Alliance of Seriousness and Levity in As You Like It

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(From Shakespeare's Festive Comedy by Cesar Lombardi Barber. © 1980 Princeton University Press. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.)

In a true piece of Wit all things must be,
Yet all things there agree.
—Cowley, quoted by T. S. Eliot in "Andrew Marvell."

Then is there mirth in heaven,
When earthly things made even
Atone together.
As You Like It

SHAKESPEARE's next venture in comedy after The Merchant of Venice was probably in the Henry IV plays, which were probably written in 1597-98. Thus the Falstaff comedy comes right in the middle of the period, from about 1594 to 1600 or 1601, when Shakespeare produced festive comedy. Much Ado About Nothing, As You Like It, and Twelfth Night were written at the close of the period, Twelfth Night perhaps after Hamlet. The Merry Wives of Windsor, where Shakespeare's creative powers were less fully engaged, was produced sometime between 1598 and 1602, and it is not impossible that All's Well That Ends Well and even perhaps Measure for Measure were produced around the turn of the century, despite that difference in tone that has led to their being grouped with Hamlet and Troilus and Cressida. I shall deal only with As You Like It and Twelfth Night; they are the two last festive plays, masterpieces that include and extend almost all the resources of the form whose development we have been following. What I would have to say about Much Ado About Nothing can largely be inferred from the discussion of the other festive plays. To consider the various other sorts of comedy which Shakespeare produced around the inception of the period when his main concern became tragedy would require another, different frame of reference.

As You Like It is very similar in the way it moves to A Midsummer Night's Dream and Love's Labour's Lost, despite the fact that its plot is taken over almost entirely from Lodge's Rosalynde. As I have suggested in the introductory chapter, the reality we feel about the experience of love in the play, reality which is not in the pleasant little prose romance, comes from presenting what was sentimental extremity as impulsive extravagance and so leaving judgment free to mock what the heart embraces. The Forest of Arden, like the Wood outside Athens, is a region defined by an attitude of liberty from ordinary limitations, a festive place where the folly of romance can have its day. The first half of As You Like It, beginning with tyrant brother and tyrant Duke and moving out into the forest, is chiefly concerned with establishing this sense of freedom; the traditional contrast of court and country is developed in a way that is shaped by the contrast between everyday and holiday, as that antithesis has become part of Shakespeare's art and sensibility. Once we are securely in the golden world where the good Duke and "a many merry men … fleet the time carelessly," the pastoral motif as such drops into the background; Rosalind finds Orlando's verses in the second scene of Act III, and the rest of the play deals with love. This second movement is like a musical theme with imitative variations, developing much more tightly the sort of construction which played off Costard's and Armado's amorous affairs against those of the nobles in Navarre, and which set Bottom's imagination in juxtaposition with other shaping fantasies. The love affairs of Silvius and Phebe, Touchstone and Audrey, Orlando and Rosalind succeed one another in the easy-going sequence of scenes, while the dramatist deftly plays each off against the others.


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Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 8915

Sylvan Barnet [Barnet presents a succinct overview of As You Like It in...

(This entire section contains 8915 words.)

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relation to Much Ado About Nothing and Twelfth Night, Shakespeare's otherfestive comedies. In this excerpt, the critic explores the contrasting elements of the court and Arden forest, relates the various implications that the courtships of Orlando and Rosalind, Oliver and Celia, Silvius and Phebe, and Touchstone and Audrey have on the whole play, and surveys the theme of redemption through the characters' gradual self-knowledge, especially the improbable conversions of Oliver and Duke Frederick. This essay has been reprinted in Four Great Comedies (1982) by Sylvan Barnet.]

Near the turn of the [seventeenth] century—just after he had finished his second tetralogy of history plays and was nearing the great tragedies-Shakespeare wrote three comedies that for many readers and spectators are the essence of Shakespearean romantic comedy: Much Ado About Nothing (1598-1600). As You Like It (1599-1600). and Twelfth Night {1600-02). These plays, like The Merchant of Venice and to a lesser degree A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Two Gentlemen of Verona, are plays of courtship. The assumption behind them is that despite momentary absurdities and pains, love liberates, enriches, and fulfills the lovers, (p. 93)

Like A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Merchant of Venice, As You Like It presents two worlds. A Midsummer Night's Dream moves from Athens, with its harsh law and its harsh father, to the moonlit woods outside of Athens, where lovers are transformed into their better selves; The Merchant of Venice moves from the commercial world of Venice to the moonlit world of Portia's Belmont. In As You Like It the movement is from the court of the usurper. Duke Frederick, to the Forest of Arden, where lovers find what they seek and where the wicked are converted. Only Touchstone, the Clown, and Jaques, the melancholy man, remain unimproved by Arden, a sort of hint of man's recalcitrance or self-conceit.

The play is full of "holiday foolery," but the foolery is not devoid of meaning, for it embodies an enduring vision of love and of the triumph of the gifts of nature over those of fortune. Various kinds of lovers are juxtaposed: the romantic young lovers, Rosalind and Orlando and Celia and the reformed Oliver; the prettified artificial pastoral figures, hardhearted Phebe and her mooning Silvius, who thinks no man has ever loved as he loves: the low pastoral figures, old Corin, who has forgotten the ridiculous actions that love moved him to in his youth, and the young bumpkins William and Audrey; and finally the clown Touchstone, who remembers that when he was in love he kissed "the cow's dugs that her pretty chopt [chapped) hands had milked" [II. iv. 49-50]. Love is wonderfully displayed in the "strange capers" of these figures, and it is treasured even when it is mocked—as when Rosalind realistically warns Phebe against scorning Silvius' offers, saying. "Sell when you can, you are not for all markets" [III. v. 60] or when Rosalind, concealing her love for Orlando, offers to cure him of the madness of loving Rosalind, and he replies, "I would not be cured" [III. ii. 425]. Nor, of course, would Rosalind or the audience want him cured. The love poems that Orlando writes are wretched (Touchstone drily offers to produce such rhymes "eight years together, dinners and suppers and sleeping hours excepted" [III. ii. 96-7]), yet we would not have Orlando's rhymes improved; we value them for their delightful ineptitude. Rosalind herself is delightfully mocked, as in this bit of dialogue in which Celia (Aliena) prosaically reminds us that people in love can be very boring:

ROSALIND. I'll tell thee. Aliena I cannot be out of the sight of Orlando. I'll go find a shadow, and sigh till he come.

CELIA. And I'll sleep. [IV. i. 215-18]

In short everything in the play, including the folly, is in Celia's words "O wonderful, wonderful, and most wonderful wonderful, and yet again wonderful" [III. ii. 191-92]. Not least wonderful are the improbable conversions of Oliver and the wicked Duke Frederick; again we are grateful for these improbabilities because we would not deny to anyone the possibility of finding joy by shedding self-centeredness. These two men come late to self-knowledge and its concomitant generosity of spirit, but better late than never. The play ends with "a wedlock hymn" and other strong hints of a transfigured world—though Jaques' refusal to join in the dance suggests that the new joyous order is less than total. The return of the exiles to the court is not a bit of cynicism discrediting their experience in the forest; rather, it brings the vitality and harmony of the forest into the court, which earlier in the play is a place of tyranny, (pp. 95-7)

Sylvan Barnet, "The Comedies," in his A Short Guide to Shakespeare, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1974, pp. 73-112.

Alfred Harbage [Harbage provides a scene-by-scene summary of As You Like It, often accompanied by critical commentary. Each of the play's characters—particularly Rosalind, Orlando, Touchstone, and Jaques—are discussed as they appear in the text.]

To Adam, an old family servant Orlando de Boys complains that his elder brother Oliver is disregarding the will of their deceased father and is rearing him as an oaf. He repeats this complaint to Oliver and is rewarded with a blow, whereupon he lays hold of his surly guardian and demands the legacy due him so that he may make his own way in the world. Oliver half promises to meet the terms but has no intention of doing so. When Charles, the champion wrestler, comes with a warning that Orlando is apt to be injured if he persists in his plan to enter the matches about to be held at court, Oliver traduces the youth and incites Charles to do his worst. Secretly he hopes that the bouts will prove fatal to Orlando, whose natural graces have been putting his own merits in the shade. In the course of his conversation with the wrestler, we have learned of the situation at court. The rightful Duke has been forced to retreat to the Forest of Arden where he lives a Robinhood sort of life with some faithful comrades, while power at home resides in the hand of Duke Frederick, his usurping younger brother. The banished Duke's daughter Rosalind remains at court as companion to Frederick's daughter Celia.

1-22 This is a somber opening for a play with so beckoning a title. A recital of grievances can never be truly engaging, but the note of aspiration in Orlando's voice offsets the petulant tone. He craves the education, the gentility, proper to his birth. As he invokes the spirit of his honored father, he seems less concerned with personal status than with the honor of his line. The speech, evidently continuing a conversation with Adam (as thou say'st), but with something of the air of an expository soliloquy [As I remember) comes out as a compromise between the two. It has the virtue of indicating at once the domestic situation and the nature of this menage, a considerable manor, with home-farm, horse-trainers, hinds; the names Oliver, Rowland, Jaques, Dennis make it sufficiently 'French.' 23-78 The ethical basis of Orlando's rejoinders save them from seeming impudent. He gains greatly in contrast with his snarling brother, indeed seems the more mature and restrained of the two. His physical prowess is impressive: obviously he is able to subdue Oliver without much personal agitation or expenditure of energy. This physical conflict of brothers, one of whom stands in place of a parent, is an ominous sign of decay, as witness Adam's distress (58-59) and Orlando's own apologetic words at its conclusion. It is evidently no casual thing, but the first overt act of rebellion against long oppression. When Oliver's spleen is vented on Adam—you old dog (75)—the latter's remark makes clear which of these brothers is truly the family renegade. There is an iron-age atmosphere now; things were different in the days of the good Sir Rowland. 79-111 Charles's old news (92) is so obviously old that there is no reason why it should be conveyed except to post the audience. Shakespeare's expository devices are usually less flatfooted than this question-and-answer sequence, yet it contains the most memorable speech in the scene—on the merry men in the Forest of Arden who fleet the time carelessly as they did in the golden world (110-11). It is relieving to hear, in this gloomy establishment, that something merry and golden survives at least somewhere. (Charles, incidentally, is more articulate than most wrestlers we have known.) 112-49 And he is not ill-disposed. Actually he has come on a mission of good-will, and Oliver bends him to his purpose by deceiving him, in fact by appealing to his moral sense. Oliver's brotherly characterization of Orlando functions like a photographic negative: we deduce that the youth is the opposite of what he is here said to be. 150-59 The 'positive' of the portrait follows, furnished by the same villainous speaker but when no one is present to hear. This is one of many instances in Shakespeare where virtue receives tribute from vice. Oliver's rancor reminds us of Iago's remark about Cassio: 'He hath a daily beauty in his life That makes me ugly' [Othello, V. i. 19-20].

I, ii Troubled by the absence of her banished father, Rosalind is rallied by her cousin Celia. The two amuse themselves with remarks about the vagaries of Dame Fortune and Lady Nature in bestowing their gifts upon women. With the appearance of the court-jester Touchstone, the conversation erratically swerves to the subjects of wisdom, folly, and empty oaths. The courtier Le Beau brings news that Charles the wrestler has just maimed three challengers and is about to take on a fourth. If they remain in this place, they will see the 'sport.' Touchstone is dubious about the appeal of bone-crushing as an entertainment for ladies, but Rosalind and Celia decide to stay when they see the young and handsome challenger. They add their pleas to Duke Frederick's to dissuade Orlando from the unequal match, but he is resolved to risk everything in this chance to distinguish himself. The girls lend him ardent support, and he easily defeats the champion, but Duke Frederick sourly withholds his favor upon learning that the young victor is a son of a former enemy. Celia deplores her father's ungraciousness, and Rosalind, who remembers old Sir Rowland as a supporter of her father, rewards Orlando with a guerdon. She gives-him ample chance to improve the acquaintance, but he can only gaze at her in awe. Le Beau, who has departed with the Duke and his retinue, returns with a warning that Orlando stands in danger of the Duke's active displeasure, as does also the exile's daughter upon whom he has just been gazing. Orlando realizes that he is in worse plight than before, but consoles himself with thoughts of heavenly Rosalind! (270)

1-21 Our knowledge of the political situation is here reinforced, and we see the children of the enemy-brothers behaving as loving foster-sisters. Since Celia intends to right the wrong done by her usurping father, the future as well as the past is tinged with gold. 22-49 Rosalind's conversational gambit on falling in love (22) is dramatic 'foreshadowing.' Observe how swiftly the subject is switched off by Celia's moralistic reply. Shakespeare's heroines are not permitted to fall in love in the abstract; ripeness is not all in this area; there must be single and worthy objects. The logic-chopping about Nature and Fortune will do as a sample of small talk between lively and cultivated girls, but it seems to come from the top of their heads. 50-85 Touchstone will do better, too, when the occasion improves. The words dullness of the fool (51) promises no scintillating performance, indeed no more than the routine clowning we get. The 'demonstration' (about invalid oaths sworn on non-existent beards) is of the tried-and-true order of comic business such as would be part of any jester's repertory, but observe that aspersions are slyly cast upon the usurper, as his daughter notices (76-79): Touchstone's knight without honor is one whom Duke Frederick loves. 86-111 Le Beau is a tame courtier, in contrast with the merry men who have followed the elder Duke; he is a gossip and perhaps a fop, but his officiousness is good-natured, and there is nothing in his lines and actions to suggest the effeminacy that is often projected ad nauseam in modem productions; a slightly vapid timidity should do. The merriment of Rosalind and Celia is determinedly sophisticated. For the moment they appear as a pair of smart little minxes. 112-203 The impression does not endure. They grow tender when they hear of the injured wrestlers, more tender still when they see Orlando. Now they are sketched with swift contrasting strokes. They address the youth with a studied grown-up gravity, but when the match is on, show the delightfully uninhibited partisanship of children. Celia's impulses are especially fetching (193-94). Charles's boastfulness is just enough to set off the quiet modesty of Orlando, who is remarkably successful in concealing his uncouth rearing; in his plaintive and courtly address to the girls he proves quite the rhetorician. Again his physical prowess is impressive: he is Shakespeare's most muscular lover. 204-41 Duke Frederick has appeared anything but villainous thus far—trying to spare Orlando, limiting the bout to one fall, even making an inquiry (as the girls do not) about the condition of the loser. There is a hint of regret in his manner as he turns upon Orlando, so that the action seems prompted more by a bad conscience than by evil nature. Celia sides against her father in his churlishness (as does Jessica [in The Merchant of Venice]) without forfeiting our esteem. With the Duke's display of passion, the medium shifts to blank verse, and naturally remains so; it would not do for Orlando and Rosalind to fall in love in prose. As usual in these plays, it is the lady who makes the first practical overtures. Rosalind's four-line speech (233-36) illustrates the suppleness which the playwright required of his principal actors, as she lets a wish be father to a thought {He calls me back), speaks to herself in an aside (My pride fell with my fortunes), addresses a face-saving remark to Celia [I'll ask him what he would), and then almost proposes to Orlando. A fine bit of business is implied here, as she hovers invitingly before him while he stands too dumbfounded to speak. How he should have responded, of course he realizes later with chagrin. 242-70 Frederick's villainy is carefully kept within bounds. Le Beau speaks of his condition, his manners, his humorous state, rather than of inveterate malice. Perhaps he will not prove obdurate in evil, and this iron age will pass. Again the idea of a better world than this (265) is obtruded on our attention. To Frederick as to Oliver, it is someone's virtue (260-62) which seems to constitute a threat.

I. iii. Rosalind replies to Celia's questioning by confessing that she has a new reason to be pensive: she has fallen in love with Orlando. Duke Frederick breaks in on their council with an order that Rosalind leave the court within ten days on pain of death. Both she and Celia staunchly protest but the Duke distrusts Rosalind as the daughter of his banished brother and the object of his subjects' love. Celia resolves to share Rosalind's exile; they will disguise themselves and seek out the elder Duke in the Forest of Arden. Rosalind will don male attire and swagger it out as 'Ganymede' while Celia will pose as 'Aliena.' Touchstone will be persuaded to go along.

1-35 The repartee of the girls has improved now that they have worthy matter to work on. Rosalind is no longer pensive about her father but about her child's father (11). How swiftly and implacably her thoughts have fixed upon ultimate objectives! 36-85 Again the shift is from prose to blank verse, with the shift from wit and whimsey to passion. Duke Frederick's anger seems a kind of seizure, like that of Leontes in The Winter's Tale. Rosalind and Celia are armed only with honesty, but their plain-speaking is so formidable that we almost pity the Duke. Twice he calls Celia a fool (76, 83) because, blinded by love, she fails to see that Rosalind's virtues make her a serious rival. The playwright loves these ironic collisions, where hatred and moral defect must, in self-defense, attack love and virtue as dangerous. The Duke is convinced that his appraisal of the situation is quite rational. 86-134 So resolute a moment before, Rosalind and Celia now sound defenseless and forlorn—but not for long. Cheerfulness seeps rapidly into their voices, so that by the end of the brief dialogue they sound less like refugees than like schoolgirls planning a Halloween junket. Especially captivating is Rosalind's eagerness to wear a gallant curtle-axe and to cloak her timidity in a swashing and martial outside (110-18). The two seem truly standing in half-water between childhood and womanhood. Of course Touchstone will go along; Shakespeare's fools all adhere to the right side.

II, i In the Forest of Arden, Duke Senior extols the simple life and the sweet uses of adversity. His comrades share his content, if not his solicitude for the dappled deer whose dominion they have invaded. They tell of how one of their number, the melancholy Jaques, lies sighing by a brook, moralizing the fate of a wounded stag into an allegory of corrupt society. The Duke goes to seek Jaques out, since he loves to 'cope him' in his 'sullen fits.'

1 s.d. The direction like Foresters (later like Outlaws) indicates the Kendal green attire of the little band, in contrast with the courtly finery of Frederick and his retinue. We are in the Forest of Arden. After the somewhat asphyxiating atmosphere of Oliver's manor and Frederick's court, the air seems cleansed and cool. The effect is achieved by the relaxed words and conduct, as well as the Robinhood attire of the actors. 1-20 The rightful Duke is not even equipped with a proper name, but he has the composure and graciousness of the natural leader, like Theseus. Although his opening lines are filled with allusion to what is painted and envious in society, to what is churlish in nature, the tone is serene and the verse is limpid, in harmony with the theme of peace-of-mind. Amiens describes truly what the speaker does, translate, and the style in which he does it, so quiet and so sweet (20). The image of the ugly toad wearing in its head the precious jewel (13-14) lends just the touch of strangeness needed to set off the easy simplicity of the rest. His last two lines, with their artfully varied parallelism rising to a climax, good in everything (17), have a peculiar significance, as the first generalization we hear in the Forest of Arden spoken by its tutelary spirit. The Duke is not a Pangloss, since, in his pronouncement, that which is not good is absorbed and neutralized rather than ignored, and happiness is something earned. The Forest is not an earthly paradise, for here the fang of winter bites even though it bites to man's advantage; Arden seems to symbolize a process rather than a place. 21 -69 The Duke's next brief speech contains the text of the two long speeches following. The suggestion of pathos in the fate of the hunted deer, and the idea of their being the native burghers (23) of this sylvan city, are imaginatively expanded. The picture of the brook which brawls past the gnarled oak-roots, the stag which stretches with groans its leathern coat (31-38), is painted from nature sharply observed, but the painting is stylized-decorative and consciously artificial rather than realistic, as is the treatment of the Forest as a whole, in harmony with the symbolic use to which it is being put. The 'moralization' of the picture attributed to Jaques is remarkable for its ingenuity and neat devices of condensation, but its excesses create the impression that the orator was enjoying himself, and we feel a little skeptical about his weeping (66). Perhaps he can weep at will.

II, ii The absence of Celia and Touchstone as well as Rosalind leads Duke Frederick to suspect connivance on the part of Orlando. He orders the youth brought to court for questioning. If he is missing, his brother Oliver must answer for him.

1-21 The birds have flown as we knew they would, and Frederick scents treason as he was bound to do. However one new detail is introduced, the eavesdropping of Hisperia, which directs the Duke's attention to the de Boys household. Presumably this will have importance in the economy of the plot; at least we are pleased to hear that Oliver will have to answer for something.

II, iii Old Adam warns Orlando that the praise he has won for his wrestling victory has inflamed his brother's rancor, so that if he tarries at home he is apt to be burned in his lodgings. Adam puts at Orlando's disposal his life's-savings of five hundred crowns, and the two set forth to seek in the world some 'settled low content'

1-30 The virtues of Orlando and the danger to which they have exposed him are described in an excessively exclamatory style, but Adam is an octogenarian and we must give the aged leave to wail. 31-76 What follows, in addition to getting Orlando off on his journey, is a moral exemplum in its own right. First Orlando chooses, in exemplary fashion, the lesser evil, personal danger, to outlawry and vagrancy. Then Adam (surely the 'Adam before the fall') performs an act of charity in a spirit of Christian faith, explicitly expressed (43-45). Then comes an oblique lecture on good moral habits, with Adam's hale old age offered in evidence. All this is too well written to be dismissed as perfunctory padding. There is feeling in the reference to old and cashiered servants—unregarded age in corners thrown (42). Finally Orlando, using Adam for his text, reproves the world where men work only for meed and not for love and duty. The present is compared again to its disadvantage with a golden past. The weighty moral content of the scene suggests that regeneration is in order, and the direction the comedy will take. It would not have been surprising if it had been written throughout in couplets, such as appear in the last speech and sporadically just before it. There is pathos in Adam's rueful words about taking to the road at fourscore, and performers should defer to the playwright's obvious regard for this good old man (56). To portray him as ludicrously senile, on the principle that every play must have its Polonius, is a detestable piece of blotting. (A tradition, none too reliable, maintains that Shakespeare played this part himself.)

II, iv Rosalind as 'Ganymede,' Celia as 'Aliena,' and Touchstone as himself arrive weary at Arden, where there appear to be pasturelands as well as trees. They overhear the young shepherd Silvius tell the old shepherd Corin of his love for disdainful Phebe; and Rosalind is put in mind of her own love-longings for Orlando. They ask Corin if he can supply them food and shelter, and learn that he is only the hireling of another man, whose cottage, flocks, and pastures are up for sale. When they offer to make the purchase themselves and retain Corin as their shepherd, they are led off to view the holding.

1-16 The runaways have made it, a little the worse for wear, so that Rosalind must look out for their morale. She speaks partly for herself, partly for 'Ganymede,' whose masculine courage she must emulate. Each of her companions is given a speech or two in character (and in prose) before natives step into view. 17-58 They step out of the literary pastoral-tradition, where shepherds are chronically in love, of exquisite sensibility, and speak a dialect as poetic as their names. Observe the patterned speech of Silvius, the three unrimed couplets, each followed by a half-line, Thou hast not loved (31-39), the last patly illustrated by his passionate exit. Rosalind and Touchstone, each after kind, is touched, so that love sounds a three-note chime. Touchstone's Jane Smile, with her chapped hands, is a less ethereal example of rural mistress than Silvius's Phebe, and there is more than a hint in the language that Touchstone's designs upon her were not ethereal either. Rosalind's love must be more in the ideal fashion of Silvius's, but it is odd, if the issue were clear, that she should say so in a jingle (55-56). 59-65 There is something strange about this Forest of Arden. In the scenes back in 'civilization' there was a reasonably plausible consistency in the treatment of character and event. Here, experience has an amiably schizoid quality, with plausible and implausible consorting comfortably together. Touchstone's arrogant hail to one whom he deems even lower in the social scale than himself, and Rosalind's engaging embarrassment over his rude snobbery, are as natural as can be. But Corin, who a moment before was a conventional pastoral shepherd (whom love ere now had drawn into a thousand acts ridiculous) suddenly changes into an authentic old countryman, humble and kindly, who speaks with a lovely simplicity (70-95). Like the wood outside Athens, this one seems enchanted too, but the dreams are the dreams of daytime.

II, v Amiens sings 'Under the greenwood tree' and, for reasons of his own, Jaques asks for more. As they spread for the Duke's evening banquet, Amiens sings again, with all joining in the chorus. Jaques produces a parody of the song, and Amiens sings this too, before going to summon the Duke.

1-7,33-39 We are grateful to Jaques, whatever his motives, for persuading Amiens to give us the second stanzo. It is a festive song, just right for a woodland feast, and we are reminded of the line of light operas sired by this play. Fine solo and choral singing in a comradely atmosphere has its own undeniable appeal, and the scene would justify itself simply as a musical interlude. But it also adds a dimension to this forest world. Observe that the words of the song repeat, in their own way, the message of the Duke (II, i, 1-17), so that we have been twice greeted in Arden by the idea of triumphant contentment, but now the idea is challenged. 8-55 The Jaques we met 'in absentia,' sobbing over the fate of the stag and the inhumanity of man, struck us as a doleful sentimentalist. Either we were mistaken, or he himself has changed. Here he seems truculent and carping, a determined cynic—Diogenes with a parody up his sleeve. A moment ago we heard Touchstone say now am I in Arden, the more fool I (II, iv, 14). Now it is Jaques who says the same thing, in express opposition to the official sentiment of the place. The fool and the eccentric see eye to eye, and see what common sense tells us is true—that the efficacy of retreat into the great open spaces is a lot of sentimental nonsense. At least our common sense would tell us so if the issue came to debate. But there is no debating here. No one contradicted Touchstone, and no one contradicts Jaques. Instead, the same singer who sang of the joys of the forest-life happily sings the parody. This has the odd effect of keeping the issue open. Either the Duke and his followers are aware of some truth denied the dissenters, or they know the value of pretense. Perhaps this is the secret wisdom of Arden, a stronghold of passive resistance to disillusion.

II, vi Adam, faint with hunger and fatigue, tells Orlando to go on alone. Orlando speaks words of cheer, and promises to find food somewhere in this forest to which they have wandered. He bears the old man to shelter before leaving for his search.

1-16 There is no condescension in Orlando's speech, but such eager assurances as are designed to put heart into the old and ill. Toward its end, the broken continuity indicates the pauses for action as he ministers to his servant. His actions must not be viewed casually. A young aristocrat carrying an old servitor to shelter is a symbol which would have had a strong ethical and emotional impact.

II, vii At the woodland repast of the Duke and his following, Jaques describes with high glee his meeting with a fool in the forest, and he begs for a motley coat so that he may rail upon the times. When the Duke questions his motives, he defends the satiric mode. Orlando breaks in upon them with drawn sword, demanding a share of the food, but he relaxes his posture when the Duke addresses him kindly. He goes to bring Adam to the feast, and returns with the old man in his arms just as Jaques is concluding a survey of the seven ages of man. All sit to the repast, and Amiens sings another song. The scene ends with the Duke proffering permanent refuge to this young son and this former servant of his onetime friend, Sir Rowland de Boys.

1-11 For one alluded to in such terms—nowhere. . . like a man and compact of jars (2-5)— Jaques seems to have a strange fascination for the Duke. 12-43 The Touchstone whom Jaques describes bears small resemblance to the Touchstone we have met; he has undergone a Forest-change and gained a languid elegance as he poses for this brilliantly comic picture of utter boredom and futility. Jaques himself, now almost hysterically elated, keeps changing before our eyes. When we first heard of him, he was anguished, and when we first saw him, he was bitter. His moods are as motley as Touchstone's coat, and he has been virtually functioning as the Duke's jester before he requests the role. There is a chameleon quality about Jaques and Touchstone, their coloration exchangeable, so that it is hard to decide which if either is the 'touchstone' of what. The season in Arden appears to be a mixture of autumn, winter, spring, summer; and between them Touchstone and Jaques manage to mix up the spirit of the boxing days with the spirit of lent. 44-87 In two lengthy and nicely-turned speeches Jaques defends the integrity of satire. The burden of his discourses—'If the shoe fits, wear it'-—is the standard apology of the satirists of the day. Between his speeches comes the Duke's 'ad hominem' charge that the satirist is a warped and corrupted man, with an affinity for the vices he castigates. The issue is not resolved. The Duke is an important and incisive speaker, but Jaques is permitted to speak longest and last. 88-109 If the question is the relative powers of persuasion of vinegar and honey, the latter wins the palm in the action. As Orlando, always the tall-man-of-his-hands, bursts pugnaciously upon them, it is the Duke's mild courtesy which disarms him, not Jaques' witty sarcasms. 109-26 Orlando's inventory of those influences which account for humane action—gratitude for one's own well-being, religious teaching, good example—is repeated Dy the Duke so as to receive a ceremonial endorsement. The 'conventional' morality here has been used as a butt of Shavian wit, but there is nothing logically wrong with the liturgy. Orlando thinks that all things had been savage here (107), and he recognizes that things cease to be savage because of civilizing influences; he is mindful of the ultimate reasons why he will be eating instead of eaten. 127-66 The Duke's comment, as Orlando goes off to fetch Adam is cheerful in intent; he is telling the company that relatively they are not unhappy (unlucky). Jaques' extension of his metaphor of the theatre into All the world's a stage. . . (139-66) is different in spirit. It contains seven miniature portraits, sharp, animated, credible, the amount of detail increasing from one to the next, but all miracles of condensation. The data is highly selective: the babe is mewling and puking (not smiling), the child creeping to school (not running to play), and at no point is man seen to advantage. Although in the first five ages, he grows a little more imposing, in the last two, after the deft punctuating clause And so he plays his part, he suffers a devastating fall. Like the scorpion, Jaques' summation bears its sting in its tail: the crown of life is—senility! And yet generations of youngsters speaking their 'memory pieces' have cheerfully chirped out Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything; and, in productions, the lines are often spoken like a benediction. How can we account for this oddity? In its substance the speech denigrates life, in spite of the few relieving touches, like the schoolboy's shining (fresh-scrubbed) morning face, but the tone of the speaker is not that of the malicious de-bunker; rather it is sympathetic, regretful, a little nostalgic. The words say one thing, the 'tune' something a trifle different, and as an act of faith we attend to the tune. The speech is a wonderful literary feat. 167-200 Although we should feel grateful for it, we should also feel grateful for the stage direction following: Enter Orlando, with Adam. Orlando will soon De composing sonnets to his mistress's eyebrow, and Adam is approaching Jaques' seventh age; indeed at the moment his life has come full cycle for he is resting in another's arms as at the beginning. But Orlando and Adam together are something different from Orlando and Adam apart, and different as individuals than as types. And which of Jaques' capsulated 'ages' fits this gentle and generous Duke? The tableau formed by these three is a silent commentary upon the preceding speech, for the nuances in Shakespearean drama are not confined to the words. For a moment we thought we were hearing something bravely definitive about the vanity of human life, but now we are less sure. There is ambiguity even in the concluding song—a wintry companion to the one sung before the banquet began. After Orlando, Adam, and the Duke have begun acting as if gratitude, friendship, and love are potent realities, the song voices serious doubts. Or does it? Mostjriendship is fainting, most loving mere Jolly (181); but 'Most' is not 'all,' as Celia would say, and little candles throw their lights far. Never have such melancholy verses been followed by such rollicking choruses.

