Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version
The play is a merry one. Except for occasional clouds that threaten the sky temporarily, As You Like It is full of sunshine, love, laughter, and song. The predominant mood of the play is one of cheerfulness, light-hearted gaiety, and laughter. It is a pure and fun romantic comedy.
The major theme of the play is the importance of true love. Romantic love at its best, characterized by true and deep emotions, is represented by Orlando, the protagonist, and his beloved, Rosalind. When Oliver comes to the forest of Arden, he falls in love with Celia at first glance; it is a shallow love in comparison to that of Orlando. Touchstone's love for Audrey is largely sexual, and Silvia's love for Phebe is an artificial passion full of verbal excesses. By developing varied types of love, Shakespeare clearly points out the beauty of true love.
Another major theme is the wonder of the natural world, which symbolizes freedom; it is pictured in stark contrast to the world of the court, which is formal, restrictive, and stifling. In opposition to the court, the Forest of Arden is shown to be a delightful and festive place, free of restrictive limitations and inhibitions. In such an environment, Shakespeare shows how love can grow. Two kinds of characters are developed in the natural world of the forest. The first are the natives, like Touchstone, Phebe, and Audrey. The second are the visitors, like Duke Senior, Orlando, Oliver, and Rosalind. Long after the visitors have returned to court, their native home, the permanent residents of the forest will continue to thrive in their natural environment. As a result, the two groups of characters have very different viewpoints about the forest.
The minor theme of the play is the tragedy of hatred and hostility among people, which is sharply contrasted to the beauty of love between people. Shakespeare clearly depicts the hostility between Duke Frederick and Duke Senior and the hatred between Oliver and Orlando. These negative emotions are like clouds gathering in a clear sky, shading the romantic comedy with a touch of reality. Fortunately, the sunshine of love overpowers the clouds of hatred.