- As You Like It
As You Like It is a pastoral comedy by William Shakespeare believed to have been written in 1599 or early 1600 and first published in the folio of 1623. The play's first performance is uncertain, though a performance at Wilton House in 1603 has been suggested as a possibility. As You Like It follows its heroine Rosalind as she flees persecution in her uncle's court, accompanied by her cousin Celia and Touchstone the court jester, to find safety and eventually love in the Forest of Arden. Historically, critical response has varied, with some critics finding the work of lesser quality than other Shakespearean works and some finding the play a work of great merit.
The play features one of Shakespeare's most famous and oft-quoted speeches, "All the world's a stage", and is the origin of the phrase "too much of a good thing". The play remains a favourite among audiences and has been adapted for radio, film, and musical theatre.
- 1 Characters
- 2 Synopsis
- 3 Source
- 4 Date and text
- 5 Setting
- 6 Performance
- 7 Critical response
- 8 Themes
- 9 Religious allegory
- 10 Music and Songs
- 11 Language
- 12 Adaptations
- 13 References
- 14 External links
The Court of Duke Frederick:
- Duke Frederick, Duke Senior's younger brother and his usurper, also Celia's father
- Rosalind, Duke Senior's daughter
- Celia, Duke Frederick's daughter and Rosalind's cousin
- Touchstone, a court fool
- Le Beau, a courtier
- Charles, a wrestler
The Exiled Court of Duke Senior in the Forest of Arden:
- Duke Senior, Duke Frederick's older brother and Rosalind's father
- Jaques, a discontented, melancholy lord
- Amiens, an attending lord and musician
The Household of the deceased Sir Rowland de Bois:
- Oliver de Bois, the eldest son and heir
- Jacques de Bois
- Orlando de Bois, youngest son
- Adam, a faithful old servant who follows Orlando into exile
- Dennis, Oliver's servant
Country folk in the Forest of Arden:
- Phebe, a shepherdess
- Silvius, a shepherd
- Audrey, a country girl
- Corin, an elderly shepherd
- William, a country man
- Sir Oliver Martext, a curate
- Lords and ladies in Duke Frederick's court
- Lords in Duke Senior's forest court
- Pages and musicians
- Hymen, a character appearing in a play-within-the-play; God of marriage, as appearing in a masque
Frederick has usurped the Duchy and exiled his older brother, Duke Senior. The Duke's daughter Rosalind has been permitted to remain at court because she is the closest friend and cousin of Frederick's only child, Celia. Orlando, a young gentleman of the kingdom who has fallen in love at first sight with Rosalind, is forced to flee his home after being persecuted by his older brother, Oliver. Frederick becomes angry and banishes Rosalind from court. Celia and Rosalind decide to flee together accompanied by the jester Touchstone, with Rosalind disguised as a young man and Celia disguised as a poor lady.
Rosalind, now disguised as Ganymede ("Jove's own page"), and Celia, now disguised as Aliena (Latin for "stranger"), arrive in the Arcadian Forest of Arden, where the exiled Duke now lives with some supporters, including "the melancholy Jaques," who is introduced to us weeping over the slaughter of a deer. "Ganymede" and "Aliena" do not immediately encounter the Duke and his companions, as they meet up with Corin, an impoverished tenant, and offer to buy his master's rude cottage.
Orlando and his servant Adam (a role possibly played by Shakespeare himself, though this story is said to be apocryphal), meanwhile, find the Duke and his men and are soon living with them and posting simplistic love poems for Rosalind on the trees. Rosalind, also in love with Orlando, meets him as Ganymede and pretends to counsel him to cure him of being in love. Ganymede says "he" will take Rosalind's place and "he" and Orlando can act out their relationship.
The shepherdess Phebe, with whom Silvius is in love, has fallen in love with Ganymede (actually Rosalind), though "Ganymede" continually shows that "he" is not interested in Phebe. Touchstone, meanwhile, has fallen in love with the dull-witted shepherdess Audrey, and tries to woo her, but eventually is forced to be married first. William, another shepherd, attempts to marry Audrey as well, but is stopped by Touchstone, who threatens to kill him "a hundred and fifty ways".
