Theme of Love Illustrated in As You Like It

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Different Types of Love in As You Like It

      Shakespeare has depicted four types of love in As You Like It. They are:—

• Love between Orlando and Rosalind,
• Love episode of Oliver and Celia,
• Love between Silvius and Phebe and,
• Love episode of Touchstone and Audrey.

      There different types of love provide contrast, comparison and reduplication. These different types of love are, really speaking, repetitions of the same motif with slight modification. They heighten the effect of the main love story and make it credible. They also serve as a restraint to the overdoing of romance, and thus bring about a balance between romance and realm. They serve to keep the extravagance of romance within reasonable bounds. As they illustrate and heighten the main love story, they themselves are reinforced and made credible by the main love story. The love story, for example, of Oliver and Celia may not be believed by the audience. But when they have seen the same type of love with some variation between Rosalind and Orlando, they easily believe it. Two principles of love are illustrated by these romances. The first is the love at first sight. Whoever loved, that loved not at first sight. It is the central principle of romantic love. “It blows like the wind where it listeth”. The love of first sight has such force and magic that even the most unromantic persons come under its spell Another principle of love illustrated in As You Like It is that love is not soft, the lovers have to cross many hurdles before they can achieve their married bliss. The “course of true love did never run smooth.” Now let us come to different types of love and see how far they repeat or contrast themselves, and heighten, reinforce each other. We shall also see how far the two principles of love are illustrated.

The Romance of Rosalind and Orlando

      This is the central theme of the play, Rosalind falls in love with Orlando at first sight when he sensationally overthrows the powerful court-wrestler Charles. Orlando also responds instantaneously. At first sight, they are mad. Rosalind says,

Sir, you have wrestled well, and overthrown
More than your enemies.
      And Orlando says,
O poor Orlando, thou art overthrown !
Or Charles or something weaker masters thee.

      They meet then in the Forest of Arden. Orlando writes love poems on the barks and hangs them on the trees. Rosalind then disguised as Ganymede teaches him how to woo. And so life goes on, leisurely, and love ripens towards its goal. And then there are wonders, and lo! they marry in the end. The first principle of love (love at first sight) is emphasized in this romance. The second principle (the course of true love did never run smoothly) is not very true here. Rosalind and Orlando do not have any serious hurdles. The disguise is the only obstacle, but its removal has to await the ripening of the action.

Love Episode of Oliver and Celia

      This love is really surprising. No one believes in it. It is incredible. Oliver, the elder brother of Orlando, has been banished. He also reaches Arden. When he is sleeping, he is about to be attacked by a lioness. He is saved by his younger brother Orlando. There is reunion, and differences are forgotten. Oliver now comes to Rosalind to inform her (him, Ganymede) that Orlando cannot come. But as soon as he sees Celia he falls in love with her. She too responds. We feel surprised at this love because Oliver has been a villain of the deepest dye and we are never prepared to accept that Celia, so beautiful and virtuous, should fall in love with him. Shakespeare has done injustice with Celia by getting her married to a villain. Though he has now changed, we do not feel he has changed. Even his conversion is incredible. And the suddenness, with which the love starts, stuns us. Even Orlando is startled. He says to Oliver:

“Is,t possible that on so little acquaintance you should like her? that but seeing, you should love her? and, loving, woo? and wooing she should grant? and will you persevere to enjoy her?”

      Perhaps even Shakespeare knew that this love was unexpected and incredible and that is why he makes Orlando speak thus. Love at first sight has been illustrated in the story. We however believe it because we have believed in the love at first sight in the case of Rosalind and Orlando. We feel that this may also be true. There is no question of the second principle here. There are no obstacles. But this love reinforces the main love, and is reinforced by it.

Silvius—Phebe Episode: Heightens the Main Story

      Silvius, the simple shepherd falls in love with Phebe. But Phebe, jilts and insults him. She is ‘fancy free in her maiden meditation’. But Nemesis soon overtakes her. She falls in love with Ganymede and realizes the pangs of love. She now understands, and sympathizes with Silvius. she now understands what she said to Silvius.

“Now show the wound mine eye hath made in thee.”

      Rosalind cures her. And she is happy with Silvius. The principle of love at first sight is true only in the case of Silvius. But the second principle (the course of true love did never run smooth) has been emphasized here. Silvius has to cross many hurdles; His love is not responded. Phebe is scornful “In the untoward development lurks the seed of tragedy”. This love story heightens the main love story. The passions in the heart of Rosalind are repeated in the heart of Silvius. This is the reduplication, on a lower plane, of the romance of Rosalind and Orlando, when Silvius narrates his love story and cries ‘O Phebe, Phebe’, Rosalind says,

      Alas, poor shepherd! searching of thy 'wound I have by hard adventure found mine own.

Romance of Touchstone and Audrey: A Satire

      Then there is the romance between Touchstone and Audrey. But is there any romance or love between these two persons? This love is without romance, idealism and glamour. Touchstone and love are two contrary things. But since the Forest of Arden is replete with romance, he too falls in love. Audrey is ugly and has no qualities. She has no charm, beauty, wealth or intelligence. Touchstone goes into matrimony with his eyes open to its many pitfalls. He gets a bogus priest to solemnize his marriage. Even before he has married her, he thinks of divorcing her. What a non-sense of love ! Touchstone thinks that Audrey will bring horns in dowry i.e. she will be unchaste girl. And he himself will be a cuckold. This is the fatal blow to all romance. No principles of love are illustrated here because it is no love. It is prosaic dull, matter-of-fact arrangement to live together for sometime.

      Shakespeare has emphasized all unpoetic or unromantic aspects in this love affair. This is a great satire on romance. This reminds us that all the marriages are not only romance. There are no heroes or charming heroines in daily life. This type of love serves as a restraint to the extravagance of other three types of love.


      These love affairs therefore are duplications and contrasts. They heighten and reinforce the main love. The fourth love warns that romance should not become unrestrained. There are varieties of motives leading to marriage. Romance is not shut out from reality. But love is all powerful. It reigns supreme.

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