As You Like It Essay - As You Like It (Vol. 34)

As You Like It (Vol. 34)


As You Like It

For further information on the critical and stage history of As You Like It, see SC, Volumes 5 and 23.

Generally believed to have been written and first performed sometime between 1598 and 1600, As You Like It is largely a dramatic adaptation of Thomas Lodge's pastoral romance Rosalynde (1590). And, while Shakespeare mined this earlier work for most of the play's plot and many of its major characters, its sources are thought to also include such texts as Sir Philip Sidney's Arcadia, the anonymous Historie of Sir Clyomen and Clamydes, and Ovid's Metamorphoses. The work is typically seen as a light-hearted comedy, filled with the requisite misunderstandings and farcical happenings, but scholars have nonetheless observed that the play engages several serious subjects. Its principal actors are the virtuous Orlando de Boys and his beloved Rosalind, both of whom are banished from Duke Frederick's court to the near-mythical rural setting of the Forest of Arden. In these two characters Shakespeare personifies two of the work's leading themes: Orlando represents dishonored virtue restored, while Rosalind—who is disguised as Ganymede, a young man, for the majority of the play—inaugurates the theme of illusory appearance that questions the fabric of perception and reality.

As You Like It is often seen as a grand pastoral romance, tinged with an ironic commentary on the illusion of its ideals. As a pastoral comedy, its plot follows the classic three-part pattern, featuring an exile from court, followed by a renewal of character and social standing in a rural setting, and culminating in an exultant return to court. The two settings in the play, the natural world of Arden and Duke Frederick's court, are seen as analogous to the work's contrasting tensions of romantic idealism and ironic realism, respectively. Views of these contrasting worlds and the perspectives they represent have become commonplace in criticism on the play. Rosalie L. Colie, for example, has outlined many of the major pastoral themes and motifs reflected in the work, including its emphasis on dialogue, its mixture of comedy and tragedy, and its concern with the clash between art and nature and between court and country. Eamon Grennan, like-wise, has approached the play as a pastoral comedy, but sees the work as a combining of pastoral and anti-pastoral elements. For Ralph Berry, the site of the anti-romantic rests in the character of Rosalind and in Touchstone, a professional fool from Duke Frederick's court who presumably acts as a mouthpiece for Shakespeare, allowing him to interject an ironic voice into the play. Other pastoral elements, such as the foolish shepherdess Phebe and her jilted Petrarchan lover, Silvius, are presented as stock characters, included to elicit mirth from the audience and to parody the limitations of the romantic genre.

Shakespeare's use of folly is another topic that attracts continual interest among critics of As You Like It. The play's humor, which pokes fun at human limitations and foolishness, has been perhaps most closely observed by R. Chris Hassel, who sees the work as a celebration of human folly, the absurdity of life, and the wisdom that comes with the apprehension of both. Hassel, along with several earlier commentators, has given significant attention to the play's fools Jaques and Touchstone. The character of Jaques has long been a compelling figure for audiences and critics. By the nineteenth century he had become a favorite subject of many, including William Hazlitt, who essentially cast him as a melancholic malcontent and a personification of self-indulgence and superficiality. This assessment has persisted, and Jaques is very consistently seen as striving to maintain the pretense of his aristocratic breeding, while only succeeding in demonstrating his foolishness. To a great degree, Jaques is contrasted with Touchstone who, despite his occupation, displays an intelligence, wit, and occasional profundity that equals or surpasses that of any other character in the play.

The depth of Touchstone's perceptions, however, are only rivaled by those of As You Like It's chief protagonist, Rosalind. For many commentators, including Charles Brooks and Peter Hyland, Rosalind—in disguising herself as a man before she enters the Forest of Arden—draws attention to the work as self-conscious drama or metatheater, concerned with the consequences of acting and role-playing as part of the quest for self-knowledge. She is considered the locus of inversion in the play, and her character stirs a deeper understanding of the human condition by questioning the nature of observed reality. Rosalind is thought to forge her own identity throughout the course of the play through her adoption of a new appearance. Her disguise also draws attention to the Forest of Arden as a liminal space, where the ordinary perspectives—including commonly accepted gender and power structures both in and beyond the world of the play, such as the patriarchal status quo and the misdirected power of Duke Frederick that has banished Orlando from his rightful place as Duke—are turned upside down in order that they might be examined more closely. One of Shakespeare's most inventive and intelligent heroines, Rosalind also is the focus of the play's movement toward the reconciliation of opposites—realism and idealism, wisdom and folly, high and low, male and female. And, while many critics see Rosalind as this synthesizing figure, most concur that the underlying tensions in this play resist definite resolution, making As You Like It one of Shakespeare's most successful and compelling comedies.


Ralph Berry (essay date 1971)

SOURCE: "No Exit from Arden" in The Modern Language Review, Vol. 66, 1971, pp. 11-20.

[In the following essay, Berry outlines the anti-romantic elements of hostility, conflict, and debate that exist in As You Like It beneath the surface of romance.]

The structure of As You Like It I take to be a synthesis of two structures, that of romance and anti-romance. The romantic elements need no recapitulation here; they compose, quite simply, the plot. Of the anti-romantic elements, much has already been commented on. For example: Rosalind, Touchstone, and Jacques provide a running fire (within the spectrum realism-satire) on the posturing of the romantics. There are plenty of overt hints that Arden is no paradise. Touchstone's 'Ay, now I am in Arden: the more fool I' (II.4.13)1 shades into the evocation, which Kott has noted,2 of an agrarian system governed by the capitalist laws of hire:

But I am shepherd to another man,
And do not shear the fleeces that I graze.
My master is of churlish disposition …

And the play's conclusion, a set of major cadences rung to wedding bells, has already been consistently minored by the many references—obsessive, even for an Elizabethan comedy—to the traditional aftermath of marriage. The dwellers in Arden hear ever at their back the sound of horns.3

As You Like It's discordant music can be viewed as complementary to the play's evolving debate. It has become habitual to see the play's form as a set of debates. This is obviously true up to a point, though one should distinguish between the subject of the debate—usually court versus country—and the grand theme, which is the romantic ideal challenged by the probings of realism, commonsense, and satire. And yet the term 'debate', useful though it is in identifying an aspect of the play's tradition and form, masks a trap. The word tends to connote a balanced, objective inquiry into truth, an analysis conducted under conventional rules of a subject in which the allocation of sides to speakers is without psychological commitment, an opportunity to display dexterity. Such an implication is misleading here; for Shakespeare presents the 'debate' invariably as a struggle for mastery between two human beings, each of whom is determined to impose his or her values on the other. The constant human drive to dominate another is the underlying theme of much of the dialogue; and it is codified in Touchstone's haughty (and instant) response to Corin's 'Who calls?' 'Your betters, sir' (II.4.63). The power struggle, in muted form, is quite as present in Arden as at court; and we should look for its presence throughout the play following its overt presentation in Act I, the usurpation and defence of power. In view of the Shakesperian capacity for fusing literal and symbolic, I would not dismiss the wrestling-match as a mere concession to the groundlings. On the contrary, the wrestling-match is no bad figure for much of the play's substance. And I incline to regard the succession of covert struggles (to which we can return, in detail, later) as an extension of the play's anti-romantic structure.

