As You Like It

As You Like It is one of Shakespeare's "marriage" comedies in which love's complications end in recognition of the true identity of the lovers and celebration in marriage. This teacher's guide includes discussion questions, activities, and guidelines for teaching the play.
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Teaching Strategies:
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After reading the play and discussing various themes, students are ready to engage in activities that will deepen their interpretation, help them see connections between the play and other literary works, and provide a creative outlet.

A. Deepening Interpretation

Having read the entire play, students are now ready to discuss the full implications of the story. This activity follows several steps that will get students to ask literal, inferential, and evaluative questions about the play.

As a focus activity, give small groups large, poster-sized copies of paintings by masters of the 17th or 18th centuries. These paintings can have any subject as long as there are two or more figures in the scene. Students, individually, answer the following questions about the painting: who are the figures and what are some facts about them you recognize by looking at the painting? What is happening in the painting? What does the painting mean?

After five minutes of free writing, students share their responses in small groups and prepare to present their ideas to the whole class. They show the painting, describe the facts about the scene in the painting, and then explain their various interpretations of the action. After each group has presented their paintings, the teacher can ask a higher level of questions, evaluative, which ask students to make judgments about the quality of the painting and the way in which the painter has presented the subject.

Next students apply these three levels of questions to a well-known fairy or folk tale, such as "Goldilocks and the Three Bears" or "Little Red Riding Hood." Review the literal details of the story and then ask inferential questions about the action: Why did Goldilocks go inside the home of the three bears? How did Goldilocks feel when she woke up and found the three bears looking at her? Also ask evaluative questions: If you were Goldilocks, would you have gone inside the empty house? Do you think Goldilocks was good or bad, and why do you think so?

Understanding the three level of questions, students are ready to apply this skill to the play. Ask students to write at least three questions at the literal, inferential, and evaluative levels. Then play the "Question Game." One student will ask a literal question. The person who answers gets to ask the next literal question, and so on through the various levels. Work through the inferential to the evaluative questions. After the discussion, students should choose one of the inferential or evaluative questions and write a response. This initial free writing could then become the basis of a longer interpretative essay about theme or character in the play.

Other Post-Reading Questions:

1. Compare Rosalind's actions when she is not disguised as a man with her actions when she is disguised as a man. In which case does she appear to be more powerful? How might you explain this?
2. List all instances of love-at-first-sight in the play. Which of these relationships have a greater chance of lasting for a long time? Explain your reasoning.
3. Jacques is a melancholy character. Identify his views about life and love that show his melancholy nature and analyze the cause of his ill humour. Is he really sad about human nature or merely putting on a pose? Identify passages that support your point of view.

B. Group and Individual Projects

1. Create character collages by choosing a character in the play and then rereading all their speeches. Make a character map or cluster with the character's name in the middle and then a listing of physical and personality traits. Make a visual representation of the character by creating a collage from magazines and your own personal drawing. Choose a speech that your character says in the play that best represents your character's point of view or role in the action. Students can rewrite the speech in modern English or memorize it in Elizabethan English. Present the speech and your character collage to small groups or the whole class. It will be interesting for students to note different interpretations of the same character.
2. Compare one of the film versions to the text of the play. The classic 1936 British film stars Laurence Olivier as Orlando and Elisabeth Bergner as Rosalind. This film was directed by Paul Czinner. (It can be purchased from Films for the Humanities and Sciences, PO Box 2053, Princeton, NJ 08543-2053.) A more accessible film version of the play available from the same source was filmed at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. Roberta Maxwell is Rosalind and Andrew Gillies is Orlando; John Hirsch is the director. (It can also be purchased from Magic Lamp, 1838 Washington Way, Venice, California, 90291-4704.)

There is a BBC TV Movie version from 1978 directed by Basil Coleman and a 1992 movie directed by Christine Edzard. Teachers should check local video stores and libraries to locate these and several other film versions of the play.
3. In pairs or individually, write valentines from one of the lovers in the play to their beloved. The valentines should show understanding of character motivation and can be illustrated and composed in blank verse or sonnet form.
4. Participate in a discussion group of As You Like It on the Internet. In small groups pose a question or two for response and also respond to other's comments or questions. Report to the class the results of the discussions.
5. A final project for student response to the play can offer students choices of media. Artistically inclined students can illustrate a scene from the play and caption it with a speech from one of the players. The musically inclined can take one of the songs and arrange it to music to present to the class. It might be fun, for example, to perform a rap on the page's song in 5.iii.15-40.

C. Reading Other Literature Connected to the Themes of the Play

1. Read another "marriage" comedy by Shakespeare, such as A Midsummer Night's Dream and compare the speeches of the lovers. Do they say the same things about love?
2. Read poems of Metaphysical poets, like John Donne and Andrew Marvell, on the subject of love. How do their ideas of love compare to Shakespeare's?
3. Explore the theme of romantic love in several YA novels (see the bibliography). Use a "book-pass-around" technique where students survey a book for three minutes before passing it to another student and reviewing another book. After everyone has had a chance to survey the books, students list the books they would like to read in order of preference. Reading circles should be set up according to student choices. In the circle, the group should set their reading schedule and decide how they want to read the novel: silently, orally, alternating silent and oral readings. Students respond to each section through a written response and share their reactions at the beginning or close of each reading circle. Students can also list significant quotes in a double entry journal. The quote should go on one side of the paper and an analysis of what it tells about the plot, characters, and theme should be written on the opposite side of the paper.


Classic Literature
Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights. Signet Classics, 1993.
The Lais of Marie de France. Trans. By Glyn S. Burgess and Keith Busby. Penguin Classics, 1999.
Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream. Signet Classic, 1998.
Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing. Penguin Classic, 1999.
Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet. Signet Classic, 1998.

Adolescent Literature

Clements, Bruce. Tom Loves Anna Loves Tom. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1990.
Guy, Rosa. My Love, My Love, or, the Peasant Girl. Henry Holt, 1985.
Hall, Lynn. Fair Maiden. Scribner's, 1990.
Holland, Isabelle. Summer of My First Love. Fawcett, 1981.
Kerr, M.E. I'll Love You When You're More Like Me. HarperCollins, 1977.
Mazer, Harry. City Light. Scholastic, 1988.
Mazer, Norma Fox and Harry Mazer. Heartbeat. Bantam, 1989.
Mazer, Norma Fox. Up in Seth's Room. Dell, 1979.
Mazer, Norma Fox. When We First Met. Scholastic, 1982.

Professional Resources
Gibson, Rex. Teaching Shakespeare. Cambridge University Press, 1998.
McDonald, Russ. The Bedford Companion to Shakespeare: An Introduction with Documents. New York: Bedford Books of St. Martin's Press, 1996.
Teacher's Guides to Signet Classic Editions on the Web:


Jeanne M. McGlinn, Associate Professor in the Department of Education at the University of North Carolina at Asheville, teaches Children's and Adolescent Literature and directs the field experiences of 9-12 English licensure candidates. She is the coordinator of the Classroom Materials column of the Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy and frequently reviews books for this journal and The Alan Review. Recently, she has completed a critical book on the historical fiction of adolescent writer Ann Rinaldi for Scarecrow Press Young Adult Writers series.

James E. McGlinn, Chair and Associate Professor of Education at the University of North Carolina at Asheville, teaches methods of teaching and reading courses. He has taught high school English, and his research interests currently focus on motivating and increasing the reading achievement of students in middle school.

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