Introductory Lecture and Objectives

As You Like It eNotes Lesson Plan content

Introductory Lecture

William Shakespeare’s As You Like It was written in 1599. At the time, the “pastoral romance,” a romance that takes place in a rural setting, was quite popular. Ever practical and commercial, Shakespeare wrote As You Like It because he knew it would appeal to his Elizabethan audiences; his intention was to entertain and amuse. To that end, he employed the convention of “country vs. court,” the notion that life in a rural setting is ideal, while life in the court is superficial and filled with the dangers of political intrigue. Moreover, the trendy psychology of the time is evidenced in the play with its references to “humours” (bodily fluids associated with personality traits) and the pose of being melancholic, as seen through the character of Jaques. As You Like It is indeed a pastoral romance, but in Shakespeare’s hands, it becomes a comedy satirizing the popular genre itself, one in which characters lament the suffering caused by love. Shakespeare’s characters suffer in the throes of love, but their laments are ridiculous and unbelievable.

In addition to entertaining, As You Like It explores the theme of challenging hierarchies, primarily through the character of Duke Frederick. Elizabethans believed that monarchs ruled by divine right, that they were chosen by God to sit upon the throne and to head a fixed social order in which all were relegated to permanent, specific ranks in society, as well as in the family. Therefore, in addition to violating notions of family hierarchy, Duke Frederick’s having usurped his brother, Duke Senior, would have been considered unholy, likely the reason for Duke Frederick’s conversion at the end of the play. The plot of As You Like It is simple. It develops from the experiences of a few couples as they encounter obstacles to love and marriage in the wake of being banished from the court. Duke Senior’s daughter, Rosalind, plays a vital role in the plot, as she contributes to all the conflicts, even as she helps to finally resolve them. As in all pastoral plays, the “villains” are disposed of (here through the conversion of their characters), and all ends happily.

Shakespeare was notorious for borrowing stories from other writers. In the case of As You Like It, Thomas Lodge’s novel, Rosalynde (1590), seems to have supplied many of the storylines: an exiled ruler, hostile brothers, a young maiden in disguise, an escape to the country, a love-sick shepherd, and a young woman who woos her lover in disguise. Note that at the time women were not allowed to appear on stage; young boys would play girls’ parts. Thus Shakespeare’s Rosalind would have been a boy dressed up as a girl pretending to be a boy.

At the time Shakespeare wrote As You Like It, early modern English was less than 100 years old. Most documents were still written in Latin, and there were no established grammar texts, no published dictionaries, and no formal study of English. Shakespeare’s intention was that his plays be performed, not published, but his writing contributed considerably to the language. Although much of his vocabulary is now archaic or obsolete, much of it is not, and many of his expressions have made their way into modern vernacular; for instance, “eaten out of house and home,” “neither rhyme nor reason,” “a wild goose chase,” “dead as a doornail,” and “brave new world.” Encountering these familiar expressions in Shakespeare’s works often surprises and delights modern readers.

Although As You Like It is written in the language of the sixteenth century, filled with references contemporary at the time but now obscure, it is not an exercise for the intellect; its intention is much less grand  but nonetheless worthy. A fanciful, romantic comedy, As You Like It has remained popular for more than four hundred years because it continues to entertain and amuse audiences, just as the author intended. There is poetry in the play, of course, passages remembered for their music and beauty of expression; in others, Shakespeare’s sharp wit and satirical voice are heard clearly. For those willing to practice “the suspension of disbelief” as they follow the misadventures of the often silly, love-struck characters, As You Like It offers much to enjoy and to consider, as human nature has not changed at all.

By the end of the unit the student will be able to:

1. Define and describe the central conflict.

2. Identify the primary themes and motifs.

3. Identify and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of court and country.

4. Identify the various definitions of love as presented in the text and explain the significance of each.

5. Describe the role of the “fool” and discuss what Shakespeare may have intended to say through the characters that play it.

6. Discuss the role of gender and cross-dressing and the ideas developed through them.

7. Explain how Shakespeare addresses the possibility of transformation/conversion.

8. Identify and understand the various allusions to the ancient world.

9. Recognize literary devices, such as paradox, dramatic irony, metaphor, and satire.

10. Discuss the differences between prose and verse and their utilization as a means to reinforce character, meaning, or tone.

11. Determine what makes As You Like It such a timeless and popular work.

Instructional Focus: Teaching With an eNotes Lesson Plan

This eNotes lesson plan is designed so that it may be used in numerous ways to accommodate ESL students and to differentiate instruction in the classroom.

Student Study Guide

• The Study Guide is organized for an act-by-act study of the play. Study Guide pages may be assigned individually and completed at a student’s own pace.

• Study Guide pages may be used as pre-reading activities to preview for students the vocabulary words they will encounter in each act and to acquaint them generally with its content.

• Before Study Guide pages are assigned, questions may be selected from them to use as short quizzes to assess reading comprehension.

• Study Guide vocabulary lists...

(The entire section is 625 words.)

