Welcome to another Classic Couple: post! In this series, I choose a classic and a more contemporary read that I think resemble each other and discuss why I think they’re similar. Today I’ll be comparing and contrasting As You Like It by William Shakespeare (1599) and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han (2014). While I’ve never been a huge Shakespeare fan, As You Like It is definitely one of my favorite Shakespeare plays that I’ve read and seen performed thus far. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before has a special place in my bookish heart because I have fond memories of watching the movie adaptation with friends and of reading the book at a time when I very much needed some cheering up.
Hidden romantic feelings and acting like a couple.
This is the similarity that first made me think to pair these two texts together. In As You Like It, Rosalind meets Orlando while she is disguised as Ganymede and pretends to give him advice on his love for Rosalind, whom he is not aware he is actually speaking to. “He” (meaning Rosalind disguised as Ganymede) tells Orlando that he can practice what he’ll say to Rosalind to him. In this way, Orlando and Rosalind act out their love for each other without knowing the whole truth or being able to acknowledge their actual feelings for each other–at least on Rosalind’s end.
Likewise, in To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, Lara Jean and Peter concoct a scheme that will benefit them both in some way: they will pretend to date in the eyes of their high school peers. Things seem to be go according to plan, until they start to have feelings for each other… and drama ensues! Similar to in As You Like It, a couple “acting out” the role of a romantic relationship ends up with feelings that are far from pretend.
Also, this is a minor detail, but I thought I’d throw it in for fun: both of these texts have an element of “love letters” in their stories that contribute to these romances. In As You Like It, Orlando writes love poems for Rosalind and pins them to trees. Similarly, in To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, the catalyst of Lara Jean’s drama is the fact that her younger sister sends out all the love letters she had written to her crushes over the years but had never meant to send.
Memorable side characters.
One thing I love about both of these works is that the protagonists share the spotlight with a memorable cast of characters. From Jaques, Phebe, Silvius, and Audrey in As You Like It to Lara Jean’s family in To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, the supporting characters in these texts add a bit more depth, wit, and warmth to these stories. Some of my favorite lines in these texts come from supporting characters, particularly in As You Like It when Jaques famously says:
All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.As You Like It by William Shakespeare
Both of these texts have been performed excellently, although in quite different ways. While studying abroad in England I had the amazing opportunity to see As You Like It performed at the Globe in London, and it was such an incredible show. I loved the energy and passion and modernity that they breathed into this old story, while still maintaining that classic feeling of Shakespeare. More recently, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before took Netflix by storm when it was turned into a movie adaptation in 2018. This adaptation has such an appealing aesthetic in terms of costumes, sets, and colors, and I think it captures the family dynamics in the books perfectly.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this Classic Couple! As always, you can check out my other Classic Couple posts here.
What are your thoughts on either/both of these books? What other books share these similarities? What classics would you like me to feature in the future? Let me know in the comments section below!