But we can go further than this in our recognition of the play's anti-romantic possibilities, and I wish here to examine the relationships in As You Like It. Virtually all the relationships are governed by a sense of unease, irritation, or hostility. The impression we receive from the two major lovers in the foreground is quite different from that derived from all the other relationships (which include Rosalind and Orlando when confronted by any but each other). Indeed, if we disregard these lovers, we can perceive that the keynote of the relationships is a subdued or overt irritation. the reasons for this groundswell of hostility I take to be threefold: an underlying recognition that other people's qualities parallel and subtly menace one's own; an open clash of temperament and of values; a simple will to dominate. Let us consider the relationships in the light of these categories.

The opening Act provides us with the essence of the matter. Act I of As You Like It is sometimes viewed as a mere necessity of plot construction, yet it is almost the fundamental error of Shakespeare interpretation to write off any aspect of his work as being imposed by external necessity of stagecraft. We encounter two figures who find certain relationships intolerable: Oliver, and Duke Frederick. They present, obviously, the idea of conflict, but also prefigure the situation of insupportable relationship. Oliver, vis-á-vis Orlando, presents the first of these situations. His hatred is located in no known cause: '… for my soul, yet I know not why, hates nothing more than he' (I.1.148). And then, as Oliver continues to brood on the matter, the truth tumbles involuntarily out—this is a soliloquy, the repository if not the bill-board of truth in Shakespeare:

Yet he's gentle; never school'd and yet learned; full of noble device; of all sorts enchantingly beloved; and, indeed so much in the heart of the world, and especially of my own people, who best know him, that I am altogether misprised.


It looks forward to Iago's muttered charge against Cassio, 'He hath a daily beauty in his life / That makes me ugly' (Othello, V.1.19). It is possible to dislike others because they caricature oneself; Oliver hates Orlando because he seems an inferior version of his golden brother. And Adam commits the unforgivable sin, not of supporting Orlando, but of witnessing the two brothers' confrontation: hence 'Get you with him, you old dog' (I.1.73). Whereupon Adam doubles his offence by pointing out that Oliver is also an inferior copy of his father. The trouble, for Oliver, is the audience: hell is other people.

Orlando, then, is hated for his excellence, a situation which Adam sees very clearly:

Your praise is come too swiftly home before
Know you not, master, to some kind of men
Their graces serve them but as enemies?

Duke Frederick, the Oliver parallel, may well be assumed to share this hatred of his civilized and urbane brother. But his prevailing state of mind, as revealed, is characterized by suspiciousness and insecurity. A usurper himself, he sees threats everywhere. For him, the mere presence of people who recall his past is intolerably disturbing. Orlando, son of Sir Rowland, evokes only

I would thou hadst been son to some man
The world esteem'd thy father honourable,
But I did find him still mine enemy …

Similarly, for Rosalind: 'Thou art thy father's daughter; there's enough' (I.3.54). The Duke is able to rationalize his dislike for Rosalind into

She is too subtle for thee; and her
Her very silence and her patience,
Speak to the people, and they pity her.
Thou art a fool. She robs thee of thy name.

No doubt this situation objectively exists, but the Duke is clearly oppressed by a sense of comparisons, fatal to himself, suggested by the names of Sir Rowland, Orlando, Rosalind, Duke Senior. We should expect that this awareness of self-comparison is continued into his relationship with Oliver; and this is so. For obvious social reasons, Oliver has no opportunity of expressing his opinion of his 'semblable, son frère', the Duke; but the Duke has: 'More villain thou' (III. 1.15).

The matter is analysed more acutely in Act II, in the relationships radiating out from Jacques. We need for the moment to note two—with Duke Senior, and with Touchstone. Now Duke Senior is the only character who has established a position in which he is, psychologically, immune to threats, he is equable, urbane, an ideal philosopher. He is, however, presented as an incorrigible moralizer; he is not to be restrained from sermonizing on stones, he sees the exterior world as a series of emblems. But this is precisely the bent of Jacques's mind. Independently he and the Duke arrive at the same metaphor: they perceive the natural kingdom of Arden as a power-struggle where man usurps the beasts' place, just as he himself is the victim of usurpation (Act II, Scene I). The point is not only that they agree—thus helping to establish the theme of natural conflict—but that they parallel each other, thus creating a tension. This is not apparent in the Duke's words; he is, after all, the overlord, and a man of rare mental equilibrium. For him, Jacques is an object of instruction and diversion: 'I love to cope him in these sullen fits, / For then he's full of matter' (II. 1.67). Jacques, however, resents the patronage of a social superior whose mind inclines the same way as his: 'And I have been all this day to avoid him. He is too disputable for my company. I think of as many matters as he; but I give heaven thanks, and make no boast of them' (II.5.29). A palpable hit: Jacques, as we shall see, always flinches when touched. Here, at all events, we can note that the affinity between the Duke and Jacques (the tendency to dispute and moralize) results in the discomfort of the weaker man.

The mechanism of Jacques's relationships is detailed to us in Act II, Scene 7. I find in it one of the central passages of the play. Jacques has just entered, crowing of his encounter with Touchstone ('A fool, a fool! I met a fool i'the forest … ') and goes on to describe it (II.7.12-34). We should note that the Touchstone reported here is unrecognizable as the Touchstone we encounter before our eyes. Jacques presents Touch-stone to us as a 'fool' in the double sense ('lack-lustre eye … Says very wisely … ') whereas it is perfectly clear elsewhere that Touchstone is an extremely intelligent man. Jacques's note is one of sour disdain, of scorn for the object that dares to 'moralize' (as he does). The word 'fool' occurs twelve times in this speech; and the idea of the speech is the tension between the two senses of 'fool', jester and simpleton.

And why? The why, as Jacques would say, is plain as way to parish church. He goes on to generalize—and as usual, when he generalizes, he talks of himself. The connexion between generality and application is perfectly plain, if implicit:

He that a fool doth very wisely hit
Doth very foolishly, although he smart,
Not to seem senseless of the bob …

The Duke's strong riposte (II.7.64-9) asserts that Jacques's generalizations have a personal origin and application; it must be so with 'He that a fool doth very wisely hit' as well. We need this passage to explicate the major preceding speech, and much else in As You Like It. Jacques's relationship with Touchstone depends on this admission:

When I did hear
The motley fool thus moral on the time,
My lungs began to crow like chanticleer
That fools should be so deep-contemplative …

Touché: two fools together. Only Jacques does not say as much; he oscillates between a scornful wish (to the Duke) to be a fool ('Invest me in my motley', II.7.58) and a consistent attempt to patronize Touchstone when they meet. He does not say to Touchstone 'Motley's the only wear … ' (II.7.34). It is far more important to Jacques to maintain the position of mental superiority—if he can.

Jacques, in short, finds himself caricatured by the moralizing Fool. That Touchstone is a thoroughgoing professional adds to his offence. His response is a strategy of alternately deriding and patronizing Touchstone, which he pursues right up to the final scene: 'Is not this a rare fellow, my lord? He's as good at any thing, and yet a fool' (V.4.98). Jacques is exhibiting his good taste as a connoisseur of virtuosi, not genuinely commending Touchstone. The real man breaks out in the sudden stab of rancour at the end. To only one couple does Jacques fail to be civil, and offer the conventional good wishes:

And you to wrangling; for thy loving voyage
Is but for two months victuall'd.

There remains a final instance in this category. Rosalind, overhearing Phebe's rejection of Silvius, interrupts the conversation with quite astonishing warmth—and rudeness. Why so much heat? The point of Phebe's speech (III.5.8-27) is a ruthless exposition of the banal conceit advanced by Silvius:

'Tis pretty, sure, and very probable,
That eyes, that are the frail'st and softest
Who shut their coward gates on atomies,
Should be call'd tyrants, butchers, murderers!

