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Reification and Utopia in As You Like It: Desire and Textuality in the Green World
Hugh Grady, Beaver College
Power and the Green World
Last Updated on June 8, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 4222
As You Like It, written and performed sometime between 1598 and 1600, pre-dates the plays discussed hitherto and in some ways seems to come from a different world. And yet this genial comedy can be linked with King Lear, and to a lesser extent the other Jacobean tragedies: although this 'most Mozartian' of Shakespeare's plays has long been celebrated for its geniality, a number of critics have also noted—and been puzzled by—the uncannily large number of parallels in structure and themes with what is otherwise its generic opposite, King Lear.1 The resemblance is based on the depiction by both plays of the division of families and the disruption of the polity as a reified power establishes itself at the expense of the customary bonds of traditional culture. Refugees from the disrupted world react through communal solidarity to create a social space as an alternative to that of reified power; in this Utopian space eros functions, however, not as a metonymy-metaphor for reification (as in the earlier plays discussed), but as a social force creative of community (albeit one with disruptive tendencies uneasily contained through the problematic solutions of patriarchal marriage). And as the play develops, this space is itself put under interrogation and suspicion, in an open-ended dialogue with the representations of the real which flit in and out of the text of the play in counterpoint to its Utopian projections.
In addition, Robert Wilson's cultural materialist reading of the play has recently supplied us with another area of commonality between the two: both plays may be linked to a social subtext constituted by the rioting against enclosure in the Midlands (the area including Shakespeare's Warwickshire) in the 1590s.2 Wilson has unearthed valuable historical material here, and his argument is illuminating and convincing in its basic outline. In the 1590s the woodlands had become a highly contested political battleground in which squatters were resisting the encroachments of market-driven land enclosures. Armed rebellion erupted in 1596 at Rycote, and the festivals of the following autumn were marked by agitation for 'a rising of the people'.3 The play As You Like It, Wilson argues, with its depiction of social transformation, hunger, and the woodlands as a sanctuary, is the Shakespearean text most marked by consciousness of the famines, riots, and disorders that swept over the English Midlands, with King Lear offering more generalized allusions to the same events.
Instead of seeing with Wilson a kind of betrayal in Shakespeare's comic development of this material, or as part of a larger project of state co-optation of peasant rebellion,4 however, we can read the play as an enactment of Utopian projections based in part on the phenomenon of enclosure, but focusing not on a realistic disclosure of injustice so much as an exploration of Utopian alternatives to new reifications of market and state power, one quite material manifestation of which Wilson defines for us. The play's many parallels with King Lear, noted briefly by Wilson, can lead us into this topic.
As in the later play, the familial treacheries of brother against brother recapitulate and vary a more socially consequential familial treachery within the state. Power has been reduced to a few brush-strokes here, but we get glimpses of its corrosive effects in ways that anticipate Lear's later tragic developments: families and friendships are split, secret violence is plotted, and power can only maintain itself by violations of the customary boundaries which structure the lifeworld within which it is functioning. And if Wilson is right in constructing for this play a context of peasant rebellion against the capitalization of farming, we have to add to the overt, thematized reifícation of power a latent, displaced reifícation of nascent capitalism at work in the disruptions of the customary lifeworld of Midland (and other) peasants as enclosures of formerly common lands cause major social disruption and rebellion.
Of course the play's two-family exposition is also giving us that sine qua non of New Comedy, the two lovers whose union so many critics have understood as symbolically unifying and overcoming the tensions investigated in the play—it took Nahum Tate to recognize a similar potential in Lear when he had Edgar and Cordelia fall in love and marry at the end of his tragicomic version. Here the spark of love must be struck even as the logic of power unfolds and darkens the proceedings. But, I will argue, the union of erotic polymorphous perversity with the Utopian projections of green-world comedy will prove to be the chief contradiction in Arden.
In King Lear the temporary triumph of reified power led to the heath-scenes' radical evacuation of traditional values before the play depicted a slow, painful, and equivocal construction of alternative values from the play's lower social strata. In As You Like It, in contrast, it is the moment of evacuation that is equivocal and fleeting, the construction of counter-community and alternative values taking centre-stage. If the comedy thus seems less radical than the tragedy, it is certainly in a sense more pragmatic, more interested in exploring alternatives to emerging modernity than in ideology-critique per se. What takes the place of Lear's portentous raging and sympathetic identification with poor Tom is a delineation of one possible countercommunity—and its problems.
The banished community created by reified power's colonization of the lifeworld if marked early in As You Like It with the aura of utopia; the old Duke is already there as the play begins:
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 the time carelessly, as they did in the golden world. (1. i. 114-19)5
In As You Like It, as in the late romances, we can find both ideological and Utopian holders for that place which the text of King Lear signified by the term 'nothing', that place of desacralized, decultured modernity which Shakespeare and many of his contemporaries were investigating imaginatively and which the tragedies I have examined had occupied with worlds in the grip of reification. When we look for how the cultural producers of the Age of Shakespeare, Marlowe, and Jonson imagined alternatives to reification, we could do much worse than to look at the Forest of Arden. There we will find in the first place one of those antinomies of modernized cultures so endemic and basic to our thinking that it has largely been transparent to commentators on this play, or seen in terms of the sentimental 'wisdom' and 'sanity' for which this play has been repetitively celebrated in an older criticism. When we find such evocations, as Gayatri Spivak has said of a different set of texts, we know that ideology is at work—although the play does not stop at this ideological level. But one of the moves of the play's logical unfolding which has endeared it to many in our own times is its generation of those structurally indispensable antinomies of modern systems of meaning and experience, the public and the private.6 As the young Marx indicated long ago, one of the consequences of the replacement of a feudal by a market society was the separation of the state from civil society proper, and the restructuring of civil society into an atomized realm of competing interests. In this arrangement the state expressed the 'universal' or communitarian aspects of the social order, while civil society tended to fragmentation. Society became bifurcated, into a public state and a private civil society, with only the political classes directly involved in the communitarian project of the state.7
When the state becomes desacralized and revealed as a realm of reified power at work instead of a divinely chartered authority for a unified community, and when civil society is revealed as itself informed by the logic and dynamics of the capitalist market-place, with its ruthless class divisions and inequalities, it becomes increasingly difficult for these two realms to function as legitimated arenas for cultural meaning; that is, as Habermas has argued, they are merely 'systems' incapable of functioning as the social structures of traditional pre-capitalist societies had done to re-enforce the cultures of the life-world and provide meaning to life.
The historical response to this situation has been manifold. Habermas famously traced the Enlightenment construction within civil society of a compensatory 'public sphere', which reintroduced an element of the political (this time latently democratic) within the space which had previously been evacuated of the political under the reifications of Absolutism. But Habermas's narrative does not exhaust the social reorganizations which followed from the early modern separation of the public and the private. We should note such disparate social attributes of modernity as the rise of companionate marriage and the transformation of the nuclear family from an economic to a 'meaning-giving' function in modern capitalist society, and the creation or refunctioning of a broad range of institutions—religions, the educational structures, voluntary associations, and the larger, more diffuse institutions of entertainment, art, and culture—in response to a general crisis of meaning observable in Western culture as one of the clearest indications of long-period modernity. In ideological terms, the categories of the various modern humanisms arose to provide normative concepts to substitute for those of evacuated public and religious spheres.
