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Eng 3 - Characters Play More Than Just a Role in Life - as You like It by William Shakespeare

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Alex Kuri

English 3

Ms. O’Connell

December 10, 2015

Characters Play More Than Just a Role in Life

As You Like It by William Shakespeare is a play that has a great amount of controversy. The question that sparks this controversy is whether or not characters in the play As You Like It are playing roles in the drama of life, or are they all just acting their parts? As You Like It is a comedic play where Shakespeare expresses many of the characters as just playing roles in the overall play that we call life. Shakespeare does this by making this comedy fast paced with much happening all the time, but always having a reason for the actions happening. In As You Like It, every event that occurs is based upon the character acting out of instinct rather than acting out just to change the events occurring. All of the commotion effects the bigger picture, rather than just a single character.

“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts, His acts being seven ages” (A. II Sc. VII, 140). This quote from Jacques is from one of the most important speeches he gives throughout the play. The seven stages that Jacques talks about are infant, schoolboy, soldier, justice, retiree, and death. Jacques explains that everyone just goes through these stages, and that is the role of their life. This speech does not though, explain the fact that one person’s action or role during a stage in their life can effect another person greatly. In As You Like It, many examples prove that Jacques’ speech is merely a speech coming from his depressed and sarcastic character who wants to always find the lesser of people and life.

Rosalind is a great example of playing a bigger role in life rather than just acting her part. Throughout As You Like It, Rosalind is love struck, and will do anything to get closer to Orlando. She even decides to go to the length of acting as a young man named Ganymede. Rosalind has the ability to be able to manipulate people to get whatever she wants. While disguised as Ganymede, Rosalind is able to manipulate easier due to her presence as a man, and get closer to Orlando at the same time. Rosalind contradicts Jacques’ speech by playing two roles that greatly effect herself, and the people around her. Rosalind disguised as Ganymede is able to get Orlando to ask Rosalind to marry him. This greatly effects Orlando’s life, as well as the life of herself. Ganymede is also able to change the life of Phoebe, whom instantly falls in love with Ganymede at first sight.

Duke Frederick’s actions change the roles and lives of the characters and their world. By taking the throne from Duke Senior, and banishing the court to Arden, the characters are forced to have a new outlook on their lives, which leads to an entire new world for them. The entire court from Jacques to Duke Senior begin to change even if they do not know it. Living a life in the woods is much different than the court. Their actions towards family members begin to change, and even their views change. By the end of the play, Oliver and Orlando are on better terms, and Duke Frederick even gives up the throne to be a monk. Even though he did not have a major change in life in moving to the forest, he had to deal with the changes in everyone and being without them, that it changed him enough to do what was right and give up the throne, for he did not deserve it.

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