As You Like It
As You Like It is a pastoral comedy by William Shakespeare believed to have been written in 1599 and first published in the First Folio in 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 to find safety and, eventually, love, in the Forest of Arden. In the forest, they encounter a variety of memorable characters, notably the melancholy traveller Jaques who speaks many of Shakespeare's most famous speeches (such as "All the world's a stage", "too much of a good thing" and "A fool! A fool! I met a fool in the forest"). Jaques provides a sharp contrast to the other characters in the play, always observing and disputing the hardships of life in the country.
Historically, critical response has varied, with some critics finding the play a work of great merit and some finding it to be of lesser quality than other Shakespearean works. The play remains a favourite among audiences and has been adapted for radio, film, and musical theatre. The piece has been a favourite of famous actors on stage and screen, notably Vanessa Redgrave, Juliet Stevenson, Maggie Smith, Rebecca Hall, Helen Mirren, and Patti LuPone in the role of Rosalind and Alan Rickman, Stephen Spinella, Kevin Kline, Stephen Dillane, and Ellen Burstyn in the role of Jaques.
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 or jester
- Le Beau, a courtier
- Charles, a wrestler
- Lords and ladies in Duke Frederick's court
Household of the deceased Sir Rowland de Boys:
- Oliver de Boys, the eldest son and heir
- Jacques de Boys, the second son
- Orlando de Boys, the youngest son
- Adam, a faithful old servant who follows Orlando into exile
- Dennis, Oliver's servant who called Charles
Exiled court of Duke Senior in the Forest of Arden:
- Duke Senior, Duke Frederick's older brother and Rosalind's father
- Jaques, a discontented, melancholic lord
- Amiens, an attending lord and musician
- Lords in Duke Senior's forest court
Country folk in the Forest of Arden:
- Phebe, a proud shepherdess
- Silvius, a shepherd
- Audrey, a country girl
- Corin, an elderly shepherd
- William, a country man
- Sir Oliver Martext, a curate
- Hymen, officiates over the weddings in the end; God of marriage, as appearing in a masque
- Pages and musicians
The play is set in a duchy in France, but most of the action takes place in a location called the Forest of Arden. This may be intended as the Ardennes, a forested region covering an area located in southeast Belgium, western Luxembourg and northeastern France, or Arden, Warwickshire, near Shakespeare's home town, which was the ancestral origin of his mother's family—who incidentally were called Arden.
Frederick has usurped the duchy and exiled his older brother, Duke Senior. Duke Senior'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 at first sight has fallen in love 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 court fool, 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", a malcontent figure, who is introduced weeping over the slaughter of a deer. "Ganymede" and "Aliena" do not immediately encounter the Duke and his companions. Instead, they meet Corin, an impoverished tenant, and offer to buy his master's crude cottage.
Orlando and his servant Adam, meanwhile, find the Duke and his men and are soon living with them and posting simplistic love poems for Rosalind on the trees. (The role of Adam may have been played by Shakespeare, though this story is said to be apocryphal.) Rosalind, also in love with Orlando, meets him as Ganymede and pretends to counsel him to cure him of being in love. Ganymede says that "he" will take Rosalind's place and that "he" and Orlando can act out their relationship.
The shepherdess, Phebe, with whom Silvius is in love, has fallen in love with Ganymede (Rosalind in disguise), 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. 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 also has repented his faults, deciding to restore his legitimate brother to the dukedom and adopt a religious life. Jaques, ever melancholic, declines their invitation to return to the court, preferring to stay in the forest and to adopt a religious life as well. Rosalind speaks an epilogue to the audience, commending the play to both men and women in the audience.
Date and text
As You Like It was first printed in the collected edition of Shakespeare's plays, known as the First Folio, during 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 1599.
As You Like It was entered into the Register of the Stationers' Company on 4 August 1600 as a work which was "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. 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. This evidence implies that the play was in existence in some shape or other before 1600.
It seems likely this play was written after 1598, since Francis Meres did not mention it in his Palladis Tamia. Although twelve plays are listed in Palladis Tamia, it was an incomplete inventory of Shakespeare's plays to that date (1598). The new Globe Theatre opened some time in the summer of 1599, and tradition has it that the new playhouse's motto was Totus mundus agit histrionem—"all the Globe's a stage"—an echo of Jaques' famous line "All the world's a stage" (II.7). This evidence posits September 1598 and September 1599 as the time frame within which the play was likely written.
