How does Shakespeare present love, aging and death in As You Like It?

Expert Answers
Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

[Only the briefest overview is possible as eNotes policy and format limits what is possible.]

Love: Love is present in many forms. There is the devoted love of Celia to her cousin Rosalind; the stubborn and unkind love between Silvius and Phebe; the loyal love of Rosalind for her father; Orlando's elated love for Rosalind; Celia's new love for the reformed Oliver; Touchstone's unscrupulous love for simple-minded Audrey who is an honest, but dirty (as in unwashed), country worker; and of course the reverse play-love between Ganymede/Rosalind and Orlando. The overall view of love might be said to be explained and summed up at the wedding scene when Hymen blesses weddings as a triumph for Juno (Jupiter's wife and queen of the Roman gods) regardless of the kind of love that brings the weddings forth:

Wedding is great Juno's crown:
O blessed bond of board and bed!
'Tis Hymen peoples every town;
High wedlock then be honoured:
Honour, high honour and renown,

Aging and Death: Both Jaques and Touchstone talk about aging and death. We know about what Touchstone says because Jaques reports it to Duke Senior before starting his own soliloquy using an extended metaphor of life as a stage performance borrowed from the Duke:  

This wide and universal theatre
Presents more woeful pageants than the scene
Wherein we play in.

Jaques and Touchstone, though they differ in degrees of eloquence, both say the same thing about aging: we are born, we live and we grow old.

JAQUES, quoting Touchstone
''Tis but an hour ago since it was nine,
And after one hour more 'twill be eleven;
And so, from hour to hour, we ripe and ripe,
And then, from hour to hour, we rot and rot;
And thereby hangs a tale.'

Both moralist and philosopher (Touchstone and Jaques) paint death in the same imagery. Touchstone says the end of life is to "rot and rot" in the grave while Jaques says the end of life is "mere oblivion" [oblivion: the state of total forgetfulness; forgetting and forgotten (Collins Dictionary)] with the loss of teeth, taste, eyes, everything:

That ends this strange eventful history,
Is ... mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

Further Reading:
Read the study guide:
As You Like It

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question