Welcome! To help teachers and educators as they prepare to teach As You Like It, I have started work on this blog.
The Ohio State University will tour a sixty-minute version of William Shakespeare’s As You Like It early in the spring semester 2014. This production plays with the concept of metatheatricality inherent in Jaques’ speech “All the world’s a stage/ And all the men and women merely players.” Most of the actors play multiple roles and actors remain on stage throughout the performance, miming the action of the performing actors, or in the case of the fool Touchstone, even stopping the action to explain difficult terms and concepts to younger audience members. Actors change costumes as they change roles onstage.
Likewise, the play’s setting begins with the familiar and moves toward the mythical. The play opens in a hierarchical world of rules and restraint—reimagined as a school gymnasium or basketball court, rather than the royal court—into a fantastical and highly stylized forest of Arden. Toward the end of the play, Hymen descends as a deus ex machina to marry the romantic couples, again highlighting that all the world is a stage, and a whimsical one at that.
The play, while one of Shakespeare’s comedies, anticipates the themes of Shakespeare’s last plays, the romances. Several of Shakespeare’s last works are romances that revolve around motifs of loss, recovery, reunion, and forgiveness. In As You Like It, the lovers Rosalind and Orlando find each other after they have lost almost everything else—family, home, and status—yet, by the end of the play, Rosalind is restored to her place as the ruling Duke’s daughter, and the disenfranchised Orlando is reunited with his brothers and married to an heiress.
At the beginning of the play, the royal court is a place of corruption; Duke Frederick has usurped his brother’s crown and Oliver plots against his younger brother’s life. Celia, in her selfless act of fleeing to the forest with Rosalind, and the elderly servant Adam, following Orlando and giving his life’s savings to his young master, both demonstrate that even in a fallen world, some people remain loyal and virtuous.
Arden, unlike the court, becomes the site for personal transformations. Combining elements of the Biblical Garden of Eden and the Classical pastoral Arcadia, this forest allows characters to grow up and learn about themselves and others. The treacherous brothers Frederick and Oliver are both redeemed after entering Arden; Celia grows into her own woman, no longer dependent on her cousin’s approval; and Orlando and Rosalind both learn about true, reciprocal love based on friendship, trust, and respect.
In this production, adapted for a younger audience, these themes are retained and even amplified by the condensed plot structure, the removal of subplots and minor characters, and especially the blurring of the real, mythical, and theatrical.
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PhD Candidate, English
Ohio State University Presidential Fellow
Dramaturg, As You Like It