But this is no more than the Princess and her retinue do to retarded Petrarchans of Love's Labour's Lost—and the lesson is presented as a highly laudable operation in that play. Phebe voices the anti-romantic view-point so necessary to the play; and she administers a well-deserved beating to a ninny who, it seems, thrives on the diet. Why, then, the excited interruption of Rosalind, 'And why, I pray you?' followed by nearly thirty lines of abuse (III.5.35-63) which assert the simple point that Phebe's looks are not so stellar, at that? Because Rosalind's diatribe—a disgrace to a lady, however salutary it may be for Phebe—is again the equivalent of 'touché'. Phebe is a minor anti-romantic voice; Rosalind is the major. Phebe is a domineering woman who, reversing the sexual roles, has mastered her man; so is Rosalind. And, subtlest, Silvius appears before Rosalind as a rather poor creature; so, therefore, does Orlando. (What does Orlando say in the final scene when confronted with the news that his wife-to-be has been making a fool of him?) And Rosalind's response in crying up Silvius is in effect to cry up Orlando: 'Down on your knees, / And thank heaven, fasting, for a good man's love' (III.5.57).

Rosalind's part, in general, is one that affords consistent possibilities of an anti-romantic interpretation in keeping with the open-ended invitation extended by the play's title. She can perfectly well be played àla Angela Brazil; equally, one can seize on the clues of her opening lines. She enters not so much depressed as morose; and her complaint is 'the condition of my estate' (I.2.12)—in other words, a diminution of social status and power. She cannot 'forget a banished father' (I.2.4), but these ambivalent words can include a sense of personal loss, and a sense of being thrust unjustly into the shadows at Court. When she does meet her father, her impulse is not to fall upon his bosom, but to retain her independence and secret identity: 'I met the Duke yesterday, and had much question with him. He asked me of what parentage I was; I told him, of as good as he; so he laugh'd and let me go. But what talk we of fathers when there is such a man as Orlando?' (III.4.31). We are entitled to draw the perfectly obvious conclusion, well borne out by her conduct throughout the play. Rosalind misses not her father, but the status his presence conferred; and she is motivated above all by a will to dominate. For all Rosalind's brilliance, the generous Celia—one of life's givers—is an implied comment on her that one returns to.

An important category of relationship, then, is represented by Oliver, Duke Frederick, Jacques, and Rosalind. Each of them gives convincing testimony of being disturbed by the presence of certain others. The common element of disturbance is this: the other parallels self, and therefore subtly threatens self.

I now turn to a simple and obvious category, those relationships characterized by a direct clash of values. There are two such: Rosalind-Jacques, and Orlando-Jacques. They supply variations on the theme of romance challenged by anti-romance. The matter is initiated theatrically when Orlando bursts into the clearing, resolved to commit some high deed in the name of a meal for Adam, and with sword bared cries 'Forbear, and eat no more' (II.7.88). Jacques's retort (anticipating Alice's at the Mad Hatter's tea-party) is a classic deflation of romantic posturing: 'Why, I have eat none yet'. Soon the key word in such a clash, 'reason', makes itself heard: Jacques's 'An you will not be answered with reason, I must die' (II.7.100). This, coupled with the imperturbable good manners of the Duke, makes Orlando look a fool. That he is conscious of this is implicit in his later exchange with Jacques, which re-dresses the balance of debating advantage. It is the only occasion in the play when Orlando exhibits any venom; he draws on his considerable reserves of intelligence to defeat Jacques. The issue between them is formalized into their parting shots: 'Farewell, good Signior Love … Adieu, good Monsieur Melancholy' (III.2.275). Each, for the other, is an affected fool. But this is open contention: Jacques and Orlando bicker because they are quite unlike each other, not because they shadow each other.

The argument is carried on into the clash between Jacques and Rosalind in Act IV, Scene 1. This is a shrewder debate. Rosalind (in her persona of the anti-romantic Ganymede) opposes to melancholy not the open assertion of love, but the scrutiny of the realist. She asks, what good comes of melancholy? What are its benefits? And she fastens on to Jacques's lame answer of 'experience' with 'And your experience makes you sad. I had rather have a fool to make me merry than experience to make me sad' (IV.1.24). Here again the confrontation is open; it is sterility versus the life-force.

The passages in As You Like It which oppose Rosalind and Orlando with Jacques are central, but could not be expanded without making the play simpler and duller. The open clash of temperament and attitude lends itself to the debate principle, but would, if extended, speedily lose hold upon the audience. It is the essential principle of Love's Labour's Lost—debate between two clearly defined camps—and one that Shakespeare never repeats in such simple form. The debate-emphasis within As You Like It is shifted on to the brilliant device of making Rosalind a dual figure, pour et contre, a resort in which the conventional stage device takes over and assimilates a profound structural role. Rosalind/Ganymede is the debate: Rosalind/Ganymede is the 'other' expressing self. And it merges into the conflict of personality and attitude which does not express itself in such overt terms as 'love' and 'melancholy'. Harold Jenkins's statement of 'the play's principle of countering one view with another … the readjustment of the point of view'4 goes far towards explaining the technique of As You Like It. But references to 'attitude', 'point of view', 'values' leave out of account the remorseless personal struggles through which these agreeable abstractions are presented. And the focus for these struggles—the core of the debate, the conflict—is Touchstone.

John Dover Wilson is, I believe, entirely right in according Touchstone's name a symbolic significance: 'As his name implies, he tests all that the world takes for gold, especially the gold of the golden world of pastoralism.' His realism, or even 'materialism', is a touchstone to keep the balance of the play.5 We can agree that Touchstone supplies an essential ingredient in the play's composition, and that his comments—pungent, witty, realistic—on Court, Arden, and love provide a welcome leavening. I would, however, go further than this, and assert that Touchstone in his relationships advances a standard by which we are invited to measure the other relationships in the play.

The point about Touchstone is that he has no equals. He moves in a world in which there are superiors, and inferiors; he makes this categorization in all cases, and leaves his inferiors in no doubt whatever about their status. He appears first at Court, a supple entertainer making himself agreeable to the young ladies. Even so, a reference to Duke Frederick calls forth a warning in none too gentle terms from Celia: 'Speak no more of him; you'll be whipt for taxation one of these days' (I.2.76). Touchstone's response—'The more pity that fools may not speak wisely what wise men do foolishly'—and his sardonic commentary on Le Beau's scale of values establish his true credentials. This is a man of intelligence and insight, under no illusions about the Court, or Arden, for that matter. We should, therefore, receive with scepticism Jacques's account of his meeting with him. Touchstone, clearly, has been playing up to Jacques's evident assumption that a Fool is a fool; or simply over-acting, to take in an amateur of the trade.

Touchstone develops in Arden; the man grows before our eyes. Each of the locals encounters a Touchstone determined to enforce his moral (if not social) superiority. His entry into local society immediately signalizes this fact:

Touchstone Holla, you clown!
Rosalind Peace, fool; he's not thy kinsman.
Corin Who calls?
Touchstone Your betters, sir.

This is an unequivocal sketch of a situation to be repeated several times later. Act III, Scene 2 sees Touch-stone at greater leisure take on the task of putting Corin in his place. Their discussion is interesting because it is a clear instance of the power-struggle (on Touchstone's side). Basically they are men of the same stamp, realists. Shakespeare's clowns and Fools invariably are. They have, therefore, nothing really to argue about, except Humpty Dumpty's question: who is to be top. Corin's exposé of 'properties' (III.2.22-9) has a hard common sense that Touchstone has no desire to attack frontally: 'Such a one is a natural philosopher'. So he shifts his ground, and wins his battle through verbal quibbles. It is a wit-contest that Touchstone easily wins, not a true contest of values.