In the early modern period, of course, all those developments were either in birth or still to come. But communal alternatives to reified societies seemed to exist both in the highly hierarchical but mythically re-enforced and legitimated structures of a feudalism whose forms and some of whose realities persisted into the early modern—and, as a new generation of historical critics is teaching us, in the oral cultures and practices of those men and women dislodged by the new agriculture who invoked (often mythical) traditions and customs in support of their own communal response to the disruptions of early reifications. An older criticism focused exclusively on the former as having significance for Shakespearean texts; now, a newer criticism is asserting the relevance for Shakespeare especially of subaltern revolts and their counter-cultures of resistance as a response to the crisis of overall cultural 'meaning' which erupting modernity was precipitating—and which was a central preoccupation of the London theatres.
In As You Like It, we watch the construction of such a counter-society—and then an acute analysis of its own problems and contradictions—as Shakespeare keeps true to the interminable textuality of Renaissance sceptical rhetoric even in the gates of utopia.
With all the emphasis in other Shakespearean texts on the cold impersonality of reification as a disruptive reality of early modern culture, it is no surprise to watch privatized, 'human' relations become the centre of alternative values in the counter-society of the Forest of Arden. In this context, the deadly cold of sex-power is replaced by the warmth of libido—aim-inhibited, aim-conscious, and aim-displaced—dispersed throughout the social order—and of heteroand homoeroticism portrayed as great if dangerous pleasures from which, however, power is not easily or ever completely banished. And to accommodate this thematic sea-change, I will be moving out of the discourses of what Agnes Heller called the 'cold Marxism' of ideology-critique and entering the Utopian registers of 'warm Marxism'. This shift in tone and affect, however, does not imply a change in underlying theoretical frame; rather, as Adorno recognized in the moving conclusion of his Minima Moralia, the idea of the Utopian expresses the dialectical potential for change of a reified social reality; the Utopian is the corollary, not the contrary, of the theory of reification.
The genially sentimental relationship of Orlando and Adam can serve to introduce us to the forces behind the building of the Utopian community. When Adam resigns his service to Oliver and offers his life savings and service to Orlando, Orlando encodes this act as one from a former time, before the development of a capitalist labour-market:
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.
(II. iii. 56-62)
This rhetoric of feudal bonds should not obscure for us, however, that Adam has in fact, by throwing in his lot with Orlando, stepped outside of the customary network of feudal relations; his customary bond, after all, is to the heir Oliver, not to Orlando. Rather than reassert the stability of the regulated feudal labour customs, he has violated them by asserting his own independence and becoming an outlaw with Orlando.
The new bands which tie together this penniless master Orlando and his provider-servant, Adam, are in fact an inversion of the customary feudal relationship, as Orlando recognizes as he explains that he is in no situation to meet his own feudal obligations to Adam:
But, poor old man, thou prun'st a rotten tree,
That cannot so much as a blossom yield
In lieu of all thy pains and husbandry.
When, in Arden, as Orlando sets out to find some nourishment for his weakened companion, he uses terms not of customary obligations, but of personal and familial love, in a metaphor which links their bond with that of both a mother and child and those usurped citizens of the forest lamented by Jaques:
Then but forbear your food a little while,
Whiles, like a doe, I go to find my fawn,
And give it food.
(II vii. 127-9)
And again his rationale is given in terms other than those of customary obligations:
There is an old poor man,
Who after me hath many a weary step
Limp'd in pure love; till he be first suffic'd,
Oppress'd with two weak evils, age and hunger,
I will not touch a bit.
So what do we call this kind of relationship, neither customary nor familial nor natural, but described in terms alternately borrowed first from feudal, then from familial and animalistic lexicons? We lack a precise term for such a relationship because it has become 'natural' in the post-feudal world: we are witnessing the production of what we can best call private relationships, attempted voluntary re-creations of relationships of mutual support which in customary society had had a formal, juridical quality but in the newer conditions of reified societies must be entered into through acts of will and solidarity outside of formal social or political networks. The apparently eternal category of the 'personal' thus emerges as one of three simultaneously created, interrelated components of an emerging and recognizably modern ideology: an evil realm of power, a good realm of the depoliticized 'personal', and a lost realm where they were once unified in an Adamic fullness of meaning. Here Duke Senior clarifies this conceptual production in his conclusion that some category the opposite of the public will be necessary for his Utopian experiment:
And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in every thing.
(II. i. 15-17)
But we will need to return to these overdetermined lines in a different context below.
Such small units as that of Adam-Orlando are but the building-blocks of Arden's utopia, however. In a sense, such a fellowship à deux remains essentially atomistic and socially isolated, not by itself a real counter-community. But such a counter-community, as Orlando discovers to his great surprise, in fact exists already in Arden.
Orlando had brought with him into the forest something of the same cultural attitude of instrumentalization which his fellow Elizabethans and Jacobeans imported to the New World colonies:
I thought that all things had been savage here,
And therefore put I on the countenance
Of stern commmand'ment.
(II. vii. 107-9)
Nature, as John Locke would define the attitude within a century, is a vast pantry of uses which any man can make his property through his labour—and, as the colonists practised it, through violent appropriations. Instead Orlando finds a community of fellows with whom he forges links of common social situation and common codes of 'civility', 'good manners', 'pity', 'nurturance', and 'gentleness'.
Once more, we find human relations described in the language of class and court ideologies. These are the terms whereby the Elizabethan gentry marked itself out as different, more educated, more human than the common lot of the kingdom. But of course they are also words denoting values of easy social intercourse, of mutual respect, fellow feeling, mutual care, and generosity. In effect the play asks whether these values of a formerly privileged life—alluded to by both the Duke and Orlando—can be refunctioned within the tighter straits of Arden:
True it is that we have seen better days,
And have with holy bell been knoll'd to church,
And sat at good men's feasts, and wip'd our eyes
Of drops that sacred pity hath engend'red;
And therefore sit you down in gentleness,
And take upon command what help we have
That to your wanting may be minist'red.
(II. vii. 120-6)
Immediately following, we get the Duke's allusions to life as a universal theatre of woeful pageants, and then Jaques begins that most quoted of Shakespearean setspeeches, 'All the world's a stage'. Much attention has been given to the necessity of retheatricalizing this performance and noting the ironizing effect which the entrance of the sainted Adam has on Jaques's reductive descriptions of old men. But we might give some attention as well to the scene's introduction of the theme of theatricality, with its associations, as we saw in the case of King Lear, with anti-essentialist Shakespearean scepticism. As a comment on the exiles' project to reproduce the gentry's codes of fellowship and generosity within the 'savage' outlaw world of Arden, the figure of theatricality suggests the possibility and desirability of a cultural rewriting of the 'parts' which 'one man in his time plays';8 of refunctioning in a new social context of (relative) equality and fellowship something of the ideals which, we soon learn through the song which follows fast upon these lines, were all too often merely that homage which vice pays to virtue in hypocrisy:
Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly.
Then heigh-ho, the holly!
This life is most jolly.
