Study Guide

As You Like It

by William Shakespeare

As You Like It Essay - Essays

Essays

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 major aspect of the relationship, and Shakespeare demonstrates its importance throughout the play. In fact, it is only when Orlando somewhat reluctantly sacrifices his own life to save his brother from the lion that Oliver is converted, and becomes a good brother once again. After this event, Oliver is willing to sacrifice everything he owns to his brother so that he can stay with Aliena (Celia). Celia's sacrifice also allows the resolution of the play. Thus, good love between siblings helps to contribute to the successful conclusion of the play.

Another type of love in the play is that of a ruler for his people. . In Elizabethan sensibility, it is the duty of a monarch to act as a loving parent to her/his country. Duke Senior, when he was in power, loved his country well and was much loved in return. This is the reason why several lords come flocking to him in the Forest of Arden. He has acted as a good ruler and is eventually rewarded at the end of the play. Duke Frederick, by contrast, abuses his power and becomes a tyrant. Unlike Duke Senior, who has followers who will give up their comforts in the city to come live with him in the country, Duke Frederick can only motivate his subjects by threatening death and seizing property. The message here appears to be that because Duke Frederick does not know how to love his brother or his subjects, he can only maintain his power through tyranny. Only through the love of God is Duke Frederick converted, which leads him to relinquish the dukedom and the seized property. The dukedom is then returned to the ruler that truly loves it.

This love between monarch and subject is similar to...

(The entire section is 1670 words.)

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 no ability to act on their intelligence while they are in court.

The situation changes, however, when Rosalind is banished by Duke Frederick. Although Celia is the taller of the two girls, Rosalind insists that she will play the man. The first thing she thinks of to do in order to become a man is to arm herself, since weapons are "manly" and will cover up the "womanly" fear in her heart of being in the forest. She also cannot cry once she gets there, even though she is about to, and must instead comfort the "weaker vessel" Celia like a good brother. However, pretending to be a male will allow Rosalind to actually act on the intelligence with which she has been gifted, and she will begin to manipulate other characters in the play because of her new gender status.

Rosalind's manipulative acts as Ganymede help to bring the play to a happy conclusion. Her first act is to offer to "counsel" Orlando out of his love for her. Rosalind proposes to do this by fulfilling all of...

(The entire section is 1401 words.)

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...

(The entire section is 1710 words.)

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...

(The entire section is 1486 words.)

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...

(The entire section is 1397 words.)