AS YOU LIKE IT by William Shakespeare

On the surface, this play would seem to contain everything I don’t like about Shakespeare. Shakespeare is my favorite author and I revere him. However, I’m no idolater. Many of the more popular comedies feel, to me, forced and artificial. There was also a repertory of plot devices and tricks that get old pretty fast. That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy the high comedies. I just don’t find myself drawn back to them over and over as I am with King Lear or Antony and Cleopatra.
As You Like It is just different, however. Somehow, despite containing nearly all the Shakespearean comedy cliches, it doesn’t feel consumed by them. The best answer I can come up with is the sheer laziness. Instead of working out an intricate, clockwork-like plot, Shakespeare just basically throws up his hands and lets things kind of ramble along. There is a bit of business up front; it’s kind of dull but it doesn’t last long. Then the central characters get to the forest of Arden and everything is fine. Time for verbal jousting, moody philosophizing and gentle ribbing, all day long. Every now and then, we check back with the villains but they eventually make it to the forest themselves. Naturally, their villainy melts away, like so much morning dew. The effect of all this is utterly enchanting. Ironically, it has, for me anyway, a kind of languid force that makes it much more powerful than Shakespeare’s more carefully plotted comedies. It’s as if, by trying less, Shakespeare’s natural gifts were able to flow more freely. All this is topped by the silly yet marvelous divine apparition at the end. Is it meant to be real, even in the context of the play? Probably not! Just another part of the dreamy forest world this play creates. Absurd, ridiculous and tremendously life-enhancing. 


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