(II. vii. 181-3)
Thus, the portrait of Adam, the invocation of ideals of gentility, and the idealization of 'antique days' create within this play that 'golden-age effect' which was in turn re-created in our own century by Modernist notions of the organic society and unified sensibility of the Elizabethan world picture (the Modernist golden age being, in that never-ending escalator trip to the past which Raymond Williams once traced in a justly famous passage,9 the very age which in Shakespeare is suggested to be a decadent present). In As You Like It the idealization of the past carries those values and social practices precisely under frontal attack by the reifications of state and market-place in the Elizabethan epoch. If structures of reification are operating as impersonal, unintentional, yet human and social iron cages around the social being of every social participant, they cause to be idealized all those social communities (imagined or historical) operating in apparently consensual and intentional ways—even, in an insight which Freud would unsentimentally insist upon, those operating through conditions of the domination and subordination of feudalistic social hierarchy.
In short, the creation and celebration of a still-current category of the personal and private is one of the major thematic developments of As You Like It. But far from resting at this step, the play moves forward in a fascinating process of cultural house-building in the cleared space of Arden. From the molecular 'private' of Adam and Orlando (and of Rosalind and Celia), we move to a larger, more inclusive community of refugees in the process of founding new social relations out of the material of their older ones—relations radically transformed, however, by the new rough egalitarianism and communal solidarity of the cleared space of Arden.
There is something in this new space of the upsidedown world of the festive comedy of C. L. Barber,10 or, better, because of its greater consciousness and development of the political and social ramifications of its theme, the carnival tradition as described by Bakhtin: Robin Hood, after all, is very much a social Leveller, and the golden time was the age of Saturn(alia).11 But as numerous commentators have seen, it is the pastoral much more than the carnivalesque that is evoked as we enter the green world—but a 'pastoral' so critiqued and ironized that the unqualified term becomes misleading. In fact, the pastoral seems one strand of a more unique, sui generis complex for which Northrop Frye coined the term 'green-world comedy' forty years ago.12 Frye's theory of green-world comedy in fact, freed of the infernal machinery and de-historicized timelessness he posited for it in An Anatomy of Criticism,13 is one of the sources towards an adequate understanding of the quite consequential and powerful implications of this wonderful play. But more fully theorized and historicized is the related unique theory of the Utopian developed over several decades by the unorthodox (some would say theological) Marxist Ernst Bloch.14 Bloch's peculiar blend of humanism and futurism can certainly not simply be transported prêt à porter to today's post-structuralist theoretical paradigm; but I believe the central idea of the Utopian is entirely relevant today. And much of the needed alteration has already been done by Bloch's friend Walter Benjamin, by Horkheimer and Adorno, and in several publications by Fredric Jameson.15 In addition, I believe, we can see the Utopian as implicated in and produced from a Lacanian play of desire within a reified 'real'. Thus, as we will see, the Utopian, as a component of a larger post-structuralist sense of textuality and open-endedness, can help rewrite the antinomies of containment and subversion which, as I suggested elsewhere,16 have outlived their usefulness as illuminating concepts within cultural materialism. Here, then I am less interested in the details of Bloch's immense æuvre than in the adaptation of his central concept within a different critical paradigm.
To get at it directly, we can say that the relationship of the reified first world17 to Arden is one of Utopian projection: that is, the play creates an imagined, counter-factual realm of idealizations whose relation to the reified 'real' of the play is that the former imaginatively fills the lack constituted by the play of desire within the real.18 The Utopian is that contradiction in terms, the place for the fulfilment of (finally unfulfillable) desires, an index and reflex of the experienced deprivations of specific social locations and forces. Although Bloch indeed coquetted with a language of 'archetypes' and 'timeless art works' in a dialogue with an older aesthetic paradigm, he consistently grounded specific Utopian visions in specific socio-economic situations, insisting on the open-endedness of all Utopian constructions, but equally on their determinate relation to the material world of their creations. We might formulate this through a paraphrase of Marx: people create utopias through imagination, but not just as they please; they do not make them under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered, given, and transmitted from the past.
However, Bloch would insist, if Marx was right that 'The tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brain of the living,'19 it is equally true that the future creates a space for that other kind of dreaming that is the more direct fulfilment of desires—an idea hardly foreign to a young Marx who could write,
the world has long dreamed of something of which it only has to become conscious in order to possess it in actuality. It will be evident that there is not a big blank between the past and the future, but rather that it is a matter of realizing the thoughts of the past. It will be evident, finally, that mankind does not begin any new work but performs its old work consciously.20
Although Bloch himself emphasized the idea of a Utopian orientation to the future, such an orientation is clearly possible only after Enlightenment creates an idea of progress which only Bacon among the Age of Shakespeare's cultural producers seems fully to embrace. Before the Enlightenment, the Utopian resided largely in the past, in the myth of the Garden of Eden or the Golden Age; or if, as in Christianity, it was projected into the future, it was into an unearthly future, by definition outside of modern history.21
To anticipate, I want to argue further that Arden's Utopian community itself comes under investigation as containing numerous contradictions and problems. Rather than some unmediated access to nature, as Duke Senior imagines at first, utopia turns out to be a refuge from reified power in which what we might call 'linguistic' reifications, inherent in all cultural production, come to the fore. We will need, therefore, unlike earlier Modernist Elizabethan golden age advocates, or even unlike Bloch, to reinsert the Utopian or golden age effect back into the textuality from which it was produced—as part of a dizzying array of non-identical conceptualizations and valorizations in play in the interminable, constantly deconstructed dialectics of Arden, to which I now turn.
The Textuality of the Green World
Last Updated on June 8, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1598
. . . French post-structuralism . . . modelled itself on language as a self-constituting system in-forming human consciousness, but in some sense itself an alien entity at the heart of a (hence paradoxically divided) selfhood. Whereas Lukács had posited a non-reified society as the historical telos to which post-capitalist society would give birth, we have seen how Althusser, within a milieu greatly influenced by French structuralism, felt that social structures would always contain an unavoidable residuum of reification—just as human thought will always be limited by the enabling structures of language—or as power is an inescapable enabling condition for all possible societies for Foucault. And Adorno, with his own focus on the 'objectivity' of intersubjective cultural artefacts, similarly resisted what he saw as a Romantic dream of unmediated access to the natural in Lukács's vision of a fully postreified world.
In As You Like It, Shakespeare seems to situate himself among those sceptical of the possibility of a complete overcoming of reification, at least of those linguistic and cultural structures which in-form all possible human creations. Shakespeare's critique of the pastoral22 seems to be based in his keen sense of the profligacy of signifiers and their uneasy relation to a realm of signifieds. The Romantic-Lukácsian position—here implicitly identified as a logocentrism—seems to be articulated as part of our introduction to Arden by Duke Senior:
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. 2-11)
The Duke quite clearly situates utopia in a realm where signification is unproblematic, where the double voice of hypocrisy is impossible because all simply is, without pretence. But the idea seems to self-destruct almost as soon as it is articulated by the Duke,23 who begins, as numerous commentators have noted, to encounter nature in rhetorical terms, as a persuader and, shortly, the source of a language which must itself be interpreted and 'moralized'. The Duke's apparently simple idea of nature as a realm of unproblematic truth is, of course, full of fruitful problems and has a long provenance and continued ramifications: Walter Benjamin, for example, pointed out that in the cabbala the language of Adam was held to be of just such an essentializing power, all known languages fallen from that happy state and unable fully to represent the world's being, a lack which both philosophy and poetry continually attempt to restore and in fruitful fruitlessness continually fail.24
The Duke here loses himself in a similar reverie, his reference to the negation of 'the penalty of Adam' perhaps as much signifying his imagining of a prelapsarian language as in the loss of the eternal spring of Eden named in the following appositive.25 The claim is paradoxical because the feel of the biting cold which he describes is anything but paradisaical; the sweetness, after all, is one of the
... uses of adversity,
Which like the toad, ugly and venomous,
Wears yet a precious jewel in his head.
