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The play is really divided into two plots. One centers on hatred and one centers on love. The outcome of both plots reveals that love is all important, whether it is brotherly love or romantic love.
The Plot of Hatred
Duke Senior and Orlando are the protagonists of this plot. Senior is banished by his brother, Duke Frederick, and goes to the Forest of Arden to pass his time. In a similar manner, Orlando is cheated out of his inheritance by his older brother, Oliver, who also wants Orlando killed. Like Duke Senior, Orlando flees to the forest to escape the threats of his brother.
The antagonists of Duke Senior and Orlando are their own brothers. Duke Frederick has stolen the dukedom from his older brother and banished him. Oliver, the older brother of Orlando, has ill-treated his younger brother, depriving him of his inheritance, denying him the education that is due to him, and threatening to have him killed.
The climax occurs at the gathering in the Forest of Arden, where all ends well. After saving his older brother from a snake and a lioness, Orlando has been reconciled to Oliver, and the two of them wed at the same time. It is also learned that Duke Frederick has gone through a moral conversion and is restoring the dukedom to Duke Senior.
In this plot, goodness overcomes evil, resulting in a comedy. Love wins out over hatred and hostility when both Oliver and Duke Frederick see the error of their ways and are reconciled to the brothers whom they have mistreated.
The Plot of Love
The protagonists of this plot are the male characters who are eager to fall and love and marry. Included in the group are Orlando, Touchstone, Silvius, and even Oliver.
The antagonists of this plot are the female characters who do not immediately respond to the males who are in love with them. Included in the group are Rosalind, Celia, Phebe, and Audrey.
In this plot, the climax also occurs in the gathering in the forest. Rosalind and Celia remove their disguises, which have stood in the way of Orlando and Oliver consummating their love for them. It also opens the way for Silvius to win Phebe and for Touchstone to marry Audrey.
Although definitely contrived, this plot has a happy ending, for all the pairs are united in love and marriage, resulting in an entertaining romantic comedy.