As You Like It

From Academic Kids

Missing image
Scene from As you like it, Francis Hayman, c. 1750.

As You Like It is a pastoral comedy written by William Shakespeare, in 1599 or early 1600. As You Like It was listed in the Stationers' Register, the period equivalent of copyright, in August 1600. No printed copy of it is known prior to the publication of the First Folio of Shakespeare's collected works in 1623. The real life village of Hampton-in-Arden is believed to have been used as the setting for the play.



Shakespeare drew the story for As You Like It from Thomas Lodge's prose story Rosalynde, Euphues' Golden Legacy (1590). In Shakespeare's version, Frederick, a French Duke, has usurped the Duchy and exiled his older brother, referred to only as the Duke. The Duke's daughter Rosalind has been permitted to remain at court because she is the closest friend of Frederick's only child, Celia. Orlando, a young gentleman wrestler of the duchy who has fallen in love with Rosalind, is forced to flee his home after being persecuted by his older brother, Oliver. Frederick becomes angry and orders Rosalind to flee his court. Celia and Rosalind decide to flee to the Forest of Arden together accompanied by the jester Touchstone, with Rosalind disguised as a young man.

Rosalind, now known as "Ganymede" ("Jove's own page"), and Celia, now known as "Aliena" (Latin for stranger), arrive in Arden, where the exiled Duke now lives with some supporters, including "the melancholy Jaques," who is introduced to us weeping over the slaughter of his pet deer. "Ganymede" and "Aliena" do not immediately encounter the Duke and his companions, as they meet up with Corin, an impoverished tenant rancher and offer to buy his master's rude cottage. Orlando and his servant Adam (a role played by Shakespeare himself), meanwhile, finds the Duke and his men already and is living with them and posting crude love poems for Rosalind on the trees. Rosalind, also in love with Orlando, meets him as Ganymede and pretends to counsel him to cure him of being in love. Meanwhile, the shepherdess Phoebe, with whom Silvius is in love, has fallen in love with Ganymede. The cynical Touchstone has also made an amorous advance on the dull-witted goatherd girl Audrey, and attempts to marry her before his plans are thwarted by the intrusive Jaques.

Orlando sees Oliver in the forest and rescues him from a lioness, causing Oliver to repent of mistreating Orlando. Oliver meets Aliena and falls in love with her, and they agree to marry. Orlando and Rosalind, Oliver and Celia, Silvius and Phoebe, and Touchstone and Audrey all are married in the final scene, after which they discover that Frederick has also repented his faults, deciding to restore his legitimate brother to the dukedom and adopt a religious life.

Critical response

Critics from Samuel Johnson to George Bernard Shaw have complained that As You Like It is lacking in the high artistry of which Shakespeare was clearly capable. Shaw liked to think that Shakespeare wrote the play as a mere crowd-pleaser, and signaled his own middling opinion of the work by calling it As You Like It — as if the playwright did not agree. Tolstoy objected to the immorality of the characters, and Touchstone's constant clowning. Despite these high-profile naysayers, the play remains one of Shakespeare's most frequently performed comedies.

The elaborate gender reversals in the story are of particular interest to many modern critics interested in gender studies. At one point, Rosalind — who in Shakespeare's day would have been a boy playing a girl — becomes a boy pretending to be a girl pretending to be a boy.


Act II, Scene 7 features one of Shakespeare's greatest monologues, which begins:

"All the world's a stage
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages..."

As You Like It also features much humorous and clever wordplay, and several entangled love affairs, all in a serene pastoral setting which makes it often especially effective staged outdoors in a park or similar site.


According to the history of radio station WCAL in the U.S. state of Minnesota, As You Like It may have been the first play ever broadcast. It went over the air in 1922.

External links

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  • As You Like It ( - searchable e-text
  • As You Like it ( - HTML version of this title.
  • As You Like it ( - plain vanilla text from Project Gutenberg

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