As Who Liked It?
Juliet Dusinberre, Girton College, Cambridge
Bernard Shaw wrote on 4 October 1897 that the Shakespearian producer Augustin Daly 'was in full force at the Islington Theatre on Monday evening last with his version of "As You Like It" just as I don't like it'.1 Surprisingly, the reaction of many people in the late twentieth century to this most actable of plays is often one of disappointment. The actress Juliet Stevenson, who played Rosalind in 1985, complained of productions which offered ' "a rural romp in an Arden full of polystyrene logs" ' and protests: 'I'd always suspected that there's a much more dangerous play in As You Like It.'2 The 1990 Cheek by Jowl all-male production was greeted ecstatically by both male actors and male critics: Adrian Lester's Rosalind was voted 'sexy' and exciting. Men liked it. But what about women? If a woman's voice was raised in the critical debate, I missed it. In the past, of course, there would have been no such voice, except from the reminiscences of a few celebrated actresses. How different our theatrical records might have been had Elizabeth Pepys scribbled in the margin next to her husband's account of A Midsummer Night's Dream as the most ridiculous and insipid play he ever saw in his life: 'Sam didn't like it but I thought it was great, very sexy.'
What did the numerous women in Shakespeare's audience like? The Elizabethans considered theatre-going to be unavoidably erotic,3 and in anti-theatrical literature it was feared the boy actor would arouse homoerotic fantasies.4 But what, in that case, would the fantasy life of the women in the audience look like?
In As You Like It Rosalind finds herself in a script supplied She becomes, by men which she rewrites as the play progress.5 She becomes, more than any other heroine, the author of more than her own drama. The idea of a woman's writing a part for herself which she liked better than those written by men is present in one of the works Shakespeare certainly used for As You Like It.
When Shakespeare sought a name for his hero he rejected Lodge's Rosader in favour of the much more dashing 'Orlando' of Ariosto's romance, the Orlando Furioso, translated into English in 1591 by the Queen's godson, Sir John Harington. At the beginning of Canto 37 Ariosto has a conventional address to worthy ladies, regretting that they are underrated by jealous male writers and have no chance to write their own praises and thus redress the balance:
Though writers in time past were not your frends,
The present time shall make you large amends.
Harington added three lines of his own:
Yet in this age, so learn'd are some of you,
So well acquainted with the noble muses,
You could your selves, remedie such abuses.6
Women could rewrite the record in truer vein, as they liked it. This was probably intended as a compliment to the Queen, to whom the translation is dedicated. But it contrasts with the dedication of Lodge's Rosalynde 'To the Gentlemen Readers'.7 Harington had begun his translation by offering Elizabeth's ladies the bawdy Canto 28, a tale of women's desires satisfied despite men's attempts to control them. The Queen sent him away with a flea in his ear to translate the rest of the poem, which he did, embellishing its eroticism.8
I want to argue that the fictions of sexuality conjured up in As You Like It draw some of their vitality from the complex relationship which existed for more than a quarter of a century between Harington and the Queen, an interaction captured in the play in the relation between Rosalind and two Shakespearian inventions, Touchstone and Jaques. The orientation of As You Like It towards women as inventors of the fictions in which they must play a part, and as recipients of those fictions, suggests that Harington, as courtier, translator, wit, ladies' man, is a central part of the play's frame of reference. His presence in the play gives Shakespeare's pastoral an edge within the politics and fictions of 15999 which casts light on its original courting of danger, and on its special address to women in the audience. Harington's second literary work was also aimed at a female readership: the notorious treatise printed in 1596 on his invention of the watercloset, entitled The Metamorphosis of Ajax.
The work which gave Harington the authority to offer this frank discussion of how to make great Elizabethan houses smell sweeter was Rabelais' Gargantua and Pantagruel, of which Harington was an ardent admirer, quoting, imitating, and annotating the work in his own tract. Early editors of Shakespeare saw Rabelaisian echoes in As You Like It10 but were at a loss to explain or develop these perceptions, perhaps partly because The Metamorphosis of Ajax, a source of regal discontent when it first appeared, seemed to Victorian scholars too disgusting to investigate. Elizabeth herself felt it proper to express discontent; Robert Markham wrote to Harington in 1598:
Your book is almoste forgiven, and I may say forgotten; but not for its lacke of wit or satyr … The Queen is minded to take you to her favour, but she sweareth that she believes you will make epigrams and write misacmos again on her and all the Courte; she hath been heard to say, 'that merry poet her godson, must not come to Greenwich, till he hath grown sober and leaveth the Ladies sportes and frolick'.
For this work, as for the Orlando, women were Harington's best audience.11
A critic has recently argued that the subversive and iconoclastic character of Rabelais' text speaks to women because women's writing is always subversive.12 Harington uses Rabelais as a text to subvert high culture, copying Rabelais' mockery of authorities, his obscenity, his determination to reinstate the body at the centre of discourse. This determination underlies As You Like It, whether in Touchstone, retorting to Rosalind's: 'O Jupiter, how weary are my spirits!' with the tart: 'I care not for my spirits, if my legs were not weary' (2.4.1-3), or Rosalind herself: 'Men have died from time to time, and worms have eaten them, but not for love' (4.1.100).13 The world of high male literary culture constantly receives a shot in the arm from a competing fiction. Seeing evidence of Orlando's passion engraved on every bark and hearing that Celia has actually met her love in the forest, Rosalind cries: 'Alas the day, what shall I do with my doublet and hose! What did he when thou sawest him? What said he? How looked he? Wherein went he? What makes he here? Did he ask for me? Where remains he? How parted he with thee? And when shalt thou see him again? Answer me in one word.' Celia retorts: 'You must borrow me Gargantua's mouth first, 'tis a word too great for any mouth of this age's size' (3.2.214-21). The reference does not seem to me to come from folk tales of the giant Gargantua, but from a network of associations with Rabelais' iconoclastic work, which was well known by Ben Jonson and by a number of writers in the 1590s.14 Rabelais' book of Gargantua casts light on As You Like It's special renegotiation of its own inherited narratives, and particularly on the fictions with which it surrounds the whole area of women's desire.
