Discussion Topic

Critical appreciation and analysis of Shakespeare's As You Like It


As You Like It is a pastoral comedy by Shakespeare that explores themes of love, identity, and the natural world. The play contrasts the corrupt court life with the idealized Forest of Arden, where characters discover their true selves. Its use of witty dialogue, complex characters, and exploration of gender roles and disguise contribute to its enduring appeal and critical acclaim.

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How would you begin a critical appreciation for As You Like It by Shakespeare?

These are very good requests. A critical appreciation is an analysis of a work that discusses the two kinds of literary devices: literary elements and literary techniques.

  • Literary elements are those things that are common to all literature: e.g., tone, point of view, mood, chronology, characters, diction, structure, theme.

A critical appreciation will select the most interesting or most relevant of each category--elements and techniques--and discuss their form, significance to the work and effect upon the reader. Thus, the critical appreciation will give a detailed, though limited, view of the work that illuminates its literary devices and merits.

To begin you on the right track of a critical appreciation for As You Like It, it is a Shakespearean comedy, in which couples wind up happily married, that follows Sidney's mimetic principles (i.e., imitation of divine principles in order to instruct) of examining all types of a thing (love) in order to reveal truth about that thing: in this case, the thing being examined in all its possible manifestations is love.

The play is written in verse and prose. When in verse, it is iambic pentameter. Contrary to habit, principal characters may speak in either metrical or prose lines. An example is the conversation between Rosalind and Celia (it is interesting to note that Duke Senior never speaks in prose; do other male principals speak in prose or just the female principals?):

Let us sit and mock the good housewife Fortune from
her wheel, that her gifts may henceforth be bestowed equally.

I would we could do so, for her benefits are
mightily misplaced, and the bountiful blind woman
doth most mistake in her gifts to women.

Imagery and metaphor are very significant techniques used. A good example of imagery is Duke Senior's tribute to the nurturing truths of nature. He says through imagery that nature is an honest councilor and shows what the Duke truly is, which is unlike the perilous envious councilors of the court who flatter to reach their own unjust ends:

... I shrink with cold, I smile and say
'This is no flattery: these are counsellors
That feelingly persuade me what I am.'

Jaques' speech about growing old borrows a metaphor from Duke Senior's remark about the world being a "universal theater / ... / Wherein we play in." Jaques famously extends the metaphor to the seven acts of a play being the seven stages of life, ending with "mere oblivion."

And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.

Irony and plays on words are central to anything that Touchstone utters. You can examine his conversation with Corin about the shepherd's life to find examples of irony and word play in Act III scene ii.

Now, in respect it
is in the fields, it pleaseth me well; but in
respect it is not in the court, it is tedious. (III.ii)

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Can you provide a critical analysis of As You Like It?

When a teacher/professor asks you for a critical analysis of a text, he/she does not want you to actually criticize the play in terms of looking for errors or mistakes. What a critical analysis of a literary text involves is your opinion of the work and why you think the way you do.  You can approach a critical analysis of As You Like It from several different perspectives; I (or any other person answering this question) cannot do this for you, as it involves YOUR response to the play, not mine. The best way to form an opinion about the play is to read it; watch a film version (or two) of it; and read some of the criticism that others have written. You can analyze any of its elements: plot, characters, setting, themes, symbols. There is no one correct way to do it. I suggest that you look at the summary and some of the criticism available on this site to help get you started.

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How would you critically appreciate the Shakespearean drama As You Like It?

A detailed critical appreciation of As You Like It includes discussion of structure, plot development based around the conflict, conflict and resolution, character analysis, literary devices of elements and techniques, and literary tropes and conventions.

One critical comment, and that on structure, is that Shakespeare liberally combines prose and poetry in As You Like It, with the whole first scene of Act I between Orlando and Oliver delivered in prose, which may underscore Orlando's complaint that his education in academics and gentlemanly arts has been utterly neglected: He doesn't know enough to speak in verse. The first poetry is Duke Frederick's speech toward the end of Act I, Scene II, in which Celia and Rosalind earlier also converse in prose so as to perhaps establish a parallel of affinity between hero and heroine: Duke Frederick:

I would thou hadst been son to some man else:
The world esteem'd thy father honourable,
But I did find him still mine enemy:
Thou shouldst have better pleased me with this deed,
Hadst thou descended from another house.
But fare thee well; thou art a gallant youth:
I would thou hadst told me of another father.

Poetry is distinguished from prose in Shakespeare by the capital letter that begins each poetic line, as opposed to prose lines that begin with uncapitalized letters. Compare the Duke's speech above to Orlando's speech is Scene I:

Ay, better than him I am before knows me. I know
you are my eldest brother; and, in the gentle
condition of blood, you should so know me. The
courtesy of nations allows you my better, in that
you are the first-born; but the same tradition
takes not away my blood, were there twenty brothers
betwixt us: I have as much of my father in me as
you; albeit, I confess, your coming before me is
nearer to his reverence.

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How would you critically appreciate the Shakespearean drama As You Like It?

I would agree with Vangoghfan on this one. Given the fact that As You Like It has been dissected and re-dissected over time, you may want to look at it through a new lens (Darwinian or Naturalistic). The hardest thing about writing about Shakespeare is the fact that it has been examined so many times. My suggestion would be to find something novel to the play.

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How would you critically appreciate the Shakespearean drama As You Like It?

There is some information here on enotes. There is critical commentary of each act, which I think will be very useful to you. If you don't have an enotes pass, I suggest getting one so that you can use the great resources that are available for this play. Here is a link to the first one. http://www.enotes.com/as-you-like-it/act-commentary
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How would you critically appreciate the Shakespearean drama As You Like It?

There are numerous ways of approaching this topic in terms of themes or topics, although finding anything really original to say might be difficult since this play has been written about so much.  You might want to look at the play in terms of "ecocriticism," which is a relatively new approach to studying literature; you might even want to look at it from a Darwinian perspective, which is another relatively new way of looking at literature.  Your best bet for doing something original might be to focus on one short scene and discussing how it fits into the play as a whole and how it is effectively written in its use of various literary techniques.



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