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Shakespeare’s As You Like It – The Doubtful Truth of Masks Shakespeare As You Like It Essays

The Doubtful Truth of Masks in As You Like It The most obvious concern of As You Like It is love, and particularly the attitudes and the language appropriate to young romantic love. Here the role of Rosalind is decisive, and much of one’s response to this play will depend upon ones reaction to her. Rosalind is Shakespeare’s greatest and most vibrant comic female role. The focus of this essay is Rosalind’s preoccupation with the outward show of things. Whether this is a result of her cross-dressing, the reason for the same, or the Shakespeare’s way of revealing his presence is not clear, but Rosalind’s constant insistence on the truth of masks and on the other hand her readiness to doubt this same truth fascinates me. When she decides to dress up as a boy, Rosalind seems to think a mannish outside sufficient to convince the world at large (I.iii.111-118). She is “more than common tall” and therefore all she needs is a “gallant curtle-axe”, a “boar spear” and a “swashing and a martial outside” to hide her feminine anxiousness. Taking it for granted that noone will have the hunch to look beyond her male costume, she reasons that since cowardly men are able to hide these feminine qualities, she should be able to pass off as a man, simply by behaving mannishly. Being so totally dependent on her own disguise not being found out, it is funny how she proceeds to doubt anyone who does not put on an outward show fitting to their claims to feeling. The first to be put on the stand in this fashion is Orlando. As Ganymede Rosalind refuses to accept Orlando’s claim to being the desperate author of the love-verses (s)he has found hanging on the trees on the grounds that he has no visible marks of love upon him. A lean cheek, which you have not; a blue eye and sunken, which you have not; an unquestionable spirit, which you have not; a beard neglected, which you have not (…) Then your hose should be ungartered, your bonnet unbanded, your sleeve unbuttoned, your shoe untied, and everything about you demonstrating careless desolation. (III.ii.363-371) He is, in other words, not exactly the picture of the despairing suitor. Neither does Jaques measure up to Rosalind’s expectations of the melancholy traveller. She greets him with a “they say you are” (IV.i.3), and sends him off with the order of: Look you lisp, and wear strange suits; disable all the benefits of your own country; be out of love with your nativity, and almost chide God for making that countenance you are; or I will scarce think you have swam in a gondola. (IV.i.31-36) She seems thus constantly disposed to put emphasis on the exterior show of feelings. At the times when her own disguise falters for a moment, however, she very soon draws the fixity of other people’s assumed identity into question. This is perhaps most clear in the scene where Orlando has failed to turn up the first time. Her anxiety – assisted by the fact that she is alone with Celia – compels her to lower her defences for a moment. Her instinctive attack on Orlando is against his semblance: “His very hair is of the dissembling colour.” (III.iv.6) One moment later she seems to cancel this with her “I’faith his hair is of a good colour.” (III.iv.9) Either she is now very confused, or she is saying that the ability to dissemble is a good thing. Had Rosalind been a human being, we might have seen this preoccupation with people’s appearance as an expression of an insecurity towards her own identity, conscious or unconscious. An insecurity that would be quite natural in her situation of displaced heir and disguised female. Seen in this light she is either consciously playing with the identity of others in order to be more at ease with her own, or she is unconsciously expressing an anxiety as to whether she will really be able to carry off the act, without being exposed and without loosing her sense of self in the process. “My way is to conjure you” says Rosalind (V.iv.208) in the epilogue, and as (s)he has conjured her fellow characters throughout the play, so has she conjured the audience. But as the audience is fully aware this is “only a play,” and Rosalind only a character on stage. The perpetual reminders of the Act as opposed to the Real Thing can readily be seen – in cooperation with the epilogue – to express the playwright’s warning against accepting as real the illusion he has created, in the twentieth century we would call it meta-fictionality.

Shakespeare’s As You Like It – The Philosophy of Jaques

The Philosophy of Jaques in As You Like It

Jaques is one of the characters in Shakespeare`s comedy As You Like It. We- as audience and readers- learn that although he was previously a libertine, he now seems to have turned to philosophy in his quest for a new identity. As a philosopher he questions much of what he sees around him.

At one point Jaques analyses what it is to be a man (II,vii, 60-166). He sees the world as a stage wherein men and women are players, and their different ages represent different acts and scenes in the play. His descriptions suggest that the roles are largely beyond the players` control; that a script for the play has already been written by an exterior force. But there is a sense of contradiction in all this; the stages Jaques outlines for us (presented to his audience as universal) do not account for his own role. Since this is the case we must either presume that Jacques is somehow exceptional or that the roles are not as fixed as people imagine. One can always argue that Jaques is an outcast of some sort. On the other hand, the Duke Senior is eager to offer him a position at court, thereby giving him an opportunity to obtain an acceptable role within the framework of a hierarchical, society, but Jaques turns down the offer. He needs to widen his horizon, and is so impatient about learning more that he does not even stay to celebrate with the rest of the uke`s men.”To see no pastime, I.” (V,iv,194). Instead he wants to go to Duke Frederick: “Out of these convertites,/ There is much matter to be hear`d and learn`d” (V,iv,183-184).

Jaques has no particular interest in being part of an established society. He creates his own role and his own destiny. By his mere presence in the play we are made aware of the infinite choices that confront human beings in their lives. Rosalind is the only other character in As You Like It who really challenges established roles, but whereas she (in all likelihood) returns to court and is satisfied with the new development (after all, she brought it about), Jacques is unwilling to let go of his freedom and independence introduced to him in the green world.

Jaques first attempts to challenge established norms by putting on a fool`s appearance: “O that I were a fool!/ I am ambitious for a motley coat.

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