justifisation of title 'as you like it'

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damaru | College Teacher | (Level 1) Honors

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Shakespeare was always very careful in naming his plays. The titles of his plays are appropriate, suggestive, and curiosity provoking. In the tragedies his usual practice is to name the tragedy after the hero ― for it is the character of the tragic hero which is all important, as the action of the tragedy issues out of his character. His history plays are named after the king in whose reign the action of the play is laid. The titles of his comedies, too, are equally appropriate. They refer to the substance of the comedy ― romance, wit, humour, and fantasy ― and arouse at once the curiosity of the spectators or readers.

The title of As You Like It is probably suggested to him by a phrase ‘If you like it, so’ in Thomas Lodge’s (one of the seven University Wits) Preface to his prose romance Rosalynd. The significance of the title is also suggested by Shakespeare himself in the Epilogue spoken by Rosalind. She asks the audience ‘to like as much of the play as please you’.

The title is appropriate and suggestive in another way also. In the play, everyone of the ‘Dramatis Personae’ gets what he or she likes. All are happy and contented at the end, for all of them get what they liked or desired. Orlando gets his Rosalind and the Dukedom into the bargain; Oliver gets his Celia as well as his patrimony[1]; Duke Senior is restored to his Dukedom and reunited with his daughter; Silvius gets his Phebe, and Touchstone his Audrey. All act freely as they like and lead the life of their choice. Thus all the characters of the play ‘go as they please’ and ‘get what they like’.

The only other options for the title before Shakespeare could have been Rosalind (because she dominates the foreground of the stage), or The Forest of Arden (because it dominates the background of the stage). But he discards them because of the causes referred earlier.

From whatever angle we consider the matter, there can be no denying the fact that the title As You Like It is suitable and appropriate. Thus the present title at once suggests the immense variety of the play and rouses the curiosity of the readers and spectators. Rightly says Helen Gardener, ‘As its title declares, this is a play to please all tastes.’

[1] patrimony – father’s property.