Once upon a time, there was a wicked duke named Frederick, who took over the duchy that actually belonged to his brother. He sent his brother into exile to the Forest of Arden, where he lived the life of a brave forester.
Rosalind, the daughter of the banished duke, stayed with Celia, the daughter of the wicked Duke Frederick. The two loved each other even more than two sisters. One day, there was a wrestling match and Rosalind and Celia went to watch. Charles, a celebrated wrestler, was there. He had killed many men in such matches. Orlando, the young man he would wrestle with, was so young and thin that Rosalind and Celia thought he would surely be killed. So they spoke to him and begged him not to undertake such a dangerous adventure. But the only effect of their words was that he wanted to win to get the admiration of these lovely ladies.
Orlando, like Rosalind’s father, was kept from his inheritance by his brother and was very sad about his brother’s unkindness. Until he saw Rosalind, he didn’t care much whether he would live or die. But now, the sight of the beautiful Rosalind gave him strength and courage, so that he did remarkably well, and finally threw Charles so hard to the ground that the wrestler had to be carried off the ground. Duke Frederick praised him for his courage and asked for his name.
“My name is Orlando, and I am the youngest son of Sir Rowland,” said the young man.
Now, Sir Rowland, when he was alive, had been a good friend of the banished duke. Frederick heard with regret whose son Orlando was and did not want to be friends with him. But Rosalind was delighted to hear that this handsome young stranger was the son of her father’s old friend. As they left, she turned more than once to say another kind word to the brave young man. “Sir,” she said, giving him her chain, “wear this for me. I would give more, but I have no means.”
Rosalind and Celia, when they were alone, began to talk about the handsome wrestler, and Rosalind confessed that it was love at first sight. “Come, come,” said Celia, “restrain your affections.”
“Oh,” replied Rosalind, “they are stronger than the most strong wrestler. Look, there comes the duke.”
“With his eyes full of anger,” said Celia.
“You must leave the duchy immediately,” he said to Rosalind. “Why?” she asked.
“It doesn’t matter why,” the Duke replied, “you are banished. If you are found within twenty miles of my court within ten days, you will die.”
So Rosalind went to find her father, the banished duke, in the Forest of Arden. Celia loved her too much to leave her alone. It was also a dangerous journey, so Rosalind disguised herself as a young man, and her cousin dressed as a country girl. Rosalind said she would be called Ganymede and Celia would be called Aliena. They were very tired when they finally arrived at the Forest of Arden, and as they sat on the grass, a countryman came along. Ganymede asked him if he had food and a house for them. He said that the sheep and the house of a shepherd had to be sold. So they bought the house and settled down as a shepherd and shepherdess in the forest.
In the meantime, Oliver had tried to kill his brother Orlando, but Orlando was also wandering through the forest and there he met the rightful duke. When he was kindly received by him, he stayed with him. Orlando could only think of Rosalind, he roamed the forest and carved her name into trees, wrote love poems and hung them on the bushes. And one day, Rosalind and Celia found the poems. Later on, Orlando met them, but he did not recognize Rosalind in her boy’s clothes, although he immediately liked the handsome shepherd boy, because he saw something in him that he had loved in Rosalind.
“There is a foolish lover wandering around in the woods,” said Rosalind, “he hangs poems on the trees. If I could find him, I would immediately cure him of his foolishness.”
Orlando confessed that he was the foolish lover, and Rosalind said: “If you come to visit me every day, I will pretend to be Rosalind, and I will act like her, stubborn and contrary, like women do, until you are ashamed to love her.” So he went to her house every day and took pleasure in saying all the beautiful things he would have said to Rosalind. She was secretly very pleased that all his words of love were actually meant for her. Thus many pleasant days went by.
One morning, when Orlando went to visit Ganymede again, he saw a man sleeping on the ground. He also saw a lioness nearby, waiting for the man to wake up. They say that lions do not prey on anything that is dead or asleep. Then Orlando looked at the man and saw that it was his wicked brother, Oliver, who had tried to kill him. He fought with the lioness, killed her and thereby saved his brother’s life.
While Orlando was fighting the lioness, Oliver woke up and saw that his brother, whom he had treated so badly, had risked his own life to save him from a wild beast. Then he repented and asked Orlando for forgiveness and from that moment on, they were beloved brothers. The lioness had wounded Orlando’s arm so badly that he couldn’t go to the shepherd, so he sent his brother to ask Ganymede to come to him.
Oliver went and told the whole story to Ganymede and Aliena. Aliena was so impressed by the male charm with which he confessed his mistakes that she immediately fell in love with him. But when Ganymede heard of the danger in which Orlando was, she fainted. When she came to, she said: “I could have been a woman with reason.”
Oliver went back to his brother and told him all this and said: “I love Aliena so much that I will give my estates to you and marry her, and then I will live here as a shepherd.”
“Let your wedding take place tomorrow,” said Orlando, “then I will ask the duke and his friends.”
When Orlando told Ganymede that his brother would be getting married tomorrow, he added: “Oh, how bitter it is to look at happiness through another man’s eyes.”
Then Rosalind, still in Ganymede’s clothes and speaking with his voice, replied: “If your Rosalind is so close to your heart, then you will marry her just as your brother will marry Aliena.”
The next day, the duke and his followers, and Orlando, and Oliver, and Aliena, all came together for the wedding. Then Ganymede came in and said to the duke: “If I bring your daughter Rosalind in, will you give her to Orlando as his bride?”
“I would do that,” said the Duke, “even if I had to give up all kingdoms for it.”
“And you say that you will take her as your bride if I bring her to you?” she asked Orlando. “I would,” he replied, “even if I had to give up all kingdoms for it.”
Then Rosalind and Celia went outside. Rosalind put on her beautiful women’s clothing and returned a little later. She turned to her father and said, “I give myself to you, for I am yours.” – “If the truth is evident,” he said, “then you are my daughter.” Then she said to Orlando, “I give myself to you, for I am yours.” – “If the truth is evident,” he said, “then you are my Rosalind.”
“I will have no father if you are not him,” she said to the Duke, and to Orlando, “I will have no husband if you are not him.”
So Orlando and Rosalind married, as did Oliver and Celia, and they all lived happily ever after. They returned with the Duke to the kingdom. For a holy hermit had shown Frederick the wickedness of his deeds, and so he returned the duchy to his brother. He himself went to a monastery to pray for forgiveness.
The weddings were joyful and held on a beautiful mossy clearing in the forest. A shepherd and shepherdess who had been friends with Rosalind when she was disguised as a shepherd herself, also married on the same day. And all these beautiful festivities, full of merriment, could not have taken place anywhere better than in the magnificent green forest.