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How Does Shakespeare Establish Theme, Character And Plot In Act One Of "As You Like It" ?

1186 words - 5 pages

As in many of Shakespeare's comedies, the plot of As You Like It concerns lovers, and revolves around the overcoming of the obstacles to their love. After Act One, we have seen that Rosalind and Orlando are the central lovers of the play, and that Oliver and the Duke are the main impediments. As well as the theme of love, in Act One we see Shakespeare establishing the themes of jealousy and court versus country.Strong characterisation is essential to the vitality of the plot. In Act One, we are introduced to a varied array of characters: Rosalind, Celia and Touchstone are witty and perceptive, Orlando is passionate and noble, and the Duke and Oliver are villainous and jealous.The play begins in a curious, if not clumsy, manner, with Orlando's words: "As I remember Adam, it was upon this fashion...", followed by a description of Orlando's background. Here we see Shakespeare grown so confident in his writing that he does not attempt to convey the background of the play in a subtle manner. Instead we are treated as efficiently and quickly as possible to the background information, so that the important themes retain the focus.Indeed, we learn a great deal from Orlando's opening speech: he is "unkept" by his brother - denied the education appropriate to his noble birth, and "will no longer endure" his "servitude". His declaration immediately establishes tension.When Orlando comes face to face with his brother, the encounter is violent, and stirs up hatred in Oliver. As a result, Oliver arranges to have Orlando killed by the wrestler Charles ("I'd have as lief thy break his neck"). We are therefore made aware that Oliver will be an obstruction to any love affair involving Orlando.Another obstacle to the would-be love affair between Orlando and Rosalind is the Duke, who looks unfavourably upon both. We see his dislike of Orlando after the wrestling match, with his admission: "I would thou hadst told me of another father". However, his displeasure at Orlando's victory does not extend so far as ordering banishment, and the Duke even admits Orlando is a "gallant youth".Stronger is the Duke's dislike of Rosalind, which extends to hatred - in fact he orders her to leave the court and threatens to kill her. His hatred of Rosalind stems from his hatred of her father - the banished Duke Senior, but is also fuelled by Rosalind's closeness to Celia. He feels his daughter is somewhat eclipsed in the eyes of the court ("she robs thee of thy name").Despite these difficulties, the love between Orlando and Rosalind appears to be firm and powerful. We first see evidence of this love in what appears to be an exhortation half-whispered to herself: "Hercules be thy speed, young man". Furthermore, after the wrestling, Rosalind gives a token of her love, saying "wear this for me". Both Rosalind and Orlando are bowled over by their mutual passion, Orlando confessing "my better parts are all thrown down", and Rosalind admitting to Orlando "You have overthrown more than your...

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