As You Like It
As You Like It is Shakespeare’s most elegant play. At its climax Rosalind calls the cast into a circle, the figure of perfection, and resolves the plot with the assistance of Hymen, god of marriage. Whereas most of the other comedies are shadowed by death, this one offers four weddings and no funeral. The part of Rosalind is the longest and most joyous female role in the complete works. It would have been extraordinarily demanding for the boy-actor who first performed it, though made a little easier by the fact that Rosalind spends so much of the time dressed as a boy.
Orlando is the youngest of three brothers, badly treated by the oldest, Oliver; Duke Senior, meanwhile, has been banished and the court usurped by his younger brother, Frederick. Orlando fights with Charles, the court wrestler, and he and Rosalind, daughter of the exiled duke, fall in love. Rosalind and her cousin Celia, daughter of usurping Duke Frederick, leave the court for the Forest of Arden. Rosalind disguises herself as a boy. On being told by the old family servant Adam that Oliver is plotting to kill him, Orlando also flees to the forest.
ORLANDO: As I remember, Adam, it was upon this fashion bequeathed
me by will but poor a thousand crowns, and, as thou sayest,
charged my brother on his blessing to breed me well; and there
begins my sadness. My brother Jaques he keeps at school, and
report speaks goldenly of his profit. For my part, he keeps me
rustically at home, or, to speak more properly, stays me here at
home unkept, for call you that keeping for a gentleman of my
birth, that differs not from the stalling of an ox? His horses are
bred better, for, besides that they are fair with their feeding,
they are taught their manage, and to that end riders dearly
hired; but I, his brother, gain nothing under him but growth, for
the which his animals on his dunghills are as much bound to him
Introduction to As You Like It