The play As You Like It by William Shakespeare depicts the essence of life and human nature through portrayal of different themes that contribute to the development of the entire plot and its hidden implications. In fact, the author combines all the themes together as they may help the reader to understand the meaning of the play and its significance, while demonstrating various positive and negative aspects of society. It is evident that the play allows anyone to explore the fundamental truth of life, human vices, as well as lack of moral and spiritual values. This leads to negative consequences and compels the protagonists to give up their stable lives. Thus, the representation of love and its delights, family relationships, and transformation of the protagonists, who unite with nature, compose the entire plot based comedy and drama at the same time.
The revelation of love and its delights cover each act from the very beginning, and these make the storyline full of irony and even paradoxical in relation to the inner sufferings of the characters. The reader notices that love is the so-called driving force, which compels the protagonists to act as they are not afraid of sacrificing their lives for the sake of lovers. For instance, Orlando falls in love with Rosalind but he does not dare to share his feelings with an innocent creature that definitely deserves to love and to be loved forever. Having a conversation with Orlando, Jaques indicates: “The worst fault you have is to be in love” (As You Like It III.ii.258). The young man starts writing poems on the bark of each tree in the forest. In this case, love seems to be ridiculous and unconvincing for people who surround them, as nobody understands Orlando’s sentiments. Additionally, one might also assume that love is represented like a deadly disease that reigns both men and women who have no strength to oppose this obsessive feeling. This feeling of love gradually fills their hearts and minds with a boundless amount of uncontrollable passion. Moreover, one may see that the illustrated love is tender as it belongs to the courtly love and reflects its particular features based on the code of honor for both men and women. Even illiterate shepherd, Silvius understands that the sense of the tortured love saying, “the wounds invisible/ that love’s keen arrows make” (As You Like It III.v.31-32). As a result, it becomes obvious that the sick love can be treated, and those, who suffer, look too odd. On the other hand, in the last scene of the play, Rosalind manages to prove that there is nothing more delightful than love: it is shown that all characters survive, and then four marriages lead to a happy end.
The portrayal of family relationships is one of the most significant themes of the play, since it reveals several family connections between close relatives. From the very beginning of the plot, the reader learns about a treacherous plan plotted by Oliver who hates his brother Orlando and has an irresistible urge to kill him due to his unlimited envy. He respects neither Orlando nor his father’s servant Adam. He does not take into account the age of the old man who honestly served his late father, and he merely insults him by simply saying, “Wilt thou lay hands on me, / villain?” (As You Like It I.i.). Oliver’s betrayal also reminds the reader that even the closest bonds may be broken, and relatives often behave without loyalty but with hate and disgust. It makes no difference that they are brothers from one father, and their relationship is nevertheless based on hostility and humiliation. The author applies the theory of inheritance, which allows the oldest son to get the father’s wealth, land, and of course, the title by limiting a young son all possible privileges. Nevertheless, when Orlando discovers a horrible truth according to which his brother is going to burn his room late at night, he forgives him and leaves home. It is difficult to accept the idea that Oliver envies Orlando due to the fact that society appreciates his traits of character, including his bravery and integrity. Besides, when they meet each other, Orlando protects his elder brother from the lion and saves Oliver, who intended to take his life away neglecting all their family bonds. In contrast to this relationship, Rosalind and Celia are cousins who support each other in any situation, even making considerable efforts to oppose Duke Frederick and his impregnability.
While observing the primary themes the play, the reader should also pay attention to a particular kind of the characters’ transformation. As it was mentioned before, according to his brother Oliver demonstrates lack of values while longing for fame and overall recognition. It is a precise example of physical and mental transformation which occurs in the Forest of Arden. The antagonist is gradually turned into the protagonist, who gains something spiritual and becomes a real personality with all the necessary human characteristics. Perhaps, losing wealth and being put into the woods, Oliver begins a new life – a life based on peace and lack of evil that previously ruled his thoughts and actions towards his brother. In this case, Shakespeare hints that the change of the environment opens new horizons, which refer to the way of freedom. That is why the author also focuses on the human states and philosophy of human nature. Once Touchstone thinks about the sense of life, the fleetness of time, and therefore, he indicates, “As all is mortal in nature, / so is all nature in love/ mortal in folly” (As You Like It II.iv.53-55). Certainly, the main characters depend on nature as they make considerable efforts to find shelter in the forest, which gives them the second chance to correct those mistakes considered to be irretrievable. It seems that nature has a positive influence on the protagonists, who run away from their problems being unable to cope with difficulties. The setting helps them find themselves in nature as they experience another life – a life connected with kindness, generosity, and support. Eventually, Arden symbolizes the transformation of the main characters who attempt to oppose the power they followed and obeyed for a long period of their lives.
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In conclusion, As You Like It by William Shakespeare is an incredible play as it illustrates a variety of interesting and important themes for the reader to observe while interpreting the hidden implication of the plot. Love, family bonds, and any kind of transformation of the protagonists develop one primary theme referred to the meaning of life examined by the reader. Love is like an obsession based on integrity, sincerity, and innocence, which makes the main characters look vulnerable and ridiculous due to their constant doubts. On the other hand, it helps all of them to change themselves for the sake of each other as they are entrapped by their intentions to prove something unnecessary. The play introduces family relationships through betrayal caused by one’s intentions to gain more and more power over the others. As a result, love and family bonds make characters turn into individuals with moral and spiritual values by leaving behind their mean deeds connected with greediness for wealth and power. It is undoubtedly true that the world is a stage, and it is obligatory to keep it always in mind.
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