Finally, Silvius, Phebe, Ganymede, and Orlando are brought together in an argument with each other over who will get whom. Ganymede says he will solve the problem, having Orlando promise to marry Rosalind, and Phebe promise to marry Silvius if she cannot marry Ganymede.
Orlando sees Oliver in the forest and rescues him from a lioness, causing Oliver to repent for mistreating Orlando (some directors treat this as a tale, rather than reality). Oliver meets Aliena (Celia's false identity) and falls in love with her, and they agree to marry. Orlando and Rosalind, Oliver and Celia, Silvius and Phebe, and Touchstone and Audrey all are married in the final scene, after which they discover that Frederick has also repented his faults, deciding to restore his legitimate brother to the dukedom and adopt a religious life. Jaques, ever melancholy, declines their invitation to return to the court preferring to stay in the forest and to adopt a religious life. Rosalind speaks an epilogue to the audience, commending the play to both men and women in the audience.
Shakespeare hardly ever invented the stories of his plays. Like other writers at that time, he borrowed them from old stories or poems, but rewrote them in his own words. The direct and immediate source of "As You Like It" is Thomas Lodge's "Rosalynde, Euphues' Golden Legacy", first published in 1590. Lodge's story is based upon "The Tale of Gamelyn", wrongly attributed to Chaucer and printed among Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales". The "Tale" must have existed in manuscript form in Shakespeare's time, though it was first printed in 1721. It is extremely doubtful if Shakespeare had read it. But Lodge must have built his pastoral romance on the foundation of the "Tale", giving it a pastoral setting and an artificial vein of feeling and sentiment that were much in fashion at the time. The novel provided the intertwined plots, and suggested all the characters except Touchstone and Jaques.
Two other minor debts have been suggested by some. The first is Drayton's "Polyolbion", a poetic description of England but there is no evidence that the poem was written before 'As You Like It'. The second suggested source is "Orlando Furioso" of Robert Greene, acted about 1592. It is said that Shakespeare derived the idea of Orlando's carving his lady's name on barks of trees from this play. But a lover carving love-poems on barks of trees was already in Lodge And Shakespeare got it from the novel.
Date and text
"As You Like It" was first printed in the collected edition of Shakespeare's plays, known as the Folio edition, 1623. No copy of it in Quarto exists, for the play is mentioned by the printers of the first Folio among those which 'are not formerly entered to other men'. By means of evidences, external and internal, the date of composition of the play has been approximately fixed at a period between the end of 1598 and the middle of 1600.
As You Like It is entered into the Register of the Stationers Company on 4 August 1600 as a work which is 'to be stayed'. i.e., not published till the Stationers' Company were satisfied that the publisher in whose name the work was entered was the undisputed owner of the copyright. All this evidence implies that the play was in existence in some shape or other before 1600.
One thing seems certain that this play must have been written after 1598. Otherwise Francis Meres must have mentioned it in his "Palladis Tamia" which was published in 1598.
Thomas Morley's "First Book of Ayres", published in London in 1600 contains a musical setting for the song "It was a Lover and his Lass" from As You Like It.
Thus the evidence establish the two limits September 1598 and August 1600, within which the play must have been written.
In Act III Sc V Phebe refers to the famous line 'Whoever loved that loved not at first sight' taken from Marlowe's " Hero and Leander" which was published in 1598. Morever, these words in Act IV Sc I, in Rosalind's speech 'I will weeo for nothing, like Diana in the fountain' may refer to an Alabaster image of Diana which was set up in Chrapside in 1598. Therefore, on the basis of these references, it seems certain that "As You Like It" must have been composed in 1599 or 1600 at the least.
