Critical Approaches to As You Like It

Different critical approaches (and the relevant themes)  to the play 'As You Like It' by William Shakespeare

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Critical Approaches to As You Like It

Urban vs Pastoral

Richard Wilson

"no Shakespeare text transmits more urgently the imminence of social breakdown" (in Elizabethan England)

"the play is powerfully infected by narratives of popular resistence whilst it's plot...is the brutal story of Elizabethan social transformation"

"Orlando eventually supporting the old unegalitarian order that dominates the play"

Stephen Urwin (theatre director)

comments that Shakespeare may be making a point about society, "Elizabeth's court by the end of the sixteenth century was increasingly adopting Duke Frederich's style of arbitrary and personalised decision making"

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Critical Approaches to As You Like It

Nature

Raymond Williams

"Nature is perhaps the most complex word in the language"

Caroline Spurgeon

remarks on "the high number of nature images in the play which help create the atmosphere of outdoor country life"

she claimed this was a reflection of Shakespeare's personal life "we are constantly reminded of Shakespeare's favourite haunts of orchard and garden"

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Critical Approaches to As You Like It

Journey

Terry Gifford 

-focuses on the narrative pattern of retreat and return

- the retreat may be from city or court

- the return characteristically occurs when some insight or knowledge has been gained

Harold Jenkins

"This is the "golden world" to which, with the beginning of his second act, Shakespeare at once transports us"

C.L Barber

sees Shakespeare having developed a "fesitve comedy" and that because Arden is a holiday place the characters move "through release to clarification"

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Critical Approaches to As You Like It

The Role of Women

Kate Soper (explores the portrayal of women in nature)

- females traditionally associated with mind rather than body

- nature itself often represented as female

- landscape often viewed as female

- makes further analogy - society exploits land/ exploits females

- after women/nature have been 'mastered' there can follow a sense of regret for what has been defiled

Marilyn French (feminist critic)

"the play is concerned with the underside of scoiety, made up of women, exiles, outcasts, the poor, the eccentric and the law in status"

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Critical Approaches to As You Like It

Relationships

Dame Helen Gardner

"the great symbol of pure comedy is marriage, by which the world is renewed"

C.L Barber

Rosalind "remains aware of love's illusions while she herself is swept along by it's deepest currents"

William Hazlitt

 As You Like It/Shakespeare “provided the Romantics of the early 19th Century with rich material in which to find moral lessons"

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Critical Approaches to As You Like It

Shakespeare

D.J Palmer

sees in As You Like It's very actory/dressing up/wit/parody that Shakespeare is "playing games with his own art"

C.L Barber

sees Shakespeare having developed a "festive comedy" and that because Arden is a holiday place the characters move "through release to clarification"

Caroline Spurgeon

"we are constantly reminded of Shakespeare's favourite haunts of orchard and garden"

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Criticial Approaches to Characters

Rosalind

D.J Palmer

sees in As You Like It's very actory/dressing up/wit/parody that Shakespeare is "playing games with his own art"

C.L Barber

"remains aware of love's illusions while she herself is swept along by its deepest currents"

Harold Bloom

"harmoniously balanced and beautifully sane"

"vital and beautiful in spirit, in body, in mind"

"the most admirable person in all Shakespeare"

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Critical Approaches to Characters

Orlando

Harold Bloom

"an amicable young Hercules"

Richard Wilson

affiliates Orlando with "the Midland writer who caused many problems for the authorities in Warwichshire"

"Orlando eventually supporting the old unegalitarian order that dominates the play"

Louis Montrose

"In the world of its Elizabethan audience the form of Orlando's experience may indeed have functioned as a collective compensation, a projection for the wish-fulfilment fantasies of younger brothers, youths and all those who felt themselves deprived by their fathers or their fortunes"

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Critical Approaches to Characters

Jacques

William Hazlitt

called Jacques "the prince of philosophical idlers"

Dame Helen Gardner

"This discovery of the truth by feigning, and of what is wisdom and what folly by debate, is the centre of As You Like It"

"The two commentators of the play are nicely contrasted. Touchstone is the parodist, Jacques the cynic"

Harold Bloom

Jacques is "merely rancid"

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Critical Approaches to Characters

Touchstone

Harold Bloom

Touchstone is "rancidly vicious"

Robert Hillis Goldsmith

claimed that "one of the virtues of Shakespeare's As You Like It is that it has just such a wise fool"

David Frail

"mirrors the kaleidoscopic nature of As You Like It, blurring the lines between wisdom and folly so that we may free our minds long enough to recognise ourselves as the foolish humans we are"

John Palmer

 "wise fool who acts as a kind of guide or point of reference throughout the play, putting everyone, including himself, to the comic test"

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