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As You Like It Essay Prompts High School

As You Like It was likely written between 1598 and 1600. It was entered in the Stationers' Register on August 4, 1600 but no edition followed the entry, thereby leading to the ambiguity in its publication date. Two topical references have been used by scholars to claim 1599 as the date of writing, but even this is inference only. For instance, Francis Meres, a contemporary of Shakespeare, listed the plays known to him in September of 1598 and did not include As You Like It among them. The first known publication is in the 1623 First Folio, taken either from Shakespeare's promptbook or less likely from a literary transcript of the promptbook.

The source for the plot of As You Like It is derived from Thomas Lodge's extremely popular prose romance Rosalynde. Written in 1586-87 and published in 1590, Shakespeare knew the story quite well although he changed a great deal of the details and emphasized different things. Lodge for example did not have ducal brothers, but Shakespeare chose to make enmity between brothers central to the theme of the play. Shakespeare also chooses to make primogeniture a target of his criticism by allowing Oliver to inherit everything, whereas Lodge had an equal inheritance between the brothers in his version. The clown Touchstone and the melancholically satirical Jaques are also both creations of Shakespeare.

The Forest of Ardenne is from Lodge's romance, and actually describes an ancient woodland comprising parts of France, Belgium and Luxembourg. Shakespeare used the French setting through his choice of the French spelling, "Ardenne". However, the First Folio indicates another spelling, namely the Forest of Arden, an Anglicized spelling that also corresponds to a forest near Shakespeare's birthplace in Warwickshire. This happy coincidence is indicative of the doubleness in the play; although set in a foreign kingdom the play refers to English customs such as Robin Hood and primogeniture. Thus the play can deal with problems at home in spite of its seemingly foreign setting.

The story of Orlando and Oliver comes from another source, that of The Tale of Gamelyn, a Middle English story in which a younger brother seeks revenge on an older brother who mistreats him. This story invokes the name of Robin Hood, the famous English outlaw who lived near Nottingham and poached the king's deer. Indeed, the opening scenes of As You Like It invoke the image of Robin Hood when Charles the Wrestler describes Duke Senior as a modern day Robin Hood with his band of nobles around him.

As You Like It finds its origins in the pastoral tradition of the Renaissance in which the rustic field and forest provides a sanctuary from urban or courtly issues. The play itself takes place in a forest where the characters are hiding from treachery at court or injustice in the family. This pastoral tradition began with Theocrites in ancient Greece, whose writings explored the sorrows of love and daily injustices in a rural setting. Virgil expanded the tradition, emphasizing the distinction between urban and rural lifestyles even more. Renaissance literature focused more on the distinction between court and country life, and Shakespeare had many contemporaries who worked in this literary vein, including Edmund Spenser who based his Shepherdess Calendar in 1579 on Virgil's Eclogues, and Sir Philip Sidney who wrote a romance in 1590 titled The Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia.

The pastoral tradition, in spite of taking many literary forms, conformed to a traditional set of rules. A typical story would involve exiles from the court or city going into the countryside and living either with or as shepherds. While in the rural area, they would hold singing contests and philosophically discuss the various merits of both forms of life. Eventually the exiles would return to the city having resolved their particular problems.

Pastoral works have most frequently been used as social criticisms due to their ability to question the natural world versus the artificial manmade world. The characters often discuss whether life in the country is preferable to that of the city, usually focusing on such evils as cruel mistresses or the dishonesty of courtiers for themes. The simplicity of the countryside is always celebrated in a highly artful manner, imitating the Western literary tradition as it has developed over time. Indeed, the pastoral genre provides authors with a way to pretend; the characters immerse themselves in another world and can act out their ideal worlds. Thus in this "simplistic world" we see many disguises where courtiers pretend to be shepherds, men dress as women, women dress as men, and nobles become outlaws. The pastoral world gives its cast an opportunity to alter their own world when they return through the games they play in this contrived, imaginary location.

Shakespeare adopted the pastoral as a chance to deal both humorously and seriously with his two themes of brotherly betrayal and doting love. Indeed, the play has more songs in it than any other Shakespearian drama, a sign that Shakespeare enjoyed the pastoral genre he was using for the play. The forest of Ardenne, where the characters all end up, turns out to be very similar to other forests: it causes fear through the wild animals but provides the right atmosphere for healing to occur. This corresponds closely to the forest in A Midsummer Night's Dream where most of the action occurs before the cast returns to Athens with their problems resolved. Indeed, after hunting deer, tending sheep, singing songs and writing love sonnets on bark, most of the cast in this play returns home again with all their problems solved.

Below you will find four outstanding thesis statements for “As You Like It” by William Shakespeare that can be used as essay starters or paper topics. All five incorporate at least one of the themes in Shakespeare's “As You Like It” nd are broad enough so that it will be easy to find textual support, yet narrow enough to provide a focused clear thesis statement. These thesis statements offer a short summary of “As You Like It” by William Shakespeare in terms of different elements that could be important in an essay. You are, of course, free to add your own analysis and understanding of the plot of “As You Like It” or themes to them for your essay. Using the essay topics below in conjunction with the list of important quotes from “As You Like It” by William Shakespeare at the bottom of the page, you should have no trouble connecting with the text and writing an excellent essay. Before you begin, however, please get some useful tips and hints about how to use PaperStarter.com in the brief User's Guide…you'll be glad you did.

