Oliver, As You Like It, Shakespeare, Brother, Rivalry, Primogeniture


As an actor, it is absolutely imperative to resist the urge to pass judgment on the characters we portray. True, that as people, we sometimes judge ourselves, and deem our conduct as right or wrong, but usually after finding the justification in the action first. We understand why we do the things we do. Therefore, it is as important to find our character s point-of-view as well. When I was cast as Oliver de Boys in the Orlando Shakespeare Theater s mainstage production of William Shakespeare s As You Like It, I knew the biggest challenge before me was to avoid playing him as the villain. I had to discover the reasoning and the humanity behind his heinous actions. Most importantly, I had to try to understand why he would attempt to murder his brother Orlando. Growing up with three sisters whom I considered my best friends, I had no personal frame of reference for this extreme action. This thesis will examine the research and creation of Oliver de Boys. A thorough historical analysis will present the life of William Shakespeare, with specific focus on the relationship with his own siblings. Also included will be the production history of the As You Like It and the times in which it was written. Particular emphasis will be placed on the Elizabethan s preoccupation with primogeniture, the system of inheritance or succession by the firstborn, traditionally the eldest son ( Primogeniture 1). Finally, this section will contain a look at two literary figures that greatly influenced the evolution of Oliver: Saladyne, the eldest brother in Sir Thomas Lodge s Rosalynde, of which As You Like It is largely based on and Cain, the archetype of fratricide. The next chapter will explore Oliver s journey in As You Like It, from villain to lover to brother; ultimately, his conversion from evil to good. It will also document the director s concept for the production and his vision for the portrayal of Oliver. A comprehensive character analysis or character autobiography will examine the psychological motivations behind Oliver s actions, such as sibling rivalry, jealousy, resentment and greed. This thesis will culminate in a comprehensive rehearsal journal, which will document and address challenges, discoveries, failures and victories during the production process.


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Graduation Date



Boyd, Belinda


Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.)


College of Arts and Humanities



Degree Program









Release Date

December 2008

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Masters Thesis (Open Access)