As You Like It characters are grouped by noble household, and critics often draw comparisons between the fully functioning court of Duke Frederick and the exiled court of Duke Senior – especially because the Duke Senior is often depicted as good, honest and not power hungry.
This analysis focuses on the characters that make up the disbanded court in the forest – and also looks at the country folk characters that constitute the wider forest community.
First we will look at the As You Like It characters that make up the exiled court focusing on Duke Senior, Amiens and Jaques. We will then look at the other characters living in the forest including Sir Oliver Martext, Corin, Silvius, Phoebe, William, Audrey and the God of marriage, Hymen.
So, let’s start with Duke Senior and his small exiled court.
The Exiled Court of Duke Senior in the Forest of Arden:
- Key Fact: Banished and living in the forest
Enjoys life in the forest, has many loyal supporters. Presented as a good and honest man, quite happy with his lot in life.
- Key Fact: Duke Senior’s Lord attending on him in the forest
A loyal follower of Duke Senior, in the Robin Hood analogy Charles makes at the beginning of the play - Amiens is one of Duke Senior’s merry men – he enjoys a good sing song and is a happy and contented character.
- Key Fact: A Lord attending on Duke Senior
Jaques is a melancholy character, and contemplates the meaning of life and the various stages of man in his famous speech “All the world’s a stage”. He watches the action from the sidelines and never fully participates in it. His character is a stock Elizabethan persona; a melancholy fellow. Instead of returning to court Jaques ‘opts out’ again by choosing a life of religious contemplation.
Other Characters Living in the Forest:
Sir Oliver Martext
- Key Fact: A country clergyman
This character is mocked by Jaques and his position is undermined in that he would happily perform an ad hoc marriage in the middle of the forest. His services are not required at the end of the play as Hymen performs the marriage rites.
- Key Fact: An old shepherd
Tries to help his friend Silvius by teaching him the ways of love but is ignored.
- Key Fact: A young shepherd in love with Phoebe
This character represents unrequited love in the play. He is devoted to loving Phoebe who scorns him and treats him badly. Silvius runs after Phoebe and agrees to do her errands in the hope that she will notice him. His role is quite a tragic one and at the end he marries Phoebe but only by default. Phoebe agrees to marry Silvius only if she rejects Ganymede in marriage. His union with Phoebe is probably the least satisfying for the audience who wonder what his life will be like with this woman who has previously been so cruel to him. His character and situation conforms to the Petrarchan model of love.
- Key Fact: A shepherdess
Phoebe is scornful and manipulative with regard to Silvius. Rosalind gives her a taste of her own medicine and as a result Phoebe is tricked into marrying Silvius. Her infatuation with Ganymede suggests that she may prefer a homosexual love as she rejects the real man who is in love with her.
- Key Fact: A countryman in love with Audrey
A young shepherd in love with Audrey. William is warned off by Touchstone.
Audrey is in love with Touchstone – she is a simple and bawdy shepherdess.
Known as the God of marriage, Hymen marries all four couples.