Main Features of The Play As You Like It

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      It is a feature of Shakespeare’s comedies to include an element that is irreconcilable. It strikes a slightly discordant note. It casts a slight shadow and questions the perfection of the comic vision. The discordant note is struck in most of the comedies. There are Kill-Joys though they are prevented from doing the harm they wish. Shylock’s baffled exit and Don John’s flight to Messina leave the stage clear for lovers and well-wishers. The villains have to be left out of the party at the close. In Twelfth Night Malvolio cries in impotent fury. ‘I’ll be revenged on the whole pack of you.’ He questions the whole comic schemes.

The Discordant Note in As You Like It

      “It is a feature of the delicacy of As You Like It that its solitary figure, its outsider, Jaques, does nothing whatever to harm anyone, and is perfectly satisfied with himself and happy in his melancholy”. Not only this. His melancholy is a source of pleasure and amusement to others. The Duke treats him as virtually a court entertainer. He is a natural butt for Orlando and Rosalind. Anyone in the play can put him down and feel the better for doing so.

Christian Ideal Love and Kindness

      Another features of the play is the Christian ideal of love and kindness, Pity and gentleness sweeten the romantic love. “In this fantasy world, in which the world of our experience is imagined, this element finds a place with others, and the world is shown not only as a place where we may find happiness, but as a place where both happiness and sorrow may be hallowed. The number of religious references in As You Like It has often been commented on, it is striking when we consider the play’s main theme. Many are of little significance and it would be humorless to enlarge upon the significance of the old religious man who converted Duke Federick, or of Ganymede’s ‘old religious uncle’. But some are explicit and have a serious unforced beauty: Orlando’s appeal to outlawed man—

If ever you have look'd on better days
If ever where bells have knoll'd to Church
And there is Adam's prayer
He that doth the ravens feed
Yea, providently caters for the sparrow,
Be comfort to my age

      There is Corin’s recognition, from St. Paul, that we have to find the way of heaven by doing deeds of hospitality. Hyman speaks solemnly—

Than is there mirth in heaven
When earthly things made even
Atone together.

Largeness, Variety and Amplitude

      Another feature of the play is largeness rather than intensity. The most remarkable thing in As You Like It, says Sen Gupta in Shakespearean Comedy is the amplitude and variety of its portraiture. It exhibits a many sided world which includes the court as well as the forest, four pairs of lovers who have there own ways of wooing, shepherds and courtiers, philosophers and fools, treacherous brothers and faithful servants the largeness of this world is enhanced by the presence of the baster forces of Nature which from a fitting background to the pastoral romance. It is indeed a colorful world that Shakespeare has created. It is so wide that is pleases everyone. There is God’s plenty here and we may take it as we like it.

The Temper of the Play

      The temper of the play is so perfect, its poetry so mellow and so golden, says E.K. Chambers, that the critic would fain hold his hand in fear that he shall but seem in his curiosity to have rubbed off the marvelous dust from the wings of butterfly. Here Shakespeare launches triumphantly upon the high tide of romance. As You Like It is romance intimate. According to David Daiches, this is the most popular of Shakespeare’s comedies. It represents the ripest fruits of his imagination in its happy golden phase. It is the perfection of romantic comedy in English.

A Comedy of Dialogue rather than a Comedy of Incident

      The play is crowded, with many incidents—the quarrel between the brothers, the wrestling scene, the banishment of Orlando and Oliver, rude interruption of Orlando upon the duke, fight with the tigress and many others sensational incidents. Yet as far as possible Shakespeare has avoided incidents. He has chosen only these incidents which help develop the love of Rosalind and Orlando and bring about the happy reunion of all. Moreover, characters are illustrated by dialogue rather than by action. Orlando's fight with the lioness is informed by words alone. The main characters of the play, and the themes of love, reconciliation and contentment could not have been represented by incidents. Dialogue, which presents the contrast between the different characters and portrays the different scenes of life, is for Shakespeare's purpose more powerful than incident. It is not what is done, says Hazlitt, but what is said, that claims our attention.

Sweetest and Happiest

      It is one of the most delightful of Shakespeare’s comedies. “Upon the whole”, says Dowden, “As You Like It. It is the sweetest and happiest of all Shakespeare’s comedies. No one suffers, no one lives an eager intense life; there is no tragic interest in it as there is in The Merchant of Venice, as there is in Much Ado About Nothing:’ It is mirthful; but the mirth is sprightly, graceful and exquisite. There is nothing of the rollicking firn of Sir Toby here. The wit of Touchstone is not mere clownage, not has it any indirect serious significance. It is a dainty kind of absurdity. And Orlando is the beauty and strength of early manhood, and Rosalind with gallant curtle axe upon her thigh, a boar spear in her hand—these are figures which quicken and restore out spirit. The music in the play inspires our hearts. The songs are neither noisy nor superficial. They are fall on cheerful notes and do not express the deep passion and sorrow of the world.

      Shakespeare, when he wrote this idyllic play, was himself in the Forest of Arden. He had ended one—eat ambition—the historical play, and not yet commenced his tragedies. It was a resting-place. He since his imagination into the wood to repose. Instead of the courts and camps of England, and the embattled plains of France, here was this to be found; possessed of a flora and fauna that flourish inspite of physical geographers. There is an open-air feeling throughout the play. The dialogue catches freedom and freshness from the atmosphere. After the trumpet tones of Henry the Fifth comes the sweet pastoral strain, so bright, so tender. Must it not be all in keeping? Shakespeare was not trying to control his melancholy. When he needed to do that, he confronted his melancholy very passionately and looked it full in the face. Here he needed refreshment a sunlight tempered by forest boughs, a breeze upon his forehead, steam murmuring in his ears.

A Comedy of Leisure

      We see always the shady dark-green landscape in the background, and breathe in imagination the fresh air of the forest. This is the comedy of leisure. The hours here are measured by no clocks. There is no duty and toil The woodland joy and the simple life can make anyone forget the world's pain. Adversity becomes sweetness

"Who doth ambition hither, come hither."

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