And what a cast of characters! Jacques is the melancholic clown, with Amiens his comic songster counterpart; Jacques gets the best lines of the play (the 'seven ages of man') and Amiens gets the best songs ("It Was a Lover and His Lass" was one of the top-40 hits of the Elizabethan era). The exiled Duke makes a fine master of ceremonies for both, while his usurping brother Frederick frets and fumes back home. The gallant Orlando and his cruel brother Oliver form shadow-doubles of the dueling Dukes, while Rosalind and Celia both represent and resist their fathers' wills, along with their own class and/or gender identities. A shepherd, a shepherd's boy, a couple of country lasses, and Touchstone, a second clown and second-fiddling courtier, make up the cast, and here's an easy prophecy: by the end, every one who lacks a partner shall gain one, willy-nilly.
For our in-class viewing, I'll be showing scenes from Sir Kenneth Branagh's Japanese-themed version, made in 2006 for HBO (if your cable system has an on-demand menu that includes HBO Movies, you should be able to see it for free). Branagh does not appear in it himself, but chooses a contrapuntal cast of actors, including black actors for Orlando and Oliver, Kevin Kline as a muted Jacques, and Alfred Molina as a Touchstone with Eraserhead hair. The Japanese setting seems odd at first -- Charles is a Sumo wrestler ?!? -- but once we're all in the Forest of Arden, it falls away as any artifice, and the play's once more the thing.
It's certainly true, though, that Shakepeare's notion of "comedy" is not very much like our own. You'd have to mix some modern genres -- romcom, action/adventure, and buddy film -- to get something that would have all its elements. Being "funny" is part of it, but it's not the main point.
So is this play, for you, "as you like it"? Your comments below.