Study Guide

As You Like It

by William Shakespeare

As You Like It Essay - Critical Essays

Sample Essay Outlines

The following paper topics are based on the entire play. Following each topic is a thesis and a sample outline. Use these as a starting point for your paper.

Topic #1
Fortune and nature are two of the central themes of William Shakespeare's As You Like It. Write an essay that discusses the role of these elements in the lives of Orlando, Oliver, Duke Senior, Duke Frederick, and Rosalind. Nature, in this instance, refers to human nature rather than to the natural world.

Outline
I. Thesis Statement: Fortune and nature play key roles in the lives of Orlando, Oliver, Duke Senior, Duke Frederick, and Rosalind.

II. Orlando

A. Fortune has deprived Orlando of his rightful inheritance.

B. Fortune enables Orlando to win his wrestling match with Charles and earn the love of Rosalind.

C. Orlando's relationship with Adam reveals that he is noble by nature.

D. Orlando must leave his home after learning that his brother plans to kill him, but fortune rewards him when he woos and wins Rosalind in the forest.

E. At the end of the play, fortune bestows gifts on the deserving Orlando: he marries the woman he loves and is named heir to a dukedom.

III. Oliver

A. Fortune rewards Oliver with control over his late father's estate.

B. Oliver is revealed by his words and actions as a villain by nature.

C. Fortune prevents Oliver's murderous plots against his brother from succeeding.

D. Oliver encounters ill fortune when his estate is seized by Duke Frederick and he is banished from the court until he finds Orlando.

E. Fortune rewards the undeserving Oliver; Orlando saves his life when he is threatened by a snake and a lioness.

F. Oliver's nature changes after he is rescued by Orlando; he is rewarded by fortune with Celia's love.

IV Duke Senior

A. Fortune has deprived Duke Senior of the dukedom to which he is the rightful heir.

B. Duke Senior makes the most of his misfortune by establishing a happy life in the Forest of Arden; his optimistic nature enables him to find sweetness in his adversity.

C. Duke Senior reveals by his words and actions that he is generous and kind; for example, he invites Orlando and Adam to share in his feast.

D. Fortune rewards Duke Senior by restoring his dukedom and uniting his daughter in marriage with a man who is also noble in nature. Sample Analytical Paper Topics 97

V. Duke Frederick

A. Fortune has unfairly rewarded Duke Frederick with a dukedom to which he is not entitled.

B. Duke Frederick is revealed as a villain by nature; he despises Orlando and Rosalind because they are virtuous and well-liked.

C. Fortune miraculously thwarts Duke Frederick's plan to capture and kill Duke Senior when he encounters an old religious hermit on the outskirts of the forest.

D. Duke Frederick, like Oliver, undergoes a sudden change in his nature and renounces his former ways.

VI. Rosalind

A. Fortune has deprived Rosalind of her father and her status as daughter of the reigning duke; she describes herself as "one out of suits with fortune."

B. In Rosalind's witty dialogue with Celia in Act 1, Scene 2, she comments that fortune's benefits are "mightily misplaced," and that the goddess Fortune is, by tradition, blind and bestows her gifts unequally.

C. Rosalind is revealed as romantic and kind by nature; the people of the dukedom "praise her for her virtues."

D. The apparent misfortune of Rosalind's banishment is, in fact, a stroke of good fortune, for Orlando has also arrived in the forest; Rosalind is granted the opportunity to test Orlando's love for her while she is disguised as Ganymede.

E. At the end of the play, fortune rewards Rosalind with a reunion with her father, whose dukedom has been restored, and marriage to the man she loves.

VII. Conclusion: In As You Like It, many of the characters have just cause to "rail on Lady Fortune" and the caprices of human nature. By the end of the play, however, those who were of evil nature have changed for the better, and fortune's gifts have been fairly bestowed.

Topic #2
In As You Like It, Shakespeare often contrasts city life and country life. The pastoral life is praised by a number of characters in this play, yet Shakespeare suggests frequently that it is not as ideal a life as many of the characters believe. In doing so, Shakespeare also satirizes the conventions of pastoral romance. Write an essay in which you discuss Shakespeare's portrayal of city life and country life in each of the play's five acts.

Outline
I. Thesis Statement: In As You Like It, Shakespeare presents multiple views of city life and country life.

II. Act I

A. The court is shown to be a place of corruption and villainy through the actions of Oliver and Duke Frederick.

B. Courtly manners are satirized as "affected" in the character of Le Beau.

C. The banished Duke Senior's life in the Forest of Arden is idealized when Charles describes the Duke and his men as fleeting the time carelessly "as they did in the golden world."

D. Celia comments that she and Rosalind, in leaving the court for the countryside, are going "To liberty, and not to banishment."

III. Act II

A. Duke Senior praises the virtues of the pastoral life, which is also celebrated in Amiens' songs; life in the forest seems far removed from life at the "envious court."

B. Jaques comments on the irony of the Duke and his men killing and frightening the animals in the forest, which they have usurped just as Duke Frederick has usurped his brother's dukedom.

C. Duke Senior and Amiens reveal that country life has its hardships: winter and rough weather.

D. Touchstone comments wryly that "When I was at home, I was in a better place," and Jaques remarks that a man is a fool to "leave his wealth and ease" to live in the forest.

E. Corin remarks that the landowner he serves is "of churlish disposition" and unlikely to get into heaven; unjust behavior is not confined to the city.

F. Adam almost starves to death in the forest, where food isn't readily available.

IV. Act III

A. Touchstone praises some elements of the pastoral life, but he also remarks that it is tedious and austere.

B. Corin extols the virtues of his simple life as a shepherd and makes fun of the formal manner of the court.

C. Orlando remarks on the timelessness of the forest-a departure from the regimentation of the court.

D. Audrey is revealed as a simple, unsophisticated rustic who does not understand Touchstone's witticisms as the "city" characters do.

E. Silvius is disclosed as miserable and comically extreme in his passion, while Phebe is depicted as vain and petulant; Shakespeare satirizes the conventional view of idealized shepherds living in a harmonious pastoral world.

V. Act IV

A. The deer killed by the Forest Lords is another reminder that the pastoral life has its harshnesses.

B. Oliver reveals that the forest can be a dangerous place; wild beasts-a snake and a lioness lurk as a threat.

VI. Act V

A. The character of William again reveals that the country dwellers are often unsophisticated and "unlearned." 100 As You Like It

B. The song sung by the two Pages, with its images of green cornfields and...

(The entire section is 3169 words.)