As You Like It (Shakespeare, n. pag.) is a play that could be categorized under the pastoral genre of comedy. It was written during the end of Queen Elizabeth’s reign. Accordingly, the play offers a clear examination of the cruelties as well as corruption associated with court life. The play also openly pokes holes in romantic love, which is one of the largest artifices as far as humankind is concerned. It mainly focuses on pastoral traditions that result in the formation of simple rivalries such as the one between the court and the country. Major characters such as Rosalind, Orlando, and Jacques are presented differently with some represented stereotypically while others have portrayals that make literary statements throughout the play hence underscoring their real character. The diverse portrayal of characters in the play is vital in illustrating their nature as well as facilitating their interactions throughout the play, as they embody varying personalities.
Rosalind is a dominant character in the play. It is worth noting that she is portrayed as a character who is full of complexity when it comes to her emotions and subtle when it comes to her thoughts. Her character is not stereotypical, and no other character in the play can be compared to her. The appeal that is endless in watching Rosalind is linked to her success, knowledge, and a charming character who criticizes others and herself in some instances. For instance, she illustrates her uniqueness with the assertion, “From the east to western land/No jewel is like Rosalind” (Act III, Sc. II). This statement gives her a literary portrayal, as it is her true character. She is able to chastise Silvius for having an irrational devotion to Phoebe. Moreover, she challenges Orlando who equates her of using a platonic ideal. Furthermore, Rosalind is favorite character majorly among feminists. The feminists’ critics admire her because of her ability to overcome the obstacles that the society presents to her for being a woman. She uses her boldness and imagination to disguise herself with a view of wooing her lover, Orlando, and giving him instructions on how to be an accomplished as well as an attentive lover. She, therefore, manages both male and female characters in the play.
Orlando is another major character and is also not portrayed stereotypically, on the contrary, his portrayal makes a literary statement. Despite being unschooled, he is somehow learned and of noble character. He is loved by people from all categories to such an extent that one could think he has enchanted them. Orlando has a generous and brave spirit. However, he depends on the commonplace clichés as far as matters of love are concerned, hence making a declaration that he would lose his life without Rosalind. This is clearly depicted in his tutorials of love. Furthermore, he demonstrates a decent wit while arguing with Jaques giving a suggestion that Jaques should look for a fool who is known to wander in the forest. The portrayal that makes a literary statement of him is captured in his own words when he says, “He is drowned in the brook: look but in, you shall see him” (Act III, Sc. II). This statement implies that that Jaques will have a view of a fool in his reflection. More often, he takes tasks that show his noble character, hence demonstrating why he is much loved. He makes a voyage with the old Adam and pretends to be a fool in order to get food from him. Moreover, he puts his life at risk to save his brother who has made evil plans against him, even though when the play commences, he complains about being denied schooling by the latter, which is a mandatory requirement for gentlemen. Nevertheless, at the end of the play, he has given proof of being a gentleman without being given education.
Interestingly enough, not all characters are portrayed by literary statements, and a perfect example is Jaques who is also one of the key characters in the play. Notably, Jaques is portrayed stereotypically as he takes advantage of his melancholy and makes himself a perfect candidate for being a senior fool to Duke. He asserts that the position will “…give me leave/to speak my mind” (Act II, Sc. VII) and hence the criticisms that will be aired out will, “cleanse the foul body of the infected world” (Act II, Sc. VII). However, Duke Senior is cautious when it comes to giving him the position as a fool as he fears that Jaques will excoriate his committed sins. Jaques questions everything that goes on around his life. He postulates that man spends his final stage of life living in oblivion in his statement “Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything” (Act II, Sc. VII). This implies that in man’s final stages of life, he has no sense of sight, no sense of taste, and no sense of everything. Despite his criticisms, Jaques is still content with what goes on in his life and the life around him. The stereotypic portrayal comes out clearly when he is brought out as a determined person that will go into the monastery with the reformed Duke Fredrick. He has faith that he will be taught by the converts. Accordingly, he clearly justifies the title of the play, As You Like It, as he mostly does what he feels like doing. He refuses to go back to his previous life in the dukedom, hereby clearly portraying his character of acting what he wishes. Rosalind criticizes her surroundings so she can rise a self-assurance of superior grace, whereas Jaques does the same, but gains nothing from the criticisms.
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Silvius who is also a key character in the play is portrayed stereotypically. Silvius is a character who is young and seriously in love with Phoebe. He is a shepherd while Phoebe is a shepherdess who seems to think that she is best for him. He is expected to realize unforgivable acts committed against him by Phoebe, but fails, even though Rosalind warns him against loving blindly. Silvius finds Phoebe a beautiful lady and feels that her beauty cannot be compared to the beauty of any other woman in the whole world. Nevertheless, Rosalind dents his feeling when she tells Phoebe that she is not that beautiful with the assertion, “You have no beauty, tis not your inky brows, your black hair, /your bugle eyeballs, nor your cheek of cream, / that can entame my spirits to your worship” (Act III, Sc. V). Despite the fact that Silvius adores Phoebe so mush, she does not answer him with the same. In line with the stereotypical portrayal, Silvus is brought out as a love-sick who is always following Phoebe. He proves to be a cast down lover without self-respect, as Phoebe constantly mistreats him and he only dares to threaten to take his life if Phoebe fails to love him back. As a result, he constantly receives insults as well as rebukes from her. What is more, he is scolded by Rosalind for becoming a “tame snake” as a result of his undying love for Phoebe, who exploits him in order to acquire a passion from Ganymede, the one she truly loves (Act IV, Sc. III). Overall, his love for Phoebe makes him typically oblivious of the indecent actions of his chosen one.
In conclusion, the play As You Like It does not depict characters such as Rosalind, Orlando, and Jaques stereotypically as their portrayals make a literary statement. They are mostly presented in their own real nature based on the roles they play. With this kind of depiction, it is easier to see the real nature of Rosalind as a strong woman who rises above the obstacles presented by the society prejudiced against women. On the other hand, Silvius is portrayed stereotypically as an individual who could die for love, even when it proves elusive. All these portrayals are significantly helpful in understanding the exact behavior of the characters and their nature as individuals.