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As You Like It

The main themes of “As You Like It” are the pastoral ideal and the ideal of romantic love. Forest of Aden is the primary setting where these themes develop. Nature serves as a refuge from society where we can find solutions to injustice and unhappiness. This play is a comedy and thus has a happy ending but it is not a fairy tail. Shakespeare highlights the difference between reality and illusion. Rosalind embodies the sensibility, the humor and the kind of love that leads to a happy, harmonious living. She brings the plot to a resolution when four contrasting romances end in marriage.

The focus of the play is her romance with Orlando. Rosalind wants to find a lover without losing her sense of self in the process. Rosalind answers the questions about love, which arise during the play. She is a lovesick maiden and yet she remains an intelligent, witty, and strong character. Rosalind is also a good judge of character. She sees through Jaque’s seemingly deep thoughts and recognizes the wisdom of clown Touchstone. Furthermore, she cleverly uses her disguise to get to know Orlando and educate him about love. The meeting of Orlando and Rosalind is the most mportant event in Act 1 of the play; it is love at first sight. Celia and her cousin talk about falling in love just before the wrestling match. From henceforth I will, coz, and devise sports. Let me see, what think you of falling in love? Her words indicate that Rosalind is ready to face the danger of falling in love.

She infers that her father would approve of Orlando because her father approved of his father Sir Rowland. Their meeting reveals a vulnerable side of the Rosalind as she gives him a chain, says, “Gentleman, wear this for me” and waits for him to continue the conversation. In Act Shakespeare raws parallels between Rosalind’s relationship with Celia and Orlando’s relationship with Adam. When Duke Fredrick banishes his niece from the court, Celia makes a quick decision to go to the Forest of Aden with her cousin and to look for her uncle. This illustrates the degree if love and loyalty between them. Orlando’s elder brother Oliver denies him education. When Orlando is leaving for the forest Adam wants to go with him to serve and protect him. Master, go on, and I will follow thee To the last gasp with truth and loyalty Yet fortune cannot recompense me better Than to die well and not my master’s debtor. 2. 4. 70-75)

Soon after entering the Forest of Arden Rosalind discovers love poems that Orlando hang on the trees. She loses self-control as she reads them one after another. When she finds out that Celia has seen Orlando she is very excited and cannot stop asking her questions, “What did he when you thou saw’st him? What said he? How looked he” (3. 2. 218-20) For a brief period of time, she becomes a victim of infatuation like those she scorns. She is betrayed by something she feels and finds it difficult to admit the truth in love. Shakespeare thus illustrates that she is not ideal, that she has flaws ike all other human being. Rosalind’s clever idea to dress up as Ganymede enables her to have a double identity, which will give her the opportunity to test Orlando’s love.

Her disguise probably prevents their immediate marriage. “I will speak to him like a saucy lackey and under that habit play the knave with him. ” (3. 2. 292-93) She does not however merely play games, Rosalind she teaches Orlando how to love her. He must keep his promises and respect her thereby proving that his love is real. She takes a cynical view of romantic love to tease Orlando. Rosalind begins to tire of acting after the omentary drop of her guise when she faints at seeing Orlando’s bloody handkerchief. When Orlando proves himself to Ganymede and saves the life of his brother Rosalind is ready to make a commitment to him. She does not dispose of her disguise until then because she realizes that only time will show if they are really in love.

Time refines their passion for one another. Rosalind is a philosopher Rosalind like Jaque. Her practical love-filled perceptions of the world contrast with his cynical views. Jaque likes to disagree with everyone else. Both Orlando and Rosalind challenge his ideas. In the third act Jaque ried to persuade Orlando that loving Rosalind is not worth his while. Jaque. “The worst fault you have is to be in love. ” Orlando. “‘Tis a fault I will not change for your best virtue. I am weary of you. ” (3. 2. 279-82) Rosalind tells Jaque that he is sad and melancholy because he chooses to stay detached from the real life she says: “Fear you have sold your own lands to see other men’s I had rather fool to make me merry than experience to make me sad. ” Thus Jaque loses in this brief exchange. Touchstone is the fool whom Rosalind would prefer to Jaque.

She understands his wisdom: “You peak’st wiser than thou art ware of. ” Touchstone tells her a story about being in love with a girl. He gave the girl something and said “wear these for my sake”, which are almost the same words that Rosalind said to Orlando in the beginning of the play. The love between Orlando and Rosalind is portrayed as superior to other romances, which are more earthy. Touchstone and Audrey’s romance represents physical passion. He wants to marry her out of church so that the marriage would be invalid.

