David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s “As You Like It”: A Retelling in Prose — Cast and Act 1, Scene 1

Cast of Characters

DUKE SENIOR, living in exile.

FREDERICK, his Brother, Usurper of his Dominions.

AMIENS & JAQUES: Lords attending upon the banished Duke.

LE BEAU, a Courtier, attending upon Frederick.

CHARLES, a Wrestler.

OLIVER, JAQUES, & ORLANDO: Sons of Sir Rowland de Boys.

ADAM & DENNIS: Servants to Oliver.



CORIN & SILVIUS: Shepherds.

WILLIAM, a Country Fellow, in love with Audrey.

A person representing Hymen, god of marriage.

The Women

ROSALIND, Daughter to the banished Duke.

CELIA, Daughter to Frederick.

PHOEBE, a Shepherdess.

AUDREY, a Country Wench.

Other Characters

Lords, Pages, Foresters, and Attendants.

— 1.1 —

Orlando, the third and youngest son of Sir Rowland de Boys, was talking about his life with Adam, an aged servant of the de Boys family. Some of Orlando’s problems in life came from primogeniture, in which the bulk of the family estate is passed down to the oldest son, leaving much less of an inheritance for any younger sons. Such was the case with Orlando. The oldest son’s name was Oliver, and Orlando and Adam were talking in Oliver’s garden.

Orlando said, “I remember, Adam, that this is the reason why my father left me in his will the small sum of a thousand crowns. But as you said, he also gave my oldest brother, Oliver, the responsibility of raising me well — as a gentleman — if Oliver was to receive our father’s blessing. Oliver is raising the middle brother — Jaques — well. Oliver sent him to the university, and according to all reports he is making wonderful progress. But Oliver keeps me at home like a person without money in rural areas. But is ‘keep’ the right word for a gentleman of my birth? My ‘keep’ is much like the keeping of an ox in a stall. Oliver’s horses are being better taken care of than I am. They are well fed, and well-paid hostlers teach them what they need to know. But I, his own brother, gain nothing under him but bodily growth into adulthood. Even the animals lying on dunghills to keep warm owe him that much. Besides this nothing that he so plentifully gives me, the something that nature gave me — my social standing by birth — his behavior seems to seek to take away from me. He lets me eat with his farm workers, will not allow me the place of a brother, and, as much as he is able to, he undermines my noble birth with a lack of proper education. Adam, this grieves me, and the spirit of my father, which I think is within me, begins to mutiny against this brother-imposed servitude. I will no longer endure it, though so far I know no intelligent way to avoid it.”

Adam looked away and then replied, “Yonder comes my master, your eldest brother.”

Orlando said, “Go stand aside, Adam, and you shall hear how he will taunt me.”

Oliver walked up to Orlando and said mockingly, “Now, sir! What are you doing here?”

“Nothing,” Orlando replied. “I can do nothing. I have not been educated to make anything of myself.”

“If you are not making anything, then what are you marring?”

“Sir, I am helping you to mar that which God made, a poor unworthy brother of yours. I am marring myself with idleness for lack of something better to do.”

“Then be better employed, and be quick about it.”

“Shall I keep your hogs and eat scraps with them? That is what the prodigal son did in Luke 15:11-32. He received his inheritance and spent it and was forced to become a servant swineherd and eat the swine’s food to keep himself from starving. But what prodigal portion have I spent, that I should come to such penury as did the prodigal son? I have never received my inheritance.”

“Do you know where you are, sir?”

“Very well, sir. I am in your garden.”

“Do you know to whom you are speaking, sir?”

“Yes, I know you better than you know me,” Orlando replied. “I know that you are my eldest brother, and you should know that I share your heritage and family and blood. According to primogeniture, you are my better, because you were first born, but primogeniture does not deny my heritage. Even if twenty brothers were born in between you and me, I would still have as much of our father in me as you have. However, I confess that your being born first makes you the head of our family and therefore entitled to more respect than I am.”

Angry, Oliver hit Orlando and called him a name: “Take that, boy!”

Angered by the blow and the insult, Orlando seized Oliver and held on to him to protect himself from any more blows.

He said to Oliver, “You are too young in strength; you are weaker than I am, and you are not the fighter that I am.”

“Do you dare to lay hands on me, villain!”

A villain can be either a rogue or a peasant. Oliver used the word to mean “rogue,” but in his reply Orlando used the other meaning.

“A villain is a peasant,” Orlando said. “I am no villain. I am the youngest son of Sir Rowland de Boys; he was my father. Anyone who says that such a father gave birth to villains is three times a villain. If you were not my brother, I would not take this hand from your throat until my other hand had pulled out your tongue for saying that our father had given birth to a villain. By saying that, you have insulted yourself.”

Adam said, “Sweet masters, don’t fight. In memory of your father and for your father’s sake, make peace with each other.”

Oliver said, “Let me go, I say.”

“I will not let you go until I want to,” Orlando replied. “First, listen to me. My father charged you in his will to give me a good education; instead, you have trained me like a peasant, not allowing me the chance to acquire the accomplishments of a gentleman. The spirit of my father grows strong in me, and I will no longer endure your treatment; therefore, give me the education that a gentleman ought to have, or give me the small inheritance that my father left me in his will. With that small inheritance, I will leave here and seek my fortune elsewhere.”

