Essay on Belonging Using William Shakespeare's Play As You Like It and the Television Series Seachange as Examples

The behaviour in which one individual interacts with others and the world around them can enhance or restrain their experience of belonging. A sense of belonging is reliant on relationships and close links with places, particular environments and landscapes. Relationships are initially built upon mutual interests and acceptance and this is closely linked with one’s innate desire to be able to affiliate with a group or another individual. Belonging is a part of everyday life and can enrich our identity and can lead to acceptance and understanding. In Shakespeare’s play ‘As You Like It’ and the first three episodes of the TV series ‘Seachange’ the protagonists experience a wide range of belonging and not belonging not only to person but also to place. This is observed throughout the wide use of juxtaposition of settings, country life versus city life, dramatic irony, and satire to express the characters feelings and to involve the responder.

In ‘As You Like It’ the juxtaposition of settings highlights a sense of belonging and not belonging to place. Many of the protagonists find a greater sense of happiness and belonging in the natural world of the forest than they do in the unnatural atmosphere of the court, as well as representing order and harmony. Most of the play is situated in the Forest of Arden, showing the dominance of belonging to place and the natural setting. The court of Duke Frederick and Oliver’s estate disrupt natural order, as Rosalind is banished by her uncle into the Forest of Arden where her Father, Duke Senior is situated, and Orlando leaves his brothers and estate behind in order to find a place of refuge as his eldest brother Oliver wants him dead; “come not within these doors: within this roof the enemy of all your graces lives”. The speech that Adam makes to Orlando in Act 2 shows that Orlando does not belong to his family and therefore does not belong to his home; “this is no place, this is but a butchery: abhor it, fear it, do not enter it”. It is in the Forest that each protagonist finds refuge, love and a sense of acceptance. Duke Senior portrays the Forest of Arden as “more sweet than that of painted pomp” and “more free from peril than the envious court” (Act 2, Scene 1). The alliteration of the letter ‘p’ in Duke Senior’s speech characterises the court with danger and falseness, as well as suggesting that the forest is freer of danger than the malicious court. The characters arrive in the forest and almost instantly find belonging; “I like this place/And willingly could waste my time in it.” Through the use of a positive tone, we are clearly shown Celia has found a sense of belonging, and that the characters enjoy living there, as they all have been exiled and come together as one.

In the TV series, ‘SeaChange’ the concept of belonging and not belonging to place can be compared to similar concepts and values from ‘As You Like It’. In ‘SeaChange’ Laura Gibson’s life is shattered in a matter of a day; she almost kills the family cat, her son is expelled, she misses out on a partnership at work, and she finds out that her husband Jack is cheating on her with her sister. In a sudden change of behavior, she takes a job as a magistrate in a small seaside town, Pearl Bay, where she had been for a holiday with her family during more positive times. In the opening credits, the negativity of the city is shown through a collage of shots that show crowded streets, traffic lights and grimy buildings as well as having negative words written everywhere; ‘greed’, ‘strike’, ‘parking’, ‘full’; which then transitions into shots of Pearl Bay. In Pearl Bay the family rip down the boards covering the windows and have a full view of the ocean and the sunlight, as there is fast tracking shots showing ocean scapes, and a shot of the wharf, Laura describes it as “instant tranquility”. Through the Gibson family’s lifestyle change they are allowed to find a sense of belonging.

In ‘As You Like It’ and ‘SeaChange’, through the use of techniques such as juxtaposition of settings, alliteration and positive tone, and individual’s interaction with the world that surrounds them can enrich or restrain their sense of acceptance not only within themselves but within their relationships with others.

Through a sense of belonging to place also comes a sense of belonging to person. A sense of acceptance and security is dependent on ones connections with others. If the connection is not there and an individual feels as if they don’t belong they may feel alienated and rejected. In ‘As You Like It’, the beginning of the play is mostly situated around Orlando and his sense of belonging towards his brother Oliver, “for call you that ‘keeping’ for a gentleman of my birth, that differs not from the stalling of an ox?”; Oliver feels no sense of belonging towards his family and has been excluded. When he escapes to the forest, he finds he has the loyalty of Adam, and soon a sense of belonging to Duke Senior’s band of followers, as well as his love for Rosalind and flirtation with Ganymede to occupy his time. At the end of the play, everyone’s sense of belonging is restored as Rosalind and Orlando, Celia and Oliver and Silvius and Phoebe are all wedded, and Oliver and Orlando reconcile.
Jaques De Boys is the only character that chooses not to belong, and he prides himself on being an independent observer, who does not follow anyone blindly. Although he followed Duke Senior into exile, he does not endure that the Duke should be thought of more of than he himself. Jaques often prefers to be alone, as his first comment to Orlando when they are alone indicates; “I thank you for your company; but, good faith, I had a lief have been myself alone”. In the end unlike all the other characters he rejects belonging in the form of returning to the court where the self-exiled Duke Frederick is.

In ‘SeaChange’, belonging to person is rekindled in Pearl Bay. In the city, Laura thought she belonged to her lawfirm, her husband, sister and children. But after her ‘worst day’, she sees that this isn’t the case; “The only way we can go back to being a family, is to go back to the last place we were one” (Episode 1, Scene 5). Laura begins to find a sense of belonging in Pearl Bay as the series progresses. Laura’s daughter Miranda however does not feel she belongs. She doesn’t belong to school, so she leaves and she has no friends. Her sense of belonging in her family came from her brother Rupert and her mother’s sister, Trudi. In Pearl Bay Miranda and her mother come together to resolve their differences; “I just really want you to stay because I need you badly” (Episode 3, Scene 5).

Throughout these two texts the responder can see that the way an individual interacts with others surrounding them can encourage or limit their sense of acceptance within relationships and communities.

The manner in which an individual associates with others and the world around them can enrich or limit their experience of belonging through the wide use of techniques throughout ‘As You Like It’ and ‘SeaChange’ such as juxtaposition of settings and country life versus city life to express the characters feelings and to involve the responder further into the storylines.