There are direct echoes of this scene. The unfortunate William finds Touchstone in terrible mood, and his cadenza on the means whereby William is to be destroyed (V.1.45-53) effectively exposes William's pretensions to the hand of Audrey. It is a complete demolition of an inferior. Again, the penultimate scene—almost a mere excuse for a song—finds Shakespeare shading in his point. Touchstone never misses a chance to patronize whom he can; so the pages, for their pains, receive 'Truly, young gentlemen, though there was no great matter in the ditty, yet the note was very untuneable … I count it but time lost to hear such a foolish song' (V.3.32). We cannot speak of the 'real' Touchstone emerging only when his masters are absent; but it is certainly true that the Duke, before whom Touchstone displays his set-pieces (Act V, Scene 4) so skilfully, sees only a part of the man.

Touchstone must, however, be judged principally on his relations with Audrey and Jacques. The contributory evidence, which I have just cited, is necessary to establish the bent of his mind and the true facts of his relationships. These are demonstrated chiefly in Act III, Scene 3. Audrey and Touchstone have already come to an understanding—'And how, Audrey, am I the man yet? Doth my simple feature content you?' (III.3.2)—and it is plain that Touchstone's simple feature does. Now why does a man of Touchstone's stamp single out Audrey for a permanent liaison? Critics, suspecting the worst, have rushed in with their explanations. For Helen Gardner, 'Touchstone's marriage to Audrey is a mere coupling'.6 For Harold Jenkins, it is the 'animal lust which propels him towards Audrey'.7 James Smith's extraordinary view of Touchstone's motives is: 'Touchstone is on the way to tragedy because he has allowed desire to get out of control'.8 Sex, the consensus asserts, is certainly at the bottom of it. But there are some caveats to be lodged. First, Touchstone is a character who is stated, not explained. We have no formal means of opening up his mind; he has no soliloquies, is never on stage alone. Second, sex is quite unsatisfactory as the sole motive for Touchstone's marriage. The Audreys of this world do not demand a price; the Audrey of this play does not ask it. She is perfectly ready to be married by a hedge-priest: 'Faith, the priest was good enough, for all the old gentleman's saying' (V.1.3). The critics who pounce on Touch-stone for his bottomless cynicism in considering an illegal marriage to Audrey—so that he can leave her thereafter—customarily omit to add a detail of some consequence: Touchstone does, in fact, marry Audrey perfectly properly. He insists on it. Audrey is well satisfied with something less, but it is Touchstone who resists her: 'We shall find a time, Audrey; patience, gentle Audrey' (V.l.l). It is, as usual, necessary to pay attention to what people do as well as what they say. Touchstone would have had a better press had he taken over some of Orlando's cast-off sentiments to clothe his 'coupling'.

But the question of motivation remains. We can only take Touchstone's action at face value, the ironic acceptance of a slut by a man who will always be her superior. In the context of Touchstone's other relationships, it is a likely guess that the certainty that he will remain the dominant partner is uppermost in his mind. He undoubtedly likes to demonstrate his mastery in a series of brisk imperatives: 'Come, sweet Audrey' (III.3.83); 'Patience, gentle Audrey' (V.l.l.); 'Trip, Audrey, trip, Audrey' (V.1.69); 'Come, Audrey' (V.2.38); 'Bear your body more seeming, Audrey' (V.4.66). The dulcet adjectives fade before the end; she is an object to be possessed. Doubtless sex enters into the matter—this is customarily so with marriages, even those of Silvius, Oliver, and Orlando—but to accept it as the sole motive is to take Touchstone at his own word (precisely what he wishes the company to do) and to ignore the gap between the word and action. The version that Touchstone presents to the Duke is a double bluff that obliquely but justly indicates the truth of the matter: 'A poor virgin, sir, an ill-favour'd thing, sir, but mine own' (V.4.53).

Still, the matter is entangled with Jacques's presence, and the Jacques-Touchstone relationship must now be re-opened. Jacques, I have suggested, is both envious and disdainful of the Fool that caricatures him. Touchstone, for his part, is wary of a social superior who patronizes him insufferably but might put in a good word for him with the authorities (as Jacques does, in the final scene). It is, of course, quite mis-leading to allude to Touchstone and Jacques as 'usually allies'.9 Theirs is the tension between amateur and professional, with a social gulf unconfirmed by the allocation of talent. The confrontation takes place in Act III, Scene 3, Jacques discovering himself as Audrey and Touchstone are about to make use of Sir Oliver's irregular services. Touchstone is caught at a disadvantage but rallies well: 'Good even, good Master What-ye-call't; how do you, sir? You are very well met. Goddild you for your last company. I am very glad to see you. Even a toy in hand here, sir. Nay; pray be cover'd' (III.3.63)—a brave attempt at counter-patronage. Jacques instantly reminds Touch-stone of his social function and status: 'Will you be married, motley?' And Touchstone parries the sneer with an apparently complacent account of man and his desires: 'As the ox hath his bow, sir, the horse his curb, and the falcon her bells, so man hath his desires; and as pigeons bill, so wedlock would be nibbling' (III.3.68). When, however, Jacques turns the knife again—'And will you, being a man of your breeding, be married under a bush, like a beggar?'—Touchstone advances the crux by which we are to judge him: 'I am not in the mind but I were better to be married of him than of another; for he is not like to marry me well; and not being well married, it will be a good excuse for me hereafter to leave my wife' (III.3.78). Now this speech is normally rendered as an 'aside' by modern editors. It is not so indicated in the Folio (which is, of course, not given to stage directions) and the relegation—I should say promotion—of the speech to 'aside' status is pure editorial conjecture. I contend that we have no reason for accepting the conjecture. There is no soliloquy of Touchstone's elsewhere; there is no other reasonable opportunity for an aside, or parenthetic soliloquy.10 This is a character designed to be presented solely in terms of dialogue. The speech makes excellent sense if it is regarded as whispered to Jacques; in which case it becomes a pseudo-motive, a piece of man-of-the world's cynicism put up to protect the gap in Touchstone's armour against the sneers of Jacques. He must defend himself. Touchstone has no intention, however, of allowing Jacques a permanent sneer at his sub-wedding; so after the face-saving formula of 'a flaw in the procedure may be useful later' he allows himself to be persuaded into a proper wedding. Touchstone is a much cleverer fellow than Jacques. No one ever knows when he is hit. Nor could we even guess it, without reviewing the whole pattern of his behaviour.

Touchstone, then, seems to me an early cameo of a type of character-portrayal that (since Bradley's day) has come to be recognized as a Shakespearian crux, located classically in the problem of Iago.11 That is, he compels us to look for motives that are not stated in the text, which does however contain part-motives or pseudo-motives. I find the missing motive here to be the drive to power, because that is of a piece with Touchstone's relationships with his un-superiors; and because it embodies the drift of the whole play.

