Use of Prose in The Play As You Like It

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      Shakespeare is one of the greatest prose writers. Shakespeare’s genius is so versatile and many-sided that no one has thought much about his prose. Recently Milton Crane and for Evans have contributed a lot in their research of Shakespeare’s Prose. Milton Crane admits that Shakespeare has written wonderful prose. He says, “Shakespeare’s prose is beyond question the finest body of prose by a writer in English.” Some persons may not believe it because though they admit that he wrote prose they think he wrote only dramatic prose. Shakespeare’s prose is the richest and most various in the language. It draws its greatest strength and suppleness from the fact that it was written to be spoken by characters in the plays. At its best, it contributes to the depiction of personality and it is an important element in the creation of the atmosphere. Even when it is least interesting it is less obstructive than the purely utilitarian verse.

      Many of Shakespeare’s contemporaries used prose in a haphazard way. They answered the whims and tastes of the persons. Shakespeare also did not ignore the demand of the popular taste. But he constructed his work according to a consistent principles. This strengthened the structure and movement of each play.

      Another feature of Shakespeare’s prose is its beauty and variety as a literary prose. He cannot ever have considered prose a medium inferior to verse, for he never allowed such a prejudice to color his work, as did many of his contemporaries.

      The excellence of Shakespeare’s prose consists in its simplicity, ease, and naturalness, and in the care and subtlety with which the differentiation of prose styles is made to contribute to the creation of character. Shakespeare wrote as the musician composes.

Use of Prose in As You Like If

      The interest of As You Like It lies not in its verse but in its prose. There are only some lyrics and a few isolated passages. Excepting them, there is little of fresh interest of verse in the play. The lyrics are well-known, especially—Blow, blow thou winter wind; and was a lover and his lass while Jaques’s speech “All the world's a stage” is perhaps the most often quoted from Shakespeare. But most of the play is in prose. The charm of the play lies in situation and incident, and in the happy exchange of wit rather than in an original approach to vocabulary. Much of the action is conducted in straightforward prose, a willing servant of the action. So in the first scene, Charles says to Oliver: I came to acquaint you with a matter. I am given, sir, secretly to understand that your younger brother Orlando hath a disposition to come in disguised against me to try a fall. Similarly in the second scene, Celia says to Rosalind, “You know my father hath no child but I, nor none is like to have: and truly, when he dies, thou shalt be his heir for what he hath taken from thy father perforce, I will render thee again in affection.”

      “There is charm in much of the prose which escapes easy definition. Rosalind speaks with a lightness and ease unparalleled by any of the earlier characters in Shakespeare’s comedy. It is as it here he has his reward for all the experiments in dramatic prose which he had pursued in the earlier comedies. Her speech is less formal than in the earlier comedies, and there is less to comment on, but it is there that its brilliance lies. Its touch is as light as a feather, witty and romantic.”

Prose used for (1) Conversation, (2) Comic Effect

      Verity thinks that prose in As You Like It is used firstly for parts where a conversational, rather than a tragic or poetical, effect is desired and secondly for comic scenes. The former use is so frequent in the play that it is not necessary to seek for examples. The transition, however, from prose to verse and verse to prose in the same scene should be noticed. Thus in the second scene of the play prose gives way to verse at the point where the action takes a more serious turn in the usurping Duke’s speech to Orlando (1. 2. 202), the romantic incident of Rosalind’s offering him the necklace, and Le Beau’s warning. Similarly in the third scene prose is used at the outset where the two girls are chatting together. But verse is used at the entering of the usurping Duke. The usurping Duke because he is a tragic character mostly speaks in verse.

      Touchstone’s role illustrates the use of prose for comic parts. He is the comic character of the piece, and his speech is exclusively in prose. Prose is also used for characters of humble position. Audrey speaks only in prose. She “does not know what poetical is.” Adani also speaks in prose.

Flexibility

      “The prose of As You Like It (1599), as Rosalind says of time ambles, trots, gallops and—rarely, to be sure - stands still.” It has great variety of movement. Prose, both at the court and in the Forest of Arden, is the normal mode of speech. Verse brings an unfamiliar and serious tone into the otherwise light-hearted play.

      The play opens with a prose speech by Orlando. The second scene opens with the witty prose conversation between Rosalind and Celia. In Act second, fourth scene, Rosalind, Celia and Touchstone have arrived at the forest, and joke in prose about the discomfort of their journey.

Prose is Nearer to Naturalness

      Rosalind’s and Jaque’s prose discussion of melancholy, at the beginning of Act TV, is broken by Orlando’s entrance. His one line of verse “Good day and happiness, dear Rosalind” elicits Jaque’s sarcasm “Nay then, Good b’wi’ you, as you talk in blank verse” indicates the education of prose with naturalness.

Pose Employed to Ridicule the Lover’s Folly

      As soon as Rosalind begins to read the verse letter, she punctuates it with waspish prose comments, and at last breaks out in prose tirade. The realism of prose is employed to criticize the lover’s folly. Rosalind, the heroine of the playas never comfortable in verse, a medium uncongenial to humor. She speaks in prose. And Orlando, who is the hero of the play, speaks in prose better than in verse.

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