At the end of Gargantua the hero builds his own special abbey, a place which is to be the antithesis of the monasteries he has known, with their vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, and their old-fashioned education which has left him more ignorant than it found him. The Abbey of Thelema which completes the book of Gargantua is a Utopian fantasy of freedom: thelema is the Greek word used in the New Testament for 'will' and for the freedom attendant on recognizing the new will of God, as set forth in Paul's Epistle to the Galatians:
Now that faith is come, we are nomore under the scolemaster. For ye all are the children of God by the faith in Christ Jesu … Here is nether Jewe ner Gent[il]e: here is nether bonde ner fre: here is nether man ner woman, for ye are all one in Christ Jesu.15
Thelema, an abbey for men and women, is built on a doctrine of perfect liberty. Inscribed over its door is the motto: FAY CE QUE VOUDRAS: DO what thou wilt.16 As you like it. Arden, for all its pastoral echoes, is conceptually in harmony with the ideals of the Abbey of Thelema, in which those who enter are wealthy, free and chaste—not as celibates, but as people who will in due course marry and go back to a world they will transform through their new vision of concord between man and woman.17 In the creation of the Abbey Rabelais enshrines his own loathing of the excesses of monasticism and of its false ideals of virtue. Its transforming powers allow its inmates to develop along the lines of their own liberal and virtuous natures. To this extent the Abbey of Thelema offers an illuminating gloss on the transformative power of Arden and its ability to suggest a new vision of life when the exiled court returns from the Forest.
If Rabelais' presence in As You Like It depended solely on a general congruence between the vision of Arden and of the Abbey of Thelema, the connection might seem, despite the way in which 'FAY CE QUE VOUDRAS' resonates on the curious throwaway title of Shakespeare's play, to say no more than that Shakespeare's pastoral world draws on various Utopian fantasies. But the connections in the play with Rabelais' narratives are more particular, and surround especially the figures of Touchstone, Jaques, and even to some extent Orlando.18 I want to suggest that Rabelais' subversive work informs As You Like It through the connecting medium of the Queen's godson, Sir John Harington.
At various points in critical history Harington has been a favoured candidate for the original of Jaques.19 I don't want to revive that empirical investigation. In the Tiers Livre the Fool Triboulet is eulogized by Panurge with an extravagance which recalls Jaques' fascination with Touchstone. Certainly connections exist on a level of covert allusion to the water-closet work, The Metamorphosis of Ajax. Harington plays on his name, Jack; Jaques is greeted by Touchstone as 'good Monsieur What-ye-call't' (3.3.66). When Harington was knighted by Essex after the Irish expedition (to the Queen's rage) a contemporary source spoke of Sir Ajax Harington.20 The curious charged relation between Jaques and Rosalind in As You Like It makes better sense if seen in the context of a prolonged sparring match between Harington and the Queen. 'Rosalind is your love's name?' enquires Jaques languidly of Orlando; hearing an assent, he observes: 'I do not like her name.' Orlando retorts: 'There was no thought of pleasing you when she was christened' (3.2.258-62). There was presumably thought of pleasing Elizabeth when she stood godmother to the infant Jack Harington.
However, Touchstone, more than Jaques, is the medium of the play's Rabelaisian vision. Elizabeth allowed Harington a Fool's licence in her court, but each of his literary works exceeded that prerogative and his favour at court alternated with prolonged spells in the country, where he cultivated his own pastoral myth.21 Harington actually calls himself a 'touchstone' in an epigram he wrote in 1589 to his wife, on the birth of their first child, when he gave her a diamond ring:
The touch will try this Ring of purest gold
My touch tryes thee, as pure though softer mold.
That metall pretious is, the stone is true,
As true, and then how much more pretious
Touchstone's loyalty to his mistress contrasts in As You Like It with the patterns of betrayal and corruption which characterize Duke Frederick's court: 'He'll go along o'er the wide world with me', remarks Celia (1.3.131). Sir John Harington wrote in his dedication of the Orlando to Elizabeth that 'your gracious favours have bene extended in my poore familie even to the third generation'. Sir John's mother, Isabella Markham, had been Elizabeth's maid of honour at Hatfield. Both Harington parents were in the Tower with Elizabeth in 1554; she became godmother to their first son. In 1575 the Queen sent the fourteen-year-old 'Boy Jacke' the text of her milkmaid speech on her right to celibacy: 'I do thys, because thy father was ready to sarve and love us in trouble and thrall.'23De Amicitia under the title The Booke of Freendeship, a meditation on how to know true friends which is reminiscent of Duke Senior's sense of true friendship in the exiled court in Arden. The Harington family metal had indeed been tried on the touchstone of adversity and had been found true. Around the turn of the century Harington may have translated Petrarch's De Vita Solitaria as The Prayse of Private Life, converting Petrarch's text into a covert dialogue with himself, on whether he is happier at the court or in the country, a dialogue which Touchstone conducts with the shepherd Corin.24
Touchstone's utterances in As You Like It connect at various levels the play's fictions and Rabelais' Abbey of Thelema. One of the characteristics of Thelema is the different status accorded to time from that of a traditional monastery in which the hours are marked by bells: 'It was decreed that in this new structure there should be neither Clock nor Dial … For, (said Gargantua), the greatest losse of time, that I know, is to count the hours'—'La plus vraye perte dut temps qu'il sceust, estoit de conter les heures.'25 There's no clock in the forest' (3.2.295). Except, it might be said, for Touchstone's dial, which causes Jaques to crow like chaunticleer for exactly an hour. In an epigram which Harington wrote criticizing his mother-in-law for being late for dinner, he stops his little son in the middle of grace, but his mother-in-law retorts:
Say on my boy (saith shee) your father mocks,
Clowns and not Courtiers use to go by clocks,
Courtiers by clocks said I and Clowns by
On the title page of the Ariosto translation Harington is pictured with his dog and his pocket dial.
Harington was a passionate playgoer, who possessed in his library a large collection of quarto editions, including most of Ben Jonson's plays and eighteen of Shakespeare's, three in duplicate.27 He wrote an essay called A Treatise on Playe [1595?] in which he argued for the wise influence of comedy on the audience.28 He circulated about fifty of his epigrams in manuscript in the 1590s. In one Epigram he describes telling a friend about how he was praised for the Ariosto translation:
He disapprov'd the purpose many wayes,
And with this proverbe prov'd it labour lost:
Good Ale doth need no signe, good Wine no
Good verse of praisers, needs not passe a rush.
Present in these lines are Shakespearian sentiments, the title of a Shakespearian comedy, and the proverb which Rosalind evokes in her Epilogue: 'If it be true that good wine needs no bush, 'tis true that a good play needs no epilogue.'29 In another epigram a competition between the author and another poet is resolved by a third writer, who prefers the second poet's sonnets to Harington's epigrams: 'Their sugred taste best likes his likresse senses.'30 Are these Shakespeare's 'sugred Sonnets' (Francis Meres' celebrated epithet)?31 Despite the food for speculation these examples offer, I want to suggest only Shakespeare's awareness of the curious amalgam of interests for which Harington stood: his Apologie of Poetrie which prefaces his translation of Ariosto, the Orlando itself,32 and his fascination with Rabelais manifested in The Metamorphosis of Ajax. In As You Like It these concerns function within the play as channels through which criticism of Elizabeth's fictions of sexuality can be mediated.
