Improbability & Errors in The Play As You Like It

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      It has been said that As You Like It written in haste. There are anachronisms and errors in the play. It abounds in improbabilities and discrepancies. Let us examine some of them.


      An anachronism is an error of time. When an event or some matter is assigned to a date to which it does not belong, it is a case of anachronism. In Act E Scene VIII, There is a reference to dial. If this means a watch, it is an anachronism. The play belongs to the age of Louis XII who ascended the throne in 1462. But watches were not invented till the sixteenth century.


      In Act I, Scene II Celia is referred to as the taller of the two girl, though in the next scene Rosalind claims to put on male attire because she is more than comnion tall. Some texts, write lesser instead of taller. This may be the mistake of printing.

      In Act I, Scene III, Celia and Rosalind are spoken of as “Juno, s swans.” This is an error, for swans were sacred to Venus not to Juno.

      There is an error in regard to the banishment of Duke Senior. In Act I Scene I; Charles, the court wrestler says to Oliver, says to Oliver, “There is no new news at the court, sir, but the old news; that is, the old Duke is banished.” This passage shows that the banishment of the Duke was recent and that the people were still talking of him. From another passage in Act I. Scene I. 120—21, where Oliver enquires where the old duke “will live”, and is told that he is already in the forest of Arden we should infer that the Duke had been recently banished. But there are passage in the play which show that the Duke was banished while Celia and Rosalind were very young and the Duke must have been living in the forest for some time. In Act I. Scene III, Celia says that she was too voting to value Rosalind when the Senior Duke was banished.

      In Act I Scene II, 73—6, there seems to be some confession between the two Dukes.

      Two characters bear the same name, Jaques. It seems awkward. In order to prevent confusion editors call Orlando’s brother Jacques as “the second brother”, and the kill-joy as “melancholy Jaques.”

      The description of Touchstone as “the clownish fool” and “the royalist clown” has been thought inconsistent with the later representation of him as an ex-courtier and wit.

      Some critics seeing these traces of slips and discrepancies think that the play was written in haste. A.W. Verity thinks that though there are some slips in the play, it was, however not written in haste. He has replied the critics in the following words:

      “Against these trivial slips (some, may be the printer’s handiwork) and supposed blemishes we have to set the brilliant workmanship which distinguishes the play as a whole: the clearness and absolute consistency of the characterization in general (not excluding. I should have said, the part of Touchstone); and the ingenious unfolding of the action at the outset—always a single test of a playwright’s skill. Moreover, though As You Like It. It being the dramatization of the very diffuse, long-winded story, is itself somewhat diffuse, yet the several parts are balanced characters contrasted with a case which seems irreconcilable with this theory of hurried composition. One may with justice, therefore, be loth to use the word ‘haste’ in connection with a work which for many readers is the high water mark of Shakespearean comedy”

Improbabilities in As You Like It

      There are following improbabilities in the play.

      In answer to Rosalind's question where they are to go, Celia answers that they will go to the forest of Arden to seek the banished Duke. But when they arrive there, they never even think of the banished Duke This is perhaps explained by Rosalind herself “Why talk we of fathers when there is such a man as Orlando”

      It is not strange that Orlando who is deeply in love with Rosalind should not suspect the shepherd body as his sweet heart.

      The sudden conversion of both Duke Frederick and Oliver seems rather improbable. How is it that villains of the deepest dye should change overnight and be good persons? Shakespeare has attributed this change to the magic influence of the forest of Arden.

      Celia's falling in love with Oliver and yielding to him so easily is a blot in the play. Lodge's story is more convincing in this respect. The play according to Swinburne would be perfect “were it not for that one unlucky ship of the bush which has left so ugly a litter smear in one comer of the canvas as the betrothal of Oliver to Celia.” Though when Celia falls in love with Oliver, he is the changed man, yet the spectators are never prepared to see such a nice girl as Celia to be paired off with a villain like Oliver. Shakespeare has done injustice with Celia.

      The forest of Arden is a dreamland where maidens roam joyously. But as soon as Oliver enters the forest he is attacked by snake and lion. The makes Brandes exclaim “A Lioness in the forest of Arden: The Lioness and the ideal forest of Arden are contrary things.

      The fact that Oliver ill treats his younger brother is not convincing because the motives are not genuine.

      It is strange that Orlando, who has been compelled to keep company with pigs, should have acquired such polishes he is represented to possess.

      Old Adam dying of hunger with plenty of money in his pocket is improbable.
Orlando’s attack on the Duke Senior and his followers is only theatrical and unconvincing.

      The disguise of Rosalind as a youth must have been too thin to carry conviction.

      There are these improbabilities. We cannnot deny them. But these faults appear to us only as result of after thoughts. We do not see them when we see the play. We may also think that the dramatist paid more attention to the demands of a romantic comedy which must end happily. He did not pay attention to the minor slips.

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