As You Like It: Fulfilment and Acceptance Story

In As You Like It, Shakespeare develops a sense of fulfilment and acceptance through belonging in a variety of theatrical, character and plot elements. Evaluate the effectiveness of the play to your understanding of belonging. Shakespeare’s As You Like It, explores facets of love and acceptance, demonstrating how relationships with others can facilitate a sense of belonging. The comedic structure of the play, allows for the reduction of Elizabethan social paradigms through the use of a utopian pastoral setting. The play begins in disharmony and banishment in the ‘perilous court’.

Being excluded from the court, Rosalind’s notion of identity is challenged. Her exile, triggered because she is ‘thy father’s daughter’, causes her alienation, shocking the values held by Shakespeare’s 17thcentury audience. Rosalind and Celia shed their old identities, along with the burdens of court life, for new ones as Aliena and Ganymede, their theatrical disguise adding humour to their search for a new acceptance and a safe place of belonging. To explore her own relationship Rosalind counsels others on how to love.

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She curses Orlando for his superficiality of the symbolic love notes and his tardiness, and blatantly questions, ‘you a lover? ’ and yet Rosalind desperately yearns for acceptance, herself admitting, ‘I cannot be out of sight of Orlando’. Despite such clear sightedness, Shakespeare suggests belonging and love is a difficult process. Rosalind’s genuine love and Orlando’s simple heartfelt affections embodies the notion that time and patience is required for fulfilment of his love. For Celia and Oliver however, time is no factor, ‘no sooner met but they looked, no sooner looked did they love. In addition to love, Shakespeare also explores the bond of friendship, with cousins, Celia and Rosalind. They are in the challenging situation together, ‘coupled like Juno’s swans’, this simile denotes their deep and lasting connection. ‘Never two ladies loved as they do’, establishing the strong sense of belonging Celia feels to her ‘sweet coz’ as they accept each other unquestioningly. Shakespeare creates a contrast to Orlando and Rosalind’s deep and true relationship with the parallel plot of lovers, Silvius and Phebe.

Rosalind highlights the foolish nature of the unrequited love as Silvius, ‘the courtly lover’ attempts to pursue Phebe, who Rosalind scolds, ‘Know yourself’, before finding belonging with another. Silvius’ loyalty and profound desire to be with Phebe is finally rewarded, ‘ to a well deserved bed’, having reached fulfilment at the end of their difficult course. At the play’s conclusion, harmony is restored as the couples are joined in marriage, a literal representation of their new found acceptance.

This denotes acceptance of each other’s follies and imperfections. Furthermore, Rosalind illustrates her own commitment and feeling of unification within the community, with the repetition of, ‘to you I give myself / for I am yours’ to both her father and lover to whom she belongs. As You Like It, effectively explores the theme of love, demonstrating the difficult process of belonging in a relationship and how one can find acceptance and fulfilment through this connection to others.

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