Scene 1.1 - The garden of Oliver's stately house in France.
In the garden of a nobleman's splendid house in France, a young man named Orlando is walking and talking with his elderly servant, Adam. Orlando is complaining that his older brother, Oliver, treats him hideously unfairly. When their father - a wealthy nobleman named Sir Rowland de Bois - died, Oliver inherited the entire fortune, but was supposed to treat his two younger brothers kindly and send them away to school for a good education. However, although Oliver is paying for the schooling of their third brother, Jacques, he forces Orlando to stay at home and treats him little better than an animal. Orlando is getting very bitter and doesn't want to take this treatment any longer.
Orlando sees Oliver coming, and orders Adam to hide so he can listen in and hear how badly Oliver treats him. When Oliver speaks rudely to Orlando, Orlando answers back in even ruder language, telling Oliver that he treats him like a pig. Orlando says that he is as good as Oliver and has as much of his father's blood in him as Oliver does, even if he is a younger brother. He demands that Oliver either give him the treatment and education he deserves, or give him a share of their father's money so he can go off to make his own fortune. Things threaten to get violent, and even Adam cannot persuade the brothers to stop quarreling. Finally Oliver insults Adam and sends Orlando indoors, telling him that he will send him away soon and then they won't have to see each other any more.
Left alone, Oliver muses bitterly that Orlando has begun to get too big for his britches, and it is time to take care of him. He sends for a servant, Dennis, and orders him to show in a visitor: Charles, a famous wrestler from the court of the nearby Duke. Charles passes on to Oliver the latest gossip, which is rather exciting: the former Duke (Duke Senior) has been banished by his younger brother (Duke Frederick). Now Duke Frederick is on the throne, and Duke Senior lives in the Forest of Arden, with some noblemen who fled with him. Young gentlemen are joining them in the forest every day, and reports say they live a fun-filled, pleasant life, just as Robin Hood once did. Oliver asks about the old Duke's daughter, Rosalind, and Charles tells him that Rosalind is still at court, because she loves her cousin - the daughter of Duke Frederick - so much that she couldn't bear to leave her, even though it meant separating from her father.
Charles tells Oliver that he is supposed to wrestle in a competition tomorrow for the new Duke's amusement. He has come to see Oliver on a very special errand: Charles has heard that Orlando plans to try his luck wrestling against Charles in order to win the prize. Charles points out to Oliver that anyone who goes up against him is likely to get hurt, and Orlando is so young and delicate that he may be badly injured. He wants to beg Oliver to persuade Orlando to change his mind. But Oliver, seeing an opportunity to get rid of Orlando, lies to Charles and tells him that Orlando is treacherous and vicious. He adds that he would be just as happy if Charles were to break Orlando's neck. Inflamed against Orlando, Charles promises that he will hurt him badly in the match tomorrow, and leaves. Alone again, Oliver gloats over this piece of good luck, hoping that tomorrow he will be rid of Orlando forever: Orlando is too gentle and well-spoken, and the people love him so much, that Oliver considers him a threat and better off dead.
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Points to Ponder
Did You Know
Scenes 2.1, 2.2, 2.3
Scenes 2.4, 2.5, and 2.6
Scenes 4.2 and 4.3
Scenes 5.1 and 5.2
Scenes 5.3 and 5.4