Background of the Play
According to modern critics, As You Like It is a play written for the audience of the twenty-first century. Though it is placed in Elizabethan culture and uses its aesthetic, political, social, and literary culture. It is a finger placed on the pulse of the future. It is an escape from the world of troubles, worries, and corruption to a world of enchantments and mythology.
Critics often describe it as a satire on the pastoral ideal; and a celebration of the pastoral spirit that cannot be bound. The audience loves some scenes, particularly in the forest of Arden, where love-oriented and cheerful banter dominates. In comparison to scenes at Fredrick’s court and Oliver’s home, which are dominated by gloom and battle-filled air.
Though there is no record available about the performance of this play, scholars speculate it was written probably in 1598, and first performed in 1599. It was part of First Folio, published in 1623. The time of its preparation was Shakespeare’s culmination period.
It is much different from other comedies because it mixes different cultures, traditions, and people from different classes. Christian, Pagan, and classical traditions are mixed into each other. It contains elements of a fairytale as well as rudiments of Italian romances. It contains traces of magic as well. It shows an oscillation from prose to verse.
This play gives some most profound human feelings in their most original form, which touches the hearts of the audience. This place is also important because of some references; one of foremost importance is the forest of Arden (Arden Woods). It refers to Ardennes as well forest near Shakespeare’s residence. This clarifies the historical existence of Shakespeare.
Its plot is derived from Rosalynde, which was based on a fourteenth-century poem The Tale of Gamelyn. Though Shakespeare took the plot from another work, he improved characters like Rosalind, Jacques, and Touchstone. The poem was more action-oriented, while Shakespeare made the play more reflection oriented, changing the role of philosophers. It is placed beautifully between Shakespeare’s post-tragic romances and comedies.
Pastorals were a familiar genre in that period, so it overlaps with other Pastoral works like Philip Sidney’s The Lady of May and Spenser’s The Shepheardes Calender. We can conclude that it is a romantic comedy which encapsulates world affairs ranging from the grave to amorous ones.
As You Like It Summary
Act I: Scene I
In the opening scene, Orlando is shown talking to his servant Adam. He is complaining about his brother’s behavior and maltreatment. He is weary of him that how he is an obstacle in his advancement and doesn’t let him be a part of the sophisticated, cultured class. This all is heard by Oliver and gets angry with his younger brother’s complaints. He blames him that either he wants education or the property that his father has bequeathed. Oliver tries to calm Orlando while the servant is scolded. Orlando’s status is established as the play’s hero when he describes himself having the virtues his father had.
Oliver calls for Charles, the court wrestler, and he tells the news regarding duke’s court. The elder duke has been ousted by his younger brother from his court and now stays in Arden like ‘Robin Hood.’ While his daughter, Rosalind, remains at court because she is favored by the younger Duke’s daughter, Celia. Charles brings the news that Duke has announced wrestling matches, and Orlando wants to fight against him in disguise. He warns that if he did so, he would be harmed. Oliver responds by telling him to do as much harm as he can do him; this clarifies his position as the villain. He despises him because he is the most beloved and benevolent of the three brothers.
Act I: Scene II
In this scene, Rosalind and Celia make their first appearance. Rosalind mourns her father’s disappearance while Celia tries to console her. Rosalind wants to fall in love, which will occupy her mind, and this will let her get rid of distracting thoughts. Then the court fool Touchstone comes, and they greet him. He tries to cheer them up with his jokes. In a few whiles, a courtier Monsieur La Beau comes and informs them regarding the wrestling match.
A shift from prose to blank verse is noticed, and Duke Fredrick enters, gravity pervades. He asks the ladies to entreat the young man (Orlando) to quit the competition because it may have grave consequences. But he insists and wants to test him at this competition. He surprises all and defeats Charles, and asks for a second competition but is not possible because Charles is taken away. His victory pleases the ladies, and Rosalind gives him her chain. When Fredrick asks about his name, he is astonished because he is his old enemy’s son. Orlando is charmed by Rosalind’s beauty.
