Stephan Flores/STUDY QUESTIONS ON AS YOU LIKE IT
1. In the play's opening lines, Orlando objects to another's will--whose interests are at issue, under review in this scene? How are "wills" played (out), enacted, enforced, performed? If you considered such issues in relation to your own life, how might you respond to the question: "Whose will do you serve, and why?"
2. Historians Lawrence Stone and Joan Thirsk note respectively that the practice of primogeniture [eldest son inherits] had powerful effects on families that owned property, particularly giving rise to protest by younger sons (see also Louis Montrose's essay on fraternal rivalry in this play). Begin to analyze the effects of and attitudes towards primogeniture, starting with Orlando's opening speech and exchange with Oliver (1.1), as well as the mention of the old Duke [Duke Senior] and the new Duke [Frederick].
3. Louis Montrose asserts that the "comic action of As You Like It works to atone elder and younger brothers, father and child, man and woman, lord and subject, master and servant . . . situations that are recurrent sources of ambiguity, anxiety, and conflict . . . are [explored, exacerbated, and resolved" (31). Speculate upon this argument, and offer an example of what you think Montrose means.
4. In the latter part of 1.1, to what extent does the exchange between Oliver and Charles develop/relate to what we have learned/witnessed between Orlando and Oliver? What new news is there?
5. (A). Charles mentions Duke Senior's life in the Forest of Arden (1.1.109-14). What do his comments envision/represent? What tone is implied--how would you direct Charles to deliver these lines? (B). Analyze Charles' character/function--what does he represent?
6. Rosalind states that "Fortune reigns in gifts of the world" (1.2.35). What do you make of this claim in this context?
7. Rosalind, Celia, and Touchstone indulge in witty wordplay--to what purpose, power, or effects?
8. Celia states: "But turning these jests out of service, let us talk in good earnest" (1.3.21-22). How does and why should one talk in good earnest, and do these or other characters do such a thing (how, about what)? To what extent is it possible to distinguish what talking in "good earnest" might mean or how it is recognized?
9. Begin to explore Celia and Rosalind's relationship, their attitudes and situations. Consider Celia's "I see thou lov'st me not with the full / weight that I love thee" (1.2.7-8). What function or perspective do these women fill/offer, especially with regard to male fraternal rivalry?
10. Why does Orlando wrestle Charles (1.2)? How might we interpret the scene?
11. After the wrestling match, what is Frederick's response (1.2.214ff;1.3.50ff)? What are his concerns? Who resists him and why? Note his preoccupation with the fathers of Orlando and Rosalind, and his presumption that Rosalind's "very silence, and her patience / Speak to the people" (1.3.75-76).
12. What values/relationships does Duke Senior espouse or practice (2.1.1ff.)? Are his woods more "free from peril than the envious court" (2.1.4)? He later asserts to Orlando that "Your gentleness shall force / More than your force move us to gentleness" (101-02). Does this maxim hold true for others? Note how the scene (2.7) ends.
13. Is it possible not to "feel the penalty of Adam" (2.1.5)?
14. What does it take to "translate the stubbornness of fortune / Into so quiet and so sweet a style" (2.1.19-20)?
15. How might one avoid participating in usurpation and tyranny (2.1.61)?
16. Evaluate Jaques' attitudes and arguments. For example, he suggests that men in the Forest of Arden usurp its native inhabitants (2.1.61). Why is he "ambitious for a motley coat" (2.7.43-61)? What does he seem to want? Examine his "All the world's a stage" speech (2.7.138ff). Distill its main points and compare to others' perspectives. Later, note his exchange with Rosalind (4.1.1-30). What might be the sources/cures for his melancholy?
17. Orlando finds in Adam a model to praise "The constant service of the antique world" (2.3.58) in contrast to the present "Where none will sweat but for promotion" (2.3.61). Explain and defend Orlando's (and perhaps Adam's) position here, then offer a critique or rejoinder to such views and values. Can you offer a conclusion?
18. Speculate on the social/psychological causes and effects of Frederick's ultimatum to Oliver (3.1)
19. Begin to consider the function of such figures as Touchstone and Corin (3.2) or Touchstone/Audrey (3.3), or Phoebe/Silvius (3.5). How does Rosalind intervene in 3.5 (also 4.3)?
20. What does Orlando need/desire in Rosalind (3.2)? What do his amorous verses emphasize or exclude? How do Rosalind and Touchstone respond to his rhetoric?
