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Love in As You Like It

As You Like It presents many views about the issue of love. The primary plot involves the love of Rosalind and Orlando, and several other characters in the play are either in or out of love. This provides the characters in the play the opportunity to wax philosophical about the subject, expressing views about the different types of love experienced not only by the characters, but also in life in general.

The first scene of the play introduces the concepts of brotherly love and the lack of it. Oliver is portrayed as a villain because he does not "love" his brother Orlando. Oliver has neglected his brother by refusing to educate him and by treating him as a servant. Thus we see that to be a proper older brother, one should care for and improve the status of one's younger siblings. As if all of this did not already violate what the love of a sibling is supposed to be, Oliver is also physically abusive to his brother and even plots Orlando's demise by spurring Charles against him. However, younger brothers can also be cruel, which is portrayed in the situation of the two dukes. Duke Frederick has deposed his older brother, Duke Senior, and has banished him—clearly not the act of a loving younger brother. Duke Frederick, like Oliver, is a villain because of his treatment of his brother and his niece. Thus Oliver and Duke Frederick are the antagonists of the play because they are first and foremost bad brothers.

Healthy sibling love is portrayed in the play through the relationship between Rosalind and Celia. Although technically only cousins, Rosalind and Celia have become as close as sisters during the overthrow of Duke Senior, and they show this in their dealings with each other in the first act. Celia mentions the first aspect of sibling love, putting the feelings of the sibling before one's own, in Act I, scene 2, when she tells Rosalind that she should be happy because Celia is happy, as she would have been had their situations been reversed. Orlando attempts to do this for Oliver at the end of the play when he is to marry Celia. Good siblings also sacrifice for one another. When Rosalind is banished in Act I, scene 3, Celia immediately volunteers to go with her, despite her ties to her father and the dangers that leaving home will present. This is in direct contrast to Oliver and Duke Frederick, who attempt to sacrifice their brothers instead of sacrificing for them. This issue of sacrificing for a sibling is a major aspect of the relationship, and Shakespeare demonstrates its importance throughout the play. In fact, it is only when Orlando somewhat reluctantly sacrifices his own life to save his brother from the lion that Oliver is converted, and becomes a good brother once again. After this event, Oliver is willing to sacrifice everything he owns to his brother so that he can stay with Aliena (Celia). Celia's sacrifice also allows the resolution of the play. Thus, good love between siblings helps to contribute to the successful conclusion of the play.

Another type of love in the play is that of a ruler for his people. . In Elizabethan sensibility, it is the duty of a monarch to act as a loving parent to her/his country. Duke Senior, when he was in power, loved his country well and was much loved in return. This is the reason why several lords come flocking to him in the Forest of Arden. He has acted as a good ruler and is eventually rewarded at the end of the play. Duke Frederick, by contrast, abuses his power and becomes a tyrant. Unlike Duke Senior, who has followers who will give up their comforts in the city to come live with him in the country, Duke Frederick can only motivate his subjects by threatening death and seizing property. The message here appears to be that because Duke Frederick does not know how to love his brother or his subjects, he can only maintain his power through tyranny. Only through the love of God is Duke Frederick converted, which leads him to relinquish the dukedom and the seized property. The dukedom is...

(The entire section is 7,664 words.)