As You Like It As You Like It question

Why Did Shakespeare Write "As You Like It" ?
Christa Christa Nov 01, 2011 10:53PM
I'm taking a class on the works of Shakespeare where I respond to the text through blog posts. I've done some searching around in my attempts to answer this question, and I wrote a few posts already on the subject of what I think the answer is. However, I'd like to see what others think. . .So let me know !

Here is the condensed version of what I came up with. To read the full posts (warning, they're pretty long) go to

To try to find an answer to this question, I asked several more specific questions, and went through point-by-point answering those. As I read, I wondered:

1. What's up with the whole "love at first sight" thing? It's so unrealistic.

2. Why is Rosalind so often portrayed as being, quite obviously, a woman? Did Shakespeare intend for it to be obvious for the purposes of building their relationship, or did he intend her disguise to be believable in order to play up the themes of homosexuality?

3. Why are there all these references to cuckoldry mixed in? What is Shakespeare trying to say about women and marriage?

Remember this is just a condensed version of what I came up with, so here are the answers I came up with, just without the explanation of how I came up with them:

1. I've decided that Rosalind's and Orlando's relationship had a little more time to blossom than I gave it credit for before. Yes, they're a little hasty to get married, but time must be taken into consideration. Rosalind's time as Ganymede was really her way of testing his faithfulness, and of giving him a reality check into what was to come in a relationship.
Oliver and Celia also have the sort of Disney fairytale love-at-first-sight experience, followed by the oh-hey-we-just-met-let's-get-married bit. This still bothered me. . .but maybe its meant to contrast the relationship between Orlando and Rosalind. Their relationship is also contrasted by Silvius and Phebe, whereas Silvius is really more in love with being a lover than he is with the foul Phoebe. And then there's Audrey and Touchstone, where there relationship is pretty much based on lust. I think if this story were to continue on into their married lives Rosalind/Orlando's marriage would be the last one standing.

2. In all the versions that I've seen, it's pretty clear that Ganymede is really Rosalind making a pretty poor attempt at looking like "man," or at least that Orlando could have figured it out. I found it particularly interesting when Kenneth Branagh made this choice in his 2006 film adaption; Branagh is no stranger to Shakespeare, and he's a smart guy, so I don't think he did that for nothing. There's also a few references in the reading that make me believe Shakespeare might have intended it that way. It's possible Shakespeare was open to having it being interpreted the other way, where Orlando really believes Ganymede is a boy so as to further the themes of the "different kinds of love" and the homosexual interests going on . . . but that's just another interpretation. That's the great thing about Shakespeare I guess, it's flexible enough that you could go completely different directions with the same text.

3. Let me start out by saying that there really were TONS. And we're talking about extended metaphors where Shakespeare is like I'm-totally-talking-about-cuckoldry-so-pay-attention. I think this goes back to what I was saying before about the differences between the couples and how some of the more artificial relationships seemed doomed to fail. In one of the references I found to cuckoldry, Touchstone is so ready to marry to fulfill his lustful desires, that he flat out accepts that Audrey will cheat on him, and thinks that this is better than being a bachelor.Rosalind, who did not want to accept this, then used her front as Ganymede to test Orlando ahead of time, and to give him a reality check about marriage.

I don't have time to go through the rest of my analysis, but the one-sentence answer I found to the question "Why did Shakespeare write this?" was this:

As a way of showing his audience that we all have our "masks." Our behavior might change in different settings or with different people. What matters is how we use them.

This might seem somewhat disjointed with the other answers, its just because it's been taken out of context with the blog post (you can read the full analysis here: )
But I'd really like to know what you think on the subject. . .let me know!

I think Shakespeare adored women and was fascinated by the way their minds worked, personally. I always get the impression he is complimenting them rather than making them seem silly, as it first seems in many of his works.

Rosalind's cross-dressing adventure is not as revolutionary as we would think. Many women who were left to their own devices and had to travel would disguise themselves as men to avoid trouble in those days.

The men playing women idea is very true. Although, a castrato would likely have been chosen and would have been very effeminate on stage to show he was really a woman dressed as a man. (Sounds like Victor/Victoria...a man, playing a woman, playing a man? haha!) The fact that Orlando can't tell it's Rosalind makes me think Shakespeare thinks men in love are pretty unobservant of things around them and played it up quite a bit.

As for love at first sight, well, that's the stuff romance is made of, so he used it often. We can only be thankful it turned out better for Rosalind and Orlando than it did for Romeo and Juliet.

This and Midsummer's Night Dream are my two favorite Shakespeare plays. I love the crazy antics, silly situations, and dry humor in both and find them immensely telling about the times in which they were written.

We tend to think of anything from his time as dry, stuffy, over-dressed, pompous, rich, verbose, and costume-y. Plays like this one make the times seem more real and lively. Not to mention, Shakespeare had a pretty great sense of humor about human nature.

James (last edited Jan 20, 2013 10:59AM ) Jan 20, 2013 08:06AM   0 votes
To get back to the question of why Shakespeare wrote As You Like It, of course the first answer would be in order to entertain as many admission-paying customers as he possibly could. This is where time has taken its toll. I must admit that even with study of the text, a lot of the rambunctious comedy is simply lost on me, although really clever actors are always doing ingenious things to bring certain moments back to life. Only secondarily perhaps was Shakespeare able to write for self expression, but that's the part of it that continues to live down through the centuries. What I feel in this play, and in King Lear and Hamlet especially, is a yearning to escape from or to correct "times" -- that is, a socio-political scene -- gone wrong.

Keep in mind that in Shakespeare's time, Rosalind would have been played by a man. Would it have been so obvious then that Ganymede was "really" a woman?

Christa True. The thought had crossed my mind a few times, and I mentioned that in an earlier post on the subject. So yes, it's possible it's intended more th ...more
Nov 02, 2011 08:59AM · flag

back to top