As You Like It Act 2, Scene 4 Summary & Analysis
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The scene opens with Rosalind (disguised as Ganymede) rejoicing in her merry spirits and Touchstone complaining of tired legs. Rosalind admits that she, too, is weary, but, because of her disguise, must play the part of the strong and untiring man. Touchstone quips that he is more foolish in Arden than he was at court, but determines that “travellers must be content.”
Though for most of the play, Rosalind will have to operate without making any acknowledgment of the fact that she is in disguise. Here, though, alone with Celia, she can describe the effort of having to suit her behavior to her costume. Touchstone’s remarks indicate how a person dislocated from the place with which they are familiar feels more foolish—though perhaps it also indicates that in the court wit and subtlety are more prized than in the forest.
A young man and an old man, Silvius and Corin, enter, in serious conversation. Silvius is saying that Corin cannot understand how deeply Silvius is in love. Silvius asks Corin how many ridiculous things he has done out of love, and Corin replies up to a thousand, but all of which he’s forgotten. Silvius launches into a poetic monologue, accusing Corin that, if he cannot remember his love-borne follies or has not shown other such traits of love, then “thou hast not loved.” He concludes by calling out the name Phebe three times.
The conversation between Silvius and Corin echoes the conversation that Celia and Rosalind had about falling in love at the beginning of the play. Celia then advised to treat love as a game, to not be overwhelmed by it. In this conversation, though, Silvius associates love with foolishness and argues that you can’t be in love unless you are overwhelmed by it—in other words, he states that you’re only in love if you’re doing foolish things.
Rosalind and Touchstone are touched by Silvius’s speech, which they have overheard. Touchstone fondly remembers his old lover, Jane Smile, and muses that “all is mortal in nature, so is all nature in love mortal in folly.”
Silvius’s speech about love reminds Touchstone and Rosalind of their own loves. Touchstone re-emphasizes that folly naturally accompanies love.
On Celia’s request, Rosalind approaches Corin and asks if he has any food for Celia, who’s become faint with hunger. Corin regrets that he is merely a shepherd to a coarse employer, but he invites Rosalind to come see their sheep-cottage and pastures, which are now for sale. Rosalind and Celia, on an apparent whim, order Corin to buy the cottage, pasture, and flock for them with their money, which he happily agrees to do.
In purchasing the plot of land, Rosalind and Celia demonstrate that they have committed themselves to a life in the country, apart from the court. In some sense, buying the cottage is a doubling down on their disguises.