III, i Duke Frederick orders Oliver to set out and seek his brother while his house and lands are held in bail. If Orlando is not produced within a year, Oliver will lose everything.

1-18 We glimpse the court again, like a receding coastal point. The episode might easily have been included in 11,11, but it is split off for structural reasons: we are reminded that there is such a place as the court, that the exodus of characters has been noticed, and that something is being done about it. (This is anticipating, but observe that preparation is made for Oliver's appearance in Arden, but not for the Duke's warlike approach. Threat of invasion would not suit the atmosphere of the place.)

III, ii Orlando adorns the trees with verses in praise of Rosalind. Touchstone and Corin debate the rival claims of court and country life. When Rosalind reads aloud a sample of the poetry, Touchstone extemporizes a parody. Celia reads another sample, and after impish delay, tells Rosalind that the poet is her Orlando. The two step back to witness an encounter between him and Jaques, demonstrating the antipathy of a person-in-love and a person-out-of-love. Rosalind, retaining her identity as 'Ganymede,' engages Orlando in conversation, and offers to cure him of love by posing as his loved-one and tormenting him with a woman's whims. He has no wish to be cured, but welcomes the chance to unburden his heart by addressing this youth as 'Rosalind.'

1-10 Orlando's speech is a sonnet lacking the first quatrain (no doubt spoken before his entrance) and a better lyric than any he is able to get on paper; perhaps he should dictate his poetry. He has seen so little of Rosalind that the second of the qualities he attributes to her, The fair, the chaste, and unexpressive she (10) must be known to him through pure intuition. We soon learn that he is now outfitted neatly as one of the Duke's foresters, so that we must visualize him as an amalgam of Petrarchan love-lyricist and husky youth in Kendal green. At least one of the trees upon which he pins his verses is a palm (167), which here seems able to survive the icy Jang of winter as readily as the gnarled oak. Since in Arden the glades of Arcadia are superimposed upon Sherwood Forest, and tropical flora and fauna (presently we shall hear of a lioness) flourish in France Orlando can be two selves with perfect propriety. 11-82 There is an Alice-in-Wonderland inconclusiveness about this debate. After it is over, Corin might justly feel like a Kafka victim, wondering just what kind of guilt he has incurred, but luckily his nerves are sound. In one of his Sonnets [66] Shakespeare speaks sadly of 'simple truth miscalled simplicity,' but the miscalling proves a jolly business when done by a professional simpleton. Frivolousness is Touchstone's métier, and his air of tolerant superiority is as engaging as Corin's innocence. Although handicapped by his sincerity, as any natural philosopher (30) is bound to be in a skirmish with a wit and a punster, Corin manages to get his view of life on record, unforgettably so (69-73), and Touchstone's persiflage sounds no more damaging than the crackling of thorns under a pot. 83-117 Once having found his rime, Orlando has stuck to it, and to his jog-trot meter {the right butterwomens rank to market). Touchstone is right in his critical judgment, but his parody, reducing love to lust and Rosalind to a trollop, turns Orlando's idealism inside out, and merits Rosalind's rebuke. But, as usual in this least cynical of all plays, the cynic is given the last word. 118-239 This second poem, achieving a quite respectable mediocrity, must have been composed after Orlando had acquired the knack of it. Perhaps Rosalind would like it better if she had not already been berymed like an Irish rat (169), or if she knew who the author was. When she is told, her first words are Alas the day! What shall I do with my doublet and hose? (208) What she does is keep them on, thus remaining incognito both to the lover she has been longing for and the father she has come to Arden to seek. Fortunately there is no attempt to rationalize this irrational behavior. To do so would be like trying to explain why palm trees are growing in this forest, or who is tending to Silvius's and Phebe's sheep. The clock has been stopped, the laws of logic suspended, and the dwellers in Arden freed from the obligation to do anything but what is enjoyable. Still, and this makes it unique, the play never labels itself 'fantasy,' thus apologizing for its devices, and its characters never become marionettes—but only pose as marionettes. One of the minor triumphs among them is Celia. In the constant presence of the witty, ardent and magnetic Rosalind, she, might have easily lost identity and dwindled to a cipher. Instead she remains quite distinct alternately teasing and lecturing the friend in whose love-affair she is so whole-heartedly interested. Since there is no malice or envy in this interest, she can be as outspoken as she pleases. Her remark that she has found Orlando under a tree like a dropped acorn (224) is a sample of her piquant conversational style. 240-81 A moment ago Goodman Kersey-woolen encountered Sir Taffeta, and now Signior Love encounters Monsieur Melancholy. Orlando is the more hostile of the two, shying away as if he feared Jaques' malady to be catching. The dialogue lacks the 'articulated' style of real communication since the incompatibility of this pair is absolute; their speeches are pot-shots exchanged across a chasm. These interpolated encounters (Corin-Touchstone, Jaques-Orlando) provide time for Orlando's poems to be found, identified with their author, and serve as a means of bringing the lovers face to face, but they are rounded off as self-sufficient 'skits.' Through the remainder of the play similar encounters between substance and shadow (not always easily distinguishable) provide the true center of interest, with the plot-action slipped into the interstices. This fragmented dramatic technique resembles impressionistic painting, and renders commentary upon separate details somewhat irrelevant. The succession of impromptu charades, comic eclogues, musical interludes, wit-skirmishes, suggests an extemporal allegory, a parade of the seven-or-so-not-so-deadly-attitudes, a whimsical dance of love and life. Its proper lighting is dappled sunlight and it could be set nowhere in the world but the Forest of Arden. 282-408 Rosalind's disguise as a saucy lackey (282) lets her express the misgivings about love and marriage which she is intelligent enough to have but healthy-spirited enough to disregard. Her mind says one thing, her heart another, and like the play as a whole, she is unromantically romantic. Orlando is reduced to the role of 'straight man' as he converses with this volatile youth who dwells on the skirts of Arden like fringe upon a petticoat (319), but he is passing a kind of test. His dogged refusal to escape the pangs of love—I would not be cured, youth (398)—although addressed to 'Ganymede' must sound sweet in the ears of Rosalind.

III, iii Touchstone pays court to the country-maid Audrey while Jaques stands gloomily by. A forest wedding is about to take place, with Sir Oliver Mar-text officiating. Jaques steps forth to give the bride away, then persuades Touchstone to postpone the ceremony until it can be more properly performed.

1-94 The courtship of ideal lovers now in process casts this antic shadow—a travesty in action, like Touchstone's travesty of Orlando's love-lyric. Audrey is available and willing; and Touchstone, who hath his desires (70), is resigned. Any action involving Touchstone is bound to be subversive, and his remarks upon compatibility, poetry, chastity [honesty), fidelity, and the ultimate sanctions of marriage (69-71) are saturnalian in spirit. In contrast Jaques' spirit is saturnine; he here appears as primly censorious, and a stickler for propriety. Audrey, whose wit and beauty may leave something to be desired, lays stress on moral character: her question about poetry—Is it honest in deed and word? Is it a true thing? (14)—is as priceless as Touchstone's reply (16-17). Arden, we observe, is suddenly provided with a nearby village and vicar. Are his services rejected because of some Puritan taint? or because marriages in comedy should be reserved for the last scene? Poor proud Oliver Mar-text—we remember him always, although he is only given three speeches and then elbowed into oblivion.

III, iv To Rosalind's distress, Orlando has failed to keep an appointment, and she and Celia discuss his truancy. Corin comes to invite them to witness a meeting between Silvius and the scornful Phebe.

1-54 In tantalizing Rosalind, Celia displays her usual deftness in the use of metaphor. The prose dialogue of this play sparkles with splintered poetry. Observe that Corin reverts to his 'pastoral' role whenever he is associated with Silvius and Phebe: his terms are not countrified as he invites the girls to see the pageant truly played (47).

III. v As Silvius pleads for gentler treatment, Phebe makes mock of his devotion. Rosalind steps forth and indignantly upbraids her, giving short shrift to her alleged beauty and charm. The tirade succeeds only in arousing Phebe's interest in the one who utters it, and when Rosalind and Celia have left, she employs Silvius to convey a 'taunting' letter to the scolding 'Ganymede.'

1-138 Phebe's manner is wanton and irritating as she pecks away at Silvius's metaphors, ignoring the spirit in her literal interpretation (8-27). It is a small offense, but it will serve. Since Silvius is in love, and is the only eligible shepherd in view, Phebe seems to personify coy fastidiousness; and all male hearts respond as Rosalind pitches into her (8-27). A woman should indeed thank heaven fasting for a good man's love; it is a regular manifesto.

IV, i Jaques defines the nature of his melancholy to Rosalind—who is unimpressed. She chides Orlando for coming late, then plays the part of skeptical mistress, subjecting his sentiments to stiff strokes of common sense. However, she acts out a marriage ceremony with him with Celia serving as 'priest,' and when he has left to attend upon the Duke, she admits how 'many fathom deep' she is in love.

1-201 Rosalind proves as hostile to Jaques as did Orlando—they are young growth resistant to frost. Our impression that Jaques alters in mood from scene to scene is confirmed by his own diagnosis: his is an eclectic melancholy, compounded of many simples, extracted from many objects (15). What follows is a strange love-scene, with its haunting, Men have died from time to time, and worms have eaten them, but not for love (96-98). More critics have fallen in love with Rosalind than with any other of Shakespeare's heroines, and the reason is fairly clear. She is witty, warm, and presumably beautiful, but, further than that, she seems the perfect risk as a wife, since her capacity for love is so great that it has survived disillusionment in advance. In spite of the preposterous masquerade, Orlando and Rosalind remain convincing as lovers in the scenes where the masquerade is maintained—he a little subdued, hang-dog, put-upon, as young lovers are bound to be; she a little desperate, for all her high-larking spirits, as one who can only pretend that her soul remains her own.

IV, ii The 'foresters' have killed a deer, and at Jaques' suggestion march off to present it to the Duke, singing a song of the lusty horn.'

1-18 We have not had foresters or a song for some time, and the scene needs no further justification. With horned beasts on the premises, and marriages in the making, a cuckoldry song was inevitable. It does not reflect upon the characters of Rosalind, Celia, Phebe, or even Audrey.

IV, iii Apologetically, Silvius delivers Phebe's letter, supposing it to consist of insults. When it proves to be a protestation of love for 'Ganymede,' the receiver rebukes Silvius for his infatuation, and returns an answer to Phebe that her love will be reciprocated only when Silvius consents to act as her intercessor. Oliver now appears bearing a blood-stained handkerchief and a message from Orlando. The latter has been wounded by a lioness in rescuing Oliver from death, thus returning good for his brother's evil. Oliver is now penitent, and he and Celia minister to Rosalind, who has fainted upon hearing of Orlando's own narrow escape. They conduct her home, her jauntiness all wilted away.

1-181 Silvius has been too tame a lover. Phebe's emotions have been thawed by 'Ganymede's' fire, and need only the proper channeling. The idea of love-congealed, of frozen immobility awaiting a spring thaw, reminds us of Romeo and Rosaline, of Orsino and Olivia [Twelfth Night). (In all three plays the thawing agent is an ardent young girl.) An air of the miraculous attends Oliver's sudden appearance as a completely reformed man. His reformation borrows a semi-mystical character from the description of the circumstances (99-121,128-33). He has been awakened from miserable slumber after Orlando has resisted the temptation to return evil for evil. The brightly-enameled image of the green and gilded snake which retreats at Orlando's approach, and of the sucked and hungry lioness which dies at Orlando's hands, suggest the, allegorical illumination of ancient manuscripts. If anything were needed to endear Rosalind to us, it would be the collapse of her bravado when she sees Orlando's blood: I would I were at home ( 162).

V, i Touchstone comforts Audrey, who sees no reason why their nuptials should have been interrupted. He then deals with William, her erstwhile suitor, treating the country swain to a display of courtly patronage and courtly swashbuckling.

1-60 William is an inoffensive youth although, like Silvius, a little wanting in fire. Still, better men than he might quail before Touchstone's invincible superciliousness. This jester, among other things, is a kind of 'fetch.' He is a living parody of the mannerisms which prevail in the effete courtly circles he loves to flout.

V, ii Orlando learns that his brother Oliver has fallen in love with the shepherdess 'Aliena' (Celia), and the two wish to marry at once. Oliver will share her humble lot, and Orlando may take possession of the de Boys estates. Rosalind promises Orlando that he himself may marry on the morrow, not in another mock-ceremony but in a true one with his actual mistress, who will be brought hither by magical aids. Silvius and Phebe are also promised a resolution of their problem: 'Ganymede' will marry Phebe or never marry any woman, and yet Silvius will be satisfied. The principals in these crossed love-affairs chant out a litany of love, which Rosalind abruptly terminates with a repetition of assurances that all will be properly paired off.

1-117 Is't possible … ? asks Orlando. lt must be, since it has happened. What would be impossible would be for the eminently marriageable Celia to finish the course unclaimed. The scene contains another and more elaborate passage of schematized repetition, this time a lovers' creed and testament, both poetic and absurd. It dissolves in Rosalind's laughter, so that the effect, like so much else in this play, is spicy-sweet, not cloving.

V.iii Touchstone gives Audrey the joyous tidings that they, too, will be married on the morrow; then sits between two pages of the Duke and joins them in singing 'It was a lover and his lass.'

1-40 As the two little boys appear from nowhere, and perch on either side of this antic figure (who surely must be long and lean), and as the three voices join in this golden catch, we have a sense of the 'rightness' of the whole design—an unpremeditated rightness, as hard to describe as a peal of bells or the fragrance of a garden.

V, iv Duke Senior will willingly accept Orlando as his son-in-law if 'Ganymede' is able to produce Rosalind as promised. Still posing as this masterful youth, Rosalind repeats her assurances, and makes certain that Phebe will accept Silvius if she decides not to wed 'Ganymede.' She and Celia retire, and Touchstone leads in Audrey to make up another couple in the impending nuptials. Prompted by Jaques, Touchstone expatiates upon the 'seventh cause' in the code of the duello. Rosalind and Celia return in their own proper forms, and to the sound of soft music, and an Epithalamion by Hymen, the four couples link hands, all mysteries resolved and all obtacles removed. Even Phebe seems contented—Silvius will do, now that 'Ganymede' is no more. At this juncture another brother of Orlando and Oliver appears on the scene, with news that Duke Frederick has abandoned plans to invade the Forest of Arden; instead he has been converted to the religious life and has abdicated the Dukedom in favor of its rightful ruler. All may now return to their inheritances. Jaques pronounces a benediction upon the fortunate ones, but withdraws from the celebration; he will join Duke Frederick and commune with the convertite. Duke Senior leads off the couples in a dance, and Rosalind speaks the Epilogue.

1-192 Despite the somewhat offhand methods used in the tying of it, a quite respectable knot is available for untying in this conclusion, and we have a comforting sense of accomplishment. Everyone is enlightened, united, reformed, reinstated, and, so far as possible, married. True to themselves, Touchstone, after pressing in with the country copulatives (53), gives a fine display of jesting virtuosity, and Jaques retires to enjoy his melancholy in peace. Hymen's hymn to that blessed bond of board and bed which peoples every town (135-40) is the properly decorous sequel to Touchstone's song of the lover and his lass in the vernal fields of rye (V, iii, 15-32). Thus ends a play which leaves the critical commentator always an awkward step in the rear. Its moods, sentiments, mockeries, perceptions form patterns as bright, translucent, shifting, and apparently accidental as those in a kaleidoscope. In the Epilogue Rosalind proceeds unscrupulously to coerce a display of audience approval with her charm. The play as a whole coerces us with its charm. What appears to be a medley, a structure of spontaneous improvisation, cannot be evaluated by objective standards, and we may well speak of the artistic level of this play as Orlando speaks of Rosalind's stature—-just as high as my heart (III, ii, 258). One may say with Jaques that this is but a pretty answer, or, indeed, that As You Like It is but a pretty play. However, it does something which mere pret-tiness could never do. It makes the world seem young. It sweetens the imagination. (pp. 222-45)

Alfred Harbage, "Infinite Variety: 'As You Like It'," in his William Shakespeare: A Reader's Guide, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1963, pp. 164-297.

Pastoral Conventions

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Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 5087

Brigid Brophy [Brophy surveys the elements of pastoralism in As You Like It (pastoralism is a literary form that presents an ideal and virtuous vision of rustic life). In addition, the critic discusses the comedy in relation to its source, Thomas Lodge's novel Rosalynde. Brophy asserts that among the play's most moving aspects are Shakespeare's brilliant dramatization of the romantic love affair between Orlando and Rosalind and the bond of friendly love exhibited by Rosalind and Cetia.]

As You Like It is a play I have loved virtually all my life, but it was only recently that I realised that it is not what the Copyright Act would call 'an original work'. This is not a great feat of literary detection on my part. Almost all Shakespeare's plays have sources of some kind, and any school text will tell you that the source for As You Like It is a novel called Rosalynde by Shakespeare's contemporary, Thomas Lodge.

However, very few people bother to read Lodge's novel; and that is a pity, because it is a highly interesting novel in its own right—rather eccentric, deeply charming, very shrewd about psychology, very lively, very well written; and the moment you do read it you realise that it is very much more than just a source for As You Like It.As You Like It is, in fact, an absolutely straightforward, dramatised version of Rosalynde.

The novel was first published in 1590 and it evidently had a considerable success—it ran to three editions within the next decade. That, presumably, made it worthwhile for someone to cash in on it. It is notable that Shakespeare did not change the name of the heroine. He kept the name 'Rosalind', and it was towards the end of the decade, in 1598 or 1599—no one knows for sure which—that As You Like It appeared on the stage.

But, although Shakespeare changed the names of several of the characters, he did not change the characters themselves, or—which is more important—the relationships between them. He cut down the time spanned by the novel, because a novel has more room to sprawl than a play has. But he made fewer changes than a modern writer would if he were adapting a modern novel for the theatre or for television. Having stayed with Lodge in all the big things, relationships, characters, plot, sequence, Shakespeare often chose to stay with him right down to smallish detail.

The novel and the play are both set in France. One thread concerns a king of France who is driven out of his court by his usurping brother. Shakespeare demotes this pair of brothers from kings of France to dukes of an unnamed part of France. The exiled king or duke is eventually followed into exile by his daughter, Rosalind, but not before she has fallen in love with another ill-used brother, who has been driven out of his inheritance by his elder brother, and who also goes into voluntary exile. The place where all these exiles take refuge and where the threads of the story are woven is what Lodge and Shakespeare called the Forest of Arden—what we would call, now that it is no longer fashionable to Anglicise French names, the Ardennes.

The ups and downs of fortune which have turned these people into exiles give them all the opportunity to reflect on blind fortune, or random chance, as we would probably call it; and this gives the play its fashionable, philosophical tone. The fact that they have all taken refuge in the forest also puts the play slap in the middle of another high fashion of the Renaissance—which remained in fashion deep into the 18th century—the fashion for the pastoral.

Although a pastor is literally a shepherd who puts his sheep out to pasture, I can assure anyone who feels, as I do, that the countryside is highly overrated, that the pastoral fashion has remarkably little to do with real countryside or with real sheep-rearing. When they arrive in the forest, Rosalind and Celia do buy a sheep farm, but even in Lodge, who has more room, they are only moderately serious about working it. In Shakespeare, it obviously is left to run itself. The object of the pastoral was not to draw any morals from nature. It was to recreate the literature of the ancient world, in particular the pastoral poems—dialogues between shepherds, mainly—which Theocritus wrote in Greek in the third century BC, and Virgil's imitations of them in Latin.

If you bought a pastoral novel or went to see a pastoral play, you knew pretty much what you were going to get, just as nowadays if you go and see a thriller you know pretty much what you are going to get. You were going to get shepherds with Greek or Latinised names like Sylvius, Corin, Lyddas and Damon, and shepherdesses called things like Phoebe and Corinna. The point of the whole thing was going to be that people were going to fall desperately in love. You knew also that you would get large quantities of lyric verse. It may have begun—this idea that shepherds were poets—from the thought that shepherds piped to their flocks, and, perhaps, having piped a tune, they then set words to the tune.

In Shakespeare, only one of the characters, Orlando, has the actual verse-writing mania—no doubt he picks it up from the pastoral setting like an infection when he arrives in the forest. His verses, incidentally, are all bad. But the entire play is punctuated by songs.

The shepherds in Theocritus and Virgil often fall passionately in love with shepherdesses and they also quite often fall passionately in love with shepherds. The same is probably true of the cowboys in the modern Western, which is a diluted descendant of the pastoral.

This tradition of the pastoral made it a particularly apt mode for Lodge, followed by Shakespeare, to set their story in. When the girl cousins and best friends, Rosalind and Celia, run away to the Forest of Arden, Rosalind—and it is Rosalind rather than Celia because, as she explains, she is the taller of the two—dresses up as a boy.

As you would expect, given that the novel is knee-deep in classical allusions and the play is at least ankle-deep, although some have been cut out to make it more easily assimilable in the theatre, the name which Rosalind chooses for herself while she is disguised as a boy is Ganymede, the name of the page whom Zeus, the father of the gods, fell in love with.

Lodge plays with grammar. He calls Rosalind, or Ganymede, 'he' and then 'she' within a single sentence. Shakespeare, of course, had an extra decorative dimension to play with, because women did not appear as actors on the English stage for another generation and therefore all the parts in As You Like It were taken by men. Rosalind was that old favourite of the English theatre, a drag act, from the word go, and when she disguises herself as a boy she goes into double drag, and, at the same time, a very delicate and charming air of sexual ambiguity comes over the story.

Phoebe falls in love with Ganymede; but, of course, Ganymede does not really exist. Is she, in fact, really in love with Rosalind? Orlando is in an even greater dilemma. He believes that if he pretends that Ganymede is his Rosalind and he woos him, he will be cured of his love for her, and so he does woo the boy and, in the process, falls deeper and deeper in love with the woman. Or is it with the woman? Is it, in fact, with the boy?

If I ask myself what makes As You Like It so moving, I locate the answer in two elements that Shakespeare dramatised quite brilliantly from Lodge's novel: the erotic love between Rosalind and Orlando, obviously; and, slightly less obviously, the non-erotic love between Rosalind and Celia. The dialogue that expresses these relationships may not be positively witty, in the sense that you could go through it taking out bits for an anthology of aphorisms, but it is witty in tone, witty in rhythm, and its tone is, of course, the tone of flirtation. Rosalind and Celia are limbering up their flirtatiousness on one another. If I go on to ask myself how Shakespeare achieved this technically, the answer is one that I think is rather surprising—or would be surprising if you knew only his other comedies. He does it in prose.

CELIA: Trow you who hath done this?

ROSALIND: Is it a man?

CELIA: And a chain, that you once wore, about his neck. Change you colour?

ROSALIND: I prithee, who?

CELIA: O Lord, Lord! it is hard matter for friends to meet; but mountains may be remov'd with earthquakes, and so encounter.

ROSALIND: Nay, but who is it?

CELIA: IS it possible?

ROSALIND: Nay, I prithee now, with most petitionary vehemence, tell me who it is.

CELIA: O wonderful, wonderful, and most wonderful wonderful, and yet again wonderful, and after that, out of all whooping!

ROSALIND: Good my complexion! dost thou think, though I am caparison'd like a man, I have a doublet and hose in my disposition? One inch of delay more is a South Sea of discovery. I prithee tell me who is it quickly, and speak apace . . . I prithee take the cork out of thy mouth that I may drink thy tidings.

CELIA: SO you may put a man in your belly. [III. ii. 179-204]

Even if you discount the superstitions about the innocence and simplicity of life in the country, there is a way in which shepherds can truly be said to be innocent. This does not apply to cowboys, incidentally. Shepherds are innocent of blood-guilt. Human beings do not always choose to do so, but it is possible to live on reasonably fair terms with a flock of sheep. You can deprive the sheep of their wool, which they are quiet glad to get rid of, and not deprive them of their lives. One of the changes that Shakespeare did make in dramatising Lodge's novel was to shift the emphasis from sheep-minding to hunting. His exiled courtiers in the forest kill the deer. And in this way he darkens the sunny landscape he found in Lodge.

All the same, through that imperfect windy instrument Jaques, Shakespeare does allow the point of view of the deer to be stated. It is Jaques who has pointed out to his fellow courtiers in exile that wounded deer weep, which is a matter of fact, incidentally, not a matter of folklore as is usually thought. Jaques makes his entrance asking the telling question, 'Which is he that killed the deer?'—a question in which he is the detective hunting down a killer, as well as looking for someone to congratulate on his victory, and the song that follows—though it does congratulate the killer on his victory—also makes a mockery of him.

What shall he have that kill'd the deer? His leather skin and horns to wear.the rest shall hear this burden: Then sing him home. Take thou no scorn to wear the horn; It was a crest ere thou wast born. Thy father's father wore it; And thy father bore it. The horn, the horn, the lusty horn, Is not a thing to laugh to scorn. [IV. ii. 10-18]

The English-speaking theatre's other grand master of dramatic prose, Bernard Shaw, considered As You Like It a melodrama, on the grounds that the hero and heroine have no disagreeable qualities. Presumably he missed the distinct touch of sadism which I detect in Rosalind's personality. He considered that As You Like It gives unmixed delight, but he thought this was simply a bid for popularity. He said Shakespeare flung Rosalind at the public with a shout of 'As You Like It'. Of course, it was a bid for popularity—a bid for popularity which Lodge's novel had already established with readers. My guess is that, when Shakespeare had finished making his adaptation, he riffled through the pages of Lodge's novel, casting about for a title, and finally he came back to the beginning and came upon Lodge's preface, which is addressed to the gentlemen readers. 'To be brief, gentlemen,' Lodge says, after relating how he wrote the book on a sea voyage when he was taking part in a military expedition, 'room for a soldier, and a sailor, that gives you the fruits of his labours that he wrought in the ocean, when every line was wet with a surge, and every humorous passion counterchecked with a storm. If you like it, so ….' By the time Shakespeare made his adaptation, the gentlemen readers had already proved that they did indeed like Lodge's novel. It was no longer a question of 'if you like it', but 'as you like it', (pp. 837-38)

Brigid Brophy, "As You Like Shakespeare," in The Listener, Vol. 100, No. 2591, December 21-28, 1978, pp. 837-38.

Kenneth Muir [Muir contends that Shakespeare did not intend As You Like It to be a traditional pastoral—a literary form which presents an ideal and virtuous vision of rustic life—but a work suited to his own dramatic purposes. The critic also emphasizes the irony throughout the play in the fact that Duke Senior and his entourage will return to the court at their first opportunity, and he warns against taking Jaques's comments as Shakespeare's own point of view, for they are consistently undercut by the other characters. Additionally, Muir perceives Shakespeare exploiting other literary conventions besides the pastoral, including the notion of "love at first sight" and, in the cases of Oliver and Duke Frederick, the sudden conversion of a villain.]

As you like it? Does the title suggest (as some critics have supposed) that Shakespeare was deploring the taste of his audience at the Globe, or was he happily proclaiming that their taste corresponded with his own? Most great writers begin by giving their public what it wants and end by making the public want what they choose to give. Before the end of the sixteenth century, Shakespeare was in this happy position, though he kept up the pretence in his titles and sub-titles—As You Like It, Much Ado about Nothing, What You Will—that the boot was on the other foot.

The same irony is apparent in his dramatisation of Thomas Lodge's Rosalynde, a euphuistic novel which, despite its charm and elegance, is entirely artificial and removed from reality. The characters never condescend to mere conversation: they orate to each other. Although Shakespeare follows Lodge's plot fairly closely, there are no verbal echoes of his dialogue. His aim, it soon becomes clear, was different from that of Lodge: he was not trying to write a straight pastoral, but to use it for his own dramatic purposes.

The very first speech should alert us to what he is doing. Orlando is informing Adam, his old retainer, of facts which he already knows, and which Orlando knows that he knows:

As I remember, Adam, it was upon this fashion bequeathed me by will but poor a thousand crowns, and, as thou say'st, charged my brother, on his blessing, to breed me well; and there begins my sadness. [I. i. 1-5]

This violates one of the most elementary rules of play-writing. There is no other exposition in all Shakespeare's works which is so unashamedly crude. As he had already written some seventeen competent plays, and as a writer of comedy was at the height of his powers, we are entitled to wonder why he should revert to such an unashamedly primitive technique—more primitive than that of his earliest experimental plays. The speech is, in fact, a way of preparing us for the tone of the rest of the play. Shakespeare is pretending that he is presenting a corny tale of a bad elder brother and a good younger brother, a tale which will end, as such tales do, with the good brother marrying a princess and living happily ever after. For good measure he introduces a usurping Duke and his exiled brother who lives in the greenwood like Robin Hood. On the face of it, the play is naive in the extreme; but it is really as sophisticated as those of Marivaux.

Orlando, of course, defeats Charles the wrestler, who has been bribed to break his neck; but Shakespeare is careful to remind us that we are in a world of fiction by making Celia comment on Le Beau's account of Charles's prowess, 'I could match this beginning with an old tale' [I. ii. 120]. Rosalind, with the initiative expected of a fairy-tale princess, hints to Orlando that she has fallen in love at first sight:

Sir, you have wrestled well, and overthrown More than your enemies. [I. ii. 253-54]

Before long, Rosalind and Celia (disguised as Ganymede and Aliena), go off with Touchstone to the forest of Arden and Orlando, to escape being murdered by his brother, makes the same journey with Adam. Meanwhile we have been introduced to the exiled Duke and his entourage, and they are depicted not without irony. However much they profess to believe in the superiority of the forest life to that of the court, however much Amiens extols the greenwood and the jolliness of its life, we know that they will hurry back to court as soon as they get the chance. The only one of their number who does not, Jaques, has mocked the insincerity of his fellow-exiles.

