Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Hoyt Bowen, Roy Miller, Frank Steele

Degree Program

Department of English

Degree Type

Master of Arts


Although many critics have commented on various aspects of balance, symmetry, and order in Shakespeare’s As You like It, others have given the impression that the play uses a carefree series of episodes to give the audience lighthearted entertainment. Few, if any have discussed the extent to which these elements are exemplified through the remarkable skill and craftsmanship of the playwright. The coordination of these elements shows that the work is not, as it frequently has been considered, a simple romance, but is rather a superlative exemplification of Shakespeare’s remarkable artistry. Through the use of various devices, Shakespeare constructs for his audience a model of the harmony for which man should strive. One of the most obvious devices used by the dramatist is the groupings found among the characters. In addition, Shakespeare also employs the dual setting of court and country to aid in establishing his ideal of balance and harmony. This model does not degenerate into excessive artificiality, partly because Shakespeare uses both a reconciliation and a synthesis of opposites, and partly because he also utilizes, while gently mocking them, such literary traditions as the pastoral and the Euphuistic. He keeps both his characters and his audience firmly based in reality. Moreover, Shakespeare utilizes the Elizabeth idea of order and the concepts of nature and nurture, as additional means through which he establishes the ideal of harmony. All of these devices are aided by the basic comic structure itself, one which begins in sadness and ends in happiness. With this comic resolution the dramatist establishes his idea of the balance and harmony necessary in society. The play itself becomes a nurturing device, a model of harmony teaching and exemplifying happy reconciliation.


English Language and Literature | Literature in English, British Isles | Playwriting | Theatre and Performance Studies