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As You Like It
William Shakespeare




...Externally the setting is that of a conventional pastoral play. The forest is full of shepherds, foresters, and other creatures who could live together only in an Elysium of escape from the real world. But the Forest of Arden is no mirage of wish-fulfilment. It is not like the world of Italian pastoral romance, not a country in which the longings of those bored with city life were realized. It is an actual English woodland through which real winds blow, a region near the haunts of Robin Hood and his merry men... And what creatures do they find there? They meet characters who belong to the most artificial of all worlds of fiction, the pastoral romance. Silvius, the sighing love-sick swain, is there, and Phebe, the obstinately chaste shepherdess. So are William and Audrey, neither of whom has ever been washed by the romantic imagination or any other known cleansing agent. They are the shepherd and his lass as they really are, ignorant dirty louts-simple folk who know nothing but what Nature has taught them. "Here," says Shakespeare, "are two authentic children of Nature." This is the heterogeneous company to which Rosalind and Orlando must belong if they prefer Arcadia to the artifices of civilized life. The play thus ridicules the belief that life close to Nature is best. The comedy is, as Joseph Wood Krutch says, a "playfully satiric fantasy on the idea of the simple life."

Oscar Campbell, Shakespeare's Satire, 1955


...Rosalind loves Orlando without limit, and... she is the happiest of many happy persons in Arden. Her criticism of love and cuckooland is unremitting, yet she has not annihilated them. Rather she has preserved them by removing the flaws of their softness. That is the duty of criticism- a simple duty for a girl with sound imagination and a healthy heart. As Arden emerges from the fires of "As You Like It" a perfected symbol of the golden age, so Rosalind steps forth not burned but brightened, a perfected symbol of the romantic heroine. Romance has been tested in her until we know it cannot shatter; laughter has made it sure of itself. There is only one thing sillier than being in love, and that is thinking it is silly to be in love. Rosalind skips through both errors to wisdom.

Mark Van Doren, Shakespeare, 1939


Touchstone's role is that of the Court Jester, the "all-licensed fool." It is as such that he first appears at Duke Frederick's court, using the Fool's license to mock at the Knight who swore by his honor that the pancakes were good, and indulging himself at the same time with a side thrust at the Duke, who loves this honorless Knight. He is threatened, to be sure, with a whipping, the customary penalty for the Fool who overstepped his bounds- cf. Lear's warning to his Jester- but he is clever enough to sidestep the danger at Court, and once he is in Arden all danger blows away in the forest air. Here he is free to practice, unchecked, his vocation, the exposure of folly. That, presumably, is the significance of his name; he is the touchstone that distinguishes pure from base metal.

Thomas Parrot, Shakespearean Comedy, 1949


In this utopian pastoral world the fugitives also come upon the melancholy Jaques. He has no counterpart in Lodge's novel; he is entirely Shakespeare's invention. Because his only part in the comedy is to stand aloof from the action and make satiric comment upon all that happens, critics have been tempted to regard him as Shakespeare's mouthpiece. Many readers have therefore mistaken the famous soliloquy beginning "All the world's a stage" for a succinct revelation of the pessimism which captured Shakespeare's mind about 1600. Life to him, they say, had then become just the pageant of futility of the melancholy Jaques' vision.

This is a naive view of a highly effective dramatic figure- one that had become a popular stage type. Jaques is Shakespeare's representative of the traveller recently returned from a sojourn on the continent, laden with boredom and histrionic pessimism. His melancholy is artificial and his disgust with everything at home is a pose.

Oscar Campbell, Shakespeare's Satire, 1955

[Jaques] cannot be wholly dismissed. A certain sour distaste for life is voided through him, something most of us feel at some time or other. If he were not there to give expression to it, we might be tempted to find the picture of life in the forest too sweet. His only action is to interfere in the marriage of Touchstone and Audrey; and this he merely postpones. His effect, whenever he appears, is to deflate: the effect does not last and cheerfulness soon breaks in again.

Helen Gardner, "As You Like It," 1970


...In court, Celia and Rosalind have a completely equal, give-and-take relationship. However, once they enter the forest in their disguises, Celia's part diminishes. Partly this is because Rosalind's involvement with Orlando is central to the design, but partly it functions to allow Rosalind to live out a freer, more assertive and independent role than she could otherwise. This tendency is observable in II, iv, before the women are aware that Orlando is in the forest too. In male garb, Rosalind automatically becomes the dominant figure of the two. It is she who deals with the outside world, who can meet and converse with men, speak and act assertively, even authoritatively. And she is listened to seriously, bantered with, without the deferential, complimentary, and essentially trivializing address that gentlewomen receive from gentlemen in Shakespeare's plays. She is thus able to develop and demonstrate areas of her personality that could not, according to the stage conventions Shakespeare adhered to, be gracefully revealed if she were in female apparel. She restrains Touchstone's arrogance and disparages Jaques' melancholy; she chides Silvius and Phebe; she is flip with her father. Above all, she is able to speak to Orlando about love without coyness or concealment, without having to defend against romantic or erotic attitudes or demonstrations. In short, she can be a person.

