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Love is the central theme in the play ‘As You Like It’ by William Shakespeare, the author expressed many types of love in the play. Some of them are, brotherly love, lust for love, loyal, friendship love, unrequited love, but of course, romantic love is the focus of this play.
There are four main couples in the play, but only three couples we could see the development of their love, they are Rosalind and Orlando, Silvius and Phebe, Touchstone and Audrey. Today, I am going to talk about the contrast of love between these three couples.
First, I would like to talk about the love between Rosalind and Orlando. From the beginning of the play, the reader can clearly sense them are the hero and the heroine of the story. Rosalind is beautiful, and Orlando is handsome, the way they fell in love at first sight is traditional, Orlando’s good nature and bravery won her heart in Act 1, Scene 2. However, if it was just like that, it would be a bit boring, therefore, a new dimension was added to this love when Rosalind was banished by Duke Frederick in A1 S3, and decided to disguise as a male- Ganymede and escape to the Forest of Arden. Their love was tested by the new gender of Rosalind.
Before the lovers met again in the forest, Rosalind found poems verses on a tree in A3 S2.
All the pictures fairest lin’d, Are but black to Rosalind
Let no face be kept in mind, But the fair of Rosalind
As the audience will see, the verses are really bad. Orlando probably has seen this kind of courting in the city but does not know how to write quality verses. Nevertheless, Rosalind was extremely excited when Celia told her it was Orlando who wrote it. Shakespeare used the language technique of repetition to present the excitement
… Did he aske for me? How parted he wit thee, and when shalt thou see him again? Answer me in one word.
Even for the briefest moment, Rosalind regretted to dress up like a man. But luckily, using her quick-wit, in Act 3 Scene 3, she cunningly persuaded Orlando into love-counselling by letting him pretend to woo her. She states that love is merely madness and deserves to be whipped. Then she intelligently said about the marks of a love which Orlando did not have. It send the audience into laughter when Orlando was unexpectedly attracted to Rosalind’s man disguise, his addressing to her as ‘pretty youth’, and his eager agreement of the wooing.
‘Now by the faith of my love, I will.’
I personally think it really added a question mark to the Rosalind and Orlando love which Orlando can change his mood so quickly. Maybe part of him is responding to the similarity that Ganymede and Rosalind shares.
Another part where Rosalind showed her deep love for Orlando was in A3, S4, Rosalind was on the verge of crying when Orlando was late and questioned his love. During the wooing, the two revealed their true love for each other but a disguising game. Orlando said he will die if Rosalind will not have him, but Rosalind quickly retorted.
‘…men have died from time to time, and worms have eaten them, but not for love.’
Though Rosalind does love Orlando very deeply, she questioned the reality of love. Then she told Orlando that eternal love is not possible, using the imagery of men are April when wooing, December when they wed. She abuses the women stereotype with wit, calling them ‘shallow, inconstant, emotional and silly in their desires. Then blame the entire fault onto their husband after they are married’. Her intelligence gave humour to the audience as everybody knew the insults were not true because if that was the case, Rosalind wouldn’t be playing Ganymede so well.
The audience is in total sympathy with Rosalind, knowing her true love for Orlando which she demonstrates many times- such as when she fainted when she saw Orlando’s blood in A4 S3. Though they are the traditional noble-lovers, these twists made their love way more interesting.
Secondly, I would like to talk about the traditional pastoral lovers, Phebe and Silvius, Silvius’ love for the shepherdess is unrequited which his love declaration were rejected by Phebe’s cruel words.
‘Come not thou near me, and, when that time comes, Afflict me with thy mocks, pity me not,’ A3 S5.
Rosalind was angry enough to barge into their argument and called Silvius silly and Phebe does not deserve someone as good as him.
‘…I see no more in you, Than without candle may go dark to bed-’ – Rosalind, (A3, S5)
The most hilarious reason of catching the audience’s attention on this couple, was not just the unrequited love between the two but also Phebe- in return, also fell in love with Ganymede who scorned her the same way as she had humiliated Silvius. I think it is like a payment for her for not accepting Silvius, to fall in love with a woman. Shakespeare created humour by using repetition of lines, where the two couples, Rosalind, Orlando, Phebe and Silvius were standing in a line, declaring their love for each other for three times using the same line. Which Rosalind desperately declared she has feelings for no women.
“If this is so, why blame you me to love you?”
“…And so am I for Rosalind.
So am I for Phebe…” (A5 S2)
But, at the end, Phebe still married Silvius because she had to refuse Rosalind. Though I still think Silvius is too good to be true and Phebe does not deserve him.
Thirdly, I would like to talk about Touchstone and Audrey. In a great contrast, the two are hardly romantic lovers. The reason of wanting Audrey is simple, Touchstone was taking advantage of her simplicity. In act 3, scene 3, Touchstone put on many word puns in his sentence such as ‘goats and Goths’ ‘Feign and Fain’, saying that the truest love poems are just faking it, the realistic love is not just consisted of idealised love such as the other two couples I have mentioned before, but a combination of desires and idealised love. I think this love cannot be classified as ‘delightful’ because Touchstone did not give Audrey any praises but instead full of insults which she didn’t even understand.
‘to cast away honesty upon a foul slut, were to put meat into an unclean dish’ (A3 S3) Saying that he is too good for her.
It had seemed to the audience that Audrey would probably be happier with William since he is a very simple country lad as well as love her. Whereas oppose to the lustful emotions Touchstone has for her. But in the end, Touchstone’s wit won over William anyway, and ended up marrying Audrey.
Though this love is not romantic, but it is the most realistic love in the play and deserves to be looked at in detail.
In conclusion, I believe now you can see the great contrasts between the three couples. Rosalind and Orlando, idealised romantic lovers where both of them loved each other dearly despite all the gender-troubles they went through. Then there are the typical unrequited pastoral lovers where Silvius’ sincere emotions were rejected cruelly by Phebe, but they ended up together anyway. Lastly, love between Touchstone and Audrey’s which is not idealised but realistic. The three couples all had their own role in the play, and Shakespeare showed the contrasts of these love by creating twists and connections between each, making the play on of the most delightful comedies he had ever wrote.
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"Contrasting Relationships of Three Couples in Shakespeare's As You Like It.." 123HelpMe.com. 18 Jun 2013