Essay and Discussion Questions

1. Why does Rosalind enjoy her role as Ganymede? Why, as Ganymede, does she adopt a cynical attitude toward women? Was Shakespeare sexist in his depiction of women? Are gender roles today fixed or fluid?

2. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of country life vs. court life as they are presented in the play. What does it suggest that all of the characters (except Jaques) return to the court? What is the significance of Jaques’s being the only character not returning to court?

3. What are some examples of dramatic irony in the play? How does dramatic irony affect how the audience relates to the characters or action?

4. Compare and contrast...

(The entire section is 948 words.)

Act One, Scene One


acquit: archaic to pay off; to look well

allottery: archaic an inheritance

anatomize: to dissect, to cut to pieces

bequeathed: given to someone named in a will

betwixt: between

countenance: noun the face

fleet the time: archaic to pass the time

gamester: one who plays games

“the golden world”: the primal age of innocence from which humankind was thought to have come (referenced in Roman poet Ovid’s Metamorphoses)

herein: archaic “in doing this”

hinds: archaic...

(The entire section is 710 words.)

Act One, Scene Two


alas: oh my, oh well

beholders: those who watch

beseech: to beg, to ask fervently

bestowed: given

bounden: conscientious; archaic morally obligated

commendation: praise

colour: English spelling type, kind

devise sports: to devise (plan or invent) entertainment

entreated: begged

fain: archaic gladly

flout: to show off in an arrogant way

gallant: archaic a gentleman

henceforth: from this time forward

knave: archaic a tricky and deceitful fellow


(The entire section is 931 words.)

Act One, Scene Three


burs: prickly seed pods from a bush

curs: mongrel dogs

hem them away: archaic to discard

purgation: purification

semblance: look, appearance

smirch: to smudge, to tarnish

Study Questions

1. “Guilt through association” was a common belief held in Elizabethan England. How is it evidenced in this scene?

Duke Frederick banishes his niece Rosalind because she is her father’s daughter, telling her, “Let it suffice that I trust thee not. . . . Thou art thy father’s daughter; there’s enough.”

2. To whom is Rosalind referring when...

(The entire section is 386 words.)

Act Two, Scenes One and Two


adversity: misfortune

augmenting: adding to

chiding: teasing

churlish: rude in a mean-spirited way

dappled: spotted

flux: flow

inquisition: an investigation

invectively: abusively

irks: irritates

languish: to droop

quail: to falter

quoth: said

roynish: archaic mangy, troublesome

sinewy: muscular, strong

sufferance: blame

sullen: sulky

Study Questions

1. A theme throughout the play is one of country life vs. court life. How is it introduced in this scene?

Duke Senior exclaims to his loyal men that life in...

(The entire section is 545 words.)

Act Two, Scenes Three and Four


abhor: adjective, archaic horrifying, repulsive

batler: archaic a short bat for beating clothes while washing

bid: to ask

boist’rous (boisterous): turbulent, rowdy

bonny: pretty, handsome

capers: hijinks

doublet and hose: archaic men’s garments

envenoms: archaic poisons

folly: foolishness

Jove: the supreme Roman god (also called Jupiter)

Jupiter: the supreme Roman god (also called Jove)

providently: done with foresight

sanctified: holy

succour: aid, relief

swain: archaic a...

(The entire section is 666 words.)

Act Two, Scenes Five and Six


bleak: gloomy, cold

ducdame: Shakespeare character defines it as a Greek word to call fools into a circle

first born of Egypt: reference to Bible and the Exodus

invocation: a summoning

shun: to reject, to avoid

uncouth: crude, lacking good manners

warble: a trilling voice; a singer

Study Questions

1. Amiens says of the forest, “Here shall [the banished duke] see no enemy / But winter and rough weather.” What does he imply about the difference between life in the court and life in the forest?

Amien implies that the court is filled with cruel, unseen political...

(The entire section is 340 words.)

Act Two, Scene Seven


chanticleer: archaic a rooster

discord: disharmony

effigies: likenesses

embossed: raised

feigning: faking

galled: offended

hence: archaic from this place, away from here

lacklustre: English spelling dull

libertine: someone lacking moral principles

mangled: disfigured

mettle: spirit

mewling: whimpering, crying like a baby

motley: the costume of a court fool made of many colors

pantaloon: archaic an old codger or old man; a buffoon

venerable: revered, respected


(The entire section is 953 words.)

Act Three, Scenes One and Two


Atalanta: an Arcadian princess

bawd: noun a brothel madam

bell-wither: archaic placing a bell around the neck of a castrated ram

berhymed: archaic praised in verse

cathechism: a manual of religious doctrine

chaste: pure

chide: to tease, to scold

cipher: archaic zero (in context, a non-entity)

civet: a perfume created from an African animal

Cleopatra: an Egyptian Queen

copulation: mating

dost: archaic does

expediently: quickly

Gargantua: a giant


(The entire section is 1147 words.)