Touchstone, in fact, is the reduction of the ideas latent in As You Like It. He exhibits in gross form the will to mastery that is discernible in the actions of his betters. The play is set into a formal framework of political struggle, the usurpation by Duke Frederick; it focuses on the mating dance of a masterful female round her captive male, 'my child's father' as Rosalind herself elegantly epitomizes him (I.3.11); it presents a running debate, ostensibly on values, in effect to protect the egos of the debaters; it etches in relationships with a controlled quantum of acid. The latent motivation of the characters is an impulse to protect themselves against the psychological threats from without. And this accounts for the sudden conversions of Duke Frederick and Oliver, who have earlier given indications that Duke Senior and Orlando represent threats to their psyches, not their persons. Of the others, Jacques finds intolerable the presence of Duke Senior and Touchstone, because he caricatures them. Rosalind finds Phebe's behaviour to Silvius an affront, for the same reason. Even the gentle Orlando has a flash of an intolerable presence: 'But, O, how bitter a thing it is to look into happiness through another man's eyes' (V.2.40). Virtually all the relationships manifest a sense of unease, of latent or open hostility. There is little true accord in Arden, prior to the final scene: and the audience is entitled, if it wishes, to its reservations even then. The idyll of Arden is an idea as much under fire as the denizens of the forest; and the final path that leads away from forest to court is a change of milieu, not a way out of those problems.


1 Quotations are from Peter Alexander's edition of the complete works (1951).

2 Jan Kott, Shakespeare Our Contemporary, Second edition (1967), p. 225.

3 In sum: 'Arden is not a place where the laws of nature are abrogated and roses are without their thorns' (Helen Gardner, 'As You Like It', More Talking of Shakespeare, edited by John Garrett (1959), 17-32 (p. 25)).

4 Harold Jenkins, 'As You Like It', Shakespeare Survey, 8 (1955), 40-51 (p. 49).

5 John Dover Wilson, Shakespeare's Happy Comedies (1962), pp. 156, 158.

6 Helen Gardner, 'As You Like It', p. 28.

7 Harold Jenkins, 'As You Like It', p. 49.

8 James Smith, 'As You Like It', Scrutiny, 9 (1940), 9-32 (pp. 31-2).

9 James Smith, p. 26.

10 I take it as indicative of Shakespeare's overall concept of As You Like It that there are virtually no soliloquies save for Oliver, whose hatred is technically indispensable yet requiring internal explanation. There are, therefore, very few points that are psychologically 'fixed'. This is a play exceptionally open to diversity of interpretation.

11 See A. C. Bradley, Shakespearean Tragedy (1904), 222-32.

John A.Hart (essay date 1980)

SOURCE: "As You Like It: The Worlds of Fortune and Nature," in Dramatic Structure in Shakespeare's Romantic Comedies, Carnegie-Mellon University Press, 1980, pp. 81-97.

[In the following essay, Hart examines the disparate worlds of Frederick's court and the Forest of Arden, exploring the contrasting qualities displayed by characters in each of these settings.]

As You Like It presents an ideal world, just as The Merchant of Venice did. The Forest of Arden has as much romance, as many delightful lovers, more laughter and joy. Like A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Merchant of Venice, it is built by means of two worlds: the world ruled by Duke Frederick and the world of the Forest of Arden. The effect is not the "separate but equal" envelope structure of A Midsummer Night's Dream, nor the interlocking and necessary alternation of The Merchant of Venice; instead, Frederick's world first seems dominant and then dissolves and disappears into the world of Arden. Its life seems to be in the play not so much for itself as to help us understand and read its successor.

There is a set of contrasts between the two worlds of this play, but the contrasts are describable not in terms of opposition of power, as in A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Merchant of Venice, but in terms of attitudes of the dominant characters, as in Much Ado About Nothing, and in terms of differences in the settings and of changes in behavior for those characters who are part of both worlds. These contrasts are easy to describe because Shakespeare points the way clearly, making each world an extreme. Our approach will be to examine the qualities of Frederick's world, then to examine the qualities of Arden, and finally out of this contrast to see how the characters behave in each world.


We have seen power presented in A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Merchant of Venice. In the former, Theseus rules according to judgment or reason; in the latter the Duke of Venice rules according to the laws of the city. Frederick's world is like neither of these. Frederick is in complete command of his court. He has taken his brother's place as Duke, exiled him with many of his followers, seized their lands for his own, and now rules. His high-handed behavior is illustrated by his usurpation of his brother's dukedom, his immediate displeasure at Orlando, the sudden dismissal of Rosalind, the quick seizure of Oliver's lands. What is most characteristic of his power is that it is arbitrary; neither reason nor law seems to control it.

When we look for his motives, we discover two kinds. His greed for power and possessions is obvious. But personal attitudes are just as strong. He treats Orlando rudely because he is the son of Sir Rowland de Boys, an old enemy of his. He comes to hate Rosalind, giving as his reasons that he does not trust her, that she is her father's daughter, that his own daughter's prestige suffers by comparison; all these are half-hearted rationalizations rooted in jealousy and envy.

Frederick's behavior is echoed if not matched by Oliver's treatment of his brother Orlando and of his servant Adam. Oliver demeans and debases his younger brother; he plots his serious injury and later his death. He acts ignobly toward his faithful household servant Adam. Again, the motivations are mixed. He states explicitly that he wants Orlando's share of their father's bequest. But, beyond that, he wants to get rid of Orlando out of envy, out of fear of comparison made by others:

… my soul (yet I know not why) hates nothing more than he. Yet he's gentle, never school'd and yet learned, full of noble device, of all sorts enchantingly belov'd, and indeed so much in the heart of the world, and especially of my own people, who best know him, that I am altogether mispris'd.

(I, i, 165-171)

Thus, "tyrant Duke" and "tyrant brother" are described in tandem, public and private images of the same behavior. They have the power; they control their world; they do not fear disapproval or reprisal. Charles the wrestler, Lebeau and other lords surrounding Frederick, however many reservations they may have about the morality of their leaders, do not dare to question their authority. They have their own positions to protect.

Those chiefly harmed by the ruthless domination of these men are Orlando and Rosalind. They have committed no fault but they are hated. Their presence too gives definition to Frederick's world. Orlando has virtue, grace, beauty, and strength. Rosalind is beautiful, intelligent, virtuous, honest. Their actions, their reputations, the loyalty they command all testify to these wonders.

Yet both of them are conscious of what they do not have—their proper place and heritage in this world. Orlando feels deeply his brother's injury in depriving him of his education and his place in the household. Rosalind is sad at her father's banishment and then indignant at her own dismissal. Both are too virtuous to think of revenge; but they are fully aware that they are being wronged. Having all the graces, they are nevertheless dispossessed of their rightful positions.

Yet, these two have their own power. When they leave Frederick's world, they draw after them others, too loyal, too loving to remain behind. Celia, meant to profit from her cousin's departure, follows Rosalind into banishment without question or remorse. She has already promised that what her father took from Rosalind's father by force, "I will render thee again in affection." And when the test occurs soon after, she meets it at once. In her, love triumphs hands down over possession and prestige.

Her example is followed by the Clown. Not only will he "go along o'er the wide world" with Celia out of loyalty to her; he has also, in Frederick's world, lost place just as Rosalind has. There "fools may not speak wisely what wise men do foolishly" (I, ii, 86-87). Since he has lost his usefulness as a fool, he may as well leave with Celia and Rosalind. And Adam is in comparable situation. To Oliver, he is an "old dog," to be thrust aside. But so strong is his loyalty to Orlando that he will give him his savings, serve him, accompany him wherever he goes.

These gifted models of humanity, Rosalind and Orlando, draw out of Frederick's world the loving, the truthful, the loyal. Frederick and Oliver, seeking to control and ultimately to crush their enemies, only succeed in driving away other worthwhile characters with them.

