Love in As You Like It
As You Like It presents many views about the issue of love. The primary plot involves the love of Rosalind and Orlando, and several other characters in the play are either in or out of love. This provides the characters in the play the opportunity to wax philosophical about the subject, expressing views about the different types of love experienced not only by the characters, but also in life in general.
The first scene of the play introduces the concepts of brotherly love and the lack of it. Oliver is portrayed as a villain because he does not "love" his brother Orlando. Oliver has neglected his brother by refusing to educate him and by treating him as a servant. Thus we see that to be a proper older brother, one should care for and improve the status of one's younger siblings. As if all of this did not already violate what the love of a sibling is supposed to be, Oliver is also physically abusive to his brother and even plots Orlando's demise by spurring Charles against him. However, younger brothers can also be cruel, which is portrayed in the situation of the two dukes. Duke Frederick has deposed his older brother, Duke Senior, and has banished him—clearly not the act of a loving younger brother. Duke Frederick, like Oliver, is a villain because of his treatment of his brother and his niece. Thus Oliver and Duke Frederick are the antagonists of the play because they are first and foremost bad brothers.
Healthy sibling love is portrayed in the play through the relationship between Rosalind and Celia. Although technically only cousins, Rosalind and Celia have become as close as sisters during the overthrow of Duke Senior, and they show this in their dealings with each other in the first act. Celia mentions the first aspect of sibling love, putting the feelings of the sibling before one's own, in Act I, scene 2, when she tells Rosalind that she should be happy because Celia is happy, as she would have been had their situations been reversed. Orlando attempts to do this for Oliver at the end of the play when he is to marry Celia. Good siblings also sacrifice for one another. When Rosalind is banished in Act I, scene 3, Celia immediately volunteers to go with her, despite her ties to her father and the dangers that leaving home will present. This is in direct contrast to Oliver and Duke Frederick, who attempt to sacrifice their brothers instead of sacrificing for them. This issue of sacrificing for a sibling is a...
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Gender Issues in As You Like It
When Rosalind decides to cross dress as the shepherd Ganymede in Act I, scene 3 of As You Like It, she highlights the conceptions of gender as a central theme of the play. While As You Like It presents common Elizabethan notions of what it means to be male and female, it also makes an important point about the intelligence and capability of women by portraying clever and powerful girls who are capable of holding their own in a man's world. By giving these women power and intelligence, Shakespeare reminds us that although his contemporaries (and many of our contemporaries as well) assume that men and women fulfill certain stereotypes, both genders are more than capable of superseding those limitations in order to attain their goals.
As You Like It first establishes what it means to be male in Elizabethan society. Orlando criticizes his brother Oliver for raising him improperly because he has not educated him so that he can be a gentleman. While Orlando, as Oliver notes, is learned without an education, it is expected that Orlando, as the son of a nobleman, will be educated because he is male. We also learn in the first scene that Orlando is one of the heroes of the play because he is noble, good looking, and strong (qualities which make Oliver, one of the villains, hate him). Rosalind also notes that he is of good character because he has inherited his father's spirit. Later on in the play, Orlando writes several love poems and remains steadfast in his love despite Ganymede's "attempts" at driving him away from it. Orlando's example of what it means to be male is the standard by which all of the other males (including Rosalind when she pretends to be Ganymede) will be measured.
While the definition of male in the play is fairly straightforward, the idea of what it means to be a woman is far more problematic. The first time female characters appear in the play is in the second scene, where we find two princesses making fun of fortune and nature. Both Celia and Rosalind are portrayed as both intelligent and beautiful, a rare combination that breaks from the "dumb female" stereotype. From their first exchange, it is clear that either character could easily outwit any male in the play, especially in terms of conversation, as they manage to quickly subdue Touchstone. It is also clear that while Celia is intelligent, Rosalind is more so. However, since both are female, their actions are limited, and they have...
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Using Language in As You Like It
The ability to make witty comments is an important one to several characters in As You Like It. When the heroine of the play, Rosalind, is first introduced, she engages in a verbal game of wits with her cousin Celia about the nature of Fortune. Several other characters, including Orlando, Jaques, and Touchstone, also make several clever comments in an effort to outwit characters in the play. The characters' possession of wit and the ability to use it properly not only makes the play more entertaining, but also teaches an important point about the use of words—that words without wisdom or compassion have no meaning at all.
Rosalind, as heroine, is the character who is most visible in her use of words. Although she begins Act I, scene 2, depressed because of her situation, she is more than capable of rising to Celia's challenge to be merry by making fun of Fortune. This discussion, which shows both Celia's and Rosalind's impressive verbal abilities, is relatively meaningless because they are arguing just to see who can make the wittiest comment. However, their abilities are put to the test in the next scene, when Duke Frederick banishes Rosalind. Duke Frederick banishes Rosalind because she is her father's daughter and therefore a threat. However, Rosalind correctly points out that treason is not an inherited trait, and that she is no more dangerous now than she was when Duke Frederick first agreed to keep her at court. Celia then pleads Rosalind's case by stating that she must also be a traitor because she has become so close to Rosalind that they are essentially the same kind of person. Both Rosalind's and Celia's arguments, which are very logical especially in light of the emotion of the moment, are rejected not because they are insufficient, but simply because of Duke Frederick's villainy.