Act I: Scene III
Rosalind talking to Celia confesses her love for Orlando and even refers to him as her ‘child’s father.’ Fredrick, infuriated at her previous behavior, comes and tells her that she has to leave the palace within ten days. And if she didn’t leave, she will be killed for this crime to appear within the premises of the court. She pleads to revise his decision because she is not a traitor. But Duke refuses to do so. Rosalind and Celia vow never to separate from each other and decide to leave the palace together. They decide to take the court jester Touchstone along with them. They fear to leave the court in their original identity, so they decide to leave disguised. Celia disguises herself as a woman named Aliena, while Rosalind disguises herself as a man named Ganymede. They gather the jewels they will take along with them to Arden.
Act II: Scene I
In the second act, Duke is shown in the forest extolling the beauties of pastoral life. He praises the brooks, trees, stones, and all other things that are there in the forest. He tells his company to learn from the wonders which lie scattered in the forest. He expresses his regret at the harm caused to animals in the forest due to their hunt. He is informed that Jacques is sentimental because of the wounded deer and laments its injuries. He asks to be led to the place where Jacques is because it gives him pleasure to talk to Jacques. They leave to search for him.
Act II: Scene II
Duke Fredrick is informed that Rosalind, Celia, and Touchstone are missing. He is told that they were praising Orlando and talked about being in love with him. They suspect that they may be with him. Oliver is summoned to court to be investigated regarding the probe.
Act II: Scene III
In this scene, Adam and Orlando meet. Adam tells him that Oliver is planning to kill him; he has plotted against him in the fight and had convinced Charles to kill him. He informs Orlando that he is still persistent and will kill him, whatever the method. He warns him to leave home as soon as possible because, at his success in the wrestling match, Oliver is jealous. At this, Orlando tells him that he will face his brother now to get his due share in the property. He will leave his home if he can help him make proper arrangements and stays by his side. Both of them agree and leave together for the forest of Arden.
Act II: Scene IV
Touchstone, Rosalind, and Celia have reached the forest of Arden. They are much tired, and Touchstone shows somewhat regret at leaving the court. Their mood is softened by woodland shepherds Corin and Silvius, who speak of love. Silvius accuses Corin that he has never been a true lover himself. He says that he admires Phebe. This reminds Rosalind of Orlando, while Touchstone recalls his love when he was a young man. Touchstone calls Corin, and Rosalind asks him about food and lodgings, which are arranged. They purchase a cottage to live while a flock of sheep to get them something to feed.
Act II: Scene V
Jacques, Amiens, and other lords are enjoying the forest. Amiens sings while the rest of the courtiers sing in chorus with him, Jacques tells them to continue it. They praise the forest because it is a serene place, and there are no enemies except ‘winter and rough weather.’ Some of the men are told to prepare the meal. Jacques says that he tries to avoid Duke senior because he thinks of him as ‘too disputable.’
Act II: Scene VI
Adam and Orlando are seen walking in the forest, stumbling. In stark contrast to the last scene where meals were arranged for both the parties, the characters in this scene are starved. Orlando and Adam are hungry but can’t find a meal. Adam stumbles while Orlando supports him, saying that he will find him food and shelter.
Act II: Scene VII
In this scene, Duke senior is seen searching for Jacques. He reaches where Jacques is sitting; the meal is prepared. He is asked by Jacques to join him in the meal. Jacques tells him that he has seen Touchstone, the jester, and wishes to wear a motley coat like him. He expresses his desire to blow air at people’s faces for their follies. Duke knows that he can’t do so because he has spent and amorous, libertine past. Suddenly Orlando arrives with a bare sword in his hand and orders them not to take a single morsel before he comes back. But when he sees Duke senior, he apologizes and is warmly greeted. He leaves to take back Adam with him. At this, Jacques gives a philosophical account of the life of man; he describes seven stages of life. He calls life a stage while men are mere actors. These life stages include the infancy, schoolboy age, lover age, soldier age justice age, absentminded-old age, and the senile age. Jacques is cynic of human beings and expresses his disgust for them. As Jacques finishes, Adam sings a song. Then enter Adam and Orlando, Duke expresses his joy at the coming of his old friend’s son and welcomes them. The duke holds Adam’s hand, and the whole company leaves happily.
