Attitudes Toward Love and Marriage in Shakespeare's As You Like It

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Attitudes Toward Love and Marriage in Shakespeare's As You Like It

Nearly every character in Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” has a marked opinion on love and marriage which ranges from the romantic Orlando to Ganymede who is quite skeptical of love and endeavors to “rid” Orlando of his petty infatuation for Rosalind.

Touchstone, who has what I consider the most unique view on love and marriage put forth in the play, makes his views known in a speech concerning faith and his indifference thereof. He believes that marriage serves as a sign of honor and respectability rather than love – he gives the explanation “as a walled town is more worthier than a village, so is the forehead of a married man more honorable than the bare brow of a bachelor.” He is also of the opinion that unfaithfulness is inevitable as evidenced by the section of his speech in which he proposes that:

“A man may, if he were of a fearful heart, stagger in this attempt; for here we have no temple but the wood, no assembly but horn-beasts. But what though? Courage! As horns are odious, they are necessary. It is said, many a man knows no end of his goods:’ right; many a man has good horns, and knows no end of them. Well, that is the dowry of his wife; 'tis none of his own getting. Horns? Even so. Poor men alone? No, no; the noblest dear hath them as huge as the rascal.”

Marriage in his eyes is merely a physical convenience as he hints in the line “Well,

praised be the gods for thy foulness! sluttishness may come hereafter.” This cynicism might be a symptom of the life of an observer of the court while never truly belonging there. One gets the impression through his speech, occupation, and mannerisms that Touchstone may not have been born of noble blood, but ...

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...t of her affection is a woman, Phoebe may not have shared Silvius’ joy.

Shakespeare seemed to have an idealistic view of love, which may have been tainted with bitterness by his failed marriage. Both aspects seem to pervade the personalities of Shakespeare’s characters in “As You Like It” as shown by the stark comparison that can be made between Orlando and Touchstone. Another very important aspect that influenced the characters in “As You Like It” was the concrete social distinctions that were made in 17th century Italy. This affected attitudes by way of making non-illicit true love very improbable assuming one spent a considerable amount of time in the presence of classes other than that to which they belonged. Moreover, the times in which Shakespeare lived differed a great deal from life as we live it now, and the people’s notions of love followed accordingly.

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