SHAKESPEARE: As You Like It

William Shakespeare’s As You Like It was first performed in 1603. It is one of Shakespeare’s most famous comedies. It tells the story of the amusing courtship and eventual marriage of Rosalind, the daughter of the Duke, and Orlando, the son of a Knight. Although the play is a comedy, Shakespeare explores many serious philosophical themes, such as those of love and pastoral life.

In regards to love, the play emphatically asserts that love springs from physical attraction, which is often established at first sight. The two main couples of the play – Rosalind and Orlando, and Celia and Oliver – fall in love at first sight, and one character muses, “Who ever loved that loved not at first sight?”

A man cannot help being attracted to a particular person. He either is or is not attracted to her. A man’s sexual preference depends upon his genetics and the cultural milieu in which he was raised. Love, then, is like a madness or disease that is passively caught, not actively earned. As it is passively caught, so too is it passively lost. Rosalind warns Orlando of this fickleness of love, “Men are April when they woo, December when they wed: maids are May when they are maids, but the sky changes when they are wives.”

Besides the theme of love, the theme of pastoral life is prominent in the play. While exiled in the Forest of Arden, the Duke comments upon the boons he has gained and the problems he has lost during his banishment,

“Hath not old custom made this life more sweet
Than that of painted pomp? Are not these woods
More free from peril than the envious court?
Here feel we but the penalty of Adam,
The seasons’ difference; as, the icy fang
And churlish chiding of the winter’s wind,
Which, when it bites and blows upon my body,
Even till I shrink with cold, I smile and say,
‘This is no flattery: these are counsellors
That feelingly persuade me what I am.’
Sweet are the uses of adversity,
Which like the toad, ugly and venomous,
Wears yet a precious jewel in his head;
And this our life exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in every thing.
I would not change it.”

The Duke prefers the life of an exile in the woods over the life of a Duke in the city. This is high praise of simple country-living and stern condemnation of ambitious city-living. In the city, there are flatterers, deceivers, and liars; there are illusions and falsehoods. In the country-side, on the other hand, there is truth, rough as it may be. Nature does not flatter; it will show you your limits and tell you who you truly are.

Quotes:

Those that she (Fortune) makes fair, she scarce makes honest; and those that she makes honest, she makes very ill-favouredly.

Beauty provoketh thieves sooner than gold.

Now, my co-mates and brothers in exile,
Hath not old custom made this life more sweet
Than that of painted pomp? Are not these woods
More free from peril than the envious court?
Here feel we but the penalty of Adam,
The seasons’ difference; as, the icy fang
And churlish chiding of the winter’s wind,
Which, when it bites and blows upon my body,
Even till I shrink with cold, I smile and say,
‘This is no flattery: these are counsellors
That feelingly persuade me what I am.’
Sweet are the uses of adversity,
Which like the toad, ugly and venomous,
Wears yet a precious jewel in his head;
And this our life exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in every thing.
I would not change it.

O, good old man, how well in thee appears
The constant service of the antique world,
When service sweat for duty, not for meed!
Thou art not for the fashion of these times,
Where none will sweat but for promotion.

If thou remember’st not the slightest folly
That ever love did make thee run into,
Thou hast not lov’d.

Motley’s the only wear.

If ladies be but young and fair,
They have the gift to know 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,
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 satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made 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 reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lin’d,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper’d pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well sav’d, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And 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.

Sir, I am a true laborer: I earn that I eat, get that I wear, owe no man hate, envy no man’s happiness, glad of other men’s good, content with my harm: and the greatest of my pride is, to see my ewes graze, and my lambs suck.

By no means, sir. Time travels in diverse paces with diverse persons. I’ll tell you who time ambles withal, who time trots withal, who time gallops withal, and who he stands still withal.

Marry, he trots hard with a young maid between the contract of her marriage and the day it is solemnized. If the interim be but a se’nnight, time’s pace is so hard that it seems the length of seven year.

With a priest that lacks Latin and a rich man that hath not the gout, for the one sleeps easily because he cannot study and the other lives merrily because he feels no pain—the one lacking the burden of lean and wasteful learning, the other knowing no burden of heavy tedious penury. These time ambles withal.

(Time gallops) With a thief to the gallows, for though he go as softly as foot can fall, he thinks himself too soon there.

(Time stands still) With lawyers in the vacation, for they sleep between term and term, and then they perceive not how time moves.

Sell while you can; you are not for all markets.

Who ever lov’d, that lov’d not at first sight?

I had rather have a fool to make me merry than experience to make me sad.

Men have died from time to time, and worms have eaten them, but not for love.

Can one desire too much of a good thing?

Men are April when they woo, December when they wed: maids are May when they are maids, but the sky changes when they are wives.

The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.

No sooner met, but they looked; no sooner looked, but they loved; no sooner loved, but they sighed; no sooner sighed, but they asked one another the reason; no sooner knew the reason but they sought the remedy.

How bitter a thing it is to look into happiness through another man’s eyes!

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