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As You Like It (1599)

by William Shakespeare

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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6,583671,177 (3.75)174
With its explorations of sexual ambivalence, As You Like It speaks directly to the twenty-first century. Juliet Dusinberre demonstrates that Rosalind's authority in the play grows from new ideas about women and reveals that Shakespeare's heroine reinvents herself for every age. But the play is also deeply rooted in Elizabethan culture and through it Shakespeare addresses some of the hotly debated issues of the period.… (more)

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English (62)  German (2)  Swedish (1)  Finnish (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (67)
Showing 1-5 of 62 (next | show all)
This. like The Tempest, is a play about exiles, perhaps not in a wood, but those who feel not quite in their parent society. Orlando, is in exile inside his family, Rosalind, is a woman with her own agenda, which is relatively rare in the Comedies, and the Duke is legally banished. They claim, to some degree their places, by the closing curtain. This is the play with "The Seven Ages of Man.". ( )
  DinadansFriend | May 9, 2022 |
Maybe my favorite Shakespeare comedy (excluding the problem plays). Light and breezy and fairytaleish, with stunning language and, in my opinion, the best love story in Shakespeare. Rosalind and Orlando match wits without wounding each other, and confuse identities without making you feel like the plot has tricked them into a match. The plot is absurd, of course, but the tone helps you to embrace it instead of disbelieve it, so when Jaques de Boys comes running in at the last to resolve everyone's problems in one speech, you laugh rather than groan. ( )
  misslevel | Sep 22, 2021 |
As You Like It is a complex contraption with a simple key to unlock it; or, if not to unlock it, to at least give the door a budge. The contraption is the almost impossibly intricate lattice of characters, arcs and themes that make up the play. The key is the play's most famous passage: "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" (pg. 59).

Taken literally, it is very difficult to divine a purpose for the play. The conflicts which start the play (between the competing dukes, and also the two competing brothers Orlando and Oliver) are both later resolved off-stage, in a way that would be unsatisfying for a plot-driven (or even character-driven) production. The ending gets rather drawn out. And in between this beginning and end we follow a bewildering network of characters as they romp about the fantastical Forest of Arden.

But it is that interplay of characters which is the purpose of As You Like It. The play is a play of parallels and intersections; the Forest of Arden the stage, and its trees the sieve between which the characters must be filtered and altered. The characters are players, with their exits and entrances, and they all play many parts. Everyone here, it seems, has moments of cynicism and moments where they swoon; all of them are moving through this forest. The only characters who don't change are the two who, throughout the play and also at its end, are outcasts: Touchstone and Jaques. Both are, in their way, 'fools' to the other characters, who are at least willing to risk all for love. These two, in contrast, are not willing to play the game: the game of life, with all its parts and players and exits and entrances. Touchstone is even called out on this by Jaques – but then again, Jaques is no better: he weeps over the deer without knowing why. He can "moralize… into a thousand similes" (pg. 46), but he won't truly feel; he won't truly risk himself in this life.

This, perhaps, is the reason for the pastoral theme, which would otherwise be difficult to square. You have to go out from conventional life in the city in order to risk all in nature; you have to risk failure in order to find love. You have to play the game. The conventional use of a pastoral is to juxtapose the stolidity and artificiality of city life, or civilization in general, with the harmony and freedom of natural, country life. At first, Shakespeare seems to play this straight, with plenty of exuberant remarks by various characters about "this life more sweet", frolicking in the forest and finding "sermons in stones, and good in everything" (pg. 45). But, being Shakespeare, he can't help but be clever and dexterous: he inverts it, turns it upside down and inside out, explores its dimensions and sublimates themes, sometimes so quickly or discreetly or prolifically that your mind cannot keep up and doesn't even register that things are moving, like the frame-rate of a film reel. I've often thought that, in his comedies, perhaps Shakespeare was too clever for his own good. The audience can't always keep up, and the intricate latticework can only be fully appreciated by a madman or a genius.

Because Shakespeare does query the pastoral theme as much as he reinforces it. The city has its merits: Orlando states proudly that he is "inland bred, And know some nurture" (pg. 58). In this passage, he seeks to prove that he can treat with a duke as a man of civility, rather than as a rutting nature-dweller. Similarly, Shakespeare remarks how the exiled duke and his men seem content with their overthrow, and "fleet the time carelessly" in the forest "as they did in the golden world" (pg. 32). That is, they abandon the responsibilities of the city, of proper governance (and perhaps this can be further expanded to mean proper governance of their own desires). For Shakespeare, the characters can be seen as intruders on the Forest; in killing deer – the "native burghers" of this land – for food, Jaques considers them more usurpers than the duke who banished them (pg. 45).

These connections are, in truth, difficult to reason out with any certainty, and at times you can no more draw out a lucid, complete theme from As You Like It than you could reconstitute flour, sugar and eggs from a baked cake. Consider the following disconnected observations I made, which warrant mention but which I struggle to organise into a coherent, flowing review:

1) Jaques rhapsodizes about the spoiled sanctity of the forest but, as I mentioned earlier, calls out Touchstone for wanting to get "married under a bush like a beggar" rather than in a church (pg. 75). What does this mean for the topsy-turvy pastoral country/city theme? Touchstone, the jester, ends up agreeing (cynically) to marry in a church, but the 'true' lovers, Rosalind and Orlando, exchange vows in the forest (pg. 85).

2) Is the natural Forest of Arden the proving ground for ardent love? The unloved wife strays; it's a 'foolish' woman who "cannot make her fault her husband's occasion" (pg. 86). Kill love and you become the cuckold: "What shall he have that killed the deer? His leather skin and horns to wear" (pg. 87) – horns being a Tudor sign of a cuckold.

