As You Like It Act 1, Scene 2 Summary & Analysis
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Celia coaxes Rosalind to be “merry.” Rosalind asks how she is supposed to feel merry given that her father has been banished from court. Celia tries, and succeeds, to convince Rosalind to consider Celia’s father as her own, even promising that Rosalind shall be heir to the throne.
From the tense relationship between Orlando and Oliver in the first act, the play jumps to the warm and loving relationship between Celia and Rosalind in the second. Celia proves herself very generous in offering Rosalind her right to the throne. However, the friendly world of these two women is imperiled and controlled by the conflict between their fathers, who are themselves brothers.
Rosalind, with renewed gratitude and merriment, goes on to ask Celia what she thinks of falling in love. Celia answers that she thinks of it as a sport, and that one should not love in earnest or let her honor be threatened.
The sisters’ conversation about love foreshadows the great importance that falling in love will come to assume in the course of the play. Celia’s comments indicate how those not in love think of love, as something to be overwhelmed by. Once love does strike, though, it proves overwhelming to all who experience it.
The two cousins joke about the roles of Fortune and Nature in determining a person’s appearance and character. Their conversation is interrupted by the arrival of Touchstone, whose dullness is a source of humor, “the whetstone of the wits.”
The lighthearted conversation between Celia and Rosalind provides a stark contrast with the serious conversation that Oliver and Orlando had in the previous scene. Touchstone’s entrance further contributes to the scene’s lighthearted tone
Touchstone reports to Celia that her father desires to see her and makes various jesting side-comments. He remarks, for instance, that fools are never considered wise, though they may speak wisely, while wise men are always assumed wise, though they may speak foolishly.
In his remarks on the wisdom of fools and the foolishness of the wise, Touchstone reveals himself to be one of the wise fools that he describes. He also suggests that the perception of fools and wise men is often based more on how they present themselves than on what they actually say.
Monsieur Le Beau, who is one of Duke Frederick's courtiers, enters, and Celia, Rosalind, and Touchstone continue jesting with him in the same vein. Le Beau tells of three brothers, all of whom wrestled with Charles and were defeated, leaving their father in mourning. Rosalind asks if there is more wrestling to be seen and Le Beau answers that there is, and that it will happen very shortly, right where they are currently standing.
The theme of brothers appears again. This time, the brothers we hear of did not fight with each other, but rather each fought with, and was defeated by, the court wrestler. Charles’s success in his matches with the brothers suggests that the odds are great that his next opponent—Orlando—will be defeated as well.
The upcoming opponent, Orlando, enters with Duke Frederick, Charles, and various attendants, and Celia remarks on how young Orlando looks. Duke Frederick confirms that he should not fight on account of his youth, and encourages Celia and Rosalind to try to dissuade him. The sisters call Orlando over and try to convince him not to fight. When he insists on fighting, the girls promise to support him.
The two plotlines that have so far been developed—with Oliver and Orlando on the one hand and Rosalind, Celia, and the Dukes on the other— converge here, as Duke Frederick, Rosalind, and Celia come in contact with Orlando. In insisting to fight, Orlando expresses a strong will and great determination, which win the girls over to his side.
Before an audience of Duke Frederick and the sisters, Charles and Orlando commence the match. Charles is thrown, leaving Orlando the victor. Duke Frederick, impressed by anyone who can defeat Charles, asks who Orlando is. When Orlando informs Duke Frederick that he's the youngest son of Sir Rowland de Boys, Frederick is displeased: de Boys had been a supporter of Duke Senior, yet he praises Orlando nevertheless.
Orlando’s victory is particularly impressive because it was assumed that he would lose out to his older and undefeated opponent. The match reveals Orlando’s unexpected strength. Meanwhile, old animosities are brought to the fore in Duke Frederick’s comment on Orlando’s family.
Having learned the identity of Orlando’s father, Rosalind declares that she would have been all the more insistent that he not fight: her own father dearly loved Sir Rowland de Boys. Celia and Rosalind congratulate and thank Orlando, and Rosalind gives him a chain as a token of her respect, leaving him smitten. Rosalind and Celia take their leave.
By commenting on Duke Senior’s fondness for Sir Rowland de Boys, Rosalind positions herself and her father in opposition to Duke Frederick. Rosalind’s gift to Orlando commences an amorous relationship that will develop between them throughout the play.
Le Beau then advises Orlando to leave, since he has unintentionally displeased the duke. Orlando thanks him, then asks which of the girls is the daughter of the duke. Le Beau tells him it is Celia, but also reveals that Duke Frederick has recently taken a dislike to Rosalind because she is the banished duke’s daughter. He predicts that this dislike will soon be made clear.
Orlando’s question suggests that he may have become infatuated with one of the sisters. Le Beau’s prediction that Duke Frederick will act upon his dislike for Rosalind will shortly be proven correct. Rosalind’s situation also shows how vulnerable women are to men.