A Lesson in Love

Act 4 Scene 1 – Key Scene

In this scene, Orlando and Rosalind have just been ‘married’ by Celia as part of a game. They have been pretending together that Orlando is wooing Rosalind, even though he thinks it is really Ganymede who is teaching him about love, and in these moments Rosalind pushes their lessons to an extreme to try and test how serious Orlando really is about his love.

Take a look at an extract from this scene and watch it in performance here. Using the following steps, remember to look at it line by line and if you’re looking at the scene for the first time, don’t worry if you don’t understand everything at once.

  • Look
    Take a look at the scene. Who has the most lines? Are they using prose or verse? Actors at the RSC often put the language into their own words to help them understand what they are saying. We’ve added some definitions (in green), questions (in red) and paraphrased some sections (in blue) to help with this. You can click on the text that is highlighted for extra guidance.
    Rosalind
    Now tell me how long you would have her after you have possessed her.
    Orlando
    Forever and a day.
    Rosalind
    Say ‘a day’, without the ‘ever’. No, no, Orlando. Men are April when they woo, December when they wed. Maids are May when they are maids, but the sky changes when they are wives. I will be more jealous of thee than a Barbary cock-pigeon over his hen, more clamorous than a parrot against rain, more new-fangled than an ape, more giddy in my desires than a monkey. I will weep for nothing, like Diana in the fountain, and I will do that when you are disposed to be merry. I will laugh like a hyena, and that when thou art inclined to sleep.

    Rosalind is saying that men are far less interested in women once they have been to bed with them. She goes on to explain how women become increasingly changeable, crying when the man is happy and laughing noisily when he wants to sleep.

    Orlando
    But will my Rosalind do so?
    Rosalind
    By my life, she will do as I do.

    Can you explain why this line is funny for the audience, but not for Orlando?

    Orlando
    O, but she is wise.
    Rosalind
    Or else she could not have the wit to do this: the wiser, the waywarder. Make the doors upon a woman’s wit and it will out at the casement. Shut that and ’twill out at the key-hole. Stop that, ’twill fly with the smoke out at the chimney.

    Shut the door on a woman's wit and it will come out of the window. Shut that and it will come through the keyhole. Fill the keyhole and it will come out of the chimney with the smoke. Rosalind is basically saying a woman’s wit is unstoppable.

    Orlando
    A man that had a wife with such a wit, he might say ‘Wit, whither wilt?’
    Rosalind
    Nay, you might keep that check for it till you met your wife’s wit going to your neighbour’s bed.
    Orlando
    And what wit could wit have to excuse that?
    Rosalind
    Marry, to say she came to seek you there. You shall never take her without her answer, unless you take her without her tongue. O, that woman that cannot make her fault her husband’s occasion, let her never nurse her child herself, for she will breed it like a fool.
    Orlando
    For these two hours, Rosalind, I will leave thee.
    Rosalind
    Alas, dear love, I cannot lack thee two hours.

    Do you think this is still Rosalind speaking as Ganymede, or is this what Rosalind really feels?

    Orlando
    I must attend the duke at dinner. By two o’clock I will be with thee again.
  • Listen
    Read the scene aloud, then watch the actors trying it in different ways. Which way feels right? What in the language makes you think that? In the clip, actor Sophie Khan Levy says Celia is “very hard on Rosalind” in this scene. What evidence is there in Celia’s language to support this?
  • Watch
    Take a look at the actors performing this scene. How do the characters come across in this version?
  • Imagine
    Explore some images from past versions of As You Like It at the RSC. Which sets and staging choices for the scene feel right to you?