As You Like It is an interesting title for a play. It is a phrase that pleases the ear and the mind. It could refer to a beautifully cooked meal, a well-made bed, anything that is prepared and presented with care and understanding of your specific preferences. It suggests something tailored to your desire. It is a phrase that evokes the spirit of service.
In the play, Rosalind and Celia take advantage of the freedom that comes along with banishment to create some very enjoyable experiences for themselves. One of the most interesting things about Shakespeare’s comedies is the mixed tone he creates by having very serious situations within a comedic plot. In the first scene where we meet Rosalind, she is grieving the loss of her father who has been banished from the court by her uncle.
The plot is initiated by Celia’s desire to help Rosalind to cope with her trauma. They decide that the best way to get time to move quickly and to increase their joy is with a little romance. So, they set out to find some fun with the opposite sex. Rosalind is a smart, confident, and horny heroine. She’s Shakespeare’s Cardi B.
One prominent segment of Internet comedy involves pranks. The Nelk Boys, Chad and JT go deep, and so many others create parodic situations that involve real people unaware that they are participating in a skit. Rosalind orchestrates just this kind of a situation with Orlando. Disguised as a man, she finds him lovesick in the forest and convinces him that the only way to prove his love or to cure himself of this lovesickness is by pretending to court him as though he were Rosalind (he really is). She sets him up for a series of pranks.
If there’s any doubt as to who is referred to in the title, then one answer is given when we witness Rosalind orchestrating a series of marriages at the end of the play. She manipulates the situation like a practiced matchmaker and gets a series of couples to commit to marriage. Rosalind is a mass marrier. She is a master marketer.
Rosalind is a character who gives us an example of what kind of control you can have even when you have very little political clout. She has enough money to buy a property in the woods, but she also has the drive and the confidence to make the moves. She has to set up in this new context and begin to manipulate the players in a game she is creating.
Chelsea Handler could play a powerful Rosalind. Her confidence, her sexual charisma, and her enjoyment of herself all would be natural strengths aligned to the actions of the character. There is something so satisfying about seeing Rosalind absolutely toy with the object of her affections. There is something seductively cruel and superior about Chelsea Handler’s confidence. I think that Whitney Cummings could embody Rosalind, too.
Studying Shakespeare’s comedies gives us a glimpse at the roots of our culture. Through his influence on the English language, Shakespeare continues to pressure our understanding of the world around us and inside of us. The comedies portray a world that is governed by a desire to be happy, by a drive for health and resolution. As You Like It portrays a female duo doing the most to make the most of their summer. Let’s let Rosalind take the reins for a bit and enjoy what we can of this upcoming season.