In Shakespeare's' As You Like It I have came across a challenging sentence. Without further ado, I am directly quoting the text:

for call you that keeping for a gentleman of my birth that differs not from the stalling of an ox?

Unfortunately, I understand nothing from this. Why there is "you" after "call"? Where is "that" in "that differs not from" linked to?

Please help me to understand it. I mean I want to understand it in terms of structure. Putting the words in their normal places and without changing them how this sentence would say?

For those who want to see the context, here is the much more connected version:

He (my big brother Oliver) keeps my brother Jaques at school, and report speaks goldenly of his profit. For my part, he keeps me rustically at home, or, to speak more properly, stays me here at home unkept; for call you that "keeping" for a gentleman of my birth, that differs not from the stalling of an ox?

Moreover, to make helping easier for those who willing to help I am putting the vocabulary notes here:

report speaks.... propit: Rumor has it that Jaques is flourishing as a student.

profit: proficiency

stays: detains

unkept: uncared for, neglected

gentleman of my birth: i.e., the son of a knight

stalling: lodging in a stall; rendering unable to proceed

  • Someone I don't know gave the negative vote. Thanks to him for his help and support who want to learn. I just wanted to learn.
    – grammarian
    Commented Dec 3, 2020 at 20:24
  • 1
    +1 (Cancel culture rules!) Commented Dec 3, 2020 at 20:32
  • @OldBrixtonian You are the king!
    – grammarian
    Commented Dec 3, 2020 at 20:36

1 Answer 1


It's simply a question. Call you that "keeping?" means Do you call that "keeping?"

This form of question appears throughout Shakespeare's works and those of his contemporaries.

Later in the play Corin asks Touchstone, And how like you this shepherd's life, Master Touchstone?

Jaques asks Duke Senior, Good my lord, like you this fellow?

And when Jaques wants Antonio to sing another verse of "Under The Greenwood Tree", he says, Come, more; another stanzo: call you 'em stanzos?

He is complaining that his brother looks after him no better than he would look after an ox. An ox is kept only to work, and so is he. Perhaps we would say, "Do you call it "keeping" which is no better than the way an ox is kept?"

It's something like, Do you call that "music" that is a man playing the spoons?

Oliver doesn't actually keep him in a stall, but Orlando feels he's treated no better than the ox, as he's about to explain.

This page might be helpful.

  • Thank you Old Brixtonian. It became clear now.
    – grammarian
    Commented Dec 3, 2020 at 22:00
  • @grammerian Good! And welcome to ELL! Commented Dec 3, 2020 at 22:25

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