Act III: Scene I
Oliver is summoned to Duke’s court, and Fredrick orders him to bring Orlando, alive or dead, to his court within twelve months. If he didn’t bring him to court within the mentioned period of time, he would lose all his property as well as the right to live in this territory. He responds by saying that he never loved his brother and will fetch him soon. The Duke scorns him for his vile nature and not loving his brother. He asks his men to take him out of court.
Act III: Scene II Summary
Orlando is wandering in the forest and is lovesick for Rosalind. He sticks love poems for her throughout the forest and carves Rosalind’s name on trees throughout. While he is doing so, Touchstone and Corin enter discussing the merits of living in the countryside in comparison to life at court. Rosalind enters disguised as Ganymede and reads a poem. Touchstone shows his disgust for the poem because it, according to him, is jagged. Then they ask the men to leave them alone. Celia tells Rosalind that she knows the man who stuck the poems to trees, and reveals that he was wearing Orlando’s chain. This agitates her mind, and when she comes to know that it was Rosalind, romantic feelings overcome her. Orlando and Jacques are seen coming towards them; they hide. Orlando tells Jacques of his love for Rosalind and is questioned by him, which he satisfactorily answers.
When Jacques goes, and Orlando is left alone, disguised Rosalind approaches him. She wants to conceal her original identity. She tells him that she can cure his illness, the condition for it would be to focus his affection towards her and to call her Rosalind. Though Orlando is skeptic of doing this, he agrees, and they leave for her cottage.
Act III: Scene III
Touchstone and Audrey, a countrywoman, are courting. The couple is incongruous because the wench is an unsophisticated, uncultured, and simpleton woman, almost opposite of Touchstone. The jester asks her to accompany him to a church vicar to get them married. According to him, this will legitimatize their love. They are watched by Jacques when they are going to the house of Sir Oliver Mar-text. Jacques thinks of them not befitting to each other. He leads them away from Sir Oliver’s and tells them to find them a better person.
Act III: Scene IV
Rosalind is seen anxiously waiting for Orlando, but he doesn’t come. She discusses him emotionally with Celia. Celia expresses her doubt about his love. Rosalind tells her that she met her father in disguise; he couldn’t recognize her. She doesn’t bother about her father’s presence; Orlando’s presence worries her. To their relief, Corin and Silvius come and change the topic.
Act III: Scene V
Silvius is seen pleading Phebe for her favor while she warns him not to come near her. Celia, Rosalind secretly watch him. At this rejection, Phebe is told that she will come to know the pain when she is in love. While Phebe responds that men aren’t emotionally hurt. At this, Rosalind comes and joins them. She rebukes Phebe for her stubbornness. She tells her to take anything that is offered and be grateful for it.
Phebe is charmed by Ganymede’s (Rosalind) appearance and praises ‘his’ (her) appearance and talk. As Rosalind leaves, she talks about her and is now happy with Silvius because he talks of love. She tells Silvius that she will love her but as a neighbor.
Act IV: Scene I
Jacques and Rosalind (still disguised) are seen bantering about melancholy. Jacques tells her that he is melancholy because he has traveled much. Rosalind replies that she prefers that talk of a jester to the silence of a sage. At Orlando’s entrance, Jacques leaves, and they are left alone. They talk about love and flirt with each other. She reprimands him for not keeping his promise and compares him to a snail. They talk about kissing; later, she adds that no man has ever died for love. When Rosalind tells her that her talk is lamenting, she gets cheerful, and they talk about marriage. They engage in a mock wedding ceremony. Then she talks about life after her marriage that if her husband isn’t caring, she will go for somebody else. Later Orlando leaves for the duke’s residence to attend the dinner he has arranged and promises to come back in two hours. Rosalind tells him that if he didn’t come back, he wouldn’t be given any favor anymore.