Harington's interests inform the scene in As You Like It in which Touchstone, overheard by Jaques, courts Audrey. The Fool quotes Ovid, whose name peppers the margin of Harington's Ariosto translation; Shakespeare's Fool then launches into a disquisition on poetry and lying.33 I believe that Shakespeare had Harington's Apologie of Poetrie (Preface to the Orlando Furioso translation) in mind rather than Sidney's. The celebrated reference apparently to Marlowe, fits Harington's own discontent in The Metamorphosis of Ajax, that his own 'writings now lay dead'.34 'When a man's verses cannot be understood, nor a man's good wit seconded with the forward child, understanding, it strikes a man more dead than a great reckoning in a little room. Truly, I would the gods had made thee poetical' (3.3.9-13). There seems, notes the editor of the Arden edition, to be some unexplained bawdy reference here.35 A man defends poetry against lying, writes erotic verses to ladies, laments that they are no longer talked about, and sets his mind to disposing of the great reckonings of feasting courtiers into wholesome little rooms. As Sheldon's letter to Harington said, there was no real disjunction between the works: 'If you can but tell a homilie tale of this in prose as cleanlie, as you have told in verse a baudie tale or two in Orlando mannerlie, it maie passe among the sowrest censurers verie currantlie.'36 Through Harington Rabelais' subversion of inherited texts enters Shakespeare's comedy.
I have spent some time on this connection because As You Like It seems to me to rewrite the record of female desire so that women want to read it. The agent of rewriting is Rosalind. This dominant heroine with, in the end, magical skills, creates the parameters within which the danger of Shakespeare's play can be recovered, because she a relationship is so closely identified in the play with Elizabeth I,37 a relationship pointed by the covert presence in the text of the Queen's godson. The Queen's mythology and history inform the texture of the play.
Shakespeare's Rosalind shares her name not only with the heroine of Lodge's romance, but with the great lady of Spenser's Shepheardes Calender who has broken Colin Clout's heart, for whom he is still lamenting in the April eclogue in which he celebrates Elisa. 'Rosalinde' as spelt by Spenser with the final 'e' is an anagram of ELISADORN: Elisa adorned, as she is in Colin's song of praise to the 'Queene of Shepheardes'.38 E. K.'s gloss states that the name Rosalinde hides one of the most illustrious in the land, worthy 'that she should be commended to immortalitie for her rare and singular verrues' and comparable to Petrarch's Laura. In 1590 Raleigh, in his commendatory sonnet to The Faerie Queene, envisages Petrarch weeping at the approach of the Faerie Queene through whom Laura herself is consigned to oblivion.39 The Queene of Shepheardes in Spenser's fourth Eclogue in The Shepheardes Calender is connected by Spenser to Virgil's fourth Eclogue are which will see the return of the Golden Age.40 What are the Duke's followers doing in Arden? the time carelessly, as they did in the golden world' (1.1.112-13). Shakespeare has surrounded Rosalind with the Queen's iconography.41
Elizabeth's personal mythology is to some extent present in Lodge's Rosalynde. When Ganymede in Lodge's romance relinquishes her disguise (at her father's request) the narrator exclaims that 'she seemed Diana triumphing in the Forrest: upon her head she wore a chaplet of Roses, which gave her such a grace, that she looked like Flora pearkt in the pride of all her flowers'.42 Lodge's Ganymede here seems to anticipate Perdita as Queen of the sheepshearing 'poor lowly maid, / Most goddess-like pranked up' (The Winter's Tale, 4.4.9-10), a shepherdess who is in reality a royal princess. The choice of the persona of Ganymede in both Lodge's romance and in Shakespeare's play suggests a model not of 'homosexual flirtation' but of dynastic symbolism, as in the Medici revision of the myth in the late sixteenth century.43 The presence of an earlier generation in As You Like It in Duke Senior and his court, gives the play its own dynastic framework. Its retrospective glow seems to conjure up the euphoric mood of hope of Elizabeth's own exile from court under Mary, and implicitly to contrast the joyous adversities of the past with the disillusion and uncertainty of the late 1590s.
At the heart of As You Like It is a challenge, inherent in Rosalind's own role, to Elizabeth's elaborately constructed fictions of chastity and desire. Harington was himself bound up with Rosalind's interrogation of Elizabeth's own myths. In 1575 Elizabeth had bidden her young godson ponder her speech to Parliament on her celibacy: 'As if I were a milkmaide wyth a pale on my arme, whereby my pryvate person might be a little set by; I wolde not forsake my poore and single state, to match with the greatest Monarchie.'44 The fruit of Harington's ponderings was A Tract on the Succession to the Crown (AD 1602) in which he implicitly queried Elizabeth's evasion of the issue of her succession: 'To make the world thinke she should have children of hir owne, she entertained till she was fiftye years of age mentions of marriage.' He also criticized the notion that chastity meant celibacy, and, in the court of his time, was a compliment for women not for men: 'But I doubte how to prayse these thinges, and how this wanton age of ours will brooke to have a man praised for chastitie.'45 Through the Harington connection in As You Like It Shakespeare insinuates Rabelais into the play's web of associations, giving Rosalind the dangerous role of challenging the cultural myths and stories used by Elizabeth for her own maintenance of power. This challenge involves in As You Like It an awareness of the vernacular in its associations not only with radical Protestantism, but, historically, with the world of women.
Rabelais stands, within the framework of Evangelical Humanism, for the triumph of the vernacular over the classical languages. The championing of the mother-tongue was part of the Protestant challenge to monasticism, and the vernacular was very early on associated with Elizabeth in her vital role as Protestant princess, thus linking her with the world of the 1530s in which Rabelais' work was censored. Rabelais' Tiers Livre (1546) is dedicated to the spirit of Marguerite of Navarre, whose Miroir de L'Ame Pécheresse Elizabeth had translated into English and given to her ardently Protestant stepmother, Katherine Parr. Marguerite's work had in 1533 enjoyed the brief distinction of being considered heretical for quoting the scriptures in the vernacular.46 Mikhail Bakhtin has observed that the radical laughter of Renaissance writing is ignited at the juncture of the battle between the official language of Latin and the vulgar vernacular.47 Harington incorporated into the text of The Metamorphosis of Ajax the text of the Black Tallis's Sauntus which his father set to music under Tallis's instruction for the amusement of Henry VIII, who used to sing it. It contains the refrain, 'Lingua canant vernacula.'48 Elizabeth I became the lodestone of a movement to aggrandise the vernacular and make it worthy to stand alongside the classical languages. But this is not precisely the way in which either Harington or Rabelais thinks of the vernacular.
