“As You Like It feels like a play that belongs to Millennials and our worldview just as much as it does to Shakespeare’s time. Both times have been wracked by uncertainty, violence, and social upheaval and chaos. Millennials are a generation that grew up in an environment shaped by war, crisis, and deception in our government, watching New Orleans drown, New York and Baghdad burn, and were never given adequate reasons why. The rights of ourselves, friends and families were torn asunder by a president who firmly believed that LGBTQ people go to hell. Gun laws were shredded to ribbons and we learned to fear our schools, movie theaters, and bars.
Shakespeare was born towards the end of England’s struggle with their shift from Catholicism to Protestantism and came of age as the Protestant reformation triggered religious wars throughout Europe. At times it was illegal to be Protestant, or Catholic, as the tides of history crashed into the cliffs of belief. Shakespeare’s world existed on the precipice of total chaos and so it has been for young people born between 1982 and 2000.
But what did Millennials do when we gained the right to participate in government? We elected the first Black president. We voted for gay marriage and against oppressive drug laws. We formed the next wave of the Civil Rights movement in Black Lives Matter. We have bucked restrictive labels, but embraced individual identity. As a generation, we are suspicious of blind patriotism and generally prefer authenticity over what is convenient. We prefer solidarity and redemption to mere tolerance and punishment. We have sought to make the alternative normative.
As You Like It is a microcosm of the larger Millennial experience. Our lives have been so directly impacted by policy that, for our generation, the political and personal have always been inextricably linked. So it is in As You Like It. Duke Frederick’s court is very reminiscent of the Bush era: suspicious, intolerant, and dangerous for anyone who does not fit in. In their opposition to these authoritarian ideals, Rosalind, Celia, Orlando, Jaques, Touchstone, and the lords who follow Duke Senior to the forest all viscerally remind me of Millennials. They shake off traditional limitations of gender, identity, and sexuality, nothing absolute but love and freedom.” –information from Rebecca Etzine’a websiteRead More