(II. i. 12-14)
Thus the Duke has not reinvented the lost language of Adam, in which signs fully represent their signifieds, nor has he succeeded in fully separating himself out of the Symbolic order which had named and structured the world for him—a naming which he now sees as the occasion for flattery and falseness, but which he simply negates rather than replaces. In the cleared space of Arden, whose freedom he finds well worth its discomforts, he proves unable, despite his early claim, to re-create the Adamic language; like all of us, he must function within a profligacy of fallen signifieds. If a new world (or counter-society) is to be created, it will have to be formed out of the culture and language imported into the Utopian space, and the Duke seems deluded on this point at least at the very beginning. The parallel in this instance is perhaps less with Lear than it is with Gonzalo-Montaigne's vision of a golden age in The Tempest—a vision put into question as soon as it is articulated; there is even some parallel here with Richard II in his prison cell: the Duke—and all the refugees assembled in the Forest of Arden—immediately structure 'nature' into an idealized realm, not constructed from 'nothing', but built from the shards of an abandoned social realm refunctioned as signifiers of signifiers—as metaphors:
And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in every thing.
(II. i. 15-17)
In metaphor, that tension-filled 'equation' of dissimilars, is recapitulated and heightened the gap between signified and signifier which is characteristic of all languages and which makes this Utopian space not Eden but a space for the play of an interminable desire among signifieds now free of their fixed, ideological determinations but still haunted by lack and incompleteness. The green world becomes a space of imagination for Utopian construction, but one condemned also to cold, limit, and language itself. Perhaps the Duke, after his initial pure pastoralism, has discovered that melancholy dictum of modernity which Lacan says Freud defined most memorably: that the play of human desire constituting the libido, what he calls 'the whole microcosm' of mental complexity, 'has absolutely nothing to do with the macrocosm; only in fantasy does it engender [the] world'.26 In any case it is clear that there is ample room and reason for melancholy in Arden, and it is famously supplied, first by the Duke himself, then by the redoubtable Jaques. The gaps among nature, culture, and utopia are represented, perhaps, in the lament on hunting deer introduced by the Duke but amplified and ramified by Jaques. Pregnant as are the Duke's definitions, there is a real sense in which they are, like Richard II's, a denial or displacement, a flight from the social 'real' which the Duke and his men are obsessively projecting on to nature's nameless—and unmoralized—spectacle. Certainly in Shakespeare's As You Like It, the Duke's idealism does not fare well as the play's complex dialectics unfold, and for that reason, the return to the world and to political power at the end of the play seems less a betrayal than it does a return to reality. One cannot live in utopia, seems to be one implication of the play, and it is one with which Bloch would have no argument. The usefulness of utopia is rather to serve as a reference point for critical reflection on the non-utopian real to which we are condemned.
The play establishes in the series of packed set speeches during our first trip into the space of Arden that the Forest is a realm of freedom, but one which will be structured by the finite resources and worn, ideological thought-tracks of the cultures which informed the consciousness and behaviour of these exiles. We can read the many references to the march of time in Arden as further indications of the non-Adamic, finite quality of this particular utopia. No wonder so many of the characters are so melancholy. They are trapped in the realm of the (merely) possible, condemned never to experience the Pastoral Absolute. The entire Western tradition of the pastoral, Lacan in effect tells us, is based on the myth of immediate satisfaction of the self in the fullness of nature. And, as Lacan famously argues (and a whole religious discourse ratifies), desire never achieves a terminal point, only the partial satisfactions of an endless series of objects which are essentially substitutes for an unachievable prelinguistic unity. If utopia appears at first as a fulfilment of desire, the very nature of desire guarantees that utopia will never be static, complete, or final. Nor could any play be constructed within a completely static domain of pastoral such as Lacan posits, as Shakespeare, that consummate practical dramatist, well knew. The unique dramatic structure of this play—one where, as a number of critics have observed, plot in the normal sense has given way to a choreography of dialogues on set themes in the forest27—amounts to repeated deferments and a chain of desired objects very much in a Lacanian mode. In Arden, in short, you can't always get what you want—but you can get what you need.
Thus the Forest of Arden is no Garden of Eden, and even less a Dantesque Paradiso. Most viewers and readers, for instance, are taken with metasituational Jaques lamenting the re-creation of injustice—and with the Fool's pointed insistence on the continued deprivations of time and the lack of creature-comforts within his Utopian space. And, as we will see below, we are given an elaborate demonstration of the problems of eros set loose in a world where gender is an arbitrary, quasi-grammatical, and problematic category. Even with all these limitations, however, we are reminded by the embedded jump-cuts of Elizabethan staging created by the sudden shift of scene from Arden (II. i) back to the court (II. ii), Arden is a far cry from the dreary and dangerous suspicion, envy, and fear of reified court politics, a point reinforced in the congenially sentimental portrait of the aged faithful servant named Adam in silent, indeterminate commentary on his namesake's loss of paradise.
Desire in Utopia
Last Updated on June 8, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 4018
In the plays examined earlier, the dynamics of instrumentalized or reified power worked to deprive experience of the customary social bonds which libido could permeate to create the pleasures of community—or more chillingly, as we saw in the tragedies, desire was refunctioned into structures of actedout sado-masochism and domination-submission homologous to reified power itself. In Shakespeare, then, the emergence of desire as one of the chief problematics of utopia forms an intertextual dialectic of the Utopian with reification. But desire has its own vectors, independent of that dialectic as well: and discourses of love and desire were of course central to court and related upper-class society. What gets explored in Arden, as in so much of the lyric poetry of Elizabethan culture, are love, sex, and desire, mainly as represented by any number of the literary encodings of these dangerous impulses—literary representations which must have been quasi-ideological codes pre-structuring the experience of love for much of the court, the fashionable world, and who knows how deeply into other of the day's complex social strata. Certainly the play links style in love with social station—a good deal of the comedy depends on incongruities of rustic peasants acting out courtly love codes, codes which in turn had been represented as the discourse of idealized shepherds. Here, however, I want to focus on how desire itself emerges as a permeating theme within Utopian life, and one which soon brings into bold relief the social constructedness of gender roles within the customary society which has been transported and reproduced within Arden. The character Rosalind, of course, is at the centre of this aspect of the play, the culmination of the Elizabethan romantic heroines and prime exponent of the problematics of gender, sex, and desire within Utopian life.28
Rosalind's own love relationship with Orlando is, in terms of the codes of courtly love and Protestant marriage which were uneasily but repeatedly united in the literature associated with Elizabeth's court, a relatively ideal and easy one. There is, for example, none of Desdemona's ill-fated violation of paternal approval; Rosalind has fallen in love, fortuitously, with a young man who is the son of her father's close friend (and enemy to the egregious Duke Frederick):
My father lov'd Sir Rowland as his soul,
And all the world was of my father's mind.
