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As you like it

             "As You Like It" was written by William Shakespeare.
             In the year 1599, Queen Elizabeth sat on the throne of England. One of the most brilliant political minds of her century, she had presided over nearly fifty years of change and struggle, and brought her country to a position of global power where it would remain for centuries.
             The last half of the sixteenth century had been, as they say, pretty busy. On the cultural front, the printing press, invented about a hundred years before, was fundamentally changing the way literature reached ordinary people. The city of London had seen its population double in the decades following 1563, to top 200,000 people for the first time, and a massive new middle class was influencing the economic, cultural, and literary development of the nation. The Renaissance Humanistic movement, spilling in from Europe, had ushered in a new era of interest in learning and the classics; and in the past half century, English writers and poets had, for the first time, begun to try to create literature in their native tongue that could stand up to the greatest works written in Latin, French, or Italian.
             And in 1599, a thirty-five-year-old playwright named William Shakespeare was enjoying his prosperity as one of the most successful people working in the London theatre. His acting company, called The Lord Chamberlain's Men, had great favor with the Queen, and that very year the troupe was in the process of building its own theatre on the south shore of London's Thames River; the theatre would be called the Globe.
             As You Like It was written in this year, just after Much Ado About Nothing, Henry V, and Julius Caesar, and just before the writing of Hamlet in 1600. Unlike many of Shakespeare's plays, As You Like It seems to contain few references to the world outside the theatre; unlike the political history Shakespeare reworked in his "history plays," or the commentaries on kingship and power that pervade his tragedies, Shakespeare's comedy plays generally seem to be light-hearted works, meant to entertain and amuse, but not to provoke thought about anything more politically sensitive than the nature of love or poetry.

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