Loyalty in William Shakespeare's As You Like It
Length: 1029 words (2.9 double-spaced pages)
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In Shakespeare's As You Like It loyalty is dominant theme. Each character possesses either a loyalty or disloyalty towards another. These disloyalties and loyalties are most apparent in the relationships of Celia and Rosalind, Celia and Duke Fredrick, Orlando and Rosalind, Adam and Orlando, and Oliver and Orlando. In these relationships, a conflict of loyalties causes characters to change homes, jobs, identities and families.
Two characters, Celia and Rosalind are loyal to each other throughout the play, which is apparent through the decisions Celia makes. In this quotation, Celia defies her father to stay loyal to Rosalind.
"Which teacheth thee thou and I am one: Shall we be sunder'd? Shall we part, sweet girl? No: Let my father seek another heir. Therefore devise with me how we may fly" (Act 1, Scene 3).
Celia gives up her position as heir to the throne without hesitation so she can remain loyal to Rosalind. Celia even renounces the throne when Duke Fredrick declares Rosalind a traitor, as Celia says "If she be a traitor, Why so am I" (Act 1, Scene 3). Celia renounces the court, her family, and her valuables for loyalty.
Similar to the devotion shared between Celia and Rosalind, Adam, the servant for the De Bois Family shows a great degree of loyalty towards Sir Rowland. This is shown threw his generous acts towards Orlando. Adam's un-dying allegiance to Sir Rowland is shown through his response to Orlando's departure into the Forest of Arden: "Let me go with you; I'll do the service of a younger man in all you business and necessities" (Act 2, Scene 1). Adam did not allow Orlando to go alone into the forest and gives him all his life savings so that Orlando could survive. Orlando is a great model of loyalty and committed service. Orlando reciprocates the loyalty of Adam, who was at one point near death.
Contrary to the aforementioned, three of the most important relationships in As You Like It lack loyalty. Loyalty is necessary in all healthy relationships, in As You Like It. The lack of loyalty in certain character relationships emphasizes the need for loyalty in the relationships in the play. The behavior of some of the characters in the play proves that the lack of loyalty is detrimental to their relationships. These relationships are between Duke Fredrick and Celia, Oliver and Orlando, and Rosalind and Orlando.
Duke Fredrick exhibits disloyalty towards his daughter Celia when he banishes Rosalind from the court. Duke Fredrick is looking out for his best interest not his daughters. This is shown when he says the reason why Rosalind must leave is "Thou art thy father's daughter" (Act 1, Scene 3). This shows that Duke Fredrick is spiteful and that is the reason he is forcing Rosalind to leave. Not only does he force Rosalind to leave, he also tries to sway Celia opinion of Rosalind by saying "Thou wilt show more bright and seem more virtuous, when she is gone" (Act 1, Scene 3). The absence of Rosalind in Celia's life would be detrimental.
Also disloyal is Oliver to his brother Orlando. Oliver treats Orlando like an enemy. For example, Oliver says to Charles " A secret and villainous contriver against me his natural brother: therefore use thy discretion; I had as lief thou didst break his neck as his finger" (Act 1, Scene 1). At this point in the play, Oliver is trying to get Charles to injure Orlando. He wants Orlando out of his life so that he can keep all of his father's estate. Oliver's lack of loyalty towards his brother is shown through his response, when Duke Fredrick orders Oliver into the forest to get Orlando, "O that your highness knew my heart in this! I never loved my brother in my life" (Act 3, Scene 1). Here, Oliver just out right denounces any love or respect for Orlando. Oliver s behavior is to the contrary to Orlando's behavior. Orlando saves Oliver's life when a lion almost attacks him.
Throughout the play, Rosalind tests Orlando to see the depth of his devotion to her. Her tricks are deceitful and she is causing Orlando pain. Rosalind tells him horrible things that his future wife will do to him during marriage to see if his love will change for her. She says to him "Nay, you might keep that cheque for it till you met your wife's wit going to your neighbor's bed" (Act 4, Scene 1) . Here, Rosalind is telling Orlando that his wife will sleep with their neighbor. By toying with him she is not staying loyal to him because she is only looking out for herself. Rosalind attempts to convince him that his future wife will change once they get married. She says to him " Men are April when they woo, December when they wed: maids are May when they are maids, but the sky changes when they are wives" (Act 3, Scene 2). Rosalind is taking advantage of Orlando which is wrong.
Because of the events in the relationships that Shakesphere creates, a need for loyalty in relationships is created. Shakespeare created these disloyalties to show the importance of loyalty in relationships. By the end of As You Like It all the characters that where being disloyal change their behavior. They change their behavior because they were impacted by a specific kind act. Oliver changes his behavior when Orlando saves his life. He was moved by the fact that Orlando would do such a selfless act, like endangering his life for him, when he has been so selfish. Rosalind stops tricking Orlando when she was told that Orlando's last wish ,while on his death bed, was for Oliver to apologize to her on his behalf for standing her up. This finally proves to her that Orlando is genuinely devoted to her. With the religious guidance of a monk, Duke Fredrick is inspired to give up his life of corruption and give the throne back to the rightful Duke Senior. These changes show that the loyalty that others show can inspire someone to change.