Arden is most likely a toponym for a forest close to Shakespeare's home town of Stratford-upon-Avon. The Oxford Shakespeare edition rationalises this geographical discrepancy by assuming that 'Arden' is an anglicisation of the forested Ardennes region of France (where Lodge set his tale) and alters the spelling to reflect this. Other editions keep Shakespeare's 'Arden' spelling, since it can be argued that the pastoral mode depicts a fantastical world in which geographical details are irrelevant. The Arden edition of Shakespeare makes the suggestion that the name 'Arden' comes from a combination of the classical region of Arcadia and the biblical garden of Eden, as there is a strong interplay of classical and Christian belief systems and philosophies within the play.
There are those who suggest that the Forest of Arden is really the Ardennes, since the play takes place in France.
There is no certain record of any performance before the Restoration. There is one possible performance, however, at Wilton House in Wiltshire, the country seat of the Earls of Pembroke. William Herbert, 3rd Earl of Pembroke hosted James I and his Court at Wilton House from October to December 1603, while Jacobean London was suffering an epidemic of bubonic plague. The King's Men were paid £30 to come to Wilton House and perform for the King and Court on 2 December 1603. A Herbert family tradition holds that the play acted that night was As You Like It.
During the English Restoration, the King's Company was assigned the play by royal warrant in 1669. It is known to have been acted at Drury Lane in 1723, in an adapted form called Love in a Forest; Colley Cibber played Jaques. Another Drury Lane production seventeen years later returned to the Shakespearean text (1740).
Notable recent productions of As You Like It include the 1936 Old Vic Theatre production starring Edith Evans and the 1961 Shakespeare Memorial Theatre production starring Vanessa Redgrave. The longest running Broadway production starred Katharine Hepburn as Rosalind, Cloris Leachman as Celia, William Prince as Orlando, and Ernest Thesiger as Jacques, and was directed by Michael Benthall. It ran for 145 performances in 1950. Another notable production was at the 2005 Stratford Festival in Stratford, Ontario, which was set in the 1960s and featured Shakespeare's lyrics set to music written by Barenaked Ladies.
Scholars have long disagreed about the merits of the play. Critics from Samuel Johnson to George Bernard Shaw have complained that As You Like It is lacking in the high artistry of which Shakespeare was capable. Shaw liked to think that Shakespeare wrote the play as a mere crowdpleaser, and signalled his own middling opinion of the work by calling it As You Like It – as if the playwright did not agree. Tolstoy objected to the immorality of the characters and Touchstone's constant clowning. Other critics have found great literary value in the work. Harold Bloom has written that Rosalind is among Shakespeare's greatest and most fully realised female characters. Despite critical disputes, the play remains one of Shakespeare's most frequently performed comedies.
The elaborate gender reversals in the story are of particular interest to modern critics interested in gender studies. Through four acts of the play, Rosalind – who in Shakespeare's day would have been played by a boy – finds it necessary to disguise herself as a boy, whereupon the rustic Phebe (also played by a boy), becomes infatuated with this "Ganymede", a name with homoerotic overtones. In fact, the epilogue, spoken by Rosalind to the audience, states rather explicitly that she (or at least the actor playing her) is not a woman.
Love is the central theme of As You Like It, like other romantic comedies of Shakespeare. Following the tradition of a romantic comedy, As You Like It is a tale of love manifested in its varied forms. In many of the love-stories, it is love at first sight. This principle of 'love at first sight' is seen in the love-stories of Rosalind and Orlando, Celia and Oliver, as well as Phebe and Ganymede. The love-story of Audrey and Touchstone is a parody of romantic love. Another form of love is between women, as in Rosalind and Celia's deep bond.
Usurpation and Injustice
This is a significant theme of this play. Frederick usurps the legitimate place of his elder brother Duke Senior and forces him to flee for his life. Oliver de Bois usurps the rights of his younger brother Orlando and treats him so ungenerously as to compel him to seek his fortune elsewhere. Both outcasts take refuge in the forest, where justice is restored "through nature".
City Life and Country Life
The play highlights the theme of usurpation and injustice on the property of others. However, it ends happily with reconciliation and forgiveness. Duke Frederick is converted by a hermit and he restores the dukedom to Duke Senior who, in his turn, restores the forest to the deer. Oliver also undergoes a change of heart and learns to love Orlando. Thus, the play ends on a note of rejoicing and merry-making.
