As You Like It Analysis

Table of Contents

Vivvianne van Adrichem The playBackground information:As You Like It is written by William Shakespeare. It’s a pastoral comedy believed to have been written in 1599, and first published in 1823 in the First Folio. The play’s first performance can’t be pinpointed exactly, since there were no exact records kept in Shakespeare’s time, but a performance at Wilton House in 1603 may very well be the first public appearance of this play.Shakespeare used a specific theme for each of his plays. His themes were often expressed by the use of opposing subjects, such as the conflicts associated with fair and foul in Macbeth. As You Like It is, of course, no exception to what one may call this Shakespearean Rule. The theme running through As You Like It is the tension and conflicts between the natural and the artificial. The natural being that which is free, spontaneous, and wholesome, and the artificial being what is forced, calculated, and unnatural. What theatre was like in Shakespearean times:Shakespeare was a writer in ‘Elizabethan England’, England during the reign of Queen Victoria I. During this time, many people couldn’t read or write, which was a fact Shakespeare would’ve been well aware of. The theatre was usually the only place the people in the audience would be exposed to high culture.Visiting a theatre and watching a play was very different then than it is now. Mainly because the expectations of how people behaved are unlike the way we’re expected to behave in a theatre nowadays. Theatregoers weren’t supposed to sit still and be silent while watching the play like modern audiences are. It was more like the old-fashioned equivalent of going to a concert, it was an experience you shared together, and often contained harsh and loud noises.The audience would eat, drink, and talk throughout the performance. Also, theatres were in the open air and used natural light. Most plays weren’t performed in the evening as they are nowadays, but in the afternoon or during the daylight.Plays back then used little décor and few, if any, props. Instead, writers and actors used language to describe the surroundings and set the scene most of the time.Short summary:Orlando’s running from his cruel brother Oliver who’s trying to kill him, and Rosalind is banished by the new Duke, her uncle Duke Fredrick. They met before at a wrestling match between Orlando and Charles (the court wrestler) and fell in love. They both end up in the Forest of Arden after their exile and escape, unaware the other is also hiding in the forest. Orlando is accompanied by his servant Adam and Rosalind by her cousin (the Duke’s daughter) Celia, and Touchstone (he’s a bit of a clown). Rosalind disguises herself as a man named Ganymede and Celia as his sister Aliena. Orlando and Adam are starving when they encounter Duke Senior (the former Duke and Rosalind’s father) who takes them in and finds out Orlando is the son of his old friend Sir Rowland. Rosalind and Celia overhear two shepherds, Corin and Silvius talking. Silvius is in love with Phebe, another shepherdess. Rosalind and Celia buy pastures and a herd from them and start to live as farmers. Touchstone spends a lot of time with Audrey (a country girl), who’s loved by William. She leaves William for Touchstone. Jaques (a melancholy nobleman of Duke Senior’s company), becomes fascinated by Touchstone and they spend a lot of time talking. Orlando leaves love messages in the forest for Rosalind, which she sees. Rosalind and Celia meet Orlando again. ‘Ganymede’ persuades Orlando to treat him like ‘Orlando’s Rosalind’ as practice for when Orlando sees her again. Duke Fredrick believes Celia and Rosalind have fled with Orlando and sends Oliver after his brother. Oliver is saved from a lion by Orlando, who hurts his arm in the process and the brothers reconcile. Oliver tells his story about the two girls and falls in love with Celia. Phebe has fallen for Ganymede, causing confusion until Rosalind reveals herself. Phebe agrees to marry Silvius, Rosalind reunites with her father and marries Orlando, Oliver marries Celia, and Touchstone marries Audrey. Jaques announces that Fredrick intended to invade the forest with an army but met a religious man on his way and is now leading a religious life. Jaques decided to join him. Duke Senior has his lands and crown restored.Longer summary: The sceneWhat the scene is about:The scene is Act 2 Scene 7 of the play. Before scene 7, the audience has only seen one scene with Jaques yet, Act 2 Scene 5. Before this scene, Jaques has been a mystery to the audience since the other characters have only spoken about Jaques as the man who cried over a suffering deer. Scene 7 is about Jaques who has met a fool in the forest and he’s very delighted because of the encounter. ‘’Why, how now, monsieur! what a life is this, that your poor friends must woo your company? What, you look merrily!’’ (Duke Senior when Jaques walks in after meeting the fool.)He finds the fool’s ponderings to be foolish, but is glad to find that fools are so contemplative. He then announces that he wants to be a fool as well so that he’ll have the freedom to say what he will to whomever he wants. Jaques is a sad, wise, and silent man, but gives voice and humour to his ponderings. To be free of the fear that these ponderings might be stupid, would be grand indeed. Jaques qualifies himself to be more than a judge of individual actions. He doesn’t judge one individual, because everyone has been foolish and sinful at one point or another. He seems to be set up as an objective judge of mankind’s fools. How the scene relates to the rest of the play:Because this is only the second scene Jaques appears in, you’re still getting to know Jaques a little bit better as a character on his own, instead of just through the words of other characters. Jaques’ character begins to become a more rounded character instead of a flat one because the scene describes the way Jaques thinks and how he is more of a philosopher and judge of character than just the man who cried over a deer. He also proceeds to call other characters he meets fools, Orlando: ‘’By my troth, I was seeking for a fool when I found you.’’ (Act 3 Scene 2)And also, Touchstone: ‘’A material fool!’’ (Act 3 Scene 3) ‘’Will you be married, motley?’’ (Act 3 Scene 3)How the main character is involved in action:The entire scene, the one I’m performing, is about Jaques declaring the fact that he has just met a fool (Orlando) in the forest with only a few sentences said by the other characters on stage, Duke Senior and First Lord. In this scene, Jaques is the centre of attention, using language to play on suspense, confusion, philosophy, and how he wishes to be like the fool he met. Some sentences in the text are more intense, and others hold a great deal of truth. He describes what his encounter with the fool in the forest was like. There’s not a lot of tension and action in this scene, more the peculiarity of Jaques’ words and how the other characters respond to him. Staging the scene:I don’t need any scenery whatsoever for the scene I’m performing since there’s no specific place mentioned in the entire script or the script in the scene except for ‘the forest’, so this scene could be performed anywhere without the use of décor. I would like to use a costume, since I am playing a man but am a woman, so the context of the scene becomes clearer. No props and sound are needed for this scene in my opinion because the language used in the script actually paints the scene rather than the use of props.The characterPersonal information:Jaques, one of the main characters in As You Like It, is also known as ‘Melancholy Jaques’ ‘’I am glad of your departure: adieu, good Monsieur Melancholy.’’‘’It will make you melancholy, Monsieur Jaques.’’ (Act 2 Scene 5)‘’I can suck melancholy out of a song, as a weasel sucks eggs.’’ (Act 2 Scene 5)He’s one of Duke Senior’s noblemen who lives with him in the Forest of Arden. Jaques’ most recognisable character trait is his cynicism. He’s the only purely contemplative character in all of Shakespeare. He thinks seldom and does next to nothing. He spends most, if not all, of his time amusing himself, especially his mind. He’s totally unaware of his good physique and fortunes. William Hazlitt, a famous critic and essayist, once described the character of Jaques as ‘’the prince of philosophical idler; his only passion is thought; he sets no value upon anything but as it serves as food for reflection.’’Chronologic history of the character’s life:Much of Jaques’ past is obscure in the play, but from his conversations with Rosalind, he shows that he lost all optimism while travelling the world.‘’The worst fault you have is to be in love.’’ (Act 3 Scene 2)‘’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,His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.And then the whining school-boy, with his satchelAnd shining morning face, creeping like snailUnwillingly to school. And then the lover,Sighing like furnace, with a woeful balladMade to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,Seeking the bubble reputationEven in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,In fair round belly with good capon lined,With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,Full of wise saws and modern instances;And so he plays his part. The sixth age shiftsInto the lean and slipper’d pantaloon,With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wideFor his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,Turning again toward childish treble, pipesAnd whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,That ends this strange eventful history,Is second childishness and mere oblivion,Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.’’ (Act 2 Scene 7)Whatever the source of his bitterness is, Jaques always places himself out of the group of happy characters in the Forest of Arden. This doesn’t give me much to go on, even if I would invent all information about him. I do, however, have a certain imagine in mind when I think about Jaques. He seems like a lonely child without any friends, though that doesn’t bother him. He focuses on the things he finds important in life, mainly philosophy and the personalities of people. He spends his time apart from everyone else, studying the people around him in detail while making mental calculations on whether they’re good people or not. As he grows up, he begins to understand human beings much more than he did before and I can see him being fascinated by one’s actions, words, and heart instead of just how they come across. Practical circumstances:Jaques doesn’t have a job in the play, but I can see him as a famous philosopher. His mind is complicated yet simple, and that intrigues the other characters and the audience. As for means of transport, this play was written in 1599 so I imagine him sitting on the back of a strong, black stallion. I also imagine him Outside world behaviour: Jaques needs to grow on you. The way other characters talk about him makes you think he’s a silly and mindless man, while he is in fact, very philosophical and there’s a lot of truth behind his words. He behaves quite strange towards the other characters, since he has more of an observing role than an acting one. His function in the play is to, in my opinion, add a sharp foil of wit for other characters, but also to create some shade in the sunny Forest of Arden. Jaques is like a reminder that in the real world, time cannot be manipulated, and grief, sorrow and death are a part of everyday life, providing a counterpoint to all joy.Purposes:Jaques gives me the idea that thinks he doesn’t deserve a happy ending. In the end of the play, Jaques joins Duke Fredrick on the path to a religious life. I think this is as much of a happy ending Jaques will get, living a peaceful life as a religious man, contemplating everything.