Marilyn French, Shakespeare's Division of Experience, 1981

[As You Like It Contents]


We wish to thank the following educators who helped us focus our Book Notes series to meet student needs and critiqued our manuscripts to provide quality materials.

Sandra Dunn, English Teacher
Hempstead High School, Hempstead, New York

Lawrence J. Epstein, Associate Professor of English
Suffolk County Community College, Selden, New York

Leonard Gardner, Lecturer, English Department
State University of New York at Stony Brook

Beverly A. Haley, Member, Advisory Committee
National Council of Teachers of English Student Guide Series
Fort Morgan, Colorado

Elaine C. Johnson, English Teacher
Tamalpais Union High School District
Mill Valley, California

Marvin J. LaHood, Professor of English
State University of New York College at Buffalo

Robert Lecker, Associate Professor of English
McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

David E. Manly, Professor of Educational Studies
State University of New York College at Geneseo

Bruce Miller, Associate Professor of Education
State University of New York at Buffalo

Frank O'Hare, Professor of English and Director of Writing
Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio

Faith Z. Schullstrom, Member of Executive Committee
National Council of Teachers of English
Director of Curriculum and Instruction
Guilderland Central School District, New York

Mattie C. Williams, Director, Bureau of Language Arts
Chicago Public Schools, Chicago, Illinois

[As You Like It Contents]



Babb, L. The Elizabethan Malady. East Lansing: Michigan State College Press, 1951. Examines the motif of melancholy in Shakespeare's plays.

Barton, Anne. "As You Like It and Twelfth Night: Shakespeare's Sense of an Ending," in Shakespearean Comedy. London: Edward Arnold, 1972.

Campbell, Oscar. Shakespeare's Satire. New York: Oxford University Press, 1955.

Evans, Bertrand. Shakespeare's Comedies. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1960. A discussion of themes and characters.

French, Marilyn. Shakespeare's Division of Experience. New York: Random House, 1981. A feminist's view of Shakespeare.

Gardner, Helen. "As You Like It," in More Talking of Shakespeare, ed. John Garrett. New York: Theater Arts Books, 1970.

Goldsmith, Robert Hollis. Wise Fools in Shakespeare. Michigan: Michigan State University Press, 1955.

Halio, Jay L., ed. Twentieth Century Interpretations of "As You Like It." Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1968. A useful collection of contemporary criticism.

Hayles, N. K. "Sexual Disguise in As You Like It and Twelfth Night," in Shakespeare Survey, Vol. 32, pp. 63-72 (1978). An examination of how disguise is used to reveal truth in these two plays.

Howarth, Herbert. The Tiger's Heart. New York: Oxford University Press, 1970. Looks at Jaques in relation to Elizabethan satirists.

Parrot, Thomas M. Shakespearean Comedy. New York: Oxford University Press, 1949.

Pettet, E. C. Shakespeare and the Romance Tradition. London: Staples Press, 1949.

Shaw, J. "Fortune and Nature in As You Like It," in Shakespeare Quarterly, VI, pp. 45-50 (1955).

Van Doren, Mark. Shakespeare. New York: H. Holt, 1939. Commentary by a noted poet and critic.

Westlund, Joseph. Shakespeare's Reparative Comedies. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984. Readable analysis of As You Like It from a psychoanalytic perspective.


Shakespeare wrote 37 plays (38 if you include The Two Noble Kinsmen) over a 20-year period, from about 1590 to 1610. It's difficult to determine the exact dates when many were written, but scholars have made the following intelligent guesses about his plays and poems:


    1588-93 The Comedy of Errors
    1588-94 Love's Labor's Lost
    1590-91 2 Henry VI
    1590-91 3 Henry VI
    1591-92 1 Henry VI
    1592-93 Richard III
    1592-94 Titus Andronicus
    1593-94 The Taming of the Shrew
    1593-95 The Two Gentlemen of Verona
    1594-96 Romeo and Juliet
    1595 Richard II
    1594-96 A Midsummer Night's Dream
    1596-97 King John
    1596-97 The Merchant of Venice
    1597 1 Henry IV
    1597-98 2 Henry IV
    1598-1600 Much Ado About Nothing
    1598-99 Henry V
    1599 Julius Caesar
    1599-1600 As You Like It
    1599-1600 Twelfth Night
    1600-01 Hamlet
    1597-1601 The Merry Wives of Windsor
    1601-02 Troilus and Cressida
    1602-04 All's Well That Ends Well
    1603-04 Othello
    1604 Measure for Measure
    1605-06 King Lear
    1605-06 Macbeth
    1606-07 Antony and Cleopatra
    1605-08 Timon of Athens
    1607-09 Coriolanus
    1608-09 Pericles
    1609-10 Cymbeline
    1610-11 The Winter's Tale
    1611-12 The Tempest
    1612-13 Henry VIII


    1592 Venus and Adonis
    1593-94 The Rape of Lucrece
    1593-1600 Sonnets
    1600-01 The Phoenix and the Turtle

[Shakespeare's Sonnets read by Sir John Gielgud]


ECC [As You Like It Contents] []

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