Had I before known this young man his son,
I should have given him tears unto entreaties,
Ere he should thus have ventur'd.
(I ii. 235-9)
An important part of what gets transported from the disrupted customary lifeworld to the Utopian space in Arden is this quite conventional, audience-pleasing romance, and this is part of what is responsible for this play's recent reputation among a substantial portion of feminists, cultural materialists, and new historicists for complicity with discourses of patriarchy and power. But within the relaxed space of Arden Rosalind is able to investigate at least some of these discourses, probing and questioning their premisses and paradoxes before the 'containing' ending of the play's return to social hierarchy and to Protestant, patriarchal marriage. As we will see, however, this containment is itself unstable; there is an undermining of 'order' throughout the play and in the playfully complex ending which shows the conventions to be socially rather than naturally constructed and calls into question the very institution of patriarchal marriage which had just been apparently endorsed.
Orlando plays his part in this investigation mainly as a comic 'straight man'. The Duke, we have seen, had generated problems of which he seemed unaware in his early speech to his fellow exiles:
And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in every thing.
(II. i. 15-17)
Orlando seems to exemplify the gap between signifier and signified which the Duke, in his quest for the Adamic language, ignored, by causing love-poetry to be found in the trees by the device—in one sense literal-minded, in another sense, highly artificial and witty—of hanging his poems amid the leaves of trees;29 both these senses serve to undermine the 'naturalness' of love-discourse, the first by its naïve logocentrism, the second by its very artificiality.
The disclosed conventionality of heartfelt love-poetry thus exposes one of the chief paradoxes of Elizabethan (and subsequent) discourses of love—and of Utopian construction more generally. The 'naturally' heartfelt and uniquely personal turns out, on inspection, to be quite banal and to involve technicalities of metrics and rhyme that would seem the very opposite of the natural flowering of passion which is being celebrated and investigated. Thus the banter and playfulness of this play's disquisition on love actually recapitulates a central problematic of this era's cultural poetics. The most celebrated and defining qualities of personal experience are at the same time the most conventional, because they are ideologically pre-defined.
This paradox structures the two chief ways to 'read' the 'staged' metaphor of poems as leaves (in turn related to the play's more general exploration of nature and art): in what we take to be the conventional and culturally 'primary' meaning of the comparison, the expression of Orlando's (and Rosalind's) love is the natural consequence of desire in play, the words of love Adamic signifiers of this natural occurrence. But in their mockery of what Orlando presumably intended, Rosalind, Celia, and Touchstone, like good Derrideans, insist on the materiality of the signifier and its slippery relationship to its signified:
CEL. Didst thou hear these verses?
ROS. O yes, I heard them all, and more too, for some of them had in them more feet than the verses would bear.
GEL. That's no matter; the feet might bear the verses.
ROS. Ay, but the feet were lame, and could not bear themselves without the verse, and therefore stood lamely in the verse.
(III. ii. 163-71)
Presumably such artificiality was perceived by the play's most consistent searcher after an (impossible) natural, the melancholy Jaques, in his critical remarks to Orlando:
I pray you mar no more trees with writing lovesongs in their barks.
(III. ii. 259-60)
In any case, it is this gap which Rosalind focuses on as, in one of those defining moments of Shakespearean stagecraft, she decides (for no good naturalistic reason, as numerous post-Enlightenment critics have complained) to make the most of her disguise as Ganymede and to 'speak to him like a saucy lackey, and under that habit play the knave with him' (HI. ii. 295-7), in the process continually puncturing Orlando's Petrarchan conventionality.
This moment—the metatheatrical exploitation of the boy-actor's portrayal of a female role by in turn having the fictional female feign maleness—has rightly been celebrated in much recent feminist and Postmodernist criticism for its vertiginous theatricality and its pointed alienation-effect regarding gender roles themselves. In As You Like It, the playful dialogue of the inverted moment also alienates the love otherwise celebrated in this genial comedy by its further probing into the constructed, 'made', or 'fictional' nature of love-discourse. The result is a complexly layered set of simultaneous affirmations and denials of the genuineness, naturalness, and value of a love-experience whose heady pleasurableness is the largest and most successfully transmitted of several contradictory messages within this magic scene (and its follow-ups) of endlessly deferred desire.
One of Rosalind's chief tactics in her disguised encounters with Orlando is to speak for the interests of the desiring female body against the heroic Petrarchan discourse of Orlando,30 whether in the unequivocal discourse of one of her riddles—
Marry, he [Time] 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. (III. ii. 313-17)
—or in the equivocations of her answer, playing with a double meaning of cony (rabbit, cunt) and kindled (born, sexually aroused):31
As the cony that you see dwell where she is kindled. (III. ii. 339-40)
The anti-Petrarchan theme soon gets displaced to the pastoral figures of Silvius and Phebe and then, in a different modality entirely, to Touchstone and Audrey, in a complex play of literary traditions against and within each other.
Desire in Arden may be, as Dusinberre suggested, dangerous, and unruly enough to make the containing round of unlikely marriages at the end plausible to a charmed audience, but patriarchal marriage itself comes in for a great deal of critical scrutiny as well in this play. Rosalind, the main creator of the ring of country copulatives at the end of the play, is also one of its chief critics, not only a debunker of the love of Troilus and Cressida (IV. i. 97-100), but a reciter of numerous commonplaces on the hazards of marriage with women (which lead to protest by Celia), including their likelihood of being found in a neighbour's bed. It is in fact Rosalind who initiates what becomes an elaborate series of jokes and allusions to cuckoldry and the wearing of horns, with her playful warning to Orlando that a snail signifies a husband's inevitable destiny:
Why horns! which such as you are fain to be beholding to your wives for. But he comes arm'd in his fortune, and prevents the slander of his wife.
(IV. i. 59-62).
This joke is of course heavy in overdeterminations: we have to assume that members of this basically patriarchal society would be full of anxiety on such a subject as cuckoldry, a violation of norms central to the transmission of property between the generations and thus crucial for the system's reproduction; and a number of recent critics have read this motif accordingly. But there is a consistent theme in the cuckoldry motif which this interpretation ignores: all these jokes evoke a communitarian ethos of freer, extra-marital sexual relations. And if such explorations form part of a complex problematic of utopia and the pastoral, and are themselves subject to multiple dialogic interruptions, they also deserve to be unearthed from the protective machinery of joking and the censuring mechanisms of our own and Elizabethan ideology with which they are surrounded, in the Shakespearean text and in subsequent criticism. As we will see, the argument of several of the jokes is that sexual promiscuity is as 'natural' as the horns of the deer, and as with earlier signifyings of the natural in the play, the assertion deconstructs as it is articulated. If the analogy holds true here as well, then, we should classify this strand of the play's textuality as a Utopian longing like Duke Senior's nostalgia for a language of transparent meanings. And just as the Duke's evocations, even though they proved questionable, established a critical context by which to judge the flattery and insincerity of the court, we would have to see these as creating a space for rethinking the strictures on human sexuality of English Protestant patriarchy—and its allied ideological cousins, many of them still current.