Yet we are prevented from accepting Jaques's comments as authorial by the fact they are undercut by the Duke, by Orlando and by Rosalind. The Duke accuses him of being a reformed libertine, satirising the vices he once enjoyed; when Orlando is invited to rail against mankind, he gently reproves Jaques; and when Rosalind hears his affected account of his particular brand of melancholy, she laughs at him:

A traveller! By my faith you have great reason to be sad. I fear you have sold your own lands to see other men's; then to have nothing is to have rich eyes and poor hands.… I had rather have a fool to make me merry than experience to make me sad—and to travel for it too! [IV. i. 21-9]

Even Jaques's set speech on the seven ages of man, suggested probably by the motto of the Globe theatre, cannot be taken as Shakespeare's considered opinion on human life; for its melancholy outlook is contradicted by the play as a whole, as well as by the situation which evokes it—for Orlando, courteously received by the outlaws, has gone out to fetch the exhausted Adam and courtesy, charity and fellow-feeling are apparently excluded from Jaques's philosophy of life.

The attitude we are forced to adopt to the outlaws is a complex one and the same complexity is apparent in the other versions of pastoral with which Shakespeare treats. The oldest matter of pastoral, dating back to Greek and Latin poetry, and still flourishing in Shakespeare's day in the eclogues of Spenser and Drayton, is that of a love-sick shepherd in love with a scornful shepherdess. The love of Silvius for Phebe is in this convention, and it is in the scenes in which they appear that Shakespeare comes nearest to the spirit of his source. Yet he provides a suitable antidote to the convention in the very scene in which the pastoral lovers are introduced when Rosalind intervenes:

And why, I pray you? Who might be your mother, That you insult, exult, and all at once Over the wretched? What though you have no beauty— As, by my faith, I see no more in you Than without candle may go dark to bed— Must you be therefore proud and pitiless? Why, what means this? Why do you look on me? I see no more in you than in the ordinary Of nature's sale-work. 'Ods my little life, I think she means to tangle my eyes too! No, faith, proud mistress, hope not after it; 'Tis not your inky brows, your black silk hair, Your bugle eyeballs, nor your cheek of cream, That can entame my spirits to your worship. You foolish shepherd, wherefore do you follow her, Like foggy south, puffing with wind and rain? You are a thousand times a proper man Than she a woman. 'Tis such fools as you That makes the world full of ill-favour'd children. 'Tis not her glass, but you, that natters her … But, mistress, know yourself. Down on your knees, And thank heaven, fasting, for a good man's love; For I must tell you friendly in your ear: Sell when you can; you are not for all markets. [III. v. 34-60]

Another form of pastoral convention is represented by Audrey and William, who are not real rustics but country bumpkins seen through urban eyes; they are illiterate, slow-witted and not very clean. Audrey does not know the meaning of 'poetical' and this provides Touchstone with the opportunity of telling her that 'the truest poetry is the most feigning' [III. iii. 19-20]—an ironical comment on the poetic conventions Shakespeare is exploiting in the play. Although Touchstone puts William to flight and goes through a form of marriage with Audrey, he does not intend it to be more than temporary. The simple-minded and 'foul' rustic is superior in some ways to the civilised fool. Indeed, when Touchstone attempts, by a series of quibbles, to prove that Corin is damned, that sensible and dignified shepherd gets the best of the argument.

The last kind of pastoral represented in the play is that of Rosalind and Celia, aristocrats who adopt the pastoral role. On the spur of the moment they decide to buy the farm belonging to Corin's master:

Ros. I pray thee, if it stand with honesty Buy thou the cottage, pasture, and the flock, And thou shalt have to pay for it of us.

Cel. And we will mend thy wages. I like this place, And willingly would waste my time in it. [II. iv. 91-5]

They buy the farm without even seeing it, much less calling in a surveyor or scrutinising the accounts. We hear nothing more about the farm. Presumably Corin continues to do all the work.

Shakespeare exploits other literary conventions. His lovers—Rosalind, Orlando, Celia, Oliver and Phebe—would all make answer to Marlowe's question 'Who ever loved that loved not a first sight?' with a chorus of 'No one'. Shakespeare goes out of his way to underline the absurdity, as when Rosalind tells Orlando of the match between Celia and Oliver:

Nay, 'tis true. There was never anything so sudden, but the fight of two rams and Caesar's thrasonical brag of 'I came, saw, and overcame'. For your brother and my sister, no sooner met but they look'd; no sooner look'd but they lov'd; no sooner lov'd but they sigh'd; no sooner sigh'd but they asked one another the reason; no sooner knew the reason but they sought the remedy—and in these degrees have they made a pair of stairs to marriage, which they will climb incontinent, or else be incontinent before marriage. [V. ii. 29-39]

One other romantic convention may be mentioned—the sudden conversion of a villain. In the twinkling of an eye, Oliver is converted from being a murderous, avaricious scoundrel with no redeeming characteristics into a pleasant and acceptable husband for Celia. The usurping Duke is a cruel tyrant and in Act V is about to exterminate his brother and the other outlaws when he meets an old religious man, and, we are told,

After some question with him, was converted Both from his enterprise and from the world. [V. iv. 161-62]

Some actors of these parts, conscious of the improbability of the conversions, have attempted to prepare the audience by presenting Frederick and Oliver as psychological wrecks, on the verge of nervous breakdowns. This is surely wrong, for Shakespeare was merely rounding off his comedy with a happy ending, the improbability being part of the fun. To force As You Like It into a naturalistic mode is to maim it. In the last act there is a scene which becomes almost operatic in its mockery of naturalism, with a quartet of wailing lovers:

Pheb. Good shepherd, tell this youth what 'tis to love.

Sil. It is to be all made of sighs and tears; And so am I for Phebe.

Pheb. And I for Ganymede.

Orl. And I for Rosalind.

Ros. And I for no woman.…

Sil. It is to be all made of fantasy, All made of passion, and all made of wishes; All adoration, duty, and observance, All humbleness, all patience, and impatience, All purity, all trial, all obedience; And so am I for Phebe.

Pheb. And so am I for Ganymede.

Orl. And so am I for Rosalind.

Ros. And so am I for no woman.

Pheb. If this be so, why blame you me to love you?

Sil. If this be so, why blame you me to love you?

Ros. Why do you speak too 'Why blame you me to love you?'

Orl. To her that is not here, nor doth not hear. [V. ii. 83-108]

At this point Rosalind drops into prose and laughs at the artificiality of the scene:

Pray you, no more of this; 'tis like the howling of Irish wolves against the moon. [V. ii. 109-10]

The finest scenes in the play are, of course, those in Arden between Orlando and Rosalind. Bernard Shaw [in his Shaw on Shakespeare] ascribed then-success to the fact that they were written in prose and there is a grain of truth in this paradox since, as we have seen, Shakespeare at this time in his career found it easier to express individualities of character in prose than in verse. Not wholly true, however, for Shaw himself complained that if you wreck the beauty of Shakespeare's lines 'by a harsh, jarring utterance, you will make your audience wince, as if you were singing Mozart out of tune' and Dorothea Baird's 'dainty, pleading narrow-lipped, little torrent of gabble will not do for Shakespeare's Rosalind'. She resembled a 'canary trying to sing Handel'.

Shaw's explanation of Rosalind's popularity need not be taken seriously—that she speaks blank verse for only a few minutes, that she soon gets into doublet and hose, and that like Shaw's Ann Whitefield she takes the initiative and does not wait to be wooed. But Shaw was right to protest about the confusion of life and art by those critics who describe Rosalind as 'a perfect type of womanhood'. To him she was 'simply an extension into five acts of the most affectionate, fortunate, delightful five minutes in the life of a charming woman'. This is not quite true, however, because Rosalind is given misfortunes, as well as a wit that has never been excelled.

It is important to remember that the effect of these scenes in 1600 was rather different from that in the modern theatre: for Shakespeare did not have a Peggy Ashcroft or a Vanessa Redgrave to play his heroine. His original audience would have seen a boy impersonating a woman who was also a princess; they then saw this princess pretending to be Ganymede, and Ganymede pretending to be Rosalind, but in so doing guying the real Rosalind. It is sometimes said that the chief reason why Shakespeare's heroines so often disguised themselves as men was to simplify the task of the actors playing the parts. This may have been true with some of the early plays—the Induction to The Taming of the Shrew, Julia in The Two Gentlemen of Verona—but Rosalind is far too complex to be explained in this way. In Shakespeare's day there were a number of different images imposed one on the other. We have a boy pretending to be a woman, pretending to be a boy, pretending to be a woman, satirising feminine behaviour. Rosalind, moreover, though pretending to cure Orlando, is making certain she will fail; for she makes him love the pretended Rosalind, and love more the real one of which Ganymede is but the shadow.

In the scenes when Rosalind pretends to be Rosalind, Orlando is merely a feed to her brilliant improvisations. Luckily his character has been established early in the play. His name is that of a famous lover, Orlando Furioso, whose story had been dramatised by Greene; and like his namesake he carves his love's name on tree trunks. He shows both dignity and courage in his struggles with his brother and Charles the wrestler; he saves the lives of Adam and of Oliver; he answers Jaques's cynicism good-humouredly and sensibly; iconographically he has been compared with Hercules and it is only as a lover that he is at a loss.

Most of Shakespeare's comedy is a critique of love; and in As You Like It different kinds of love are examined—the lust of Touchstone, the self-love of Jaques, the pride and vanity of Phebe, and the sentimental idealism of Orlando—are all found wanting. It would be a mistake, then, to regard the play as a mere pot-boiler, although it is obvious from the triumphant epilogue that it made the plot boil merrily: it is a highly sophisticated play that uses all the stalest devices of romantic fiction and popular drama so as to satisfy what Hamlet called 'the judicious' [Hamlet, III. ii. 26].

Perhaps the judicious of Shakespeare's day appreciated Touchstone more than we can. He never comes up to Jaques's description of him. Shaw, with pardonable exaggeration, asked, 'Who would endure such humour from anyone but Shakespeare?—an Eskimo would demand his money back if a modern author offered him such fare.' The wit of Rosalind is undimmed by time; but Touchstone is dimmed. Yet Armin, who played the part, must have given such a performance that he opened Shakespeare's eyes to his potentialities and encouraged the poet to write the parts of Feste [in Twelfth Night] and Lear's Fool. The name Touchstone alludes to the fact that Armin had been a goldsmith—a nice private joke which is superior to any he is given to speak, (pp. 84-91)

Kenneth Muir, "'As You Like It'," in his Shakespeare's Comic Sequence, Barnes & Noble Books, 1979, pp. 84-91.


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George Ian Duthie [In the excerpt below, Duthie discusses As You Like It in light of the opposition of order and disorder generally found in Shakespeare's comedies. Although life is comfortable at Duke Frederick's court and in Oliver's house, the critic declares, moral order has been overthrown by the corrupting influence of materialism and envy. By contrast, the country setting of Arden is depicted as physically hard, but it offers an atmosphere of moral purity. Duthie insists, however, that this is not just a simple contrast between good and evil life. Jaques's and Touchstone's critical observations throughout the play establish that Arden is not the ideal alternative to court life. According to Duthie, Shakespeare never endorses escapism to Arden as an end; rather, it is a means by which those who come to the forest can discover the self-knowledge necessary to return to and purify the disordered outside world.]

[We] find at the beginning of As You Like It a court environment in which order has been overthrown. The Duke Frederick has rebelled against his elder brother, the Duke Senior, has defeated him, driven him into exile, and usurped his domain. Here is a double attack on the principle of order—a subject has rebelled against his ruler, and a younger brother has behaved unnaturally towards an elder brother. In this court circle we have another opponent of order in the person of Oliver. He is treating his younger brother Orlando unnaturally. As Orlando says, Oliver keeps him "rustically at home, or, to speak more properly, stays me here at home unkept; for call you that keeping for a gentleman of my birth, that differs not from the stalling of an ox? His horses are bred better; … He lets me feed with his hinds, bars me the place of a brother, and, as much as in him lies, mines my gentility with my education." [I. i. 7-21].

Oliver does not treat Orlando as a brother should treat a brother according to the divinely established order of things. Oliver is trying to degrade Orlando from his proper status of gentleman to a status far below it—to the status of a peasant ("you have trained me like a peasant, obscuring and hiding from me all gentleman-like qualities" [I. i. 68-70]), and even to the status of an animal. Orlando himself is not at all to blame. He willingly accords Oliver all the privileges of his seniority, and, despite the wrongs he suffers, will not harm Oliver physically. Oliver's animus against him is a result of envy. He says that he does not know why he hates Orlando, and then proceeds to give the reason. "My soul," he says, "yet I know not why, hates nothing more than he. Yet he's gentle, never schooled 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" [I. i. 165-71]. Compare the Duke Frederick's reasons for driving Rosalind into exile. She was kept at court when her father, the Duke Senior, was banished, in order to be companion to Frederick's daughter Celia. Frederick now drives her out also. Le Beau says that of late the Duke Frederick

Hath ta'en displeasure 'gainst his gentle niece, Grounded upon no other argument But that the people praise her for her virtues And pity her for her good father's sake. [I. ii. 278-81]

And Frederick himself says to Celia:

her smoothness, Her very silence and her patience Speak to the people, and they pity her. Thou art a fool: she robs thee of thy name; And thou wilt show more bright and seem more virtuous When she is gone. [I. ill. 77-82]

The Duke obviously thinks of Rosalind as a danger to his own usurped position (cf. I. iii. 58—"Thou art thy father's daughter"), but there is envy involved also, I think, as there certainly is in Oliver's case.

Shakespeare, then, gives us two parallel cases of opponents of order—Frederick who injures his elder brother, and Oliver who injures his younger brother. Shakespeare elsewhere makes use of such parallelism. In King Lear, both Lear and Gloucester err in trusting their elder offspring (two daughters in the one case, one son in the other) and distrusting their younger offspring. We may note also in passing that in Orlando we have a case of a youth who, though he has been denied the appropriate education and upbringing, shows the qualities of mind and character appropriate to his station ("never schooled and yet learned, full of noble device" [I. i. 167]). Shakespeare apparently believes that no matter how unfavourable the environment, the qualities one inherits will inevitably assert themselves. Compare Guiderius and Arviragus in Cymbeline. Though they have been brought up from childhood in the Welsh mountains, unaware of their identity, living a life entirely different from that at court, the mettle appropriate in a King's offspring asserts itself in them by the force of nature.

The court milieu at the beginning of As You Like It, then, is one in which disorder flourishes. Life in the forest of Arden is contrasted with "that of painted pomp", with the perilous life in "the envious court" [II. i. 3-4]. This is the "court versus country" theme which recurs in Shakespeare in other plays, In As You Like It we have to deal with a very serious degree of disorder in the court life. The fidelity and conscientiousness of the old servant Adam are contrasted by Orlando with the general rule that obtains in this environment:

O good old man, how well in thee appears The constant service of the antique world, When service sweat for duty, not for meed! Thou art not for the fashion of these times, Where none will sweat but for promotion, And having that, do choke their service up Even with the having: it is not so with thee. [II. iii. 56-62]

And it is Adam himself who gives what is perhaps the most striking evidence of the disorder that is rampant. Speaking to Orlando he says:

Know you not, master, to some kind of men Their graces serve them but as enemies? No more do yours: your virtues, gentle master, Are sanctified and holy traitors to you. O, what a world is this, when what is comely Envenoms him that bears it! [II. iii. 10-15]

"Envenoms" means "kills by poison". In the true order of things a man's graces and virtues should assist him in his life, but here a man's virtues are a danger to him, exciting the envy of others. The true order of things is inverted. Compare again in Macbeth the Witches' cry of "Fair is foul, and foul is fair" [I. i. llff.]. A man's virtues are "sanctified and holy" things: but, since they here constitute a danger to him, they are spoken of in the passage as "sanctified and holy traitors". The oxymoron helps to emphasize the state of inversion with which we have to deal in the corrupt, disordered environment of the beginning of this play. (pp. 62-5)

[It] may be well to point out here that Shakespeare does not believe that court life must necessarily be corrupt and disordered. In fact he is concerned in As You Like It to point out by implication that escapism is no solution: at the end of the play we have most of the exiles returning from the forest of Arden, and we are clearly meant to understand that the court environment has been rid of its evil. Disorder has been set right, (p. 65)

In the comedies … Shakespeare concerns himself with exposing follies. In As You Like It he does this, too; but here he also concerns himself with vice, with evil. We have already seen that the court environment to which we are introduced at the beginning of the play is one in which disorder is rampant; a subject has dispossessed his ruler; in two cases a brother has behaved unnaturally towards a brother; men's virtues are their enemies; and so on. It is a disordered environment, and the disorder springs from evil. We have seen also that life in the forest of Arden is set in contrast with this corrupt court life. It is a case of a favourite Shakespearian theme—that of court versus country.

In the first scene of the play Oliver asks Charles the wrestler "Where will the old duke live?" And Charles replies:

They say he is already in the forest of Arden, and a many merry men with him; and there they live like the old Robin Hood of England: they say many young gentle men flock to him every day, and fleet the time carelessly, as they did in the golden world. [I. i. 114-19]

By "the golden world" is meant the Golden Age, the reign of Saturn on earth, when men lived in a state of ideal happiness and prosperity. There was no conflict, no war, no weapons. Man's food was brought forth from the earth without his having to labour to get it. "Perpetual spring reigned, flowers sprang up without seed, the rivers flowed with milk and wine, and yellow honey distilled from the oaks" [C. M. Gayley in The Classic Myths in English Literature].

Now many readers and critics speak as if life in Shakespeare's forest of Arden were, in fact, nothing but idyllic pleasure, happiness, ease, comfort, jollity. When we ourselves get into the forest, at the beginning of Act II, we quickly find that it is by no means altogether that. And when we look attentively at the passage in Act I which we have quoted, spoken by Charles the wrestler, we notice the twice repeated formula "they say". The account of life in the forest of Arden that Charles gives us is the account that is going round the court. It is based on rumour, hearsay. We are supposed to take it that the forest is a long way from the court. Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch points out [in The New Shakespeare: As You Like It ] that "all the fugitives reach this Forest of Arden leg-weary and almost dead-beat. Sighs Rosalind, 'O Jupiter! how weary are my spirits!' invoking Jupiter as a Ganymede should. Touchstone retorts, 'I care not for my spirits, if my legs were not weary'; and Celia entreats, 'I pray you, bear with me, I cannot go no further' [II. iv. Iff.]: as, later on, old Adam echoes, 'Dear master, I can go no further' [II. vi. 1]; and again, we remember, Oliver arrives footsore, in rags, and stretches himself to sleep, so dog-tired that even a snake, coiling about his throat, fails to awaken him. It is only the young athlete Orlando who bears the journey well."

Now Shakespeare may well have a symbolic purpose here: the forest of Arden is a place of spiritual refreshment—these people have come from an environment of disorder and evil—their need of spiritual refreshment is symbolized by their physical fatigue. But even if this is in Shakespeare's mind, we are entitled to interpret on a realistic plane as well. Admitting that Rosalind and Celia are girls and Adam almost an octogenarian, so that their fatigue need not be particularly significant, and admitting that Touchstone, the court fool, who, as we find in the play, likes physical comfort, may not be in the best of physical trim, there is the fact that even Oliver is exhausted when he gets to Arden. Arden is a long way from the court, and the journey is a hard one. When the idea of going to Arden is suggested to Rosalind in the first place she says:

Alas, what danger will it be to us, Maids as we are, to travel forth so far! [I. iii. 108-09]

Reverting to Charles's report of what life in the forest is like, we can be quite sure that whoever started the rumour had not trudged the long way there to see, and the long way back to report what he had seen. Charles's report is hearsay, and when we get into the forest ourselves we find that it is not in all respects accurate.

The first scene which takes place in the forest is II, i. At the beginning of this scene the exiled Duke speaks to his fellows:

Now, my co-mates and brothers in exile, Hath not old custom made this life more sweet Than that of painted pomp? Are not these woods More free from peril than the envious court? Here feel we not the penalty of Adam The seasons' difference?—as the icy fang And churlish chiding of the winter's wind, Which, when it bites and blows upon my body, Even till I shrink with cold, I smile and say 'This is no flattery: these are counsellors That feelingly persuade me what I am.' [II. i. 1-11]

What he asks in line 5 is—do we not here in Arden suffer those afflictions to, which all men as such are, subject, and only those afflictions, not the sort of man-made afflictions one has to suffer in the "envious court"? He contrasts the life in Arden and the life in the envious court very pointedly. At court there is "painted pomp", there is envy, flattery, and so on; it is a dangerous life (but, we may say, though it is only implied, not stated, in the passage, there are physical comforts at court). Here in Arden the moral atmosphere is pure—one does not have to put up with the evil that prevails at court: but there is little physical comfort here in Arden. The Duke uses words which are incisive—he means what he says: he speaks of "the icy fang" and the "churlish chiding" of the winter wind—"fang" is a very meaningful word; he speaks of the wind "biting" his body and of himself "shrinking" with cold, and we feel that the words themselves have bite. We have just got into the forest, and Shakespeare takes care to make us fully aware at the very start that this is a place where life is physically difficult, in contrast to life at court. Life in Arden is hard, physically uncomfortable, but the moral atmosphere is pure; life at court is physically comfortable, but the moral atmosphere is corrupt, evil.

If we do not realize the physical hardship of life in Arden, then we do not appreciate the distinction between Arden and the court in all its fullness: we blunt an essential point in the play. The Duke Senior speaks of Arden as "this desert city" [II. i. 23] and it is interesting to observe how often this word "desert" is used by those who come to Arden. It may be pointed out that in Shakespeare's day this word could be used to indicate simply an unfrequented place, as opposed to a town or city. But in As You Like It we observe that words such as "wild", "abandoned", "uncouth", and "savage" are used in connection with the forest. In II, vi, Orlando calls it "this uncouth forest" and a little later "this desert". In II, vii, he speaks of "this desert inaccessible", and he says: "I thought that all things had been savage here". In V, iv, Jaques de Boys speaks of "this wild wood" and the melancholy Jaques speaks of the Duke Senior's "abandon'd cave". "Uncouth", "savage", "wild", "abandoned"—the impression that such words are intended to convey is quite clear.

We have this fundamental antithesis, then, between Duke Frederick's court where there is physical comfort but moral corruption, and the forest of Arden where there is physical discomfort but moral purity. It is an antithesis between an evil life and a good life; but the matter is not just so simple as that.

The forest of Arden has its critics within the play. The melancholy Jaques is one of them. In II, v, Amiens sings the song "Under the greenwood tree", lyrically glorifying the life in Arden:

Here shall he see No enemy But winter and rough weather. [II. v. 6-8]

And Jaques proceeds to parody the song:

If it do come to pass That any man turn ass, Leaving his wealth and ease, A stubborn will to please, Ducdame, ducdame, ducdame: Here shall he see Gross fools as he, An if he will come to me. [II. v. 50-7]

According to Jaques, the Duke Senior and the others are gross fools to have left the wealth and ease of their former life at court and to have accepted instead the rigours of life in Arden. Now it is unquestionably true that Shakespeare satirizes Jaques in the play: but Touchstone also criticizes Arden. "Well", says Rosalind on their arrival, "this is the forest of Arden." "Ay," replies Touchstone, "now am I in Arden; the more fool I; when I was at home, I was in a better place: but travellers must be content" [II. iv. 15-18].

This is the attitude of the Fool in King Lear also. Having rejected the homes of his unnatural daughters, Lear is out on the heath, with the Fool. And the Fool's attitude is that "court holy-water in a dry house is better than this rain-water out o' door" (by "court holy-water" he means the well-sounding but empty promises that people make to each other at court). According to the Fool in Lear "he that has a house to put's head in has a good headpiece" [III. ii. 10, 25]. That is Touchstone's view in As You Like It

Now Touchstone and the Fool in Lear are both, like Feste in Twelfth Night, examples of the wise fool— the fool who can often see truth when supposedly wiser men deceive themselves. But in connection with Touchstone and the Fool in Lear we must be careful. The words they speak in the passages just quoted are not meant by Shakespeare as a full statement of the attitudes he wants us to take up. Shakespeare is not saying to us in either As You Like It or King Lear that a life of ease which involves corruption is actually better than a physically hard life which does not involve corruption. The truth which Shakespeare wants us to extract from those words of Touchstone and the Fool in Lear is simply that there is something to be said against fleeing to Arden, there is something to be said against going out into the storm. Touchstone and the Fool in Lear see that. We are meant to see it. Touchstone's criticism of Arden is valid to that extent. But we are not meant to accept as desirable the evil that the Duke Senior and his friends have escaped from.

As regards the antithesis between the corrupt court of Duke Frederick and the forest of Arden, we are, as we have said, expected to take Arden as morally a better place. But, having established that, Shakespeare very quickly lets us see that there are things to be said against Arden. When you are faced with a corrupt world, Shakespeare seems to say in this play, you should not just run away from it and stay away from it. At the end we have most of the courtier-inhabitants of Arden returning home, and we have the definite prospect of a purification of the court environment itself, the inspiration for the purification having been supplied by the moral atmosphere of Arden. Arden justifies itself by virtue of the fact that it does supply that purifying inspiration.

The villainous Oliver and Duke Frederick both come to Arden with hostile intentions, and both are there converted from their evil thoughts and ways. Oliver is saved by Orlando from dangers of the forest. Orlando has always behaved towards Oliver as a brother should behave towards a brother, but this had never had any salutary effect on Oliver until now in the forest of Arden. I think that Shakespeare means us to regard it as significant that this conversion of Oliver takes place in Arden—Arden is the morally pure place where such conversions naturally happen. Duke Frederick comes to Arden with a force of soldiers, intending to kill his brother: on the very skirts of the forest he meets with "an old religious man" and is converted from his enterprise. Again, I think that Shakespeare means us to take it as significant that this happens in this place, in Arden. The atmosphere of Arden, then, suggests purification. But that purification should, and must be applied to the world outside it. Escapism is condemned in this play.

Now, while we are in the forest of Arden we hear a great deal about love, that so frequent theme of Shakespearian comedy. Arden is the place where Silvius and Phebe live, and in them we have reflections of the conventional figures of Arcadian love-literature. Silvius is the adoring shepherd, Phebe the disdainful shepherdess. And they are both satirized. Silvius is a self-deluder. Phebe herself reproves him for uttering love-conceits of the conventional kind. Silvius tells her such things as that her eyes will kill him—a conceit of old vintage (compare Chaucer's "Your yen two wol slee me soden-ly"). Phebe herself brings the light of cold fact to bear on this, exposing it as a foolish fiction—"there is no force in eyes That can do hurt" [III. v. 26-7]. But Phebe too is a self-deluder. She affects disdainfulness, she puts on airs; but she has little call to do so—she is not by any means so beautiful as she (or Silvius) thinks, and Rosalind, speaking words of true wordly-wisdom, bids her accept a husband while she has a chance—"Sell when you can: you are not for all markets" [III. v. 60]—not everyone would have her. Rosalind chides them both for self-deception and tells them to face facts. To her Silvius is a "foolish shepherd":

'Tis not her glass, but you, that flatters her. [III. v. 54]

And to Phebe she recommends self-knowledge:

But, mistress, know yourself: down on your knees, And thank heaven, fasting, for a good man's love. [III. v. 57-8]

Self-delusion is exposed to the light of down-to-earth common sense. And Touchstone is in agreement with Rosalind in this. The Jane Smile whom Touchstone professes in II, iv, to have loved once, and the Audrey whom he takes in marriage in the forest of Arden, may be crude and unlovely creatures, but they are at least real. The lover Orlando, too, is good-naturedly satirized in Arden—the lover who affixes rather poor love-verses to the barks of trees. In the forest of Arden, then, we have the pastoral love scene, and we have the extravagances and sentimentalities and illusions of conventional pastoral love exposed by having the standards of real-life common sense applied to them.

It must be pointed out that Shakespeare is not against romantic love as such, nor does he mean that all men should marry women like Jane Smile and Audrey. It is the extravagances and foolishnesses common amongst some romantic lovers that he satirizes. He attacks the unrealities in the minds of foolish romantic lovers. Jane Smile and Audrey are real. But they are not the only reality. Romantic love purged of extravagance and foolishness is to Shakespeare a fine thing. In this play, romantic love triumphs in the end. It may be pointed out that in the masque of Hymen we have something about as conventional as it might well be. But Shakespeare has made his point, and he can allow himself and his audiences the pleasure of a formal, artificial, but quite beautiful and amusing finish.

In As You Like It then, we again have a Shakespearian comedy which is critical. Both vice and folly are exposed for what they are. And the tissue of criticism is quite complicated. Its complicated nature may be further exemplified by noting the fact that while, as we have seen, the moral atmosphere in Arden is pure, yet Arden is also the home of the shepherd Corin's master who is a man

of churlish disposition And little recks to find the way to heaven By doing deeds of hospitality. [II. iv. 80-2]

And if Touchstone satirizes Arden, he also satirizes the court—

I have trod a measure; I have flattered a lady; I have been politic with my friend, smooth with mine enemy; I have undone three tailors; I have had four quarrels, and like to have fought one. [V. iv. 44-7]

Again and again we find in dealing with Shakespeare's comedies that we are not dealing in simple blacks and whites. A person or a way of life may be criticized by a standard which is itself then found to be open to criticism. As regards As You Like It, it is, I think, fair to say that one way of life (the court life at the beginning) is criticized by a comparison with a second way of life (that in the forest of Arden): but that is in its turn criticized, and what emerges at the end as the dominant impression is a third way of life consisting of an amendment of the first (the purified court), the amendment being due to the influence of the second, (pp. 80-8)

George Ian Duthie, "Comedy," in his Shakespeare, Hutchinson's University Library, 1951, pp. 57-88.

John A. Hart [Hart maintains that Shakespeare depicts two contrasting worlds in As You Like It: Duke Frederick's court, which is governed by Fortune, and Arden forest, which is dominated by Nature. Here, Fortune signifies not only power and material wealth, but the greed and envy that results from possessing them. By comparison, Nature reflects a more virtuous order that promotes humanity's higher qualities. According to Hart, the corrupt court gradually becomes absorbed by the more harmonious world of Arden until it disappears from the play altogether. The critic ultimately asserts that those characters who have assimilated the lessons from both worlds—significantly, Rosalind, Orlando, and Duke Senior— emerge from the forest at the end of the play to redeem the degenerate court, replacing it with a more balanced and harmonious order.]

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.

1. 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. 165-71]

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" [I. ii. 20-1]. 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" [I. iii. 132] 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. 86-7]. 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.

