William Shakespeare's As You Like It As a Study of Perception and Misperception

William Shakespeare's As You Like It As a Study of Perception and Misperception

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William Shakespeare's As You Like It As a Study of Perception and Misperception

The concepts of perception and misperception are common themes in many
of Shakespeare's plays and can be found in his comedies, tragedies and
histories alike. Shakespeare explores these often-parallel elements
through several different forms in his work, such as disguise,
mistaken identity and blindness, and events caused by these can lead
to amusing, confusing or sometimes tragic consequences, depending on
the nature of the plays themselves.

The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines 'perception' as 'the ability to
see, hear or become aware of something through the senses,' 'a way of
regarding, understanding or interpreting something,' and as 'intuitive
understanding and insight.'[1] There is not a separate entry for
'misperception' but it is almost possible to discern its meaning by
figuratively inverting the former definition. However, this is not
quite accurate, for 'misperception' is not 'the inability to see, hear
or become aware of something through the senses' - it is more 'to see,
hear or become aware of something incorrectly.' To misperceive is to
wilfully misunderstand something, to labour under the false impression
that something you have seen, heard or become aware of is
unequivocally correct.

Applying this to plays such as Twelfth Night, King Lear, Macbeth,
Othello and, of course, As You Like It, it becomes clear that the
themes of perception and misperception are central to their plots. In
Twelfth Night, Viola disguises herself as Cesario, a young man, with
the objective of gaining admission into Olivia's court. King Lear has
the concep...

... middle of paper ...

...saman Maus,
Katharine, eds,

The Norton Shakespeare (London: Norton, 1997)

Pearsall, Judy, ed, The Concise Oxford Dictionary - Tenth Edition,

(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001)

Shakespeare, William, As You Like It (London: Penguin, 1968)


[1] The Concise Oxford Dictionary ed. Judy Pearsall (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 2001) p.1059

[2] William Shakespeare, As You Like It (London: Penguin, 1968) Act II
scene 1, lines 2-17. All other references are to this edition and are
given in parentheses in the essay.

[3] Act II, scene 1 lines 58-61.

[4] Act III, scene 2 lines 11-18.

[5] Act III, scene 3 line 15.

[6] Act II, scene 5 lines 5 and 16, Act II, scene 7 line 112.

[7] Act III, scene 2 line 131.

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