The world of Frederick is simple in structure. The powerful control, but they envy the virtuous; the virtuous attract, but they want to have their rightful place. Those in authority triumph in their own terms, but things happen to them in the process. They turn against each other—Frederick would devour Oliver as he has so many others. Their world, as it grows more violent, diminishes in importance until it disappears altogether. The virtuous are undefeated though displaced.


In contrast to the specific placing of Frederick's world, the Forest reaches beyond the bounds of any particular place, any specific time. Its setting is universalized nature. All seasons exist simultaneously. Duke Senior speaks of "the icy fang And churlish chiding of the winter's wind" (II, i, 6-7); but Orlando pins verses to "a palm tree," "abuses our young plants with carving," and "hangs odes upon hawthorns, and elegies on brambles" (III, ii, 360-362); and Rosalind and Celia live at the "tuft of olives." Again, Orlando does not wish to leave Adam "in the bleak air"; but in the next scene Jaques has met a fool who "bask'd him in the sun." The songs continue this mixture: "Here shall he see No enemy But winter and rough weather" (II, v, 6-8) alongside "the greenwood tree" and "the sweet bird's throat" (II, v, 1,4) both in the same song, or the alternation between the "winter wind" (II, vii, 174) and the "spring time, the only pretty ring time" (V, iii, 19), dominant notes in two other songs. If the Forest is not to be defined in season, neither is it limited to any particular place. The variety of trees already indicates this; the variety of creatures supports it: sheep, deer, a green and gilded snake, a lioness. Meek and domestic creatures live with the untamed and fierce.

Yet the Forest is more than an outdoors universalized, which largely accommodates itself to the mood and attitude of its human inhabitants. It is a setting in which the thoughts and images of those who wander through it expand and reach out to the animate, as if the Forest were alive with spirits taken for granted by everyone. Even so mundane a pair as Touchstone and Audrey, discussing her attributes—unpoetical, honest, foul—assign these gifts to the gods. Orlando, who is able at first meeting Rosalind only to utter "Heavenly Rosalind," is suddenly released to write expansive verses in praise of her, some of which place her in a spiritual context:

… heaven Nature charg'd
That one body should be fill'd
With all graces wide-enlarg'd… .
Thus Rosalind of many parts
By heavenly synod was devis'd… .
(III, ii, 141-143, 149-150)

Phoebe seconds his view by giving Rosalind qualities beyond the human:

Art thou god to shepherd turn'd,
That a maiden's heart hath burn'd? …
Why, thy godhead laid apart,
Warr'st thou with a woman's heart?
(IV, iii, 40-41, 44-45)

And Rosalind, replying to Celia's finding Orlando under a tree, "like a dropp'd acorn," says, "It may well be call'd Jove's tree, when it drops such fruit" (III, ii, 235-237). Elsewhere he is "most gentle Jupiter." And she herself takes the name of Ganymed, cupbearer to Jupiter. Further, in her games with Orlando, she describes "an old religious uncle" who taught her (or him, for she is then playing Ganymed) how to speak well and who imparted knowledge of love, of women's faults, of the forlorn look of the true lover. To this fiction, she joins the later story of how, "since [she] was three year old, [she has] convers'd with a magician, most profound in his art, and yet not damnable" (V, ii, 60-61). She improvises, but it fits the expansive attributes of the Forest.

But in addition to mind-expanding qualities, the Forest produces some real evidence of its extraordinary powers. Oliver, upon his first appearance in the Forest, is beset by the green and gilded snake (of envy?) and by the lioness (of power?), but when these two are conquered, his whole behavior changes. And Frederick, intent on destroying his brother, meets an "old religious man" and

After some question with him, was converted
Both from his enterprise and from the world.
(V, iv, 161-162)

And these events harmonize with Rosalind's producing Hymen, the god of weddings, to perform the ceremony and bless the four pairs of lovers. The Forest is a world of all outdoors, of all dimensions of man's better nature, of contact with man's free imagination and magical happenings.

The Forest has still another quality in its setting. It is not timeless but it reflects the slow pace and the unmeasurable change of the earth. The newcomers notice the difference from the world outside. Orlando comments that "there's no clock in the forest" (III, ii, 300-301); Rosalind tells us "who Time ambles withal, who Time trots withal, who Time gallops withal, and who he stands still withal" (III, ii, 309-311). And Touchstone, as reported by Jaques, suggests the uselessness of measuring changes in the Forest by the clock:

'Tis but an hour ago since it was nine,
And after one hour more 'twill be eleven,
And so from hour to hour, we ripe and ripe,
And then from hour to hour, we rot and rot;
And thereby hangs a tale.
(II, vii, 24-28)

But he does notice, too, the withering away of man at the Forest's slow changes, a truism later elaborated by Jaques in his seven-ages-of-man speech.

But the qualities of the setting are only part of what goes into the definition of the Forest world. The natives to the Forest make their contributions as well. Corin and Silvius and Phoebe, Audrey and William and Sir Oliver Martext all appear, without seeming consequence or particular plot relevance, put there to show off different dimensions of the Forest, to strike their attitudes, to stand in contrast with the characters newly come from another world, and then, like the deer and the sheep and the snake and the lioness, to retire into the Forest again until or unless called upon by their visitors.

These characters have their separate occupations. Corin is an old shepherd, Silvius a young one, Phoebe—his beloved—a shepherdess, Audrey a goat girl, William a country bumpkin, Martext a clergyman. But these assignments are vaguely expressed. Martext, for instance, has professional status but mainly in his own eyes: "ne'er a fantastical knave of them all shall flout me out of my calling" (III, iii, 106-107). But Jaques dismisses him as a phony and Touchstone wants him to officiate at his marriage to Audrey because he believes him to be a fake. They all seem satisfied to have the name of an occupation rather than the function itself.

But their thoughts are also dissociated from ownership, ambition, achievement. Corin, wanting to help Rosalind and Celia, says:

[I] wish, for her sake more than for mine
My fortunes were more able to relieve her;
But I am shepherd to another man,
And do not shear the fleeces that I graze.
(II, iv, 76-79)

The man who owns the sheepcote is not hospitable, is not even there, and has his land up for sale. Silvius, who is supposed to be buying the flock and pasture, "little cares for buying any thing" (II, iv, 90). Ownership is several steps removed from Corin, and until Rosalind offers to make the purchase he is uncertain who the landlord employing him is; nor does he particularly care.

Later, he generalizes his attitude toward life:

I am a true laborer: I earn that I eat, get that I wear, owe no man hate, envy no man's happiness, glad of other men's good, content with my harm, and the greatest of my pride is to see my ewes graze and my lambs suck.

(III, ii, 73-77)

The other natives share his view. William, Audrey's country lover, confesses to his name, to a certain unspecified amount of wealth, to having "a pretty wit," to loving Audrey, and to lack of learning; but when he is threatened by Touchstone and told to stay away from Audrey, he departs with "God rest you merry, sir" (V, i, 59), and we see no more of him or his love for Audrey. If it is love, it is love detached, without passion or claims.

Silvius dedicates himself entirely to love, Phoebe to being the scornful beloved and later the impassioned wooer of Ganymed. They do not express conflict or even action so much as attitude, as pose. "Loose now and then A scatt'red smile," Silvius says to Phoebe, "and that I'll live upon" (III, v, 103-104).

Audrey would be an honest woman, "a woman of the world," but she will not choose between lovers, she will not question Martext's legitimacy, she will be led by Touchstone wherever he wishes. Her future with Touchstone is not bright, as Jaques points out, but she doesn't question it.

