“Who ever lov’d, that lov’d not at first sight?” This famous line essentially becomes the main theme of this play. Several young characters in the play are linked by this common thread, but that’s not to say that there aren’t consequences to their actions. Like Shakespeare’s other comedies mistaken identities, cross-dressing and unrequited love fuel the plot—all of which causes mishaps and mischief along the way.
Yet, As You Like It
doesn’t rely as much on amusing anecdotes to drive the plot as some of the other Shakespeare comedies that I’ve read recently. But I wouldn’t say that’s necessarily a detraction. Here, Shakespeare plays with gender roles more so than in Twelfth Night. In the case of Rosalind, I think her character bests Victor/Victoria
with its gender confusion. Keeping in mind of the epilogue, with Rosalind, we have a man playing a woman, playing a man playing a “woman.” Furthering the suggestiveness of her role, Rosalind chooses the name Ganymede for her male alias—a name with homoerotic undertones from its association with the Greek myth describing the abduction of Ganymede by Zeus.
Shakespeare also borrows from Romeo and Juliet with the theme of lovers from rival families. He also employs the theme of the usurper Duke and the exiled older brother—a concept he later further explores and expands in The Tempest.
Interestingly, I read that many critics and authors—from Tolstoy to G.B. Shaw—didn’t really like this play due to it’s immoral stance and that it lacked the depth of Shakespeare’s other plays. Yet, I noted more famous quotes that originate from this play than some of the others that I’ve read: “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players” “The fool doth think he is wise; but the wise man knows himself to be a fool” “The more pity, that fools may not speak wisely, what wise men do foolishly.”