You may be familiar with As You Like It because it’s the Shakespeare play that features one of the most famous speeches of all time (“All the world’s a stage…”) And while we wholeheartedly agree that it’s worth the full price of admission just to see ASC veteran Annabelle Rollison’s Jaques deliver those iconic lines, there are also countless other reasons why you don’t want to miss our upcoming production of this beloved comedy. But, for now, let’s just name the top ten!
1. It’s the perfect escape
No, literally! With Rosalind banished at the end of Act 1, she runs away with her cousin Celia and their friend—the court jester, Touchstone—into the Forest of Arden, which ends up being the perfect place to escape on a journey of transformation, love, and self-discovery. Why not join them?
2. Hopeless romantic or more of a cynic? Either works!
As You Like It is simultaneously a satire and celebration of love. Love, and those in it, are both mocked and cherished throughout the play. You might identify with characters like the cynical Touchstone and melancholy Jaques or you might relate stronger to the idealistic Orlando and self-aware Rosalind. And we think everyone can relate to the long-suffering Celia’s skepticism—after all, who hasn’t watched a friend make foolish decisions in the name of love, only to do the same thing ourselves later on? Even the farcical side plot of Silvius and Phebe is a tale as old as time.
3. Iconic characters abound
As You Like It is well-known for featuring one of Shakespeare’s most fully realized female characters in the central role. But Rosalind isn’t the only noteworthy character in this play’s ensemble! Who could forget about Touchstone, one of Shakespeare’s most famous/infamous fools, or Jaques, the persistently melancholy lord who philosophizes to and argues with pretty much everyone he encounters? Or what about Phebe and Audrey, two of Shakespeare’s best female clowns? And who would our heroine Rosalind be without her Celia, who chooses to forsake her royal life to accompany her best friend into the unknown world? This is a character-driven story and these characters definitely don’t disappoint! (Plus, with a small cast of only seven actors, don’t you want to see how our talented company takes on multiple roles?)
4. It’s FUNNY and oh-so clever
And not just because Touchstone is in it—although his scenes are some of the best, especially his wooing of Audrey and his verbal sparring matches with Corin and William. Awash in wit, this play of chance encounters and idle—but not shallow—conversations contains some of the wittiest banter and cleverest comebacks in the canon. Highlights include Rosalind and Orlando’s waggish conversations about love, Phebe’s hilarious speech denying (or confirming) her infatuation with Ganymede, and, perhaps best of all, the scene in Act 5 where declarations of love come faster than death tolls at the end of Titus Andronicus…
“And so am I for Phebe.”
“And I for Ganymede.”
“And I for Rosalind.”
“And I for no woman.” (Act V, scene ii)
5. You’ll recognize A LOT of the language
Sure “all the men and women are merely players” is probably the most famous part of As You Like It, but did you know that this play is filled with lots of Shakespeare’s other famous (and often silly) quotes? One of our relatable favorites is: “I pray you do not fall in love with me, for I am falser than vows made in wine.”
Sure this is a beautiful play with beautiful language, but did we also mention there’s an epic wrestling match in Act 1? And Charles the wrestler is perhaps one of Shakespeare’s most hilarious “small roles”—while the clown only appears in two scenes, you won’t soon forget him.
7. There’s music galore
While ASC’s signature performance style always includes fabulous pre-show set lists of music performed by the company, As You Like It’s text is also overflowing with songs. Hits like “Under the Greenwood Tree,” “It Was a Lover and His Lass,” and “Blow, Blow Thou Winter Wind” infuse the Forest of Arden with music. With our production’s 90’s spin, the music is sure to be a big highlight of each performance!
8. The perfect balance of carefree and contemplative
While the play’s title, As You Like It, implies that the story doesn’t take itself too seriously, the light and genial tone leaves plenty of room for big questions and themes to be explored without becoming heavy-handed. There is no doubt this play is a comedy, but there is much to discover and learn about life from this ensemble of characters, often found coupled with humor and heart.
9. SLOW DOWN AND Get in touch with nature
“And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in everything.” (Act II, scene i)
Unlike Prospero in The Tempest, when Duke Senior is usurped and exiled, he seems much more content with his new life in the Forest of Arden. When we first meet him and his “brothers in exile” he speaks of the pleasures of living amongst nature. Corin the shepherd expresses a similar philosophy of finding contentment in the simplicity of life, and it seems that Arden serves as a place for those who enter to slow down and learn about themselves and the people around them. Identity exploration abounds in many ways in the Forest of Arden, and the journey of these characters is definitely worthwhile to observe.
10. The ultimate family reunion
What better way to have a family reunion than at the Blackfriars Playhouse, watching a play all about familial reunions? With two pairs of warring brothers and a long-lost father and daughter duo, this play explores the complicated nature of sibling relationships and the ties between parents and children, all concluded with reunions, forgiveness, and happy endings galore. While many other Shakespeare plays feature dysfunctional family dynamics, As You Like It is a breath of fresh air that ends with family ties becoming stronger. (That being said, see here for a note about age-appropriateness for children, or feel free to contact our Box Office to discuss in detail.)
“I charge you to like as much of this play as pleases you,” says Rosalind in the epilogue, a final speech that fittingly highlights the play’s breezy title. This is a play with a myriad of interpretations and, as the title suggests, there isn’t really a wrong way to enjoy it. So while these are the top ten reasons WE like it, why not come experience the play and make new discoveries as YOU like it? See you at the Playhouse!
2023 is ASC’s 35th Anniversary and we’ve got an incredible artistic year planned. First up, join us in the Forest of Arden this spring–performances of As You Like It will take place at the Blackfriars Playhouse from February 17-May 14. Pair it with tickets to an equally magical offering, Eurydice by Sarah Ruhl, opening February 24. Visit our website for a full calendar of events!