Essay PreviewMore ↓
Observations on As You Like It
As You Like It will be for many of you a rather difficult play to appreciate and interpret simply on the basis of a reading. The reasons for this are not difficult to ascertain. The play is, as I have observed, a pastoral comedy, that is, a comedy which involves a traditional literary style of moving sophisticated urban courtiers out into the countryside, where they have to deal with life in a very different manner from that of the aristocratic court. This play, like others in the Pastoral tradition, freely departs from naturalism, and in As You Like It (certainly by comparison with the History plays) there is little attempt to maintain any consistently naturalistic style.
This can create problems for readers unfamiliar with the conventions of pastoral, especially those who find it just too artificial and incredible to grasp imaginatively. After all, how are we to understand the unmotivated family hatreds which launch the action? We are simply not given any sufficiently detailed look at why Oliver hates Orlando (he himself does not understand the reason) or why Duke Frederick hates Duke Senior and turns on Rosalind so suddenly or, what is most surprising of all, why the nasty people whose animosities have given rise to the plot so suddenly and so conveniently convert and become nice people just in time to wind the plot up happily under the supervision of the goddess Hymen, the Greek deity of marriage, who arrives as an unexpected but welcome guest.
But these features of the plot which we might find unconvincing if we demand naturalism (that is, if we insist on treating the play as a "Hence" story) are little more than standard plot devices in "And then" stories, common in a genre like pastoral, which makes no claims to naturalistic motivation. Such plotting serves to launch and to conclude the comic confusion. The main point of the play here, after all, is not the working out of a carefully constructed plot, but rather the various encounters which take place in the Forest of Ardenne. In fact, the structure of the play is less a carefully complex and unfolding plot than a series of conversations between characters who happen to run into each other amid the trees.
How to Cite this Page
"Observations on Shakespeare's As You Like It." 123HelpMe.com. 23 Sep 2018
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
- Violating the Established Social Order in As You Like It The recent White House sex scandal raised issues about gender, desire, and an established social order - issues that questioned established social norms and ideas about the power and politics of sex. Our society is not the first to recognize the effects that sexual politics and gender relations have had on social order, however. The works of William Shakespeare are ample evidence that Elizabethan England was firmly in touch with these notions.... [tags: Shakespeare As You Like It Essays]
2138 words (6.1 pages)
- Hamlet: Observations of Madness One of the most analyzed plays in existence is the tragedy Hamlet, with its recurring question: "Is Hamlet’s 'antic disposition' feigned or real?" In truth, this question can only be answered by observing the thoughts of the main characters in relation to the cause of Hamlet real or feigned madness. In the tragedy Hamlet, each of the main characters explains Hamlets madness in their own unique way. To discover the cause behind the madness of Hamlet, each character used their own ambitions, emotions and interpretations of past events.... [tags: Madness and Insanity in Shakespeare Hamlet]
2623 words (7.5 pages)
- And What of Gertrude in Hamlet. To what extent does evil reign in the heart of Queen Gertrude in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. This essay will delve into her character, and into the deposit of literary criticism regarding her, in order to analyze her character in depth. Philip Edwards’ “The Ghost: Messenger from a Higher Court of Values?” expresses the necessity of the Ghost leaving the guilt of Gertrude to the afterlife: The final injunction, ‘Leave her to heaven’, must temper our feeling of the Ghost’s personal vindictiveness.... [tags: GCSE Coursework Shakespeare Hamlet]
2585 words (7.4 pages)
- Jaques's Perspective in As You Like It A cynic's cynic might declare Jaques no better than the guy who lurks in corners at a cocktail party, lobbing witty barbs at anyone unlucky enough to catch his eye. But this assessment robs Shakespeare's comedy of its sociological depth; what might be pleasant fluff about young people in love is enhanced by Jaques's ability to make stern judgments about the world, yet still respect the people who comprise it. Indeed, Jaques observes astutely from the sidelines.... [tags: Shakespeare As You Like It Essays]
552 words (1.6 pages)
- Relationships in As You Like It "Pronounce that sentence on me, my liege. I cannot live out of her company"(Shakespeare quoted in Norton Anthology 1611). Who made these remarks about the dear Rosalind, was it Celia, the one whom she calls 'coz', or is Orlando the man that she is in love with. The question then becomes if Celia said these words what was her meaning. Is it that Celia is attracted to Rosalind as more than a friend or is this just an example of the female friendships of the time.... [tags: Shakespeare As You Like It Essays]
1433 words (4.1 pages)
- Love in As You Like It Throughout the centuries, men have pondered many great questions. Among these is the question: "What is love?" There is no doubt that the greatest name in English literature, Shakespeare, sought to answer this question for himself. Indeed, Shakespeare recorded his answer in many of the sonnets and plays he wrote, including As You Like It. As Shakespeare learned in seeking to answer this question, love is many things, which in this play he observes through the characters of the play, but most directly through Silvius: It is to be all made of fantasy, All made of passion and all made of wishes, All adoration, duty, and observance, All humbleness, all patie... [tags: Shakespeare As You Like It Essays]
