Unities and Duration of Action in the Play As You Like It

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      There are three unitie—unities of Time, Place and Action. The unity of Time provides that not more than twenty-four hours should pass on the stage. The unity of Place implies that the scenes of the play should be so located that the dramatis personae are able to visit them in the time allotted. Unity of Place is the natural corollary to the unity of Time. The unity of action implies that all characters and scenes must contribute to the action of the play, There should be a beginning, middle and an end.

      As You Like It is a Romantic Comedy. Shakespeare has flung to the air the unities of time and place in the play. But no work of art can be complete unless unity of action is observed. In As You Like It Shakespeare has observed the unity of action. The main action is the love story of Rosalind and Orlando. The sub-plots are subordinate to it. The complication of the action occupies the first two Acts leading to the third Act where all the lovers meet. The action proceeds by way of resolution to the denouement which takes place in the fourth scene of the fifth Act. Thus the unity of Action is folly observed in As You Like It.

Duration of the Action

      Mr. Daniel thinks that the duration of action of the play is ten days allowing intervals between the events. This creates the impression that a long time has passed since the banishment of Duke Senior. What professor Wilson has said of the double Time scheme in Othello is true to You Like It.

      The play starts with the usurpation of Frederick. The first question that arises is whether the exile of the Senior Duke was recent as a matter of long part. From what Charles says to Oliver we can learn that the banishment of the Duke was recent. The people were still talking of him.

      Shakespeare’s first concern is to create an impression that the banishment of the Duke was recent. Once it is done, he lets it slip into the past. We find hints that deepen the impression of the long time that had elapsed since the banishment of the Duke. We get the hint in Celia’s remark.

‘I was too young that time to value her’.
(Act I, Scene III)

      Thus in the very first Act two time systems are illustrated As soon as the First Act is over, Shakespeare’s magic gets active. The Duke addresses his fellow-exiles.

‘Hath not old custom made this life more sweet
Them that of painted pomp’.

      This shows that the Duke and his followers had been living in the forest for a long time.

      Orlando seems to have been a pretty long time in Arden where he used to carve the name of Rosalind on the barks of the trees and whiled away the time in the make-believe love with Rosalind.

      Thus in the play we find a double time scheme, but as the events pass before us in the play we are never conscious of any long interval intervening anywhere in the action. Days and weeks are compressed into minutes and hours ‘not only without our detecting any improbability, but with a full faith that events have followed their natural, orderly course.’

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