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The opening of As You Like It is not very exciting, just Orlando moaning about his brother. It’s not like the opening of Hamlet or Romeo and Juliet

How have theatre companies made a dramatic opening of this play?  How would you grab an audience’s attention from the start?

The action really starts here with the wrestling match

ACT ONE SCENE TWO

The Wrestling Match

We are introduced to the two female leads of the play, Rosalind and Celia

CELIA

I pray thee, Rosalind, sweet my coz, be merry.

ROSALIND

Dear Celia, I show more mirth than I am mistress of;
and would you yet I were merrier? Unless you could
teach me to forget a banished father, you must not
learn me how to remember any extraordinary pleasure.

CELIA

Herein I see thou lovest me not with the full weight
that I love thee. If my uncle, thy banished father,
had banished thy uncle, the duke my father, so thou
hadst been still with me, I could have taught my
love to take thy father for mine: so wouldst thou,
if the truth of thy love to me were so righteously
tempered as mine is to thee.

ROSALIND

Well, I will forget the condition of my estate, to
rejoice in yours

They sit and mock fortune and nature

CELIA

‘Tis true; for those that she makes fair she scarce
makes honest, and those that she makes honest she
makes very ill-favouredly.

Until they are interrupted by Touchstone, a Shakespearean clown

TOUCHSTONE

Stand you both forth now: stroke your chins, and
swear by your beards that I am a knave.

CELIA

By our beards, if we had them, thou art.

TOUCHSTONE

By my knavery, if I had it, then I were; but if you
swear by that that is not, you are not forsworn

Then Monsieur Le Beau another lord in the court comes to tell them of the wrestling contest being performed today.

The Wrestling Match.

 

Wrestling - Francis Hayman

 

Francis Hayman – As you like it

The Duke and all his entourage arrive and Rosalind and Celia try to persuade the challenger (Orlando incognito) to not fight Charles, who is bigger and stronger.

ORLANDO

I beseech you, punish me not with your hard
thoughts; wherein I confess me much guilty, to deny
so fair and excellent ladies any thing. But let
your fair eyes and gentle wishes go with me to my
trial: wherein if I be foiled, there is but one
shamed that was never gracious; if killed, but one
dead that was willing to be so: I shall do my
friends no wrong, for I have none to lament me, the
world no injury, for in it I have nothing; only in
the world I fill up a place, which may be better
supplied when I have made it empty

They girls, especially Rosalind, have taken a shine to Orlando already.

The two men wrestle and Orlando defeats the professional wrestler Charles

Duke Frederick congratulates the challenger and asks his name.

ORLANDO

Orlando, my liege; the youngest son of Sir Rowland de Boys.

DUKE FREDERICK

I would thou hadst been son to some man else:
The world esteem’d thy father honourable,
But I did find him still mine enemy:
Thou shouldst have better pleased me with this deed,
Hadst thou descended from another house.
But fare thee well; thou art a gallant youth:
I would thou hadst told me of another father.

Rosalind takes pity on Orlando and they are both smitten with each other although do not say so.

Le Beau gives Orlando his “prize” for winning the fight

LE BEAU

Good sir, I do in friendship counsel you
To leave this place. Albeit you have deserved
High commendation, true applause and love,
Yet such is now the duke’s condition
That he misconstrues all that you have done.
The duke is humorous; what he is indeed,
More suits you to conceive than I to speak of.

ORLANDO

I thank you, sir: and, pray you, tell me this:
Which of the two was daughter of the duke
That here was at the wrestling?

LE BEAU

Neither his daughter, if we judge by manners;
But yet indeed the lesser is his daughter
The other is daughter to the banish’d duke,
And here detain’d by her usurping uncle,
To keep his daughter company; whose loves
Are dearer than the natural bond of sisters.
But I can tell you that of late this duke
Hath ta’en displeasure ‘gainst his gentle niece,
Grounded upon no other argument
But that the people praise her for her virtues
And pity her for her good father’s sake;
And, on my life, his malice ‘gainst the lady
Will suddenly break forth. Sir, fare you well:
Hereafter, in a better world than this,
I shall desire more love and knowledge of you.

ORLANDO

I rest much bounden to you: fare you well.

Exit LE BEAU

Thus must I from the smoke into the smother;
From tyrant duke unto a tyrant brother:
But heavenly Rosalind!

Orlando is banished. His relationship with Rosalind can never flourish now….

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