As You Like It

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As You Like It

2006 | 467 Pages | ISBN: 1904271219 | PDF | 9 MB

Out of all the great Shakespeare’s plays, “As You Like It” is undoubtedly… the fluffiest. This is cotton candy. Fortunately, cotton candy isn’t too bad as long as you don’t eat too much of it. And while the ending is excessively tidy, “As You Like It” is a charming little play with the full array of Shakespearean tropes — transvestitism, love triangles, and mass confusion. Backstory: The cruel Duke has deposed his far nicer brother, and the ex-Duke has run off into the Forest of Arden. At the same time, a young man named Orlando has been cast out by his cruel brother Oliver. Then the Duke decides to exile his niece Rosalind, despite the pleas of his daughter Celia. So Rosalind (disguised as a boy), Celia and the jester Touchstone run away into the Forest of Arden the following night, and soon encounter the exiled Duke and his followers. So does Orlando and his faithful servant Adam. Because of a previous meeting, Rosalind and Orlando are already in love. But not only does he not recognize her, but because she’s disguised as a boy she’s attracted the amorous intentions of a local shepherdess. And to make matters even more complex, Touchstone is in a love triangle of his own, and Oliver has stumbled into Arden as well. Is everything going to end well? The biggest problem with “As You Like It” is the fact that the ending is just a little too tidy — while it’s plausible that the romantic tangles would be smoothed out, there’s an conveniently-timed twist that stretches believability to the point of snapping. Fortunately, the rest of it is a pleasantly fluffy little story filled with Shakespeare’s sparkliest, sunniest storytelling. Shakespeare’s plot floats along in a heady cloud of sunlit forests, poems pinned to trees and languid outlaws who hang around singing all day. His lines are filled with clever, sometimes bawdy jokes (“praised be the gods for thy foulness! sluttishness may come hereafter”) and some nicely evocative imagery (“Between the pale complexion of true love/And the red glow of scorn and proud disdain”). The funniest parts involve the love quadrangle between Rosalind, Phebe, Orlando and Silvius, as well as Orlando’s wretched poetry and Touchstone’s mockery of them (“Winter garments must be lined,/So must slender Rosalind”). And it has a likable cast of characters, most of whom are amiable and likable (although I’m still not sure why Orlando and the ex-Duke don’t recognize Rosalind!). Celia and Rosalind are fun and sprightly heroines, Orlando is an endearing underdog (if a rotten poet), and there’s also the sharp-tongued Touchstone, dour Jacques, and the rather beyotchy Phebe. “As You Like It” is a puffy little wisp of a play, compared to Shakespeare’s other works — but it’s still a nice little romantic diversion. Think of it as an Elizabethan romantic comedy.

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