In this section:
- Shakespeare’s Language
- Shakespeare’s Sentences
- Shakespeare’s Words
- Shakespeare’s Wordplay
- Shakespeare’s Dramatic Verse
- Implied Stage Action
Shakespeare’s language can create a strong pang of intimidation, even fear, in a large number of modern-day readers. Fortunately, however, this need not be the case. All that is needed to master the art of reading Shakespeare is to practice the techniques of unraveling uncommonly-structured sentences and to become familiar with the poetic use of uncommon words. We must realize that during the 400-year span between Shakespeare’s time and our own, both the way we live and speak has changed. Although most of his vocabulary is in use today, some of it is obsolete, and what may be most confusing is that some of his words are used today, but with slightly different or totally different meanings. On the stage, actors readily dissolve these language stumbling blocks. They study Shakespeare’s dialogue and express it dramatically in word and in action so that its meaning is graphically enacted. If the reader studies Shakespeare’s lines as an actor does, looking up and...
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As You Like It was probably written in 1599 or 1600, at the midway point of Shakespeare's career as a playwright. His principal source for the play was Thomas Lodge's pastoral romance, Rosalynde. Lodge's novel, published in 1590, was in turn adapted from The Tale of Gamelyn, a 14th-century narrative poem. Shakespeare rewrote the story even further; he introduced new themes and created a number of new characters including Jaques, Touchstone, William, and Audrey. He also gave his characters far more depth and dimension than they had in Lodge's novel and added humor to the storyline.
Pastoral romance-a romantic story that takes place in a rural of forest setting-was a popular category of literature and drama in Shakespeare's time. Love stories of innocent shepherds and shepherdesses and tales of woodland adventure were then in vogue. Shakespeare, a practical man of the theatre, created a play that he knew would appeal to his audience. The wrestling scene and the clowning of the rustic shepherds would have captured the attention of the groundlings, while the sophisticated wordplay would have impressed educated playgoers in the galleries. George Bernard Shaw felt that Shakespeare, in calling the play As You Like It; was commenting disparagingly on standards of contemporary theatrical taste. Yet it seems unlikely that Shakespeare had purely commercial considerations in mind when...
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Places Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Places)
*Arden Forest. Arden, William Shakespeare’s mother’s maiden name, is also an actual forest north of Stratford. Shakespeare’s forest owes more to associations with Arcadia, the legendary home of pastoral poetry, and with the Garden of Eden than to reality. In this setting the banished Duke Senior and his band of followers find a world free from envy and flattery, where a man can weep for a wounded deer and there are “books in the running brooks” and “sermons in stones.” Separated from society, it is a region of freedom where the banished Rosalind can costume herself as a man and “teach” Orlando how to woo her, and the company of courtiers, exiles, shepherds, and even country bumpkins can mingle and interact with little regard for society’s strictures. It is a haven of song and laughter, of wit and wooing, of acceptance and forgiveness, seasoned only by halfhearted criticism, which vanishes with the multiple weddings in the last act.
Orchard of Oliver’s house
Orchard of Oliver’s house. Customarily a fruitful setting, the first scene of the play serves as an ironic background for the hatred of Oliver toward his younger brother Orlando.
Duke’s palace. Although not delineated physically by Shakespeare, the scenes in the palace show a dangerous court ruled by the tyrant Duke Frederick, who arbitrarily banishes his niece Rosalind and...
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Act I Questions and Answers
1. Why does Orlando resent the way he has been treated by his brother Oliver?
2. How does Charles describe the exiled Duke Senior and his court?
3. Why does Duke Frederick allow the daughter of his banished brother to remain at court?
4. What plot does Oliver hatch against Orlando?
5. Why is Orlando warned not to wrestle with Charles?
6. What gift does Rosalind give to Orlando after he wins his wrestling match?
7. How do we know that Rosalind and Orlando have fallen in love at first sight?
8. What warning does Le Beau bring to Orlando after the match?
9. What are the reasons Duke Frederick gives for banishing Rosalind?
10. Why do Rosalind and Celia disguise themselves when they leave the court?
1. Orlando resents his treatment at his brother's hands because Oliver has ignored the bequests made by their late father. Sir Rowland de Boys left Orlando a thousand crowns and requested that Oliver provide for his education as a gentleman, but Oliver has kept Orlando "rustically at home" and has treated him no better than one of his horses or oxen.
2. Charles describes the exiled Duke and his court as living like Robin Hood and his Merry Men in the Forest of Arden. There they "fleet the time carelessly as they did in the golden world."
3. Duke Frederick has allowed...
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Act II Questions and Answers
1. Which two characters express sorrow about the killing of deer in the Forest of Arden?
2. Who is the source of the rumor that Orlando may be in the company of Rosalind, Celia, and Touchstone?
3. Why does Adam urge Orlando to avoid his brother's house?
4. Why does Orlando initially refuse to leave?
5. Which three items of property does Rosalind agree to purchase from Corin's employer?
6. What reason does Jaques give for avoiding Duke Senior?
7. Why does Orlando leave Adam in the forest?
8. Which character from the court does Jaques tell Duke Senior he met in the forest?
9. What reasons does Orlando give for confronting Duke Senior and his courtiers with his sword drawn?
10. How does Duke Senior know that Orlando is the son of his former friend and ally, the late Sir Rowland de Boys?
1. Duke Senior remarks that "it irks me that the poor dappled fools... Should in their own confines... have their round haunches gored." We also learn that "the melancholy Jaques grieves at that."
