Professor Beatriz Kase
May 29th, 2008
As You Like It: A Personal Appreciation
After reading this play I realize that it is hard to distinguish between a Shakespearan comedy play and a tragic one from the very beginning, because they share some elements. Regarding structure, we see that the play is divided in five acts, like others Shakespeare’s tragediessuch as Macbeth and King Lear. Also, some themes that appear in As You Like It are the same used in Tragedy, for instance, treason and filial ingratitude. Another aspect that is very similar between this comedy and other tragedy plays is that the type of characters are the same that the ones in tragedies, and they are not “lower men” as Aristotle says in Chapter five of Poetics. In fact, there areDukes and Lords who live in huge palaces and have servants, which is pretty similar to the characters’ profile of tragedies like Macbeth and King Lear.
However, if we read this play carefully, we can perceive some definitions of Comedy, and also, identify which elements make the difference between Comedy and Tragedy and create the effect of entertainment, even though they seem to be thesame at the first sight.
One of the characteristics of Comedy, according to Byron is that “all tragedies end up with a death, and all comedies with a marriage”, which means that there has to be a happy ending. This is exactly what happens at the end of the play during act V, scene IV, with the marriages of Orlando and Rosalind, Oliver and Celia, Phoebe and Silvius, and Touchstone and Audrey.Another aspect of comedy that is relevant of this play is what Ionesco says about this genre “Tragedy and Comedy are two aspects of the same situation”. This definition is well explained in act I scene I, when Orlando complains about his misfortune with Adam:
As I remember, Adam, it was upon this fashion bequeathed me by will, but poor a thousand crowns, and as thou sayest, chargedmy brother, on his blessing, to breed me well: and there begins my sadness. My brother Jaques he keeps at school, and report speaks goldenly of his profit: for my part, he keeps me rustically at home, or (to speak more properly) stays me here at home unkept; for call you that keeping for a gentleman of my birth, that differs from the stalling of an ox? His horses are breed better, for, besides,that they are fair with their feeding, they are taught their manage, and to that end riders dearly hired: but I, his brother, gain nothing under him but growth, for the which his animals on his dunghills are as much bound to him as I. Besides this nothing that he so plentifully fives me, the something that nature gave me his countenance seems to take from me: he lets me feed with his hinds, barsme the place of a brother, and, as much as in him lies, mines my gentility with my education. This is it, Adam, that grieves me, and the spirit of my father, which I think is within me, begins to mutiny against this servitude. I will no longer endure it, though yet I know no wise remedy how to avoid it.
In this part of the beginning of the play we are told about a situation that is notfunny at all and, in fact, it is something very tragic that nobody would like to experience. However, it is not what he is telling what entertained me as a reader, but the way in which he tells it, by comparing himself with animals and the fact that he complains, but he does not do anything about it, which is exactly what would happen in a tragedy, for instance, when Macbeth does everything tobecome a king.
Also, the usage of songs in the play is a key factor to create an amusing atmosphere. Although this element appears in tragedy (King Lear, for instance), the purpose of songs in comedy is different. If we take the example of King Lear, we see that the songs are used in order to say something very important in a light way, which is what the fool does when he says the truth to...