In As You Like It, characters are grouped around strong noble personalities. For example, Duke Frederick leads a robust court – even the exiled Duke Senior heads a court in the forest complete with man servants!
This article will focus on the As You Like It characters that make up the de Bois family. Unlike the other character groups in the play, the de Bois’ have lost their head of family; the absence of the now-deceased Sir Rowland de Bois is felt throughout the play.
Eldest son Oliver is the heir and will soon take his fathers place.
First we will look at the direct family characters that make up the de Bois household: Oliver, Jaques and Orlando de Bois. We will also touch on the servants to the household.
The Household of the deceased Sir Rowland de Bois:
Oliver de Bois
- Key Fact: Eldest son of Sir Rowland de Bois
Oliver hates his brother without giving any good reason therefore alienating the audience towards him from the beginning of the play. He has a vendetta for his brother and essentially wants him dead. He agrees to hunt his brother down and goes off into the forest to do so.
When Orlando saves him from being savaged by a lioness or strangled by a snake, Oliver has a rapid change of heart. The forest has softened him; again perhaps it was the court environment that made him bad as opposed to his nature.
The forest allows him to fall in love at first sight with Aliena. This redeems him further in that he has fallen for a poor girl and is not aware that Celia is heir to a fortune and we know he is marrying for love as opposed to money or position.
This change of heart however, is mildly unsettling for the audience who may be concerned for Celia’s future with Oliver. Oliver represents man’s ability to change.
Jaques de Bois
- Key Fact: Sir Rowland’s middle son
Jaques brings happy news during the wedding ceremony of Duke Frederick’s fate and explains that the court has been restored to Duke Senior.
Jaques reports that Duke Frederick has moved to a monastery – abdicating his throne in the process. Curiously, Jaques does not want to return to court and instead opts for a solitary life in a monastery, following Duke Frederick’s example.
Orlando de Bois
- Key Fact: Sir Rowland’s youngest son
Orlando is strong and brave – we first see him fighting the famed wrestler Charles and winning. He has been denied a gentleman’s education by his brother Oliver but is a fit and worthy romantic lead due to his looks and his bravery.
Possibly not as bright as Rosalind – his poetry is mocked for its naivety and bad use of rhyme. Orlando appears to enjoy wooing Ganymede and there is a hint at homoeroticism in this.
Orlando is a hero and saves his brother he is also proved to be kind and protecting of Adam.
- Key Fact: A former servant of Sir Rowland
A loyal and kind servant who offers Orlando all of his life savings in order to help him in his exile. He joins Orlando in fleeing to the forest, which almost kills him. Adam is an old man and is exhausted and starving by the time they get to the forest.
His loyalty is rewarded when the Duke invites him to join in the feast. However, for his absolute devotion it would be nice to see him rewarded with an estate or at least with a nice woman to love.