Act IV: Scene II
Jacques and lords are busy hunting, and a deer is caught. Last time he was grieving the wounds of the deer, but this time he is cheerful and wants to present it to the duke. They merrily sing songs. He says that he will present it to duke the way a trophy was presented to a Roman conqueror.
Act IV: Scene III
Orlando has again failed to come in time. Rosalind and Celia wonder about the reasons for his being late. Silvius comes and hands her a letter from Phebe. It has love contents, and she reads it aloud, jesting with Silvius. A few whiles later, she sends Silvius away.
Oliver arrives at their cottage in search of Rosalind. He tells her that a snake had coiled around his neck, and his brother protected him from it, but a lioness attacked him then. Orlando killed the lioness but was injured. After that, he discovered that he wrongly hated his brother. Both of them then left for Duke senior’s residence, and from there, he asked him to bring Ganymede this handkerchief. Though disguised as Ganymede, Rosalind swoons. She is sure that Oliver will tell his brother that this fainting was a pretense.
Act V: Scene I
Audrey and Touchstone converse about their marriage. Audrey tells him that Sir Mar-text was good to wed them, but he tries to postpone this issue to a later time. He tells her that there is a youth in the forest who is in love with her. While they converse, a rustic youth William comes. Touchstone asks him that if he is wise, he responds in affirmative. At this Touchstone replies: the fool doth think he is wise and embarrasses him. He warns the youth not to come near to Audrey. Corin comes and informs him that Ganymede and Aliena want him to come.
Act V: Scene II
Oliver has fallen in love with Aliena and confesses it to his brother Orlando. He says that he will leave all that his father has left, to Orlando and will lead his life like a shepherd. She has agreed to marry him, and they will get married soon. Ganymede enters and talks about Aliena and Oliver’s love at first sight. Orlando expresses his grief because Rosalind is not there. Ganymede tells him that if he comes to his (Rosalind’s, she is disguised) house, he will make him get her through magic. But before that, Oliver and Aliena need to get married.
Phebe and Silvius enter. Phebe expresses her love for Ganymede, which she denies to requite because he doesn’t love ‘any woman.’
Act V: Scene III
Touchstone is happy and tells Audrey that the next day they will get married. Duke’s two pages are with them. They sing while the couple enjoys their songs. Touchstone is cynical of the time that he has wasted before and praises the pages for their songs.
Act V: Scene IV
In the last scene, Duke senior, Rosalind, and Celia (still disguised), Jacques, Orlando, Oliver, Silvius, and Phebe are all together. Rosalind confirms that couples will get married. Rosalind and Celia leave, while Duke senior and Orlando comment that he looks like Rosalind.
Touchstone and Audrey arrive there; he is seen commending himself for marriage to Audrey, calling it a noble deed. Jacques praises his wit. He then describes seven levels of a lie.
Rosalind and Celia are led by the Greek god of marriage, Hymen. Hymen speaks in blank verse. He proceeds to marry each of the four couples, which are Audrey and Touchstone, Celia and Oliver, Silvius and Phebe, Rosalind, and Orlando. A wedlock hymn is sung. Jacques de Boys, Orlando, and Oliver’s brother arrive, bringing the news that Duke Fredrick has changed by the charm of a religious man. He has decided to return the dukedom back to his brother. All are happy at this news, while Jacques, the philosopher, announces to leave their company. The scene ends in dancing.
Rosalind speaks the epilogue. She hopes that all would have enjoyed the play who bids farewell to the audience.
As You Like It Characters Analysis
Adam is the aged servant of De Boys. He encourages Orlando, calling him the true heir of his father. He is the one who suffers with him on the journey and stays by his side all along.
Amiens is Duke senior’s courtier. He has left court with him for Arden.
Audrey is a simpleton shepherdess. She marries Touchstone. She is an ignorant person and the dullest of Shakespearean female characters. She doesn’t even understand Touchstone’s ridicule.
Celia is Rosalind’s cousin and Duke Fredrick’s daughter. She is Rosalind’s confidante and stays by her throughout the play, bearing the hardships. She is the reason behind Rosalind’s falling in love. Because she had told her to go and congratulate Orlando. She is later disguised as Aliena and marries Oliver. Celia is a stronger woman than her cousin. Because when Rosalind assumes male disguise, she shows contempt for women while she reproves her for that.
