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    Review and history of Shakespeare’s play ‘As You Like It’ Essay

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    In the aforementioned play Oliver is dressed in rich bright colours (thus creating a sense of prosperity which is predominant at court) and initially appears controlled yet forceful, reflecting the manner in which one is expected to behave at court. Oliver also appears rather rotund and physically unfit, which may contribute towards his poor fighting skills, as referred to by Orlando in line 43 of act one, scene one- “You are too young in this”. Also, Oliver originally strikes Orlando thus betraying his aggressive nature, which is also typical of the court.

    However, it may be difficult to draw parallels between the court and Oliver in terms of the orchard where the first scene is set. The orchard is in no way unnatural and the sounds of birdsong can be heard in the background as Oliver and Orlando converse, which is in no way typical of the image of the court as cruel and unnatural. Even so Shakespeare’s stage directions do state that this scene is set in the orchard and consequently this interpretation cannot be viewed as being untrue to the text. However, the court scene is set during cold weather in a snow storm, which reflects Oliver’s and the courts cruel nature.

    In contrast to Oliver, Orlando wears darker, shabbier clothing, thus reflecting the shabbier, simpler state of the forest, which is true to the text. Also, Orlando’s emotional and subservient state is reflected as he chops wood and weeps in the orchard of the court. This action is also true to the text as it reflects the unjust manner in which Oliver treats his sibling- “this servitude”. It can also be said that, like Orlando’s emotions, the forest is natural and held in lower esteem than the court. This interpretation also begins with the same speech as in the text (“As I remember, Adam….

    “) and does not cut any of the dialogue out, thus showing to a greater extent how Orlando can be seen to be similar to the forest. Of course, it can also be said that the contrast between the court and the forest can be represented by the two pairs of brothers in other key points of the play. In act two, scene one Senior can be seen to represent the forest as the forest is described as being, “More free from peril than the envious court” and allows people to live freely without social restraints, as Senior does and as he lives himself.

    If Amiens song about the forest is to be believed (“No enemy but winter and rough weather”, act two, scene five), then Senior again represents the forest as he and his followers have no enemy within the forest bar the weather. In addition, Senior experiences natural problems in the forest, such as intemperate weather conditions, as the forest is not perfect (much like himself) but its flaws are entirely natural. In the Christine Edzard interpretation of the play this particular scene is depicted as being windy (which is true to the text- “The churlish chiding of the winters wind”) but Arden is located in an urban wasteland.

    Therefore, the lessons that the forest teaches one, “Brooks in the running brooks”, cannot be properly depicted as there are no rivers. However, in the BBC adaptation the camera focuses on a stream whilst this line is being spoken and in doing so effectively emphasises the natural state of the forest. Also, in the RSC , Christine Edzard and BBC adaptations of the text, Senior wears simple clothing to reflect his exiled state and the simplicity of Arden.

    In the BBC adaptation, the forest also appears to be tranquil and natural, as is Senior. In short, Senior represents nature, whilst his younger sibling Frederick represents fortune. Fredericks evil nature is also shown by his intent to put his brother “to the sword”. Frederick’s evil nature is also depicted in the BBC interpretation of the text in the wrestling match- the wrestling is drawn out, focuses on Orlando and Charles and the audiences shocked reaction to events, showing the barbarity of the court.

    However, in the Edzard interpretation of the text the actual wrestling match is not shown, merely the audiences reaction which does not fully capture the brutality of the court (and indeed Senior). Even so, the text only states “They wrestle” which is open to interpretation. However, it is apparent that the character of Frederick has a “Rough and envious disposition” (act one, scene two) as he banishes Rosalind from court due to the fact that he believes his daughter Celia to be in direct competition with her.

    Fredericks expulsion of Rosalind from court also shows that he is “Humorous”, as is the court. Even so, the forest does exert a beneficial influence on Frederick and converts him, showing how evil can be converted to good- “Converted both from his enterprises and from the world”. Similarly, the contrast between the court and the forest can also be represented by Olivers conversion from bad to good, from experiencing unnatural feelings to natural feelings upon his entry to Arden- “My conversion so sweetly tastes, being the thing I am”.

    Arden is also presented as a magical, good, mythical place in the RSC production, in which actors play trees and sheep, thus conforming to the pastoral tradition and consequently making the forest appear to be a good place. Similarly, Orlando represents the forest as it is governed by natural elements, particularly in Christine Edzards version of the text where Arden appears to be cold and windy (and smoke is billowing from a fire) and Orlando is also governed by his natural emotions and feelings.

    However, the court and the country are barely distinguishable in this as both are set in urban areas, thus making this a challenging interpretation at best. Also, in contrast to Amiens song about false friendship and ingratitude- “Thou art not so unkind as mans ingratitude”- Orlando only ever displays gratitude towards the Duke and true friendship towards the elderly Adam. This inherent good nature and display of genuine affection is comparable to the good nature of the forest.

    Finally, the conversation between Touchstone and Corin regarding court life versus country life in act three, scene three describes how the court dwellers mock the country dwellers, as Oliver mocks Orlando- “Behaviour of the country is mockable at court”. In short, the contrast between the court and the forest can be represented by the two pairs of brothers in both act one, scene one and the play as a whole.

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