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Opening Scene of as You Like It

In: English and Literature

Submitted By Nonce
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the play,as you like it,written by shakespeare during the Elizabethan age,belongs to the literary tradition known as Pastoral which typically involves exits from urban or court life to the world of nature. In the opening scene of this play,we are firstly exposed to the main hero,Orlando who is describing his plight to the servant,Adam. This whole scene deals with the theme of primogeniture that corrupts the brotherly love. Hence,this particular part of the play is important for us as readers to understand to what extent who is loyal and who is not as we are provided with a clear insight on the Elizabethan society during Shakespear’s time. Therefore,it is also crucial to note that shakespeare uses dramatic techniques such as the themes of usurpation and jealousy,the main characters,Orlando and Oliver,pastoral setting of the play and the language in order to mark the significance of this opening scene.

in the opening scene,orlando introduces one of the play’s important themes : primogeniture,a policy whereby the eldest son inherits everything. Orlando, being the youngest brother in his family, faces the problem that he has received a meager inheritance as a result of this rule. ‘’ was upon this fashion bequeathed me by will but a poor….and there begins my sadness.’’ Hence we see that the system of hierarchy was not a fair system as where the elder brother usurps everything for himself. Yet,a stronger aspect that takes over is jealousy. ‘’..for my part he keeps me rustically at home..’’ shows that oliver deprives him of education and other facilities,indicating that he is jealous of him.Considering the condition of senior duke,then it is jealousy that has made the younger brother,duke Frederick take senior duke’s place by deception. The reason behind jealousy here is because the evil ones,Oliver and duke Frederick cannot accept the fact that Orlando and Senior duke have that subtle power of goodness for which people love them. Thus,through the use of these themes,maybe shakespeare wants to point out how the materialistic world corrupts the brotherly love.

character-wise,Orlando is a character that wins the sympathy of the readers in the opening scene itself. Orlando is seen as a humble boy who does not backbite his elder brother,Oliver, at any cost but only complaining about his situation. Deprived of education and not kept properly,orlando is not satisfied,’’..besides this nothing that he so plentifully gives me..’’. his life is compared to animals ,’’his horses are better bred than me..’’ ‘’he lets me feed with his hinds..’’ ,showing in what pitiful state he lives. It is to be noted that he is physically more stronger than Oliver who is always using prerogative power to insult him, ‘’marry sir,be better employed,and be naught awhile.’’ Orlando’s inborn virtues of honour,respect and humility is shown when he says,’’..and he is thrice villain that says such a father begots villain..’’ on the other hand,oliver is rather cold and treats those below him like animals. For instance when he talks to adam,he calls his an ‘’old dog’’. In oliver’s words throughout the whole scene,we sense disgust,wickedness and hatred coming out that make him appear as an unsavoury character. Thus,though both boys come from the same parentage,their characters differ totally and this is important to point out the injustice caused by Oliver.

an important technique to make this opening scene interesting is the language. Shakespear uses prose and verse for different reasons. Traditionally,prose was put in the mouths of comics or ordinary characters,while verse was spoken by nobility and lovers. In this scene,it is generally the topic that dictates the form. It is noteworthy that orlando is not educated and so,despite the fact that he also comes from a noble family like Oliver,he uses prosaic language which is made explicit when he talks to Adam,’’go apart adam,and thou shalt hear how he will shake me up.’’ Evidently,Oliver,who has had every facility,talk in verse. An example of this is when he talks to Charles later on,’’Good monsieur Charles,what’s the new news at the new court?’’ this is a courtly language that reflects Oliver’s access to education. Soliloquy is a vital technique to reveal the real intention of a character and it is used in this scene to announce his plan to kill orlando,’’’twill be a good way,and tomorrow is the wrestling.’’ As such,this technique helps to build the dramatic effect as it becomes a source of thrill for the readers.

last but not least,the setting technique used by shakespear is the pastoral setting. The most fundamental concern of pastoral mode is comparing the worth of nature world,represented by a relatively untouched countryside,to the world built by humans,containing the joys of art and city as well as the injustices of rigid social hierarchies. In this scene,the crave for more power corrupts the mind of people in the court. Hence,the court itself represents corruption. At Oliver’s and at the duke’s, Orlando and the two sister cousins represent elements of hope for a change respectively. The forest of arden is very symbolical as it is believed to be the idealist place where everyone believe that they are happy. It is associated with the ‘’golden world’’ and there,the senior duke is believed to be having a nice time,’’like the old robin hood’’ along with the young gentlemen who are his followers. It may also be linked with the creation of the world with adam and eve in the garden. Forest that symbolises nature, is going to act as a redeemer,bringing back stability and goodness at the end. For the characters to turn over a new leaf,they have to leave the materialistic world. Shakespear might be indicating that the world is as you create it,not what you believe will change it. In this way,the pastoral setting plays a significant role in the opening scene.

through this analysis,we see how William shakespear uses the dramatic techniques in order to make this opening scene not only appealing but also very revealing for the readers. We discussed how the system of hierarchy causes injustice in some cases,how jealousy has an upper hand and destroys the brotherly love,how the characters when contrasted shed light on their nature. We also discussed the importance of the language to mark who is educated and who is not,and also the setting technique that helps to bring out the reality of the world. As such,these dramatic techniques are effective to make this opening scene interesting.

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