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As You Like It Act 1, Scene 1 Summary

  • In an orchard at his big brother Oliver's house, Orlando complains to an old family servant (Adam).
  • You see, Orlando's father has died and Oliver has inherited just about all of the family's land and wealth because he's the eldest son. (Back in Shakespeare's day, eldest sons always inherited everything, which meant that all the other kids got shafted automatically. This system, by the way, is called "primogeniture" and it's something Shakespeare was really interested in. Just ask bitter Edmund in King Lear.)
  • Orlando tells us that, before his dad died, he made Oliver promise that he'd take care of his little brother by making sure he lived the kind of lifestyle he'd become accustomed to as the son of a wealthy nobleman.
  • Oliver, however, has been treating his little bro worse than a horse. Oliver makes poor Orlando eat with the family's farm workers, never gives the kid any spending money, and refuses to pay for Orlando's education.
  • Orlando is completely fed up and says he's getting ready to "mutiny."
  • Just then, Oliver enters. Orlando grumbles a bit and Oliver tells his little bro to scram.
  • Orlando and Oliver bicker.
  • Orlando grabs his big brother's throat and tries to choke him out.
  • Oliver croaks, "Let me go."
  • Orlando demands to be treated like a "gentleman" and says he wants the little bit of money his dad left him (a thousand crowns).
  • Orlando and Adam storm off.
  • Oliver is joined by Charles, the court wrestler and also a regular court gossip.
  • Charles dishes on what's been going down at court. Apparently, Duke Senior has been banished by his brother, Duke Frederick. (Hmm. We seem to be detecting a pattern of family drama here.)
  • Banished Duke Senior has been followed by a bunch of young gentlemen, and all have been making merry together in the Forest of Arden, Robin Hood-style.
  • Charles also reports that Duke Senior's daughter, Rosalind, was not banished, but is instead staying with her cousin Celia (Duke Frederick's daughter) because the two are inseparable.
  • Charles gets to the point of his visit: Tomorrow there's a big wrestling match and Oliver's little brother Orlando is jonesing to fight Charles. Charles worries that Orlando is "young and tender," so he's come to get Oliver to forbid his younger brother from fighting.
  • Oliver sees his chance. He tells Charles he's already tried to persuade Orlando away from wrestling (a lie), and that Orlando is a villain and traitor (also a lie—someone's pants are soon to be on fire).
  • Charles wants to make Oliver happy, so he agrees to break Orlando's neck during the wrestling match and then runs off to practice his moves.
  • Alone on stage, Oliver says he's not sure why he hates his little brother so much, but it probably has something to do with the fact that Orlando is a great guy and everyone else seems to love him.

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