Explain how Shakespeare has struck a balance of romance and comedy in As You Like It.

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Audiences in Shakespeare’s time would have expected any comedy to include romance. The two main characters of a comedy would have been a pair of lovers or two people destined to fall in love. Much of the plot would revolve around their initial attraction, short separation, and happy ending. A...

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Audiences in Shakespeare’s time would have expected any comedy to include romance. The two main characters of a comedy would have been a pair of lovers or two people destined to fall in love. Much of the plot would revolve around their initial attraction, short separation, and happy ending. A comedy also usually has a set of improbable circumstances or settings, such that a group of people is thrown together who will relate in unlikely ways, even through comic hijinks.

Love and the foolishness of human behavior (particularly in love) is a central theme of As You Like It. The primary romance between Rosalind and Orlando has many comic elements. Witty dialogue about love pervades the play. It also contains two of Shakespeare’s most famous lines about love. The characters are always falling for each other immediately, and Phoebe has the line,

Whoever loved that loved not at first sight?

In response to Orlando saying he will die of love, Rosalind says,

Men have died from time to time, and worms have eaten them, but not for love.

Their dialogue about love is generally more comic than serious and sets the tone for other characters' talk.

Shakespeare includes many layers of romance, often between characters who are not well suited to each other, to create some of the comedy’s humorous aspects. He also creates a mix-up in the identities of the beloved which has to be sorted out. This is especially true for Rosalind and Orlando. The audience learns early on that she has fallen for him when she sees him wrestle. But her father’s misfortunes cause her to flee to the forest, where she disguises herself as a youth to travel safely. Her encounters with Orlando mostly occur while she is disguised.

Added to this confusion are two more characters, Silvius and Phoebe. His love for her is unrequited, and their talks of love are full of humorous plays on words. She, in turn, falls for Ganymede, not realizing he is really Rosalind. A third love trio of Touchstone, the court jester; Audrey, a shepherdess; and William, a country boy, round out the general silliness. Their interactions have added humor from Touchstone’s commentaries about human nature.

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In As You Like It Shakespeare balances romance and comedy by wrapping the romance in the comedy through comedic antics that flow naturally from the character's temperament and personality traits and through situational irony. For instance, Orlando, distractedly in love with Rosalind, goes (or as he says, runs) around Arden forest attaching badly written poetry to trees and carving "Rosalind" in the bark of trees. This is pretty funny, and it flows naturally from the traits we learn about him earlier: he is exuberant; daring; full of energy; and poorly educated (which explains the bad poetry).

Another instance is that Rosalind, who is at first all distraught to think that Orlando might catch her in her man's clothing, takes advantage of the confessions of love Orlando makes while she and Celia are eavesdropping and plays a protracted and very silly joke on Orlando. This flows from what we already know of her traits: she is romantic and can be silly; she is courageous and assertive; she is playful and enjoys word play.

The situational irony in which she, of course, knows her identity while Orlando doesn't, adds to the amusement of Rosalind/Ganymede's teasing joke played on Orlando while also moving the romance forward. In the joke as she contrived it, Orlando pretends to be courting Rosalind while he is talking to Ganymede, so the audience learns his romantic sentiments.

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