2. Hisperia, Celia's waiting gentlewoman, reported that, she believed Orlando had accompanied Rosalind, Celia, and Touchstone when they left the court.
3. Adam urges Orlando to leave Oliver's house because Oliver plans to burn Orlando's lodgings while he is asleep. He also tells...
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Act III Questions and Answers
1. What penalty will Oliver face if he fails to find Orlando within a year?
2. What does Orlando do with the love poems he has written to Rosalind?
3. Where does Celia tell Rosalind she saw Orlando?
4. Where does Orlando tell Jaques he can find a fool?
5. What names do Jaques and Orlando call each other when they part?
6. What excuse does Rosalind make when Orlando comments that her accent seems "something finer" than one might expect of a native of the forest?
7. Why does Touchstone prefer to be married by Sir Oliver Martext rather than "a good priest?"
8. What did Ganymede tell Duke Senior when the Duke asked about her parentage?
9. How do we know that Phebe has fallen in love with Rosalind in her Ganymede disguise?
10. What message does Phebe plan to deliver to Ganymede and who will deliver it?
1. Duke Frederick tells Oliver that if he fails to find Orlando within a year, he will forfeit his lands and goods.
2. Orlando hangs the love poems he has written to Rosalind on trees in the Forest of Arden.
3. Celia tells Rosalind that she saw Orlando "under a tree, like a dropped acorn."
4. Orlando tells Jaques to look in the brook if he is seeking a fool, for there he will see his own reflection.
5. Jaques calls Orlando "Signior Love."...
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Act IV Questions and Answers
1. What is Rosalind's response when Orlando fears "her frown might kill" him?
2. Who performs the mock wedding ceremony between Rosalind and Orlando?
3. How long does Orlando say he will be gone before he returns to Rosalind?
4. What excuse does Orlando give for leaving?
5. What question does Jaques ask the Lords he meets in the forest?
6. What did Orlando ask Oliver to bring to Ganymede?
7. Which two animals threatened Oliver while he slept beneath a tree?
8. What wound did Orlando receive while defending his brother?
9. What is Rosalind's response when she hears that Orlando has been injured?
10. Where does Rosalind say she would like to be after she recovers?
1. Rosalind, as Ganymede, tells Orlando that his Rosalind "would not kill a fly."
2. Celia performs the mock wedding ceremony.
3. Orlando says he will be gone for two hours.
4. Orlando tells Rosalind he must leave to "attend the Duke at dinner."
5. Jaques asks the Lords which of them has killed the deer they are bearing to the Duke.
6. Orlando asked Oliver to bring Ganymede a handkerchief soaked with his blood.
7. Oliver was threatened by a "green and gilded snake" and a lioness.
8. Orlando had flesh torn away on his arm while battling the...
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Act V Questions and Answers
1. How old is William?
2. What does Touchstone threaten to do if William does not relinquish his claim to Audrey?
3. Who does Oliver fall in love with?
4. When does Oliver plan to be married?
5. When does Touchstone tell Audrey they will be married?
6. Who delivers the news of Duke Frederick's conversion?
7. Who was responsible for Duke Frederick's sudden change of heart?
8. Who does Duke Senior name as heir to his newly restored dukedom?
9. What reason does Jaques give for departing the wedding festivities?
10. Who speaks the epilogue of the play?
1. William tells Touchstone he is twenty-five.
2. Touchstone claims he will kill William "a hundred and fifty ways."
3. Oliver falls in love with Celia in her Aliena disguise.
4. Orlando tells Oliver that the wedding will take place the next day.
5. Touchstone tells Audrey that they, too, will be married the next day.
6. Jaques de Boys, the second son of the late Sir Rowland, delivers the news of Duke Frederick's miraculous conversion.
7. Duke Frederick abandoned his plan to capture and kill his brother after meeting "an old religious man" on the outskirts of the forest.
8. Duke Senior names Orlando as his heir.
9. Jaques tells Duke Senior,...
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Numerous oppositions in As You Like It reveal Shakespeare's partiality toward the pastoral rustic life of Arden forest to life at court. At Duke Frederick's court, disorder holds sway. The deterioration of political authority is the most obvious form of disorder, for Duke Frederick has unlawfully seized Duke Senior's kingdom. This political degeneration is compounded by a more personal disorder, since the dukes are also brothers at odds with each other; this conflict is underscored by the antagonistic relationship of two other brothers at the court, Oliver and Orlando. Arden forest offers a sense of pure, spiritual order in contrast to the corrupt condition of Duke Frederick's court. The journey there is long and arduous; when the characters arrive, they are physically exhausted and hungry. Moreover, such threatening elements as the "icy fang" and "churlish wind" portray life in Arden as anything but ideal. The harsh experience of nature acts as a purgative process, however, which lays bare the characters' virtuous natures calloused by court life. Some characters, like Orlando and Rosalind, need little improvement, yet find in Arden a liberation from the oppression they have endured at court. Others, such as Oliver and Duke Frederick, approach the forest with malicious intent only to undergo a complete spiritual reformation. Arden thus represents a morally pure realm whose special curative powers purge and renew the forest-dwellers, granting them a...
