What are some of the themes in Shakespeare's As You Like It?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In As You Like It, one theme is love, while another theme is nature. In Shakespeare’s play, nature serves as a sanatorium of sorts for those that enter the Forest of Arden. Just as people many years ago sought the comfort, fresh air and health of the country or nature, so do the characters of As You Like It, seek similar refuge in the forest. The Old Court is filled with jealousy and conspiracy. It is not a healthy place for any of the characters to be due to envious family members and their selfish actions toward others in court.

Since Duke Senior is banished by his brother Duke Frederick, he retreats to the Forest of Arden. Though his daughter Rosalind remains behind, she upsets Duke Frederick and is also banished from the kingdom. Celia, Duke Frederick’s daughter, decides to flee with Rosalind to the Forest of Arden; however, Rosalind does so disguised as a man- Ganymede, while Celia sports the new name of Aliena. The forest is where they and Orlando- son of Sir Rowland and brother to Oliver, Adam- an old servant, flee to as well.

Orlando flees the jealousy and conspiring Oliver who means to kill him. Interestingly enough, the Forest of Arden is also where Orland leaves his message of love to Rosalind, now disguised as Ganymede. After purchasing pastures and herds from the shepherds- Corin and Silvius, Celia and Rosalind begin a new life for themselves. Touchstone also starts anew, and falls for Audrey- a country wench. Nature provides an adequate and open space for wooing and the mind to wander. The minds of the characters within the forest begin to think in a more free fashion than it would in the Old Court.

Ganymede convinces Orlando to woo him as he would his beloved Rosalind. The hope is that it would give confidence and practice to the young Orlando while also showing him that love begins in friendship. If he is able to woo a friend like Ganymede, he would see that it would be just as easy to woo Rosalind and win her friendship along with her affections. Lucky for Orlando, he’s killing two birds with one stone seeing as Rosalind and Ganymede is the same person.

In the end, we see how love spawned by the visit to the Forest of Auden, leads to resolutions by the end of the play. In the end, Orlando saves Oliver from a lion which leads to the brothers resolving any differences. Oliver also takes a liking to Celia after telling both her and Rosalind the tale of the lion. Rosalind then reveals that she is really Ganymede, thus ensuring the love of Orlando and Rosalind. Finally, marriages take place uniting both family and kingdom. The renewal of family bonds and love forge a New Court with the offspring leading the way with new love and fresh minds.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial