The climactic wedding day is now at hand. Among those present are Duke Senior, Jaques, and the three couples: Orlando and Rosalind (still disguised as Ganymede), Oliver and Celia (still masquerading as Aliena), and Phebe and Silvius. Rosalind extracts a promise from Phebe that if Phebe refuses to marry Ganymede, then Phebe will marry Silvius. Rosalind announces to the expectant company that she is prepared to unravel the entanglements. “From hence I go,” she declares as she leaves with Celia, “to make these doubts all even.” While they are gone, Touchstone arrives with Audrey and proceeds to entertain the company with his account of “a lie seven times removed” — the so-called Lie Direct. Here, because there was no Lie Direct, he and his opponent avoided a duel. Rosalind and Celia reappear suddenly, as if by magic, dressed as themselves. Strains of soft music usher them in, and they are led by a young man costumed as Hymen, god of marriage. The recognitions and reconciliations are quickly accomplished, and as Hymen sings a “wedlock-hymn,” the couples join hands. Duke Senior welcomes a daughter and a niece, and Phebe gives her love to Silvius.
But there is yet another happy surprise in store. Jaques de Boys, the second son of Roland de Boys, enters with remarkable news: Duke Frederick, he announces, called together an army and planned to capture and execute his brother, but at the outskirts of the forest, he met an old, religious hermit and was converted.
Both from his enterprise and from the world;
His crown bequeathing to his banish’d brother,
And all their lands restored to them again
That were with him exil’d. (168-71)
Duke Senior welcomes the young man and invites everyone to join in the “rustic revelry.” Only Jaques begs off; instead, he will join Frederick and his party of religious converts. With appropriate farewells to each — Duke Senior, Orlando, Oliver, Silvius, and Touchstone — Jaques goes off, leaving the others to perform the dance that concludes the play.
The stage is set and the couples are assembled. Silvius and Phebe in the characteristic pastoral style offer to die if their love is unrequited, and Jaques, in one of his usual critical quips, comments that Touchstone and Audrey are fools. Touchstone, of course, would not agree; from his opening speech, he seems almost unapproachable. In fact, his actions are so affected in this scene, suggestive of dramatic royalty on stage, that Touchstone becomes the consummate “fool” among the courtiers and noblemen. Of course, however, only such a master dramatist as Shakespeare could devise such magnificent “foolery.”
Rosalind is imagined by those on stage to be summoned by the magical enchantment of Hymen, and from her and Celia’s entrances on stage until the epilogue, the play becomes a fully realized masque. Short though it is, however, this petite masque is the forerunner of Shakespeare’s grande masque in The Tempest.
Jaques is perhaps as consistent a character from beginning to end as can be found in all of literature. For that reason, his exit is wonderfully choice and witty; he who criticized country living from the start, chooses to remain in the country, while all those from the city or court who extolled the virtues of pastoral life are now ready to return to their former lives in the city. The fact that Jaques’ farewell is put in the form of a last will and testament is fitting because he will join Duke Frederick in a religious life, becoming, as it were, “dead” to the world. Yet in no sense will the memory of the mercurial Jaques be “dead”; his melodramatic posing, his “operatic” melancholy, and his realization that life itself is probably no more than a theatrical spectacle — all these qualities immortalize Jaques, the quintessence of “the man apart.”