One of William Shakespeare's early plays, As You Like It, is a romantic comedy that is familiar to many people as an example of a ?spiritual comedy?. This play is considered a ?spiritual comedy? because it affirms many Christian values such as marital union, and tolerance for different viewpoints, while being optimistic about life in general. King Lear, on the other hand, is considered to be such a violent tragedy that readers are left to wonder whether there is any meaning to the physical and moral carnage with which it concludes. Although these two plays seem quite contrasting on the surface, they are really more alike than they seem at first glance. By comparing two of Shakespeare?s plays, As You Like It and King Lear, it can be easily seen that Shakespeare uses some of the same similar character structure, general themes, and other devices in his literary works.
The first of many ways that these two plays are similar is in the way the characters are structured.
Each play has one or more sets of characters that are parallel to each other. In Lear, King Lear and two of his daughters are parallel to Gloucester and his son Edmund. In both cases the children steal power away from their parent. In As You Like It, Duke Senior and his younger brother, Duke Frederick are parallel to Oliver and his younger brother, Orlando. In each case, one brother has all the power and the other either banished to the forest or forced to go into hiding there. There is also evidence of parallel characters between the two plays. For example, Edgar from Lear correlates to Orlando from As You Like It because they are both likeable characters who have brothers that are trying to kill them The character structure in these two plays is also similar because both of the plays have characters that gain power or prestige at the expense of another character or characters. In King Lear, Edmund, the illegitimate son of Gloucester, steals power away from his father and brother. Through the use of wits and hit talent for deception, he frist makes his brother look like a traitor to his father. After his brother runs away, he the turns his own father into the government when he says, ? This is the letter which he spoke of, which approves him an intelligent party to the advantages of France(III,V,11-13).? Cornwall then gives Edmund his fathers title and control his father?s land. Comparatively, in As You Like It , Duke Senior, has his power seized by Duke when Frederick banished him to the forest of Arden. This device is also show by Frederick later in the play when he banishes Rosalind, Duke Senior?s daughter.
In addition to character structure, both of these plays have other devices in common such as contrasting worlds. In King Lear, the two worlds, or atmospheres, that are contrasted are the upper class and lower class. These two worlds are mostly noticed through the perspective of King Lear. Giving up his position as a high class individual, he sees the world in a new way, especially when his own daughters turn against him and he is forced to live as a lower class person. He sees the world differently as a lower class person and actually pities the poor when he says, ?Poor naked wretches, whereso?er you are (III,IV,28),? referring to whoever own the small rundown hovel that he took shelter in. In As You Like It, the settings that were contrasted were the main part of the kingdom and the forest. In the kingdom, everything is ordinary and life goes by as it should. The forest however, seems much more chaotic with many of the events involving chance meetings occur here.
Finally, both of these plays are similar in that they have scenes of comic relief. In As You Like It, this can be expected as the play has a much lighter tone overall. There are many examples of comic relief in this play, but the most notable are the ones of Touchstone the clown. Several times in the play Touchstone engages in battles of wits with a character and it usually contains a good deal of comedy. In Lear, it is the Fool that plays the main role of comic relief. Through criticism or pure sarcasm, he pokes fun of King Lear?s actions many times throughout the play.
Although two completely different types of plays by Shakespeare are being compared, many similarities can be seen in the themes and devices that he uses. Just by looking similar pattern in his works, it is easy to see why Shakespeare is considered on of the greatest writers of all time.