2. 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. 360-62]: 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. 141-43, 149-50]

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. 40-1, 44-5]

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. 235-37]. 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. 60-1 ]. 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. 161-62]

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. 300-01]; Rosalind tells us "who Time ambles withal, who Time trots withal, who Time gallops withal, and who he stands still withal" [III. ii. 309-11]. 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. 24-8]

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. 106-07]. 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 own, 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. 76-9]

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. 73-7]

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. 103-04].

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. 41-2]. 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 Fortune-less 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 ture, 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 outside 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, 100-01]. 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. 139-66]. It is an official acknowledgement of Nature's supremacy 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.

3. 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 brooks, 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. 118-19]. 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. 136-39]

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. 80-2]. 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. 55-7]

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 disguise 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. 38-9]—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" [III. 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. 22-5], 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. 67-8,69-70]. 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.

4. Given the characteristics of the Forest world, given the attachments of Duke Senior, Touchstone, Orlando, and Rosalind to the outside world, the resolution of the play can be foreseen. Under the spell of the Forest, pretended marriage takes place between Orlando and Rosalind (as Ganymed) with Celia officiating. Marriage almost takes place between Touchstone and Audrey with Martext officiating. In the last scene, all four couples are married in the only way possible in the Forest, by the appearance of Hymen, god of marriage, to perform the ceremony: "Then is there mirth in heaven, When earthly things made even Atone together" [V. iv. 108-10]. Hymen joins the lovers and reintroduces the Duke to his daughter: "Good Duke, receive thy daughter, Hymen from heaven brought her, …" [V. iv. 111-12]. He thus re-establishes the father-daughter relationship first devised through his means at Rosalind's birth. The hiatus caused by the Duke's exile and by the disguises in the Forest is broken and the societal structure of father and daughter is made clear once again.

With the appearance of Touchstone another relationship is given social standing. When he is introduced to Duke Senior by Jaques, Touchstone immediately resumes his professional position as fool. His comment on the life of the courtier, his long argument on "the quarrel on the seventh cause" is appreciated by the Duke: "I like him very well"; "By my faith, he is very swift and sententious"; "He uses his folly like a stalking-horse, and under the presentation of that he shoots his wit" [V. iv. 53, 62-3, 106-07]. A rapport is established between them which suggests that Duke will be Duke and master again and Fool will be Fool and servant. Adam, nearing Jaques' seventh age of man, has disappeared into the world of nature. But a new loyalty and interdependence is about to begin.

A final relationship is re-established among the sons of Rowland de Boys. Through its magic the Forest has brought Orlando and Oliver together. Now a third brother appears, carrier of the news of Frederick's resignation—"His crown bequeathing to his banish'd brother" [V. iv. 163]—and agent for restoring his own brothers to the outside world. His coming not only reunites all three but makes a necessary link to the outside world for them. It also sounds an echo: Charles the Wrestler sought advancement and distinction by breaking the ribs of three of his victims, all brothers. That was a symbol of the way power broke blood relationships in Frederick's world—Frederick with his niece and daughter, Oliver with his brother. Now separated families are reunited and friends.

That he is young, Jaques is also significant, arriving as the melancholy Jaques prepares to go off to another part of the forest. This young man prepares the way to future life in the world outside; the older is bound to the inactivity and the speculation of the Forest world.

But they have not yet left the Forest. Duke Senior's speech assuming his authority shows that he is in command of both the Forest world and his former Dukedom and that each of them is part of his experience and momentarily under his perfect control. Duke Senior's reference to the lands which will be given to the brothers is balanced and ambiguous:

Welcome, young man; Thou offer'st fairly to thy brothers' wedding: To one his lands withheld, and to the other A land itself at large, a potent dukedom. [V. iv. 166-69]

To Oliver, the lands taken from him by Frederick are returned; to Orlando, his son-in-law, the heritage of his dukedom is given. Yet there is just a suspicion that the gifts might be directed the other way: to Orlando, whose lands have been taken from him by Oliver, will be returned his father's lands; to Oliver, the Forest world where he has determined to remain; for the Forest is without a ruler and without bounds, a place where he who does not have to own or possess anything may feel himself a powerful ruler.

This distinction between the brothers is followed by a statement of the Duke's own intention in regard to the Forest and the world outside it:

First, In this forest let us do those ends That here were well begun and well begot; And after, every of this happy number, That have endur'd shrewd days and nights with us, Shall share the good of our returned fortune, According to the measure of their states. [V. iv. 170-75]

By "those ends," presumably, he means the marriages which have been the contribution and the fruit of the Forest world. Then his attention will be turned to the world outside the forest, where they will enjoy their "returned fortune, According to the measure of their states." Place and prestige are implied here, possession a necessary element. Both Forest and his Dukedom are in his mind and paired. And the retention of both worlds continues right to the end when he repeats the words fall and measure once to apply them to Nature's world and once to apply them to Fortune's:

Mean time, forget this new-fall'n dignity, And fall into our rustic revelry. Play, music, and you brides and bridegrooms all, With measure heap'd in joy, to th' measures fall. [V. iv. 176-79]

"New-fall'n" applies to his returned Dukedom, "fall" applies to the current Forest life. "Measure heap'd in joy" could apply to both worlds, but it recalls for us "the measure of their states" and the assumption of rank and position looked upon as normal in Fortune's world; the final "measures" refers to the dance they will do in the Forest. We are left, after this balanced holding of both worlds at once, with the departure of Jaques and with the dance which is the sign of the harmony of the moment.

The Epilogue is all that marks the return to the workaday world, spoken by the boy who has played Rosalind. He has gone from the heights of role-playing—this boy playing Rosalind playing Ganymed playing Rosalind—step by step back down the ladder of fantasy to speak directly to the men and women in the audience before him. He speaks of attraction between the sexes, of possible kisses, of the need for appreciation and applause. It is not the Forest nor the Duke's realm. It is the theater, the living reality of the image used so extensively in the play.

What is left of the play? A dream of power and evil transmuted into a dream where power and evil have disappeared. The result has been joy, romance, and various dimensions of love. The lovers of the earlier plays are translated in As You Like It into a world which suggests they can combine completeness of personality with private expression of love; but the world is a dream, a play world. As You Like It is the closest Shakespeare gets to the realization of such a dream; Twelfth Night explores its comic failure. (pp. 81-97)

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

John Shaw [Shaw focuses on the meaning of Rosalind's and Celia's debate over Fortune and Nature (I. ii. 40ff.), determining that this is a philosophic controversy with which Shakespeare's Elizabethan audience would have been plainly familiar. In Renaissance tradition, the goddess Fortune is depicted as the symbol of inconstancy and change. She is illustrated as either blind or blindfolded, sitting on a spherical throne with one foot either on a slippery ball or a trap and one hand placed upon a wheel. The goddess Nature, on the other hand, represents beauty, strength, nobility, courage, and—most significantly—wisdom and virtue. With open eyes, she sits firmly on a four-square pedestal, holding the mirror of Prudence that represents self-knowledge. In the classical tradition, whenever a conflict arose between Fortune and Nature, the latter, through her superior wisdom and virtuousness, would prevail. In this essay, Shaw examines how the properties of both goddesses affect the plot and character development of As You Like It, asserting that each of the major characters is in some way affected by the conflicts between them. In observance with the classical tradition, these conflicts are resolved at the end of the play when Nature overthrows Fortune and restores a more harmonious order for the characters.]

When Rosalind draws a careful distinction between the gifts of Fortune and the gifts of Nature in the second scene of As You Like It she is alluding to a familiar conception of the separate offices of the two goddesses. Few in Shakespeare's audience could have failed to recognize the Renaissance cliche that Fortune did indeed reign "in the gifts of the world", while Nature's bounties were to be found in the "lineaments" of the face and character [I. ii. 40ff.]. Moreover, Celia's reply that "Nature hath given us Wit to flout at Fortune" further refers to the philosophical tradition which considered the two goddesses as rivals, a conception current in Elizabethan times, and one reaching back to antiquity. A careful reading of the play will in fact show that behind the gay romancing of the characters throughout As You Like It there is a basic philosophic strife between Fortune and Nature that would be obvious to the Renaissance. Although it would be far from the point to be like Jaques and "moralize this spectacle" by insisting that Shakespeare's delightful comedy be read didactically, still the underlying philosophical str

Disguise and Role-Playing

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Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 3517

Nancy K. Hayles [In the excerpt below, Hayles discusses Shakespeare's use of sexual disguise in As You Like It. The critic argues that this device is developed in distinct stages: first, Rosalind assumes layers of disguise for the journey to Arden, then the layers are slowly removed as she gradually renounces the role of Ganymede, and finally they are eliminated altogether when the heroine abandons her disguise to marry Orlando. The layering-on movement, Hayles contends, suggests selfish control and creates conflict in the play, while the removal of layers fosters reconciliation. Moreover, the critic remarks, this unlayering allows Rosalind to convey her true personality to Orlando, which ultimately supplants his idealized notion of her. Hayles also explores how Shakespeare extended the pattern of sexual disguise and unlayering to the play's epilogue.]

As You Like It opens with scenes that emphasize rivalry and competition. Orlando has been mistreated by his brother Oliver, and Oliver in turn feels that Orlando has caused him to be 'altogether misprised' and undervalued by his own people. The rivalry that Duke Frederick still feels with the rightful Duke is also apparent. Moreover, the chief event of the opening scenes, the wrestling match between Charles and Orlando, is a formalized and ritualistic expression of male rivalry. Against the backdrop of male rivalry, the female intimacy between Celia and Rosalind makes a striking contrast. It is an intimacy, however, maintained at some cost. When Duke Frederick peremptorily orders Rosalind into banishment, Celia's protest is countered by her father's attempt to transform intimacy into rivalry between the two girls, too:

Thou art a fool; she robs thee of thy name, And thou wilt show more bright and seem more virtuous When she is gone. Then open not thy lips. [I. iii. 80-2]

The opening scenes of the play, then, draw a society where intimacy among women is implicitly contrasted with the rivalry among men. When the scene changes to the forest, several incidents seem designed as signals that the forest is a world where co-operation rather than competition prevails. Orlando meets with civility instead of hostility when he seeks meat for the fainting Adam; Rosalind and Celia find the natives to be kind shepherds rather than would-be rapists; and the exiled Duke hails his followers as 'Co-mates and brothers'. But we soon discover that competition is not altogether absent from the Forest of Arden. Jaques accuses the Duke of himself usurping the forest from its rightful owners, the deer; Touchstone confronts and bests his country rival, William; and Silvius discovers that his beloved Phebe has fallen in love with a courtly newcomer. The situation is thus more complicated than a simple contrast between court competition and pastoral co-operation, or between female intimacy and maleriivalry. The sexual disguise of Rosalind mirrors the complexities of these tensions.

We can consider the disguise as proceeding in two separate movements. First, the layers of disguise are added as Rosalind becomes Ganymede, and then as Ganymede pretends to be Orlando's Rosalind; second, the layers are removed as Ganymede abandons the play-acting of Rosalind, and then as Rosalind herself abandons the disguise of Ganymede. The layering-on movement creates conflict and the layering-off movement fosters reconciliation as the disguise confronts and then resolves the issue of competition versus co-operation.

In the most complex layering, Rosalind-as-Ganymede-as-Orlando's Rosalind, Rosalind presents Orlando with a version of his beloved very different from the one he imagines in his verses. When Rosalind-as-Ganymede insists that Orlando's Rosalind will have her own wit, her own will and her own way, implicit in the portrayal is Rosalind's insistence that Orlando recognize the discrepancy between his idealized version and the real Rosalind. In effect, Rosalind is claiming the right to be herself rather than to be Orlando's idealized version of her, as female reality is playfully set against male fantasy. In playing herself (which she can apparently do only if she first plays someone else) Rosalind is able to state her own needs in a way she could not if she were simply herself. It is because she is disguised as Ganymede that she can be so free in portraying a Rosalind who is a flesh and blood woman instead of a Petrarchan abstraction. Rosalind's three-fold disguise is therefore used to accentuate the disparity between the needs of the heroine and the expectations of the hero.

Even the simpler layering of Rosalind-as-Ganymede accentuates conflict, though this time the couple being affected is Phebe and Silvius. Rosalind's guise as Ganymede causes Phebe to fall in love with her. Rosalind's on-layering, which inadvertently makes her Silvius's rival, causes Phebe's desires to be even more at variance with Silvius's hopes than before. It takes Ganymede's transformation into Rosalind to trick Phebe into accepting her swain, as the off-layering of Rosalind's disguise reconciles these two Petrarchan lovers. The Silvius-Phebe plot thus shows in simplified form the correlation between on-layering and rivalry, and off-layering and co-operation. It also gives us a standard by which we can measure the more complicated situation between Orlando and Rosalind.

Phebe and Silvius are caricatures of courtly love, and through them we are shown female manipulation and male idealization in a way that emphasizes the less pleasant side of the courtly love tradition. But it is important to see that this rustic couple merely exaggerates tendencies also present in Rosalind and Orlando. Rosalind's disguise creates an imbalance in her relationship with Orlando because it allows Rosalind to hear Orlando's love-confession without having to take any comparable risks herself. Rosalind's self-indulgence in demanding Orlando's devoted service without admitting anything in return could become a variation of the perversity that is anatomized for us in the relationship between Phebe and Silvius. Thus the expectations of Rosalind and the desires of Orlando are not only the responses of these two characters, but are also reflections of stereotypical male and female postures, familiar through the long tradition of courtly love. The layering of the disguise has served to accentuate the conflict between men and women; now the unlayering finally resolves that traditional tension between the needs of the female and the desires of the male.

The unlayering begins when Oliver appears to explain why Orlando is late. Oliver's tale reveals, in almost allegorical fashion, the struggle within Orlando when he sees his brother in peril, and the tale has as its point that Orlando put the needs of his brother before his own natural desire for revenge. More subtly, the tale with its depiction of the twin dangers of the snake and lioness hints at a symbolic nexus of male and female threats. The specificity of the imagery suggests that the details are important. The first beast is described as a lioness, not a lion; moreover, she is a lioness in suck, but now with teats sucked dry. her hunger presumably made more ferocious by her condition. The description thus links a specifically female animal, and a graphically specific female condition, with the threat of being eaten. The details, taken in sum, evoke the possibility of female engulfment. The snake about to enter the sleeping man's mouth, again a very specific image, suggests even to a non-Freudian the threat of phallic invasion. But perhaps most significant is simply the twinning of the threats itself, which suggests the presence of two different but related kinds of danger.

By overcoming the twin threats, Orlando conquers in symbolic form projections of both male and female fears. Rosalind responds to Oliver's account by swooning. Her faint is a literal relinquishing of conscious control; within the conventions of the play, it is also an involuntary revelation of female gender because fainting is a 'feminine' response. It is a subtle anticipation of Rosalind's eventual relinquishing of the disguise and the control that goes with it. The action surrounding the relation of the tale parallels its moral: Orlando performs a heroic and selfless act that hints at a triumph over threatening aspects of masculinity and femininity, and Rosalind responds to the dangers that Orlando faces with an unconscious gesture of sympathy that results, for a moment, in the loss of her conscious control over the disguise and with it, the loss of her manipulative control over Orlando. Rosalind's swoon thus provides a feminine counterpart to Orlando's selflessness.

Orlando's struggle and Rosalind's swoon mark a turning point. When they meet again, Rosalind tries at first to re-establish their old relationship, but when Orlando replies, 'I can live no longer by thinking' [V. ii. 50], she quickly capitulates and re-assumes control only in order to be able to relinquish it. From this point on, the removal of the disguise signals the consummation of all the relationships as all four couples are married. The play suggests that control is necessary to state the legitimate needs of the self, but also that it must eventually be relinquished to accommodate the needs of another. Consummation is paradoxically achieved through an act of renunciation.

The way that sexual disguise is used reflects the play's overall concern with the tension between rivalry and co-operation. The disguise is first used to crystallize rivalry between the woman's self-image and the man's desires; in this sense it recognizes male-female discord and implicitly validates it. But because the disguise can be removed, it prevents the discord from becoming perpetual frustration. The workings of the disguise suggest that what appears to be a generous surrendering of self-interest can in fact bring consummation both to man and woman, so that rivalry can be transcended as cooperation brings fulfillment. In As You Like It, fulfillment of desire, contentment and peace of mind come when the insistence on self-satisfaction ceases. Duke Senior's acceptance of his forest exile and the subsequent unlooked-for restoration of his dukedom; the reconciliation between the sons of Rowland de Boys, in which Oliver resigns his lands to Orlando and finds forgiveness and happiness in love; the miraculous conversion of Duke Frederick by the old hermit and the voluntary abdication of his dukedom—all express the same paradox of consummation through renunciation that is realized in specifically sexual terms by the disguise.

When the boy actor who plays Rosalind's part comes forward to speak the epilogue, the workings of the sexual disguise are linked with the art of the playwright. The epilogue continues the paradox of consummation through renunciation that has governed sexual "disguise within the play, as the final unlayering of the disguise coincides with a plea for the audience to consummate the play by applauding [Epilogue, 11-23].… At this moment the playwright relinquishes control of the audience. As with Rosalind and Orlando, his success is marked by a control that finally renounces itself, a control which admonishes only to release as the audience is asked to 'like as much … as please you' [Epilogue, 13-14]. Our applause is a gesture of acceptance which encompasses both the working of sexual disguise within the play, and the art whose operation parallels it as the play ends. At the same time, the boy actor alludes to the fact that he is not after all the woman he plays 'if I were a woman' [Epilogue, 18], and so relinquishes the last level of the sexual disguise. For the last time, the unlayering of the disguise is linked with a reconciliation between the sexes as the boy actor speaking the epilogue appeals separately to the men and women in the audience. Within the play these two perspectives have been reconciled, and the joint applause of the men and women in the audience re-affirms that reconciliation and extends it to the audience.

The sexual disguise in As You Like It therefore succeeds in interweaving various motifs. Many of the problems considered in the play (Duke Frederick's tyranny, Oliver's unfair treatment of Orlando, Phebe's exultation over Silvius) stem from excessive control, and the heroine exercises extraordinary control over the disguise. The removal of the disguise signals a renunciation of control on her part, and this in turn is linked with a voluntary renunciation of control by others, so that the unlayering and the resolution of problems neatly correspond. Moreover, the sexual reversal inherent in the disguise, which itself implicitly promises a reconciliation of male and female perspectives, is used to reconcile the men and women in the play. Since the key to reconciliation has been the renunciation of control, the playwright uses his relinquishing of control over the play to signal a final reconciliation between the men and women in the audience. Because of the correspondence between Rosalind as controller of the disguise, and Shakespeare as controller of the disguised boy actor who plays Rosalind's part, Rosalind's control over her disguise is paradigmatic of the playwright's control over the play. Both use their control creatively and constructively, but for both the relinquishing of control corresponds with the consummation of their art.

The means by which resolution is achieved in As You Like It says a great deal about the kinds of problems the play considers. By having Rosalind as surrogate playmaker, the playwright must not pose problems that are beyond her power to solve. There are a few hints that Rosalind's control exceeds the merely human; she tells Orlando she possesses magical powers, and Hymen mysteriously intervention—witness Duke Frederick's miraculous conversion. But positing a human problem-solver almost necessitates limiting the problems to human scale. Moreover, because the disguise is the key to Rosalind's ability to solve problems, the emphasis on male and female perspectives inherent in the sexual disguise places the problems in the context of the social roles of each sex. The disguise thus gives the play artistic unity, but it also imposes limitations on the play's thematic scope. The brilliance of As You Like It is that it so perfectly matches what the play attempts to the inherent limitations of its techniques that it makes us unaware there are limitations. (pp. 64-8)

Nancy K. Hayles, "Sexual Disguise in 'As You Like It' and 'Twelfth Night'," in Shakespeare Survey: An Annual Survey of Shakespearian Study and Production, Vol. 32, 1979, pp. 63-72.

Thomas F. Van Laan [Van Laan points out several instances where the characters in Arden either take part in or discuss role-playing sessions, proposing that the forest in a sense becomes the stage for these brief "playlets." Shakespeare composed variations of this theme, the critic continues, to explore the circumstances surrounding the way in which the play's four couples fall in love. Van Laan concludes that if being in love means assuming a role, then Shakespeare assures us in As You Like It that there is more than one way to play the lover.]

The adherence of a character to one or more pre-formulated roles, his deriving his identity therefrom, by no means necessitates his being a lifeless stereotype, even if he is a character of type one and only a single role is involved. Some of the roles Shakespeare utilizes are themselves sufficiently fresh and new because they come into being, in effect, only through his work, through his supplying familiar social or literary categories (such as daughter, friend, fortune hunter) with gestures and moves so appropriate and convincing that they suggest the existence of a lengthy literary or dramatic tradition. Other roles achieve freshness and newness as well as a sense of living vitality through the richness of their execution. Dogberry [in Much Ado About Nothing] is more attractive and appealing than Shakespeare's two other versions of the malapropian constable, Dull and Elbow [in Love's Labour's Lost]—especially Dull, whose name is so apt—but the reason for his greater appeal has little to do with his possessing a larger percentage of genuinely felt life. It is a matter partly of Shakespeare's having given him more stage time and partly of his having a clearer and more consequential involvement with the action of his play, but mostly, it seems to me, it results from his having better material and being a more thoroughly rendered version of the role than the others. A more significant example of richness of execution can be found in Jaques, whose portrayal evokes the feeling that one is observing not simply the reworking of a familar literary-dramatic stereotype but its perfection.

But perhaps the chief reason why Shakespeare's characters avoid flatness and repetitiveness is his highly flexible conception of individual roles: often enough a given character is recognizably fulfilling a specific role while nevertheless executing it in an unquestionably unique way. This flexibility can be glimpsed, for example, in the portrayal of the role of lover in the early comedies (from Love's Labour's Lost to Much Ado About Nothing, say), not only in the way that the various lovers differ one from another but also in the many shifts in Shakespeare's attitude towards the conventional literary version. The flexibility can also be glimpsed, just as clearly and more conveniently, in the unusual portrayal this role receives in the second half of As You Like It.

Time and time again, in the second half of As You Like It the forest landscape becomes the stage for clearly defined momentary playlets, like those referred to by Rosalind when she tells Celia 'I will speak to [Orlando] like a saucy lackey, and under that habit play the knave with him' [III. ii. 295-97], and by both Rosalind and Corin when he, having found Silvius wooing Phebe, invites the others to 'see a pageant truly play'd' [III. iv. 52] and Rosalind promises to 'prove a busy actor in their play' [59]. In form, these playlets underscore the resemblance between the forest and a stage which is a central element in the play's contrast between forest and court. In content, however, the playlets utilize this stage as an arena for exploring one of the theatre's most familiar and popular roles, that of the lover. What takes place in the remarkably static second half of As You Like It—both in these playlets and elsewhere—is not action in the usual sense but, instead, an elaborate anatomy of the varieties of love.

The range of this anatomy is broad enough to include a 'Character' of the conventional stereotype (in Ganymede's account of its essential 'marks,' III. ii. 369ff.), several varieties of romantic love (Rosalind and Orlando, Celia and Oliver, Phebe and Silvius, Phebe and Ganymede), a parody of these relationships (in Touchstone's marrying the 'foul slut,' Audrey, in order to avoid living 'in bawdry,' III. iii. 36, 97), and the outright rejection of love (by Jaques, whose only 'mistress' is the world he loathes so much, III. ii. 278). Because of her dual role, Rosalind occupies a special position in the anatomy. In her own person she experiences and exhibits as intense a passion as anyone in the play. But as Ganymede, she is able to encompass as well the opposite extreme, to articulate for herself and the spectators the anti-love that Jaques for the most part can only enact.

Relationships like those linking Orlando and Adam and Rosalind and her father extend the range of the anatomy to include both friendship and familial love. But it is primarily the varieties of romantic love with which Shakespeare is concerned, and in the final act he underscores the importance of their portrayal for the meaning of the play through the three passages that juxtapose them rhetorically just as they have already been juxtaposed in the action [V. ii. 83ff., V. iv. 4ff., V. iv. 116ff.]. These three passages thus call attention to the dramatic design of the second half of As You Like It. Also suggesting this design is a passage that has little to do with love, Jaques' and Rosalind's anatomy of melancholy:

JAQUES I have neither the scholar's melancholy, which is emulation; nor the musician's, which is fantastical; nor the courtier's, which is proud; nor the soldier's, which is ambitious; nor the lawyer's, which is politic; nor the lady's, which is nice; nor the lover's, which is all these; but it is a melancholy of mine own, compounded of many simples, extracted from many objects, and, indeed, the sundry contemplation of my travels; in which my often rumination wraps me in a most humorous sadness.

ROSALIND Farewell, Monsieur Traveller; look you lisp and wear strange suits, disable all the benefits of your own country, be out of love with your nativity, and almost chide God for making you that countenance you are; or I will scarce think you have swam in a gondola. [IV. i. 10-20, 33-8]

Rosalind corrects Jaques' attempt to claim uniqueness and originality for his melancholy by assuring him that it is as conventional a pose as any of those he mocks. She thus completes the partial awareness of the first half of his speech: there is not merely a single variety of melancholy, but several, and each of them is a role with specific dictates that its player must observe. Similarly, in the forest scenes as a whole, Shakespeare dramatizes an analogous awareness about the ceremony of love: that although falling in love means assuming a role, there is more than one way to 'play the lover.' (pp. 38-40)

Thomas F. Van Laan, "Identity and Role," in his Role-playing in Shakespeare, University of Toronto Press, 1978, pp. 21-42.


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Jay L. Halio [Halio describes time's two functions in As You Like It: first, as a foil whose two extremes—timelessness and time-consciousness—favorably contrast virtuous rustic life in Arden with dissolute court life, and second, as timelessness alone, as a link between life in the present and life in an earlier, less corrupt, generally better time. The critic maintains that Shakespeare perceives the city and court to be ruthless and degenerate, threatening places from which Arden's timeless world is a refuge, a world where past and present merge and people flourish. Surveying the dramatic and thematic juxtapositions of these two worlds, Halio especially focuses on Rosalind's awareness of time; he notes how, unlike Touchstone's fascination with time's power to ripen things and rot them, Rosalind is strongly influenced by time's regenerative power, particularly as it concerns lovers.]

In As You Like It Shakespeare exploits timelessness as a convention of the pastoral ideal along with other conventions taken from pastoralism, but unlike his treatment, say, of Silvius and Phebe, his treatment of time is not so thoroughly satirical. Though neither will quite do, timelessness in Arden (on the whole) contrasts favorably to the time-consciousness of court and city life which. Touchstone, for example, brings to the forest. In addition, timelessness links life in Arden with the ideal of an older, more gracious way of life that helps regenerate a corrupt present.

I Orlando's first speech immediately voices several aspects of the time theme. Speaking to Adam, he recalls his father's will and its provision that Oliver, the eldest son, should educate the younger brothers. This Oliver has failed to do, at least with respect to Sir Rowland's youngest son; but despite his enforced rusticity, Orlando reveals an innate gentility so wonderful that even his tyrannical brother is brought to remark: "Yet he's gentle, never schooled, and yet learned, full of noble device, of all sorts enchantingly beloved. . . " [I. i. 166-68]. These innate qualities derive directly from old Sir Rowland, for the identification between Orlando and his father, as we shall see, is repeatedly and pointedly made. Moreover, Orlando twice remarks in this scene that it is his father's spirit within him that prompts him to revolt against his present humiliation—a revelation which has more than ordinary implications later.

Unlike his counterpart Sir John of Bordeaux in Lodge's Rosalynde, Sir Rowland de Boys is dead before the play opens, but his memory is kept studiously alive. In the opening lines of Lodge's novel we can get some idea of what he stood for:

There dwelled adjoining to the city of Bordeaux a knight of most honorable parentage, whom fortune had graced with many favors, and nature honored with sundry exquisite qualities, so beautified with the excellence of both, as it was a question whether fortune or nature were more prodigal in deciphering the riches of their bounties. Wise he was as holding in his head a supreme conceit of policy, reaching with Nestor into the depth of all civil government; and to make his wisdom more gracious, he had that salem ingenii and pleasant eloquence that was so highly commended in Ulysses: his valor was no less than his wit, nor the stroke of his lance no less forcible than the sweetness of his tongue was persuasive; for he was for his courage chosen the principal of all the Knights of Malta.

But we need not go outside the play to discover what Sir Rowland represents. Adam, the old retainer of the de Boys household and himself a living reminder of the former age, provides some important clues. When Oliver apparently consents to his brother's departure, he throws Adam out, too:

Oliver. Get you with him, you old dog.

Adam. Is "old dog" my reward? Most true, I have lost teeth in your service. God be with my old master! He would not have spoke such a word. [I. i. 81-4]

Later, when Adam warns Orlando to run from Oliver's treachery and even offers his life's savings—and his life—to assist in the escape, Orlando recognizes the gesture for what it is—the product of a gracious ideal:

O good old man, how well in thee appears The constant service of the antique world, When service sweat for duty, not for meed! Thou aft not for the fashion of these times, Where none will sweat but for promotion, And having that do choke their service up Even with the having. It is not so with thee. [II. iii. 56-62]

The two dukes also furnish evidence of the esteem in which Sir Rowland was universally held: Duke Frederick, villainously, found him an enemy, but Duke Senior (to Rosalind's evident gratification) "loved Sir Rowland as his soul" [I. ii. 235]. Orlando, who functions in the play partly to bear out the spirit of his father, naturally attracts similar feelings. It is not for nothing that he attaches to himself repeatedly the clumsy-naive epithet "old Sir Rowland's youngest son" [I. iii. 28]; besides, his name is both an anagram of Rowland and its Italian translation. The predicament in which the young man eventually discovers himself will test his true mettle and, more importantly, the worth of all that he and his name may symbolize. Adam awakens in him some sense of his plight when Orlando returns home after throwing Charles the wrestler:

O you memory Of old Sir Rowland! Why, what make you here? Why are you so virtuous? Why do people love you? And wherefore are you gentle, strong, and valiant? Why would you be so fond to overcome The bonny prizer of the humorous Duke? Your praise is come too swiftly home before you. Know you not, master, to some kind of men Their graces serve them but as enemies? No more do yours. Your virtues, gentle master, Are sanctified and holy traitors to you. Oh, what a world is this when what is comely Envenoms him that bears it! [II. iii. 3-15]

Orlando's world of court and city is a far different world from his father's. It is a perverse world, where brother plots against brother and virtues become "sanctified and holy traitors" [II. iii. 13]. It is a world ruled over by the usurping Frederick (the "new" Duke), who banishes his elder brother (the "old" Duke) and keeps his niece only so long as convenience allows. When he fears Rosalind as a threat to the fame and popularity of his own daughter, he drives her out also—just as Oliver plans to kill the brother he fears he can no longer suppress. In short, it is a world based on expediency and the lust for power [III. i. 15-18], not a brave new world, but a degenerate new one. With no obligation to tradition—to the past—it is ruthless in its self-assertion. But while this "new" world may banish its principal threats, Rosalind and Orlando, it does not thus destroy them (we are, after all, in the realm of romantic comedy). In the timeless pastoral world of the Forest of Arden, where past and present merge, they find refuge and there flourish.