For both writers the vernacular is itself subversive. Rabelais uses the vernacular not as a dignified tool, but as an undignified one, as a means of undermining the pretensions of the Church, the Law, education, scholars who can spout Latin but who can't see beyond their own noses. Harington was conscious that Ariosto was himself a vernacular writer in a woman's mode, the romance, and that his tutor at Cambridge would have been horrified to see him wasting all that good instruction in Latin and Greek on a paltry Italian bauble.49 Harington's joke in The Metamorphosis of Ajax about being a courtier well learned in latrina lingua offended Elizabeth, but is true to the spirit of the Black Sauntus which her father relished. Rabelais' vernacular brings into the book, as does The Metamorphosis of Ajax, subjects which high culture leaves outside its covers.
In As You Like It Rosalind's witty vernacular, like Beatrice's, seems to mock the literary stories from which the play itself is derived, just as Rabelais mocks in Gargantua the transmission of learned male Humanism through the official language of Latin. Rosalind's language is sometimes authentically Rabelaisian: 'I would thou couldst stammer, that thou mightst pour this concealed man out of thy mouth as wine comes out of a narrow-mouthed bottle—either too much at once, or none at all. I prithee, take the cork out of thy mouth, that I may drink thy tidings' (3.2.194-9). Bottles, mouths, corks and women have their own chain of associations in Rabelais, quite apart from their connection with intoxicating liquor.50 Rosalind's odd reference to Pythagoras: 'I was never so berhymed since Pythagoras' time that I was an Irish rat, which I can hardly remember' (3.2.172-4) makes more sense in the Gargantuan context. Rabelais declares in his Prologue that his book will be full of Pythagorean allegory.51 Shakespeare translates the highculture male pastoral world into a setting more accessible to women by allowing Rosalind to rewrite the fictions which seem to surround her.52 In doing so she opens the play world to the women in the audience.
The Orlando Furioso predicates female cruelty as a spur to male desire. Shakespeare's Rosalind retells that story when, as Ganymede, she conjures up for Orlando the vision of a Rosalind modelled on Ariosto's Angelica, for whose love the original Orlando went mad. Ganymede implies to Orlando that Rosalind's giddiness will match that of Ariosto's romantic heroine. Shakespeare's Orlando is dizzied by this vision of female caprice: 'I would not have my right Rosalind of this mind, for I protest her frown might kill me.' But Shakespeare's Rosalind cannot take the cue of the cruel lady; she murmurs instead: 'By this hand, it will not kill a fly.' Her tenderness turns to direct invitation: 'But come, now I will be your Rosalind in a more coming-on disposition; and ask me what you will, I will grant it' (4.1.102-6).53 Rabelais in the Abbey of Thelema mocks the idea that the relation of men and women should be predicated on fictions of cruelty and denial. Rosalind's interchanges with Orlando seem to query the denials of Elizabeth's own personal narrative.
Thelema might have provided a more fruitful model for the Elizabethan court than the elaborate fictions of chastity and desire which surround Britomart in The Faerie Queene Book III. But the liberty of Thelema looks dangerously like conformity,54 and its rationalism in some ways like a classic Aristotelian reassertion of reason over passion. The Abbey of Thelema may spell the liberty which Celia and Rosalind seek to embrace: 'Now go we in content, / To liberty, and not to banishment' (1.3.136-7). Steven Mullaney points out brilliantly that the flight to Arden which offers freedom to Rosalind offers also freedom to the theatre in 'the marginal and ambivalent domain of London's Liberties.'55 But Rosalind in disguise does not underwrite Thelema's concept of casual amity between men and women. She does not embrace the egalitarian relationships of Thelema any more than she accepts the romantic structures of Ariosto's romance. Through the persona of Ganymede she consistently rewrites all the narratives she has inherited.
Shakespeare's heroine ultimately rewrites the Queen herself, a figure uneasily locked in her own fictional marriage to her country, denying desire while exploiting its inventions. Shakespeare suggests in this play that desire in women is not inordinate lust, but nor is it harmonious friendship. In As You Like It Shakespeare acknowledges, in a way that the fiction of the Abbey of Thelema does not, the realities of passion as evasive of self-discipline. Passion is dangerous; it thrives not on liberty but on repression. The energy of the play derives from a constant oscillation, centred mainly in Rosalind herself, between repression and expression, from which powerful fantasies of sexual desire are generated, and circulate through the entire theatre, revitalizing both players and audience.
In a theatre where Rosalind was automatically played by a boy I believe that far from arousing primarily homoerotic fantasies, she would have been much closer to women in the audience than Rosalind necessarily is once she is played by a woman. In Shakespeare's theatre the boy actor shared his social status with the women in the audience who watched him enact the heroine.56 The real boy actor feigning womanhood might have been more beguiling in the part of Rosalind, so often disappointing to modern audiences—men and women—because the part was so carefully written to reflect the boy's apprenticed state.57 He is, after all, just a moony youth, given power within the theatre, just as the women who watch him also experience a power and a freedom not allowed to them outside its walls. To the boy actor the part of Rosalind must have offered an experience of control comparable to the playing of the old role of Boy Bishop (prohibited under Henry VIII),58 which allowed the boy momentarily to preside over his elders and betters. Beneath Rosalind's control of her world in the play is an enactment of revolt in which the boy actor participates.
Ellen Terry wrote: 'To act, you must make the thing written your own. You must steal the words, steal the thought, and convey the stolen treasure with great art.'59 This is, surprisingly, the language of contemporary feminism: steal language, remarks Hélène Cixous, and then you can fly (voler).60 The boy playing Rosalind steals the language of the adult male scoffing at women: makes it his own by describing himself; and flies by releasing desires which float into the theatre audience and are shared by the women who watch him.
