Willy Shakes Up Literature
Shakespeare, William. As You Like It. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 1998. Print.
William Shakespeare’s As You Like It, tells a story about Rosalind and her cousin Celia’s adventure through the forest of Arden. Rosalind’s uncle, Duke Frederick, invites Oliver and his company to see a wrestling match in his castle. Oliver brings his brother, Orlando, who wrestles one of Duke Frederick’s wrestlers and wins. There, Orlando meets Rosalind and the two fall in love, but Oliver attempts to assassinate Orlando that night and Orlando has to flee to the forest of Arden with a servant. Meanwhile, Duke Frederick demands Rosalind leave his castle or face death, so Rosalind, Celia, and a clown named Touchstone flee to the forest of Arden in disguise. Rosalind and Celia dress as Ganymede and Aliena, a man and a shepherdess. In the forest of Arden, Orlando meets Duke Senior, hiding from his usurping brother, and eats with him. Rosalind and company meet Silvius, a shepherd who is helplessly in love with Phebe, a disdainful shepherdess who falls for Ganymede (Rosalind) when he (she) tells Phebe that she is acting very rudely towards a man who clearly loves her (Silvius). Rosalind later meets Orlando and persuades him to charm herself as Ganymede, telling Orlando that she can cure him of his lovesickness for Rosalind. Rosalind falls for Orlando even more from his charms, but Orlando’s brother Oliver comes to kill Orlando since Duke Frederick thinks that Orlando left his castle with Celia and Rosalind. Orlando saves Oliver from a lion, and Oliver falls for Celia. Rosalind then tells Phebe that if Ganymede cannot marry her (Phebe) that she should marry Silvius and that Oliver should marry Aliena and that Orlando will have Rosalind for himself at a wedding the next day. Everyone shows up, excluding Duke Frederick, and sees all the couples married, including Touchstone and a shepherdess named Audrey. The wedding reception is then interrupted with news that Duke Frederick has found God and that Duke Senior can go back to his castle.
Shakespeare is highly regarded as one of, if not, the best playwright of all time. He is able to develop his plot with so much precision and sophistication. He changed literature in the fact that he is able to weave different people’s stories together to create a larger plot for his plays. Shakespeare is able to create numerous sub-plots within a main plot, which usually have a specific focus, be they treachery, or love.
In Shakespeare’s As You Like It, treachery is already at play in the first act when viewers find out that Orlando has been denied education, and training as a gentleman by his older brother Oliver (I.i.3). This has frustrated Orlando to the point that he attacks Oliver, causing more ill feelings in Oliver. This leads to Oliver telling Charles, a wrestler for Duke Frederick who was challenged to a match by Orlando:
It is the stubbornest young fellow of France, full
of ambition, an envious emulator of every man's
good parts, a secret and villanous contriver against
me his natural brother: therefore use thy
discretion; I had as lief thou didst break his neck
as his finger (I.i.4).
Oliver is telling Charles that Orlando is a greedy man, an envious man, and against his own brother. Oliver also says that he would be as happy if Charles broke Oliver’s neck as he would be if Charles broke Orlando’s neck. Oliver is nearly asking Charles to kill Orlando during their wrestling match, which is practically as treacherous as possible. But it isn’t Oliver’s most treacherous act, that is his attempted assassination. Orlando’s servant Adam said:
Hath heard your praises, and this night he means
To burn the lodging where you use to lie
And you within it: if he fail of that,
He will have other means to cut you off.
I overheard him and his practises.
This is no place; this house is but a butchery:
Abhor it, fear it, do not enter it (II.iii.20).