Touchstone gives one of the central speeches. As he enacts the proverbially corrupt ways of the courtier against the maid-of-the-country Audrey, he links the married state, the horns of the cuckold, and the wealth of a walled town into an enigmatic comparison:
As horns are odious, they are necessary. It is said, 'Many a man knows no end of his goods.' Right! many a man has good horns, and knows no end of them. Well, that is the dowry of his wife, 'tis none of his own getting. Horns? even so. Poor men alone? No, no, the noblest deer hath them as huge as the rascal. Is the single man therefore bless'd? No, as a wall'd town is more worthier than a village, so is the forehead of a married man more honorable than the bare brow of a bachelor; and by how much defense is better than no skill, by so much is a horn more precious than to want. (III. iii. 51-63).
The main point of the joke would seem to be that cuckoldry is endemic to the married state and nothing to be ashamed of, being the 'dowry' of wives and no fault of their men; and as the fact that only the wealthy need fear theft is no argument for poverty, so the vulnerability of married men to the horns is no argument against marriage.
In his provocative article on the social context for this play supplied by the Midlands enclosure riots of the 1590s, Richard Wilson argued that these lines could be read as Touchstone's advocating an extension of communal charivari tactics (traditionally employed against cuckolded husbands) to those other violators of customary rights the pastoral gentry enclosing the communal lands for sheep-grazing.32 It seems to me, however, that Touchstone identifies here with the subject-position of the landholder rather than the squatter, and his topsy-turvy-world argument would seem to question the justice of the use of charivari against cuckolded husbands: the sexual profligacy of wives is for him in this playful speech, as it was for Rosalind-Ganymede earlier, a simple given, a property of wives as natural, as Touchstone has it, as the horns of a deer. Both of them would seem to be saying of desire in general what Rosalind later says of a woman's wit:
Make the doors upon a woman's wit, and it will out at the casement; shut that, and 'twill out at the keyhole; stop that, 'twill fly with the smoke out at the chimney. (IV. i. 161-4)
—until, as she concludes, 'you met your wive's wit going to your neighbor's bed'—where she was going 'to seek you there' (IV. i. 167-71).
To summarize: one textual current of this play—often embedded within the anxiety-based textuality of jokes, but no less significant for that—celebrates a community of sexual freedom, a series of sexual encounters as boundless as the play of desire itself—perhaps something like that with which popular opinion tended to associate the Family of Love, that much attacked and apparently ubiquitous group of Protestant anti-authoritarians with whom Margot Heinemann associated the theme of social egalitarianism in King Lear (see above, Chapter 4) and who were popularly associated with libertinage, even though their views on marriage were apparently orthodox.33 Part of the Utopian discourse of the play is an assertion of the naturalness of promiscuous desire: language and desire seem to emerge as the fundamental building-materials of all possible utopias, their paradoxical double inscription in both nature and culture one of the constantly explored subjects of the word-play.
The strange celebration of cuckoldry continues in two songs—the music offering another protective layering, like that of humour, as Touchstone signals when he says of 'It was a lover and his lass' that it has 'no great matter' (V. iii. 35) and is but 'a foolish song' (line 40). And yet this is a play in which the foolish carries a good deal of authority; in Arden of all places we need to pay much more attention than has been traditionally given to the 'conventional' links of country-folks making love in acres of rye and the natural rhythms of the seasons—and the resonances of those simple ideas with the strange assertions of the earlier song:
What shall he have that kill'd the deer?
His leather skin and horns to wear.
Then sing him home.
[The rest shall bear this burthen.
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)
There is clearly a double inscription involved here: the context of the first stanza situates the horns on a deer, taken by a hunter. There probably is, as Richard Wilson argued, allusion to a tradition of plebeian defiance of the attempts of the king, aristocrats, and gentry to reserve certain hunting-grounds and herds for their own use. Several popular uprisings, as Wilson relates, began with wholesale slaughter of protected deer on private parkland. These associations, then, provide part of the context for the 'burthen's' transvaluative argument that the horn is an ancient and honourable crest, not a thing of scorn. But of course in this play the horns must also be the horns of the cuckold, traditionally put on an effigy of a cuckolded husband in the 'rough music' of a 'skimmington' or charivari in which a community of men (and sometimes women and/or men disguised as women) enforced their sense of communal gender relations by punishing a transgressor. Here, however, a community of outlaws instead insist that the horn is an ancient 'crest' of no shame: the 'lusty horn' is to be honoured, not scorned; and in this last turn, the horn seems to metamorphose one more time to become the phallus, that sexual emblem inextricably implicated in a heterosexual profligacy of desire34 and a prime component in the joyful overdetermination of the play's utopianism. The horn, in short, evokes desire itself.
And additionally, as several recent critics have written, it is not only heterosexuality that is fêted in this strand of the play. The male homoerotics of Rosalind-Ganymede have been described and noted in several places,35 while an implicitly lesbian sexuality can be discerned in the same material, as Elaine Hobby pointed out;36 and certainly an eros, whether conscious or not, is at work in the intense relationship of Rosalind and Celia. In fact we can see Rosalind and Celia's friendship not only as potentially lesbian but alternatively as one of a number of the intense and socially crucial human bonds Freud linked to 'aim-inhibited' libido—a force we see at work in the kindness and need of Adam, the fellowship of the Duke and his hospitality to Orlando, and the power of communal ideals and the suppleness of human nature to produce effortless conversions by those subjects of atomistic reification in this play, Oliver and Duke Frederick.
The utopia of As You Like It can thus be characterized as a utopia structured by the play of desire as an ameliorative, bonding, and creative force within human life; and while desire is always dangerous, in the sense of unstable and unpredictable, to any real or Utopian social construct, including those of this play, we can agree with Valerie Traub that, if the play refuses to enact some 'paradisaical, erotic economy, a Utopian return to a polymorphously preverse body unmediated by cultural restraints . . . [and] if As You Like It suggests the "folly" of desire, part of that folly is the discipline to which it is subject'.37
Of course the play ends38 with a monumental celebration of marriage as the inevitable and proper vessel for the cultivation of eros (well, not quite, since Rosalind still must speak a deconstructing epilogue, to which I will return below). The unstable chain of mismatched lovers which Rosalind had initiated when Silvius fell in love with her as Ganymede is stabilized when the country copulatives are paired off and wed in proper English Protestant fashion:
Wedding is great Juno's crown,
O blessed bond of board and bed!
'Tis Hymen peoples every town,
High wedlock then be honored.
Honor, high honor, and renown
To Hymen, god of every town!
(V. iv. 141-6)
And yet, the final emphasis on marriage, so overwhelming as a plot-structure device, is destabilized by several different kinds of 'supplements' to marriage's apparent finality in the play. Much has been already written in recent years on the way in which the apparent at-oneness of the marriages is disturbed by the play's epilogue, spoken by 'Rosalind' in a playful coquetting with the gender ambiguity of a boy-actor playing a woman playing a boy, and a playful invocation of promiscuous eros.39 The result is a reaffirmation of those very qualities (gender-role instability, the promiscuity of desire) which had apparently been 'contained' by the multiple matrimonies. Here, however, let me focus instead on the additional instabilities associated with the unexplained entrance of 'Hymen' into the conclusion.