Charles is a court wrestler. He is used by Oliver to kill Orlando but gets defeated.
Corin is a shepherd and defends pastoral life. He befriends Rosalind, Celia, and Touchstone. Though Touchstone abuses him for being simpleton, he defends himself successfully.
Jacques de Boys
Jacques de Boys is Orlando and Oliver’s brother. He brings the news of Fredrick’s conversion into a good man. He can be called a mediator between good and evil forces.
Fredrick has usurped the throne from his elder brother. He is Celia’s father. He is a one-dimensional villain and can be called a type. His character is almost irrelevant and doesn’t make an appearance after a religious conversion.
He is the exiled duke from whom his younger brother has taken all his property. He lives in the forest of Arden. He is a benevolent patriarchal figure in the forest and rules his loyal subjects there. His dialogue closes the play, and he is the one who opens the scene in the forest. He is in love with natural life and praises the beauties of pastoral life, comparing it to the perilous air of court.
Hymen is the Greek god of marriage. He appears in the last scene and leads the wedding ceremony of the couples. His presence confirms that this forest is something away from the worries of the world.
Jacques is a philosopher and a lord in attendance to Duke senior. He is a melancholy person. He is considered as Touchstone’s foil because both are witty, who reflect on the misery, beauty, and irony of the world. He looks a misanthrope and is a different character in the forest. He considers all human beings as usurpers laying into ruins the beauty of the world. He can be seen as the earliest environmentalist in literature.
Le Beau is Fredrick’s courtier. He brings the news of duke’s displeasure at the ladies’ bold step to approach Orlando.
Sir Oliver Mar-text
He is a vicar and is about to officiate the marriage ceremony of Touchstone and Audrey but is interrupted by Jacques.
Oliver is Orlando’s elder brother and has usurped Orlando’s properties. Initially, he plays the role of a villain. He evolves later, changes into a good man, and vows to lead a life like a shepherd. He is jealous of his brother, who is well-loved by people, and he is paid no proper attention. He hates Orlando and plans to kill him. He falls in love with Celia and gets married to her in the end.
Orlando is the principal male protagonist of this play and son of Sir Roland de Boys. He is not given proper value at his home, and by showing discontent leads to his miseries. His brother hates him, and he plans to kill him. He leaves his home for the forest. He falls in love with Rosalind and she with him. He is a modest person and without boasting defeats Charles and looks shy when Rosalind and Celia approach him. His name is an anagram of his father’s name, and his servant calls him the true image of his father. This shows his abilities and competence. In the forest, it is noticed that he doesn’t assert himself much, and this shows his abilities to reconcile to the feminine gender. He is a gentle person and shows his gentle upbringing in the initial scenes in the forest. He combines passion and aggression in himself. He shows himself the most competent character in the play. He marries Rosalind in the end.
Phebe is a shepherdess who is loved by Silvius. She is indifferent towards him and falls in love with Ganymede. But in the end, he agrees to meet Silvius. She is the most ignorant of Shakespearean female characters.
Rosalind is Duke Senior’s daughter and resides with her uncle Fredrick at his palace. She is exiled because she has approached Orlando, son of duke’s old enemy. She falls in love with Orlando and leaves the palace with her cousin Celia.
She later disguises as Ganymede and, in the end, marries Orlando. She is the play’s central character. She speaks most of the dialogues and brings the play to an end. She has become melancholy because her father has been ousted from the court, and along with that, Orlando is away from her. She can’t stand this men’s apparel (disguise) but successfully maintains it until the time comes to throw it away.
She is deeply in love with Orlando and is in need of a man figure in her life, which she gets in the form of Orlando. Though she shows her sovereignty when disguised as a man but becomes subservient when it comes to her original and marries Orlando.
He is a shepherd and deeply in love with Phebe. She scorns him but eventually is able to marry her.
