Summer Shakespeare I

Bruce A. McMenomy, Ph.D. for Scholars Online
2015: Wednesdays, 1:00-3:00 p.m. Eastern Time
June 17 - Aug. 19

June 17:
A Midsummer Night's Dream
Conventions

June 24:
Romeo and Juliet
Language

July 8:
The Taming of the Shrew
Themes

July 15:
Richard II
History

July 22:
As You Like It
Comedy

July 29:
Julius Caesar
Tragedy

August 5:
The Merchant of Venice
Structure

August 12:
King Lear
Symbolism

August 19:
Twelfth Night
Ambiguity

As You Like It

Things to consider while reading As You Like It

This is one of Shakespeare’s most peculiar comedies. It has a good deal of serious material mixed in with some plain old-fashioned silliness. It has a pattern of action that runs contrary to expectation — slumping in the middle, and having its functional ingredients at both ends. It offers an almost static pastoral reality embedded in a political play filled with hatred and connivance, and then resolves the chief political problem (which has sent everyone out to the woods in the first place) by a completely arbitrary offstage dodge, wholly unanticipated before it is revealed. And yet it remains the favorite play of many readers, and it certainly has many of Shakespeare’s best-loved characters and most renowned speeches.

A narrative retelling of As You Like It from Tales from Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb is linked here at the Eldritch Press Site.


As You Like It and the previous plays we’ve read


Shakespeare’s Comedies

Shakespeare wrote more comedies than any other single kind of play. There are thirteen comedies if one does not include the romances among them; if one does, there are eighteen. They range in tone from the slapstick farce of The Comedy of Errors to the dark melancholy of Measure for Measure; in style they stretch from the outlandish to the staid; in content they go from the magical to the rationalistic. This is the third comedy we’ve covered so far, and it’s fairly strikingly different from those that have come before. Consider as you read: what makes a comedy a comedy? Is it a matter of how funny it is? Is there something else? What are the limits of comedy, really?

In particular consider:


Themes that emerge in the play (only a few of the many)


Symmetries in the play


Inconsistencies or problems in the play

Does it bother you that the beginning problems of the play — the ill treatment of Orlando by Oliver, and the banishment of Rosalind by the usurper Duke Frederick — are effectively resolved with a wave of the hand at the end? What does this suggest to you?

What is the function of the poems written on the trees throughout the middle portion of the play? What do they accomplish thematically? What is Shakespeare saying with them?

What is the function of the various songs throughout the play? What do they do?