Love in As You Like It
Throughout the centuries, men have pondered many great questions. Among these is the question: "What is love?" There is no doubt that the greatest name in English literature, Shakespeare, sought to answer this question for himself. Indeed, Shakespeare recorded his answer in many of the sonnets and plays he wrote, including As You Like It. As Shakespeare learned in seeking to answer this question, love is many things, which in this play he observes through the characters of the play, but most directly through Silvius:
It is to be all made of fantasy,
All made of passion and all made of wishes,
All adoration, duty, and observance,
All humbleness, all patience and impatience,
All purity, all trial, all observance ... (V.ii).
In this play, Shakespeare associates love with many characteristics. Love is often associated with selflessness in this play. Part of the answer to the question of love is also selflessness. And an important part of love is truth. Love embodies all of the greatest characteristics of a person: truthfulness, selflessness, and faithfulness.
Part of love is selflessness. Throughout the play, many of the characters demonstrate selflessness which in turn reflects their love for one another. Orlando is one such character. He and the ever-faithful Adam are wandering through the forest of Arden, for Adam had warned Orlando of certain death. Orlando's elder brother, Oliver, had harbored a deep hatred towards Orlando, a hatred which had grown to immense proportions. If Orlando had his home, he would have been killed. Adam was able to persuade Orlando to flee, and now they are in the forest. Once here, though, Adam can go no further, for his is but an old man. "I die for food! Here I lie down and measure out my grave" (Adam II.vi). Orlando leaves Adam and finds a camp about to eat. Risking his own life, he tells them not to eat any food, then explains why:
There is an old poor man,
Who after me hath many a weary step
Limp'd in pure love: till he be first sufficed,
Oppress'd with two weak evils, age and hunger,
I will not touch a bit (II.vii).
Orlando is not merely being selfless, he is being selfless to help out a servant, a member of a lower social class. There are few names with such a reputation, and one of them is the legendary Robin Hood. In this way Shakespeare shows the selflessness of love.
Shakespeare through Orlando again shows selflessness, this time not for a loving subordinate, but for his hateful brother. Orlando is walking through the forest, and catches a glimpse of "a wretched and ragged man, o'ergrown with hair" asleep at the base of an old oak tree (IV.iii). A snake crawls down from the man, then slithers under a bush, where a lioness crouches, ready to leap at the first movement of the man. Orlando see the man to be none other than his elder brother. "Twice did he turn his back and purpos'd so [to leave him there]/ But kindness, nobler ever than...