II The first mention of the life led by Duke Senior and his fellows in the Forest of Arden occurs early in the play in the dialogue between Charles and Oliver. Oliver has decided to use the wrestler to rid himself of Orlando (thus perverting the intention of Charles's visit), but first he inquires into the "new news at the new Court" [I. i. 96-7]. Charles recounts what Oliver already knows: the new Duke has driven out the old Duke, and a number of lords have voluntarily accompanied him into exile. For no apparent reason, Oliver next inquires into Rosalind's position, and then asks where the old Duke will live. Charles replies:

They say he is already in the Forest of Arden, and a many merry men with him; and there they live like the old Robin Hood of England. They say many young gentlemen flock to him every day, and fleet their time carelessly as they did in the golden world. [I. i. 114-19]

Here Oliver abruptly changes the subject to the next day's wrestling match. Now, merely as dramatic exposition this dialogue is at least ingenuous—if not downright clumsy. Obviously it must serve another function to justify itself; that is, by describing the conflict between the two dukes, it provides a parallel to the decisive quarrel between Orlando and Oliver which has just taken place. The inversion of roles played by the younger and older brothers is merely a superficial variation of the plot; the point is to suggest an alignment between Duke Senior and Sir Rowland de Boys, between the "golden world" and the "antique world," which coalesce in the fabulous Robin Hood life now led by the banished Duke. Should we require any further evidence of this significance, the change in Sir Rowland's name from its source is clear enough. The anagram Rowland-Orlando has already been explained, but the change from de Bordeaux is otherwise meaningful: de Boys is simply de Bois, "of the forest." Elizabethan spelling commonly substitutes y for i, as everyone knows, but the pronunciation is the same. While older editors, such as Malone and Dyce, modernize the spelling (without comment), more recent ones prefer the spelling of the Folios, a practice which tends to obscure the reference. And Dover Wilson's note [in his New Cambridge edition of the play], recording the fact that the de Boyses were an old Arden family, gives us more light than it perhaps suspects—or intends.

Lest there be any mistake about the kind of forest in which Duke Senior and (later) Orlando, Rosalind, and the others find themselves, we must listen carefully to the Duke's first speech [II. i. 1ff.]. Its theme is "Sweet are the uses of adversity"; only in this way can he and his followers discover "tongues in trees, books in the running brooks / . . . and good in everything." Here, unlike the conventional pastoral, others besides unrequited lovers may feel the shrewdness of the winter wind; shepherds will confess to smelling of sheep dip; and a Sir Oliver Martex is available for weddings as well as Hymen. The forest maybe enchanted—the appearance of a god is only the least subtle indication that it is—but the enchantment is of an unusual kind; the forest still admits of other, qualifying realities. For the right apprehension of a natural, humane order of life, which emerges as Shakespeare's standard, takes account of both the ideal (what should or could be) and the actual (what is). By contrast, the standard of life in court and city is unnatural insofar as it stifles the ideal aspirations of the human imagination and sinks to the level of a crude, animal existence. If Duke Senior finally returns along with the others to his dukedom (despite his earlier assertion that he would not change his "life exempt from public haunt"), he returns not only because his dukedom is ready to receive him, but also (we must infer) because he is prepared to resume his proper role. Tempered by adversity, his virtue matures. To provide this temper, or balance, is the true function of the forest, its real "magic." Neither the Duke nor anyone else who comes to Arden emerges the same.

The trip to the forest is itself exhausting and fraught with danger. Rosalind and her little company are quite unable to take another step. Similarly, Adam is close to expiring when he arrives with Orlando. But on each occasion the forest at once works its charm. Corin and Silvius are at hand to entertain Rosalind and her friends and to provide them with a gentle welcome and a home. At the end of the scene even the fainting Celia quickens to remark, "I like this place, / And willingly could waste my time in it" [II. iv. 94-5]. Orlando, seeking food in what he calls an "uncouth" desert [II. vi. 6], comes upon the banquet of the banished Duke. Showing the valor of his heritage, he opposes single-handed the entire host of the Duke and his men. Under the conventions of this romance, this show of valor is not quixotic—it fits rather with Orlando's defeat of Charles. But, though hardly despised (except by Jaques), it is misdirected; and Orlando is made to recognize the code that here reigns:

Speak you so gently? Pardon me, I pray you. I thought that all things had been savage here, And therefore put I on the countenance Of stern commandment. But whate'er you are That in this desert inaccessible, Under the shade of melancholy boughs, Lose and neglect the creeping hours of time, If ever you have looked on better days, If ever been where bells have knolled to church, If ever sat at good man's feast, If ever from your eyelids wiped a tear And know what 'tis to pity and be pitied, Let gentleness my strong enforcement be. In the which hope I blush, and hide my sword. [II. vii. 106-19]

Gentleness joins with gentleness; golden world merges with antique world—at least through their modern representatives. If the parvenu at first mistakes the appearance of his surroundings, he is soon instructed: this is no ordinary forest. At the same time, he reminds us of what civilization might be like, or once was. Certainly he perceives another aspect of his new environment accurately, one he will quickly cultivate: the meaninglessness of time in the forest.

III For unlike the life of the court and the city, "men fleet the time carelessly" in Arden, as Charles earlier remarked. Here are no power-seekers like Oliver and Duke Frederick, impatient to rid themselves of encumbrances [I. i. 124, I. iii. 52 ff.], but men who love to lie under the greenwood tree seeking—only the food they eat. Appropriately, this casualness is the theme of many of their songs. Touchstone's comment on the last—"I count it but lost time to hear such a foolish song" [V.iii. 39-40]—briefly expresses the opposing attitude brought from court into the forest. The attitude is shared by the malcontent Jaques, his fellow satirist, and in some respects by Rosalind. Touchstone is, in fact, the play's timekeeper, as Harold Jenkins has called him [in his "As You Like It," Shakespeare Survey VII (1955): 40-51], and his most extended disquisition on time is fittingly recounted by Jaques:

... he drew a dial from his poke, And looking on it with lack-lustre eye, Says very wisely, "It is ten o'clock. Thus we may see," quoth he, "how the world wags. '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. 20-8]

Later in the same scene Jaques in propria persona also "morals on the time" in his speech on the Seven Ages of Man, calling our attention to the broader divisions of time's progress and pageant. Between these speeches, it should be noted, occur Orlando's entrance and his words, quoted above, on the neglect of time by the Duke and his forest-time-ridden preoccupations of court and city life, but here the juxtaposition is both dramatically and thematically emphasized. For the court and city habitues, time is a measured progress to the grave—or worse! But for the foresters, time is merely "the stream we go a-fishing in" (to borrow the phrase of a later pastoralist [Henry David Thoreau in Walden]). Neither attitude, of course, will quite do in this sublunary world; hence, to present a more balanced view of time—as of love, pastoralism, and poetry—Shakespeare uses the dialectic characteristic of this play and centers it upon his hero and heroine.

For Rosalind's awareness of time, however related to the preoccupation imported from the "outside" world, is different from Touchstone's obsession with "riping and rotting." It is, partly, the awareness of a girl in love and impatient for the attentions of her lover, a healthy consciousness that recalls Juliet's except as it is undarkened by tragic fate. But her awareness has further implications. When she and Orlando first meet in the forest, their dialogue, appropriately enough, is itself about time. Rosalind's question, "I pray you, what is't o'clock?" [III. ii. 299], although banal, suits the occasion; for despite her boast that she will speak like a saucy lackey, she is momentarily confused by confronting Orlando and scarcely knows how to begin. What follows in her account of Time's "divers paces" [III. ii. 308-33], however, is something more than a verbal smokescreen to help her collect her wits, detain her lover, and make sure he keeps coming back: it is a development of Jaques' Seven Ages speech with important thematic variations. Jaques' speech describes a man in his time playing many parts and suggests that his speed, or "pace," will vary along with his role; the series of vignettes illustrates the movement of a person in time. Rosalind not only adds appreciably to Jaques' gallery, but showing profounder insight, she shifts the emphasis from the movement of a person, to the movement of time as apprehended, for example, by the young maid "between the contract of her marriage and the day it is solemniz'd. If the interim be but a se'ennight, Time's pace is so hard that it seems the length of seven year" [III. ii. 314-17]. In this way, she more thoroughly accounts for duration, or the perception of time, which, unlike Jaques' portrait of our common destiny, is not the same for everyone.

IV Naturally, Rosalind is most concerned with the perception of time by the lover, and here her behavior is in marked contrast to Orlando's. Quite literally—and like any fiancee, or wife—she is Orlando's timekeeper. When he fails to keep his appointments, she suffers both pain and embarrassment (III. iv) that are relieved only by the greater follies of Silvius and Phebe that immediately follow. When he finally does turn up an hour late—as if to dramatize his belief that "there's no clock in the forest" [III. ii. 300-01]—Rosalind rebukes him severely:

Rosalind. Why, how now, Orlando? Where have you been all this while? You a lover? An you serve such another trick, never come in my sight more.

Orlando. My fair Rosalind, I come within an hour of my promise.

Rosalind. Break an hour's promise in love? He that will divide a minute into a thousand parts and break but a part of the thousand part of a minute in the affairs of love, it may be said of him that Cupid hath clapp'd him o' th' shoulder, but I'll warrant him heart-whole.

Orlando. Pardon me, dear Rosalind.

Rosalind. Nay, an you be so tardy, come no more in my sight. I had as lief be woo'd of a snail. [IV. i. 38-52]

Rosalind's time-consciousness goes beyond the mere moment: she knows the history of love— witness her speech on Troilus and Leander [IV. i. 94-108]—and she predicts its future, as she warns Orlando of love's seasons after marriage [IV. i. 143-149]. Her ardent impulse is thus in comic juxtaposition with her realistic insight, just as Orlando's "point-device" attire and time-unconsciousness comically contrast with his rimes and other protestations of love.

In this fashion we arrive at the theme's center, or balance. If Orlando, as we have seen, is an agent of regeneration, he appears through his forgetfulness of time to be in some danger of not realizing his function. He might like Silvius, were it not for Rosalind, linger through an eternity of unconsummated loving; certainly, like the Duke, he feels in the forest no urgency about his heritage—at least not until he comes upon his brother sleeping beneath an ancient oak tree and menaced by a starved lioness (the symbolism is obvious). Oliver's remarkable conversion after his rescue and his still more remarkable engagement to Celia pave the way for Rosalind's resolution of the action, for under the pressure of his brother's happiness, Orlando can play at games in love no longer. And despite the play's arbitrary finale—Duke Frederick's conversion and the end of exile, in all of which she has had no hand—nevertheless, it is again Rosalind who has had an important share in preparing the principals for this chance. Like her less attractive counterpart Helena in All's Well That Ends Well, she remains a primary agent for the synthesis of values that underlies regeneration in Shakespeare's comedy. At the very outset we see her, the daughter of Duke Senior at the court of Duke Frederick, as a link between two worlds, not unlike Orlando's representative linking of two generations. In love, she is realistic rather than cynical, but not without a paradoxical—and perfectly human— romantic bias. So, too, with regard to time she moves with Orlando to a proper balance of unharried awareness. For all of these functions—as for others—the timeless world of the forest, with its complement of aliens, serves as a haven; but more importantly, it serves as a school.

Neither the extremes of idealism nor those of materialism, as they are variously represented, emerge as "the good life" in As You Like It. That life is seen rather as a mean of natural human sympathy educated—since that is a major theme in the play—by the more acceptable refinements of civilization (II. vii) and the harsh realities of existence ("winter and rough weather" [II. v. 8]). The "antique world" stands for a timeless order of civilization still in touch with natural human sympathy that, under the "new" regime (while it lasted), had been forced underground. To the forest, the repository of natural life devoid of artificial time barriers, the champions of regeneration repair in order to derive new energy for the task before them. There they find refuge, gain strength, learn—and return, (pp. 197-207)

Jay L. Halio, "'No Clock in the Forest': Time in 'As You Like It,'" in Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900, Vol. II, 1962, pp. 197-207.

Frederick Turner [Turner maintains that the concept of measurable, social time prevalent at Duke Frederick's court is suspended by the holiday atmosphere of Arden. Time in the forest is a more natural time, governed by the seasons, not the clock. The critic then examines different characters' perspectives of time. In his "Seven Ages of Man" speech (II. vii. 138ff.), Jaques presents two notions of time: first, that human beings exist in time as they would in a play on stage, and second, that life is a history determined by distinct stages. Unlike Jaques's assumption that death is the ultimate realization of time, Touchstone perceives time in relation to physical love or sex in conjunction with the "natural order," in which Nature's purpose is to propagate itself. Time for Orlando and Rosalind, however, is more dynamic and personal. It represents their anticipation of love in which clock time drags and personal time is in a furious hurry. Turner concludes his essay with an examination of the idea of musical time in the play's final songs and dances.]

As You Like It opens with two characters who, in terms of the hierarchy of social power, are weak and inferior: Orlando, the younger brother, and Adam, the old man. One is denied his place in society; the other is past his usefulness. Orlando tellingly distinguishes between the 'gentle condition of blood' and the 'courtesy of nations' [I. i. 44-6]; between what is owed him as a member of society, and what is due to his status as a human being. Adam has 'lost' his 'teeth' 'in service', and though his master's legal obligation to him has been fulfilled, Oliver refuses to honour his human obligations to look after the faithful servant in his old age.

Those who are weak in the power structure of society—children, old men, beggars, strangers, the insane—can possess the most potent moral power in the human community. But this moral power must be recognized, if it is to exist; Malvolio's crime [in Twelfth Night), we shall see, is to deny the moral power of the Fool. Orlando's description of his 'keeping' as no different from the 'stalling of an ox' [I. i. 10], and Oliver's characterizing Adam as an 'old dog', suggest that the socially strong in this play consider those who are socially weak to be no better than beasts, outside the community of man, and therefore ineligible for the basic human rights. But piety (or pité), insists that such figures are the true representatives of the human community, that we should treat them with the respect due to common humanity, whose dignity transcends the evanescent privileges of rank, wealth, or birth. There is only one thing that Orlando and Adam can do: leave the society which has rejected them.

Outcast also are the Duke Senior and his friends, and Rosalind, Celia and Touchstone. Where can they go? What region of Shakespeare's poetic, philosophical, and moral world is appropriate to them?

If one escapes from the ordinary routine of society, one is on holiday. Rosalind can see nothing but 'briers' in this 'working-day' world; on 'holiday' they are but 'burs'. If, says Celia, 'we walk not in the trodden paths'—if we do not conform to the routines of society—'our very petticoats will catch them' [I. iii. 13-15]. The holiday that the outcasts must take is partly a holiday of the mind. 'Briers' become 'burs' when their attitude changes from 'working-day' to 'holiday'. Rosalind and Celia come to accept their existence with patience, but without paying the price of a vitiating and stoic detachment. On holiday life is only a game, even when it is a game of life and death. Rosalind and Celia are delightful partly because of their holiday attitude to the world—an attitude which combines levity with involvement, wisdom with feeling. Rosalind can satirize love and be in love at the same time.

Orlando, Rosalind, and the Duke Senior are all victims of injustice. They reject and are rejected by the power-structure of their society; and this structure includes its laws. The 'courtesy of nations' has become a tyranny for Orlando; for the Duke Senior it has been overturned. The accusation of treachery levelled by Duke Frederick at Rosalind is a legality divested of its sanctifying ritual of evidence, fair play, and impartiality. Thus the exiles become outlaws: they live 'like the old Robin Hood of England' [I. i. 116]. This brings to mind the connection of Robin Hood with the old holiday ritual of rural England, and the enormous popularity of his story among the common folk. He was the hero of the socially weak; the semi-pagan god of Holiday. The Puritans recognized this strain in his cult when they abolished it nearly fifty years later.

Time in the forest is not social time. The exiled nobles 'fleet the time carelessly, as they did in the golden world' [I. i. 118-19]. They 'lose and neglect the creeping hours of time' [II. vii. 112]; the human measurement of time has no meaning here. In Thomas Mann's Magic Mountain, holiday has a similar effect:

Such is the purpose of our changes of air and scene, of all our sojourns at cures and bathing resorts; it is the secret of the healing power of change and incident. Our first days in a new place, time has a youthful, that is to say, a broad and sweeping flow, persisting for some six or eight days. Then, as one 'gets used to the place', a gradual shrinkage makes itself felt. He who clings or, better expressed, wishes to cling to life, will shudder to see how the days grow light and lighter, how they scurry by like dead leaves, until the last week, of some four, perhaps, is uncannily fugitive and fleet.

Here Mann is more interested in the subjective changes in the rate of time occasioned by circumstances than in the nature of holiday itself; but one interest tends to suggest the other, and we will find Shakespeare himself fascinated with subjective time in turn.

Helen Gardner discusses this subject illuminatingly in the context of the romantic comedies in general: 'In Shakespeare's comedies time ... is not so much a movement onward as a space in which to work things out: a midsummer night, a space too short for us to feel time's movement, or the unmeasured time of As You Like It or Twelfth Night [in her "As You Like It" inMore Talking about Shakespeare, ed. John Garrett], Of Much Ado About Nothing she says: 'A sense of holiday, of time off from the world's business, reigns in Messina.'

Twice in As You Like It the absurdity of social, measurable time is suggested:

And then he drew a dial from his poke, And, looking on it with lack-lustre eye, Says very wisely 'It is ten o'clock; Thus we may see' quoth he 'how the world wags; "Tis but an hour ago since it was nine; And after one hour more 'twill be eleven; … '

… 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; And I did laugh sans intermission An hour by his dial. [II. vii. 20-33]

Is it significant that Jaques compares his laughter to the sound of the chanticleer, the marker of natural time as opposed to the time of clocks?—

Ros: I pray you, what is't o'clock?

Orl: You should ask me what time o'day; there's no clock in the forest. [III. ii. 299-301]

This last is reminiscent of Falstaff 's first words in Henry IV, and Hal's reply:

Fal: Now, Hal, what time of day is it, lad? . . . etc. [I. ii. 1

The Boar's Head is similarly on holiday from ordinary time. It is interesting that what follows in each case is also similar. Rosalind asserts that

Then there is no true lover in the forest, else sighing every minute and groaning every hour would detect the lazy foot of Time as well as a clock. [III. ii. 302-05]

Hal says to Falstaff:

What a devil hast thou to do with the time of the day? Unless hours were cups of sack, and minutes capons, and clocks the tongues of bawds . . . etc. [I. ii. 6-8]

Time in each case is transmuted from the measurable, social time of clocks into the subjective time of experience. Falstaff now introduces another element:

... we that take purses go by the moon and the seven stars, and not by Phoebus, he 'that wand'ring knight so fair'. [I. ii. 14-16]

Falstaff operates, so he claims, according to the natural and mysterious time of the moon and the stars, rather than the tamed and social time of the sun—which he anthropomorphizes with impunity.

The Forest of Arden is a poetic region which contains, as well as holiday and outlawry, the forces of natural time, the time of the seasons, of the great rhythms of nature; 'time not our time', as T. S. Eliot puts it [in "The Dry Salvages"].

Under the greenwood tree Who loves to lie with me, And turn his merry note Unto the sweet bird's throat … … Here shall he see No enemy But winter and rough weather. [II. v. 1-8]

Here feel we but the penalty of Adam, The seasons' difference … [II. i. 5]

Blow, blow, thou winter wind, Thou are not so unkind As man's ingratitude … [II. vii. 174ff.]

Shakespeare's Arden contains other seasons than a perpetual springtime. It can be 'melancholy', 'uncouth', a 'desert inaccessible'; it contains real, as well as conventional, shepherds. Most important of all, it works convincingly by natural time. It is a place one lives in, not an abstraction of the poet's mind; it has the obduracy and unconcern for human desires that we recognize as authentic in nature. People can get old here in the forest; time rules over man, but it is the time of the seasons and not the time of the clock.

The exiles carry with them into the forest many of their human attitudes and preconceptions. Jaques relentlessly anthropomorphizes the deer; the nobles are seen as 'usurpers' on the life of the forest, which is contrasted with the human domains of 'country, city, court'. For our purposes one of the most significant importations into the forest is Jaques' attitude to time in human existence:

All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts. His acts being seven ages … … Last scene of all, That ends this strange eventful history, Is second childishness and mere oblivion; Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything. [II. vii. 139-66]

This passage resembles the conventional picture of the attitude of the philosopher. Jaques is above it all; he preserves a lofty detachment from the affairs of the common herd. But his detachment denies to him much of the truth about human existence. This celebrated passage is oddly hypermetropic: Jaques is longsighted, and cannot see the trees for the wood. The statistical studies of sociologists frequently give the same impression of selective blindness. The individual is devalued, exceptions are discounted, particulars yield to trends, freedom and significance are made to seem absurd or irrelevant.

Two elements of this speech are of particular interest: first, the life of man in time as a stage play; and second, that life as a 'history', a succession of ojectively observable characteristics of behaviour.

'All the world's a stage.' In a play, the actor is bound to the lines that the dramatist has written for him. He is not free to say or do what he likes; man, according to Jaques, is only reading off a preordained script. A play exists before it is performed; time is like a motion picture, every frame of which has already been prepared. Life is only the playing-out of a set sequence of events, the projection of a reel of scenes. Part of the irony of Jaques' speech is that it is, of course, delivered by an actor who is himself keeping to his part.

Walter Bagehot makes an interesting point about Jaques' speech in a passage which David Cecil quotes and discusses in his charming essay, 'Shakespearean Comedy', from The Fine Art of Reading. Bagehot's treatment deserves repetition:

There seems an unalterable contradiction between the human mind and its employments. How can a soul be a merchant? What relation to an immortal being have the price of linseed, the fall of butter, the tare on tallow, or the brokerage on hemp? Can an undying creature debit 'petty expenses,' and charge for 'carriage paid'? All the world's a stage;—'the satchel, and the shining morning face'—the 'strange oaths';—'the bubble reputation'—the

Eyes severe and beard of formal cut, Full of wise saws and modern instances.

Can these things be real? Surely they are acting. What relation have they to the truth as we see it in theory? What connection with our certain hopes, 'in respect of itself, it is a good life; but in respect it is a Shepherd's life, it is nought'. The soul ties its shoes; the mind washes its hands in a basin. All is incongruous.

In a play the actors are not being themselves, but donning masks and acting a pretence. Jaques' vision of human life is essentially external. For him all there is is the pretence, the mask, the actor's part, the accidents. He describes behaviour, but not experience. Jaques is, perhaps, the first of those great satirical personae that Hugh Kenner discusses with such penetration and wit in his 'historical comedy', The Counterfeiters. Like Gulliver describing the Yahoos [in Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels], like the extraordinary counterfeit sociologist who seems to have written A Modest Proposal, like the bad poet Pope invents to write the Art of Sinking in Poetry, Jaques is concerned not with the inner nature of a person, but with his surface, not with another 'I' but with an 'it'.

The reader, abetted by many critics, is often deceived in this passage by its breadth, inclusiveness, and metaphysical pathos into feeling that this is Shakespeare's viewpoint on the world, that here is some kind of ultimate wisdom about human life. On the contrary, Jaques' description of the schoolboy, lover, soldier, is only a series of brilliantly evoked stereotypes. If in some respects Shakespeare is creating or originating stereotypes (like Chaucer in the Prologue to the Canterbury Tales), this does not alter the fact that we are not being told the whole story about human existence; the sample of human information Jaques has chosen is not a fair one, and whole areas have been suppressed. Equally as important as what Jaques says is the insight we get into Jaques' point of view, and indeed into the flaws and virtues of a whole way of, looking at existence.

Jaques' speech contains a certain cynicism, a mood alien, in some respects, to Shakespeare's own, as far as we can judge from his poems and sonnets, as well as from his plays. The other passages we should bear in mind when we read or hear 'All the world's a stage' include not only Prospero's 'our revels now are ended' [The Tempest, IV. i. 148], and 'as an unperfect actor on the stage' [Sonnet 23]; but also Macbeth's poor player, That struts and frets his hour upon the stage' [Macbeth, V. v. 24-5], and Lear's 'great stage of fools' [King Lear, IV. vi. 183]. Jaques' vision of human life ends as it began: with second childishness, sans everything; nothing has been gained, life is meaningless, it's all only a play. As soon as Jaques has finished his speech, Orlando, the young man and the lover, enters carrying Adam, the old man who is almost in his 'last scene'; the two are united and ennobled by a sense of love and care which somehow transcends and contradicts the stereotypical categories that would divide and degrade them.

The other theme of Jaques' speech that concerns us here is that of man's life as a history. 'History' can have two meanings, both of which are relevant in this context: 'story', and 'history' in the modern sense. The essential element in both is their dialectic: time in both is something expressed in terms of 'before' and 'after' rather than 'past', 'present', and 'future'. Time for 'history' is something static. The most obvious characteristic of Jacques' speech is the way for him human life seems to go in stages, each of which is changeless and restrictingly self-consistent. We can all remember our sense of chagrin and frustration when we were told by our parents that we were 'just going through a stage'. Our individuality, the validity of our ideals and feelings, seemed threatened. When, we asked, would we be real people, when would we cease to be merely the result of a biological or social situation? Jaques would, it seems, reply 'never'.

'His acts being seven ages.' This ignores a fundamental characteristic of time—time as flux, time as dynamic process. Jaques' human actor develops in a curiously jerky fashion. We cannot for the life of us see how that particular kind of lover can become that particular kind of soldier or lawyer. How does the plump Justice become the 'lean and slipper'd pantaloon'? We have no sense of this man being one person. In our own lives we can look back and sometimes fail to recognize what we call 'I'; but usually beneath the affectations and obsessions, the attempts to be what we were not, we can see one person whom we greet with almost the delighted shock of meeting an old friend unexpectedly. There is none of this in Jaques' creed. Yet time is seamless. It has no stages. And it is in this intimate connection of each moment of time with the next that the possibility of being one person, not just an infinite sequence of stages, can exist. If one takes an individual out of his temporal context at various stages of his development, as Jaques does, one will inevitably falsify as well as omit much of what he is.

Jaques sees himself as an 'historian', chronicling the life of man. Now 'history' in this sense is concerned with events and states; it cannot afford to occupy itself with the subtle rhythms of gradual growth. The dialectic of 'historical' time, as I have pointed out …, is based on terms like 'before', 'after', 'earlier', and 'later', not on 'past', 'present', and 'future'. But the rhythm of growth is the rhythm of continuous, imperceptible change; and the growing-point of a human life is the present moment which carries with it the concepts of 'past' and 'future' as indications of the direction of growth. To take temporal cross-sections is to ignore the process of growth, concentrating only on its effects and results.

'History' in Jaques' sense, moreover, like philosophy, is a map; a map cannot reproduce the whole landscape in its minute detail. Yet we can only really know the landscape ('known' as connaitre, not savoir), if we have all its details about us. A work of art can give us a sense of this but the pre-rational and personal principles of selection which are available to the artist are denied to Jaques' 'historian', who is in pursuit of impersonal truth, whose satire 'like a wild-goose flies, Unclaim'd of any man' [II. vii. 86-7], and who professes a disillusioned rationality.

Part of the force of Falstaff [in I and 2 Henry IV and The Merry Wives of Windsor], perhaps, is that he is a dynamic character who changes and evolves in an environment of static, 'historical' time—the time of events and states. Falstaff is a work of art, and in fact develops from a wildly inaccurate selection and exaggeration by Shakespeare of meagre details in his sources.

Jaques' 'historical' viewpoint has other characteristics. One is that it is objective, rather than subjective. Jaques does not take into account what is almost the most important feature of time—the peculiar sensation, common to the human race, and therefore taken for granted, of living in time. What does it feel like to live in time? Everything that comes under that question is absent from Jaques' point of view. Since values and meaning exist only in the subjective sphere, Jaques is presenting a view of existence as valueless and meaningless. Since the sense of the living self exists only in the present moment (which is given no particular significance by Jaques), he is describing people who seem to have no self.

Jaques describes 'dead time'—time with no present moments. The advantage the dissector has when working with a dead body rather than a live one is that there is no change in the material being dissected: the body can get no deader. The vivsectionist, on the other hand, has always to beware of the fact that, like Heisenberg's electrons, his subject will be altered by the process of observation. Jaques is safe, working with dead time, and indeed his analytical method is appropriate to his subject. When we work with live time, however, we will find the present moment slipping away in an instant, and other methods of comprehension than Jaques' analytical and objective one must be found.

Finally, we may give attention to Jaques' use of generalization in this speech. 'In all cases, or at least in a good statistical majority, human beings will act in such and such a way' he seems to say. To generalize requires an initial comparison, or 'making equal', of those things about which one generalizes. If I use the generalizing word 'tree', I am assuming a priori that oaks, pines, elms, palms, etc., are all in some way basically the same. Indeed, generalization, like the historical dialectic, like objectivity, like the analytic method of thought itself, is essential in order to come at many kinds of truth. About human beings themselves we can and must generalize to a large extent in order to obtain the most primary understanding. But there seems to be something in every sane, undefeated human being that cries out for uniqueness, peerlessness, a sense of his own incomparability. Again, Jaques is not telling the whole story about human existence.

Both Jaques and Touchstone satirize the extravagant claims of love; but their points of view should not be confused. What Jaques says is 'see how absurd is the lover, with his sighs and ballads; for what is he, when his act is past? What a puny figure he cuts in the perspective of history! Does he not swiftly turn into something quite different? Surely his self-importance is misplaced. He is only a stage between schoolboy and soldier. His transports and agonies have no significance.' What Touchstone says is subtly different: 'What is love but Nature's mechanism for repeopling the earth? When it comes down to it, sex is what the whole thing amounts to after all. I myself, with all my wit, "press in" among the "country copulatives" [V. iv. 55-6], we are all part of the same natural rhythm, there is no qualitative difference between true lovers and the mating of beasts. The true significance of love is biological; the rest only icing on the cake.' Jaques sees the lover in the perspective of history; Touchstone, against the backdrop of brute nature; Jaques' ultimate reality is death, Touchstone's the natural cycle of reproduction; Jaques questions value, Touchstone's values are materialistic.

