As You Like It: as A Melodrama

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Introduction

      Before deciding whether As You Like It is a melodrama or not we should know what melodrama is, and what are its essential elements and characteristics.

      Melodrama is a low type of play which abounds in improbable, unexpected and sensational incidents. Generally a melodrama ends happily and is full of songs. There is generally no progress or development of the plot, events do not come out of events. There is no relation between cause and effect. The characters are not round. They are flat, and do not convince us. Now let us see whether we find these elements in the play or not.

Melodramatic Elements in the Play

      As Your Like It is full of improbable and sensational elements. They shock us by surprise. In the first scene of the first Act the quarrel between two brothers Orlando and Oliver is quite sensational. The marvelous victory of Orlando over the mighty court-wrestler. Charles is unexpected. It is just a marvel that Orlando possesses the strength of a giant. Moreover, though he is not sent to any school or university, he is polished, disciplined, and cultivated like a graduate coming fresh from the Oxford or the Cambridge university. He is chivalrous and romantic. He is thus essentially a conventional hero embellished with all the heroic qualities.

      That Duke Frederick is dictated by his whim, and suddenly banishes Rosalind in the interest of his daughter is no less unexpected. His ill-behaviour with Orlando because he is the son of his father, and with Rosalind, because she is the daughter of her father, is sudden, unexpected and therefore unconvincing.

      In the forest of Arden Orlando’s theatrical manner in which he draws his sword and forbears all from eating is a picture of sensational melodrama. The appearance of a lioness and a snake in the idyllic Arden is not less surprising. A critic expressed his surprise with the words ‘A lioness in the forest of Arden!’ The unexpected events that pass and bring together two brothers who forget their differences are such as are narrated in fiction. ‘The ruse adopted by Rosalind herself disguised as a man offering to satisfy all the lovers.....is highly sensational.’ The play ends happily. The suddenness with which Duke Frederick takes sudden decisions impelled by caprice makes his character unconvincing. All these elements taken together show that As You Like It is a melodrama.

As You Like It is Not a Melodrama

      But it is one thing to say that As You Like It is full! of melodramatic: elements and quite a different thing to say that the play is a melodrama. You Like It abounds in melodramatic elements, but it is not essentially a melodrama. One of the important elements of the melodrama is that its characters are flat. But it is the last thing to expect from Shakespeare. Shakespeare is master delineator of character. Though the character of Duke Frederick may seem unconvincing, yet it is also explained by his whimsicality. And yet what one will say about the masterpiece sketches of such characters as Rosalind and Orlando, and his inventions like Touchstone and Jaques. Moreover, there is no unity of action in a melodrama. But As You Like It has the unity of action. It has a beginning, a middle and an end. Events issue forth from the events. Though there is a lot of marvel, yet there is the relation between cause and effect. We, therefore, conclude that though As You Like It is foil of crude and raw melodramatic events, it is not essentially a melodrama, It is a perfect work of art.

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Q. Is ‘As You Like It’ a melodrama? Give your views.

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