Introduction to As You Like It

William Shakespeare’s As You Like It is a comedy composed around 1599. The play follows Rosalind and her cousin, Celia, as they flee the court of Duke Frederick into the countryside. In the Forest of Arden, the two women disguise themselves as men and meet other travelers, including the men they love, Orlando and Oliver. The pastoral landscape and strange circumstances of their flight examine the problems inherent to Shakespeare’s England and the peculiar “performance” of human life.

As You Like It is notable for its entertaining plot, which relies on disguises and mistaken identities; its exploration of the thematic tension between courtly and rural life; and its fascinating blurring of gender distinctions, especially in the case of Rosalind, a woman pretending to be man who would have originally been played by a man.

A Brief Biography of William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare (1564–1616) was an English poet and playwright. Despite his widely accepted status as the greatest and most influential figure in the history of English-language literature, relatively little of his life is known. He grew up in Stratford-upon-Avon in a family of comfortable means. At eighteen, he married Anne Hathaway, with whom he had three children. As a young man, Shakespeare moved to London and became involved in the theater community as an actor, playwright, and company owner. Over the next two decades, his plays became increasingly popular, and his theater company thrived. In 1613, Shakespeare retired to Stratford-upon-Avon, where he died several years later of unknown causes. Given the immense erudition of Shakespeare’s work and the paucity of information about his life, some critics and readers have suspected that Shakespeare was in fact an aristocrat writing under a pseudonym. However, these suspicions remain unsubstantiated.

Shakespeare’s literary output includes a cycle of 154 sonnets, two narrative poems, and 39 plays that range across comedy, tragedy, and history. His formal virtuosity—especially his mastery of prosody, metaphor, and wordplay—are evident throughout all of his work, and his plays are celebrated for their rich dramatic structures and psychological depth.

Frequently Asked Questions about As You Like It

As You Like It

Touchstone is the "motley fool" or "licensed" court fool of Duke Frederick in As You Like It. Because he is allowed to say what he pleases, his role becomes that of wise commentator in the play. He...

Latest answer posted December 25, 2021, 12:20 pm (UTC)

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As You Like It

We're left to decide for ourselves why Orlando fights Charles, who makes his living as a professional wrestler. We do, however, have strong hints when Orlando confronts his older brother, Oliver....

Latest answer posted December 25, 2021, 11:50 am (UTC)

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As You Like It

Silvius first identifies himself as romantic lover in act 2, scene 4 after he asks the aging shepherd Corin if he has ever been in love. When Corin says he no longer remembers, Silvius responds...

Latest answer posted December 24, 2021, 12:30 pm (UTC)

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As You Like It

The mood of the play is comic. While the conflicts between Orlando and Oliver or Senior and Frederick, may seem serious, they serve as the excuse for the real action of the play, which is the comic...

Latest answer posted December 24, 2021, 12:06 pm (UTC)

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As You Like It

As Rosalind notes as she begins the epilogue, it is not usual for a female character to take on this role and have the final word in a play. However, she says it is "no more unhandsome" for her to...

Latest answer posted December 24, 2021, 11:58 am (UTC)

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As You Like It

Phoebe is a character type right out of the pastoral genre. Her scenes with Silvius are often parodying conventions within that genre made famous by works such as Christopher Marlowe's "The...

Latest answer posted December 24, 2021, 11:41 am (UTC)

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As You Like It

One of the most famous speeches in all of Shakespeare, "All the world's a stage" (also called "The Seven Ages of Man" outside of the play) is about the cycle of an average life. Spoken by the...

Latest answer posted December 24, 2021, 11:23 am (UTC)

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As You Like It

In Shakespeare's As You Like It, Rosalind reacts negatively toward Phoebe first because Phoebe has rejected Silvius and second because Phoebe thinks that she has fallen in love with Rosalind's...

Latest answer posted December 23, 2021, 4:48 pm (UTC)

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As You Like It

Oliver is the character that tells Rosalind that Orlando will not be able to meet her. This happens in act 4, scene 3. Oliver, Orlando's brother, comes to Rosalind with a handkerchief stained with...

Latest answer posted December 23, 2021, 12:38 pm (UTC)

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As You Like It

Corin is a character who does not appear in Shakespeare's source for the play. The minor characters like him whom Shakespeare creates from scratch are not random, but all provide a perspective on...

Latest answer posted December 23, 2021, 12:19 pm (UTC)

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As You Like It

As You Like It features five songs throughout its narrative. The first song is "Under the greenwood tree," sung by Amiens and then Jaques in act 2, scene 5. It is a pastoral piece celebrating the...

Latest answer posted December 23, 2021, 11:58 am (UTC)

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As You Like It

When Rosalind disguises herself as a man, she takes on the name Ganymede. The name is a reference to classic Greek mythology, in which Ganymede was Zeus's cup bearer and male lover. Ganymede's...

Latest answer posted December 23, 2021, 11:28 am (UTC)

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As You Like It

In Shakespeare's As You Like It, Orlando does not actually fall in love with Ganymede, but with Rosalind, who is disguised as Ganymede. Let's look at this in more detail. Orlando and Rosalind fall...

Latest answer posted December 22, 2021, 6:27 pm (UTC)

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As You Like It

Shakespeare's As You Like It is about half in verse and half in prose, and Shakespeare actually plays with his use of prose and verse, breaking some dramatic conventions in order to develop his...

Latest answer posted December 22, 2021, 3:52 pm (UTC)

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As You Like It

Scholars believe Shakespeare wrote As You Like It in or around the year 1595. The immediate source is a romance called Rosalynde, published in 1590. Rosalynde, in turn, was based on a poem from the...

Latest answer posted December 22, 2021, 1:53 pm (UTC)

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As You Like It

No one dies in As You Like It, but there is no shortage of mortal peril for the characters, tempering the comedic elements of the story. What makes the danger in the play so striking is that it is...

Latest answer posted December 22, 2021, 11:36 am (UTC)

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As You Like It

Yes. Celia is the daughter of Duke Frederick, the younger brother of Rosalind's father, Duke Senior. The friendship of the two cousins stands in contrast to the conflict between the two brothers,...

Latest answer posted December 25, 2021, 12:26 pm (UTC)

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As You Like It

The question of the two Jacques emerges because two characters named Jacques appear in the play's character list. One is Jacques de Boys, Orlando and Oliver's brother. The other is the melancholy...

Latest answer posted December 25, 2021, 12:54 pm (UTC)

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As You Like It

In Shakespeare's As You Like It, Rosalind's disguise as Ganymede serves the purposes of keeping Rosalind safe, helping her pursue her love of Orlando, and promoting the love relationships of other...

Latest answer posted December 25, 2021, 6:21 pm (UTC)

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As You Like It

As You Like It is a pastoral romantic fantasy set in the idyllic Forest of Arden in which couples are happily, if unrealistically, united in marriage in the end, and Frederick, the evil usurper,...

Latest answer posted December 22, 2021, 11:56 am (UTC)

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Summary