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Like many modern television situation comedies, the humor of As You Like It depends upon the audience's suspension of disbelief. We are asked, for example, to believe that Duke Senior does not recognize his own daughter in disguise. Similarly, although Orlando does not know Rosalind all that well, we would still expect that he would be able, eventually, to recognize some quality in Ganymede that would remind him of Rosalind. And also like modern sitcoms, Shakespeare's comedy also resolves all problems neatly and quickly at the end. The conversions of the early villains, Duke Frederick and Oliver, are perhaps too neat and too quick to be believable. Similarly, the marriage combinations—Oliver and Celia; Phebe and Silvius; and Touchstone and Audrey—seem to defy rationality. Beyond the confines of the play, we might imagine that the marriages between these couples might not work, since they know each other so shallowly. The coercion and deception upon which the marriage of Phebe and Silvius is based, for example, is hardly an ideal circumstance, and the marriage of Audrey and Touchstone, as Jaques suggests, "Is but for two months victuall'd" (V.iv.192), meaning that as an emotional expedition it is meagerly supplied and cannot last. The real function of neat and quick comic resolutions in this play, as in modern sitcoms, is to suggest and reinforce social values. In the idealized Elizabethan world that As You Like It presents,...
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Bibliography (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Halio, Jay L., ed. Twentieth Century Interpretations of “As You Like It.” Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1968. Includes essays by Helen Gardner, John Russell Brown, Marco Mincoff (on Lodge’s Rosalynde as the source), and the editor (on time and timelessness in Arden). Also includes an introduction and bibliography.
Jenkins, Harold. “As You Like It.” Shakespeare Survey 8 (1955): 40-51. Mainly concerned with the structure of the play, this essay notes the dearth of big theatrical scenes and causally linked events, which are replaced by a more complex design that emphasizes comic juxtapositions.
Knowles, Richard. “Myth and Type in As You Like It.” English Literary History 33 (1966): 1-22. Discusses the many mythical allusions in As You Like It that make the literal action reverberate beyond itself. Hercules is the dominant mythological figure, whom by analogy Orlando resembles. Biblical overtones are also discussed.
Leggatt, Alexander. Shakespeare’s Comedy of Love. London: Methuen, 1974. Leggatt shows how the forest scenes provide an imaginative freedom to explore ideas and play roles. Partisan laughter against any one character in the play is discouraged, for the audience is reminded of the partiality of any single perspective....
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Bibliography and Further Reading
Barber, C. L. Shakespeare's Festive Comedy. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1959.
Berry, Edward. Shakespeare's Comic Rites. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985.
Bloom, Harold, ed. Major Literary Characters: Rosalind. New York: Chelsea House, 1992.
Bloom, Harold, ed. Modern Critical Interpretation: William Shakespeare's As You Like It. New York: Chelsea House, 1988.
Bonazza, Blaze O. Shakespeare's Early Comedies: A Structural Analysis. The Hague: Mouton, 1966.
Brown, John Russell. Discovering Shakespeare: A New Guide to the Plays. New York: Columbia University Press, 1986.
Bush, Geoffrey. Shakespeare and the Natural Condition. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1956.
Campbell, Oscar James, and Edward G. Quinn, eds. The Reader's Encyclopedia of Shakespeare. New York: Crowell, 1966.
Champion, L. S. The Evolution of Shakespeare's Comedy: A Study in Dramatic Perspective. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1970.
Derrick, Patti S. "Rosalind and the Nineteenth-Century Woman: Four Stage Interpretations." Theatre Survey 26 (November 1985): 143-162.
French, Marilyn. Shakespeare's Division of Experience. New York: Summit Books, 1981.
Frye, Northrop. "Characterization in Shakespeare's Comedy." Shakespeare Quarterly 4 (1953): 271-277.
Granville-Barker, Harley. Prefaces to Shakespeare. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1965/1978.
Grebanier, Bernard. Then Came Each Actor. New York: David McKay, 1975.
Halio, Jay L., and Barbara C. Millard. As You Like It. An Annotated Bibliography, 1940-1980. New York: Garland, 1985.
Kott, Jan. Shakespeare Our Contemporary. Trans. Boleslaw Taborski. Rev. ed. Garden City: Anchor Books, 1966.
McFarland, Thomas. Shakespeare's Pastoral Comedy. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1972.
Nevo, Ruth. Comic Transformations in Shakespeare. New York: Routledge, Chapman & Hall, 1981.
Odell, G. C. D. Shakespeare from Betterton to Irving. 2 vols. New York: Scribner's, 1920.
Palmer, John. Comic Characters of Shakespeare. London: Macmillan, 1946.
Parrott, Thomas M....
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