The play ends with Rosalind in the Epilogue in the role of magician. Elizabeth herself was conceived of in her Progresses as a magical presence.61 But Rosalind is also a playwright, a youthful version of Prospero, abandoning the book in which she has rewritten so many male narratives, begging men and women alike to read the structures of their own desires into the feigning of the poet. Hoping that the play may please, but first of all, that it may please women.62 At this point Rosalind offers her most daring rewriting of Lodge's Rosalynde, which ends, as it began, addressing Gentlemen Readers and giving to Gerismond, the heroine's father, the stage-management of the marriages.63 In As You Like It that role is Rosalind's. Furthermore Rosalind in the Epilogue spurns confinement to gender, appearing before the audience in that supremely in which stories unstable essence which the play has created,64 in which the stories are constantly generated and altered, but are not finished.65
In As You Like It Shakespeare allows his heroine to move through inherited narratives of desire commenting on the peculiarities of the male imagination. For Rosalind the language of desire insists, as Harington had insisted in The Metamorphosis of Ajax, on reinstating the body at the centre of culture. Rosalind offers women, as Harington had offered women readers of his Orlando, the opportunity to rewrite the record. The implied accusation, that the Queen had not rewritten the male narrative, nor created fictions of sexuality which could speak to women, gave the play in the troubled late 1590s its edge of danger. In Elizabeth's politically empowering fictions desire could resolve itself only into sterility.
The deferral implied in Rosalind's adieu does no doubt transfer the promise of the past, as Elizabeth's own reign had ultimately done, into the realm of fantasy. But that fantasy of deferred satisfaction, voiced by the boy who must when the speech is over return to the role of apprentice, speaks particularly to women, for whom the satisfaction of desire involved, in Shakespeare's society at least, so much dwindling into wives, mothers, dependants. As You Like It, far from creating closure, ends by releasing into the auditorium an eroticism constantly open to revision by women. Fay ce que voudras: a message for women rather than for men, at least in Shakespeare's time, where women knew only too well that As You Like It meant as men liked it, everywhere except in the theatre.
1Dramatic Opinions and Essays, reprinted in G mini Salg do, Eyewitnesses of Shakespeare (Sussex, 1975), p. 167.
2 Quoted in Carol Rutter, Clamorous Voices: Shakespeare's Women Today (London, 1988), p. 97.
3 Stephen Orgel, 'Nobody's Perfect: Or Why Did the English Stage Take Boys for Women?', The South Atlantic Quarterly, 88 (Winter, 1989), 7-29; p. 17.
4 Jonathan Dollimore, Sexual Dissidence (Oxford, 1991), p. 293; Lisa Jardine, Still Harping on Daughters: Women and Drama in the Age of Shakespeare (Sussex, 1983), p. 9; see Kathleen McLuskie, 'The Act, the Role and the Actor: Boy Actresses on the Elizabethan Stage', New Theatre Quarterly, 3:10 (1987), 120-30.
5 Jean Howard, 'Crossdressing, The Theatre, and Gender Struggle in Early Modern England', Shakespeare Quarterly, 39 (1988), 419-40; p. 435, sees Rosalind in various ways as acting out 'the parts scripted for women by her culture', where I want to argue that she rewrites those scripts. Nelly Forman, 'The Politics of Language: Beyond the Gender Principle', in Gayle Greene and Coppélia Kahn, eds., Making a Difference: Feminist Literary Criticism (London, 1985), p. 73, notes that 'while sex is an anatomical fact, sexuality is culturally devised; it is the manner in which society fictionalizes its relationship to sex and gender roles'.
6 Ariosto, Orlando Furioso, in English Heroical Verse by John Harington Esquire (imprinted at London by Richard Field, 1591), Canto 37: 7, 8.
7 Geoffrey Bullough, Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare, vol. 2 (London, Henley, and New York, 1964), p. 159.
8 Sir John Harington, An Apologie [for The Metamorphosis of Ajax, printed simultaneously] in Sir John Harington's A New Discourse of a Stale Subject, called The Metamorphosis of Ajax, ed. by Elizabeth Story Donno (London, 1962), p. 256: 'The whole work being enjoyed me as a penance by that saint, nay rather goddesse, whose service I am devoted unto. And as for the verses before alledged, they were so flat against my conscience, that I inserted somewhat, more then once to qualifie the rigour of those hard speeches.' Townsend Rich, in Harington & Ariosto (New Haven, 1940), pp. 56-7, prints Harington's plate to the offending Canto 28, to which representations of three copulating couples have been added to Ariosto's original, suggesting that Harington was not afraid that its eroticism would really offend the Queen (pp. 56-7). Rich considers Harington's addition to the text, above, was intended as a compliment on the Queen's learning (p. 80).
9 Sukanta Chaudhuri, Renaissance Pastoral and its English Developments (Oxford, 1989), pp. 25, 57, for the political and social allusiveness of Renaissance pastoral; see also
10 The Variorum As You Like It, ed. Horace Howard Furness, vol. 8 (Philadelphia, 1890), pp. 39, 161. Warburton noted verbal echoes between Touchstone's dialogue with Corin and Rabelais' Tiers Livre.
11 Sir John Harington, Nugae Antiquae, vol. 2 (London, 1779), pp. 287-8.
12 Carol Bellard-Thomson, 'Rabelais and Obscenity: A Woman's View', in Helen Wilcox et al., eds., The Body and the Text (New York: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1990), p. 174.
13 In Rutter, Clamorous Voices, pp. 110-11, Juliet Stevenson describes how she wanted to deliver Rosalind's speech '"men have died from time to time, and worms have eaten them, but not for love'". She explains that the director, Adrian Noble, wanted her to play it mournfully, but that her Rosalind was being much more iconoclastic: ' "These romantic myths persist, but they are lies." ' Stevenson concludes: 'It was one of those examples when you find in a rehersal room that the male and female experience of loving are in some ways different.'
14 Huntington Brown, Rabelais in English Literature (Cambridge, Mass., 1933), pp. 31-70 and Appendix A; see Agnes Latham, ed., As You Like It, Arden edition (London and New York, 1975), p. 71.
15The Byble: that is/the holy Scripture of the Olde and New Testament, trans. Myles Coverdale ([Cologne or Marburg?], 1535); M. A. Screech, Rabelais (London, 1979), p. 188.
16Gargantua, in Les Oeuvres den François Rabelais, vol. I (Lyon, 1573), p. 87: 'En leur reigle n'estoit que ceste clause, FAY CE QUE VOUDRAS. Parce que gens libres, bien nez, bien instruits, conversans en compagnies honnestes, ont par nature un instinct & orguillon, qui toujours les pousse àfaits vertueux, & retire de vice, lequel ils mommoient honneur.'
