What better way to finish off my reading goal than with Shakespeare? They say you’re supposed to save the best for last…but to be quite honest, I think I just procrastinated on this one because…well, you know, it’s Shakespeare. I know he’s the king of English literature, but that doesn’t mean his work is always the easiest thing for my 21st-century mind to break down and absorb.
Anyhow, for a quick breakdown on what’s going on in As You Like It (with the help of SparkNotes, thank you very much).
Oliver and Orlando, two noble brothers, are the sons of Sir Rowland, who has recently died. Oliver inherits his father’s estate but refuses to honor his father’s wishes concerning the welfare of Orlando. After Orlando beats a man in a wrestling match, he discovers that Oliver has devised a plot against him. He runs into the safety of the Ardenne Forest in an attempt to escape his brother’s ill-intentions toward him.
Meanwhile, another power struggle has gone sour. The Duke Senior has gained the upper hand over his brother, Duke Frederick, who has retreated from his brother’s kingdom. Out of the “goodness of his heart,” Duke Senior has allowed Duke Frederick’s daughter, Rosalind, to live with him and his own daughter, Celia. The two girls are as close as sisters and share everything with one another. Of course, nothing can go that smoothly in the beginning of a story without it turning sour rather quickly. Duke Senior gets his knickers in a knot and decides he doesn’t want Rosalind around anymore. He banishes her from his home, and Celia, who cannot bear to be apart from her, decides to go with her. The two girls decide they will seek refuge in the Ardenne Forest, but they realize it will not be wise for them to travel alone without a male to protect them. So, Rosalind decides to assume the disguise of a man in order to add a note of safety to the voyage.
As fate would have it, Orlando is in love with Rosalind, and the fair maiden is also in love with him, although she does not reveal this to him. And, guess who happens to run into one another in the forest? You guessed it.
Orlando cannot see through Rosalind’s disguise, but he quickly becomes friends with the “young man,” who attempts to help him with his love problems. The man-Rosalind tells Orlando that he will pretend to be the real-Rosalind to help him over his troubles. Orlando, bless his heart, has no clue what’s going on. He’s like a love-sick hound dog, and he doesn’t even know that the object of his affection is masquerading as a man masquerading as Rosalind. (Are you good and confused yet?)
I’ll not give the details to the ending away, but remember, this is a Shakespearean comedy. One of the trademarks of this type of play is the wedding scene. And, I’ll tell you this much, you’re going to need a 20 lb. bag of birdseed for all the matrimonial pledges going on in this play.
In case you got absolutely nothing out of my very poor rendition of Shakespeare-Synopsis, here’s a few famous quotes you may have heard that are in the text of As You Like It:
*”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.” (2.7.138-141)
*”Blow, blow, thou winter wind, Thou art not so unkind As man’s ingratitude.” (2.7.174-175)
*”Forever and a day.” (4.1.138)
This wasn’t my favorite of Shakespeare’s works, although I have a feeling I would appreciate it more if I did a more extensive study on it. Still, it has an entertaining plot. Just keep the SparkNotes handy.