The brief remarks of several critics linking Hymen to Rosalind's knowledge of magic strike me as unconvincing. Rosalind's claim to magic is made casually, in her role as Ganymede, as a reason for Orlando to believe she might indeed produce the true Rosalind against all appearances (v. ii. 59-68). Consistently, Rosalind has been cast as a figure of deflating common sense whose role has been to assert the realities of the body and the unideal married state against the Petrarchan idealizations of Orlando. Making her somehow 'magic' at the end seems to remystify what this character has so consistently laboured to demystify.
Instead, I think we have to see the entrance of Hymen as a part of the metatheatrical drawing of attention to the illusionism of the comic ending about to unfold. A figure from the masque tradition, Hymen unobtrusively violates the 'realistic' conventions of a play otherwise devoid of fairies or supernatural beings of any sort, as if to signal the distance between the theatrical artifice of the ending and the social 'real' which the play has circulated and investigated.40 Thus, the message delivered by Hymen—it seems almost a theophany—is enveloped by an aura of a kind of mimetic dissonance, a jarring of two different 'registers' of aesthetic representation that undercuts as soon as it is spoken Hymen's celebration of unity:
Then is there mirth in heaven,
When earthly things made even
(V. iv. 108-10)
'Atone' was a keyword in High Modernist readings of this play, its etymological components 'at one' suggestive of that Coleridgean mystical unification that played such a central role, as we have seen above, in influential Modernist readings of Othello and King Lear. In the context of this play, it had seemed the perfect solution to all the textual dissonance provided by the caustic commentaries of the talk of marriage and romance: these could simply be banished to a lower level, the 'final' meaning of the play held to be captured in the mystic unity of Imagination.
In the text, however, the at-one-ment is, specifically, a reference to the series of marriages about to take place in the hasty comic ending directed by Rosalind, an atone-ment, as we see in the dialogue immediately following, that depends on an artful set of equivocations in which two contradictory things are each (in a specific sense incongruent with the second paired sense) affirmed in turn:
ROS. [To Duke Senior.] To you I give myself, for I am yours.
[To Orlando.] To you I give myself, for I am yours.
(V. iv. 116-18)
In a memorable passage, Malcolm Evans calculated that there must be 172 senses of the words that Hymen then utters to 'bar confusion':
Here's eight that must take hands
To join in Hymen's bands,
If truth holds true contents.
That is, truth's contents turn out on close examination to be multiple and profligate, in a carnival heteroglossia that again undermines the at-one-ment and the attempt at the tying down of meaning and desire by Hymen. Marriage here becomes linked to that Adamic unity (at-one-ment) whose impossibility and idealization had been announced and abandoned in a few memorable lines by Duke Senior, as we have seen.
By the play's last act we know that communal at-onement is an ideal never to be realized even in a utopia free of power politics and the enclosures of a rapidly capitalizing agriculture; in utopia unity inevitably gives way to a carnival of interminable desired signifieds, conflicts between the sexes, and strains among even the (not-so-)natural institutions of marriage and friendship. Patriarchal marriage in particular is seen in this play as taking on the impossible task of 'containing' the uncontainable, the play of desire across an eroticized community of innumerable subject-objects, male and female, homoerotic and heteroerotic. But the badge of the cuckold—within the logic of this most outrageous of the strands of the play's textuality at any rate—is a badge of honour, a carnivalesque emblem of a Utopian sexual freedom, and this is not the least of the senses in which the play is as we like it.
Last Updated on June 8, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 3175
The Utopian impulses of As You Like It are not of course confined to this play alone within Shakespeare's works; they are a component of all the green-world comedies (parallels with Love's Labour's Lost and A Midsummer Night's Dream come immediately to mind); they often, as we saw with Othello and Lear, come briefly into view in the tragedies; and they constitute an in-forming dynamic within all the late tragicomedies.
Shakespeare's category of the Utopian possesses that rare quality of self-relexivity, of an understanding of some of its own limits and weaknesses, that makes it particularly congenial in our own post-illusion, Postmodernist era. It also represents, as I suggested earlier, a way beyond those outworn antinomies of recent Shakespearean criticism, subversion and containment: the Utopian is in effect always already both contained and subversive: relegated to the afterlife, the ideal, to myth, art, folklore, entertainment, and holiday for the most part (it is of course one of the prime contents of the carnivalesque), the Utopian seems to coexist with rather than directly challenge the lacks and frustrations the desire for which had helped create it; and yet by giving expression to what has been repressed, the Utopian creates a space for, and sometimes gives a name to, the ideologically unthinkable, transmitting it as a counter-memory within the reproductions of the social life of the subaltern classes—and, as in Shakespeare, within what becomes the culture of the ruling classes as well.42 Utopia influences the social at those Messianic moments, like 1989 in Eastern Europe, when the unthinkable becomes for a time thinkable in one of those revolutionary junctures that permanently change the world (though never quite in the ways its agents imagine).
The capacity of the concept of the Utopian to undo the antinomies of containment and subversion depends on the play of desire in the Utopian—and it is precisely desire which Marx and the tradition founded by him tended to neglect in its theories of revolution. It is desire, then, in the place of that mysteriously motivated historical demiurge suspected by so many as the ghost lurking within the machinery of Marxism, that we should posit as a needed Postmodernist supplement to the rhetorical chain in a well-known Marxian metaphor which attempts in its own way to understand the coexistence of containment and subversion in the lifeworld: let us then insert desire as an additional term within Marx's Shakespearean encomium to 'our brave friend, Robin Goodfellow, the old mole that can work in the earth so fast, that worthy pioneer—the Revolution'.43
1 The most developed discussion of the parallels I found—Frank McCombie, 'Medium and Message in As You Like It and King Lear', Shakespeare Survey, 33 (1980), 67-80—argues that the two plays each display the limits of the tragic and comic 'filters' Shakespeare utilized in what McCombie posits as a conscious intertextuality, which extends also to Cymbeline and The Tempest. See also David Young, The Heart's Forest: A Study of Shakespeare's Pastoral Plays (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1972), 81, for a less developed listing of the large number of parallels, constituting what Young calls a 'curious kinship' between the two plays, so different in mood and tone. Both of these works credit earlier studies of King Lear as a pastoral or anti-pastoral tragedy for explaining something of the parallel, esp. that of Maynard Mack, 'King Lear' in our Time (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1965), 65-6.
2 Richard Wilson, "'Like the Old Robin Hood": As You Like It and the Enclosure Riots', Shakespeare Quarterly, 43 (Spring 1992), 1-19, notes the parallel between the two plays as a way of getting at the political content of As You Like It. The article subsequently appeared as ch. 3 of his Will Power: Essays on Shakespearean Authority (New York: Harvester, 1993), 63-82.
3 Wilson, 'Like the Old Robin Hood', 2.
4 Ibid. 19.
5As You Like It in The Riverside Shakespeare, ed. G. Blakemore Evans et al. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1974). Subsequent citations are from the same edn.
6 Of innumerable discussions of the centrality of the public-private dichotomy to literary culture, I recommend particularly Susan Wells, The Dialectics of Representation (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1985), 165-73.
7 Karl Marx, On the Jewish Question, in Writings of the Young Marx on Philosophy and Society, ed. and trans. Loyd D. Easton and Kurt H. Guddat (Garden City, NY: Anchor, 1967), esp. 227.