17 M. A. Screech, The Rabelaisian Marriage (London, 1958), pp. 27-9.
18 Walter Kaiser, Praisers of Folly (London, 1964), p. 14, notes that Ariosto's Orlando belongs in the special cate-gory of 'the fool in love, which is an entire tradition in itself. "En enamorado simple", as Don Quixote (a kind of one himself) calls him.' Vestiges of this character remain with Shakespeare's Orlando, as Jaques recognizes: 'By my troth, I was seeking for a fool when I found you', but Orlando turns the insult: 'He is drowned in the brook. Look but in, and you shall see him' (3.2.279-82). Touchstone himself is, by the end of the play, a Fool in love. Harington possessed a text entitled Orlando Foolioso which might refer to the character of the Fool in love. W. W. Greg, Dramatic Documents for the Elizabethan Playhouses, vol. I (Oxford, 1931), p. 176, reads Harington's title as a reference to the 'bad' Quarto reprint (1599) of Greene's Orlando Furioso.
19 Bullough, Sources, vol. 2, p. 154 n. I; Latham, As You Like It, p. xlviii. Detailed arguments in favour of Harington occurred in an interesting series of letters in the TLS for 1929, from B. H. Newdigate (3 and 10 January 1929) and R. H. Gunther (17 January). Andrew Gurr, Playgoing in Shakespeare's London (Cambridge, 1987), pp. 97-8, quotes a letter from Harington to Robert Cecil in 1605: 'That the world is a stage and we that live in it are all stage players … I playd my chyldes part happily, the scholler and students part to neglygently, the sowldyer and cowrtyer faythfully, the husband lovingly, the countryman not basely nor corruptly … Now I desyre to act a Chawncellors part hollyly.'
20 Ian Grimble, The Harington Family (London, 1957), p. 130, notes that Harington is named as Sir Ajax Harington in the Calendar of State Papers.
21 Harington wrote in February 1599 of the extreme danger he was in on his return from Essex's disastrous Irish expedition: 'After I had been there but an hour, I was threatened with the Fleet; I answered poetically, that coming so late from the land-service, I hoped that I should not be prest to serve in her Majesty's fleet in Fleet-Street.
After three days every man wondered to see me at liberty' (Nugae Antiquae, vol. 2, p. 25). In 1601 he was still in trouble, having been knighted by Essex, and the tart message came from the monarch: 'Go tell that witty fellow, my godson, to get home; it is no season now to "foole it here". I liked this as little as she dothe my knight-hood, so tooke to my bootes and returned to the plow in bad weather' (Nugae Antiquae, vol. 2, p. 65). In old age Elizabeth seemed to weary of his jesting, though perhaps not of his devotion to her: 'Her Majestie enquirede of some matters whiche I had written, and as she was pleasede to note my fancifulle braine, I was not unheedfull to feede her humoure, and reade some verses, whereat she smilede once, and was pleasede to saie, when thou doste feele creepinge tyme at thye gate, these fooleries will please thee lesse; I am paste my relishe for suche matters' (Harington to his wife, 27 December 1602, Nugae Antiquae, vol. 2, p. 79).
22 Sir John Harington, Epigrams (1600), bound in the Orlando Furioso, in a fine scribal manuscript which the author sent to his mother-in-law, with a letter signed in autograph. The one quoted is the first in the collection. See R. H. Miller, 'Sir John Harington's Manuscripts in Italic', Studies in Bibliography, 40 (1987), 101-6. Some of Harington's Epigrams were published in 1615 (after his death in 1612) and a full collection in 1618, reprinted in John Harington, Epigrams 1618 (Menston, 1970). The one quoted, Of a pointed Diamond given by the Author to his wife, at the birth of his eldest sonne, is in BIV , but various minor textual variations exist, which I prefer not to incorporate as the 1600 version has holograph corrections and is presumably therefore the way Harington wanted it.
23 The text of the speech, together with the Queen's note to Sir John Harington, is reprinted in Nugae Antiquae, vol. 2, p. 70. Harington senior wrote to the Bishop of Winchester from the Tower in 1554 that both he and his wife Isabella [neé Markham] suffered with Elizabeth in her imprisonment: 'My wyfe ys her servante and doth but rejoyce in thys owre miserie, when we looke with whome we are holden in bondage' (NA, vol. 3, p. 178). Harington senior's translation of Cicero: The Booke of Freendeship of Marcus Tullie Cicero is reprinted in Ruth Hughey, John Harington of Stepney: Tudor Gentleman (Columbus, Ohio, 1971). To compound the Harington family connection with Touchstone is the curious coincidence that Harington senior's first wife, Esther, illegitimate daughter of Henry VIII (described in documents as 'base-born'), is in some of the records named not Esther, but Audrey (Hughey, p. 17).
24The Prayse of Private Life, in Sir John Harington, Letters and Epigrams, ed. Norman Egbert McClure (Philadelphia, 1930). McClure's ascription of the work to Harington has been challenged in favour of Samuel Daniel (7X5, 4 Sept., 1930), but the evidence remains somewhat inconclusive. The author—whether Harington or Daniel—writes of the country dweller: 'He envieth noe man, nor hateth any bodie, but contente with his fortune, holdeth himself secure' (p. 331), continuing two pages later: 'Content he is with his owne, and more doth not desire.' The treatise reminds the reader of the scene between Touchstone and Corin both verbally, in the use of the words 'solitary' and 'private', and in its dialogue structure which is more pronounced than in Petrarch's original (see Jacob Zeitlin, ed., The Life of Solitude of Francis Petrarch (Illinois, 1924).
25Gargantua, vol. I, p. 81v : The translation is from Thomas Urquhart and Peter Le Motteux, The Lives, Heroic Deeds & Sayings of GARGANTUA & His Son PANTAGRUEL by DR FRANCIS RABELAIS, vol. I (London, 1921), p. 161. Urquhart's translation of Books I and II was published in 1653, and Book HI in 1693. Motteux's Books IV and V were published in 1694.
26Epigrams (1600) printed in the Orlando Furioso. The manuscript poem quotes a child's utterance which is written in the child's hand, and may have been the work of the son born in 1589, who would have been ten in 1599, the probable date of As You Like It. For Harington's dial, see Newdigate, Letter to TLS, 10 January 1929.
