As You Like It and Beloning

Belonging is one of those universality that seems unadorned, yet carries dense integrity about humanity. It’s a state where an individual holds a purpose and is respected for their own inherent identity within a group or relationship. For belonging to transpire, there must be an affinity between individuals in respect to mutual aspects of identity. However, as each individuals set of values shapes their character, there must be some negotiation for commonalities to be found. However, some individuals find it challenging to determine similarities in identity with others, so they must suppress their uniqueness to allow for themselves to belong or else completely pull out. Thus ones identity both affects and is affected by how one chooses to belong.

This vital affiliation between identity and belonging is discovered in the play As You Like It by William Shakespeare. The play deals with the ever-present problem of detached individuals seeking for a place to belong, to gain back a lost identity. In the play Shakespeare discovers a variety of ways which one can belong; the family’s position in determining one’s identity and self perception, gender roles as defining identity, and love as a catalyst for truly belonging. These notions of belonging are delved into through Shakespeare’s use of characterisation, plot and setting. Two other texts that explore the concept of belonging are Sean Penn's film “Into the Wild” and the short story “Comrades” by Nadine Gordimer.

As You Like It’s setting plays a vital function in moulding the notion of belonging in the play. Like the typical pastoral, the beginning of the play is set in court, a place established as a hub of corruption and political tension. Orlando’s house is described as a ‘butchery’ as his brother plots to kill him, ‘[Rosalind] is banish’d’, and Duke Senior calls courtly life ‘painted pomp’. The mixture of images suggests estrangement and not belonging. By contrast, Arden is a free, untainted setting where...