Posed against both viewpoints are the attitudes of the lovers. If Jaques in his great speech expresses the 'historical' view of time, Rosalind and Orlando are the representatives of 'personal' time. Time for them is dynamic:

Orl: And why not the swift foot of Time? Had not that been as proper?

Ros: By no means, sir. Time travels in divers paces with divers persons. I'll tell you who Time ambles withal, who Time trots withal, who Time gallops withal, and who he stands still withal.

Orl: I prithee, who doth he trot withal?

Ros: Marry, he trots hard with a young maid between the contract of her marriage and the day it is solemniz'd; if the interim be but a se'nnight Time's pace is so hard that it seems the length of seven year.

Orl: Who ambles Time withal?

Ros: With a priest that lacks Latin and a rich man that hath not the gout; for the one sleeps easily because he cannot study, and the other lives merrily because he feels no pain; the one lacking the burden of lean and wasteful learning, the other knowing no burden of heavy tedious penury. These Time ambles withal.

Orl: Who doth he gallop withal?

Ros: With a thief to the gallows; for though he go as softly as foot can fall, he thinks himself too soon there.

Orl: Who stays it still withal?

Ros: With lawyers in the vacation; for they sleep between term and term, and they perceive not how Time moves. [III. ii. 306-33]

Here time is a pace or journey. At first glance this dialogue appears fairly simple: a witty expression of the commonplaces contained in such phrases as 'how time drags!' and 'time flies'. But in fact this passage is extravagantly difficult. Surely the conventional way of describing the young maid's suspense would be in terms of the slowness of time. Time 'crawls', we would imagine, for the waiting girl. But for Shakespeare it 'trots'. Why? Perhaps Shakespeare means that, for her, every moment is crowded with emotions, fancies, and anticipations. Clock time inches past; her own personal time is in a furious hurry. A week contains seven years' subjective events. The actual sense of motion is important here. When a horse trots, it throws one about a good deal more than when it gallops. One is not actually progressing as fast as at a gallop, but a half-hour's trot can leave as many unpleasant after-effects as a whole morning's gallop. Shakespeare is talking here as much about the rhythm of time as about anything else.

With the priest and the rich man the emphasis is different. Time 'ambles' for them because there is little in their lives of excitement, anticipation, or pain: but chiefly because an amble connotes indirection and a sense of 'let time take me where it will'. An ambling horse will stray off the path to munch at choice greenery; the rider does not care where he is going, or at any rate how soon he gets there.

The thief's progress again implies a different temporal epistemology; this time it is quite easily understood. Time 'flies' for the condemned man in its conventional way.

The lawyers present interesting problems. If they 'sleep between term and term', surely for them clock time flits by instantaneously: but according to Shakespeare it 'stands still'. What Shakespeare means, perhaps, is that subjective time is composed of changes and becomingness: if there is no change of becoming, time stands still. The lawyers 'perceive not how Time moves'.

It is clear that the operative words one would use to describe time in this passage would be 'past', 'present', and 'future'. Time here is movement, pace, change; man's life as the journey, not the road. Equally important here is the subjectivity of the temporal viewpoint. Rosalind sees her young maid, priest, rich man, thief, and lawyers not from the point of view of an impartial objective observer, but from their own point of view. Each has his own individual way of existing, his own perception of time. Rosalind is concerned not with what they appear to be externally, but what they feel themselves to be inside. Time is not something laid out inevitably before one, but is the motion of the present moment on which one rides into the unknown and non-existent world of the future, making it first exist and then part of the past. Man's life from this viewpoint can be full of meanings and direction: the young maid and the thief on his way to the gallows both see all their lives in relation to one hoped for or feared event, some central fact that gives everything significance.

Rosalind, as we have seen earlier, is not 'above it all'; although her philosophy is more profound, perhaps, than Jaques', she is not 'philosophical'; she herself is in a plight not much different from that of her 'young maid'.

Elsewhere in the play the lovers' view of time is enlarged and elucidated for us. One of the most important aspects of it is the true lover's insistence on punctuality:

Orl: My fair Rosalind, I come within an hour of my promise.

Ros: Break an hour's promise in love! He that will divide a minute into a thousand parts, and break but a part of the thousand part of a minute in the affairs of love, it may be said of him that Cupid hath clapp'd him o' th' shoulder, but I'll warrant him heart-whole. [IV. i. 42-9]

The true lover is concerned not with measurable and divisible time, but with moments. The punctuality Rosalind insists on can be explained in terms of the etymology of the world. The Latin punctus means 'point'; for 'punctual' Webster gives '1. of or like point'. The lovers' time is a series of points; a temporal approximation is not good enough. The present moment is not an infinitesimal portion of the minute in which we are …; it is like a point, it has no temporal thickness, (pp. 28-41)

The present is what is of importance to the Shakespearean lover:

This carol they began that hour, With a hey, and a ho, and a hey nonino, How that a life was but a flower, In the spring time, etc.

And therefore take the present time, With a hey, and a ho, and a hey nonino, For love is crowned with the prime, In the spring time, etc. [V. iii. 26-33]

This is living time, the only time we exist, the present moment.

The enemy and test of lovers' time is 'historical' time. 'Well,' says Rosalind, 'Time is the old justice that examines all such offenders, and let Time try [IV. i. 199-200]. Teasingly she assumes the attitudes of Jaques or Touchstone in order to wring denials out of Orlando: 'Say "a day" without the "ever". No, no, Orlando; men are April when they woo, December when they are wed: maids are May when they are maids, but the sky changes when they are wives' [IV. i. 146-49]. This echoes Jaques' view in its generalization and assumed 'philosophical' detachment; and Touchstone's in its subordination of love to the natural cycle. True love must ultimately deny both 'historical' and 'natural' time; though it must also find some reconciliation or modus vivendi with them. (The tragedy of Romeo and Juliet is that the reconciliation is not made with 'historical' time, the time of the Montagues and Capulets; and it is snuffed out or smothered by it. The tragedy of Troilus and Cressida and Othello, on the other hand, is that there is a compromise with 'historical' and 'natural' time, and not a true reconciliation.

In As You Like It such a reconciliation can and does take place. In the 'lover and his lass' song, love is reconciled with the natural cycle:

It was a lover and his lass, With a hey, and a ho, and a hey nonino, That o'er the green corn-field did pass In the spring time, the only pretty ring time When birds do sing, hey ding a ding, ding. Sweet lovers love the spring. [V. iii. 16-21]

The great seasons allow a time for love: nature is not essentially opposed to the spiritual movements of man. This reconciliation is brought about thematically by the use of the idea of musical 'time': the rhythm and temporal order of a song can form a bridge between the great natural rhythms and the smaller human ones. The pages who sing the song indicate its significance: 'We kept time, we lost not our time' [V. iii. 37-8] Touchstone, who has consistently reduced human significances to subhuman natural drives, cannot accept the musical reconciliation: 'I count it but time lost to hear such a foolish song' [V. iii. 39-40]; applying the judgments of expediency to it. 'What use is it? It is only a waste of time.' The verdict of Jaques on Touchstone is that 'Time, the old justice that examines all such offenders', will find him wanting: ' … thy loving voyage Is but for two months victuall'd' [V. iv. 191 -92]. It is significant that when Hymen characterizes the nature of Touchstone's alliance with Audrey, she uses a seasonal image: 'as the winter to foul weather' [V. iv. 136]. But Touchstone has served his purpose. He too is a test, an assay. His function, as his name implies, is to point out true love where it exists, to distinguish gold from base metal.

Touchstone rejects the song; Jaques rejects the dance. At the end of the play, we are shown another rhythmic reconciliation:

… you brides and bridegrooms all. With measure heap'd in joy, to th' measures fall. [V. iv. 178-79]

Dancing is one of the ways we ritually reconcile the individual with society. The measures of the dance bring together moderation and joy; social, or 'historical' time is reconciled with individual or 'personal' time. Jaques cannot accept this. Though he recognizes Orlando's 'true faith,' he states that he is 'for other than for dancing measures'; 'to see no pastime I' he insists—a sentiment almost identical to Touchstone's when he reacts to the 'spring time' song [V. iv. 188-96].

Obviously the most important thing about the last scene of As You Like It is its marriages. Helen Gardner, in a penetrating discussion of the difference between comedy and tragedy, declares: 'The great symbol of pure comedy is marriage by which the world is renewed, and its endings are always instinct with a sense of fresh beginnings. Its rhythm is the rhythm of the life of mankind, which goes on and renews itself as the life of nature does.' Marriage is the reconciliation of the subjective faith, love, and hope of the individual, the objectivity and commonsense of society, and the mighty forces of fertile nature:

You to a love that your true faith doth merit; You to your land, and love, and great allies; You to a long and well-deserved bed … [V. iv. 188-90]

Marriage can contain love, a legal contract, and sex in an extraordinary harmony. 'Personal', 'historical', and 'natural' time are reconciled in its sacrament, its 'blessed bond':

Then is there mirth in heaven, When earthly things made even Atone together. [V. iv. 108-10]

What Jaques and Touchstone have to say is indeed valid, within limits. If their basilisk eye of satire and cynicism were not open in all of us, we should be very impractical creatures. More important, if their viewpoints were not represented in the play we should soon lose sympathy with the highfalutin' dialectics of romantic love. Jaques and Touchstone inoculate us: and they prepare us for the grand reconciliation that is to be performed by the other great comic character in the play, Rosalind herself, (pp. 42-4)

Frederick Turner, "As You Like It: 'Subjective', 'Objective', and 'Natural' Time," in his Shakespeare and the Nature of Time: Moral and Philosophical Themes in Some Plays and Poems of William Shakespeare, Oxford at the Clarendon Press, 1971, pp. 28-44.


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Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 5203

Thomas Kelly [Kelly provides an extensive analysis of Orlando's character, asserting that he is distinct from Shakespeare's other romantic heroes who, as a rule, tend to be portrayed as inept and slightly ridiculous. The critic regards Orlando as generally self-possessed and capable of controlling events in As You Like It; according to Kelly, he also demonstrates a wisdom that sets him apart as a "romantic hero of a new stamp." For further commentary on Orlando's character, see the excerpts by Alfred Harbage, Brigid Brophy, Kenneth Muir, John A. Hart, and Nancy K Hayles.]

As a rule … we are inclined to regard Shakespeare's romantic heroes as peculiarly inept and slightly ridiculous figures. The generalization seems warranted and may, in addition, offer a valuable insight into the deepest nature of Shakespearean comedy. Like all powerful generalizations, however, its very strength constitutes a danger. If our recognition of a pattern in many plays disposes us to discover less obvious but similar patterns in a few others, we can record a critical gain. But what if the general pattern prejudices our reading of apparently similar plays? What if it thereby threatens to subvert the special meaning a given work should develop?

I belabor what may be an obvious point because the abuse toward which it looks may well be responsible for the relative neglect of at least two of Shakespeare's romantic heroes. Both Florizel in The Winter's Tale and Orlando in As You Like It seem to me to deserve more credit than it is customary to give them. Florizel's is the simpler and the less crucial case. Like The Tempest (and unlike Two Gentlemen of Verona), The Winter's Tale is concerned with restoring, rather than rejuvenating, the old order. Thus, although Florizel may be more perceptive and more effective in shaping events than Perdita is, they are both clearly subordinate to Leontes and Hermione. Redressing an imbalance in favor of Florizel is therefore a marginal undertaking. The center of the play lies elsewhere.

This is patently not the case in As You Like It. Since the play is closer to the design of the earlier comedies, its primary interest is naturally the romance between Orlando and Rosalind. The values of the older generation are important, but they are subsumed under the various attributes of the two lovers. Consequently, to overlook Orlando or to see in him another Valentine [in TheTwo Gentlemen of Verona], Bassanio [in The Merchant of Venice), or Claudio [in Much Ado about Nothing] is, in a sense, to appreciate only half the play. To characterize him as the least conscious of Shakespeare's unconscious heroes … is certainly to misread the play. But even to patronize him, as is more often the case, is to obscure the fact that As You Like It, with its more "serious" and competent hero, is a nexus between the early and the late comedies—and perhaps between the early comedies and the tragedies as well. Orlando, in short, is a breed apart. Helen Gardner's observation that "Orlando has to prove that he truly is, as he seems at first sight, the right husband for Rosalind and show himself gentle, courteous, generous and brave, and a match for her in wit" is exceptionally perceptive [in her "As You Like It." Reprinted in Discussions of Shakespeare's Romantic Comedy, ed. Herbert Weil (1966)]. Another way of putting it is that in Orlando, the romantic hero overcomes his earlier failings: he is, for the first time, a match for the heroine not only in wit but also in awareness and control.

Not everyone, of course, will agree. A fair measure of the general tendency to scant Orlando, for example, is the cursory analysis customarily accorded the events of the first act. The critical consensus seems to be that Shakespeare was in great haste to get his characters into the Forest of Arden. This, some would say, accounts for the confusion of the heights of Rosalind and Celia, of the ages of the two Dukes, and of the time since Frederick usurped the throne. Nothing could be further from the truth. The discrepancies can be discovered, but noticing them hardly strikes at the heart of Shakespeare's method in As You Like It. What should be noticed instead is the typical economy with which one scene in the first act is used to prefigure the rest of the play. The wrestling match may, as Bernard Shaw implied, have pleased the groundlings, but it requires only a little attention to detail to see how much more it does simultaneously.

In the broadest thematic terms, it is a graphic metaphor for the discord announced by the first lines of the play. "The spirit of my father, which I think is within me, begins to mutiny against this servitude," Orlando tells Adam [I. i. 22-4], and when Oliver enters Orlando is shortly at his throat. Discord at a higher level, in the state itself, is next disclosed by Charles, the professional wrestler. His reply to Oliver's request for news tells us of the overthrow of the old Duke and of his banishment. For the unruly, not to say chaotic, condition of public and private life in the world of the play, the wrestling match becomes a fitting visual symbol. Viewed from a distance, the movement of the play thus turns from the hurly-burly of the wrestling to the forester's informal march with the carcass of the slain deer, to the ritual harmony of the "dancing measures" with which the play ends.

Yet this only begins to disentangle the meanings worked into the "breaking of ribs" interlude. Because the match between Orlando and Charles occurs late in the act, they are each able to represent various aspects of the play's several themes when they finally meet. For example, by accepting Oliver's false report of Orlando's treachery, Charles becomes an agent, if not a surrogate, for Oliver. "This wrestler," Oliver says, "shall clear all," [I. i. 171-72].

Still more important is the alignment between Charles and the Court itself. Adam, at one point, speaks of Charles as "the bonny prizer of the humorous Duke" [II. iii. 8], and Charles himself admits to being as ambition-ridden and jealous of his position as any of the courtiers. Like them, he regards his footing atop Fortune's wheel as a precarious station, one which cannot be shared:

To-morrow, sir, [he tells Oliver] I wrestle for my credit, and he that escapes me without some broken limb shall acquit him well. Your brother is but young and tender, and for your love I would be loath to foil him, as I must for my own honour if he come in. [I. i. 126-31]

Charles, it is true, speaks handsomely about the merry young gentlemen who have joined the exiled Duke in the golden world of the Forest, but his secondhand judgment of Arden is as impersonal as Oliver's unexpected praise of Orlando's gentleness, learning, and "noble device."

As Charles' opponent. Orlando rightly embodies the values of nature and of a less competitive but more peaceful past. Both literally and figuratively, he stands for the Forest of Arden itself. Translated from the French, his surname (de Bois in its original spelling) identifies Orlando as certainly as any morality figure with the pastoral ideal. Moreover, the frequent reminders that he is the youngest son of Sir Rowland (Orlando is in fact an anagram for Rowland) make clear that the virtues of the antique world still live in Orlando. Adam's greeting after Orlando has bested Charles is especially pointed:

O my sweet master! O you memory Of old Sir Rowland! Why, what make you here? Why are you virtuous? Why do people love you? And wherefore are you gentle, strong, and valiant? ……… O. what a world is this, when what is comely Envenoms him that bears it! [II. iii. 3-15]

A second but no less effective indication of Orlando's position is Adam's explicit assertion, however illogical and bumbling, that Oliver is not Sir Rowland's son:

Within this roof The enemy of all your graces lives. Your brother (no. no brother! yet the son— Yet not the son—I will not call him son Of him I was about to call his father.) [II. iii. 17-21]

The awkwardness of the lines may even be informative. May it not typify the disjointed times over which Oliver and Duke Frederick preside?

The more purely natural aspect of Orlando's character is established by his account of his training at his brother's charge. "He keeps me rustically at home" [I. i. 7], Orlando tells Adam. And to Oliver himself he complains, "You have trained me like a peasant obscuring and hiding from me all gentlemanlike qualities" [I. i. 68-70]. That Orlando goes on to demand "such exercises as may become a gentleman" [I. i. 74] need discomfort no one. Touchstone, it is true, makes memorable sport of such gentlemanly exercises as poison, bastinado, faction, and policy, just as Oliver shows them in practice. But the irony of Orlando's demanding membership in such a class, like the irony of his competing with Charles, has been carefully measured. Because of it, Orlando is saved from becoming either a stereotyped prig or a sentimental cartoon.

Still, for those who prefer to take their heroes straight, the play permits the feeling that Orlando is neither corrupted nor corruptible. There is nothing to suggest and much to deny that, as a member of the Court, Orlando would also succumb to its code of expediency and lust for power and privilege. Hence, when the wrestlers meet, we are prepared to take one, Charles, as the hireling of the Court and Fortune, and the other, Orlando, as the champion of Nature and the pastoral ideal.

The Wrestling Scene is instructive, furthermore, in confirming that comic time governs As You Like It. The news that the old Duke and the many young gentlemen who surround him "fleet the time carelessly" [I. i. 118] merely posits an alternative to the brawling present. Somewhat more hopeful is the early speech by Celia, the immediate purpose of which is to declare the deep regard in which she holds Rosalind:

You know my father hath no child taut I, nor none is like to have; and truly, when he dies, thou shalt be his heir; for what he hath taken away from thy father perforce, I will render thee again in affection. [I. ii. 17-21]

The secondary effect of such a promise, it seems to me, is to commit time to a redemptive role, rather than a destructive one. It remains, however, for Orlando to dramatize, in the wrestling match, the full vigor of comic time, to demonstrate that our normal causative expectations can be upset. Life, in Susanne Langer's terms, triumphs over Fate when Orlando throws Charles, the man who, by all odds, ought to have won. Other "accidents" abound in the play and finally crown it, but most of them are only actions which had no reason to happen. Orlando's success is in another class altogether—it has a reason not to happen. For once, not even Rosalind is able to see beyond appearance. "Pray heaven I be deceived in you," she says to Orlando [I. ii. 197-98], And, of course, she is—a fact commonly disregarded by critics who want Orlando always to play the dupe to Rosalind's Ganymede.

Rosalind's other remarks at the wrestling also deserve attention. As surely as Charles is leagued with Oliver, Rosalind leagues herself with Orlando. "The little strength I have, I would it were with you" [I. ii. 194-95], she says. But Oliver and Rosalind are clearly passive participants. For the moment, the stage is the wrestlers' and, after Charles is borne away speechless, Orlando's alone. Later, in a thinly disguised rehearsal for the wedding to come, Rosalind claims her share of the victory by placing a lightly ironic chain around Orlando's neck. "Wear this for me, one out of suits with Fortune" [I. ii. 246], are her words as she links Nature with Nature's own. How Shakespeare could have done more in one act to give Orlando a place equal in every respect to Rosalind's I find hard to imagine.

A single scene, however, especially a symbolic one, does not constitute a play. The sense that Orlando determines the final shape of the comedy may be conveyed in the Wrestling Scene, but his ability to recognize more of reality than its conventional surface must be proved in Arden. This is not to say that he must possess either perfect vision or complete knowledge. Probably no one does: each of the likely contenders for such perfection in As You Like It fails one or more times to comprehend fully the experience in which he is involved. Thus, though the old Duke can find "tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything" [II. i. 16-17], he does not recognize his daughter; Rosalind, as we have already seen, is deceived in Orlando's power; and Touchstone, the play's great realist, mistakes among other things the author of the verses which Rosalind enters reading. (He is also blind to parody of any but the most gross kind—that is, his own.)

A more reasonable criterion of Orlando's perception therefore is whether he sees as much or as deeply as the best of the others. His understanding, to be estimable, must rival Rosalind's, not ours. Consequently, it is worth noting several passages which show that his perceptions and hers are admirably alike. Consider, for example, their initial responses to the "green world" of the Forest of Arden. Despite Duke Frederick's imperious threats, the departure of Celia and Rosalind for Arden retains the character of a prank. One is reminded most perhaps of The Merchant of Venice. The distinction between a daughter's manners and her father's, the gathering of jewels, and the masquerade all echo the elopement of Lorenzo and Jessica. But Arden, like Prospero's island [in The Tempest], is a more subjective paradise than Belmont, a lesson that both Rosalind and Orlando quickly learn from appropriate "counselors."

The notable lack of enthusiasm in Rosalind's lines when she, Celia, and Touchstone arrive at Arden has often been remarked:

0 Jupiter, how weary are my spirits! ……… I could find it in my heart to disgrace my man's apparel and to cry like a woman. Well, this is the Forest of Arden. [II. iv. 1-15]

To quicken her spirits she has to observe and to talk to Corin, the old shepherd who has so thoroughly assimilated Nature's lessons that he cannot utter an unsound word or do an ungenerous deed. His advice to Silvius is compassionate, humble, and wise. Within Rosalind's hearing Corin admits to having been drawn by his fancy into a thousand actions "most ridiculous." (One thinks, without disapproving, of Orlando's dashing from tree to tree, carving Rosalind's name.) Moreover, when Rosalind asks help for the fainting Celia, Corin's instinctive response pointedly affirms the true and permanent value of the pastoral ideal:

Corin. Fair sir, I pity her And wish, for her sake more than for mine own, My fortunes were more able to relieve her; But I am shepherd to another man And do not shear the fleeces that I graze. My master is of churlish disposition And little recks to find the way to heaven By doing deeds of hospitality. ……… By reason of his absence, there is nothing That you will feed on; but what is, come see, And in my voice most welcome shall you be. [II. iv. 75-87]

Were Touchstone allowed to intrude, he would doubtless observe that one can make but a poor meal of words. It is Celia, however, surely speaking for Rosalind as well as herself, who responds "I like this place and willingly could waste my time in it" [II. iv. 86-7].

Orlando's initiation to the forest is strikingly similar. When Adam, like Celia, "can go no further" and calls a temporary halt, Orlando sees around him an "uncouth forest," a "desert." The air, he says, is "bleak." He discovers the genius of the place, however, when, searching for food for Adam, he comes upon the banquet spread for the old Duke and finds his rude demands answered by gracious, natural hospitality:

Duke Senior. What would you have? Your gentleness shall force More than your force move us to gentleness. ……… Sit down and feed, and welcome to our table. [II. vii. 102-05]

But Orlando, much like Rosalind, had been playing a part to protect himself:

Speak you so gently? Pardon me, I pray you. I thought that all things had been savage here. And therefore put I on the countenance Of stern commandment. [II. vii. 106-09]

Moreover, in his response to the Duke's assurance of "what help we can," Orlando quietly discloses a revised view of Arden:

Then but forebear your food a little while, Whiles, like a doe, I go to find my fawn And give it food. [II. vii. 127-29]

The ease and clarity with which Rosalind and Celia on the one hand and Orlando on the other perceive the moral climate of Arden is in pointed contrast to the hypercritical vision of Jaques and to the sharp, but essentially superficial, vision of Touchstone. Although Jaques' moralizing on the deer "that from the hunter's aim had ta'ken a hurt" shows "a mind full of matter," it is a mind unable to conceive solutions for the discords it sees everywhere. He can pierce through "the body of the country, city, court; Yea, and of this our life" [II. i. 34, 59-60], but he cannot ascend to the irrational world of love and grace.

As a cynic, Jaques is one of two real aliens in Arden's green world. The other, of course, is Touchstone. Jaques dissolves the distinctions between Court and country by regarding them through the prism of his pessimism; Touchstone dissolves them through his unrefracted realism. When he arrives at Arden, not his spirits but his legs are tired. Given the opportunity to make sport of Orlando's parody of romantic verse, Touchstone is careful to exempt time for "dinners, and suppers and sleeping hours" [III. ii. 97]. His offer of marriage to Audrey, the goatgirl, is the fitting expression of a frank, physical need. How close, yet how far, Touchstone stations himself from Corin's natural perspective can be seen by the fine line that separates the focus of two of their juxtaposed speeches:

Corin. Sir, I am a true labourer; 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.

Touchstone. That is another simple sin in you: to bring the ewes and the rams together and to offer to get your living by the copulation of cattle; to be bawd to a bellwether, and to betray a she-lamb of a twelve-month [Audrey] to a crooked-pated old cuckoldy ram [himself] out of all reasonable match. [III. ii. 73-83, italics added]

The relative awareness of Orlando, Rosalind, Touchstone, and Jaques can also be plotted by analyzing their respective perceptions of another of Arden's defining parameters—time. Touchstone's attitude toward time has been accurately understood when we see him as Fortune's timepiece. He does not, however, hold that office alone. Because his famous "And so from hour to hour we ripe and ripe and then from hour to hour we rot and rot" [II. vii. 26-7], is related with approval by Jaques, and because he (Jaques) has his own set speech on time, the moribund Seven Ages, the honor should be shared between them. Touchstone's time, moreover, strongly resembles the Court's time. Like Touchstone, Duke Frederick rules, in a sense, by the clock. When he exiles Rosalind, for example, he leans heavily on temporal terms for force:

Duke Frederick. Mistress, dispatch you with your safest haste And get you from our court!

Rosalind. Me, uncle?

Duke Frederick. You, cousin. Within these ten days if that thou beest found So near our public court as twenty miles, Thou diest for it. [I. iii. 41-4]

Moreover, lest the point be missed, the threat is repeated fifty lines later. "If you outstay the time," Frederick tells his niece, "you die" [I. iii. 88-9].Again, after learning that Celia has fled with Rosalind, he commands that Orlando or Oliver be brought before him "suddenly." And when Oliver appears, he is told to produce his brother

Within this twelvemonth, or turn thou no more To seek a living in our territory. [III. i. 7-8]

Time therefore is inflexible and threatening for the Court, as for the realist and the cynic. Like Fortune's wheel, its movement is inexorable and destructive. It is a primary source of limitation. In another context, it would be tragic: it leads forth death.

The natural time of Arden, on the other hand, is comic: it leads forth life. As Jaques concludes his "strange eventful history" of man in

Second childishness and mere oblivion, Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything [II. vii. 165-66]

Orlando enters with the fawn-like Adam. It is Orlando, moreover, who comments most often and most explicitly on this special quality of Arden's time scheme. His comments come, furthermore, in those two encounters with the disguised Rosalind which have always been regarded as the great comic heart of the play. The first is unusual inasmuch as Orlando is allowed to exploit one of Rosalind's few failures of poise. Having learned from Celia that the verse hung "upon hawthornes" is Orlando's work, Rosalind is distracted with nervous anticipation:

Alas the day! what shall I do with my doublet and hose? What did he when thou saw'st 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. [III. ii. 219-24]

Orlando's entrance a moment later unquestionably increases her girlish excitement. His parody of courtly manners as he takes his leave of Jaques ("I do desire we may be better strangers" [III. ii. 258]) and his defense of Rosalind ("There was no thought of pleasing you when she was christened" [III. ii. 266-67]) prompt even the cynic to grant Orlando's "nimble wit." And when Jaques invites him to join in railing against the world, Orlando answers, "I will chide no breather in the world but myself, against whom I know most faults" [III. ii. 280-81]. It is an answer steeped in the humility of self-knowledge. If it is also obtruded somewhat heavyhandedly into a satiric scene, it is nonetheless irrefutable evidence that Orlando is, indeed, an exceptional romantic hero.

From Rosalind's point of view, however, the next exchange may be more precious still:

Jaques. The worst fault you have is to be in love.Orlando. "Tis a fault I will not change for your best virtue. [III. ii. 282-84]

Love wedded to wit and humility! Is it any wonder, then, that as Rosalind steps forward to "speak to him like a saucy lackey," she blunders and asks lamely, "I pray you, what is it o'clock?" [III. ii. 295-96, 299] Orlando's reply, fortunately, gives unexpected point to the question. "You should ask me, what time o' day," he says. "There is no clock in the forest" [III. ii. 300-01]. Rosalind's rejoinder that time is relative, traveling in "divers paces with divers persons" [III. ii. 308-09], is a brilliant recovery but does not erase Orlando's equally shrewd insight.

Because so much more than a statement of Arden's comic time is accomplished in the second encounter between Orlando and "Ganymede," it would perhaps be wise to approach the scene more broadly, noting Orlando's superiority within the context of his and Rosalind's total achievement. That achievement, one might begin by noticing, is partly the product of the action which surrounds it. The first encounter takes place at the end of the longest scene in the play and gains, as I have intimated, from what precedes it. Following it is a scene between Audrey and Touchstone. The scene between Silvius and Phoebe, which follows next, precedes in turn the second and principal encounter between Rosalind and Orlando. The principle of juxtaposition is important, of course, throughout As You Like It. Once the action has moved to the Forest of Arden, however, the ideas which are juxtaposed are not always the narrow dichotomies of Court versus country, Fortune versus Nature. The hierarchy represented by the three pairs of lovers, for example, can hardly continue the contrast between Court and country since only one of the number, Touchstone, can be taken in any sense as a courtier.

Yet there is a thematic element common to them all. One ambitious suggestion is that the second and deeper theme is "the relation of love and wisdom" [Harold C. Goddard, The Meaning of Shakespeare] . A less abstract, and perhaps more defensible, way of putting it might be that the second theme is the definition of wisdom as comic flexibility. Rigidity, like limitation and Fate, denies life. In Arden, where perception is the index of character, the ability to recognize multiple levels of experience is salutary. It is superseded, in fact, only by the ability to move at will between various levels, to realize in practice several modes of experience without being locked in the iron embrace of any one. This, I submit, is the profound truth which determines our preference for Rosalind and Orlando. The flesh-bound life of a Touchstone and Audrey, we see, is as much a dead end as the fossilized conventional ideal of a Silvius and Phoebe. By achieving a fluid synthesis between these frozen poles, Orlando and Rosalind infuse life with a comic warmth in which we can bask with profit.

