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Shakespeare's As You Like It - The Many Flavors of Love Essay

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As You Like It:   The Many Flavors of Love        


As You Like It is remarkable among Shakespeare's plays for ending with four marriages, something of a record even among comedies. Love is a central theme of the play, although in some of its variations it cannot quite be said to be romantic! The love relationships may, at first glance, appear to be stock types: Rosalind and Orlando representing romantic hero-heroine love, Silvius and Phebe combining love in the lower classes with unrequited love, Audrey and Touchstone a darker attempt to seduce, and Celia and Oliver simple tying up of loose ends. However, Shakespeare makes the theme interesting not just through the sheer variety of relationships that he explores, but also through the unusual elements he brings to each.

            The Rosalind-Orlando relationship could be stock hero-heroine love, but for the interest Shakespeare adds by way of Rosalind's luminous character and the humor of Orlando encountering and being attracted to Rosalind in her guise as a "saucy lackey", Ganymede. The way in which they meet and fall in love is traditional -- Rosalind is won over by Orlando's manly labors and good looks at his wrestling match with Charles, and performs her feminine office of mercy by trying to dissuade him from what appears to be such a disastrous venture. It is true love at first sight, another traditional feature of such a romance. However, a new dimension is added by Rosalind's disguise as Ganymede and her suggestion that Orlando pretend to court her. Orlando's attraction to her in her boyish guise is unexpected and sends the audience into fits of laughter. His gradual progression from a brusque retort to Ganymede's cheeky question, "I pray you, what is't o'cloc...


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...liver. The audience will also be greatly amused at the fact that although Celia has been teasing Rosalind ever since she fell in love with Orlando, she herself is not proof to sudden and irrational love. All in all, their marriage is necessary for the comic resolution of the play.

            The many love relationships in As You Like It are delightful in their romanticism and the humor that Shakespeare has dashed into each of them, enhancing the happy nature of the play. Various situations of love are explored -- true love at first sight, unrequited love, even a hint of homosexuality in Orlando's attraction to Ganymede and Phebe's falling for Ganymede, who is really a woman. Their contrasting variety causes them to complement one another in the play's theme of love and the foolish things it makes people do, making As You Like It both entertaining and romantic.


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