William Shakespeare’s play As You Like It can be regarded as a pastoral and romantic comedy that includes many twists of the plot depicting the relations between various characters. Nevertheless, there is a common theme that is of great importance to the playwright. In particular, this literary work throws light on the way in which love can transform the experiences of an individual (Inge).
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Moreover, the author challenges the conventions for the description of lovers, their motives, and behavior. Overall, Shakespeare shows that love can take a great number of forms, and this sensation can make the life of a person more fulfilling and joyful; more importantly, it does not have to be associated only with emotional suffering; this is the idea that many poets and playwrights before Shakespeare focused on. This is the main message that the writer tries to convey to the audience.
One should keep in mind that the characters depicted by the author live in some French duchy, and one can see that these people can be affected by the courtly life and conflicts caused by power struggles. Nevertheless, this play is set in the fictional Forest of Arden. Overall, this forest is a place where characters can renew themselves. Moreover, they can discover their better qualities that do not initially attract the readers’ attention.
Overall, the Forest of Arden is one of the magical places in which people can obtain their independence (Shakespeare XXXVI). For instance, children are able to become more independent of their parents. In many cases, love can be regarded as one of the forces that enable people to transform themselves almost entirely. As a rule, it enables them to discover happiness. This is one of the issues that should be taken into account.
It should be noted that love can take different forms in this play. For instance, one can speak about Orlando and Rosalind who are the main characters of this play. Overall, their relations can be described as romantic love. The author tries to ridicule the assumption according to which love can be compared to slavery since it does not accurately reflect the behavior of an individual. It should be mentioned that Orlando cannot openly express his affection for Rosalind, but he wants to win Rosalind’s love.
Overall, Orlando can be viewed as the character who is supposed to ridicule a conventional description of the so-called courtly love which is sometimes compared to a dangerous disease that impairs the life of a person. In particular, he makes the following statement while talking to Rosalind, “I am he that that is so love-shaked. I pray you to tell me your remedy” (III. 2. 354-355). In this case, this character does not directly state he is deeply in love with Rosalind.
Furthermore, this character seems to be convinced that he will “not be cured” (III. 2. 409). In other words, this person believes that he will not gain Rosalind’s love. It seems that Rosalind fully understands his thoughts and feelings, but she wants Orlando to become more open. She says that Orlando requires close confinement, and in this way, she tries to draw parallels between love and a mental disorder (III. 2. 387).
Furthermore, she wants him to abandon the artificiality of courtly manners. This character tries to emulate the behavior of various knights depicted by many poets and playwrights (Benson). To a great, Rosalind conversation with Orlando suggests that love should not be viewed as something inaccessible in the earthly life.
This is why she seems to be slightly ironic of Orlando and the artificial mannerism that only creates difficulties for him. These are some of the main aspects that can be distinguished because they are important for understanding the way in which Shakespeare tries to ridicule many of the artistic canons which existed in the late sixteenth century.
Moreover, it is possible to speak about the unrequited love that Silvius feels for Phoebe. It should be noted that Silvious is a shepherd, while Phoebe is a peasant girl who ignores him. This character knows it quite clear that Phone rejects affection. Nevertheless, he accepts the suffering caused by unrequited love.
More importantly, he is ready to humiliate himself in order to win Phoebe’s affection. To a great extent, this character can be compared to the Petrarchan lover or a person who understand that his/her affection may not be returned. This is one of the details that attract the attention of the readers. It is possible to examine the following quote illustrates the experiences of this character:
“So holy and so perfect is my love,
And I in such a poverty of grace,
That I shall think it a most plenteous crop
To glean the broken ears after the man
That the main harvest reaps. Loose now and then
A scattered smile, and that I’ll live upon.”
(III. 5. 99-101)
This quote is important because it shows that despite the unreturned attention, love makes Silvius’s life much more fulfilling. He understands that Phoebe may love another person, but this knowledge does not make this girl less attractive to him.
In this way, Shakespeare tries to challenge the literary and artistic canon according to which unreturned love only leads to emotional suffering. Furthermore, William Shakespeare is willing to show that this character is able to feel happiness even despite Phoebe’s indifference. Moreover, he eventually succeeds in winning her love. These are some of the main details that should be taken into account.
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Additionally, Shakespeare can demonstrate that love can arise when the characters do not initially feel sympathy toward one another. In this case, one can speak about the relations between Touchstone and Audrey. It should be noted that Audrey is a poorly-educated girl who does not seem attractive to other people.
Moreover, Touchstone just wants to make use of her. Thus, one cannot suppose that they can turn into a married couple. Nevertheless, this character eventually finds Audrey’s openness and honesty very appealing. To a great extent, this couple completely defies the standards of courtly love depicted by many writers and poets before Shakespeare.
It is possible to provide other examples indicating that love can be extremely unpredictable. This argument is particularly relevant if one speaks about the love between Oliver and Celia. One can argue that Oliver is the main antagonist of the play; he does not evoke the sympathy of the reader. In contrast, Celia can be viewed as the paragon of different moral values. These two individuals do not seem to be compatible with one another, and it is often argued that this development of the plot is unrealistic.
However, one should keep in mind that sometimes love can overcome such obstacles. This is one of the arguments that can be put forward. Moreover, it is possible to argue that love transforms Oliver and makes him re-evaluate the morality of his actions and decisions. Again, one should mention that this action takes place in the Forest of Arden which seems to transform the main characters.
One should bear in mind that Shakespeare often incorporates magic in his plays in order to change the values and behavior of the characters (Shakespeare XI). To a great extent, this strategy could appeal to many people who attended the performances of his plays. Oliver’s transformation in the Forest of Arden is one of such techniques which were often adopted by the author. This is one of the points that can be made.
On the whole, the author departs from the literary tradition which existed in the sixteenth century. In particular, many authors depicted love as one of the forces that brought emotional suffering to a person. In turn, William Shakespeare deviates from this tradition and even ridicules it.
The author lays stress on the idea that love can take many forms, and it is the main source of joy for an individual. More importantly, this feeling can be shared even by those people who do not seem to be attracted to one another. It is possible to say that Shakespeare can challenge many of the conventions that people can take for granted. He demonstrates that love can vary dramatically, but it can make the life of a person more fulfilling. These are the main points that should be considered.
Benson, Larry. “Courtly Love and Chivalry in the Later Middle Ages”. Harvard.Edu. n.d. Web.
Inge, Dwight. “A Guide to Teaching the Interpretation of Shakespeare.” Yale.edu. 2009. Web.
Shakespeare, William. As You Like It. New York: Penguin, 2000. Print.