Shakespeare's As You Like It The Many Flavors Of Love

1489 words - 6 pages

As You Like It:   The Many Flavors of Love        

As You Like It is remarkable among Shakespeare's plays for ending with four marriages, something of a record even among comedies. Love is a central theme of the play, although in some of its variations it cannot quite be said to be romantic! The love relationships may, at first glance, appear to be stock types: Rosalind and Orlando representing romantic hero-heroine love, Silvius and Phebe combining love in the lower classes with unrequited love, Audrey and Touchstone a darker attempt to seduce, and Celia and Oliver simple tying up of loose ends. However, Shakespeare makes the theme interesting not just through the sheer variety of relationships that he explores, but also through the unusual elements he brings to each.

            The Rosalind-Orlando relationship could be stock hero-heroine love, but for the interest Shakespeare adds by way of Rosalind's luminous character and the humor of Orlando encountering and being attracted to Rosalind in her guise as a "saucy lackey", Ganymede. The way in which they meet and fall in love is traditional -- Rosalind is won over by Orlando's manly labors and good looks at his wrestling match with Charles, and performs her feminine office of mercy by trying to dissuade him from what appears to be such a disastrous venture. It is true love at first sight, another traditional feature of such a romance. However, a new dimension is added by Rosalind's disguise as Ganymede and her suggestion that Orlando pretend to court her. Orlando's attraction to her in her boyish guise is unexpected and sends the audience into fits of laughter. His gradual progression from a brusque retort to Ganymede's cheeky question, "I pray you, what is't o'clock?" to interest, as indicated by his questions about who time trots, ambles, and gallops with, to attraction, as can be seen by his addressing Ganymede as "pretty youth", and sentences laden with innuendo, such as "Fair youth, I would I could make thee believe I love," and his eager agreement -- "Now by the faith of my love, I will" -- to pretend to woo Ganymede in Rosalind's place. Rosalind, on the other hand, charms the audience both with the depth of her true love for Orlando, which Shakespeare portrays both seriously and comically, and with the quickness of her wit and her sense of humor when dealing with Orlando. Rosalind abuses women with wit and vigor, calling them "fantastical, apish, shallow, inconstant", declares that lovers are madmen who should be whipped, and threatens to "laugh like a hyen" and "weep for nothing". Her lively intelligence and sense of humor add spice to her relationship with Orlando, as does the dramatic irony in their situation -- she gets several good laughs out of that, one of them being her answer to Orlando's question "But will my Rosalind do so?" -- "By my life, she will do as I do." However, in spite of her self-assurance before Orlando, the audience is in total sympathy with her,...

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