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As You Like It

A scene from As You Like It

Introduction to the play

Readers and audiences have long greeted As You Like It with delight. Its characters are brilliant conversationalists, including the princesses Rosalind and Celia and their Fool, Touchstone. Soon after Rosalind and Orlando meet and fall in love, the princesses and Touchstone go into exile in the Forest of Arden, where they find new conversational partners. Duke Frederick, younger brother to Duke Senior, has overthrown his brother and forced him to live homeless in the forest with his courtiers, including the cynical Jaques. Orlando, whose older brother Oliver plotted his death, has fled there, too.

Recent scholars have also grounded the play in the issues of its time. These include primogeniture, passing property from a father to his oldest son. As You Like It depicts intense conflict between brothers, exposing the human suffering that primogeniture entails. Another perspective concerns cross-dressing. Most of Orlando’s courtship of Rosalind takes place while Rosalind is disguised as a man, “Ganymede.” At her urging, Orlando pretends that Ganymede is his beloved Rosalind. But as the epilogue reveals, the sixteenth-century actor playing Rosalind was male, following the practice of the time. In other words, a boy played a girl playing a boy pretending to be a girl.

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Cover of the Folger Shakespeare edition of As You Like It

The Folger Shakespeare

Our bestselling editions of Shakespeare's plays and poems

            All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players.

Act 2, scene 7, lines 146–147

Men have died from time to time and worms have
eaten them, but not for love.

Act 4, scene 1, lines 112–113

As You Like It in our collection

A selection of Folger collection items related to As You Like It. Find more in our digital image collection

Come vi piace (As you like it) nell' edizione della Compagnia italiana di prosa, diretta da Luchino Visconti...
Program for As You Like It by Augustin Daly's Company, with attached autograph of Ada Rehan, 1897
A rendering of Act 2, scene 4, by C. Buchel.

Essays and resources from The Folger Shakespeare

As You Like It

Learn more about the play, its language, and its history from the experts behind our edition.

About Shakespeare’s As You Like It
An introduction to the plot, themes, and characters in the play

Reading Shakespeare’s Language
A guide for understanding Shakespeare’s words, sentences, and wordplay

An Introduction to This Text
A description of the publishing history of the play and our editors’ approach to this edition

Shakespeare and his world

Learn more about Shakespeare, his theater, and his plays from the experts behind our editions.

Shakespeare’s Life
An essay about Shakespeare and the time in which he lived

Shakespeare’s Theater
An essay about what theaters were like during Shakespeare’s career

The Publication of Shakespeare’s Plays
An essay about how Shakespeare’s plays were published

Related blog posts and podcasts

Teaching As You Like It

Early printed texts

As You Like It was first published in the 1623 First Folio and that text serves as the source for all subsequent editions of the play.