As You Like It: Effective Use of Conflict
It is easy enough to discount the presence of conflict within As You Like It, swept away as we are by the sparkling wit of the play, its numerous songs, and the use of stage spectacle (such as the masque of Hymen). But precisely what enables Arden to have such a profound effect on the visitors (Rosalind, Orlando, Duke Senior et al.) is the fact that it is a retreat from the "painted pomp" of the "envious court". The twisted morality of the court, where Duke Frederick hates Rosalind for her virtue, is very much necessary for the purpose of the drama of the play; it is only through the disparity between the court and the Forest of Arden that there is dramatic significance in the movement to Arden and the play of Arden. So while the world of As You Like It is one of reduced intensity (even while the cynic Jacques is loved by the Duke Senior, who loves to "cope him in his sullen fits"), it would be too glib to dismiss conflict from the play.
Admittedly, much of the charm of the play lies not in the perfunctory plot: the news told by Charles, about Duke Senior's banishment to a place where he and his followers "fleet the time carelessly" like Robin Hood and his merry men, is so old that its only purpose seems to be to speed up the exposition. As You Like It entices us because it is willing to sacrifice plot considerations and credibility -- for instance, in the sudden transformations of Oliver and Duke Frederick -- to pursue seemingly pointless moments such as the songs. The sheer number of musical interludes, from "Blow, blow, thou winter wind" to "What shall we ...
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...ibutes to the play's charms as William is summarily dismissed by Touchstone (using his wit as usual); this satire of the pastoral convention of overcoming obstacles to love is humorous. Likewise, Phebe's insults of Silvius and Ganymede's chiding of Phebe draws laughter from the audience.
To conclude, therefore, conflict is not absent from the play totally. It is As You Like It's knowledge and recognition of the dangers of love "Men have died from time to time, and worms have eaten them, but not for love" and is still capable of being love struck: the affection being like "Bay of Portugal", and how it plays off that against the comedic exuberance of its interludes, verbal sparring and digressionary expositions, that provides the drama of the play. "Sweet", indeed, "are the uses of adversity".
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