Places: As You Like It

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1623

First produced: c. 1599-1600

Type of work: Drama

Type of plot: Comedy

Time of work: Middle Ages

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places Discussed*Arden Forest

*Arden As You Like ItForest. Arden, William Shakespeare’s mother’s maiden name, is also an actual forest north of Stratford. Shakespeare’s forest owes more to associations with Arcadia, the legendary home of pastoral poetry, and with the Garden of Eden than to reality. In this setting the banished Duke Senior and his band of followers find a world free from envy and flattery, where a man can weep for a wounded deer and there are “books in the running brooks” and “sermons in stones.” Separated from society, it is a region of freedom where the banished Rosalind can costume herself as a man and “teach” Orlando how to woo her, and the company of courtiers, exiles, shepherds, and even country bumpkins can mingle and interact with little regard for society’s strictures. It is a haven of song and laughter, of wit and wooing, of acceptance and forgiveness, seasoned only by halfhearted criticism, which vanishes with the multiple weddings in the last act.

Orchard of Oliver’s house

Orchard of Oliver’s house. Customarily a fruitful setting, the first scene of the play serves as an ironic background for the hatred of Oliver toward his younger brother Orlando.

Duke’s palace

Duke’s palace. Although not delineated physically by Shakespeare, the scenes in the palace show a dangerous court ruled by the tyrant Duke Frederick, who arbitrarily banishes his niece Rosalind and threatens both Orlando and Oliver. In this setting the palace paranoia contrasts pointedly with the relaxed harmony of the forest.

BibliographyHalio, Jay L., ed. Twentieth Century Interpretations of “As You Like It.” Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1968. Includes essays by Helen Gardner, John Russell Brown, Marco Mincoff (on Lodge’s Rosalynde as the source), and the editor (on time and timelessness in Arden). Also includes an introduction and bibliography.Jenkins, Harold. “As You Like It.” Shakespeare Survey 8 (1955): 40-51. Mainly concerned with the structure of the play, this essay notes the dearth of big theatrical scenes and causally linked events, which are replaced by a more complex design that emphasizes comic juxtapositions.Knowles, Richard. “Myth and Type in As You Like It.” English Literary History 33 (1966): 1-22. Discusses the many mythical allusions in As You Like It that make the literal action reverberate beyond itself. Hercules is the dominant mythological figure, whom by analogy Orlando resembles. Biblical overtones are also discussed.Leggatt, Alexander. Shakespeare’s Comedy of Love. London: Methuen, 1974. Leggatt shows how the forest scenes provide an imaginative freedom to explore ideas and play roles. Partisan laughter against any one character in the play is discouraged, for the audience is reminded of the partiality of any single perspective.Young, David. The Heart’s Forest: A Study of Shakespeare’s Pastoral Plays. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1972. Young reviews the pastoral tradition and its salient characteristics, so important in this play, and shows how Shakespeare explored and exploited the medium of pastoral drama in As You Like It and other plays, including The Winter’s Tale (c. 1610-1611) and The Tempest (1611). A deliberate self-consciousness, he says, pervades As You Like It, whose atmosphere of artifice and hypothesis is fostered by extensive use of “if,” and whose major theme is self-knowledge.
Categories: Places