Historical Background

As You Like It was probably written in 1599 or 1600, at the midway point of Shakespeare's career as a playwright. His principal source for the play was Thomas Lodge's pastoral romance, Rosalynde. Lodge's novel, published in 1590, was in turn adapted from The Tale of Gamelyn, a 14th-century narrative poem. Shakespeare rewrote the story even further; he introduced new themes and created a number of new characters including Jaques, Touchstone, William, and Audrey. He also gave his characters far more depth and dimension than they had in Lodge's novel and added humor to the storyline.

Pastoral romance-a romantic story that takes place in a rural of forest setting-was a popular category of literature and drama in Shakespeare's time. Love stories of innocent shepherds and shepherdesses and tales of woodland adventure were then in vogue. Shakespeare, a practical man of the theatre, created a play that he knew would appeal to his audience. The wrestling scene and the clowning of the rustic shepherds would have captured the attention of the groundlings, while the sophisticated wordplay would have impressed educated playgoers in the galleries. George Bernard Shaw felt that Shakespeare, in calling the play As You Like It; was commenting disparagingly on standards of contemporary theatrical taste. Yet it seems unlikely that Shakespeare had purely commercial considerations in mind when he wrote this play, for As You Like It does not adhere strictly to the conventions of pastoral...

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