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As You Like It


The cruel and arrogant Oliver de Boys has deprived his younger brother Orlando of his birthright, and plots to have him killed by the champion wrestler of the ducal court. At the court, Orlando meets Rosalind, daughter of the deposed Duke Senior, and her beloved cousin Celia, the usurping Duke Frederick’s child. Against the odds, Orlando wins his bout and Rosalind’s heart simultaneously; but their love is hopeless in the unjust atmosphere of Duke Frederick’s court. While Orlando flies to the Forest of Arden with his faithful servant Adam, Rosalind is banished by her paranoid uncle. She decides to disguise herself as a boy (Ganymede) to protect herself and Celia, who leaves with her, in the role of Ganymede’s sister, Aliena. Together with the court jester, Touchstone, they too reach the Forest of Arden, and safety.

Arden is also the refuge of Duke Senior, whose court in exile includes the melancholy and wryly speculative Jaques. Orlando is welcomed by the duke and the unexpected comfort gives him time and leisure to write love poems for his seemingly lost Rosalind, and post them on trees throughout the forest. Rosalind and Celia find them, and the former princess uses her male disguise as a pretext for gently teasing and testing Orlando’s love. At the same time, however, she inadvertently causes Phebe – a shepherdess being pursued by the lovelorn shepherd Silvius – to fall in love with her persona as Ganymede!

This sylvan idyll is threatened when Duke Frederick sends Oliver to track down his brother; but Oliver undergoes a miraculous change of heart, is rescued from death by Orlando, and falls in love with Celia. In a joyful scene of resolution and reconciliation, Rosalind and the marriage god Hymen oversee the matching of Celia and Oliver, Phebe and Silvius, Touchstone and his country wench Audrey, and Orlando and herself. Duke Frederick, suddenly religious and repentant, restores his banished brother to the dukedom, and – accompanied by Jaques – takes refuge from the vicissitudes of the world.

As You Like It is perhaps Shakespeare’s sunniest comedy, but there are patches of shade amidst the love-drenched brightness. Political corruption, fraternal rivalry and melancholy all serve as thematic counterpoints to Shakespeare’s investigation of how release from the constraints of court, city, and even gender can permit a profound development of the self. Despite the improbability of much of the play’s narrative, in the Arcadian beauty of Arden, we finally see love and nature fuse in a deeply satisfying act of harmony.

All the world's a stage


Zahra Browne (Phebe) and Martha Swann (Rosalind)

Click here for Henry V synopsis

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