Tuesday, January 26, 2016

As You Like It - Shakespeare

'As You Like It' really hits the ground running.  We quickly find out that a younger brother (Orlando) is being cheated out of his inheritance by his older brother (Oliver).  Oliver asks a traveling wrestler to 'accidentally' kill his brother in a wrestling match. 
Meanwhile, two young cousins, Rosalind and Celia, are discussing their distressing situation.  Celia's father is the new Duke, having cast out Rosalind's father.  The old duke is living in exile and Rosalind is distinctly unwelcome.  They go to watch the wrestling match with the court clown, Touchstone.  They watch as Orlando beats the wrestler and, while meeting him, Rosalind and Orlando quickly fall in love together.
The current Duke sees them meet and orders Rosalind out of his kingdom.  She decides to join her father in exile.  Celia and Touchstone decide to go with her.  They also decide that there is a danger in traveling as maids so Rosalind will dress as a man and answer to the name Ganymede.  (Got all that?)
Little do they know that Orlando has also fled.  The Duke believes that Orlando has abducted his daughter and so summons Oliver to find him.  They all go, as everyone does apparently, to the forest of Arden, to meet the exiles there. 
Orlando is so full of love for Rosalind that he takes to writing poetry and nailing it to every tree.  Rosalind is also in love with Orlando but doesn't break disguise.  Instead, she decides to educate him in how to woo a lady.  She tells Orlando that she must pretend that she, as Ganymede, is Rosalind.  (As all this happens, another plot opens up where a shepherd tries to woo his lady, but she falls for Ganymede.)
In the end, all is resolved.  And I do mean all.  The lovers are all straightened out.  Oliver is rescued from a lion by Orlando and they are back to brotherly love.  The new Duke has had a revelation and allows the former Duke to return to his Dukedom.  Rosalind gives a short epilogue and the curtain closes.

What a delightful play this is!  This was a first time read for me and I greatly enjoyed it.  Rosalind has such obvious fun playing with Orlando.  Even though he is being tricked, he seems simply distracted and not at all bothered by it.
I simply love the idea of writing love letters and leaving them on trees here and there.  If I was much younger, I might try that exact trick.  (And no, I have no real talent for poetry.  But that doesn't seem to be much of an obstacle.)  But then, at heart, I'm a romantic.
Every resource that I've seen reminds me that when the play was written, all of the women's parts were played by young men.  So, for the majority of the play, we have a young man playing a young woman who is playing a young man.  Orlando is of course, unable to peer through the disguise but it's a comedy and it doesn't pay to look too hard.
The only real down point is a rather famous speech from Jaques where he talks about 'All the world's a stage/And all the men and women merely players'.  Jaques, one of the court of the exiled Duke, is a dour man in a comedy world, so he starts at a huge disadvantage.  But this speech immediately kills all of the momentum of the play.  And now I remember seeing this play done at a rather famous theater in Minneapolis some years past.  The same speech had the same effect there.  It quickly became a turd in the punch bowl.  So much so, that my brother, who isn't a regular theater goer, also commented on it after the play.  This is strange and there really must be a way to give that speech in a better way.

Anyway, I loved it.   


  1. This is one of Shakespeare's plays that I haven't read yet, so thanks for the enthusiastic review. I was a little leery of it, mostly because his comedies aren't really my favourites (I know, I'm weird ;-) ). Curious that his famous speech detracts from the play ..... I'm going to make sure I watch a production of it when I read it.

    I think posting poetry to trees is a wonderful idea in general! Perhaps instead of a read-along, you could host a post-along and we could post original (and non-original) poetry to trees. It certainly would be edifying for the masses! ;-) (I'm only half-joking ..... ;-) )

    Thanks again for the great review!

    1. I'm not confident enough about my own poetry to post it on trees or elsewhere. But I do love the idea. If only I owned a forest...