The main themes of “As You Like It” are the pastoral ideal and theideal of romantic love. Forest of Aden is the primary setting where these themesdevelop. Nature serves as a refuge from society where we can find solutions toinjustice and unhappiness. This play is a comedy and thus has a happy ending butit is not a fairy tail.
Shakespeare highlights the difference between realityand illusion. Rosalind embodies the sensibility, the humor and the kind of lovethat leads to a happy, harmonious living. She brings the plot to a resolutionwhen four contrasting romances end in marriage. The focus of the play is herromance with Orlando. Rosalind wants to find a lover without losing her sense ofself in the process.
Rosalind answers the questions about love, which ariseduring the play. She is a lovesick maiden and yet she remains an intelligent,witty, and strong character. Rosalind is also a good judge of character. Shesees through Jaque’s seemingly deep thoughts and recognizes the wisdom of clownTouchstone. Furthermore, she cleverly uses her disguise to get to know Orlandoand educate him about love. The meeting of Orlando and Rosalind is the mostimportant event in Act 1 of the play; it is love at first sight.
Celia and hercousin talk about falling in love just before the wrestling match. Fromhenceforth I will, coz, and devise sports. Let me see, what think you of fallingin love? Her words indicate that Rosalind is ready to face the danger of fallingin love. She infers that her father would approve of Orlando because her fatherapproved of his father Sir Rowland. Their meeting reveals a vulnerable side ofthe Rosalind as she gives him a chain, says, “Gentleman, wear this forme” and waits for him to continue the conversation.
In Act Shakespearedraws parallels between Rosalind’s relationship with Celia and Orlando’srelationship with Adam. When Duke Fredrick banishes his niece from the court,Celia makes a quick decision to go to the Forest of Aden with her cousin and tolook for her uncle. This illustrates the degree if love and loyalty betweenthem. Orlando’s elder brother Oliver denies him education.
When Orlando isleaving for the forest Adam wants to go with him to serve and protect him. Master, go on, and I will follow thee To the last gasp with truth and loyalty. . . Yet fortune cannot recompense me better Than to die well and not my master’sdebtor.
(2. 4. 70-75) Soon after entering the Forest of Arden Rosalind discoverslove poems that Orlando hang on the trees. She loses self-control as she readsthem one after another. When she finds out that Celia has seen Orlando she isvery excited and cannot stop asking her questions, “What did he when youthou saw’st him? What said he? How looked he. .
. ” (3. 2. 218-20) For a briefperiod of time, she becomes a victim of infatuation like those she scorns. Sheis betrayed by something she feels and finds it difficult to admit the truth inlove. Shakespeare thus illustrates that she is not ideal, that she has flawslike all other human being.
Rosalind’s clever idea to dress up as Ganymedeenables her to have a double identity, which will give her the opportunity totest Orlando’s love. Her disguise probably prevents their immediate marriage. “I will speak to him like a saucy lackey and under that habit play theknave with him. ” (3. 2. 292-93) She does not however merely play games,Rosalind she teaches Orlando how to love her.
He must keep his promises andrespect her thereby proving that his love is real. She takes a cynical view ofromantic love to tease Orlando. Rosalind begins to tire of acting after themomentary drop of her guise when she faints at seeing Orlando’s bloodyhandkerchief. When Orlando proves himself to Ganymede and saves the life of hisbrother Rosalind is ready to make a commitment to him. She does not dispose ofher disguise until then because she realizes that only time will show if theyare really in love.
Time refines their passion for one another. Rosalind is aphilosopher Rosalind like Jaque. Her practical love-filled perceptions of theworld contrast with his cynical views. Jaque likes to disagree with everyoneelse. Both Orlando and Rosalind challenge his ideas. In the third act Jaquetried to persuade Orlando that loving Rosalind is not worth his while.
Jaque. “The worst fault you have is to be in love. ” Orlando. “‘Tis afault I will not change for your best virtue. I am weary of you. ” (3.
2. 279-82) Rosalind tells Jaque that he is sad and melancholy because he chooses tostay detached from the real life she says: “Fear you have sold your ownlands to see other men’s. . . I had rather fool to make me merry than experienceto make me sad.
” Thus Jaque loses in this brief exchange. Touchstone is thefool whom Rosalind would prefer to Jaque. She understands his wisdom: “Youspeak’st wiser than thou art ware of. ” Touchstone tells her a story aboutbeing in love with a girl. He gave the girl something and said “wear thesefor my sake”, which are almost the same words that Rosalind said to Orlandoin the beginning of the play.
The love between Orlando and Rosalind is portrayedas superior to other romances, which are more earthy. Touchstone and Audrey’sromance represents physical passion. He wants to marry her out of church so thatthe marriage would be invalid. Silvius who is hopelessly in love with Pheobe,represents pastoral love The diversity of characters’ romantic sentiment createsa balance in the play and makes one appreciate their silliness, spirituality andextremities. Compared to Silvius’ silly infatuation, Orlando’s is more of acourtly lovesickness.
Rosalind outshines everyone else in the play with herintelligence, wit and depth of feeling. Her humanity and sense of fun make herthe ideal romantic heroine. She seems to be centuries ahead of her time. She isa woman who is absolutely the master of her own destiny and she remains incontrol most of the time. Shakespeare has created an almost ideal heroine whobrings the play to its conclusion.