In Act III, vi, 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. This line, however, dates from 1593 when Marlowe was killed, and the poem was likely circulated in unfinished form before being completed by George Chapman. It is suggested in Michael Wood's In Search of Shakespeare that the words of Touchstone, "When a man's verses cannot be understood, nor a man's good wit seconded with the forward child understanding, it strikes a man more dead than a great reckoning in a little room", allude to Marlowe's assassination. According to the inquest into his death, Marlowe had been killed in a brawl following an argument over the "reckoning" of a bill in a room in a house in Deptford, owned by the widow Eleanor Bull in 1593. The 1598 posthumous publication of Hero and Leander would have revived interest in his work and the circumstances of his death. These words in Act IV, i, in Rosalind's speech, "I will weep for nothing, like Diana in the fountain", may refer to an alabaster image of Diana which was set up in Cheapside in 1598. However, it should be remembered Diana is mentioned by Shakespeare in at least ten other plays, and is often depicted in myth and art as at her bath. Diana was a literary epithet for Queen Elizabeth I during her reign, along with Cynthia, Phoebe, Astraea, and the Virgin Mary. Certain anachronisms exist as well, such as the minor character Sir Oliver Martext's possible reference to the Marprelate Controversy which transpired between 1588 and 1589. On the basis of these references, it seems that As You Like It may have been composed in 1599–1600, but it remains impossible to say with any certainty.
Analysis and criticism
Though the play is consistently one of Shakespeare's most frequently performed comedies, scholars have long disputed over its merits. George Bernard Shaw 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.
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. In several scenes, "Ganymede" impersonates Rosalind' so a boy actor would have been playing a girl disguised as a boy impersonating a girl.
Arden is the name of a forest located close to Shakespeare's home town of Stratford-upon-Avon, but Shakespeare probably had in mind the French Arden Wood, featured in Orlando Innamorato, especially since the two Orlando epics, Orlando Innamorato and Orlando Furioso, have other connections with the play. In the Orlando mythos, Arden Wood is the location of Merlin's Fountain, a magic fountain causing anyone who drinks from it to fall out of love. The Oxford Shakespeare edition rationalises the confusion between the two Ardens 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. Arden was also the maiden name of Shakespeare's mother and her family home is located within the Forest of Arden.
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. The new Duke Frederick usurps his older brother Duke Senior, while Oliver parallels this behavior by treating his younger brother Orlando so ungenerously as to compel him to seek his fortune elsewhere. Both Duke Senior and Orlando take refuge in the forest, where justice is restored "through nature".
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.
Court life and country life
Most of the play is a celebration of life in the country. The inhabitants of Duke Frederick's court suffer the perils of arbitrary injustice and even threats of death; the courtiers who followed the old duke into forced exile in the "desert city" of the forest are, by contrast, experiencing liberty but at the expense of some easily borne discomfort. (Act II, i). A passage between Touchstone, the court jester, and shepherd Corin establishes the contentment to be found in country life, compared with the perfumed, mannered life at court. (Act III, I). At the end of the play the usurping duke and the exiled courtier Jaques both elect to remain within the forest.
University of Wisconsin professor Richard Knowles, the editor of the 1977 New Variorum edition of this play, in his article "Myth and Type in As You Like It", pointed out that the play contains mythological references in particular to Eden and to Hercules.
Music and songs
As You Like It is known as a musical comedy because of the number of songs in the play. Indeed, there are more songs in it than in any other play of Shakespeare. These songs and music are incorporated in the 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 uses prose for about 55% of the text, with the remainder in verse. Shaw explains that as used here the prose, "brief [and] sure", drives the meaning and is part of the play's appeal, whereas some of its verse he regards only as ornament. The dramatic convention of the time required the courtly characters to use verse, and the country characters prose, but in As You Like It this convention is deliberately overturned. For example, Rosalind, although the daughter of a Duke and thinking and behaving in high poetic style, actually speaks in prose as this is the "natural and suitable" way of expressing the directness of her character, and the love scenes between Rosalind and Orlando are in prose (III, ii, 277). In a deliberate contrast, Silvius describes his love for Phebe in verse (II, iv, 20). As a mood of a character changes, he or she may change from one form of expression to the other in mid-scene. Indeed, in a metafictional touch, Jaques cuts off a prose dialogue with Rosalind because Orlando enters, using verse: "Nay then, God be with you, an you talk in blank verse" (IV, i, 29). The defiance of convention is continued when the epilogue is given in prose.
All the world's a stage
Act II, Scene VII, features one of Shakespeare's most famous monologues, spoken by Jaques, which begins:
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 arresting imagery and figures of speech in the monologue develop the central metaphor: a person's lifespan is a play in seven acts. These acts, or "seven ages", begin with "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 which provoke witty banter and 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 opportunities 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.
