As You Like It is a typical Elizabethan comedy. There are puns galore, and plenty of dramatic irony to drive the plot forward. The title is even a reference to how the play ends – with a giant wedding uniting three couples the way an audience would like it. While on the surface Shakespeare’s As You Like It may seem like a straightforward play, there are a few different examples of power dynamics strung throughout: the most obvious being the power struggle between Dukes Ferdinand and Senior. More interestingly, the play dives into social and cultural norms at the time to display the power dynamic. This is displayed in the familial ties between Orlando and Oliver, as well as with Rosalind and Celia. It is also reflected in their respective romantic associations. The relationships between the females and the relationships between the males are set in juxtaposition to each other in order to show the power of masculinity over femininity, and the power of masculinity in a romantic relationship.
While they maybe brothers, Orlando and Oliver do not start off the play liking each other. There seems to be some sort of jealousy or sibling rivalry that prevents them from being civil to each other. In the opening of the play, Orlando remarks how Oliver treats him poorly simply because he is the youngest of the family. Orlando is forced to eat with the stable hands at Oliver’s house, as well as being berated by Oliver on a daily basis. The two brothers have a fight in the first scene, where Orlando remarks on Oliver’s behavior towards him. Saying, “My father charged you in his will to give me a good education. You have trained me like a peasant, obscuring and hiding from me all gentleman qualities.” (1.1.64-67...
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...of how the play downgrades femininity in the face of masculinity.
While As You Like It is certainly one of Shakespeare’s great comedies, it most certainly reflects the social norms of the time by placing masculinity above femininity. Shakespeare does nothing radical with the characters in terms of defying social norms, and uses stereotypical tropes to end the play, an example being Oliver and Celia being wed at the end of Act 5. Shakespeare has very different relationships going on throughout the play, but in the end handles them very poorly. Oliver and Orlando, despite absolutely hating each other at the beginning, miraculously forgive each other. While on the other hand, Rosalind and Celia would do anything for each other, yet their relationship barely develops along the course of the play. Just another way that As You Like It places masculinity above femininity.
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