In all these natives there is a non-critical quality, an innocence, a lack of competitiveness that suits well with the Forest world and helps to describe it. But Shakespeare gives us still other ways of distinguishing this world from Frederick's. Early in the play Celia and Rosalind engage in idle banter about the two goddesses, Fortune and Nature, who share equally in the lives of men. Fortune "reigns in gifts of the world," Rosalind says, "not in the lineaments of Nature" (I, ii, 41-42). It is a shorthand way of distinguishing the Forest world from Frederick's. Frederick's world is a world of Fortune, from which the children of Nature are driven. Power, possession, lands, titles, authority over others characterize that world, and men to live there must advance their careers or maintain their positions in spite of everything. The Forest world is completely Nature's. In its natives the idleness, the lack of ambition and combativeness, the carelessness about ownership and possession, the interest in the present moment without plan for the future, all are signs of a Fortuneless world. Instead there is awareness of the gifts inherent from birth in the individual, no matter how untalented or unhandsome (Audrey's response to her foulness or William's self-satisfaction, for instance). These are "the lineaments of Nature," the basic materials of one's being. In the Forest, the natives neither can nor aspire to change them. And the qualities of the setting—universality, gradual rather than specific change, a linkage between the outdoors world and a projected though perhaps imaginary supernatural, these too are compatible with the world of Nature, Fortune having been removed. Both Fortune and Nature, then, are abbreviated terms to epitomize the kinds of worlds represented by Frederick's on the one hand and the Forest's on the other.

One further means of defining the Forest world emerges with the character of Jaques. He has been in the out-side world, but he has chosen the Forest and he is its most eloquent spokesman. He is the personification of the speculative man. He will not react when Orlando threatens his life: "And you will not be answer'd with reason, I must die" (II, vii, 100-101). He will not dance or rejoice in the final scene. He would prevent action in others if he could. He weeps that the Duke's men kill the deer, he would keep Orlando from marring the trees with his poems, he advises Touchstone not to "be married under a bush like a beggar" (III, iii, 84). He is like the natives of the Forest, ambitionless, fortuneless, directionless.

Instead, he gives his attention to the long view and the abstract view. He is delighted when he overhears Touchstone philosophizing about time; he projects human neglect in the deer at the coming of death for one of their company; he argues the innocent indifference of the deer to corruption and inhumanity in man:

Thus most invectively he pierceth through
The body of the country, city, court,
Yea, and of this our life, swearing that we
Are mere usurpers, tyrants, and what's worse,
To fright the animals and to kill them up
In their assign'd and native dwelling-place.
(II, i, 58-63)

When he would invoke the privilege of the fool to "Cleanse the foul body of th' infected world" (II, vii, 60) the Duke replies that with his past experience of evil he would succeed only in doing "Most mischievous foul sin" (II, vii, 64). In the abstract (in the Forest), his proposal sounds good; in the world of action it would be damaging.

But his greatest eloquence is saved for his seven-ages-of-man speech (II, vii, 139-166). It is an official acknowledgement of Nature's supermacy over man and the insignificance of man's affairs on the stage of the world. The movement of the speech is circular, from Nature through the efforts to shape natural gifts in man, to Fortune's world, and back to Nature again. Thus, the helplessness of infancy gives way to "the whining schoolboy" which in turn is followed by "the lover, Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad Made to his mistress' eyebrow." In the first three, we find pleasantly humorous recognition of the supremacy of Nature and the attempts to shape and apply natural gifts in man. The fourth and fifth, the soldier and the justice, suggest the ascendancy of Fortune in man's life—the soldier seeking the "bubble reputation," the justice "Full of wise saws and modern instances." But these temporary achievements disappear as Nature reclaims her own, first in the "slipper'd pantaloon" whose "big manly voice" turns "again toward childish treble" and finally in frightening second childishness, "Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans every thing." In such a view, and in the view most congenial to the Forest world, "All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players." There are no consequences that matter.


Duke Senior, like Jaques, has had experience in both worlds. He too is being "philosophical." Their life in the Forest

Finds tongues in trees, books in the running
Sermons in stones, and good in every thing.
(II, i, 16-17)

He and his men "fleet the time carelessly, as they did in the golden world" (I, i, 118-119). But for the Duke and his men, it is only play-acting. They appear in one scene as Foresters, in another as outlaws. He himself has lost his name: he is Duke Senior, not specifically named like Frederick. More than that, he has nothing serious to do. While his brother is seizing Oliver's lands and organizing a search for his daughter and seeking to destroy him, he is contemplating a deer hunt or asking for Jaques to dispute with or feasting or asking someone to sing. Duke Senior has no function to perform; he cannot be a Duke except in title. All the philosophical consolations he may offer himself and his men cannot alleviate the loss he feels at being usurped and banished by his brother. When Orlando reminds him of the outside world, he confesses: "True is it that we have seen better days" (II, vii, 120) and reinforces this reminiscence of the past by commenting on his present condition:

Thou seest we are not all alone unhappy:
This wide and universal theatre
Presents more woeful pageants than the scene
Wherein we play in.
(II, vii, 136-139)

He is remarking on shared misery; he is using the same imagery of playing used by Jaques. But for Jaques it is made speculative, objectified; for Duke Senior, he and his fellows are participating in a play. His longings are elsewhere. It is not surprising that at the end, he resumes leadership over everyone and plans to return to active rule of his dukedom.

What is true of him is true with more immediacy of others newly arrived in the Forest. The clown, who assumes the name Touchstone, undergoes the same ambivalence. His first reaction to the Forest is negative: "Ay, now am I in Arden, the more fool I. When I was at home, I was in a better place" (II, iv, 16-17). He is no longer practicing his profession of fool, since he is in a fortuneless world: "Call me not fool till heaven hath sent me fortune" (II, vii, 19). Instead, he assumes several other roles, a liberating exercise for him; the Forest allows him to become expansive, imaginative, to take on the personage of the courtier, of the philosopher, of the wit, of the lover, to condescend to others at random and without consequence. To be able to speak his mind, to express himself, is the Forest's gift to him.

On the other hand, in all these poses, he undercuts the natives of the Forest. He mocks the passionate outbursts of Silvius in praise of his mistress by making the extravagant claim but changing the imagery to mundane and sensual terms: "I remember the kissing of her batler and the cow's dugs that her pretty chopp'd hands had milk'd" (II, iv, 48-50). He further shows off the silly self-absorption of Nature's pastoral lovers: he himself plays the lover in the Forest. The object of his love, Audrey the goat girl, has neither understanding nor beauty. He sees the disparity between his wit and her simplicity; he would have her poetical, "for the truest poetry is the most feigning" (III, iii, 19-20); he would not have her honest; he is glad she is foul. He strongly suspects that marriage to her would mean cuckoldry, yet he will have her at whatever cost: "man hath his desires; and as pigeons bill, so wedlock would be nibbling" (III, iii, 80-82). He joins the others in the rush to be married at the end of the play:

I press in here, sir, amongst the rest of the country copulatives, to swear and to forswear, according as marriage binds and blood breaks.