There is no certain record of any performance before the Restoration. Evidence suggests that the premiere may have taken place at Richmond Palace on 20 Feb 1599, enacted by the Lord Chamberlain's Men. Another possible performance may have taken place 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 Jaques, 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. In 2014, theatre critic Michael Billington said his favourite production of the play was Cheek by Jowl's 1991 production, directed by Declan Donnellan.
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.
Roger Quilter set "Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind" for voice and piano (1905) in his 3 Shakespeare songs Op. 6
Cleo Laine sang a jazz setting of "It was a lover and his lass" on her 1964 album "Shakespeare... and all that Jazz". The composer is credited as "Young".
John Rutter composed a setting of "Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind" for chorus in 1992.
Michael John Trotta composed a setting of "Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind" for choir in 2013.
Meg Sturiano and Benji Goldsmith added original songs to their 2019 production.
On 1 March 2015, BBC Radio 3 broadcast a new production directed by Sally Avens with music composed by actor and singer Johnny Flynn of the folk rock band Johnny Flynn and The Sussex Wit. The production included Pippa Nixon as Rosalind, Luke Norris as Orlando, Adrian Scarborough as Touchstone, William Houston as Jaques, Ellie Kendrick as Celia and Jude Akuwudike as Corin.
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 Elisabeth 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. 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.
Through donations from her indiegogo campaign that made up an estimated $16,000, Marika Sonja Cotter (now Sonja Kelly) was able to release her 2012 indie film LOVE: As You Like It, backed by the indie film company: Distant Thunder Films. Cotter had decided to create the film after graduating from University of Southern California and was inspired having had seen a film adaptation of Hamlet from Kenneth Branagh. LOVE: As You Like It is set in modern San Francisco with the cityscape in place of a forest and color-blind casting. The choice of color-blind casting had interested a reviewer as they had mentioned how interracial couples would have been condemned at Shakespeare's time. Her film gained two awards at the International Indie Gathering Film Festival and Convention: one for second place as Best Romantic Comedy and the other for Best Supporting Actor. Kristina Michelle had also reported about the film in an episode titled "The Indie Gathering Special" from her show The Reel Show with Kristina Michelle.
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Reversing dramatic convention, it is the courtly characters who speak prose and the shepherds who court in verse.
- Shaw, George Bernard (1897). "Shaw on Shakespear". In Tomarken, Edward (ed.). As You Like It from 1600 to the Present: Critical Essays. New York: Routledge. pp. 533–534. ISBN 0-8153-1174-5.
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- Sarah Clough. "As You Like It: Pastoral Comedy, The Roots and History of Pastoral Romance". Sheffield Theatres. Archived from the original on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 10 August 2008.
- [Julie Dusinberre], As You Like It (third edition), London: Arden Shakespeare, 2006; p. 37
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- Halliday, Shakespeare Companion, p. 40.
- "Best Shakespeare productions: what's your favourite As You Like It?" by Michael Billington, The Guardian, 28 March 2014
- Michael John Trotta's setting of "Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind" on YouTube
- As You Like It, BBC Radio 3
- As You Like It (1978) on IMDb
- Awards for As You Like It (2006) on IMDb
- Love: As You Like It, retrieved 15 December 2019
- "Sonja Kelly". IMDb. Retrieved 4 December 2019.
- "Films directed by Marika Sonja Cotter". letterboxd.com. Retrieved 4 December 2019.
- Love: As You Like It, retrieved 4 December 2019
- "Love As You Like It | Directed by Marika Cotter". FRESH LAUNDRY BY CILANENIOR. 23 January 2012. Retrieved 15 December 2019.
- "Guess Who's Coming to Arden | Exploratory Shakespeare". journeys.dartmouth.edu. Retrieved 15 December 2019.
- "2013 - The International Indie Gathering". theindiegathering.com. Retrieved 4 December 2019.
- "The Reel Show with Kristina Michelle" The Indie Gathering Special (TV Episode 2013) - IMDb, retrieved 11 December 2019
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- As You Like It at the Internet Broadway Database
- You Like It&searchDomain=Production As You Like It at the Internet Off-Broadway Database
- List of As You Like It movies on IMDB
- Modern translation
- As You Like It at Project Gutenberg
As You Like It public domain audiobook at LibriVox
- MaximumEdge.com – scene-indexed, searchable version of the play
- 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
- 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
- Costume and set designs by the Motley Theatre Design Group for the 1949 production at The Old Vic and the 1957 production at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre – Motley Collection of Theatre & Costume Design