University of Wisconsin professor Richard Knowles, the editor of the 1977 New Variorum edition of this play, described in his article "Myth and Type in As You Like It" how the play contains mythological references in particular to Eden and to Hercules
Music and Songs
As You Like It is known as a musical romantic comedy because of the number of songs in the play. There are more songs in it than in any other play of Shakespeare. These songs and music are incorporated in the course of action that takes place in the forest of Arden, as shown below:
- . Under the Greenwood Tree: It summarises the views of Duke Senior on the advantages of country life over the amenities of the court. Amiens sings this song.
- . Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind: This song is sung by Amiens. It states that physical suffering caused by frost and winter winds is preferable to the inner suffering caused by man's ingratitude.
- . What Shall He Have That Killed the Deer: It is another song which adds a lively spectacle and some forest-colouring to contrast with love-talk in the adjoining scenes. it highlights the pastoral atmosphere.
- . It was a Lover and his Lass: It serves as a prelude to the wedding ceremony. It praises spring time and is intended to announce the rebirth of nature and the theme of moral regeneration in human life.
Use of Prose
Shakespeare's play are largely written in verse. However, in his comedies, we find a considerable use of prose. Shakespeare uses prose as a means of expression in conversation. Prose is used wherever he intends to lower the dramatic pitch and does not wish to have a poetical effect.
Prose is used in "As You Like It" for comic situations and by comic characters like Touchstone. Characters of humble position, Audrey, William, and Corin speak in prose.
In contrast to prose, verse is used for grave matters, as poetry adds to dignity and gracefullness.
The use of prose in "As You Like It" enhances the comedy produced by the disguises and misconceptions.
Act II, Scene 7, features one of Shakespeare's most famous monologues , which states: "All the world's a stage And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts." This famous monologue is spoken by Jaques. It contains arresting imagery and figures of speech to develop the central metaphor: a person's lifespan being a play in seven acts. These acts, "seven ages", beginwith "the infant/Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms" and work through six further vivid verbal sketches, culminating in "second childishness and mere oblivion,/Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything".
The main theme of pastoral comedy is love in all its guises in a rustic setting, the genuine love embodied by Rosalind contrasted with the sentimentalised affectations of Orlando, and the improbable happenings that set the urban courtiers wandering to find exile, solace or freedom in a woodland setting are no more unrealistic than the string of chance encounters in the forest, provoking witty banter, which require no subtleties of plotting and character development. The main action of the first act is no more than a wrestling match, and the action throughout is often interrupted by a song. At the end, Hymen himself arrives to bless the wedding festivities.
William Shakespeare’s play As You Like It clearly falls into the Pastoral Romance genre; but Shakespeare does not merely use the genre, he develops it. Shakespeare also used the Pastoral genre in As You Like It to ‘cast a critical eye on social practices that produce injustice and unhappiness, and to make fun of anti-social, foolish and self-destructive behaviour’, most obviously through the theme of love, culminating in a rejection of the notion of the traditional Petrarchan lovers.
The stock characters in conventional situations were familiar material for Shakespeare and his audience; it is the light repartee and the breadth of the subjects that provide texts for wit that put a fresh stamp on the proceedings. At the centre the optimism of Rosalind is contrasted with the misogynistic melancholy of Jaques. Shakespeare would take up some of the themes more seriously later: the usurper Duke and the Duke in exile provide themes for Measure for Measure and The Tempest.
The play, turning upon chance encounters in the forest and several entangled love affairs in a serene pastoral setting, has been found, by many directors, to be especially effective staged outdoors in a park or similar site.
Thomas Morley (c. 1557–1602) composed music for "It was a Lover and His Lass"; he lived in the same parish as Shakespeare, and at times composed music for Shakespeare's plays.
Mark Nichols wrote a musical version of the play in 2007.
