characters through her use of language, but she does so for one purpose—to ensure a happy ending to the play.
 

 

 

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