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.
the world's a stage