“And what will you do? Will you beg after you have spent your inheritance? Well, sir, go inside the house. I will not long be troubled with you; you shall have some part of what you want. Leave me now.”

“I will bother you no more than is necessary to get what I need.”

Oliver said to Adam, “Go with him, you old dog.”

Adam said, “Is being called ‘old dog’ my reward for serving your family for decades? Truly, I have lost my teeth in your family’s service. May God be with my old master! He would not have called me an old dog.”

Orlando and Adam left the garden.

Alone, Oliver said, “So this is what it comes down to. It’s a showdown between you and me. You have become a nuisance to me. You have grown wild, Orlando, but I will give you your medicine and curb your wildness. And that medicine will not be one thousand crowns.”

He summoned a servant: “Come here, Dennis!”

Dennis arrived and asked, “How may I help you?”

“Isn’t Charles, Duke Frederick’s wrestler, here to speak with me?”

“Yes, he is here at the door and wants to speak with you.”

“Call him in.”

Dennis left to get Charles.

“This is a good way to solve my problem,” Oliver said. “Tomorrow there will be wrestling.”

Charles entered and said, “Good day to your worship.”

“Good Monsieur Charles, what’s the new news at the new court?”

“The news at the court,” Charles said, “is the old news. Old Senior has been banished by his younger brother, Duke Frederick. Three or four lords who greatly respect Duke Senior have gone into exile — in their case, voluntarily — with him. Duke Frederick allowed them to go into exile so he could seize their lands and revenues and enrich himself.”

“Can you tell me if Rosalind, Duke Senior’s daughter, is banished with her father?”

“She has not been banished,” Charles replied. “Duke Frederick’s daughter, Celia, so loves Rosalind, with whom she has been friends since both were in the cradle, that Celia would have followed her into exile — or if prevented from following her, she would have died of grief. Rosalind is at the court, and her uncle, Duke Frederick, loves her no less than his own daughter, Celia — never have two ladies loved each other as Celia and Rosalind do.”

“Where will the old Duke — Duke Senior — live?”

“People say that he is already in the Forest of Arden, and that he has many merry men with him, and there in the forest they live like the old Robin Hood of England. People say that many young gentlemen flock to him every day, and they spend the time without cares, as was the case in the Golden Age of classical mythology. They live without cares and with great ease.”

“Will you wrestle tomorrow before Duke Frederick?”

“Yes, I will,” Charles said. “In fact, this is why I am here. I have learned from secret sources that your younger brother Orlando intends to put on a disguise and wrestle against me. However, tomorrow, sir, I wrestle to protect and improve my reputation, and any wrestler who escapes from me without suffering a broken limb shall acquit himself well. Your brother is but young and tender, and out of respect for you, I am loath to defeat and injure him, as I must do, for my own reputation, if he wrestles against me. Therefore, because I respect you, I came here to tell you these things so that either you might convince him not to wrestle me or prepare yourself to endure disgrace when I defeat your youngest brother. A wrestling match between him and me is something that he — not I — wants. My wrestling your youngest brother is completely against my will.”

“Charles, I thank you for your respect for and loyalty to me, which you will find I will most appropriately reward. I have previously learned of my brother’s plan to wrestle you and I have tried unobtrusively to dissuade him from wrestling you, but he is determined to carry out his plan. I tell you, Charles, that my youngest brother is the most ruthless young fellow of all France. He is full of ambition, he envies every man’s good qualities and abilities, and he is a secret and villainous contriver against me, his birth brother. Therefore, use your own discretion. As for myself, I would prefer that you break his neck than his finger. But be careful because if he thinks that you have defeated him by even by a little and if he fails to score a notable victory against you, he will plot against you and try to poison you. He will try to trap you with some treacherous plot, and he will never leave you alone until he has killed you by some indirect means or other so that he is not punished for your death. I am almost in tears as I tell you truly that no one as young and as villainous as Orlando is alive today. I am his brother, and I speak as a brother, but if I were to explain to you his real character in every detail, then I must blush and weep and you must look pale and wonder.”

“I am heartily glad I came here and spoke to you,” Charles said. “If Orlando comes to wrestle me tomorrow, I will give him his payment. If he ever again walks without crutches, I will retire from professional wrestling. May God bless you.”

“Farewell, good Charles,” Oliver said.

Charles left, and Oliver said to himself, “Now I will provoke this gamester — my youngest brother. I hope I shall see an end of him — his death. My soul, I do not know why, hates nothing more than him, yet he is endowed with the qualities of a gentleman. He has never been schooled and yet he is learned, and he is full of gentlemanliness. He is enchantingly — as if they were under a spell — beloved by all ranks of people, and indeed the world itself loves him. Especially my own subjects, who best know him, love him so much that they prefer him to me and they despise me. But this shall not last much longer. Charles the wrestler shall solve my problems. All that I need to do is to find Orlando and incite the boy to wrestle tomorrow, and I will go right now and do that.”

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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