AP Literature Summer Book Club: As You Like It


Kylee Schecter

“As You Like it” by William Shakespeare centers around Rosalind, a member of British court and the daughter of an exiled Duke, as she is banished from court and forced to live in the forest disguised as a man while seeking love. Rosalind is often regarded as an example of an early feminist-like character, as the play was published in 1623. Rosalind uses her male disguise to ensure her safety and become closer to her love interest, Orlando. The witty and irreverent Rosalind is the protagonist of the romantic comedy, as she herself navigates the ever-so-complicated bounds of love, made even more complicated by her exile and the romantic interest of those surrounding her. 


Shakespeare can be regarded as a rather confusing author, mainly due to his abstract thought and use of period-appropriate language. Therefore, though only at five acts (about 300 pages), “As You Like It” can take quite a while to fully understand. However, if you are a fan of Shakespeare or want a bit of a challenge masked with the whimsical language of a romantic comedy, “As You Like It” may be the play for you!  Within “As You Like it,” Shakespeare includes themes of how the bounds of gender can prevent one’s success, like in the situation of Rosalind, the trivial politics of court life as opposed to the friendly atmosphere of country life, and challenging the definition of love. Shakespeare accomplishes the feat of the gender theme by critiquing the 16th century (Shakespeare originally wrote the play in 1599) notion of gender roles. In changing her appearance to reflect that of a man, Rosalind accomplishes her goal of winning the heart of the brave Orlando and helps play a role in the “matchmaking” of other relationships of those in the countryside. The politics of court life are not reflected in Rosalind’s transition into life in the countryside, as people are more friendly and she and her cousin, Celia, are readily accepted into their society. Shakespeare challenges the idea of what love should be like by giving a plethora of love stories within “As You Like It.” He includes that of Rosalind and Orlando, which is a version of “love at first sight,” that of Celia and Oliver (Orlando’s vile brother), in which Celia helps improve Oliver’s character, and the platonic love between Celia and Rosalind, as Celia leaves her court life to accompany her cousin in the countryside, a society foreign to her. 


I highly recommend this for someone looking to enter the realm of Shakespeare without the many deaths his plays usually include. As a comedy, this play captures Shakespeare’s impressive writing and use of symbolism without the painful emotions and death associated with a tragedy. Overall, this book is a great selection for the AP Literature summer reading and I recommend it to anyone considering it.