Dear As You Like It by William Shakespeare:
Shakespeare and I have always had a bit of a love-hate relationship. While I appreciate his clever wordplay and legacy as a writer, I’ve just never been a huge fan of his plays. I always maintained that I prefer seeing plays performed rather than reading them on paper, and yet I had never actually put this theory to the test with Shakespeare–that is, until I saw you performed at Shakespeare’s Globe in London.
My friends and I decided to see you on a whim at the very tail end of my year at Oxford. We got standing tickets and stood almost right up against the stage. It was amazing to stand in a place associated with so much history and an astonishing literary and theatrical legacy. I haven’t seen many live performances of plays, so this occasion felt particularly special. I wasn’t sure what to expect at first, but it was fantastic. I loved the whimsical atmosphere created by their costumes and sparse props, as well as the fun jig they danced at the very end. It was clear to by the end of the performance that I genuinely do enjoy Shakespeare’s plays when they’re performed.
“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
Cut to two years later, when I finally decide to pick you up and complete the other half of this experiment.
On the one hand, I enjoyed reading you much more than other Shakespeare plays I’ve read. Your story is so engaging, and the emotions of it really struck a chord with me. I think we’ve all felt like Orlando and Rosalind at some point in our lives–afraid to tell our crush that we have feelings for them, yet also wanting to talk about it with anyone who will listen. However, I think much of my enjoyment also stemmed from having seen you performed prior to reading you. At one point I came across a scene that I reread three or four times because I could remember those lines being performed on stage so vividly. One of my most favorite things about reading is associating memories with what I read, and I love that you will always remind me of that amazing performance in London.
My enjoyment in reading you still somehow felt relative to my previous experiences reading other works by Shakespeare. Put differently: You may be one of my favorite Shakespeare plays, but Shakespeare is still not one of my favorite things to read. While I acknowledge that his writing is poignant and cleaver and witty and funny, it always just feels like something misses the mark for me.
With that being said, I’d still consider my experience of reading you to be a success, As You Like It. This whole experiment made me think about Shakespeare’s plays in a different way, and makes me want to see even more of them performed now. I’ve accepted that I will likely never love the Bard’s work, but I’m glad I’ve found a bit of a recipe that will help me enjoy it more.