27 F. J. Furnivall, 'Sir John Harington's Shakespeare Quartos', Notes and Queries, 7th Series 9 (17 May 1890), 382-3. E. K. Chambers, The Elizabethan Stage, vol. 3 (Oxford, 1923), p. 183, notes that when Harington listed his collection of quarto plays in 1610 he possessed exactly 'six-sevenths of the complete output of the London press'. In 1606 Harington wrote to Mr Secretary Barlow of theatricals at court: 'I have much marvalled at these strange pageantries, and they do bring to my remembrance what passed of this sort in our Queens days; of which I was sometime an humble presenter and assistant but I neer did see such lack of good order, discretion, and sobriety, as I have now done' (Nugae Antiquae, vol. 2, p. 129).
28A Treatise on Playe, in Nugae Antiquae, vol. 2, p. 160.
29Epigrams 1618, 'Of his translation of Ariosta', D2. Oddly enough, the envoi to Harington's Apologie of Poetrie which prefaces the Orlando is couched in terms which bring Rosalind's address to her audience to mind: 'But now to conclude, I shall pray you all that you have trou-bled your selves to reade thus my triple apologie, to accept my labors, and to excuse my errors, if with no other thing, at least with the name of youth (which commonly hath need of excuses) and so presuming this pardon to be granted, we shall part good trends.'
30 Harington, Epigrams 1618, Epigram 37, sig. C2. The epigram is not printed with the 1600 manuscript collection, not necessarily because it had not been written, but because those epigrams are almost all domestic in their frame of reference.
31Francis Meres' Treatise 'Poetrie', ed. Don Cameron Allen (Illinois, 1953), p. 76: 'His sugred Sonnets among his priuate friends.' Meres gives Harington as the source of the 'sugar' metaphor: 'As Rubarbe and Sugarcandie are pleasant & profitable: so in poetry ther is sweetnes and goodnes M. John Haring [sic] in his Apologie for poetry before his translated Ariosto' (p. 67). Meres com-mends Harington's translation of Ariosto together with Golding's Ovid (p. 82).
32 Rich, Harington and Ariosto, p. 50, believes that Harington had a manuscript copy of Sidney's Apology for Poetry to hand when he wrote his own version.
33 Ben Jonson, 'Conversations with William Drummond', in C. H. Herford and Percy Simpson, eds., Ben Jonson (Oxford, 1925-52) vol. I, p. 133: 'That when Sir John Harrington desyred him to tell the Truth of his Epigrames, he answered him that he loved not the Truth, for they were Narrations and not Epigrams.' The editors suggest (vol. I, p. 153 n. 38) that Harington retaliated with an epigram to Momus (Jonson?) 'That his Poetrie shall be no fictions, but meere truths':
But read to carpe, as still hath been thine use,
Fret out thine heart to search, seek sift and pry,
Thy heart shall hardly give my pen the ly.
Harington possessed copies of nine of Jonson's plays, including all those associated with the war of the theatres.
34 Donno, Sir John Harington, An Apologie, p. 211: 'Some supposed, that because my writings now lay dead, and had not bene thought of this good while … so I wold send my Muse abroad.'
35 Latham, p. xxxiv. If one is tempted to stir the muddy waters of the purge offered by Shakespeare to Ben Jonson in the second part of The Return from Parnassus (IV.ii.1716), one might interject the figure of the author of The Metamorphosis of Ajax:
Few of the university [men] pen plaies well, they smell too much of that writer Ovid, and that writer Metamorphoses, and talke too much of Proserpina & Juppiter. Why heres our fellow Shakespeare puts them all downe, I and Ben Ionson too. O that Ben Ionson is a pestilent fellow, he brought up Horace giving the Poets a pill, but our fellow Shakespeare hath given him a purge that made him beray his credit.
(J. B. Leishman, ed., There Parnassus Plays (1598-1601) (London, 1949), p. 337.) A purge was not in this period the same as an emetic (delivered in Poetaster). Harington is a constant presence in the Parnassus plays (see Leishman, pp. 151, 263-5, 340).
36 Donno, The Metamorphosis of Ajax, pp. 57-8.
37 Leah Marcus, 'Shakespeare's Comic Heroines, Elizabeth I, and the Political Uses of Androgyny', in Mary Beth Rose, ed., Women in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance: Literary and Historical Perspectives (Syracuse, 1985), pp. 143, 149.
38 Roy Strong, The Cult of Elizabeth (London, 1977), pp. 46-55, cites many examples of Sir John Davies's acrostics with the name Elizabeth. I am indebted to Louis Adrian Montrose's brilliant analysis of Elizabeth's use of the pastoral motif in her maintenance of power, in ' "Eliza, Queen of shepheardes", and the Pastoral of Power', English Literary Renaissance, 10 (1980), 153-82, although Montrose, surprisingly, does not discuss Rosalind in As You Like It in this context.
39The Shepheardes Calender, in R. Morris, ed., The Complete Works of Edmund Spenser (London, 1873), p. 456; The Faerie Queene, ed. by Thomas P. Roche, Jr (Harmondsworth, 1978), p. 19.
40 Montrose, ' "Eliza, Queen of shepheardes" ', p. 160; see also
41 Harington was heartbroken at the Queen's death in 1603: 'Here now wyll I reste my troubelde mynde, and tende my sheepe like an Arcadian swayne, that hathe lost his faire mistress; for in soothe, I have lost the beste and fairest love that ever shepherde knew, even my gracious Queene; and sith my good mistress is gone, I shall not hastily put forthe for a new master' (Nugae Antiquae, vol. 2, p. 226). His sorrow puts one in mind of Lear's Fool; see also
42 Bullough, Sources, vol. 2, p. 252; Leah Scragg, The Metamorphosis of Gallathea (Washington, 1982), p. 82.
43 Orgel, 'Nobody's Perfect', p. 22; James M. Saslow, Ganymede in the Renaissance (New Haven and London, 1986), pp. 143, 165, 172, 174.
44Nugae Antiquae, vol. 3, pp. 178, 314-15. The milkmaid passage appears in two separate places in the Nugae Antiquae suggesting that Harington extracted it for particular note from the original.
45 Sir John Harington, A Tract on the Succession to the Crown (AD 1602), ed. Clements R. Markham (London, 1880), pp. 40, 86-7.
46 Elaine Beilin, Redeeming Eve (Princeton, 1987), p. 67; Johnson, 'Elizabeth, Bride and Queen', p. 80, notes that one of the Queen's accession pageants pictures two hills: 'One was rocky and contained a withered tree; the other was green and flourishing and contained a fresh, green tree. The first hill was called Ruinosa Respublica and the second, Respublica bene iustituta. After seeing this tableau, Elizabeth received the Bible in English, being assured that she could avoid the barrenness of the one hill by taking the book.'