As You Like It was Laurence Olivier's first Shakespeare film. Olivier, however, served only in an acting capacity (performing the role of Orlando), rather than producing or directing the film. Made in England and released in 1936, As You Like It also starred director Paul Czinner's wife Elizabeth Bergner, who played Rosalind with a thick German accent. Although it is much less "Hollywoody" than the versions of A Midsummer Night's Dream and Romeo and Juliet made at about the same time, and although its cast was made up entirely of Shakespearean actors, it was not considered a success by either Olivier or the critics.
In 1992, Christine Edzard made another film adaptation of the play. It features James Fox, Cyril Cusack, Andrew Tiernan, Griff Rhys Jones, and Ewen Bremner. The action is transposed to a modern and bleak urban world.
A film version of As You Like It, set in 19th-century Japan, was released in 2006, directed by Kenneth Branagh. It stars Bryce Dallas Howard, David Oyelowo, Romola Garai, Alfred Molina, Kevin Kline, and Brian Blessed. Although it was actually made for cinemas, it was released to theatres only in Europe, and had its U.S. premiere on HBO in 2007. And although it was not a made-for-television film, Kevin Kline won a Screen Actors Guild award for Best Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries, for his performance as Jaques.
Daniel Aquisito and Sammy Buck adapted this play into an 1980s themed musical entitled Like You Like It.
A manga-style graphic novel was released in January 2009 by Self-Made Hero publishers, where the setting of the Forest of Arden has been transposed to modern-day China. The story has been adapted by Richard Appignanesi and features the illustrations of Chie Kutsuwada.
- ^ Dolan, Frances E. "Introduction" in Shakespeare, As You Like It. New York: Penguin Books, 2000.
- ^ Bate, Jonathan (2008). Soul of the Age: the life, mind and world of William Shakespeare. London: Viking. p. 37. ISBN 978-0-670-91482-1.
- ^ Dusinberre, Juliet (2006). "Introduction". As You Like it. Arden Shakespeare. London: Thomson Learning. p. 2. ISBN 978-1-904271-21-5.
- ^ F. E. Halliday, A Shakespeare Companion 1564–1964, Baltimore, Penguin, 1964; p. 531.
- ^ Halliday,Shakespeare Companion, p. 40.
- ^ Freedman, Penelope (2007). Power and passion in Shakespeare's pronouns. Aldershot, England: Ashgate. p. 89. ISBN 978-0-7546-5830-6.
- ^ Williamson, Marilyn L (1986). "The Comedies in Historical Context". In Habicht, Werner et al. Images of Shakespeare. University of Delaware Press. pp. 189; 193. ISBN 0-87413-329-7.
- ^ ELH , volume 33, March (1966) pp 1–22
- ^ Sarah Clough. "As You Like It: Pastoral Comedy, The Roots and History of Pastoral Romance". Sheffield Theatres. http://www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk/creativedevelopmentprogramme/productions/asyoulikeit/comedy.shtml. Retrieved 10 August 2008.
- ^ As You Like It (1978) at the Internet Movie Database
- ^ IMDb.com
- ^ "Sammy Buck". Sammy Buck. 29 May 2007. http://www.sammybuck.com/words. Retrieved 23 April 2009.
- As You Like It at the Internet Broadway Database
- As You Like It at the Internet off-Broadway Database
- As You Like It at the Internet Movie Database
- Text of As You Like It, fully edited by David Bevington, as well as original-spelling texts, facsimiles of the 1623 Folio text, and other resources, at the Internet Shakespeare Editions
- As You Like It – searchable e-text
- As You Like It – HTML version of this title.
- As You Like It – plain vanilla text from Project Gutenberg
- MaximumEdge.com – scene-indexed, searchable version of the play
- "Character of Life" in As You Like It on Humanscience wikia
- Lesson plans for As You Like It at Web English Teacher
- "Variations on a Theme of Love" introduction to the play and pastoral comedy as a genre
Laurence Olivier Award for Best Revival (1991–2000) Complete list · (1991–2000) · (2001–2025)
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