In the City
As the play begins, Orlando is seen talking with Adam. He tells Adam how unjust his brother is to him. Oliver, his elder brother, has not provided him with the education and Oliver are living like peasants in the royal palace.
Oliver enters and Orlando starts scolding him for his unjust behaviour towards him. Oliver refuses to acknowledge his plea and Orlando in anger catches hold of his neck threatens him to give what he lawfully owes to, as the son of Sir Rowland de Boys.
Adam tries to interfere and calm them down. Oliver calls Adam an old dog who gets hurt upon such a compliment. Oliver is quite surprised at the rebellious behaviour of Orlando.
Soon Oliver gets an opportunity to get rid of Orlando. A wrestling match is going to take place. Orlando has challenged Charles, a renowned wrestler, to a duel. Oliver encourages Charles to kill his brother in the duel.
A wrestling match is going to take place at the court of Duke Frederick, who has banished his elder brother, the rightful ruler, and has taken his throne. Duke Frederick has a daughter namely Celia, who loves her cousin Rosalind, daughter of the banished Duke.
Celia is so much devoted to her cousin that the new Duke is forced to keep her niece in her court. The match is about to start. Rosalind pities for Orlando and forces him to give up his challenge, but fails to convince him and ultimately prays for his victory.
In the match, Orlando defeating Charles comes as victorious. Duke is quite happy with Orlando but upon learning that he is the son of Sir Rowland who was his rival, he becomes cold with Orlando.
When Duke goes away, Rosalind asks pardon to Orlando for the rude behaviour of Duke and gives him her necklace as a reward for his grand victory. Both fall in love with each other but do not express.
Forest of Arden
Later on, Rosalind is considered to be a traitor by Duke and is ordered to leave the court. Celia being deeply devoted to Rosalind decides to accompany her in her banishment. They make preparations for flight. To avoid any humiliation, both of them disguise themselves.
Rosalind becomes a young forester namely Ganymede and Celia becomes a poor Shepherdess. Touchstone, the fool of the court also accompanies them. They advance towards the Forest of Arden, where the banished father of Rosalind lives along with his followers.
We also meet banished Duke, the father of Rosalind who is appreciating the beauty of nature and telling that how nature has made him spiritually bold. On the other hand, Orlando is informed about the fatal danger that has arisen because of his victory.
He thus runs to the Forest of Arden in order to save his life. He is followed by Adam. On the way, Adam becomes starved with hunger and is unable to walk.
Orlando wanders into the forest for help and meets banished Duke who upon knowing the matter orders his servants to bring Adam to their place. Here Orlando is introduced to Duke Senior. Being deeply in love with Rosalind, Orlando writes love verses on trees of the forest.
Rosalind learns about the presence of Orlando in the forest and desires to meet him. On meeting Orlando, Rosalind inquires about his love story and his beloved (who is, of course, she herself) for whom he has written a number of verses on the trees.
After knowing about the depth of his love for Rosalind and the condition of his love-sick heart, she offers to cure him. She asks him to consider her (i.e. him, the Ganymede) Rosalind (though she is Rosalind in real) and to court her every day.
She tells him that she (as Ganymede) would act as Rosalind. She will be fanciful, smiling, sorrowful, happy, imitative, tearful, naughty etc, and he will have to handle her in every situation. In this way, he will be cured of love-sick heart.
Orlando agrees and promises to return back within two hours. But he does not come. Rosalind becomes quite restless. She cannot bear solitude. While waiting for Orlando, she sees Oliver coming to her. Oliver tells about his identity. He reveals to her that he is the culprit.
He did not provide education to Orlando that was his legal right. He also explains to her that he wanted to kill Orlando.
But when he came to the forest in order to search for Orlando, he slept under a tree where a lioness was about to kill him, but Oliver saved him by staking his life. He also tells Rosalind that Orlando is wounded and has sent him (Oliver) to tell Rosalind about the incident.
Upon learning this, Rosalind faints and after coming to her senses rushes towards wounded Orlando. Celia and Oliver fall in love with each other. Oliver repents over his past deeds and desires to leave his empire and property and live the life of Shepherd with Celia.
Sub Plots: Touchstone & Jaques
But Orlando, Rosalind, Celia and Oliver are not only the lovebirds in the forest. Touchstone reveals his love for Audrey, who in spite of being a rough and tough woman, is a princess for him.
There was one more lover of Audrey, namely William, but was forced to forget Audrey and leave her. Another lover in the forest is Silvius, a shepherd who not loves but worships Phoebe. But Phoebe does not give him her attention and ignores her.
She herself falls in love with Rosalind disguised Ganymede. Rosalind feels angry when she comes to know about the rude behaviour of Phoebe towards Silvius and asks Phoebe to respond to his love and forget him (Rosalind disguised Ganymede).
Rosalind after being convinced about the faithfulness of the love of Orlando decides to come out of her disguise. She leads rest of the plot. She asks everybody to come to the place of Duke Senior and she will help everybody to get his/her beloved.
On the next day, she comes out of her disguise. She herself is married to Orlando, Celia is married to Oliver, Audrey to Touchstone and Phoebe to Silvius. There are a lot of songs, dance, and merry-making in the ceremony.
While all this is going on, the third brother of Orlando, Jaques, appears with the news that father of Celia has transformed into a gentleman after being inspired by a religious man and is willing to offer Duke Senior his throne, who is the rightful Duke of the empire.
Hymen, the God of Marriage blesses all the newly wedded couples. Songs are sung and play comes to an end.
- Duke Senior: father of Rosalind, who is banished by his younger brother, Duke Frederick. He is living in the Forest of Arden along with his followers.
- Rosalind: She is the protagonist of the play. She is the daughter of Duke Senior and is in love with Orlando. She disguises herself as Ganymede after leaving for forest. He remains so till the final Act.
- Duke Frederick: He is the usurper. He is the father of Celia. Initially he is a villain but later on, he is miraculously transformed after being inspired by a religious man.
- Celia: She is the daughter of Duke Frederick. She loves her cousin, Rosalind and accompanies her in her banishment to Forest of Arden. She disguises herself as a shepherdess. She falls in love with Oliver.
- Adam: The servant of Orlando
- Touchstone: The Fool
- Silvius: The Shepherd being in love with Phoebe
- Pheobe: The beloved of Silvius. Initially she falls in love with Rosalind disguised Ganymede but in the end, she marries Silvius.
- Audrey: The beloved of Touchstone.
- William: A countryman being in love with Audrey.
- Charles: The Wrestler.
- Jaques: The brother of Orlando and Oliver.
- Corin: An old shepherd.