Touchstone is a court jester at Fredrick’s court. He leaves court with Celia and Rosalind for the forest. He is a witty person, and his name fits him well. He discloses the realities of other characters when they talk to him. He is a foil for Jacques and is a philosopher as well a worldly man. He is out of place in the forest and constantly makes the audience feel that he is not happy there.
He falls in love with Audrey and, in the end, marries her. He looks at things from a different angle. He criticizes Orlando’s poetry and calls it pedantic. He criticizes Corin for not having learned court manners. He considers himself something between a fool and a wise man. His role in this play is there as relief from comic realism. His dialogues preempt laughter as well as thoughts in the audience.
William is a person from the countryside and is in love with Audrey. Touchstone threatens him, never to be seen near her.
Themes in As You Like It
As You Like It shows Shakespeare’s partiality towards rural life. He shows his contempt for court life in this play through the mouth of different characters. He, through the court’s disorder and deterioration, shows the political decline. He depicts the movement towards the gradual meanness of human beings in court life. He has shown how materialistic competition leads to conflict between brothers. Duke senior introduces this life by saying that in this life, there is no danger except winter. In pastoral life, there is no property and social position, which is the secret of the serenity of this life.
Though the journey to the forest is difficult, it is a blessing for those who successfully reach there. This life is a liberation from oppression and strips human beings from the evils they have acquired in court life. It is a morally pure realm and has transforming capabilities.
Fortune versus Nature
In this play, there is a conflict between fortune and nature. Fortune represents the materialistic forces, while nature represents the purifying forces. Here this competition is shown when the audience comes to know that Fredrick was benefited over duke senior by fortune and led to the usurpation of power.
Celia, in a dialogue, says that the fortune she has will be equally divided between her and Rosalind. Thus ending the injustice, thus challenging the goddess of fortune. Goddess nature was considered as blind, while nature was considered to be controlling people’s innately good values and promotes virtues. In Duke senior, we can see that he has given up the fortune and is now living a virtuous life. We can conclude that the plays come to enjoy the virtues of nature when they give up their fortune.
If we compare time in court contrasted with time in the forest, we can see that in the former, it’s a threat while in the latter, it’s a blessing. In court, whenever the time is mentioned, we can see that there are deadlines and characters are threatened.
There are threats of executions, exile, and arrest. In the forest, there are no such events, and time is shown without intervals. It is shown in a dialogue between Touchstone and Jacques as a vast eternity in which the characters gradually diminish. Jacques further elucidates it as the seven ages of men, excluding violence from it.
As stated earlier that there are no artificialities in the forest, time is not measured by clocks rather by the passing of the day. In short, time in the forest is subjective, not objective; each character sees it from his own novel perspective. Thus it is not a misery rather a benefaction.
In As You Like It, sexual identity is thoroughly examined. This is done through the character of Rosalind. She is disguised as Ganymede and remains so throughout. She can throw away the disguise when she enters the forest, but she doesn’t do so. Critics agree that she does so to get rid of the submissive role she has to play due to being female. She reverts the roles when courting Orlando and is in control of the further movement. In those days, female roles were played by young male actors, so it adds to the beauty of the play to transform a single male actor to perform different roles dexterously.
Acting and the Stage
In this play, we can see there are numerous references made to stage, acting, play, and characters. Firstly, it is evident in the case of Rosalind, who is disguised as Ganymede and asks him to ‘play the knave with him.’ She can say much about the role of the lover as well the role of man, and she successfully plays the role of a man. She points out that he doesn’t play a proper lover because he is tidy and not disheveled.
Jacques draws an analogy between seven ages of man and between acts of a play. Duke senior refers to the world as a stage at the arrival of Orlando. He calls this life both a tragedy and a comedy. ‘All the world is a stage’ is the most evidence of this fact. It strengthens this Shakespearean belief of the world as a stage. He believes in the inability of actors to bring any change to the script or their roles and uses befitting metaphors for this purpose.
Like some other Shakespearean plays, familial relationships are also the focus in this play. Conflicts are going on between brothers for property, money, or leading role. This is shown in the case of Orlando and Oliver as well in the case of Duke senior and Fredrick. It is excellently portrayed how fortune ruins relationships, and nature mends them.
