Various Forms of Love in the First Three Acts of ‘as You Like It’

Last Updated: 26 Jan 2021
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Explore Shakespeare’s presentation of the various forms of love in the first three acts of ‘As You Like It’ Various forms of love are depicted in Shakespeare’s play ‘As You Like It’ which clearly show the relationships between the key characters in the play as well as illustrating the different aspects of their characteristics. The first three acts introduce the ideas of love and how they differ in the context of different subjects in the play; whether it is a romantic love or a friendship Shakespeare’s use of language expresses the emotions of each character in a way that makes the idea of love central to the play.

Chronologically, the family love expressed by Celia and Rosalind is the first form of love that Shakespeare introduces to the play; the character of Charles explains how “never two ladies loved as they do” when illustrating their relationship and the use of the word “never” exaggerates the depth and intensity of their love for one another. The girls are cousins in relation to each other and in Act 1 Scene 2; Celia’s sympathy for Rosalind concerning the banishment of her father portrays the care and concern that comes from the love shared between them.

The scene opens with pleading for Rosalind to cheer up: “I pray thee, Rosalind, sweet my coz, be merry” the familiar and affectionate language used to address Rosalind such as “sweet my coz” demonstrates how Celia desires for happiness to come to her cousin suggesting that Celia is a compassionate character. It seems that the value of the cousins’ relationship is of great importance to Celia, she is bound to Rosalind and tremendously loyal for she abandons her father’s Court to flee with Rosalind to the Forest of Arden.

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This would be an unforgivable act during the Elizabethan era and so the audience would notice this as a dangerous and dramatic situation thus adding excitement to the play. In contrast to this presentation of love which is open and expressive, the relationship between Duke Frederick and his daughter is rather different; due to his high level of authority one can assume that his persona must be strong and intimidating with the intention to maintain order in the Court even with his own daughter.

The formality between them as they converse shows the normal conventions during the Elizabethan era of how one should act with a man of great power; this is depicted in Act 1 Scene 3 when Celia addresses her father as “Dear sovereign” as oppose to something less proper. Even though it is human instinct to love family, due to the reputation of the Duke and the fact that he is a man of high status, the love between them is not portrayed visibly.

The central romantic relationship between Orlando and Rosalind illustrates the conventional courtly love that was appreciated in the Elizabethan era; love at first sight bewitched the two characters creating drama for the audience as they reveal their true outlooks on love. It is made apparent that from the moment they met they fell deeply in love, with Orlando unable to speak and Rosalind falsely hearing him call her name. “What passion hangs these weights upon my tongue? I cannot speak to her, yet she urg’d conference. Orlando is speechless when gazing into the eyes of his subject of adoration and this portrays him as innocent and somewhat naive when it comes to love. He is completely infatuated and love struck, and Shakespeare portrays him as a man with the ‘idealist’ view of love, depicted through his poetry; “He that sweetest rose shall find, /must find loves prick – and Rosalind. ” The imagery of the rose used to describe Rosalind is tender yet cliche; it again contributes to the innocence of Orlando’s character and the idealist fantasy he is living in, insinuating that women are delicate just as flowers are.

It is obvious that Rosalind (as Ganymede) enjoys the romantic ideas about herself that Orlando expresses, however she feels that courtly love should be seen as realistic and thus she teaches Orlando about the reality of women; “would now like him, now loathe him”, it would seem quite comical to the audience that Rosalind is portraying women in such a bad light and Orlando still has his heart set on her. Through this, the character of Rosalind is seen as witty and intelligent, for she is influencing Orlando to the way she hopes he would act.

The bond between Adam and Orlando expresses the loyalty between them and the love that has been present since Adam has served the family since the boy was young. Adam is somewhat distraught and offended that Oliver whom he has served referred to him as an “old dog” and this shows where his true loyalties lie; with Orlando. “I will follow thee/ To the last gasp with truth and loyalty” the fact and situation that Adam is willing to desert the home and family he has served for so long illustrates his faithfulness to Orlando and the love shared by them both.

Adam thus, is depicted as a devoted and courageous character, for the consequences of fleeing from the family could have been severe for it would have disgraced Oliver. Again, this would have been a thrilling point in the play for the Elizabethan audience. Unrequited love is not an uncommon presentation of love that Shakespeare puts across through an assortment of couples in the play; the most obvious example being Phoebe and Silvius.

Silvius is lovelorn and completely obsessed with his object of affection yet this is not reciprocated by Phoebe; she even confesses to Rosalind (as Ganymede) in Act 3 Scene 6 that “I had rather hear you chide than this man woo. ” Given that Phoebe would prefer to be scolded by Rosalind than to listen to Silvius speak so fondly of her highlights the indifference she feels for Silvius. Moreover this portrays her as a spiteful and vicious character for she openly expresses her dislike for Silvius in his presence.

Shakespeare uses the image of cupid to emphasise the adoration that Silvius feels for Phoebe; “Then shall you know the wounds invisible/that love’s keen arrow make. ” Shakespeare uses the word “wounds” to highlight the intensity of pain Silvius feels in love. In the Elizabethan era, cupid was not highly regarded for most women married for fortune or other economic reasons; therefore, the idealist view of love is illustrated again in this scene. Nonetheless, the audience would naturally feel sympathy for the hopeless and fruitless character of Silvius.

Another take on unrequited love is that of Touchstone and Audrey; Touchstone wants to marry Audrey hastily to fulfil his sexual desires, he does not long for a lifelong marriage with her; “it will be a good excuse for me hereafter to leave my wife” before entering matrimony with Audrey, Touchstone already plans to divorce her, this contrasts with the romantic love between Rosalind and Orlando and shows Touchstones immoral characteristics for he favours lust over love.

Audrey’s lack of intelligence and the appeal of Touchstone’s courtly manners make her unaware of his intentions. The religious conventions of the Elizabethan era are however expressed through their relationship. “We must be married or we must live in bawdry”; Touchstone fears being condemned by God if he were to sin through having sexual relations out of wedlock and uses the word “must” to show his loyalty to faith yet not his loyalty to Audrey.

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Various Forms of Love in the First Three Acts of ‘as You Like It’. (2016, Dec 26). Retrieved from

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