(V, iv, 55-57)

At other times he has confrontations with Corin and with William, the two natives seemingly most attuned to Nature's laws. Touchstone condescends to them, playing the courtier and the man of the world to men he treats as simpletons and inferiors. William, the rival for Audrey's hand, he questions as one would a child, and then threatens as one would an inferior being, and William, with no knowledge of position, with no wit, with no competitiveness, is easily routed. Touchstone challenges Corin too. Having never been in court, Corin is damned, says Touchstone. When Corin tries to defend life in the Forest, claiming that the manners of the court are not suitable to life in the country, Touchstone parries every explanation Corin gives with a witty rationalization. By measuring the life of the Forest against life at court, he brings together separate standards in the light of which either life by itself is preposterous. The Forest, which is the only way of life for all six of these natives, is by other values extremely limited. The importance of physical desire (the love affair with Audrey), of competitive relationships (the rivalry with William), of realistic appraisal (the reduction of Silvius's outbursts) is inherent in Touchstone's behavior; finally, the need for place, for function, for relationships with others runs throughout his criticism of Forest life:

Corin. And how like you this shepherd's life,
Master Touchstone?
Touch. Truly, shepherd, in respect of itself, it
is a good life; but in respect that it is a
shepherd's life, it is naught.
(III, ii, 11-15)

Touchstone's is the outsider's view of the Forest. His responses are the touchstones which set off the Forest natives most clearly. As Jaques is the "official" voice of the Forest, Touchstone is the "official" voice of the world outside.

The Forest is liberating for the newly arrived lovers, too. Oliver is freed from the burden of envy and absorption with power; and as a consequence he and Celia can fall immediately in love. So satisfying is it that Oliver would give up his possessions to Orlando and live a shepherd's life forever. Celia has assumed the name Aliena, left her father's court so completely that she never thinks of him again, and falls utterly in love when she meets the reformed Oliver. She has never been tied to the idea of possession or prestige and so she is easily open to the lures of the Forest.

Whereas Oliver's and Celia's love experience is muted, described rather than dramatized, Orlando's and Rosalind's is the heart of the play. Orlando, idle in the Forest and "love-shak'd," expresses his love for the lost Rosalind by writing passionate verses for her and hanging them on the trees; later he plays the game of wooing the young man Ganymed as if he were his Rosalind. He makes his protestations of love, he makes pretty speeches of admiration, he takes part in the mock-marriage ceremony, he promises to return to his wooing by a certain time. But his playing the game of courtship is as nothing compared to the game of deception and joyful play that Rosalind, safe in her dis-guise as Ganymed, engages in when she is with him. Her spirits soar and her imagination and wit expatiate freely and delightedly on the subject of men in love, on their looks, on their behavior, on the cure of their disease, and then specifically on Orlando's mad humor of love, on how he should woo, on how he can be cured through the lore she (he) acquired from the "old religious uncle." The Forest gives both of them an opportunity to play parts free of the restraints that might accompany acknowledged wooing.

But though their fanciful indulgence leads them to forget the rest of the world—Rosalind cries out, "But what talk we of fathers, when there is such a man as Orlando?" (III, iv, 38-39)—the play is only play and basically incompatible with their real natures.

Orlando's behavior outside and in the Forest suggests responsibility, suggests need for significant action. To him the Forest is a "desert inaccessible" and those in it "Lose and neglect the creeping hours of time" (II, vii, 110, 112); he himself will keep appointments with Duke Senior, he will care for his loyal servant Adam, he will save his brother's endangered life. He has a general distaste for the company of the speculative Jaques, and he finally gives up the wooing game entirely: "I can live no longer by thinking" (V, ii, 50). He is Nature's child, but he insists on living by Fortune's standards.

And Rosalind is even more emphatic in the attitudes founded in the outside world. Her first act in coming into the Forest is to buy a sheepcote; she uses the imagery of the market place when she is judging others: "Sell when you can, you are not for all markets" (HI, v, 60), she says to Phoebe; "I fear you have sold your own lands to see other men's; then to have seen much, and to have nothing, is to have rich eyes and poor hands" (IV, i, 22-25), she says to Jaques. With Silvius and Phoebe, she has small patience. To him she says, "Wilt thou love such a woman? What, to make thee an instrument, and play false strains upon thee? … I see love hath made thee a tame snake" (IV, iii, 67-68, 69-70). The natives receive short shrift from her, but she herself is in the depths of love for Orlando, and in her playing with Orlando partly mocks her own condition.

These two lovers, thoroughly based in the real world, are given the opportunity to exhibit, to spell out, a private love relationship thwarted or only implicit in earlier comedies. Portia and Bassanio, we pointed out, meet publicly and Bassanio has only begun to recognize the individuality of Portia at the end of the play; their public figures and their public relationships are the essential ones in The Merchant of Venice. In Much Ado About Nothing Beatrice and Benedick meet as private individuals, but they do not know or at least acknowledge their love for one another until very late in the play, and their recognition coincides with a discovery of the empty world in which they must live. But Rosalind and Orlando have a chance to meet and to play in a world where public cares are temporarily set aside, where each can express love for the other without embarrassment, where each can feel the presence and the personality of the other, and especially where we can watch these most gifted of Nature's children completely free and private with one another. Though the world of Fortune is part of their consciousness and their future, this holiday of love is a complement to the all-public relationship of Portia and Bassanio and an equal complement to the ever-present social pressures on Beatrice and Benedick.


Given the characteristics of the Forest world, given the attachments of Duke Senior, Touchstone, Orlando, and Rosalind to the outside world, the resolution

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Appearance Vs. Reality

Peter Hyland (essay date 1978)

SOURCE: "Shakespeare's Heroines: Disguise in the Romantic Comedies," in Ariel: A Review of International English Literature, Vol. 9, No. 2, April, 1978, pp. 23-39.

[In the following excerpt, Hyland emphasizes the metadramatic aspects of As You Like It, highlighted by Rosalind's pretense of being a man in the play.]

Shakespeare clearly saw that to achieve the audience involvement that he wanted he had to allow the disguised heroine to dominate the play; even so, in As You Like It, because he still feels the need to justify the act of disguising he does not bring Ganymede into the play until...

(The entire section is 15436 words.)

Pastoral Elements

Rosalie L. Colie (essay date 1974)

SOURCE: "Perspectives on Pastoral: Romance, Comic and Tragic," in Shakespeare's Living Art, Princeton University Press, 1974, pp. 243-83.

[In the following excerpt, Colie discusses As You Like It from the perspective of the classical pastoral—mixing comedy and tragedy, and recollecting themes of nature versus nurture, art versus nature, and country versus court.]


By the end of the sixteenth century, the pastoral mode embraced many particular genres, offered rich options to writers interested in literary experimentation, particularly in mixed genres, and, furthermore, had...

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The Role Of Women

Margaret Boerner Beckman (essay date 1978)

SOURCE: "The Figure of Rosalind in As You Like It," in Shakespeare Quarterly, Vol. 29, No. 1, Winter, 1978, pp. 44-51.

[In the following essay, Beckman describes Rosalind as a figure who personifies the reconciliation of opposites in As You Like It.]

Toward the end of As You Like It, just before she resolves the plot, the disguised Rosalind tells Orlando:

Believe then, if you please, that I can do strange things: I have, since I was three years old, conversed with a magician, most profound in his art and yet not damnable. If you do love Rosalind … it...

(The entire section is 14137 words.)

Further Reading

Bennett, Robert B. "The Reform of a Malcontent: Jaques and the Meaning of As You Like It." Shakespeare Studies IX (1976): 183-204.

Regards Jaques as an essentially benign character whose presence in Arden provides both a needed balance in the forest-court debate and a cynicism to counter the preciousness of the pastoral setting.

Brissenden, Alan. "The Dance in As You Like It and Twelfth Night." Cahiers Elisabethains Ho. 13 (April 1978): 25-34.

Examines Shakespeare's use of dance in As You Like It. Noticing the combination of joy and solemnity following the marriages in Act V, scene iv, Brissenden posits the likelihood of the couples...

(The entire section is 1012 words.)