“As You Like It” by William Shakespeare – Romance in the Woods

“As You Like It” by William Shakespeare (1599)

I’ve read, listened to, and watched William Shakespeare’s four major tragedies – Hamlet, MacBeth, King Lear, and Othello – so many times that I’ve grown weary of them, grown weary of all the dead bodies piled up on the castle floors.  So then I turn to the historical plays, some of which including Henry IV Parts 1 and 2 and Henry V are quite excellent.  However Shakespeare was a notoriously untrustworthy historian always portraying those folks from the house of Tudor as the heroes even when they behead their wives and always depicting those from the house of York as evil villains even when they have a permanent deformity like Richard III.   

Then there are the Shakespeare comedies.  “With a hey and a ho, and a hey-nonny no”.  “As You Like It” is one of Shakespeare’s comedies.  It is the story of the romance between Rosalind and Orlando.  The play starts out in the town, but Rosalind is banished to the forest of Arden where she disguises herself as a man called Ganymede.   The confusion that results from a woman dressed up as a man was always a crowd pleaser for Elizabethan play-going audiences, probably still is today.   Rosalind takes along her cousin Celia, the daughter of the Duke, to the forest.    Soon nearly everyone is in the forest, and there is romance in the air.  For the men, Shakespeare throws in some wrestling and some deer hunting.   Of course Rosalind first notices Orlando while he is wrestling, so the wrestling might be for the ladies too.  Couples bump into each other at will and exchange playful lines.  And always in the woods, there are minstrels ready to break out in song with the least provocation.    The play is high-spirited or to use the nearly archaic word, merry.

I first learned to appreciate Shakespeare’s comedies when I saw the wonderful Kenneth Branagh-Emma Thompson movie, “Much Ado about Nothing”.  “As You Like It” has the same merry outdoor spirit as Much Ado.

“As You Like It” does contain the following famous Shakespeare lines.

    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,
    His acts being seven ages.

At the end of “As You Like It”, we have the marriages of four couples.  The Shakespeare comedies usually end with a mass of marriages. The Shakespeare dramas always end with a mass of murders.  It all depends on which you prefer.

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