Another example of Rosalind using her linguistic abilities occurs in her meetings with Orlando, Silvius, and Phebe. When Rosalind, dressed as Ganymede, attempts to "counsel" Orlando out of his love for her, she uses a great deal of wit to do so. First of all, Rosalind uses her wit to protect her disguise. When Orlando asks her if she is a native of the Forest of Arden, Rosalind makes an ambiguous remark about being as much of a native as a rabbit is to the place where it is born. In other words, she never quite answers the question directly. She uses this kind of verbal sidestepping again in Act V, scene 2, when she says that...
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Analysis of a Key Passage in As You Like It
Shakespeare opens Act II of As You Like It with a speech in which the Duke Senior attests to the value of the life which he and his entourage have found in the Forest of Arden (II, i, 11.1-17). The exiled nobleman's initial oration performs several key functions within the play. It presents us with a balanced and tempered vision of the natural world which serves as a foil to both previous intimations about the Forest and to life as we have seen it in the superficial and deceptive court over which the usurper Duke Frederick now presides. It also reveals the salient personality traits of Duke Senior, establishing a pattern whereby the Forest mirrors the essential character of each figure who enters into it. The passage is dominated by a conjoined Biblical and bestial imagery which recurs throughout the play. Perhaps most significantly, it underscores the fundamental purpose of the natural world as being one of moral education and personal insight. This purpose is ultimately embodied in Duke Senior's decision to leave his sylvan realm following his brother's conversion and the "old" Duke's restoration to his rightful throne.
The passage under scrutiny furnishes us with a firsthand vision of the Forest of Arden that stands in contrast with the two alternative "hints" about what life is like there previously given by Charles the wrestler and by Rosalind. Our first image of the Forest of Arden is the idyllic depiction presented by Charles in Act I, scene ii. After drawing an analogy to the legendary realm of Robin Hood and his merry men, Charles tells Oliver about Duke Senior's current estate, "they say many young gentleman flock to him every day, and fleet the time carelessly as they did in the golden world" (11.120-125). An altogether different image of the Forest is evoked when Celia suggest that she and Rosalind sojourn to that wild quarter and her cousin responds, "Alas, what danger will it be to us, Maids as we are, to travel so far forth! Beauty provoketh thieves sooner than gold" (I, iii, 11,110-112).
The view expressed by Duke Senior, however, is neither the idealized portrait presented by Charles nor the ruffian world which Rosalind fears. It is harsh but by no means inherently evil. Clearly the passage's account of the natural world in Arden stands in direct relief to life in Duke Frederick's court with its "painted pomp" and superficial sycophants. The forest, in effect, mirrors the predisposition of the...
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Rosalind's Education in Love
In her disguise as Ganymede, Rosalind in Shakespeare's As You Like It has the opportunity to observe the varieties of love, and the behaviors it produces in different people. Her disguise allows her to be privy to information that she would not otherwise receive, such as Phebe's letter, which reveals how love can make one deceive, and Orlando's feelings of love for herself. She gives advice on love, as well as receives it, obtaining a full education on the many ways and manifestations of love.
Before Rosalind ever puts on her disguise she is aware that love and friendship exist in many forms. Though Frederick has banished her own father and usurped his dominions, he allows her to remain as companion to his daughter Celia, because of his love for her. Because of Celia'a friendship for Rosalind, and Frederick's love for his daughter, Rosalind is not banished along with her father, and remains at court, bearing no malice towards Frederick, despite what he has done to her father. Nonetheless, she cannot be happy as long as she lives with the knowledge that her father is banished.
Rosalind falls in love with Orlando when she meets him at the wrestling match, and he with her. She loves him the more after he has unexpectedly wins the match, when it is revealed that he is the youngest son of Sir Rowland de Boys, who was much beloved by her father before his death. Ironically, Frederick, in his fear and malice, brings Rosalind and Orlando together, for they meet in the forest after Rosalind has been banished and Orlando warned to quit the court if he would save his life. But by this time, Rosalind has taken on her disguise, and she observes Orlando's love for herself through the guise of Ganymede. To test and measure the full extent of Orlando's love for herself, she urges him to pretend that "she," Ganymede, is Rosalind, and to woo "him" as he would woo Rosalind. By this means Orlando's love for her as Rosalind is revealed.
Already, before being banished, Rosalind has learned that love can make one lose one's prize, for she turns back to speak with Orlando when he calls to her. With her banishment, she also learns that a jealous mind can put a false interpretation on love, as occurs when Frederick accuses her of subtly pretending to love Celia, meanwhile plotting to rob her friend of her name and wealth by winning the sympathies of the people. Celia proves the real meaning of love and friendship when she chooses...
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