21. Analyze Rosalind's strategy with Orlando (3.2.303ff; 4.1.153; 4.1.197). Describe her methods/aims. Why the disguise/deferral? Is love akin to madness (3.2.390)? Can Orlando avoid the dilemma of courting an imaginary/feigning Ganymede/Rosalind versus the real person? Or a related problem: "But O, how bitter a thing it is to look into happiness through another man's eyes" (5.2.38-39).
22. Besides Rosalind/Ganymede, does Orlando court someone else (3.4.; 4.1)?
23. What are the effects of the various references to cuckoldry (3.3.48; 4.1.56; 4.2)?
24. Explore Oliver's tale of Orlando's discovery of a "wretched ragged man" (4.3.102ff). Speculate on the story's symbolic potential to represent the play's major concerns. What is the significance of the outcome?
25. Respond to Oliver's transformation, which includes marriage to Celia/Aliena, the transfer of his estate to Orlando, and a pastoral future. What does this change produce/resolve/effect (5.2)?
26. Analyze the degrees and importance of male bonds/desires (homoerotic/homosocial?) as well as female relations. Valerie Traub notes, for example, that Rosalind chooses the name Ganymede, that of "the young lover of Zeus . . . familiar . . . as a colloquial term used to describe the male object of male love" (124-25); moreover, might Phoebe's attraction to Ganymede blur hetero/homosocial lines (3.5.109ff.)?
27. What's your reaction to Frederick's conversion (5.4.160)?
28. Evaluate the play's conclusion(s). Have the issues (problems/desires) introduced and represented been resolved/fulfilled? Has primogeniture been contested, converted, supported? Has Orlando merited his success? What does Rosalind achieve?
29. Consider the play's biblical allusions (Adam, Cain/Abel, Prodigal Son) and generally its emphasis on spiritual bonds, perhaps in opposition to ties of blood, property, or the flesh?
30. Perhaps look for Juliet Dusinberre's essay on the play--she argues that Rosalind rewrites Elizabeth I, and oscillates between repression and expression, generating powerful fantasies of sexual desire.
31. Perhaps look for Peter Erickson's exploration of the effects of male friendship, reconciliation, androgyny, and benevolent patriarchy (chapter in his book on patriarchy in Shakespeare's plays). How does his argument extend or contest your sense of the play?
32. Be sure to read Jean E. Howard's introduction to the play in our text (377-386; 1591-99)--what do you find interesting and provocative in her comments?
More on Shakespeare’s comedies and As You Like It, with recap of some quotes to ponder:
“Given that Shakespeare was writing in a very male-dominated society, some critics read these plays as a kind of playful rebellion in sexual matters by young people against the authority of parents. That rebellion is, however, always absorbed by those in authority. At the end passionate love is transformed into safe, socially sanctioned, marriage. Other critics argue that although a kind of social order is imposed by the event of marriage at the end, the subversive comic energy of the ‘rebellion’ is such that it demonstrates that a more equal kind of relationship between men and women is possible, and indeed desirable. [In addition] The playful, riddling language of some of the comedies in performance not only delights the audience but draws attention to itself, sometimes to radical effect.” (Sean McEvoy, Shakespeare: The Basics)
“As You Like It is poised carefully on the razor’s edge separating fantasy from harsh reality. . . . [the play] is to a remarkable degree open to the infinite malleability of human beings and their social practices. . . . It is with the heroine, however, that As You Like It offers its richest dramatization of a figure who plays endlessly with the limits and possibilities of her circumstances. . . . this he/she, continues to the end to defy the fixed identities and the exclusionary choices of the everyday world, offering instead a world of multiple possibilities and transformable identities.” (Jean E. Howard, Norton edition, p. 384)
1. "I see thou lovest me not with the full weight that / I love thee" (1.2.6-7).
2. (2.1.1-20), includes "That can translate the stubbornness of fortune / Into so quiet and so sweet a style" (2.1.19-20).
3. "The constant service of the antique world" (2.3.58) in contrast to the present "Where none will sweat but for promotion" (2.3.61).
4. “They say he is already in the forest of Ardenne, and a / many merry men with him; and there they live like the old / Robin Hood of England. They say many young gentlemen / flock to him every day, and fleet the time carelessly, as they did in the golden world” (1.1.99-103).
5. ORLANDO: “What were his marks?
ROSALIND: A lean cheek, which you have not; a blue eye and sunken, which you have not; an unquestionable spirit, which you have not . . . But you are no such man. You are rather point-devise in your accoutrements, as loving yourself than seeming the lover of any other” (3.2.336-46).
6. (4.3.102-19) includes " A wretched, ragged man" (4.3.105).
7. "But O, how bitter a thing it is to look into happiness through another man's eyes" (5.2.38-39).
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