The Shakespeare Series || As You Like It

* The Shakespeare Series is a series where I look at a different Shakespeare play, tell you why you might like to read said play, and then briefly review it! I hope you enjoy šŸ˜Š *

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As You Like It

What’s it about?
After the Dukedom of the father of the play’s headstrong heroine, Rosalind, is usurped by her Uncle, she soon finds herself fleeing to the Forest of Arden disguised as Ganymede, a handsome young man, accompanied by her loving cousin Celia, in the guise of shepherdess Aliena. There she finds not only safety but love, in the form of the brave Orlando.

Why should you read it?
ā—‹ It features one of Shakespeare’s most famous speeches and other now common phrases – Even those who aren’t Shakespeare fans will have heard of the speech made by Jaques: ‘All the world’s a stage’ and the following ‘Seven ages of man’. It’s so wonderful to read the speech in its entirety and is brilliant in every sense of the word. Not only that but the phrase ‘too much of a good thing’ and many others were coined by Shakespeare in As You Like It. They’re certainly some fun easter eggs to find while reading!

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

– Jaques 2.7

ā—‹ It is a pastoral marriage comedy – Generally speaking Shakespeare’s pastoral marriage comedies would have been some of the funniest plays to be performed during the Elizabethan era since they very heavily fit a specific comedic pattern, so however convoluted the play becomes or however much it looks like the protagonist was in an inescapable predicament the audience then and now would know all would end well: the disguises would fall, the couples would marry and all would live happily ever after. Plus even if this humour doesn’t fully come across to a modern audience it’s still incredibly interesting to see this pattern in action.

ā—‹ The protagonist is one strong independent female – Whenever any man, or the male-dominated Elizabethan society, gets in Rosalind’s way she subverts their expectations of her and ploughs through them. She is witty, imaginative, and intelligent – pretending to be Ganymede pretending to be Rosalind in order to better her soon-to-be-by-the-end-of-the-play husband. Her epilogue too is delightful, plays within plays are so good!

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What did I think?
I have to admit this was not one of my favourite Shakespeare plays. I did really enjoy it; Rosalind was such a brilliant character, there were some really funny moments, especially with Touchstone, and of course the pastoral language used creates such a lovely image of the mayhem in the forest. However, I kept spotting the Shakespeare troupes and so constantly compared As You Like It to his other plays; when really I should have been too focused on this play’s dialogue and plot to do so. But it’s quite clear to see that many aspects of this play were taken and remoulded to form some of his later Pastoral comedies, which I’ve enjoyed a lot more. Nevertheless, this was a fun play to read and I truly believe that it would come to life on stage and double my enjoyment of it.

 

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