3) Adam warns Orlando that his brother is plotting against him and will "burn the lodging where you use to lie, And you within it" (pg. 48). Does this relate to the deer, mentioned above, being driven from its own habitat by interlopers?

4) Adam is a minor character who seems to be dismissed by most critics, but I wonder if he's not the most important character. An old servant torn between two brothers, does he not embody more than anyone the pastoral struggle between city and country? Adam, having already loved, doesn't need to risk going back into the Forest of Arden like the other characters do, and he suffers for it. He seems to be forgotten about in the play itself, and has no fate: but is he not perhaps the "old religious man" beneath a tree who resolves the conflicts offstage (pp91, 105)? Oliver claims to be the man beneath the tree in the first instance, but his recounting of the story is vague; perhaps when he speaks of "his brother, his elder brother" (pg. 91), it is in the Christian sense that all men are brothers and to mistreat one is to mistreat all?

5) Further to that previous point, is the Forest of Arden analogous to the Garden of Eden? Surely it's not a coincidence that the character's name is Adam, that (if he is indeed the 'old religious man') he dispenses wisdom from beneath a tree (the Tree of Life?) and has a serpent around his neck (pp90-91)? What are we to make of the speculation that Adam was played, in initial performances of the play, by Shakespeare himself? The playwright – the creator?

6) Shakespeare's mother's maiden name was Arden; is she analogous to Mother Nature? Does this have something to do with the cross-dressing dynamics of Rosalind in the play? Males (boy actors playing female characters in Tudor times) getting in touch with their female side? Men returning to the forest, the mother they first came from?

You begin to see, I hope, how prolifically connections of this sort can be made, and how frustrating it can be to identify them but struggle to apply them to the whole. The play itself doesn't codify them, which is why As You Like It doesn't rank as highly as Shakespeare's more accessible tragedies, or some of his more rigorously-constructed comedies and satires. I've written more than 1,500 words in this review, and scarcely even mentioned Rosalind and the gender dynamics and the other more commonly discussed aspects of the play. Perhaps, as I said earlier, Shakespeare is too clever for his own good and only a madman or a genius can appreciate the variety here. In modesty, of the two I'd have to lay a tentative claim to some madness.

The play is a strange thing to wrestle with. It is superficially frustrating and metaphysically thrilling. Perhaps the fantastical craziness is intended; the only hope in this crazy stage-world of many entrances and exits is ardency; to, as Rosalind resolves, "prove a busy actor in their play" (pg. 77). Perhaps this is why, daringly enough, she is the closest As You Like It has to a hero. The title of the play might well be an instruction, a stage direction from the playwright to the audience rather than the actors. We're carried along by the world-stage and struggle to make sense of it, even when we find connections and catch glimpses of its underlying sense, engineered by its madman-genius creator. What matters is that we take part, we play the game. What we catch along the way, or see slip by, is of secondary importance. The perception is the key; the awareness that the game is being played, that the play has started. You can engage or withdraw, as you like it. The play takes place in spring, and you can either perceive that season as following winter or preceding summer. ( )
2 vote MikeFutcher | Apr 1, 2021 |
My way is to conjure you; and I'll begin
with the women. I charge you, O women, for the love
you bear to men, to like as much of this play as
please you: and I charge you, O men, for the love
you bear to women--as I perceive by your simpering,
none of you hates them--that between you and the
women the play may please. If I were a woman I
would kiss as many of you as had beards that pleased
me, complexions that liked me and breaths that I
defied not: and, I am sure, as many as have good
beards or good faces or sweet breaths will, for my
kind offer, when I make curtsy, bid me farewell.
( )
  staunchwoody | Oct 30, 2020 |
It was like watching a family romantic comedy drama. And im happy at the end everyone found someone to share their life with. Even touchstone. Lol ( )
  Ajmi | Oct 20, 2020 |
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» Add other authors (120 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Shakespeare, Williamprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bisson, Isabel J.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Brissenden, AlanEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Burchell, S.C.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Church, EsmeEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cunliffe, John WilliamEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Damon, Lindsay ToddEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dolan, Frances E.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dubrow, HeatherEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Duncan-Jones, KatherineEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dusinberre, JulietEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Furness, Horace HowardEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gaston, Charles RobertEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hudson, Henry N.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kellerman, IvyTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kellogg, BrainerdEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lamar, Virginia A.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Neilson, William AllanEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Oliver, H JEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pitt, David G.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Radspieler, HansEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ridley, M. R.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rolfe, William JamesEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Smith, J. C.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Thurber, SamuelEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Verity, A. W.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ward, A. C.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wetherbee, LouiseEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wieland, Christoph MartinTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wright, Louis B.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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As I remember, Adam, it was upon this fashion bequeathed me by will but poor a thousand crowns, and, as thou sayest, charged my brother, on his blessing, to breed me well: and there begins my sadness.
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...
The little foolery that wise men have makes a great show.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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This work is for the complete As You Like It only. Do not combine this work with abridgements, adaptations or "simplifications" (such as "Shakespeare Made Easy"), Cliffs Notes or similar study guides, or anything else that does not contain the full text. Do not include any video recordings. Additionally, do not combine this with other plays.
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With its explorations of sexual ambivalence, As You Like It speaks directly to the twenty-first century. Juliet Dusinberre demonstrates that Rosalind's authority in the play grows from new ideas about women and reveals that Shakespeare's heroine reinvents herself for every age. But the play is also deeply rooted in Elizabethan culture and through it Shakespeare addresses some of the hotly debated issues of the period.

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140714715, 0141012277


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