As You Like It - William Shakespeare

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As You Like It - William Shakespeare

Play - ISBN: 0671722565

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60% positive

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Review of "As You Like It - William Shakespeare"

published 08/03/2004 | Kirsty1
Member since : 23/05/2002
Reviews : 165
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About me :
Living in a different country has really opened my eyes to what I can't live without...in my case I have been smuggling Marmite and cheddar cheese into Switzerland. I am now complete.
Super
Pro Easy to follow, charming, funny, daft...
Cons Can be a tad "hey nonny-nonny" for today's sophisticated tastes!
very helpful
Would you read it again?
Story
Characters
Readability
How does it compare to similar works?

" I Like It Well"

Lots of people think that they can’t go to see a Shakespeare play unless they know it inside out. It seems to be the perceived wisdom that to attempt to follow the action would just be too unlikely to succeed if you were to misguidedly just roll up and drop in on one of the plays. I tend to broadly agree with that view myself – Hamlet, Othello, Lear and others all have their “grand themes” and important imagery which might be lost on you if you didn’t know the text first.

However, that isn’t always the case.

The comedies are sometimes just funny you know…and easy to follow…and accessible…honestly!

I’ve read, or watched, or read AND watched most of the tragedies and comedies in my time (and assiduously avoided most of the histories…but that’s by the by!) Yet for some reason “As You Like It” had somehow escaped me…up until last summer that is.

Then I was lucky enough to get a perch (I really can’t bring myself to call them seats) at the Swan Theatre in Stratford to watch a wonderful interpretation under the direction of Gregory Thompson, with the beautiful Nina Sosanya in the lead role of Rosalind. You may recognise her name from TV appearances in Jonathan Creek, Prime Suspect II, The Bill and/or the recent film Love Actually.

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“As You Like It” is a simple tale in which we discover Duke Senior has been banished from court by his usurping brother Frederick and can be found living in harmony and happiness in the Forest of Arden with his faithful entourage.

His daughter Rosalind remains at court as friend and companion to her cousin Celia, daughter of the dastardly Frederick. When a stranger arrives in court to wrestle a far stronger man Rosalind falls head over heels in love…what she doesn’t know initially is that the stranger is no other than the son of Sir Rowland de Boys, Orlando. The late Sir Rowland was firm friends with Rosalind’s banished father…

Fredrick is beside himself with the young girl and sets her outside the court, even when her dear friend, and his daughter Celia vows to go with her rather than see her cast out alone. The girls are scared at the thought of entering the forest to find Duke Senior but know it is their only hope, so determine that their best chance is to dress as country folk, Celia as a girl called Aliena, and Rosalind as her brother Ganymede.

So there you have the basic comic twist: a beautiful, strong-minded, charming, sought after, and oh-so-eligible young lady, dressed up as a country boy! Now admittedly this is not a premise that would necessarily have us rolling in the aisles in the modern theatre but Shakespeare’s adoption of the trendy “pastoral tales” genre of the day does provide some genuine comedy. It is also worth a nod to Shakespeare that it wasn’t often his contemporaries chose to place a head-strong intelligent WOMAN as the central character in a play (even if it was probably a boy actor who had to take the part).

You can imagine that the young Orlando soon finds himself in the forest too, and will all but bump into “Ganymede” and quickly confess his love-sick musings are for the beautiful Rosalind he met at court…

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Yes, “As You Like It” is not a difficult play to follow: it is funny, albeit in a somewhat hey-nonny-nonny kind of way at times, and formulaic in the extreme. It was written by Shakespeare (probably in 1598 or 1599) to entertain the masses, pure and simple. So we have idiotic characters whose comedy plays on their very idiocy alone, we have tuneful merry-making in the forest, and at times bawdy sing-alongs: we have people falling in love with men they think are women and women they think are men…and guess what? All’s well that ends well, and end well it does.

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Outside the pure merry-making romantic comedy that is “As You Like It” there are some slightly grander themes – generally laid on with such a trowel that you would be hard pressed to miss them, first visit to the play or not! They are in no particular order:

Christian Values

Brotherly love, marital union, and the very enormity of life and of love are all played out to affirm the basic tenets of Christian values – in fact to the Elizabethan audiences of the day this was perhaps the quintessential play to underpin their optimism and faith. The “goodness” of the banished Duke and the abiding resoluteness of Rosalind and Celia all contribute to this positive world view.

Optimism

Rosalind is the epitomy of an optimistic outlook, and be in no doubt that goodness and love will ultimately win the day. Almost every character will fall into either an optimistic or pessimistic camp, and one can see the role of Jaques (he of the famous “Every world’s a stage….” speech) cast in direct opposition to Rosalind. Hard-bitten, cynical and lost: Jaques is a victim of his own jest, and more a representation of a viewpoint than he is a character!

The Love Story

It may be farcical in places, the plot may be simplistic and too inclined to tie up loose ends without too much forethought, but never forget that “As You Like It” is a beautiful, soppy, romantic affair which I hope would touch everybody’s heart at least a little.

That Forest…

Finally no review of “As You Like It” can fail to mention that marvellous Forest of Arden….a magical place which symbolises truth and purity. Where corruption will be played out in the court, nothing evil can penetrate the leafy bowers of the greenest forest of the kingdom…nature breaths a compelling sanctity on all the action that takes place within her arms, and truth and love can trust her rustling leaves to tell no secrets…

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As for the particular RSC version that I saw, well, certain conceits stood out a mile. In particular, the love struck Orlando famously fills the trees branches with love notes to Rosalind at one stage – this is always one of the trickiest moments for the props man, so I thought it was an act of absolute genius to have every actor suddenly charge on stage and start over-acting “tree” reminiscent of the worst am-dram theatre groups!

I also take my hat off to a similar device which saw the equally tricky moment in which a herd of sheep takes centre stage to be comically over-played again by every member of the cast – thoroughly hammed up “sheep” was truly hilarious and had every member of the audience in stitches!

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So overall I say enjoy this play for what it is, a romp, a bit of fun, a silly nonsense and a soppy romance. Sure it is no where near one of Shakespeare’s best plays – it doesn’t even try to be. It was entertaining to the masses in the late sixteen century and much of that comedy is still worthy of a viewing today. There is nothing to be stuffy or concerned about here. It is a romantic comedy that also lifts the heart as good romantic comedies still do today, and perhaps most importantly it is easy to understand, accessible to view and entertaining to watch.


Do you think I liked it? Well yes, I liked it well.

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Comments on this review

  • jesi published 13/05/2004
    I can't believe I never rated this - now you know how far behind I am with my alerts - I decide to go to the beginning and work my way back up through - at home I catch them as they come in (on MSN Messenger e-mail alerts) so eventually I may meet myself in the middle... I saw Twelfth Night in Stratford-upon-Avon by RSC in 1974 (12th Sept) - and they were a splendid troupe then also. ~~~~{:-)-{{:::::|||||<
  • mr-zeeman published 11/04/2004
    Marvellous review dahling. Love the idea of the cast being able to do trees and sheep! We've had some very shabby Shakepeare here in Southport ... more than most things I think Shakie has to be done well to be appreciated. Cheers, mr-z x
  • richardsonjones published 08/04/2004
    great and balanced review, I like many of shakespeare's works (Othello is my fave!) but have never read/seen this one!
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Product Information : As You Like It - William Shakespeare

Manufacturer's product description

Play - ISBN: 0671722565

Product Details

Type: Play

Title: As You Like It

Author: William Shakespeare

ISBN: 0671722565

EAN: 9780671722562

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Listed on Ciao since: 03/03/2001