Study Guide

As You Like It Transformation

By William Shakespeare

Transformation

Act 1, Scene 3
Celia (Aliena)

CELIA
Something that hath a reference to my state:
No longer Celia, but Aliena. (1.3.134-135)

Both of Rosalind's transformations are made out of need—she needs to leave the comfort of the court, and she must dress as a man to protect Celia and herself on their travels to Arden. Celia's transformation, by contrast, is entirely of her own choosing. She chooses to be alienated from her home, and later claims that she goes not to banishment, but liberation. It is clear Celia does not take this as seriously as Rosalind.

Rosalind (Ganymede)

ROSALIND
Were it not better,
Because that I am more than common tall,
That I did suit me all points like a man?
A gallant curtal-ax upon my thigh,
A boar spear in my hand, and in my heart
Lie there what hidden woman's fear there will,
We'll have a swashing and a martial outside—
As many other mannish cowards have
That do outface it with their semblances. (1.3.121-129)

Rosalind transforms into a man by disguising her height with manly accessories, yet it is likely she will look the same. This transformation is not one of just outward appearances; Rosalind changes her persona.

Act 2, Scene 7
Jaques

And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.
And then the whining schoolboy with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything. (2.7.149-173)

Jaques' famous speech suggests that our lives are nothing more than a series of transformations: 1) puking infant; 2) whining school boy; 3) young, sighing lover; 4) soldier; 5) "justice" or upstanding leader; 6) silly old man who thinks he's still young ("pantaloon"); 7) super-old man, toothless, blind, and as helpless as a baby. Is this an accurate or even useful way to sum up human life?

Act 3, Scene 2
Jaques

JAQUES
The worst fault you have is to be in love.
ORLANDO
'Tis a fault I will not change for your best
virtue. I am weary of you.
JAQUES
By my troth, I was seeking for a fool when
I found you.
ORLANDO
He is drowned in the brook. Look but in, and
you shall see him.
JAQUES
There I shall see mine own figure.
ORLANDO
Which I take to be either a fool or a cipher. (3.2.286-294)

According to Jaques, love transforms us all into "fools."   

Act 3, Scene 3
Touchstone

TOUCHSTONE
[...] many a man has good
horns, and knows no end of them. Well, that is the
dowry of his wife; 'tis none of his own getting.
Horns? Even so. Poor men alone? No, no. The
noblest deer hath them as huge as the rascal. (3.3.52-56)

Touchstone suggests that, as soon as a man is married, he is transformed into a beast with "horns" on his "forehead" (a.k.a. a cuckold, or a man who has been cheated on by his wife). As unfair and sexist as it is, this idea is pretty common in Shakespearean drama. In fact, our favorite Danish Prince says something similar about his ex-girlfriend in Hamlet. Check it out:

Or, if thou wilt needs
marry, marry a fool; for wise men know well enough
what monsters you make of them. To a nunnery, go,
and quickly too. Farewell.
(3.1.11)

Like Touchstone, Hamlet suggests that women turn their husbands into "monster[s]," or cuckolds (cuckolds were thought to have horns like monsters) because wives inevitably cheat. For more on cuckoldry in As You Like It, check out "Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory."

Act 4, Scene 3
Rosalind (Ganymede)

ROSALIND [as Ganymede]
Was 't you he rescued?
CELIA [as Aliena]
Was 't you that did so oft contrive to kill him?
OLIVER
'Twas I, but 'tis not I. I do not shame
To tell you what I was, since my conversion
So sweetly tastes, being the thing I am. (4.3.10)

Hmm. This is a mighty convenient time for Oliver to undergo a transformation. Gee. We wonder if it has something to do with the fact that Oliver's life was just saved by Orlando. Here, Oliver confesses that he's no longer the same guy he was before. (The one who tried to have his little bro killed... twice.) Nevertheless, Oliver does seem to have experienced a "conversion" after entering Arden.  

Act 5, Scene 4
Jaques

JAQUES
The duke hath put on a religious life
And thrown into neglect the pompous court.
[...]
To him will I. Out of these convertites
There is much matter to be heard and learned.
[...]
So, to your
   pleasures.
I am for other than for dancing measures.
[...]
To see no pastime, I. What you would have
I'll stay to know at your abandoned cave. (5.4.187-188; 190-191; 201-203; 205-206)

This is interesting. The melancholy Jaques is virtually the only character who doesn't change. What's up with that?

SECOND BROTHER
Duke Frederick, hearing how that every day
Men of great worth resorted to this forest,
Addressed a mighty power; which were on foot
In his own conduct, purposely to take
His brother here and put him to the sword:
And to the skirts of this wild wood he came,
Where meeting with an old religious man,
After some question with him, was converted
Both from his enterprise and from the world,
His crown bequeathing to his banish'd brother,
And all their lands restored to them again
That were with him exiled. This to be true
I do engage my life. (5.4.159-171)

This news confirms something we already know—the Forest of Arden is capable of "convert[ing]" any person who steps foot in the woods. In Duke Frederick's case, merely entering the edge or "skirts of this wild wood" coincides with a sudden and miraculous transformation. After talking with some random "religious man," Frederick changes his evil ways and gives his dukedom back to his brother. What's even more interesting is the fact that Duke Frederick's conversion mirrors bad-brother Oliver's sudden transformation (see Quote #6).  

Rosalind (Ganymede)

ROSALIND [to Duke]
To you I give myself, for I am yours.
[to Orlando] To you I give myself, for I am yours. (5.4.120-121)

Rosalind has removed her "Ganymede" disguise and is now ready to marry Orlando. Still, we have to wonder: Is Rosalind's transformation from "Ganymede" back to Rosalind a change for the better? It seems like she's now undergone the obvious transformation from a young man to a marriageable woman. The more potent transition, though, is her change from the state of freedom to some tied-down-relationships. Throughout the entire play, Rosalind has been a fairly independent woman, managing on her own with Celia. This very formal "giving over" of herself to husband and father seems like a transformation—maybe even a reversion—of the lively, strong-willed, whip-tongued Rosalind we have come to know in the forest.

Duke Senior

DUKE SENIOR
First, in this forest, let us do those ends
That here were well begun and well begot,
And, after, every of this happy number
That have endured shrewd days and nights with us
Shall share the good of our returnèd fortune
According to the measure of their states.
Meantime, forget this new-fall'n dignity,
And fall into our rustic revelry.— (5.4.176-183)

Duke Frederick's conversion has a major social impact. When he returns the dukedom to his older brother, Frederick makes it possible for Duke Senior, Rosalind, and Orlando to return to court, where they will (presumably) transform the once-treacherous court into a more civilized place.