That Rosalind possesses the requisite imagination for such a synthesis is, as I understand it, the thematic import of Ganymede's proposing to cure Orlando's love if he would but come every day to the sheep cote and woo a make-believe lover. The dazzling circumstance of a child actor playing Shakespeare's Rosalind playing Rosalind's Ganymede playing Ganymede's Rosalind is, by general agreement, the finest moment in the play. Since we must simultaneously cope with a choice of speaker—Rosalind, Ganymede, or "Rosalind"—and with the possibility that two or more of these speakers may share some speeches, the multiple layers of character create seemingly inexhaustible layers of irony. Between Shakespeare's Rosalind and Ganymede's Rosalind we sense a variable field of force which often holds the figures apart but which sometimes collapses to let them overlap and occasionally merge.

Unfortunately, the delight we take in Rosalind's marvelous virtuosity seems to have obscured the fact that Orlando is her imaginative equal. Rosalind, we have already seen, is not the only one to enter Arden disguised: Orlando's countenance of stern commandment at the forester's feast was also "put on." Armed with the memory of that charade, we may suspect that the Silvius side of Orlando:

I would not have my right Rosalind of this mind, for I protest her frown might kill me [IV. i. 109-10]

is no more "real" and no more limiting than the Touchstone side of Rosalind:

Maids are May when they are maids, but the sky changes when they are wives. I will be more jealous of thee than a Barbary cock-pigeon over his hen [sic], more clamorous than a parrot against rain, more newfangled than an ape, more giddy in my desires than a monkey. [IV. i. 148-53]

The body of external evidence which supports the feeling that while Ganymede is playing "Rosalind" Orlando is playing "Orlando," is not inconsiderable. Perhaps the clearest sign of the distance which separates the two Orlando's is his pointed failure to dress as becomes his assumed part. The marks of the conventional prisoner of love are "a lean cheek … a beard neglected … sleeve unbuttoned … shoe untied, and everything … demonstrating a careless desolation." But, says Rosalind to Orlando, "You are no such man: you are rather point-device in your accoutrements, as loving yourself, than seeming the lover of any other" [III. ii. 373-84].

Additional indications that Orlando has adopted a role for the nonce frame the Wooing Scene. Orlando's greeting to Rosalind ("Good day and happiness, dear Rosalind" [IV. i. 30]) is jeered at by Jaques as "blank verse"—as language, in other words, appropriate to artificial discourse, if not explicitly to the stage. Moreover, Orlando proves as shamelessly tardy a lover as earlier he had proved point-device. "I come within an hour of my promise," he says [IV. i. 42-3], provoking from Rosalind both some courtly railings about lovers being prompt to the thousandth part of a minute and a Touchstonesque quip about horned snails and cuckoldry.

The importance of the exchange is confirmed, I think, when Rosalind returns to the question in her last full speech in the scene:

Rosalind. … if you break one jot of your promise or come one minute behind your hour, I will think you the most pathetical break-promise, and the most hollow lover … therefore beware my censure and keep your promise. [IV. i. 190-96]

Orlando's rejoinder, "With no less religion than if thouwert indeed my Rosalind" [IV. i. 197-98], is as steeped in irony as any line spoken by Rosalind. On the level of the private play in which Orlando and Rosalind have been engaged, the vow is securely within the courtly convention. (We may remember Silvius protesting, "So holy and so perfect is my love, and I in such a poverty of grace" [III. v. 99-100].) The ironic coloring—the strength of the vow depends on a fact which Orlando does not know to be true—complicates, but does not subvert, the convention. If, on the other hand, the speaker is the Orlando who overthrew Charles and who fed Adam, the vow is a useful means of demonstrating where Orlando's values lie. Since, in effect, Orlando fails to keep his hour when he elects to save Oliver from the "sucked and hungry lioness" [IV. iii. 126], we must either applaud his breach of romantic faith or, much better, see that conventional romanticism as a momentary role.

A final sign that Orlando has consciously adopted a momentary role deserves special attention. The decision to bring down the curtain on the masquerade within Arden is, not without reason, given to Orlando. His "I can live no longer by thinking" [V. ii. 50] is the cue for Ganymede's metamorphosis, but it is also a reminder of Orlando's initiative. Moreover, it shows that Orlando knows what Shakespeare never forgets, namely, that Arden, like the theater itself, is only a means to an end. It is misleading, therefore, to think of As You Like It as a test of Orlando. From the moment he triumphs over Charles, Orlando establishes himself as a romantic hero of a new stamp. The succeeding scenes may fill in the outline and deepen the colors, but there should never be the least doubt of Orlando's unique stature. Unlike his peers among Shakespeare's romantic heroes, Orlando is self-possessed and possessed of exceptional self-knowledge. (pp. 13-24)

Thomas Kelly, "Shakespeare's Romantic Heroes: Orlando Reconsidered," in Shakespeare Quarterly, Vol. XXIV, No. 1, Winter, 1973, pp. 12-24.


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Lorentz Eckhoff [In the following excerpt, Eckhoff examines Rosalind's character, particularly the "sparkling gaiety and wit" she maintains even in the face of adversity. It is the heroine's "proud and benevolent nature, "according to the critic, that makes her not only a stable person, but a source of encouragement for other characters in the play. For further commentary on Rosalind's character, see the excerpts by Alfred Harbage, Brigid Brophy, Kenneth Muir, John A. Hart, Nancy K. Hayles, Thomas F. Van Laan, Thomas Kelly, and Clara Claiborne Park.]

Let us consider Rosalind in As You Like It. It goes without saying that she is closely related to many others of Shakespeare's favourite daughters, such as Viola [in Twelfth Night], Imogen [in Cymbeline] and Marina [in Pericles]. She has their wisdom, their firmness of character, and at the same time their pliancy, their indomitable courage in the face of adversity. On the other side of the family tree she is related to Portia from The Merchant of Venice, and has in common with her a precious gift, which is invaluable if one is to play the part of heroine in a comedy: sparkling gaiety and wit.

When the duke banishes her, she has to all appearances no complaint to make, no bitterness to vent. Her conduct is as impeccable and sensible as that of the lamb in the fable faced with the provocations of the wolf. She only asks what wrong she has done, and thereby brings into full relief the duke's cowardice and brutality.

I do beseech your Grace, Let me the knowledge of my fault bear with me. [I. iii. 45-6]

She is told that she is her father's daughter, and replies:

So was I when your highness took his dukedom; So was I when your highness banish'd him. Treason is not inherited, my lord; Or, if we did derive it from our friends, What's that to me? My father was no traitor: Then, good my liege, mistake me not so much To think my poverty is treacherous. [I. iii. 59-65]

Life is not easy for her at court, her father has been exiled, and she senses no doubt that the fate which overtook her father is hanging over her own head. When Celia, rather exacting, bids her be merry, Rosalind can with justice reply:

Dear Celia, I show more mirth than I am mistress of, and would you yet I were merrier? Unless you could teach me to forget a banished father, you must not learn me how to remember any extraordinary pleasure. [I. ii. 3-7]

But since Celia bids her, she is at once ready with a merry thought: what think you of falling in love?—little knowing that before the hour is past her jest will be reality. Later they reach the forest, Celia and Touchstone are fainting with weariness, and Rosalind herself is on the point of disgracing her man's apparel and weeping like a woman. But she must comfort the weaker vessels, "as doublet and hose ought to show itself courageous to petticoat: therefore, courage, good Aliena!" [II. iv. 6-8].

She meets the peasant Corin, buys his farmstead, and thus procures a solid foundation for her bodily comforts; and soon after she gets as sure a foundation for her merriment, namely the poems which Orlando has hung up in the trees, and which in bad verse declare his love for Rosalind. At first she is terrified, what can she do now in her doublet and hose? But he comes in person, and fails to recognise her, and Rosalind is bursting with suppressed gaiety; what a wonderful chance she has to act! And at the same time to hear him in person, every hour of the day, re-assure her of his great love for Rosalind! And without having to blush at his declarations! And she finds a delightful pretext for keeping the game up. Love, she declares,—or rather he, Ganymede, declares, is sheer madness, and should be cured, and if only the patient will submit to his treatment, he Ganymede will cure him. He has been successful in his treatment before, and knows the remedy. The only thing required is for Orlando to pretend that Ganymede is his beloved, his beloved mistress, and woo him each day; and Ganymede guarantees "he" will be able to "wash his liver as clean as a sound sheep's heart, that there be not one spot of love in't" [III. ii. 422-23]. Orlando is not exactly keen to be cured of his passion, but he would like to come each day and call Ganymede Rosalind, and woo her each day. He, Ganymede, is however not quite convinced that Orlando is a prisoner in love's "cage of rushes" [III. ii. 371], for he can find none of the marks of that madness on him, which she enumerates:

A lean cheek, which you have not; a blue eye and sunken, which you have not; an unquestionable spirit, which you have not; a beard neglected, which you have not; but I pardon you for that, for, simply, your having in beard is a younger brother's revenue. Then, your hose should be ungartered, your bonnet unbanded, your sleeve unbuttoned, your shoe untied, and everything about you demonstrating a careless desolation. But you are no such man: you are rather point-device in your accoutrements; as loving yourself than seeming the lover of any other. [III. ii. 373-84]

Such is the nature of Rosalind's wit and merriment. It springs first and foremost from a proud and benevolent nature, jealous of its own honour, which demands of itself the ability to gladden other people and give them courage, and not burden them with its own sorrows. It springs also from the abounding joy of living which fills a resolute and courageous woman, who is sure of her own youth and beauty, knows that she is beloved, and is determined to make the best out of life. And may be more than that, she has imagination, and understanding of human nature, and a loving tolerance toward its weaknesses and foibles. Let us look at another sample. Orlando is unable to tell her what the time is, as there is no clock in the forest.

Rosalind: Then there is no true lover in the forest; else sighing every minute and groaning every hour would detect the lazy foot of Time as well as a clock.

Orlando: And why not swift foot of Time? had not that been as proper?

Rosalind: By no means, sir. Time travels in divers paces with divers persons. I'll tell you who Time ambles withal, who Time trots withal, who Time gallops withal, and who he stands still withal.

Orlando: I prithee, who doth he trot withal?

Rosalind: Marry, he trots hard with a young maid between the contract of her marriage and the day it is solemnized; if the interim be but a se'nnight, Time's pace is so hard that it seems the length of seven years.

Orlando: Who ambles Time withal?

Rosalind: With a priest that lacks Latin, and a rich man that hath not the gout; for the-one sleeps easily because he cannot study, and the other lives merrily because he feels no pain; the one lacking the burden of lean and wasteful learning, the other knowing no burden of heavy tedious penury. These Time ambles withal.

Orlando: Who doth he gallop withal?

Rosalind: With a thief to the gallows; for though he go as softly as foot can fall he thinks himself too soon there.

Orlando: Who stays it still withal?

Rosalind: With lawyers in the vacation; for they sleep between term and term, and then they perceive not how Time moves. [III. ii. 302-33]

So she keeps the fun going until one day she is quite put out when he comes a few minutes late for their rendezvous, and Oliver, frightens her out of her wits, and she swoons at the sight of a handkerchief red with Orlando's blood. Then she finds it difficult to play her part and in a sudden spirit of "let's get it done with" she exclaims:

Come, woo me, woo me; for now I am in a holiday humour, and like enough to consent. [IV. i. 68-9] (pp. 163-68)

Lorentz Eckhoff, "The Merry Ones," in his Shakespeare: Spokesman of the Third Estate, translated by R. I. Christophersen, Basil Blackwell, 1954, pp. 163-82.

Clara Claiborne Park [In the excerpt below, Park maintains that Shakespeare belongs to a small minority of authors in the history of western literature who created influential woman characters in his works. Rosalind's actions control the progression of events in As You Like It, the critic remarks, and it is through her machinations that the four couples assemble for the multiple marriages at the end of the play. According to Park, Shakespeare is careful, however, to make sure that Rosalind's wit in no way oversteps the feminine domain of "love-matters." Ultimately, the critic points out, Rosalind willingly and unregrettably relinquishes her male disguise infavor of her more traditional female role. For further commentary on Rosalind's character, see the excerpts by Alfred Harbage, Brigid Brophy, Kenneth Muir, John A. Hart, Nancy K. Hayles, Thomas F. Van Laan, Thomas Kelly, and Lorentz Eckhoff. This essay was recently reprinted in Clara Claiborne Park, Rejoining the Common Reader: Essays, 1962-1990 (Northwestern University Press, 1991).]

In the major literature there are no useful Bildungsromans [novels about the moral and psychological growth of the main character] for girls. A boy's development into manhood through testing experience is one of the oldest themes in literature; Homer's Telemachus presents the first model of how to grow into the kind of man one's society approves and has need of. From the [Homer's] Odyssey to [William Faulkner's] "The Bear," literature affords a long procession of raw youths; almost all manage to become men. Girls, however, had to wait out a twenty-five-hundred-year literary history before anyone made fiction of their growth. When Evelina and Emma did at length appear on the scene, a capable girl—let us imagine, for example, the young Florence Nightingale—might have been pardoned for feeling that whatever else they did, these characters scarcely enlarged her sense of possibility. The scope of their activities was even more restricted than that of the ladies who created them—who did, at least, write books. Only the dearth of images of the possibilities open to a developing girl can explain the immense influence of a novel that most males never read—Louisa May Alcott's Little Women.

Yet young females, like young males, create themselves according to the models their society provides for them; and like young males, those who read look in literature for images of what they could be and what they ought to be. Stories of female trial and initiation are by their nature difficult for male writers to provide, and we should remember that from Sappho—floruit 600 B.C.—to Jane Austen there were hardly any writers who were not male. Male writers, of course, can and do provide models for females, but not very many. A cursory check of the dramatis personae of any Elizabethan play will demonstrate what is still true of modern fictions: female characters are greatly outnumbered. (A London director estimated last year that there are five times as many parts for actors as for actresses.) Still, quantity is not everything. Literate girls could find without difficulty images which, although they lacked the dimension of development, still provided a warm variety of ways of being female. They could—like everybody else-read Shakespeare.

As classics go, Shakespeare isn't bad reading for a girl. The conventions of tragedy and romance offer horizons considerably wider than those available in Fanny Burney and Jane Austen; the courts of Europe and the seacoasts of Bohemia provide backgrounds in which a girl can imagine herself doing far more interesting things than she could at home. It is true that, unlike those paradoxical dramatists of male-chauvinist Athens, Shakespeare never allows a woman a play of her own. He provides neither Antigones nor Medeas; no feminine name appears in his titles except as the second member of a male-female pair. Yet a girl can read Shakespeare without calling upon the defenses necessary for [John] Milton or [Ernest] Hemingway, or [D. H.] Lawrence or [Norman] Mailer—writers she must read calloused for survival, a black in Mr. Charlie's land. Shakespeare liked women and respected them; not everybody does. We do not find him, like Milton, luxuriating in the amoebic submissiveness of an Eve in Paradise, and we can surmise that he would have found little interest in the dim Marias and complaisant Catherines whom Hemingway found nonthreatening. He is not afraid of the kind of assertiveness and insistence on her own judgment that Eve displays when she gets busy bringing death into the world and all our woe; the evidence of the plays is that he positively enjoyed it.

From Mrs. Jameson [the nineteenth-century literary critic] on, critics, male and female, have praised Shakespeare's women. "The dignity of Portia [in The Merchant of Venice], the energy of Beatrice [in Much Ado About Nothing], the radiant high spirits of Rosalind [in As You Like It], the sweetness of Viola [in Twelfth Night]"—William Allan Neilson's encomia can stand for thousands of others. Juliet, Cordelia [in King Lear], Rosalind, Beatrice; Cleopatra, Hermione [in The Winter's Tale], Emilia [in Othello], Paulina [in The Winter's Tale]—Shakespeare's girls and mature women are individualized, realized, fully enjoyed as human beings. His respect for women is evident in all the plays, but it is in the middle comedies that the most dazzling image recurs. It is an image significant for what it can tell us about the extent—and the limits—of acceptable feminine activity in the Shakespearean world, a world which in this as in other things remains, over time and change, disconcertingly like our own. (pp. 262-64)

Neilson [an early twentieth-century scholar and educator] describes [Rosalind] as having "the wit of Portia and Beatrice softened by the gentleness of Viola"—exactly as we like it. In As You Like It, however, Shakespeare does not hesitate to tip the equal balance that affords the fun of Much Ado in favor of the lady; in wit and energy, Rosalind has no male rival. Insofar as any other character is able to match her repartee, it is Celia, who although she is usually remembered as the gentle foil, the "other kind" of girl, turns out to have a surprising number of the snappy lines. Orlando, however, is merely a nice young man; as is true at Radcliffe and Harvard, the girls come out with noticeably higher College Entrance Examination Board verbals.

Rosalind, however, is more than witty. As You Like It is her play. This is, of course, unusual in Shakespeare. Heroes act, but heroines commonly do not, which is why, unlike Antigone and Lysistrata, none of them gets a Shakespearean title to herself. Neither does Rosalind—although Thomas Lodge had accorded her one [in Rosalynde]—but nevertheless it is she who moves the play. She is energetic, effective, successful. She has the courage to accept exile; she decides to assume male dress, and, playing brother, she guides her friend to the Forest of Arden. The late comedies no longer present these forceful young women, and the faithful Imogen of Cymbeline retroactively exposes the extent of Rosalind's autonomy. It is not Imogen but her husband's servant who originates the idea of male disguise; the necessity for her journey originates not in her own position but in her relation to her husband, and as soon as she lacks a man to guide her, she gets lost. Her complaint at this point measures her distance from Rosalind: "I see a man's life is a tedious one" [Cymbeline, III. vi. 1]. (Her previous remark to Cloten also bears thinking about: "You put me to forget a lady's manners / By being so verbal" [II. iii. 105-06].) Through Imogen we can appreciate the unique position of Rosalind in her play. Rosalind's decisions control the progress of As You Like It, and it is by her agency that the four couples assemble in the concluding nuptial dance which, as in The Boke of the Governor, "betokeneth concord" and embodies for the audience the harmony restored that is the essence of Shakespearean comedy.

Yet Shakespeare arranges for her to do all this without making the ladies censorious or the gentlemen nervous. He has various methods of rendering her wit painless and her initiatives acceptable. The most obvious way is to confine them to love matters, a proper feminine sphere. Rosalind is a political exile, but she shows no disposition to meddle in politics; it is not through her agency that her father is restored to his rightful place. Her wit is not, like Portia's, exercised in the service of sensible men engaged in the serious business of the world, nor are her jokes made at their expense. Her satire is, in fact, narrowly directed at two classes of beings—sighing lovers, and women. In the course of the fun she works her way through most of the accusations already traditional in a large anti-feminist literature (inconstancy, contrariness, jealousy, unfaithfulness, et cetera) to the point where Celia tells her, "We must have your doublet and hose plucked over your head, and show the world what the bird has done to her own nest." [IV. i. 202-04]. Add that we know all along that she herself is the butt of her own jokes, being herself both lovesick and female, and it would be a fragile Benedick indeed who could feel himself stabbed by her poniard.

The most useful dramatic device for mediating the initiatives of the female, however, is the male disguise. Male garments immensely broaden the sphere in which female energy can manifest itself. Dressed as a man, a nubile woman can go places and do things she couldn't do otherwise, thus getting the play out of the court and the closet and into interesting places like forests or Welsh mountains. Once Rosalind is disguised as a man, she can be as saucy and self-assertive as she likes. (We can observe a similar change come over sweet Viola of Twelfth Night as soon as she begins to play the clever page.) The male characters will accept her behavior because it does not offend their sense of propriety, the female characters because (like the audience) they know she's playing a role. With male dress we feel secure. In its absence, feminine assertiveness is viewed with hostility, as with Kate the Shrew, or at best, as with Beatrice, as less than totally positive. Male dress transforms what otherwise could be experienced as aggression into simple high spirits.

The temporary nature of the male disguise is of course essential, since the very nature of Shakespearean comedy is to affirm that disruption is temporary, that what has turned topsy-turvy will be restored. It is evident that Rosalind has enjoyed the flexibility and freedom that come with the assumption of the masculine role, but it is also evident that she will gladly and voluntarily relinquish it. "Down on your knees," she tells the proud shepherdess who scorns her faithful swain, "and thank Heaven, fasting, for a good man's love" [III. v. 57-8]. Rosalind, clearly, is thankful for Orlando's, and although she is twice the person he is, we are willing to believe that they live happily ever after, since that's obviously what she wants. (pp. 269-71)

Clara Claiborne Park, "As We Like It: How a Girl Can Be Smart and Still Popular," in The American Scholar, Vol. 42, No. 2, Spring, 1973, pp. 262-78.


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John Palmer [In the following excerpt, Palmer discusses Touchstone's character in As You Like It. According to the critic, Touchstone is a wise fool who acts as a kind of guide or point of reference throughout the play, putting everyone, including himself, to the comic test. This function is apparent in Touchstone's parodic exchanges with Corin, Silvius, Audrey, and—especially—Jaques, with whom the fool acts as a foil throughout the play. For further commentary on Touchstone's character, see the excerpts by Alfred Harbage, Kenneth Muir, John A. Hart, and Enid Welsford.]

In most of Shakespeare's comedies there is a character who stands, as it were, at the centre. To get a clear view of the composition as a whole we must take up our position as near as possible beside him.

In 'Love's Labour's Lost' we found our point of reference for the comic values of the play in Berowne. In 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' it may be said concerning Bottom that 'if he comes not, the play is marred'. For As You Like It the author has named his own Touchstone. It is as though Shakespeare, setting out for Arden, where so many excellent poets have lost themselves in affected sentiment, mislaid their common sense in refining upon their sensibility and, in their self-conscious pursuit of nature, found themselves grasping a pale misfeatured shadow, had determined in advance to take with him a guide who should keep him in the path of sanity. Touchstone puts all things and every person in the play, including himself, to the comic test. Entering Arden with Touchstone you cannot go astray or mistake the wood for the trees.

It is his function to 'speak wisely what wise men do foolishly' [I. ii. 86-7] and he loses no time about it. We are to accept him at once as no respecter of false persons:

TOUCHSTONE: Mistress, you must come away to your father.

CELIA: Were you made the messenger?

TOUCHSTONE: No, by mine honour, but I was bid to come for you.

ROSALIND: Where learned you that oath, fool?

TOUCHSTONE: Of a certain knight, that swore by his honour they were good pancakes, and swore by his honour the mustard was naught: now I'll stand to it, the pancakes were naught and the mustard was good, and yet was not the knight forsworn.

CELIA: How prove you that, in the great heap of your knowledge?

ROSALIND: Ay, marry, now unmuzzle your wisdom.

TOUCHSTONE: Stand you both forth now: stroke your chins, and swear by your beards that I am a knave.

CELIA: By our beards (if we had them) thou art.

TOUCHSTONE: By my knavery (if I had it) then I were: but if you swear by that that is not, you are not forsworn: [I. ii. 57-77]

We are next to observe that this Touchstone has a lively sense of the fitness of things. Le Beau enters to tell the ladies of much good sport—how Charles, the wrestler, has broken the ribs of three proper young men, of excellent growth and presence:

TOUCHSTONE: But what is the sport, monsieur, that the ladies have lost?

LE BEAU: Why, this that I speak of.

TOUCHSTONE: Thus men may grow wiser every day. It is the first time that ever I heard breaking of ribs was sport for ladies. [I. ii. 134-39)

We are to esteem him also as a loyal servant who, without any illusions as to the sequel, is ready at a word to 'go along o'er the wide world' [I. iii. 132] with his mistress. This is no merely incidental touch. That Touchstone should set out in sturdy devotion, with an agreeably romantic expectation, is a fact essential to our appreciation of his quality. His part in the comedy is to shed the light of reality and common sense upon its fanciful figures and diversions. To play such a part he must be either a true cynic or one that affects his cynicism to mask a fundamentally genial spirit. Now a true cynic would be out of place in the forest of Arden. So Touchstone must be a thoroughly good fellow at heart. His brain may be as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage but he must be essentially a genial spirit. His acidity must be no more than skin-deep. He will see things as they are but without malice. He will have a keen flair for absurdity in people and things—not least for his own infirmities. He will, moreover, bring all things to the test of action, and the climax of his comedy will be to marry a slut so that he may embrace in reality the simple life which for his companions is no more than a holiday affectation.

How characteristic is his entry into the pastoral pleasaunce:

ROSALIND: O Jupiter! How weary are my spirits!

TOUCHSTONE: I care not for my spirits, if my legs were not weary. ……… ROSALIND: Well, this is the forest of Arden.

TOUCHSTONE: Ay, now am I in Arden, the more fool I. When I was at home, I was in a better place, but travellers must be content. [II. iv. 1-3, 15-18]

This is wholesome correction and it comes most aptly between a touching scene in which Adam displays 'the constant service of the antique world' [II. iii. 57], and our first encounter with Silvius and Corin—a young man and an old in solemn talk. Note, too, how he pricks the bladder of sentiment not by rejecting its appeal, but by claiming a share in its manifestations. The love of Silvius for Phebe and of Rosalind for Orlando prompts him to declare: 'We that are true lovers run into strange capers; but as all is mortal in nature, so is all nature in love mortal in folly' [II. iv. 54-6]; and he is driven to remember—nor do we doubt the fidelity of the reminiscence—his own love for Jane Smile and the kissing of her batler and the cow's dugs that her pretty chopt hands had milked. All Touchstone is in that little speech—his quaint pretension to philosophy and a capacity for romance, rooted in nature but aware of its own excess. Jane Smile's hands were pretty but the eye of the realist could not avoid noticing that they were chopt.

Touchstone, coming to terms with the simple life, cannot forget that he has been, and remains, a courtier. He cannot refrain from airing his graces and indulging his gentility. But there is no conceit nor any hint of unkindness in his teasing of a country bumpkin. It is a fault in him to show off in this way and he knows it for one:

It is meat and drink to me to see a clown. By my troth, we that have good wits have much to answer for; we shall be flouting; we cannot hold. [V. i. 10-12]

But even his flouting has about it a quality which distinguishes him from all the rest. Touchstone, 'above all things', is interested in people and places and ways of life. He must get to the bottom of a subject and take its measure. Of Corin he asks, as much in an honest desire to know as in a spirit of mockery: 'Hast any philosophy in thee, shepherd?' [III. ii. 21-2] And when Corin expounds—

No more, but that I know the more one sickens, the worse at ease he is; and that he that wants money, means and content is without three good friends; that the property of rain is to wet and fire to burn; that good pasture makes fat sheep; and that a great cause of the night is lack of the sun; [III. ii. 23-8]

Touchstone's rejoinder ('Such a one is a natural philosopher' [III. ii. 32]) is a shrewd companionable comment and no sneer. He must, as he confesses, be flouting. He takes an impish pleasure in maintaining that Corin, never having been at court or seen good manners, is damned; but Corin takes it all—as Touchstone intends it—in good part and serenely states his simple faith in the knowledge that, though it maybe amiably mocked, it will nevertheless be respected:

Sir, I am a true labourer. 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. 73-7]

The whole thing is an epitome of Shakespeare's management of the pastoral theme. He presents the simple life with a most convincing innocence, but Touchstone is there to relate it justly to the scheme of things entire:

CORIN: And how like you this shepherd's life, Master Touchstone?

TOUCHSTONE: Truly, shepherd, in respect of itself, it is a good life; but in respect that it is a shepherd's life, it is naught. In respect that it is solitary, I like it very well; but in respect that it is private, it is a very vile life. Now in respect it is in the fields, it pleaseth me well; but in respect it is not in the court, it is tedious. As it is a spare life, look you, it fits my humour well; but as there is no more plenty in it, it goes much against my stomach. [III. ii. 11-21]

Even the incomparable Rosalind, whose tide of wit and flush of love set her above any need of correction by the comic spirit, must be brought to the test if only to show how triumphantly she survives it. Orlando's rhymes are redeemed by the sincerity of his passion. But some of them have more feet than the verses will bear and the feet are lame. Indeed they are very tedious homilies of love, and all this she merrily declares. And Touchstone must also have his say. It is he who, on his author's behalf, must intimate very clearly that poetasters of the pastoral school are more deserving of mockery than imitation:

ROSALIND: From the east to western Ind, No jewel is like Rosalind. Her worth being mounted on the wind, Through all the world bears Rosalind. All the pictures fairest lined Are but black to Rosalind. Let no face be kept in mind But the fair of Rosalind.

TOUCHSTONE: I'll rhyme you so eight years together, dinners, and suppers, and sleeping-hours excepted: it is the right butter-women's rank to market.

ROSALIND: Out, fool!

TOUCHSTONE: For a taste: If a hart do lack a hind. Let him seek out Rosalind: If the cat will after kind. So be sure will Rosalind: Wintered garments must be lined. So must slender Rosalind. They that reap must sheaf and bind, Then to cart with Rosalind. Sweetest nut hath sourest rind, Such a nut is Rosalind. He that sweetest rose will find, Must find love's prick and Rosalind. This is the very false gallop of verses. Why do you infect yourself with them?

ROSALIND: Peace, you dull fool! I found them on a tree.

