As You Like It: by Shakespeare - Summary

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      As You Like It, a comedy by William Shakespeare, published in the First Folio of 1623. The source is Thomas Lodge’s Rosalynde.

      Oliver de Boys has deprived his younger brother, Orlando, of his birthright, and plans to have him killed by tempting him into a match with the champion wrestler of the ducal court. At the court Orlando meets Rosalind, daughter of the deposed duke, and her cousin and friend Celia, daughter of the usurping duke. Orlando wins his bout and Rosalind falls in love with him; but their love is hopeless in Duke Frederick’s unjust court. Orlando flies to the Forest of Arden. Rosalind is banished by the duke. She decides to disguise herself as a boy (Ganymede) and Celia leaves with her, in the role of Ganymede’s sister, Aliena. Together with the court fool, Touchstone, they, like Orlando, reach the Forest of Arden.

      The forest is also the refuge, of the banished duke, whose court in exile includes the “solitary and wryly speculative Jaques. Orlando is welcomed by the duke and the unexpected comfort gives him leisure to write love poems for his lost Rosalind and post them on trees. Rosalind and Celia find them, and Rosalind uses her male disguise as a pretext for gently testing Orlando’s love. She is disturbed to find herself as Ganymede loved by the pastoral Phebe.

      The forest idyll is threatened when Duke Frederick sends Oliver to track down his brother; but Oliver undergoes a change of heart, is saved from death by Orlando and falls in love with Celia. In a joyful scene, Rosalind oversees the matching of Celia and Oliver, Phebe and her equally pastoral lover Silvius, Touchstone and his wench Audrey, and Orlando and herself. Duke Frederick, suddenly repentant, restores his banished brother to the dukedom and himself takes refuge from the world, accompanied by Jaques.

      As You Like It, despite the subtlety of its construction, acknowledges the more primitive pull of fertility rituals and folk festivities. The release from the pressures and constraints of the court brings to all its leading characters a new understanding of their true priorities. However improbable its incidents may seem on a purely narrative level, the harmony of their outcome is profoundly satisfying. As You Like It is the most charitable of Shakespeare’s mature comedies.

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