Explain how As You Like It is a comedy.

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The definition of comedy has changed considerably over time. The Ancient Greeks, who had no specific genre for satire (the only literary form invented by the Romans), tended to produce satirical comedies which made didactic political or moral points. Aristotle says in the Poetics that tragedy shows men at their...

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The definition of comedy has changed considerably over time. The Ancient Greeks, who had no specific genre for satire (the only literary form invented by the Romans), tended to produce satirical comedies which made didactic political or moral points. Aristotle says in the Poetics that tragedy shows men at their best, and comedy shows them at their worst. This is a reference to the traditional vices of the stock comic characters: greed, lechery, vanity, and foolishness. While the characters in As You Like It are by no means Aristophanic stereotypes, several critics, including Tolstoy, have remarked on their loose morals.

By the time Shakespeare wrote As You Like It (probably in or around 1599), the conventions of Elizabethan comedy were well defined. Chief among these was a happy ending with one or more marriages. As You Like It has considerably more; it has four, in fact: Orlando and Rosalind, Oliver and Celia, Silvius and Phoebe, and Touchstone and Audrey. Another convention was the liberal use of prose. While tragedies were written mainly in verse, a comedy could be more than half prose, as is the case with As You Like It. Various other conventions are specific to sub-genres of comedy, such as the opposition of court and rural life in pastoral comedy, the sub-genre to which As You Like It belongs.

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Shakespeare's As You Like It is a classic example of a Shakespearian comedy; more specifically, As You Like It is a pastoral comedy, or a comedy that presents life in the countryside in an idealized, fantastical way. Pastoral comedies draw attention to the aspects of court life that are corrupt or otherwise unpleasant, emphasizing the beauty and ease of living in nature, and As You Like It certainly meets these descriptions.

In this comedy, many of the characters choose to escape to the forest, where different characters engage in acts meant to amuse the audience: they don disguises, play with language, and plot to overthrow members of their own family, which was Shakespeare's way of satirizing the corruption of the court. Rosalind presents herself as a boy, which makes for a multitude of jokes and double meanings, while Orlando and Oliver carry on treating each other badly. Also typical of Shakespeare's comedy is the fact that As You Like It ends with a wedding ceremony (four wedding ceremonies, to be exact), complete with double entendres about wives cheating on their husbands.

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"As You Like It" has many shared elements with some of Shakespeare's more famous comedies:  the idea of the forest as a magic or transformative space away from restrictive and tyrannical society ("A Midsummer night's dream"); the theme of unrequited love and gender switching from ("Twelfth night"); and the exiled Duke and his playful daughter from ("The Tempest").

The mood is light, and it is easy to read, even though it may not be as compelling a read as the aforementioned comedies.

My college professor always asked this question when we were trying to categorized the plays:  Did anyone die?  If the answer is "no," then it is most likely a comedy.  The tragedies and most of the histories record deaths within the text.  The comedies never do...not even "The Taming of the Shrew".

 

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The play is a comedy for several reasons. First, it is a comedy in the sense of its dramatic form: the good characters end up together, and the lovers marry happily. Second, the mood is rarely darkened; it is easy to believe in a good universe here. Third, though, it is also a comedy in the sense of being funny. Some of the humor ranges is pretty obvious: Touchstone is a clown, and is an open exaggeration and parody. Other elements of humor are somewhat lighter, like the word play between the characters, the puns, and so on.

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