David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s “As You Like It”: A Retelling in Prose — Act 1, Scene 3

— 1.3 —

In a room of Duke Frederick’s palace, Rosalind and Celia were talking.

Celia said to Rosalind, “Why, cousin! You are so quiet! May Cupid, the god of love, have mercy on you! Can’t you speak a word?”

“You have heard of people who are so poor that they aren’t even able to throw scraps of food to a dog. I am not able to throw even a word to a dog.”

“Your words are too precious to be cast away upon curs,” Celia said. “Throw some of your words at me. Some people throw rocks at dogs to maim them and make them lame, so come, throw your words at me and lame me.”

“If I did that, both of us would then be hurt. You would be lamed with words, and I would be crazy.”

“Are you depressed because of your father?”

“Yes, but I am also depressed because of the man who should be the father of my child, when I have one. I am crazy in love with someone who can’t even speak to me. Right now, the world is wearisome and full of briers.”

“They are only burs, cousin, that have been thrown at you because of your foolish behavior when you chased after a man as if you were on a holiday. Act conventionally, and you will not suffer in this way. Unless we walk in the well-trodden paths, our petticoats will catch burs.”

“I could shake those burs off the bottoms of my petticoats; these burs are in my heart.”

“Hem them away.”

“I could ‘him’ them away, if I could have Orlando.”

“Come, come, wrestle with your affections.”

“My affections are for a better wrestler than myself!”

“If you get your wish, eventually you will wrestle him, with you lying flat on your back with your legs apart,” Celia said. “But let us put aside these jokes and instead talk earnestly. Is it really possible, that you — so suddenly — have fallen in love with old Sir Rowland’s youngest son?”

“Duke Senior, my father, loved his father dearly.”

“Does it therefore follow that you should love his son dearly? By this kind of argument, I should hate Orlando because my father hated his father dearly, but I do not hate Orlando.”

“No, do not hate Orlando — for my sake.”

“Why shouldn’t I hate Orlando? By this kind of argument, I ought to hate him — by this kind of argument, he deserves my hatred.”

“Let me love him because he deserves my love. You can love him because I love him.”

Rosalind added, “Look, here comes your father, Duke Frederick.”

“His eyes are full of anger,” Celia said.

Duke Frederick and some Lords entered the room.

Duke Frederick said to Rosalind, “Madam, as quickly as you safely can, get out of my court.”

“Do you mean me, uncle?”

“Yes, I mean you, niece. If, after ten days, you are found within twenty miles of my court, you will die.”

“Please, uncle, tell me the nature of my offence. Tell me what I have done wrong. If I know my own thoughts and desires — if I am not dreaming or insane, and I don’t think that I am — then I, dear uncle, have never come close to thinking or desiring anything that would offend you.”

“So say all traitors,” Duke Frederick replied. “If they could be cleared by their own words, all of them would be as innocent as virtue itself. Let me tell you plainly that I do not trust you.”

“Even your mistrust cannot make me a traitor: Tell me the grounds on which you believe that I am a traitor.”

“You are your father’s daughter. That is enough reason to think that you are a traitor.”

“I was my father’s daughter when you took his Dukedom,” Rosalind said. “I was my father’s daughter when you banished him. Treason is not inherited, my Lord. But even if treason were contagious and we did catch it from our friends, how does that apply to me? My father was no traitor. My good Lord, do not think that my poverty has made me a traitor. Although I am poor, I am not a traitor.”

“Dear sovereign father, listen to me,” Celia said.

“Celia, I have allowed Rosalind to stay here for your sake. If not for you, I would have made her go with her father when he went into exile.”

“I did not then beg you to have Rosalind stay here. That was your own decision, made because you yourself wanted her to stay and because you felt remorse for your own actions. I was too young at that time to value Rosalind, but now I know her. If she is a traitor, then so am I. We always have slept together, gotten up together, been educated together, eaten together, and wherever we went, we went together and inseparable, like the two swans that pull the chariot in which Juno, the Roman goddess of marriage, rides.”

“Rosalind is too cunning for you,” Duke Frederick replied. “Her deceptive charm, her silence, and her patience appeal to the people, and they pity her. You are a fool: She robs you of your reputation — you will appear brighter and seem more virtuous after she is gone. So do not open your lips. Firm and irrevocable are the judgment and the punishment that I have given to her. She is banished from my Dukedom.”

“Then give me the same judgment and punishment,” Celia said. “I cannot live without Rosalind’s companionship.”

“You are a fool,” Duke Frederick said to Celia.

He said to Rosalind, “You, niece, prepare yourself for your journey into exile. If you are still here after ten days, I swear that you will die.”

He and the other Lords left the room.

“Oh, my poor Rosalind,” Celia said, “where will you go? Are you willing to exchange fathers? I will give you my father in return for your father. Please, do not be more grieved than I am.”

“I have more cause for grief.”

“No, you don’t,” Celia said. “Be cheerful. Don’t you know that my father, Duke Frederick, has banished me?”

“No, he has not.”

“Hasn’t he? You, Rosalind, lack the love that ought to teach you that you and I are one. Shall we be sundered? Shall we be parted, sweet girl? No. Let my father seek another heir. Therefore plan with me how we may flee into exile. Let us plan where to go and what to take with us. Do not seek to go alone, to bear your griefs by yourself and leave me here. I swear by the Heavens, which have grown pale because of our sorrows, that no matter what you say, I will go with you into exile.”

“Where shall we go?” Rosalind asked.

“To seek my uncle — your father — in the Forest of Arden.”

“We will be in danger. We are two young virgins traveling so far alone! Our feminine beauty will make us even more of a target for criminals than money alone would.”

“I will wear poor and mean clothing and with a kind of brown paint will darken my face to make myself look like a peasant instead of a court lady. You can do the same thing. If we look like poor peasants, we shall be able to travel and never be bothered by assailants.”

“Wouldn’t it better,” Rosalind replied, “if, because I am tall for a woman, I were to dress and act like a man? I could carry a gallant short sword upon my thigh, a boar-spear in my hand, and a swashing and martial outside appearance, while I hide in my heart whatever womanish fears I feel. I will do what other cowards do — I will act as if I am brave when I do not feel brave at all. And you and I could be brother and sister.”

“What shall I call you when you are dressed like a man?”

“I’ll have no worse a name than the god Jupiter’s own page,” Rosalind said. “He saw a boy named Ganymede and kidnapped him to be his cup-bearer. Therefore, call me Ganymede. But what name will you take?”

“I will take a name that is suitable to my new situation in life. I will no longer be called Celia. Instead, call me Aliena — the Estranged One. My father and I are now estranged.”

“Cousin, here’s a good idea. Let’s take Touchstone the fool with us when we leave your father’s court. Wouldn’t he be a comfort as we travel?”

“He will be happy to go with me and travel the wide world with me,” Celia said to Rosalind. “Leave it to me to talk to him. Let us go now and get our jewels and our wealth together. We will plan the best time and the safest way to leave so that we will escape the pursuit that will be made after my father discovers that I have gone into exile with you. Now we can go contently — we are going into liberty and not into banishment.”

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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