TOUCHSTONE: Truly, the tree yields bad fruit. [III. ii. 88-116]

Orlando's poem is itself a parody. Touchstone's is a parody twice over. Again he plays for us the author's trick. The pastoral exercise is pleasant in itself but still more pleasant for being so easily mocked, (pp. 35-9)

The supreme test for Touchstone is his encounter with Jaques. But it is well, before we examine an incident which will determine our outlook on the entire comedy, to become more intimately acquainted with the man himself. Shakespeare affords us an opportunity in the episode of Touchstone's courting of Audrey. Here we behold the man who has no illusions concerning nature frankly responding to her call. The others merely trifle with her; Touchstone sees, hears and obeys:

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. iii. 79-82]

He has found rich honesty, dwelling like a miser in a poor house, 'as your pearl in your foul oyster' [V. iv. 61], and. having found it. has the courage of his convictions and will not let it go. His wooing of Audrey is at the same time a burlesque and a true reflection in nature of the three romantic courtships among which it intrudes. There is conscious irony in his claim to be pressing in 'among the rest of the country copulatives, to swear and to forswear, according as marriage binds and blood breaks' [V. iv. 55-7], for none knows better than Touchstone himself that he alone is paying a genuine tribute to the ancient gods of the forest. His surrender to the great god. Pan, is the more complete, and certainty the more entirely comic, for his being clearly aware of what he is doing. He is still the courtier and he must still be flouting—even at the 'poor virgin, sir, an ill-favoured thing, sir, but mine own' [V. iv. 57-8]. He will go so far as to suggest that 'not being well-married, it will be a good excuse hereafter to leave my wife' [III. iii. 92-4]. But all these floutings are superficial. Touchstone's comedy, in fact, shows all the rest of the comedy in reverse. His wooing of Audrey is irony in action. Orlando. Rosalind, Silvius, Phebe and the rest affect their pastoral simplicity but remain entirely civilised. Touchstone affects his urbanity but is at heart a truly natural philosopher. None knows better than he what he is doing, for it is of the essence of his character to see himself as he sees everyone else in the play in detachment:

A man may, if he were of a fearful heart, stagger in this attempt; for here we have no temple but the wood, no assembly but horn-beasts. But what though? Courage! [III. iii. 48-51]

He begins his courtship with a double pun and a sidelong mockery of the whole pastoral outfit:

I am here with thee and thy goats, as the most capricious poet, honest Ovid was among the Goths— [III. iii. 7-9]

but his deeds in plain English speak louder than the word-play in Latin.

Now that we begin to know our Touchstone we can have no doubt of what really happened upon his first encounter with Jaques. It is Jaques himself who describes the meeting:

A fool, a fool! I met a fool i' th' forest, A motley fool—a miserable world!— As I do live by food, I met a fool, Who laid him down and basked him in the sun, And railed on Lady Fortune in good terms, In good set terms, and yet a motley fool. Good morrow, fool,' quoth I: 'No, sir,' quoth he, Call me not fool till heaven hath sent me fortune.' And then he drew a dial from his poke, And looking on it with lack-lustre eye, Says very wisely, 'It is ten o'clock: Thus we may see', quoth he, 'how the world wags: "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.' 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; And I did laugh, sans intermission. An hour by his dial. O noble fool! O worthy fool! Motley's the only wear. [II. vii. 12-34]

Jaques relates how he has been amusing himself with a fool, but Touchstone, we perceive, has been amusing himself—and more to the purpose—with a philosopher. While Jaques was laughing at the fool, the fool was taking his measure and pulling his leg. Here Touchstone saw at once was a fashionable cynic, venting a shallow disappointment with men and things in well-turned homilies upon the way of the world. Playing up to his man the fool rails on Lady Fortune in good set terms. The philosopher is hooked and the fool lands his fish with a solemn descant upon the passage of time. Jaques, completely taken in, marvels that a fool should be so deep-contemplative. (pp. 43-6)

The relations between the pair are unobtrusively maintained throughout the play. When Jaques, in search of someone from whom to suck melancholy as a weasel sucks eggs, follows Touchstone and Audrey through the forest and overhears their conference, Touchstone, though Jaques has laughed sans intermission an hour by his dial, does not even remember his name—or affects not to remember it. 'Good-even, good Master What-ye-call 't' is his greeting [III. iii. 73]. Touchstone, in fact, is as indifferent in his dealings with Jaques as Jaques is eager to improve the acquaintance. For Jaques, Touchstone is a collector's piece—un objet d'art et de vertu. He introduces him to the Duke with a 'Good my lord, give him welcome: this is the motley-minded gentleman that I have so often met in the forest; he hath been a courtier, he swears' [V. iv. 40-2]. Touchstone plays up to Jaques in their last as in their first encounter. He gives the Duke, as we have noted, a taste of his quality. Jaques plays the part of a delighted compère, showing off the paces of the fool like a circus master, prompting him to perform worthily before company and not to let his sponsor down. 'Good my lord, like this fellow. … Is not this a rare fellow, my lord? He's as good at anything and yet a fool' [V. iv. 51-2, 104-05]. And the cream of the jest is that Jaques casting himself for the part of exhibitor is really the exhibitionist. Touchstone is only too willing to give the Duke a run for his money but pays not the slightest attention to Monsieur Melancholy.

But what of the seven ages of man? They too serve the double purpose. The speech is good hearing. It holds the stage and lingers in the memory. It is the most successful example of sententious commonplace declamation in English literature. At the same time it exposes the speaker for what he is and puts a final touch to his character. It is a good summary of life lived on the average. It has no depth, not a touch of magic, no suggestion of anything beyond its narrow limits; and it is coloured throughout by the bilious disposition of the orator. The infant mewls, the schoolboy whines, the lover sighs, the soldier swears, the judge proses, the pantaloon shrinks and the old man loses his teeth. Nor is there any indication anywhere that anyone has truly striven, aspired, suffered, meditated or seen beyond the end of his nose.

'As You Like It' has been the least fortunate in its critics of all the plays of Shakespeare. It has often been injudiciously praised—or scandalously dispraised—for its obvious merits to the neglect of its finer qualities. Shakespeare in this play brought off two achievements on two different lines of appreciation. The first was to present his native Arden, to show us true love running happily to a foregone conclusion (no easy matter), to convey in his own sweet idiom the pastoral pleasures of woodland and sheep-cote, to moralise agreeably on the changes of fortune and the simple life—in a word to give us a sample of the pastoral-comical stripped of its more elaborate affectations. This part of his task he performed so well that it has been praised with eloquence and propriety by many critics who are content to look no further.

Shakespeare's second achievement has been obscured by the success of his first. The charming, life-like, conversible comic figures of the story have been too easily accepted at their own valuation. The gentle irony that plays about them and their relationships, the constant reference of character, conduct and environment to the test of nature, the poise maintained in every scene between permitted romance and prohibitive reality—these often tend to be partly misconceived or wholly ignored. (pp. 50-2)

John Palmer, "Touchstone," in his Comic Characters of Shakespeare, Macmillan and Co., Limited, 1946, pp. 28-52.

Enid Welsford [In the following excerpt, Welsford regards Touchstone as a kind of intermediary between the playwright and the audience, and is literally what his name implies: a "test of the quality of men and manners." The critic considers both Touchstone and Jaques social commentators in As You Like It, but while Touchstone is sympathetic and truly partial, Jaques is a superficial critic whose chief interest is with his own, not society's, reactions. For further commentary on Touchstone's character, see the excerpts by Alfred Harbage, Kenneth Muir, John A. Hart, and John Palmer.]

In As You Like It the fool's name indicates his dramatic role: he serves as a touchstone or test of the quality of men and manners, and so helps to poise an otherwise somewhat kaleidoscopic play. For here, as elsewhere, Shakespeare expresses a complex point of view, making the most of the comic as well as of the romantic possibilities of his theme, and even at times burlesquing the pastoral convention in which his play is written. In such a play as this, where so much depends on a skilful use of allusion, contrast, and a variety produced by constant shift of focus, the role of the court-jester can be turned to very useful account. As privileged truth-teller, he can both serve as a mouthpiece for his author's criticism of prevailing literary fashions, and also by an occasional tartness preserve the play from the insipidity which so often mars pastoral literature. As an onlooker by profession he can supply us with that punctum indifferens, or point of rest, which … is particularly necessary for the enjoyment of a complicated work of art.

The plan of As You Like It is indeed unexpectedly subtle. Touchstone is, as it were, the authorized commentator, but he has a rival in the person of that self-constituted critic of society, the melancholy Jaques. It is as though, the curtain which veils Arcadia having been drawn aside, two of the inhabitants separate themselves from the rest, and step forward to the front of the stage offering themselves as guides to the spectators in the auditorium. Both of them are equally ready to act as showmen, but in every other respect they are sharply contrasted: the one a sophisticated traveller, professedly intellectual, melancholy and dressed in black, the other a natural court-jester, professionally mad, merry and dressed in motley. This contrast of colour is not unimportant in a play which derives much of its charm from its picturesque qualities, and has many affinities with masque and ballet. But the contrast of outward appearances corresponds to a contrast of critical attitudes, which is still more significant. In spite of his varied experiences, Jaques is a superficial critic of life, because his apparent curiosity as to the doings of other people is really only an intense interest in his own reactions. He is essentially a poseur. Touchstone, on the other hand, exposes affectation; but he is capable of sympathy as well as of criticism, and his judgments are really impartial because his mental peculiarities and his degraded social position prevent him from having any private axe to grind. So, although Jaques and Touchstone stand side by side as showmen, their points of view are not equally valid; and it is the fool, not the cynic, who is the touchstone of the play. But although, like the shepherd whom he twits, 'such an one is a natural philosopher' [III. ii. 32], he is not to be taken over-sadly; for, after all, he jests in an evanescent world of romantic freedom where the only touchstones are beauty and delight. For all his protests the fool is at home in Arden, as he was long ago in the fairy-haunted town of Arras, and it is only the over-clever, introverted victim of ennui who excludes himself from the jovial harmony and hymeneal mirth 'when earthly things made even, atone together' [V. iv. 109-10].

The use made of the fool in the play is a striking illustration of Shakespeare's successful craftsmanship. Ben Jonson's verdict that 'Shakespeare wanted arte' becomes amusing when we compare the subtly conceived role of Touchstone with the repulsive clowns of Volpone, who may well be lifelike portraits of the more unpleasant inmates of an Italian palace, but contribute practically nothing to the meaning of the comedy. In fact, although Shakespeare's fecundity was too great to allow him to be over-meticulous, he excelled his fellow-playwrights not only as a poet and student of human nature, but also as a thinker and as an artist. He was the only dramatist of the time to make use of the technical peculiarities of the dramatic tradition which he inherited, and in the creation of Touchstone he did very nearly, though not quite, succeed in making the fool's role as potent a theatrical device as the Greek chorus. (pp. 249-51)

Enid Welsford, "The Court-Fool in Elizabethan Drama," in his The Fool: His Social and Literary History, 1935. Reprint by Farrar & Rinehart, 1936, pp. 243-72.


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Oscar James Campbell [Campbell interprets Jaques from a historical perspective, noting events in Shakespeare's own lifetime that strongly influenced his dramatization of the character. According to the critic, Jaques reflects the stock Elizabethan literary figure of the malcontent traveler who, upon returning home from his sojourn to other countries, is corrupt, bitter, and bored with life. Jaques's melancholy, like that of the character-type in Elizabethan literature, is thus both real and exaggerated, Campbell states. The critic further maintains, however, that Jaques is also "something much more significant," namely Shakespeare's "amusing representative of the English satirists whose works streamed from the press during the years from 1592 to 1599 inclusive." Importantly, Campbell argues that Jaques's pessimistic tirades against humanity—even his famous soliloquy on the seven ages of man in Act II, scene vii— are never accepted by Shakespeare as complete "truths, "but are always shown to be "ridiculously false" and "blind to the realities of the world." For further commentary on Jaques's character, see the excerpts by Alfred Harbage, Kenneth Muir, John A. Hart, Frederick Turner, John Palmer, and Harold C. Goddard.]

In As You Like It (1600) and Twelfth Night (1601), we enter a brave new world of comedy. These plays reveal a larger poetic reach and an ampler view of human absurdity than Shakespeare's earlier comedies. In them, too, the dramatist seasons romance with a liberal admixture of satire. Two events in the world of letters at the turn of the century suggested to Shakespeare ways of making pungent his satiric spice.

The first was the order of 1 June 1599 …, which suppressed the formal satires of a number of authors mentioned by name and prohibited the further printing of any satires or epigrams [short satirical poems or paradoxical sayings]. Despite these vigorous efforts at suppression, the ecclesiastical censors [church authorities] did not succeed in forcing into duress the satiric spirit then abroad in English literature. Almost immediately dramatists, led by Ben Jonson, devised a form of comedy which preserved the subject matter, the salutary purpose, and the methods of the proscribed literary form. Shakespeare was perfectly familiar with this contest between ecclesiastical authorities and rebellious artists. He observed the struggle with the detachment of a great artist and transformed into high comedy some of the issues of the quarrel. He went even further, and adapted to his own uses the devices which Jonson invented to circumvent the angry suppression of the bishops.

While Shakespeare was composing As You Like It, a change took place in the personnel of his company which exerted almost as much influence upon his methods of writing comedy as did the progress of the satiric movement. In 1599 Will Kemp left the Lord Chamberlain's Men [Shakespeare's acting company] to be succeeded by Robert Armin.… Shakespeare had provided Kemp with parts filled with more and more amusing ridicule of folly. Beginning as the conventional type figure of the stupid lout, the talented comedian had gradually been promoted to parts like the Bastard and Falstaff, in which he could give rein to a keen spirit of joyous satire. Kemp's successor, Robert Armin, by the time he entered the company had developed a different clownish line. Hence Kemp's departure forced Shakespeare to abandon one of his most successful forms of comic invention in order to create parts better suited to Armin's peculiar talents.

For these reasons the satire in As You Like It is quite different from that which Shakespeare had introduced into his earlier comedies. An informed reader of the play soon realizes that the dramatist was thoroughly familiar with the temper and achievements of the satiric movement in poetry which came to an abrupt end in 1599. (pp. 44-5)

Though disturbed social conditions in England gave the initial impulse to the satiric movement, once launched, it slavishly imitated Latin satire.… Some members of this English school—Sir John Davies, Sir John Harington, Thomas Bastard, and John Weaver—wrote only epigrams. Though their master [the Roman epigrammatist] Martial composed epigrams of many sorts, they seem to have been aware only of his satiric vein. Hence an epigram to them was merely a short satire, less severe in tone. It attacked social absurdity rather than sin. (p. 45)

The members of [the] English school repeatedly asserted that their satires were always impersonal, that they attacked not individuals but general faults. Therefore only those guilty of the follies assailed were justified in taking umbrage at any particular charge. [Thomas] Lodge, in a preface to A Fig for Momus, thus explains the significance of the poems in the volume: 'In them (under the names of certain Romaines) where I reprehend vice, I purposely wrong no man, but observe the lawes of that kind of poeme [that is, a satire]. If any repine thereat, I am sure he is guiltie, because he bewrayeth himself.' Such a pronouncement was intended to close the mouths of everyone who objected to any expression of the wrathful spirit then abroad. Jaques, we shall see, represents Shakespeare's idea of one of these satirists of the old school. In characterizing him the dramatist expresses his opinion of the entire group. But Jaques' temper is quite unlike that which establishes the tone of As You Like It. It is just because his sour comments on life are discordant with the spirit of Arden that they are so arresting.

The comedy, as everyone knows, is the dramatization of a very popular pastoral romance, Thomas Lodge's Rosalynde, first published in 1590. It should be, therefore, completely romantic in key. To be sure, heroic adventures told at length in the novel do not appear in the comedy. Such incidents as the capture of the heroine by a band of robbers and her subsequent rescue by the hero and her brother were obviously too violent for the atmosphere of a pastoral play. But Orlando is the typical love-shaken, sonneteering lover of romance. Rosalind and Celia are the perfect friends of idealistic fiction. That they are women is a late Renaissance variation of the conventional theme. Adam is the extravagantly loyal retainer of medieval tale, representing 'the constant service of the antique world.' The play is also filled with surprising adventures and strange incidents, and it ends, as all romantic comedies should, with marriages galore.

Yet as a reader explores more deeply the meaning of the play, he finds in it much besides the high spirits and thoughtless gaiety of pure romance. Externally the setting is that of a conventional pastoral play. The forest is full of shepherds, foresters, and other creatures who could live together only in an Elysium of escape from the real world. But the Forest of Arden is no mirage of wish-fulfilment. It is not like the world of Italian pastoral romance, not a country in which the longings of those bored with city life were realized. It is an actual English woodland through which real winds blow, a region near the haunts of Robin Hood and his merry men.

This is the place to which Orlando and Rosalind flee when driven away from society by injustice and tyranny. They hope to find in the Forest of Arden that life in accord with nature which they had read about in some Italian pastoral.… The authors of these works celebrate a natural habitat of dreamy indolence and idyllic freedom, where none of the restraints and artifices of society prevail. Erasmus in his Praise of Folly, taking the side of nature as against art, writes, 'Nature hates all false coloring and is ever best where she is least adulterated with art.'

It is the Nature imagined by such writers that Orlando and Rosalind seek in the Forest of Arden. And what creatures do they find there? They meet characters who belong to the most artificial of all worlds of fiction, the pastoral romance. Silvius, the sighing love-sick swain, is there, and Phebe, the obstinately chaste shepherdess. So are William and Audrey, neither of whom has ever been washed by the romantic imagination or any other known cleansing agent. They are the shepherd and his lass as they really are, ignorant dirty louts-simple folk who know nothing but what Nature has taught them. 'Here,' says Shakespeare, 'are two authentic children of Nature.' This is the heterogeneous company to which Rosalind and Orlando must belong if they prefer Arcadia to the artifices of civilized life. The play thus ridicules the belief that life close to Nature is best. (pp. 46-8)

In this Utopian pastoral world the fugitives also come upon the melancholy Jaques. He has no counterpart in Lodge's novel; he is entirely Shakespeare's invention. Because his only part in the comedy is to stand aloof from the action and make satiric comment upon all that happens, critics have been tempted to regard him as Shakespeare's mouthpiece. Many readers have therefore mistaken the famous soliloquy beginning 'All the world's a stage' [II. vii. 139ff.] for a succinct revelation of the pessimism which captured Shakespeare's mind about 1600. Life to him, they say, had then become just the pageant of futility of the melancholy Jaques' vision.

This is a naive view of a highly effective dramatic figure—one that had become a popular stage type. Jaques is Shakespeare's representative of the traveller recently returned from a sojourn on the continent, laden with boredom and histrionic pessimism. His melancholy is artificial and his disgust with everything at home is a pose. (pp. 48-9)

It is true that in Shakespeare's day melancholy was thought often to be an affectation, an imitation of a foreign fashion. Shakespeare makes Prince Arthur in King John say:

Yet I remember, when I was in France, Young gentlemen would be as sad as night Only Tor wantonness. [IV. i. 14-16]

But the travellers' melancholy was sometimes clearly a mental disorder produced by the diseases they had contracted while abroad. It was an unnatural melancholy caused by what the Elizabethans called adustion, but what we should diagnose as a persistent fever. The doctors believed that a melancholy disposition heated by high temperature produced that mixture of understanding and imagination which made its possessor prone to figurative and sententious utterance.

Jaques exhibits all the characteristics of the type, except the foppery. His licentious life abroad has fired his naturally phlegmatic nature to a point at which he can make pithy comment upon the ridiculous spectacle of life even as it is lived in the Forest of Arden. Being by temperament averse to action, he has plenty of leisure for meditation upon the ways of mankind. And his pathological melancholy renders him incapable of taking delight in anything he sees or hears. Life, so he believes, is nothing but folly and futility. In brief, Jaques is a malcontent traveller anatomized according to the approved psychology of Shakespeare's day.

Jaques' utterances resemble those of the typical returned traveller, except that they are directed not so much against the corrupted age as against all human life. Moreover Shakespeare's superior eloquence gives Jaques' tirades a poetic sincerity which is easily mistaken for the author's passionate convictions. This has been particularly true of his most famous soliloquy [II.vii. 139-66], a speech which expresses more than the disillusionment of an old roué. Its pessimism, though profound, is relieved by flashes of humor. The whining schoolboy creeping like snail unwillingly to school; the lover sighing like furnace; the justice full of wise saws and modern instances; the futility of each of these human creatures is drawn with broad ludicrous strokes. The satire levelled against them is seasoned with laughter.

It should now be clear that, like all of his fellow malcontent travellers, Jaques is usually the object of his author's ridicule, but on occasions he is just as clearly the mouthpiece of Shakespeare's own satiric comment. In playing this dual role he combines the functions of two characters who had appeared in some plays written just before As You Like It was produced, notably Labesha and Dowsecerin [George] Chapman's An Humorous Day's Mirth. The first was a social would-be who affected melancholy because the pose was fashionable. The second was a man of strong native intelligence whose mind had nevertheless been invaded by melancholy. As a result, his intellect had been put into the service of a misanthropic spirit. His insight enabled him to ferret out hidden abuses in society and absurdities in human beings. But his persistent low spirits filled his just comments with so much bitterness that they seemed ludicrously exaggerated. Jaques is an amalgam of the two types. He is both affected malcontent and true melancholiac.

In the first role Jaques is self-conscious about his melancholy and proud of its singularity. He warms to self-analysis when he explains his humor to Rosalind:

I have neither the scholar's melancholy, which is emulation; nor the musician's, which is fantastical; nor the courtier's, which is proud; … but it is a melancholy of mine own, compounded of many simples, extracted from many objects; and indeed the sundry contemplation of my travels, in which my often rumination wraps me in a most humorous sadness. [IV. i. 10-20]

It is his travels on the continent, of this he is sure, that have reduced him to habitual gloom and melancholy reflection. Rosalind immediately recognizes him as a disillusioned traveller:

'Farewell, Monsieur Traveller,' she cries. 'Look, you lisp and wear strange suits, disable all the benefits of your own country, be out of love with your nativity, and almost chide God for making you that countenance you are; or I will scarce think you have swam in a gondola.' [IV. i. 33-8] (pp. 50-2)

Jaques, then, is for the most part Shakespeare's portrait of a familiar satiric type. But on occasions he becomes something much more significant. He stands forth as an amusing representative of the English satirists whose works streamed from the press during the years from 1592 to 1599 inclusive. Jaques enunciates the critical doctrines of these writers in a form only a little exaggerated.

The satirists took great pains to justify the critical freedom which they assumed by insisting that their satire was all impersonal. They attacked the vice, not the individual. Sir John Davies in one of his epigrams states this principle with becoming terseness:

But if thou find any so grosse and dull, That think I do to private taxing leane, Bid him go hang, for he is but a gull And knowes not what an epigramme doth meane: Which taxeth under a particular name, A general vice that merits publike blame. (p. 53)

Jaques in one of his soliloquies expands and illustrates this tenet of the satiric school with his characteristic imaginative reach.

Why, who cries out on pride That can therein tax any private party? Doth it not flow as hugely as the sea Till that the wearer's very means do ebb? What woman in the city do I name When that I say the city woman bears The cost of princes on unworthy shoulders? Who can come in and say that I mean her, When such a one as she, such is her neighbour? Or what is he of basest function That says his bravery is not on my cost, Thinking that I mean him, but therein suits His folly to the mettle of my speech? There then! how then? what then? Let me see wherein My tongue hath wrong'd him. If it do him right, Then he hath wrong'd himself. If he be free, Why, then my taxing like a wild goose flies, Unclaim'd of any man. [II. vii. 70-87]

The formal satirists also filled their work with expressions of fierce zeal to purge the world of its foulness. Asper's threat in [John Marston's] Every Man Out of his Humor is a succinct expression of the mood:

I'll strip the ragged follies of the time, Naked, as at our birth. (pp. 53-4)

All of the satirists at frequent intervals echo these expressions of moral fervor. And Jaques joins their chorus, crying:

… Give me leave To speak my mind, and I will through and through Cleanse the foul body of the infected world, If they will patiently receive my medicine. [II. vii. 58-61]

These resemblances between Jaques and the English satirists have led some critics to believe that he is portrait of Sir John Harington, Ben Jonson, or some other author famous at the moment. But Jaques is not a caricature of any one satirist. He is merely a character through whom Shakespeare expresses his unfavorable opinion of the entire group.

The dramatist manipulates his dramatic action in such a way that Jaques' sour generalities are immediately shown to be ridiculously false. The wretched malcontent urges Orlando 'to rail against our mistress the world and all our misery' [III. ii. 278-79] just before the lover meets his Rosalind for a joyous antiphonal. The poet also places the famous soliloquy of the seven ages of man in a context which neutralizes its tone and contradicts all its assumptions. Adam's hunger and Orlando's desperation stimulate Jaques' cynical review of the seven futile stages of man's life. But the Duke's sympathy and benevolence turn the woeful pageant into a scene of contentment and joy. Amien's song which follows undergoes the same transformation. He begins with a lyric variation on Jaques' eternal theme.

Blow, blow, thou winter wind, Thou art not so unkind As man's ingratitude. [II. vii. 174-76]

But this mood artfully reminiscent of court life cannot survive in the sunlight of Arden. It cannot persist to the end of any of the stanzas ostensibly dedicated to lamentation. They all close with:

Then, heigh ho, the holly! This life is most jolly. [II. vii. 182-83]

In such indirect ways the play at every turn is made to contradict the skillfully turned phrases of the pessimist. Events reveal him as blind to the realities of the world into which he has intruded. Shakespeare's ridicule of Jaques is in this way much more significant than derision of a roué's scorn of life in England. It is amused disapproval of the headlong moral ardor which the satirists in both poem and play felt or pretended to feel. Such a temper, Shakespeare says, is ridiculous and utterly destructive to the comic spirit. (pp. 54-6)

Oscar James Campbell, "'As You Like It'," in his Shakespeare's Satire, Oxford University Press, 1943, pp. 44-64.

Harold C. Goddard [In the following excerpt, Goddard maintains that Jaques cannot completely withdraw from the society he hates because he needs an audience for his tirades against humanity. In his philosophical debates with both Rosalind and Orlando, the critic declares, Jaques is upstaged by the lovers because their lives are not governed by self-pity as is his. Jaques's "Seven Ages of Man" speech (II. vii. 139ff.), Goddard continues, does not deserve to be called a lesson in wisdom, for Shakespeare invalidates the character's reasoning at the end of his speech by presenting Adam—an old man who has just completed an arduous journey—in refutation of Jaques observation that old age leaves human beings "Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans every thing." For furrther commentary on Jaques's character, see the excerpts by Alfred Harbage, Kenneth Muir, John A. Hart, Frederick Turner, John Palmer and Oscar James Campbell.]

One way of taking Jaques is to think of him as a picture, duly attenuated, of what Shakespeare himself might have become if he had let experience sour or embitter him, let his critical powers get the better of his imagination, "philosophy" of poetry. As traveler-libertine Jaques has had his day. Now he would turn spectator-cynic and revenge himself on a world that can no longer afford him pleasure, by proving it foul and infected. The more his vision is darkened the blacker, naturally, what he sees becomes in his eyes. He would withdraw from society entirely if he were not so dependent on it for audience. That is his dilemma. So he alternately retreats and darts forth from his retreat to buttonhole anyone who will listen to his railing. But when he tries to rationalize his misanthropy and pass it off as medicine for a sick world, the Duke Senior administers a deserved rebuke. Your very chiding of sin, he tells him, is "mischievous foul sin" itself [II. vii. 64].

Jaques prides himself on his wit and wisdom. But he succeeds only in proving how little wit and even "wisdom" amount to when indulged in for their own sakes and at the expense of life. His jests and "philosophy" give the effect of having been long pondered in solitude. But the moment he crosses swords with Orlando and Rosalind, the professional is hopelessly outclassed by the amateurs. Extemporaneously they beat him at his own carefully rehearsed game. Being out of love with life, Jaques thinks of nothing but himself. Being in love with Rosalind, Orlando thinks of himself last and has both the humility and the insight that love bequeaths. When the two men encounter, Jaques' questions and answers sound studied and affected, Orlando's spontaneous and sincere.

JAQ.: Rosalind is your love's name?

ORL.: Yes, just.

JAQ.: I do not like her name.

ORL.: There was no thought of pleasing you when she was christened.

JAQ.: What stature is she of?

ORL.: Just as high as my heart.

JAQ.: You are full of pretty answers. Have you not been acquainted with goldsmiths' wives, and conn'd them out of rings?

ORL.: Not so; but I answer you right painted cloth, from whence you have studied your questions.

JAQ.: You have a nimble wit: I think 'twas made of Atalanta's heels. Will you sit down with me? and we two will rail against our mistress the world, and all our misery.

ORL.: I will chide no breather in the world but myself, against whom I know most faults. [III. ii. 263-81]

There is not atrace of any false note in that answer. It has the ring of the true modesty and true wisdom that only true love imparts. Jaques, of course, misses the point diametrically:

JAQ.: The worst fault you have is to be in love.

ORL.: 'Tis a fault I will not change for your best virtue. I am weary of you. [III. ii. 282-84]

(To tell the truth we are a bit weary of him too.)

And Rosalind outphilosophizes Jaques as utterly as Orlando has outjested him.

JAQ.: I prithee, pretty youth, let me be better acquainted with thee.

ROS.: They say you are a melancholy fellow.

JAQ.: I am so; I do love it better than laughing.

ROS.: Those that are in extremity of either are abominable fellows, and betray themselves to every modern censure worse than drunkards.

JAQ.: Why, 'tis good to be sad and say nothing.

ROS.: Why, then, 'tis good to be a post.

JAQ.: I have neither the scholar's melancholy, which is emulation; nor the musician's, … [IV. i. 1-11]

and after enumerating seven different types of melancholy, he concludes,

… but it is a melancholy of mine own, compounded of many simples, extracted from many objects; and indeed the sundry contemplation of my travels, in which my often rumination wraps me in a most humorous sadness—

ROS.: A traveller! By my faith, you have great reason to be sad. 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.

JAQ.: Yes, I have gained my experience.

ROS: And your experience makes you sad. I had rather have a fool to make me merry than experience to make me sad; and to travel for it too! [IV. i. 15-29]

Love bestows on those who embrace it the experience and wisdom of the race, compared with which the knowledge schools and foreign lands can offer is at the worst a mere counterfeit and at the best a mere beginning. What wonder that Jaques, after being so thoroughly trounced by the pretty youth whose acquaintance he was seeking a moment before, is glad to sneak away as Orlando enters (what would they have done to him together?), or that Rosalind, after a "Farewell, Monsieur Traveller," turns with relief to her lover.

Even Jaques' most famous speech, his "Seven Ages of Man" as it has come to be called [II. vii. 139ff.], which he must have rehearsed more times than the modern schoolboy who declaims it, does not deserve its reputation for wisdom. It sometimes seems as if Shakespeare had invented Adam (that grand reconciliation of servant and man) as Jaques' perfect opposite and let him enter this scene, pat, at the exact moment when Jaques is done describing the "last scene of all," as a living refutation of his picture of old age. How Shakespeare loved to let life obliterate language in this way! And he does it here prospectively as well as retrospectively, for the Senior Duke a second later, by his hospitable welcome of Adam and Orlando, obliterates or at least mitigates Amiens' song of man's ingratitude ("Blow, blow, thou winter wind" [II. vii. 174-90]) that immediately follows. (pp. 283-85)

HaroldC. Goddard, "As You Like lt," in his The Meaning of Shakespeare, The University of Chicago Press, 1951, pp. 281-93.


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