As You Like It

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All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players.
They have their exits and their entrances;

And one man in his time plays many parts...
Jaques, 2.7

A comedy by William Shakespeare. Like many of his lighter plays, this one focuses on young love, comic misunderstandings, and good ol' fashioned cross-dressing.

Duke Senior has been usurped by his brother, Frederick. He flees to a paradise-like forest called "The Forest of Arden," along with some servants and friends. His daughter, Rosalind, stays behind; she is the best friend of Frederick's daughter, Celia, and so he tolerates her-- for a while. Orlando, a young nobleman, sees Rosalind and instantly falls in love, but his older brother, Oliver, casts him out of his home. He, too, flees to the forest.

Eventually, Frederick becomes agitated with Rosalind, and she escapes to the woods with Celia and the court clown, Touchstone. To protect themselves, they don disguises-- Celia dresses as a woman called Aliena, and Rosalind pretends to be a man named Ganymede. They meet up with the servants of the true Duke (including a very depressed and depressing man called Jaques), who takes them in.

The majority of the plot is spent on the romances. Orlando, still in love with Rosalind, hangs love notes for her on the trees in the woods. Rosalind, equally in love with Orlando but still disguised as a man, encourages him to pursue her. Phebe, a shepherdess, falls in love with Ganymede, and she in turn is loved by Silvius, a shepherd. Even Touchstone the Clown has a woman he's pursuing.

Eventually, due to a mixture of cunning plots and Deus Ex Machina, the tangled love triangles are sorted out and Oliver and Frederick mend their ways, returning power to their brothers. The play ends with four marriages, and everyone returns happily to the duchy-- except melancholy Jaques, who stays behind in the forest.


Tropes used in As You Like It include:
  • Adaptation Expansion: Of Thomas Lodge's novella Rosalynde, which contained the plot and most of the main characters, albeit with different names. Touchstone, Jaques and Audrey were all created by Shakespeare himself, as was the semi-subplot involving them.
  • Afraid of Blood: Rosalind passes out seeing a handkerchief with the wounded Orlando's blood on it.
    • Subverted in that she's not upset about the blood itself so much as the fact that it's her beloved Orlando's blood. This is lampshaded by Celia, who can't really explain the situation to Oliver because he still thinks Rosalind's a boy.

Oliver: Many will swoon when they do look on blood.
Celia: There is more in it.

Phebe: Sweet youth, I pray you, chide a year together;
I had rather hear you chide than this man woo.

  • Arcadia: The Forest of Arden. Ringing any bells?
    • Well, it's a real place in France. Known as the Ardennes nowadays.
    • There is also a Forest of Arden in England that was just outside Shakespeare's hometown of Stratford-on-Avon. In fact, Shakespeare's mother was born Mary Arden. Her family had taken their name from the forest. No doubt Shakespeare combined elements of all these for the play.
  • As You Know: One of the more famous examples. "As I remember, Adam..."
  • Attractive Bent Gender: Rosalind
  • Bifauxnen: Rosalind again. She gives Viola a run for her money.
  • Canon Foreigner: Jaques (who actually is a foreigner in the story), Touchstone and the characters in his subplot (Audrey, Oliver Mar-Text and William), and Amiens.
  • Comic Role Play: Orlando practice his declaration of love to Rosalind on Ganymede, who is (of course) Rosalind in disguise.
  • Genre Savvy: Rosalind is unimpressed when Orlando trots out Petrarchan cliches.
  • Deadpan Snarker: The melancholy Jacques gets a lot of lines befitting one of these, but the delivery (of course) depends on the actor.
    • Touchstone, too.
  • Death by Adaptation: Any production that implies Adam's death (such as the 1996 RSC production).
  • Deus Ex Machina: Oliver repents his ways and reunites with Orlando because Orlando saves him from a conveniently placed lion. Riiight.
    • Also, Fredrick just suddenly has a change of heart, goes religious, and gives the duchy back to the Duke? All offstage? Due to a previously unmentioned THIRD brother?
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Touchstone's threatened punishment to William for daring to like Audrey:

"...abandon the society of this female, or, clown, thou perishest; or, to thy better understanding, diest; or, to wit I kill thee, make thee away, translate thy life into death, thy liberty into bondage: I will deal in poison with thee, or in bastinado, or in steel; I will bandy with thee in faction; I will o'errun thee with policy; I will kill thee a hundred and fifty ways: therefore tremble and depart!"

Why, if thou never wast at court, thou never sawest good manners; if thou never sawest good manners, then thy manners must be wicked; and wickedness is sin, and sin is damnation. Thou art in a parlous state, shepherd.

  • Get Thee to a Nunnery: Touchstone's speech punning on "hour," which was pronounced a bit differently back in Shakespeare's day...
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: When Charles challenges Orlando, he calls for "this young gallant that is so desirous to lie with his mother earth". His phrasing makes it sound like he's looking for a young man eager to lie with his mother.
  • Ghibli Hills
  • Have a Gay Old Time
  • Heel Face Turn: Oliver and Frederick
    • Heel Faith Turn: Frederick (off-stage) decides to give up the duchy after talking to an old cleric and finding religion.
  • Heterosexual Life Partners: Rosalind and Celia.
  • The Jester: Touchstone. Lampshaded by Jaques when he reveals that he plans on becoming "a fool" as well--he'd love to be able to criticize everyone and everything without retribution!
  • Love At First Sight: A major theme.
    • Played straight with Oliver and Celia.
    • Toyed with when it comes to Rosalind and Orlando; they're both fairly smitten the first time they meet, but she feels the need to test the truth of his feelings with an elaborate deception.
    • Subverted with Phebe. She originally spurns Silvius and falls for "Ganymede" right away, but when it becomes obvious that isn't going to work, it's Silvius' unswerving devotion that wins the day.
  • Love Letter Lunacy: Hanging love notes on every tree in the forest.
  • Manly Tears: Apparently, Orlando and Oliver really turned on the waterworks after the latter's conversion:

When from the first to last betwixt us two
Tears our recountments had most kindly bathed...

  • Meaningful Name: Celia deliberately uses one of these as her alias ("Aliena" means "the estranged one"), as she wants her name to be "something that hath a reference to [her] state".
  • Men Don't Cry: Referenced several times by Celia and Rosalind. Rosalind's disguised as a man, so crying wouldn't "become" her.
  • Mistaken Identity
  • Morton's Fork: Touchstone's attempt to argue for unchastity.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Touchstone, in the finest tradition of Shakespeare's clowns.
  • Old Retainer: Adam (to Orlando)
  • One Steve Limit: Avoided-- Oliver the brother and Oliver the priest; melancholy Jaques and Orlando's brother Jaques.
  • Only Sane Man: Oliver Mar-text, the country priest, comes off this way, although he only has one appearance and very few lines. He provides the punchline at the end of the scene when he's all set to marry Touchstone and Audrey, but they decide to ditch him (on Jaques' advice) and exit the scene singing and dancing:

'Tis no matter. Ne'er a fantastical knave of them all shall flout me out of my calling.