Use of Similes in The Play As You Like It

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      With the setting and atmosphere emphasized over the plot of As You Like It, the play depends heavily on imagery, as well as on wordplay introducing that imagery. In her essay "Image Establishes Atmosphere and Background in the Comedies," Caroline F. E. Spurgeon notes that certain types of comparisons are especially prevalent. Topical similes are those referring to scenes or objects that would have been familiar to the London-based Elizabethan audience. Rosalind's declaration to Orlando that she would "weep for nothing, like Diana in the fountain" may be a reference to a fountain in the Cheapside district featuring a depiction of that goddess. Other topical similes in the text refer to the types of painted canvases that were hung on walls, the whipping treatment that madmen received, and the work of tavern employees. Sturgeorn notes that the prominence of such references reflects the fact that Shakespeare was writing for "a highly sophisticated town audience, which delights in bouts of sparkling wit.... is ever alive to double meanings, and is quick as lightning to seize on and laugh at a local or topical allusion."

      Similes mentioning animals are also found frequently in As You Like It, more than in any other Shakespearean comedy, further emphasizing the natural world. Orlando compares himself to a doe seeking her fawn; Jaques likens himself to a weasel and to a rooster, and Rosalind compares herself to a cock-pigeon. Fittingly, the character who seems to be most in touch with his animal instincts invokes the images of a number of creatures in explaining to Jaques his intent to marry: "As the ox hath his bow, sir, the horse his curb, and the falcon her bells, so man hath his desires; and as pigeons bill, so wedlock would be nibbling". Other natural objects and forces are likewise often brought to the spectators' attention. Orlando presents the image of a rotten tree; Touchstone that of fruit ripening and rotting, and Jaques that of rank weeds. Mention of the weather, too, serves to enhance the sense of being outdoors, such as when Hymen utters to Touchstone and Audrey, "You and you are sure together As the winter to foul weather".

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