As You Like It Literary Analysis
In Shakespearean plays, we see elements in binaries, and these binaries are shown in contrast. We can see that there is a tension between natural and artificial, love and hatred, rustic and court life, serenity and conflict, gentle and pastoral characters. This is shown very well using the forest, court, imagery, and the witty dialogues of the sage characters. Virtue and evil are shown using the conflict going on in court life. Language and style are usefully employed by the playwright to add a realistic touch to the pastoral idealism. It is an idyllic utopia woven using the philosophical dialogues and some dystopian scenes.
Like other comedies, the historical context is mixed to alienate the audience. Shakespeare has used the forest of Arden as the setting while the court’s location is not mentioned. This way, the playwright has put forth the evils prevalent in court and those usually seen in the city life. Thus the audience doesn’t take it as an offense and realize the importance of rural life. This historical context also helps challenge gender roles.
Using songs and poems, Shakespeare has emphasized the romantic and pastoral aspects of this play. Five songs are performed, more than any other play. Different forms of verse are used in this play, which adds to its pastoral beauty. Half of the play is written in prose, while the sudden interludes signify the romantic outbursts in rustic life. Using a lyrical interlude, the chorus affirms that nature is the safest place for human beings. To shortly state, these lyrical interludes present nature’s rhythm.
Pastoral is a poem describing shepherds and describing their rustic life. This may include some artificial elements like eloquence. Pastoralism impacted English life from 1550 to 1750. Shakespeare treated the pastoral somewhat ambiguously and has used it to create comedy. On one side, Orlando is shown leaving everything back in the palace and sticking poems to trees while Jacques is a philosopher shown in the forest. In the end, when everything is fine, all except Jacques leave for court, this shows it may be an endorsement or satire on the pastorals, the choice is readers’! As You Like It!
Similes are also prevalent, like other figurative uses of language like imagery, setting, wordplay, etc. Certain similes were familiar for the London audience then, like the analogy of weeping to the fountain of Diana. This is a reference to the statue of the aforementioned goddess in Cheapside London. Some similes mentioning animals can also be seen in this play.
Orlando refers to himself like a doe in search of her fawn; Jacques likens himself to weasel and rooster. Like these other objects are also used to describe the features relevant to them. Thus the befitting use of similes adds to the meaning of dialogues. The use of all these, along with the romances excellently employed, make it a successful romantic comedy.
Marginalization of Plot
In contrast to other Shakespearean plays, in this play, there can be a clear marginalization of plot noticed. Some scholars even blame him for neglect. As we can see that there is a sudden conversion of villains from evil to good for which he is usually criticized. Shakespeare has dealt with the plot summarily, and that reflects his intention not to make it the essence of the play. Thus limiting the plot has led to the strengthening of characters.
Gender roles are not only important in the play’s technical context rather in historical context as well. These depict the widespread sexism in the Elizabethan era as well as the subordinate role in that hierarchical society. This was the undisputed division of society that women didn’t question, but Shakespeare, through the character of Rosalind, has questioned. Roles were fixed, and nobody could rebel against them. This has bound not only women but men as well. An instance of it is Rosalind disguised as Ganymede when she swoons at the news of Orlando’s injury. Oliver says, ‘You a man! You lack a man’s heart.’
Celia and Rosalind, in a conversation, say that women are marketable and have a quantifiable value. Thus the forest of Arden is free from the curse of dowry like other curses. Shakespeare softens the perception of masculine than hardening that of the feminine.
London, at that time, had a population of about two lacs and was different from country life in many respects. Thus the people coming from these two backgrounds were foreigners to each other. Shakespeare brings them together, and with the use of rural characters like Audrey and William, produce a comic effect. Though the playwright focuses primarily on the love stories still there is depiction of rural life and its values.
There are many allusions in this play. Some of them are Hymen, the Greek goddess of marriage, Arden, which refers to the Arden woods as well as Ardennes in France. In a dialogue, Celia, referring to fools, suggests the banishment of satire through a royal order.