Silvius who is hopelessly in love with Pheobe, represents pastoral love The diversity of characters’ romantic sentiment creates balance in the play and makes one appreciate their silliness, spirituality and extremities. Compared to Silvius’ silly infatuation, Orlando’s is more of a courtly lovesickness. Rosalind outshines everyone else in the play with her intelligence, wit and depth of feeling. Her humanity and sense of fun make her the ideal romantic heroine. She seems to be centuries ahead of her time. She is a woman who is absolutely the master of her own destiny and she remains in control most of the time. Shakespeare has created an almost ideal heroine who brings the play to its conclusion.

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StudyBoss » As You Like It

As you like it

  1. List the “town” characters in the play, enumerate their attributes, and discuss how they reflect town life. Use the same format for the “country” characters.

2. There are four pairs of lovers in the play. Characterize each couple and discuss the concept of love that they represent.

3. Give several examples showing how Shakespeare uses language to indicate class differences among the characters.

4. There are many words in the play that have changed in their meanings since Shakespeare’s time. Make a list of those significant words that are germane to a thorough understanding the play. Discuss how only a present-day meaning of the words can bring about a misunderstanding of the play.

5. What purpose does Rosalind’s disguise serve in the play?

6. Discuss the advantages of “town life” over that of “country life.” Reverse the situation. How does Shakespeare resolve this debate?

7. Of different types of love shown in the play, which does Shakespeare seem to favor? In which characters does this evince itself and to what extent?

8. Discuss the various types of humor in the play. Compare or contrast the wit of Touchstone with that of Jaques; with Corin; and with Rosalind.

9. The Forest of Arden has been said to be, in actuality, the Forest of the Ardennes on the Meuse River in Europe. Yet, there is a Forest of Arden in England. Where do you think it is located? Why?

10. How do the characters reflect the time in which Shakespeare wrote?

 

Here’s some other topics:

1. As You Like It is full of characters pretending to be someone other than themselves. To what degree are the characters aware that they are role-playing? Does their acting have serious consequences, or is it merely a game?

2. Like Rosalind, both Touchstone and Jaques possess an ability to see things that the other characters do not. They are critics, but their criticism differs greatly from Rosalind’s. How is this so? To what effect do these different criticisms lead?

3. In a play that ends with the formation and celebration of a community, we may be struck by Jaques’s decision not to return to court. What does his refusal suggest about his character? What effect does it have on the play’s ending? Does it cast a shadow over an otherwise happy ending, or is it inconsequential?

4. As You Like It explores the possibility of both homosexual and heterosexual attraction. Does the play present one as the antithesis of the other, or does it suggest a more complex relationship between the two? What, in the end, does the play have to say about these different forms of love?

5. What does Phoebe represent? Why does Rosalind react so negatively toward her?

6. What is the significance of Duke Frederick’s unexpected and very sudden change in Act V? Discuss this episode in relation to other transformations in the play. What does As You Like It suggest about the malleability of the human experience?

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Act I
1. Discuss the concepts of fortune and nature as they apply to Orlando and Oliver.

2. Compare and contrast the relationship of Oliver and Orlando with that of Rosalind and Celia.

3. Explore the ways that Shakespeare uses witty wordplay based on “sport” and “wrestling” analogies to reveal his characters’ views on the subject of love.

4. Compare the impressions we get of court life and country life in the first act.

Act II
1. Discuss the ways in which Shakespeare reveals that life in the Forest of Arden, while in many ways an idealized existence, also has its hardships.

2. Explore the many images of the natural world in the second act.

3. Compare and contrast the many sides of Jaques’ character revealed in the scenes in which he is referred to or appears.

4. Discuss the concept of loyalty as it applies to Orlando and Adam in the second act, and the ways in which it defines their characters.

Act III
1. Compare and contrast the attitudes toward love expressed by Orlando, Touchstone, Jaques, and Silvius in the third act.

2. Compare and contrast the attitudes of Corin and Touchstone toward country life and city life in Act III, Scene 2.

3. Explore the ways that Rosalind’s Ganymede disguise affects her behavior in this act.

4. Discuss the ways in which the developments in the third act foreshadow further comic complications.

Act IV
1. Examine the ways that Rosalind tests Orlando’s love for her in Act IV Scene 1.

2. Explore the ways in which what we have already learned about Orlando foreshadows his courageous actions in saving his brother’s life.

3. Discuss the ways that Rosalind’s Ganymede disguise proves an advantage and a disadvantage in Act IV, Scenes 1 and 3.

4. Contrast the changing roles of Celia and Oliver in the fourth act with their characterizations earlier in the play.

Act V
1. Compare and contrast the realistically drawn rural characters Corin, William, and Audrey to Silvius and Phebe, who are many ways the conventional “poetic shepherds” of pastoral romance.

2. Explore the ways that Touchstone’s behavior differs when he is in the company of “city” and “country” characters.

3. Discuss the role of Jaques in the play and the reasons that may underlie his decision to remain in the forest.

4. Explain the reasons why Duke Senior, after praising the pastoral life, might want to return to the court.

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