Act Three, Scene Three


bawdry: archaic coarse, obscene

capricious: fickle

Goths: a tribe that played a large part in the fall of the Roman Empire

Ovid: a Roman poet

poetical: relating to poetry (in context, the tendency to be false and satirical)

Study Questions

1. What are Touchstone’s reasons for getting married to Audrey?

Touchstone wants to marry Audrey because he would like to have sex with her: “as the ox hath his bow, sir, the horse his curb, and the falcon her bells, so man hath his desires . . . .”

2. How does Shakespeare satirize love and pastoral...

(The entire section is 480 words.)

Act Three, Scene Four


athwart: archaic across, from one side to the other

concave: curving inward (in context, useless)

Diana: Roman goddess of the hunt; associated with woodland

Judas: the betrayer of Christ, Judas Iscariot (in context, treachery)

sanctity: sacredness, holiness

tapster: archaic a tavern keeper

Study Questions

1. After Orlando is late for one of his “lessons in love” with Rosalind as Ganymede, she proclaims to Celia that she is on the verge of tears, to which Celia replies, “Do, I prithee; but have yet the grace to consider that tears do not become a man.” What...

(The entire section is 460 words.)

Act Three, Scene Five


atomies: tiny things, creatures

carlot: archaic a peasant, a villager

cicatrice: archaic a scar

covetousness: greed

damask: a woven fabric with a visible pattern on both sides

exult: to rejoice

glean: to gather, to understand

irksome: irritating

lineaments: distinctive natural features, characteristics

omittance: a deletion, a leaving out

recompense: a repayment

taunting: teasing

Study Questions

1. How does Silvius and Phebe’s love relate to what Touchstone said about poetry earlier in this act?


(The entire section is 535 words.)

Act Four, Scene One


abominable: hateful

censure: criticism

emulation: affectation (in context, falseness)

Hellespont: the crossing between Turkey and Greece in which Leander drowned swimming

to meet Hero; the Dardanelles today

Hero of Sestos: Shakespeare reference to poem by Christopher Marlowe, a contemporary of his

jointure: an estate left to a woman on husband’s death

orators: those who speak formally

rumination: thinking that carefully and repeatedly addresses the same subject

Troilus: a legendary character in the Trojan War; lover of Cressida

videlicet: archaic “that is to say”


(The entire section is 822 words.)

Act Four, Scenes Two and Three


befell: happened to

crest: a coat of arms

Ethiop: a reference to Ethiopia (in context, this is racist, refers to skin color)

horn: here, an Elizabethan cuckold (a man who has been cheated on by his wife) who wears horns

Phoenix: a mythological bird that consumes itself in fire and rises from the ashes

purlieus: archaic environment

swaggerer: a braggart, an arrogant boaster

waspish: archaic bad tempered, snappish

Study Questions

1. When Silvius brings Rosalind a letter from Phebe, she initially accuses him of writing it: “Women’s gentle brain / Could...

(The entire section is 606 words.)

Act Five, Scenes One and Two


array: a display

bastinado: archaic beating on feet or buttocks

bondage: chains

boorish: ill-bred

Caesar: a Roman Emperor

doth: archaic does

flouting: mocking, scornful

giddiness: joy without thought, dizziness

heathen: savage, without God

ipse: archaic himself, “so he says”

learned: educated

nuptial: a wedding

rhetoric: the art of speaking persuasively

thrasonical: boastful (a reference to a Roman comedy)

vulgar: crass, crude

wrath: anger (in context, passion, intensity)

Study Questions


(The entire section is 558 words.)

Act Five, Scenes Three, Four, and Epilogue


atone: to make up for; to do penance

convertites: archaic those who are converted

copulatives: Shakespeare (play on the word “copulating”) couples to be wed

ditty: a light, simple song

dulcet: archaic sweet, pleasing

Hymen: Greek god of marriage

nonino: Shakespeare likely akin to “nonny” in a similar song in Shakespeare’s play Much Ado About Nothing

obscured: hidden

prologue: an introduction, a beginning

rudiments: basics

salutation: a greeting

sententious: pompous, full of oneself

trod: stepped...

(The entire section is 661 words.)

Multiple-Choice Test and Answer Key

1. What does “all the world’s a stage” mean?

A. That it is literally constructed like a stage.

B. That there is a metaphoric construction of a stage.

C. That everyone is playacting.

D. That people can choose their roles in life.

E. That it is God’s creation.

2. What is Rosalind as Ganymede’s “magic” in delivering Rosalind to Orlando?

A. Courage; she tells everyone who she really is while dressed as Ganymede.

B. She says a spell and suddenly appears as her real self.


(The entire section is 1926 words.)

Essay Exam Questions With Answers

1. The characters in As You Like It are preoccupied with love throughout the play. How does it reflect the time in which the play was written? Compare and contrast the following quotes regarding love. For each, discuss what each statement reveals about the respective characters and the relationships to which they refer.

Rosalind as Ganymede says to Orlando:

Break an hour’s promise in love! He that will divide a minute into a thousand parts, and break but a part of the thousand part of a minute in the affairs of love, it may be said of him that Cupid hath clapp’d him o’ th’ shoulder, but I’ll warrant him heart-whole.


(The entire section is 3369 words.)