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The Theme of Belonging in As You Like It Essay


The complex nature of belonging and its multiple levels of meaning are made apparent in Shakespeares text, As you like it. The universal challenge to belong is exercised through the experience of feeling connected to another human being, group or place. The need to belong is significant for many people, however not necessarily a vital one for all of humanity as there are some individuals like Jacques who do not demonstrate this need.

The audio extract demonstrates a clear example of Jaques alienation from society. Jaques speech compares the world to a stage and life to a play, and catalogues and describes the seven stages of a man's life. His descriptions suggest that the roles are largely beyond the players` control; that a script for the play has already been written by an exterior force.

Jaques enforces an existential reading of life as he extends Duke Seniors metaphor of the theatrical dimensions of life as role playing to emphasise the predictability of death, they have their exits and their entrances, implying that we dont belong to one part; concluding the impossibility to belong to anything fixed.

Through Jaques speech, we discover the duality of his personality. Jaques loneliness become apparent, his vulnerability is exposed as his valid opinions are constantly disregarded by society. Through the use of the repetition of nor (IV,I,9-19), Jaques communicates his observation of the causes of different groups in society. Through this observation we discover Jaques complex nature, his observations categorise society into groups, nor the musicians..lawyers..ladys..lovers concluding that everyone belongs somewhere.

The absence of belonging in Jaques life has left a void that he is searching to fill. Jaques finds affirmation in the Forest of Arden, where the outcasts of society who no longer belong merge and find a sense of belonging to each other (Celia, Orlando, Rosalind). The symbolism of this magical forest implies that when people are in new circumstances, away from their usual context, identities become more fluid and people are capable to be free. Through the use of repetition come hither, come hither, come hither Jaques suggests that life in the Forest is the only place to live a fulfilling existence.

Duke Senior uses the metaphor of theatre, this wide and universal theatre (2.7.136) to suggest the insincerity of humankind. Shakespeare uses textual integrity to emphasise the notion of life played in role, in direct reference to Amiens song most loving mere folly (2.7.175-197). The pun on the name Aliena implies the alienation of her character and that by her deliberate choice to defy her fathers rules and conventions, to find such compliance impossible, she thus belongs nowhere. Shakespeare implies the universal truth that all lives involve moments of tragedy, as humans we are all subject to pain, wherin we play in and that we are all perhaps victims to the state of mind of belonging.

The emotions that Orlando has about not belonging are communicated through animal imagery in his opening speech, his horses are bred better, animals on his dunghills are as bound to him as I. The recurring link the inhuman references enables the responders to draw a direct parallel to his brothers bitter mistreatment of him, as Oliver regards Orlando as belonging to animals preferably to that of his family. Orlandos desperate struggle to be allowed to be part of his own family, one of the most basic structures that contributes to social unity ultimately signifies Orlandos unconditional need to belong. As a complete contrast Jacques prefers the company of a dying animal and cave to that of any human being, inclusively both Orlando and Jacques unsatisfied desires emphasise the difficulty of belonging.

Orlandos opening speech also establishes the link between belonging and power. He suggests that belonging to wealth over status, like Oliver, bestows power over the individual to mistreat others that do not belong, this being Orlando. On his blessing to breed me well, and there begins my sadness.

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