A Short Note on the Opening Scene of Shakespeare’s “As You Like It”

William Shakespeare’s opening scenes are very important. They strike the key-note of his dramas. In the opening scene of a drama, the dramatist has to give the needful information to the audience which is naturally anxious to know what the whole play is about. At the same time, the dramatist should not take a long time to do this. Accordingly, we have the sketch of the background of the action of the play conveyed through the mouth of some of its important characters. The audience is given a situation that is complicated and subsequently, it is interested in seeing how this initial complication is satisfactorily solved.

In As You Like It, the plot of Oliver against Orlando is the main complication of this scene. We are anxious to know how Oliver’s plot is going to work out. Besides this, the opening scene also introduces the principal figure of Orlando. The underlying motive of cross-purposes in the play is well suggested by the conflict between the two brothers because this conflict is also repeated in the case of the Duke brothers who are also introduced in this scene, though indirectly, through Charles while describing the ‘new-news’ of the court.

Besides this, the opening scenes of Shakespeare are often striking, crowded and full of activity. They are full of excitement.

The reason why such bustle and excitement were needed in the opening scenes of Shakespeare’s plays could be imagined. The Elizabethan audience was more wild and unruly than the modern ones. Naturally, therefore, only a scene which was equally bustling and noisy would attract the notice of this kind of audience. The attention of the spectators was riveted by such exciting scenes in the beginning. Hence Shakespeare chose such scenes as would invite the attention of the audience by a spectacular situation.

In As You Like It, we have in the opening scene the quarrel between the two brothers, Oliver and Orlando. This rivets our attention by its excitement and bustle. Such, in brief, is the significance of the opening scenes in the plays of Shakespeare, and the play of As You Like It is no exception to it because this also opens with the same excitement and bustle as the others do.