The Deeper Meaning of As You Like It
Shakespeare’s As You Like It is a good play for anyone to read or see. Some readers would enjoy one aspect of it, some would enjoy another. But all would, in general, enjoy the play. Albert Gilman says that Shakespeare intended to imply that all that people need to live together in harmony is “good sense, love, humor, and a generous disposition.” (Gilman lxvii) This play is deeper than the surface, and that is part of its appeal to every kind of person.
As its title declares, this is a play to please all tastes. “.For the simple, it provides the stock ingredients of romance….For the more sophisticated at d, it p propounds…a question which is left to us to answer: Is it / better to live in the court or the country?….For the learned and literary this is one of Shakespeare’s most allusive plays, uniting old traditions and playing with them lightly… (Gardner 161)
The title of the play came from a note to his “gentlemen readers” in Thomas Lodge’s book, Rosalynde, in which he said, “I f you like it, so.” (Lodge 108) People interpret different lines and actions of the characters as they wish, and we know Shakespeare would not object; it says so right in the title of the play! Actors and Directors have taken this literally, and have made various changes to the script, such as having Phebe gnaw on a turnip or an apple between her lines and having Rosalind kiss the chain before giving it to Orlando.
The characters in As You Like It are easy to understand because they follow their simple wishes; they do something because it suits them. For example, Oliver hates Orlando because he wants to. There is no reason for him to resent him, none at all: “… for my soul, though I know not why, hates nothing more than he.” (Shakespeare 8) Duke Frederick banishes Rosalind because people felt sorry for her for her father’s sake. Finally, Rosalind herself had no other reason than a simple whim to not tell Orlando who she really was.
Touchstone added the humor to the story, and Jacques added the melancholy. Shakespeare entered both of these characters into the play to balance each other. He also added Audrey and William to give all of the characters someone to love.