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 he wrote this play, for As You Like It does not adhere strictly to the conventions of pastoral...
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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 threatens both Orlando and Oliver. In this setting the palace paranoia contrasts pointedly with the relaxed harmony of the forest.
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...
(The entire section is 470 words.)
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...
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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...
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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?...
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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?
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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....
(The entire section is 279 words.)
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.
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