Bluff Your Way Through the Play: As You Like It

Original Story?…Mmm, kinda.

Shakespeare borrowed from Thomas Lodge’s Rosalynde to create As You Like It. In Lodge’s story, the ladies leave the court and have to face outlaws, rape, and the threat of incest.  Shakespeare altered the plot and renamed some of the characters.

A Late Bloomer

After the early stage success in 1599, As You Like It fell out favor. Nobody wanted to do it. It was almost 140 years later that was revived in London and it’s been an audience favorite ever since.

It Takes Two, Baby

The world of the court and the world of the forest have very different vibes. Shakespeare plays with duality in this play in several ways: Two dukes, two brothers, the duality of Rosalind being a woman but disguised as a man, all the various love pairings that emerge in the story.

Longing for Rosalind

The role of Rosalind is one of the most sought after parts for actresses. Katherine Hepburn, Vanessa Redgrave, and Maggie Smith are just a few of the more well-known artists to have played Rosalind.

The Newlywed Game

(Spoiler Alert!) Eight characters get married by the end of As You Like It. Eight! That’s the most in any of Shakespeare’s plays. 

All the World’s a Stage

One of Shakespeare’s most famous speeches, the Seven Ages of Man, appears in As You Like It and is spoken by the character of Jacques. It’s interesting that Shakespeare’s other famous speech, To be or not to be, from Hamlet was written during roughly the same time period.

That’s a lot of words

The character of Rosalind has 685 lines in As You Like It. That 25% of the total lines in the play. It’s the largest female role in all of Shakespeare’s plays.

Sing a Song

As You Like It gets the runner up award for the most songs in any Shakespeare play. (The Tempest has more, but they often get cut). Our production has added original songs and updated some of Shakespeare’s for this production.

So…what’s the story?

Oliver is jealous of his popular brother, Orlando, who has challenged Charles the Wrestler to a fight. Oliver urges Charles to kill Orlando during the match.

Rosalind and Celia are the daughters of a pair of sisters, Duke Senior and his usurper, Duke Frederick. The daughters are best friends, and, for Celia’s sake, Frederick has kept Rosalind at court.

Orlando wins the fight, and he and Rosalind fall in love. Frederick banishes Rosalind, and Celia plans to escape with her. Rosalind disguises herself as Celia’s brother, and, along with the Duke’s clown, Touchstone, they head into the forest of Arden, where Duke Senior and his friends are living happily as outlaws. Orlando, warned that he is in danger, also heads to the forest and joins the outlaws.

Rosalind and Orlando meet, but he mistakes her for a boy. She encourages him to woo her as if she were Rosalind so that she can put his true feelings to the test.

Oliver is sent by Frederick to retrieve Orlando. He is attacked by a lion, and Orlando saves him but is badly injured. Oliver brings Orlando help, and they are reconciled. Oliver is introduced to Celia, and they fall in love. Her “brother” promises to produce Rosalind if Duke Senior will let her marry Orlando. He agrees, and Rosalind reveals her true identity. Duke Frederick has a miraculous religious conversion and becomes a hermit.

Adapted from Shakespeare Genealogies by Vanessa James

Character Lowdown

Duke Senior, deposed and living in banishment in the forest of Arden
Rosalind, daughter of Duke Senior, later disguised as a boy
Amiens and Jacques, Lords attending Duchess Senior
Duke Frederick, Duke Senior’s sibling and the usurper
Celia, Duke Frederick’s daughter and Rosalind’s companion, later disguised
Le Beau, a courtier
Charles, a wrestler
Touchstone, a clown in Duke Frederick’s court
Oliver, the eldest son of Sir Rowland de Bois
Orlando, the youngest son of Sir Rowland de Boys
Adam, an old servant of Sir Rowland de Boys
Dennis, Oliver’s servant
Corin, a shepherd
Silvius, a shepherd
Phoebe, a shepherdess
William, a country boy
Audrey, a goatherd
Sir Oliver Martext, a clergyman
Jaques de Boys, son of Sir Rowland de Bois

You Heard It Here First

Shakespeare has given us words and phrases that we use every day, but before he made them up they didn’t exist. Below are some familiar phrases and words that first hit the English language scene with As You Like It. Listen closely in the play to see if you can catch them all.

In a better world than this
Forever and a day
Laid on with a trowel
Neither rhyme nor reason
Working-day world

to cater

Want to find out more? Check out Coined by Shakespeare by Jeffrey McQuain and Stanley Malless for an in-depth study and fun exploration of Shakespeare’s creative wordplay.