47 Mikhail Bakhtin, Rabelais and His World, trans. Helen Iswolsky (Bloomington, 1984), p. 72.
48 Harington had already sent the text and the music to Burleigh in 1595: 'This verse is called The Blacke Sauntus, or Monkes hymne to Saunte Satane, made when Kynge Henry had spoylede their synginge. My father was wont to say, that Kynge Henry was used in pleasante moode to sing this verse; and my father, who had his good countenance, and a goodlie office in his Courte, and also his goodlie Esther to wife, did sometyme receive the honour of hearing his own songe, for he made the tune which my man Combe hath sent herewith; having been much skilled in musicke which was pleasing to the King, and which he learnt in the fellowship of good Maister Tallis, when a young man' (Nugae Antiquae, vol. 2, p. 83). The text Harington then incorporated into The Metamorphosis (see Sir John Harington, A New Discourse of a Stale Subject, called The Metamorphosis of Ajax: Written by Misacmos, to his friend and cosin Philostilpnos (At London: Printed by Richard Field, 1596), Bviii verso.
49 Sir John Harington, An Apologie of Poetrie, Preface to the Orlando Furioso (1591). In 'The Life of Ariosto' which Harington wrote at the end of the Orlando Furioso he said that Ariosto wrote in Italian rather than in Latin because 'he had a desire (as most men have) to enrich their owne language with such writings, as may make it in more account with other nations' (p. 417).
50 Natalie Zemon Davis, 'Women on Top: Symbolic Sexual Inversion and Political Disorder in Early Modern Europe', in Barbara A. Babcock, The Reversible World (Ithaca and London, 1978), names Gargantua's mother as an 'unruly' woman (p. 158), and remarks of Rosalind that 'though she later gives herself to Orlando in marriage, her saucy counsel cannot be erased from the real history of the courtship' (p. 161).
51 Screech, The Rabelaisian Marriage, pp. 123-7, demonstrates Rabelais' elaborate use of Pythagorean numerology in Gargantua.
52 Allen, Francis Meres' Treatise 'Poetrie', p. 76: 'As Epius Stolo said, that the Muses would speake with Plautus tongue, if they would speak Latin; so I say that the Muses would speak with Shakespeares fine filed phrase, if they would speake English.' This rewriting of the record in order to make it more accessible can also be paralleled in Harington's embellishments to the manuscript he owned of Sidney's Arcadia. P. J. Croft, 'Sir John Harington's Manuscript of Sir Philip Sidney's Arcadia' , in Stephen Parks and P. J. Croft, Literary Autographs (Los Angeles, 1983), p. 68, argues that Harington's interventions in the text, as in his own translation of Ariosto, aim 'to "lower the tone", to inject some ordinary humor—and ordinary human tenderness—into a work whose heroic tone tends to exclude the ordinary'.
53 Helena Faucit, Lady Martin, On Some of Shakespeare's Female Characters (Edinburgh, 1891), p. 271, observed that she could never say ' "I do take thee, Orlando, for my husband" … without a trembling of the voice, and the involuntary rushing of happy tears to the eyes, which made me to turn my head away from Orlando.'
54 Screech, Rabelais, p. 190.
55 Steven Mullaney, The Place of the Stage (Chicago and London, 1988), pp. 20-5.
56 Gurr, Playgoing in Shakespeare's London, pp. 53-65; Orgel, 'Nobody's Perfect', p. 8; Jean E. Howard, 'Scripts and/versus Playhouses: Ideological Production and the Renaissance Public Stage', Renaissance Drama, 20 (1989), 31-49.
57 Lesley Anne Soule, 'Subverting Rosalind: Cocky Ros in the Forest of Arden', New Theatre Quarterly, 6:26 (1991), 126-36; p. 128.
58 Montrose, ' "Eliza, Queen of shepheardes" ', p. 163, for the relation of the Boy Bishop to pastoral inversion.
59 Ellen Terry, Four Lectures on Shakespeare, ed. Christopher St John (London, 1931), p. 15. Terry wrote: 'Don't believe the anti-feminists if they tell you, as I was once told, that Shakespeare had to endow his women with virile qualities because in his theatre they were always impersonated by men! This may account for the frequency with which they masquerade as boys, but I am convinced it had little influence on Shakespeare's studies of women. They owe far more to the liberal ideas about the sex which were fermenting in Shakespeare's age. The Assumption that "the woman's movement" is of very recent date—something peculiarly modern—is not warranted by history. There is evidence of its existence in the fifteenth century' (p. 81).
60 'The Laugh of Medusa', in Elaine Marks and Isabelle de Courtivron, eds., New French Feminisms (London, 1981), p. 258: 'It's no accident that voler has a double meaning.'
61 Montrose, ' "Eliza, Queen of shepheardes" ', p. 170.
62 Richard Levin, 'Women in the Renaissance Theatre Audience', Shakespeare Quarterly, 40 (1989), 165-74; p. 168; Phyllis Rackin, 'Androgyny, Mimesis, and the Marriage of the Boy Heroine on the English Renaissance Stage', PMLA, 102 (1987), 113-33; pp. 124-5.
63 Bullough, Sources, vol. 2, p. 256.
64 Laura Levine, 'Men in Women's Clothing: Anti-theatricality and Effeminization from 1579 to 1642', Criticism, 28 (1986), 121-43; p. 128. Rosalind's epilogue seems to have caused comment even in Shakespeare's theatre, and appears to be parodied in the Induction which Marston added to The Malcontent in 1604. Sly pretends to make an extempore prologue (printed in quotation marks): ' "Gentlemen, I could wish for the women's sake you had all soft cushions: and gentlewomen, I would wish that for the men's sakes you had all more easy standings" ' (John Marston, The Malcontent, ed. by Bernard Harris (London, 1967), p. 14: Induction, pp. 128-30; this reference to Shakespeare's play has not, to my knowledge, been noted. On a bawdy level the gentlemen here seem to be ladies and the ladies gentlemen. The reference is particularly interesting as evidence of the play's being performed in the public theatre probably some time in 1603, so that the Epilogue would have been fresh in Marton's mind.
65 Since writing this essay I have read Alan C. Dessen, 'Shakespeare on Stage: Resources and Images: Shakespeare in 1990', Shakespeare Quarterly, 42 (1991), 214-24; p. 215, in which the author asks whether larger casts create unwarranted closures in the play's narratives: 'Whose images are to be most prized? As who likes it?'
Source: "As Who Liked It?" in Shakespeare Survey: An Annual Survey of Shakespeare Studies and Production, Vol. 46, 1994, pp. 9-21.