Anthony Persaud, Kirika, Racheal Armstrong, Sydney Scott
As You Like It, believed to have been written in 1599 and first published in the First Folio in 1623, is one of Shakespeare’s comedies that involve adventure, love, and heroism. This play is in many ways Shakespeare’s version of a fairy tale involving themes such as love, deception, disguise, gender, transformation, family and nature. The first performance of As You Like It is not clear but it was probably first performed in 1599, not long before the play was entered in the Stationers' Register on August 4, 1600. It was most likely one of the first plays to be performed by the Lord Chamberlain's Men in their new Globe Theatre, erected in 1599 from the timbers of the Shoreditch building called The Theatre which the company had been obliged to move across the Thames when they ran into difficulties with the owner of the Shoreditch property.
The plot of this play includes the main characters Oliver, Orlando, Duke Senior, Duke Frederick, Rosalind, Celia, Phoebe, and Silvius. The play opens up with the conflict between Oliver and his brother Orlando. Oliver treats his brother as less than and denies him the education, training, and property that he is entitled to. Duke Fredrick and Duke Senior are then introduced in the play they are brothers who are at odds too because Duke Fredrick has commandeered Duke Seniors thrown which caused Duke Senior to flee from his court and go to the forest of Adrenne. The forest of Ardenne is a safe haven for most the characters involved in the plot of the play because Orlando flees there and eventually Rosalind and her best friend Celia end up going there after Duke Fredrick banishes her from the court. Rosalind and Celia disguise themselves, Rosalind as a man who goes by the name of Ganymede and Celia dresses as a common shepherdess and calls herself Aliena. While in the forest some comical and strange love stories begin to arise. Orlando meets Ganymede and confesses his love that he has for Rosalind not knowing it is her he’s confessing to and eventually agrees to pretend that Ganymede is Rosalind and professes his love for her to him every day. By the end of the play Rosalind tricks all the characters into marrying who they were destined for (Rosalind and Orlando, Celia and Oliver and Phoebe and Silvius). After the marriages, all the characters were able to return to the court in which they were banished from and Duke Senior gained his thrown back.
As You Like It is shaped around the themes of deception, disguise, and gender these themes alter the way certain character’s act and also the way that other people act toward them. The main role players of deception, disguise and gender in the play are Rosalind and Celia they trick and manipulate the other characters while in the forest of Ardenne. Romantic Love is another theme that is at the center of the plot in this play, each character at some point encounters a scenario in which they fall in love and expresses that love. This play criticizes the concept of love because it explores many different forms of the word love. Some characters seem to share a love for each other that isn’t typical, Shakespeare explores romantic love, courtly love, and even homosexual love in this play. The theme of Love and rivalry between relatives plays a major role in how the plot unfolds from the beginning of the play to the end. The play is structured around two pairs of siblings Orlando and Oliver, Duke Senior and Duke Frederick, and one pair of cousins Celia and Rosalind each pair of relationship is unique and can be characterized in many different ways. All the characters, whether voluntarily or involuntarily at some point in the play, leave the royal court for the Forest of Ardenne therefore the theme of city vs country is also very present in As You Like It.
The sources our group has selected for this pop culture edition fall under different genres. We decided to include music, photos, movies, poetry, and cartoons to help bring the themes of As You Like It to life. The reasoning behind these selection is simply because we wanted our audience to be able to see how relatable and popular the themes of Shakespeare are in this day and age.
In act 1, Racheal connects the themes of romantic love and gender to popular movies and songs. Her work demonstrates that the theme of forbidden and homosexual love in which Shakespeare wrote about is still or even more popular in today’s pop culture. For example, the song "Te Amo" (2009) by Rihanna which the lyrics portray the singer hesitant to love this other woman directly relates to the theme of the forbidden romantic love that Celia shares for Rosalind. In a way, this song could be written from Rosalind’s point of view revealing that she knows how Celia feels about her but she only wants to remain friends.
In act 2, Anthony connected the themes of As you like it and Avatar: The Last Airbender, connecting the Forest of Arden and the swamp. Anthony’s work reveals the banished Duke Senior explanation on the wonders of like in the forest. He tells his associates that he prefers forest dwelling to the “painting pomp” of courtly existence. This reminds him of season 2 episode 4 of Avatar: The Last Airbender, where the swamp people/benders explain why they love living in the swamp. Outside the swamp the problems of masses outweigh the needs of the little people but in the swamp, everyone is connected, and they can all live in harmony. In Act 2, Scene 1, the Duke explains how his life is sweeter because he does not need to deal with “courtly existence” that he would rather stay in the forest and be one with nature. The Duke and the swamp people are closely related in their choosing of nature over their own government.
In act 3, Sidney connects the themes of love and disguises to a meme picture of Neil Patrick with the caption “Could Easily with your girlfriend, sleeps with men instead”. His work demonstrates how Rosalind was able to disguise herself as a man to get closer to Orlando but ends up having Phoebe fall in love with her without even trying. As a result, Phoebe turns down Silvius numerous of times. Phoebe says, “I would not be thy executioner. I fly thee, for I would not injure thee. Thou tell’st me there is murder in mine eye”
In Act 4, Kirika examines the theme of deception, gender identity, and romance. These themes are closely connected to a popular culture movie such as Mulan. Mulan contains all themes that As you like It contained. Deception and Gender Identity played a huge role in both the play and the movie such as when Rosalind disguised as a male named Ganymede while Mulan posed as a male also and named Ping. Romance played a part when both leads that are in disguise are in love and even have an attraction toward their male companion even when they are in disguise. Some other examples for this specific act were when Rosalind bounced back and forth being male and female when she was asking Orlando to pretend she is Rosalind when she is actually Rosalind is similar to the part in Mulan where she was in the lake taking a bath and had to switch from the roles of male and female especially when the 3 soldiers that picked on her before approached her. Because of the situations they were both in they were having the need to revert back and forth in in their genders. There was another scene where Mulan even tried speaking to Shang, the male leader, and gave him advice that would make him a better leader. This part closely demonstrates a scene on where Rosalind as Ganymede was advising Orlando on how to woo Rosalind. Both Mulan and Rosalind wanted to advice their love interests to become a better person.
For this pop culture edition, our goal was simple and clear, to take As you Like It and show not direct comparisons, but showing how common themes from the play could have in fact influence pop culture to this day. Our target audiences are anyone who need help understanding the difficult language that is Shakespeare. One of goals is to bring insight into common questions they might have like such as understanding the symbolism with the forest in the play and what it could represent, or addressing themes throughout the play such us city vs country. Our expectations are that scholars should be able to make the correlation between the pop culture and the literature. Shakespeare in the eyes of people today, is extremely difficult to comprehend. Using more modern sources, with something more relatable Shakespeare can become clearer. This includes themes of Deception, Love, country vs city, rivalry, and fools.
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