1740 words (5 pages)
- Sexuality in As You Like It In a romantic forest setting, rich with the songs of birds, the fragrance of fresh spring flowers, and the leafy hum of trees whistling in the wind, one young man courts another. A lady clings to her childhood friend with a desperate and erotic passion, and a girl is instantly captivated by a youth whose physical features are uncannily feminine. Oddly enough, the object of desire in each of these instances is the same person. In As You Like It, William Shakespeare explores the homoerotic possibilities of his many characters.... [tags: Shakespeare As You Like It Essays]
2612 words (7.5 pages)
- The Androgyne in As You Like It The androgyne is a strong figure that mentally joins the female and male characteristics together as one (American Heritage). Androgyny does not only refer to the physical senses it also refers to the cultural and social aspects of daily life. There are two main types of androgyny that were applied during the Renaissance which are referred to as mythic and satiric androgyny (Orgel, 38). Satiric androgyny mainly deals with "feminized male figures and unfixed, unstable individual identities, and is essentially negative," (Hermaphrodites, 1).... [tags: Shakespeare As You Like It Essays]
1550 words (4.4 pages)
- Questions of Gender in Shakespeare's As You Like It Throughout history, men and women have been assigned specific roles to which society prescribes standards and qualifications. There are certain tasks that have been traditionally completed only by men, and others that have been assigned to women; most of which are separated by the realm of the domestic sphere. During the period of the Renaissance, men and women were assigned very different roles within society. The value, social expectations, legal status, and rights of citizenship differed greatly between the sexes as well as among the classes.... [tags: Shakespeare As You Like It Essays]
1940 words (5.5 pages)
- Manipulation of Lyrics in As You Like It While it is a comedy of the turmoil of love and the experimentation with gender roles and identity, William Shakespeare's As you Like It is a historical preservation of Renaissance music. The play is fraught with spontaneous song and poetry, yet Shakespeare strategically manipulates these musical elements. Specifically, the lyrics and poetry of the play function to establish a soundtrack and a direct appeal to their Elizabethan audience, while providing Shakespeare with a valuable shorthand for character development.... [tags: Shakespeare As You Like It Essays]
1693 words (4.8 pages)
You will notice, for example, that most of the central part of As You Like It consists of often random encounters between different characters in the forest. In many cases, they have no particular reason to talk to each other. What these serve to bring out is a series of conversations about life (and particularly about love) in which we witness different attitudes clashing. The effect is to take us through a variety of responses to shared concerns and to get us responding to our own sense of the appropriate ways to deal with experience.
To put this another way. The pastoral style of As You Like It does not encourage a deep psychological approach to any of the characters, to the logic of their motivation. If that's what we demand from a story to make it interesting, then this play is not going to satisfy us. We are not in that sort of a world. There is far more direct pressure on us to see in the interactions between characters the exploration of some themes, especially issues concerning love. That is not to say that the characters are not theatrically interesting and worth talking about; it is rather to insist that the characters here are serving thematic purposes more obviously than they are in more psychologically plausible plays. So there's little point in seeking to penetrate deeply into the plausibility of the psychological motivation or of the coincidences.
To take one obvious example of a thematic concern, very common in pastoral, we notice in the play a repeated contrast between court and country life. The purpose here is not to provide some naturalistic contrast, for the picture of life in the country is obviously idealized a good deal (although not totally, for there are references to the harsher aspects of life away from the comforts of the court and to the realities of working for an absentee landlord). Nor is the purpose any romantic celebration of the values of country living as somehow more authentic than city life. The pastoral is primarily a vehicle for a (usually) gentle satire on urban values, on some of the corrupting manners of the court (like flattery and excessive attention to clothes or fine language). And we can see this clearly enough in this play. But there is no sense in As You Like It that, given a free choice, any of the principal characters (except Jaques) would actually prefer to live in the country rather than the court.
The other great difficulty with As You Like It for inexperienced readers is much of the humour. Here again, what makes little sense on the page (and doesn't come across as very funny) generally works much better in a production. This point is generally true of all comedy, where the physicality of the human interaction (something not always readily apparent from the text of the play alone) is an essential key to understanding and responding to what is going on. That aspect of comedy, especially Shakespearean comedy, is one reason why, in the curriculum of this course, the comedies are underrepresented. The only quick way to overcome this problem is to focus on seeing the play in production (and there's a useful BBC video version available in the college library).