Wit and Humour in The Play As You Like It

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Introduction

      Humour is the soul of comedy. Humour is the perception of the incongruous. There is a sense of proportion which marks sanity in our outlook. Anything contrary to the norm is incongruous, unexpected and amusing. It makes us laugh. Humour may lie in situations as well as in dialogue. Both kinds of humor are found in As You Like It. Let us see some examples.

Humour in the Play Caused by Situation

       The humor of situation is exploited by the disguise of Rosalind as a man and Celia as a rustic girl.

Phebe: Good shepherd, tell this youth what ’tis to love.
Sihdus: It is to be all made of sighs and tears;
And so am I for Phebe.
Phebe: And I for Ganymede.
Orlando: And I for Rosalind.
Rosalind: And I far no woman,
and again
Rosalind (To Phebe): You say, you'll many me, if I be yelling?
Phebe: That will I, should I die the hour after.

      Such situations caused by disguise are very much ludicrous and cause our laughter.

Humour caused by Dialogue: By witty Remarks

      The play As You Like It is nearer to wit than humor. The humor of the play lies in wit and witty conversation. When Touchstone swears by ‘mine honor’ Rosalind makes fun of him. But the fool again turns the joke against the ladies.

Rosalind: Where learned you that oath, fool?
Touchstone: Of a certain knight that swore by his honor they were good pancakes, and swore by his honor the mustard was naught; now I’ll stand to it, the pancake was naught, and the mustard was good.
Touchstone (to ladies): Stroke your chins, and swear by your beards that I am a knave.
Celia: By our beards, if w had them than art
Touchstone: By my knavery, if I had it, then I were: but if you swear by that is not, you are not forsworn.

      When Le Beau speaks in an affected tone, both the ladies make fun of him with the words that were led on which a trowel.’

Touchstone: And I mine. I remember, when I was in love, I broke my sword upon a stone, and bid him take that for coming a night to Jane Smile; and I remember the kissing of her batlet.

      And then we have the folly of Orlando’s love who is wanting verses on the praise of Rosalind on the barks of trees. When Touchstone and Corin engage in talk, they discuss the merits of town and country life. Touchstone mystifies Corin.

Touchstone: Truly, shepherd, in respect of itself in is a good life; but in respect that it is a shepherd's life, it is naught. In respect that it is solitary, I like it very well, but in respect that it is private, it is a very vile life.

      Rosalind pretends to know who it is who has been praising her in the poems and Celia answers her in witty way.

Rosalind: I prithee who?
Celia: O Lord, Lord! It is a hard matter for friends to meet; but mountains may be removed with earthquakes, and so encounter.

      Touchstone makes fun of Le Beau and says, “It is the first time that ever I heard that breaking of ribs was sport for ladies”. At time when Charles and Orlando are about to fight the following remark of Celia makes us laugh ‘I would I were invisible to catch the strong fellow-by the leg’.

      Touchstone befooled William by the following witty remark when he says that I have a ‘pretty wit’.

      “The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.” The sudden flowering of love between Oliver and Celia has been ridiculously explained by Rosalind.

      “There was never anything so sudden, but the fight of two rams, and Caesar’s thrasonical brag of “I came, and overcame.” That this love should have been compared with the fight of two rams is most funny. In the same manner, the love episode of Touchstone and Phebe also sounds funny. We laugh when we know that even before Touchstone has married Audrey, he thinks of divorcing her and he brings a bogus priest to celebrate their marriage so that he may later on easily divorce her. Even more ludicrous is the way in which Touchstone sends William about his business. Audrey has funny notions about marriage. She thinks that by marrying Touchstone she would become a woman of the world. Touchstone looks most funny when he plays upon the meaning of horns and thinks that his wife would bring them in dowry i.e. his wife would be unchaste and he himself would be a cuckold. He looks more funny in embracing a plain woman “a poor Virgin, sir, an ill-favored thing, sir, but mine own.” He looks ludicrous when he says, “I have undone three tailors.” And how funny and amusing is Phebe when she says to Silvius, “Now show the wound mine eye hath made in thee.”

      You Like It abounds in witty dialogue, practical jokes, horse - play, oddities, folly and amusement. It is rich in humor, especially in humor caused by wit.

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