As You Like It


William Shakespeare

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As You Like It: Similes 2 key examples

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Definition of Simile
A simile is a figure of speech that directly compares two unlike things. To make the comparison, similes most often use the connecting words "like" or "as," but can also... read full definition
A simile is a figure of speech that directly compares two unlike things. To make the comparison, similes most often use the connecting words "like... read full definition
A simile is a figure of speech that directly compares two unlike things. To make the comparison, similes most often... read full definition
Act 2, Scene 3
Explanation and Analysis—A Lusty Winter:

In his conversation with Orlando during Act 2, Scene 3, Adam asks to be allowed to accompany him in exile. Adam uses a simile to convince Orlando that, despite his advanced age, he can still prove a useful companion :

Let me be your servant.
Though I look old, yet I am strong and lusty,
For in my youth I never did apply
Hot and rebellious liquors in my blood,
Nor did not with unbashful forehead woo
The means of weakness and debility.
Therefore my age is as a lusty winter,
Frosty but kindly.                                      

Adam argues that because he took care of himself well in his youth, never overindulging in alcohol (“hot and rebellious liquors”) nor in foolish behavior (“means of weakness and debility”), he remains in good health now. He describes his old age as a “lusty winter / frosty but kindly.” 

Adam’s kindness, self-control, and consistency are clear in this metaphor, and in this scene overall. Adam, despite being in questionable physical health, depicts his twilight years as “kindly” despite their challenges. He minimizes his own suffering, hoping that Orlando will allow him to help him flee the court and Oliver’s plot on his life.

If the audience chooses to believe Adam’s account of his old age, however his desire to help Orlando may slant it, other aspects of Adam’s character become clear. Through swearing off vice and other (unnamed) self-destructive behaviors, Adam has avoided trouble and stayed in good health up until this point. In this way, Adam shows himself to be more self-possessed than most of the men in the play, and more capable of reigning in his impulses. In a play full of men and women who fall in love at first sight, run away to the forest, and plot the murders and overthrow of family, Adam is a welcome straight man.

Act 5, Scene 2
Explanation and Analysis—Like Irish Wolves:

In Act 5, Scene 2, Orlando, Silvius, and Phoebe each ask their respective beloved the same question (“If this be so, why blame you me to love you?”). Rosalind responds to their rhetorical questions with a simile:

Rosalind, [as Ganymede]:  ​​Pray you, no more of this.
'Tis like the howling of Irish wolves against the moon.                                           

In this scene, Silvius lays out all of the qualities of an ideal love (it is faithful, passionate, humble, pure, etc.), and claims that this describes his feelings for Phoebe. Phoebe affirms that these are her feelings for Ganymede, and Orlando says that they are also his feelings for Rosalind. Phoebe asks Ganymede, if love is as beautiful as this, why does he blame her for loving him? If love is wonderful, how could you blame me for wanting to experience this with you? Silvius poses the same question to Phoebe, and Orlando asks the question to the empty air (“To her that is not here,” i.e. Rosalind). 

Rosalind is overwhelmed by the sentimentality of the conversation and their passionate proclamations of love. She begs them to stop (“no more of this”). She compares their behavior to the “howling of Irish wolves against the moon,” a futile, though perhaps natural, gesture. By comparing their speeches to howls, Rosalind devalues their words; they may as well be making empty noises. Though wolves are compelled to call out by instinct, and perhaps Rosalind’s choice of simile reflects her awareness that those experiencing a passionate love often cannot help themselves from expressing it. 

But Rosalind’s characterization of their words as “noise” reflects her awareness that, though sincerely felt, Silvius’s words need to be bolstered with real action to be worth something. Immediately, Rosalind sets about putting these various declarations of love into action. This simile reflects the no-nonsense side of Rosalind’s character. She will not get caught up in lofty ideas of love; she prefers practical decision-making in this arena, and at the end of the scene negotiates the marriages of all present. 

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