How does Shakespeare establish theme, character and plot in Act One of "As You Like It" ?

Essay by sgalson1High School, 12th gradeA+, January 2004

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As in many of Shakespeare's comedies, the plot of As You Like It concerns lovers, and revolves around the overcoming of the obstacles to their love. After Act One, we have seen that Rosalind and Orlando are the central lovers of the play, and that Oliver and the Duke are the main impediments. As well as the theme of love, in Act One we see Shakespeare establishing the themes of jealousy and court versus country.

Strong characterisation is essential to the vitality of the plot. In Act One, we are introduced to a varied array of characters: Rosalind, Celia and Touchstone are witty and perceptive, Orlando is passionate and noble, and the Duke and Oliver are villainous and jealous.

The play begins in a curious, if not clumsy, manner, with Orlando's words: "As I remember Adam, it was upon this fashion...", followed by a description of Orlando's background. Here we see Shakespeare grown so confident in his writing that he does not attempt to convey the background of the play in a subtle manner.

Instead we are treated as efficiently and quickly as possible to the background information, so that the important themes retain the focus.

Indeed, we learn a great deal from Orlando's opening speech: he is "unkept" by his brother - denied the education appropriate to his noble birth, and "will no longer endure" his "servitude". His declaration immediately establishes tension.

When Orlando comes face to face with his brother, the encounter is violent, and stirs up hatred in Oliver. As a result, Oliver arranges to have Orlando killed by the wrestler Charles ("I'd have as lief thy break his neck"). We are therefore made aware that Oliver will be an obstruction to any love affair involving Orlando.

Another obstacle to the would-be love affair between Orlando and...