‘An Individual’s interaction with others and the world around them can enrich or limit their experience of belonging. ’ Discuss this view with detailed reference to your prescribed text. An individual’s sense of belonging is a complex notion which can be both enhanced or hampered by external influences. Personal relationships and social influences can contribute greatly to a person’s sense of belonging or, alternately, a person’s sense of alienation.
William Shakespeare’s As You Like It addresses these ideas by demonstrating the various affects that place and relationship can have on the development of a person’s identity. Through Shakespeare’s dramatic text; he presents varied use of language and literary technique. This enables the audience to explore the various levels of belonging and the way in which relationships between characters and place improve and restrict a person’s perception of belonging. Individuals are able to establish their own sense of belonging through their intricate connections with other people.
Their need to belong is enriched by compatible persons who accept and cherish their partner in a way which fulfils their need to belong and develops a sense of security and trust. The closest personal bond presented in As You Like It is the connection between Celia and Rosalind. The two cousins share a love which is ‘dearer than the bond of natural sisters’ and through their closeness, they are able to identify deeply with one another in both the court and pastoral settings presented in the play. This unbreakable bond is best represented when Rosalind is unexplainably banished from the court.
While Rosalind is forced into exile from the home where she once belonged, Celia makes a deliberate choice to go with Rosalind, and revoke her sense of belonging to the court and her tyrant father. Celia places infinite value on this relationship, and openly declares that she ’cannot live without [Rosalind’s] company’. Celia’s very sense of existence is dependent on her relationship with her cousin, and enforces this undying loyalty to Rosalind by asserting herself; ‘ Say what thou canst, I’ll go along with thee’.
Celia’s interactions with her cousin greatly enriches her understanding of herself, however her perpetual love for Rosalind also limits her sense of belonging in other areas. In order to retain her closeness with Rosalind, Celia chooses to revoke her paternal relationship with her father; Duke Fredrick, and consequently loses her ties with her homeland- the court. While the relationship between Celia and Rosalind epitomizes belonging and its benefits, it also shows how closeness within relationships can weaken other connections.
The changing influence of personal relationships is also a major theme developed in As You Like It. Brothers Orlando and Oliver initially play a negative role in establishing each other’s sense of belonging, however this relationship is transformed throughout the extent of the play as the fraternal relationship develops and re-establishes their experience of belonging to family. The initial hostility felt between the brothers is evident from the first scene, where Orlando longs for an education and is denied by his more powerful brother.
Oliver further vilifies Orlando to Charles the wrestler, slandering his brother’s name and falsely claiming ‘there is not one so young and so villainous this day living’. Oliver clearly detests his virtuous brother, and underlying tones of jealousy influence his thoughts. The interactions between the two brothers initially distances them greatly from each other, and causes them to feel detached. Orlando expresses the negative impact that Oliver’s victimization has had on him, and his consequential estrangement from court society through his passionate speech prior to his fight. Only in the world I fill up a place, which may be better supplied when I have made it empty’ Orlando articulates his hopelessness to Celia and Rosalind, and conveys the idea that his associations with his brother Oliver have left him feeling completely ostracised from society. This initial negative result of relationships changes drastically when Oliver arrives in the Forest of Arden. Despite their past problems, both brothers still feel a connectedness to one another, and strive to rectify their past conflicts.
Orlando, tempted to leave his brother in a situation of strife succumbs to his better nature and saves him from potential tragedy. Through Orlando’s action in the play, Shakespeare’s audience is able to understand that despite their differences, Orland and Oliver still feel strongly bound to each other. Oliver completely abolishes any past conflicts when he declares that ‘It shall be to your good, for my father’s house and all the revenue that was old Sir Roland’s will I estate upon you’.
Oliver’s selfless gesture to relinquish his inheritance in favour of his brother demonstrates the completion of the feuding brother’s reconciliation, and Oliver’s choice to belong to his brother once again. The relationship which once limited the brother’s ability to belong has been completely reversed, and now their interaction positively benefits them both. An individual’s perception of belonging can also be influenced greatly by the ways in which they interact with their environment, and the connection they feel to place.
In Shakespeare’s As You Like It the characters are able to interact differently in the content setting of the Forest of Arden. Being amongst the Pastoral allows the individuals to feel a greater sense of acceptance and relaxation, but also to better enrich their personal sense of belonging. After his fraternal bond is broken by his usurping brother Fredrick, Duke Senior faces banishment to an unfamiliar place. Despite these drastic changes to his previously perceived sense of belonging, Duke Senior is able to feel instantly enriched by the magical charms of Arden.
He is able to appreciate the beauty of the pastoral, and begins to realize that despite the drastic changes, he feels a much more intimate sense of belonging in his new surroundings. Shakespeare’s use of dialogue reflects this notion to the audience. ‘Are not these woods more free from peril than the envious court? ’ The Forest of Arden is seen to be the superior influence on Duke Senior’s sense of belonging, as he feels content with the solitude he has found through his forced separation from the bitter facade of court life.
Shakespeare suggests that it is in the Forest of Arden that Duke Senior is able to best perceive a sense of true belonging. The banishment, which was initially viewed as negative, ironically proves that a strong connection to place can greatly enrich a person’s sense of belonging. The complex nature of belonging reflects the idea that interactions can hamper or enhance their experience of belonging over time. Relationships may attain a sense of unbreakable connectedness which forms the basis of an individuals perceived sense of belonging.
However personal interactions can also have negative outcomes for individuals; and other relationships can alter and develop over time, having varied effects on the people involved. An individual may also have their perceptions of belonging altered through their experiences with the world around them. Shakespeare’s text As You Like It addresses these issues and the effects which a variety of encounters have on the individual. Shakespeare effectively explores the varied impacts of personal interaction with both people and environment and they ways in which they can tarnish or fulfil a person’s need to belong.