Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Court Life As You Like It

In Keenan’s book, when I read: 

“courtiers were expected to be richly dressed and to be generous patrons […] talented all-rounder, skillful in courtly conversations, sports, dancing and the arts - with an air of easy grace of ‘recklessness’ (Sprezzatura)” 

I immediately thought of Orlando in Shakespeare’s As You Like It, who wins the heart of Rosalind simply by the way he speaks. He is a complex character, in that he was not raised officially in the courts, but he is definitely an “all-arounder” and still is filled “with an air of easy grace” or Sprezzatura (Until of course, he falls in love with Rosalind in which he produces the most terrible poetry). Because he wasn’t raised officially in the court though, he seems to dually represent the shepherd life life as well. In As You Like It, Shakespeare shows the distinction between court culture and the “shepherd” life through characters like Orlando and also others like Silvius and Phoebe. 

Rosalind and Orlando from As You Like It directed by Kenneth Branagh

Another part of court culture made inherent in As You Like It, is the fact that Rosalind is the most dominant character whom also fixes the love problems in the end. In my class, we talked about how this could symbolize the authority and power of Queen Elizabeth, whom defied all doubts that women were capable of being a successful ruler. I think that Shakespeare knew that women were capable of ruling or worthy of having authority through characters like Rosalind. However, some may argue that because the Queen enjoyed watching these plays, Shakespeare might have put that in there to satisfy the queen, because after all, the “Court was wherever the Queen happened to be and was made up of all those who surrounded the Queen from servants to the courtiers themselves” (Sharnette). And, it suggests that the entertainment was probably geared to that specific audience and their political agenda. 

Sharnette, Heather. "Elizabeth R: COURT LIFE." Elizabethan Court Life. N.p., 2014. Web. 23 Sept. 2015.


  1. I feel like feminism underwent some interesting rethinks in the Renaissance. One of our readings quoted an essay on how bad of an idea it would be to let women lead - indeed, that it was contrary to God (what a lark). It was written just before Elizabeth ascended the throne, may have been informed by the failure of Queen Mary, and was definitely turned on its head by Elizabeth. So I wonder at the changes society underwent in how it perceived female identity.

  2. I also did some reading about Queen Elizabeth's influence on feminism. It seems that perceptions of femininity haven't changed a whole lot yet, but women can be taken seriously if they adopt masculine qualities. It is fascinating to see women balance the two genders at the same time

  3. Shakespeare demonstrates the many different kinds of love that may exist in As You Like It, but I think that although Rosalind is akin to Elizabeth, Shakespeare may be poking fun at the court culture. The horrible poetry that Orlando writes and the ridiculous devotion of Silvius could be a reference to the courtly expectations of sprezzatura which are unnecessary.

  4. Good Kenneth Bronough film. Right up there with King Henry V, Much ado About Nothing, and Thor.