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #5: The Role Reversal of Men and Women in As You Like It

The traditional male and female gender roles are murky in William Shakespeare’s As You Like It. The use of disguises in “As You Like It” and the role reversal begins when Rosalind dresses as a male shepherd, Ganymede, and Celia disguises herself as Ganymede’s sister. Eventually, Rosalind begins to grow into her role, offering love counseling and role play therapy to a love sick Orlando. Rosalind is not the only character with a gender-confused identity, however. Silvius and Phoebe also have a strange relationship in terms of their sexuality and gender identity. Silvius chases after Phoebe like a lovesick school girl, flinging himself at her feet and begging for her attentions, while Phoebe acts as a jaded man, too impatient and important to care about the feelings of Silvius. What is Shakespeare saying about gender roles in this play? Do you think that he is encouraging or discouraging the temporary exchange of roles? Why or why not? For more assistance with this topic, be sure to read this article on disguise and role reversal.

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #1: Hidden Potential in As You Like It

Throughout William Shakespeare’s As You Like It, there are several characters that have been oppressed, or otherwise denied the ability to reach their full potential. For example, Orlando is kept inside Oliver’s house, without any sort of gentlemanly education or ability to meet noblemen. Oliver is jealous of Orlando, and as such, he keeps the boy locked away from the rest of the world, which leads Orlando to fall into a depression. When he decides to fight Charles, despite the fact that Charles is an accredited fighter, Oliver actually begs Charles to be hard on Orlando and break his neck if possible. Instead, Orlando succeeds in winning the fight, in no small part because of the kindness of Rosalind. This portion of Orlando’s story shows his ability to succeed even when those around him do not believe he can be successful. What other characters in this play are surprisingly successful? What is Shakespeare implying about the underdog in these scenarios?

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #2: Satisfaction in As You Like It

There are many people in Shakespeare’s As You Like It who have been denied their dreams. For Orlando, he is denied the dream of an education and a life outside of Oliver’s home. For Duke Senior, his usurping brother, Duke Fredrick, has denied him his rights to the throne. Even Rosalind has been denied the things that she wants, such as a life inside the courtly atmosphere, after Fredrick banishes her. However, even despite their circumstances, everyone in the play is happy with what they have. Duke Senior is content living in the wilderness with the men who are loyal to him, while Rosalind is happy living with Celia, pretending to be Ganymede and educating Orlando on love. What is important about being happy with the things that you have, and how is Shakespeare highlighting that theme throughout the play?

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #3: The Role of Devotion in As You Like It

Devotion plays a key role in William Shakespeare’s As You Like It. Firs there is Celia, the cousin of Rosalind, who would do anything for her favorite family member. When Fredrick, Celia’s father, banishes Rosalind from the court, Celia knows that she can do nothing to temper her father’s anger, and instead she gathers up her things and flees to the wilderness with her cousin, leaving her entire world behind. Another example of devotion comes in the form of Silvius. Silvius is a shepherd who is in love with Phoebe, a shepherdess who cannot stand him. Instead of allowing her objections to come in the way, he continues to attempt to persuade her through poetry and prostration in the fields. The devotion of both of these characters is eventually rewarded, as Celia ends up meeting and marrying Oliver, and thanks to a trick by Rosalind, Phoebe and Silvius wed as well. Is Shakespeare making the statement that devotion is always rewarded? What other characters in the play exhibit this characteristic and what is their reward for their devotion?

For more assistance with this and other essay topics for “As You Like It” You might find the following article useful: The Role of Disguises in As You Like It and A Midsummer Night's Dream


This list of important quotations from “As You Like It” by William Shakespeare will help you work with the essay topics and thesis statements above by allowing you to support your claims. All of the important quotes from Shakespeare's “As You Like It” listed here correspond, at least in some way, to the paper topics above and by themselves can give you great ideas for an essay by offering quotes and explanations about other themes, symbols, imagery, and motifs than those already mentioned and explained. Aside from the thesis statements for “As You Like It” by Shakespeare above, these quotes alone with page numbers can act as essay questions or study questions as they are all relevant to the text in an important way.

“You know my father hath no child but I, nor none is like to have; and truly, when he dies, thou shalt be his heir; for what he hath taken away from thy father perforce, I will render thee again in affection. (I.i.16-20)

“Yet your mistrust can not make me a traitor.” (I.iii.59)

“Master go on, and I will follow thee To the last gasp with truth and loyalty.” (II.iii.70-71)

“If thou rememb'rest not the slightest folly That ever love did make thee run into, Thou hast not loved.” (II.iv.33-35)

“No sooner met but they looked, no sooner looked but they loved, no sooner loved but they sighed, no sooner sighed but they asked one another the reason, no sooner the reason but they sought the remedy; and in these degrees have they made a pair of stairs to marriage, which they will climb incontinent, or else be incontinent before marriage. They are in the very wrath of love, and they will together.” (V.ii.34-42)

“You and you no cross shall part You and you are heart in heart To you your love must accord Or have a woman to your lord You and you are sure together As the winter to foul weather” (V.iv.136-141)

“Within these ten days if that thou be’st [be] found So near our public court as twenty miles, Thou diest for it." (I.iii.27-29)

“I pray thee, Rosalind, sweet my coz, be merry" (I.ii.3)

“Neither rime nor reason can express how much" (III.ii.152)

Source : Shakespeare, William. The Norton Shakespeare. 1. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1997.
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