8 Steven Mullaney discusses the metaphor of the world as a stage, seeing it as evidence for the era's consciousness of the self as socially constructed, in The Place of the Stage: License, Play, and Power in Renaissance England (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988), 71-2 et passim.
9 Raymond Williams, The Country and the City (New York: Oxford University Press, 1973), 9-12.
10 C. L. Barber, Shakespeare's Festive Comedy: A Study of Dramatic Form and its Relation to Social Custom (1959; repr. Cleveland, Oh.: Meridian, 1963), 222-39. Characteristically, Barber's emphasis in this Modernist reading is on the 'balance' and 'poise', embodied primarily by Rosalind, between holiday and daily life.
11 See Peter Stallybrass, '"Drunk with the Cup of Liberty": Robin Hood, the Carnivalesque, and the Rhetoric of Violence in Early Modern England', in Nancy Armstrong and Leonard Tennenhouse (eds.), The Violence of Representation: Literature and the History of Violence (London: Routledge, 1989), 45-76, for a fascinating study of the carnivalesque associations of the matter of Robin Hood.
12 Northrop Frye, Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays (1957; repr. New York: Atheneum, 1968), 182-5.
13 Fredric Jameson, The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1981), 103-50, offers a critique of Frye very much in this mode and one which links him to Bloch's idea of the Utopian, to be discussed below.
14 Perhaps the most apposite of Bloch's major works in this context is the monumental The Principle of Hope, first pub. as Das Prinzie Hoffnung (1954-9); trans. Neville Plaice, Stephen Plaice, and Paul Knight (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1986). See also Ernst Bloch, The Utopian Function of Art and Literature: Selected Essays (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1988). A very useful introduction with excerpts, to which I am indebted, is Maynard Solomon (ed.), Marxism and Art: Essays Classic and Contemporary (New York: Vintage, 1974), 567-87. A more recent treatment, with excellent bibliographical detail of primary and secondary works and an acute analysis of Bloch's strengths and weaknesses, is Ch. 5 of Martin Jay, Marxism and Totality: The Adventures of a Concept from Lukács to Habermas (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984)—a treatment, however, not much interested in Bloch's relevance to cultural criticism.
15 The Utopian has been a topic in several of Fredric Jameson's works—see his chapter on Bloch in Marxism and Form: Twentieth-Century Dialectical Theories of Literature (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1971), 116-59; 'Introduction/Prospectus: To Reconsider the Relationship of Marxism to Utopian Thought', Minnesota Review, 6 (1976), 53-8; 'Reification and Utopia in Mass Culture', Social Text, I (Winter 1979), 130-48; and The Political Unconscious, 281-99. In addition, the concept of the Utopian has been interpreted and further developed in a number of Frankfurt works on the aesthetic; it permeates the work of the like-minded Benjamin, who used his own terminology (like 'Messianic time') to convey concepts closely allied to Bloch's 'utopian'; Horkheimer and Adorno make use of the term and/or concept throughout their work; see particularly the ending of Adorno's Minima Moralia, trans. E. F. N. Jephcott (London: New Left Books, 1974), 247, and his posthumous Aesthetic Theory, trans. C. Lenhardt (Boston: Routledge, 1984).
16 Hugh Grady, 'Containment, Subversion—and Postmodernism', Textual Practice, 7 (Spring 1993), 31-49.
17 I make use here of the distinction within Shakespearean comedy between a power-oriented 'first world' and an idealized 'second world' in Elliot Krieger, A Marxist Study of Shakespeare's Comedies (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1979), but the theory of comedy put forth there is in many ways the opposite of the Bloch-influenced concepts I work with here. Where Bloch would see a Utopian projection with a critical, non-ideological dimension, Krieger sees a specifically aristocratic ideological projection that mystifies the class struggle—although Fredric Jameson would see no inconsistency, arguing that every universalizing ideological viewpoint is necessarily Utopian at the same time; Political Unconscious, 289-92. For Kreiger, however, Shakespeare is only redeemed because, he argues, the processes of idealization are distantiated and put under scrutiny in the various Shakespearean texts.
18 I am indebted to Jameson's precedent in dialectically linking reification and the Utopian, in 'Reification and Utopia in Mass Culture' and Political Unconscious, 288-99. However, the details and theoretical framework of my own linkage of the two differ somewhat from Jameson's: his treatment emphasizes the collectivizing aspects of the Utopian, whereas I focus on its relation to the specific lacks and wants of determinate socio-historical situations.
19 Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (New York: International, 1963), 15.
20 Karl Marx, letter to Arnold Ruge, May 1843; excerpted and repr. in Solomon (ed.), Marxism and Art, 58.
21 Thomas More's Utopia, ironically, is not a good example of Bloch's idea of the Utopian because of its reproduction of so many of the repressions of its social origins. The Blochian Utopian qualities of More's work reside in its cognitive rather than libidinal aspects, and these, in turn, are complex, with anti-utopian dimensions, a quality classically defined in the chapter on More in Stephen Greenblatt's Renaissance Self-Fashioning (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980).
22 Attention to the pastoral element of the play was the dominant approach to As You Like It in the High Modernist era, and a range of views on Shakespeare's incorporation and critique of the tradition has been defined; see e.g. Young, The Heart's Forest. My own use of the term, as argued below, is influenced by some insightful comments on the pastoral by Lacan.
23 See Malcolm Evans, Signifying Nothing: Truth's True Contents in Shakespeare's Text (Brighton: Harvester, 1986), 155, and Keir Elam, '"As they Did in the Golden World": Romantic Rapture and Semantic Rupture in As You Like It', Canadian Review of Comparative Literature, 18 (1991), 217-32, for related but somewhat different deconstructive comments on the Duke's speech.
24 I am giving one of several (not necessarily compatible) ramifications of Benjamin's use of this piece of cabbalistic lore. See, for one instance, Walter Benjamin, 'On Language as such and on the Language of Man', in Reflections: Essays, Aphorisms, Autobiographical Writings, trans. Edmund Jephcott (New York: Harcourt, 1978), 314-32, or his The Origin of German Tragic Drama, trans. John Osborne (London: New Left Books, 1977), 37-8. This latter work is most relevant in the following passage: 'Adam's action of naming things is so far removed from play or caprice that it actually confirms the state of paradise as a state in which there is as yet no need to struggle with the communicative significance of words. Ideas are displayed, without intention, in the act of naming, and they have to be renewed in philosophical contemplation. In this renewal the primordial mode of apprehending words is restored' (p. 37). The Duke (and Jaques) soon move to a mode of 'philosophical restoration' in the absence of the original Adamic language.
25 See Robert Schwartz, 'Rosalynde among the Familists: As You Like It and an Expanded View of its Sources', Sixteenth Century Fournal, 20 (1989), 69-76, for an argument that the Duke Senior is here expressing central tenets of the antinomian 'Family of Love', which taught a doctrine of a possible spiritual regeneration in nature from the effects of original sin. If this is true, I would argue, Shakespeare is putting this doctrine under the same kind of sceptical interrogation to which he subjected Montaigne on the Brazilian Indians in The Tempest. But fascination with the idea of a freedom of extra-marital sexuality in As You Like It, to be discussed below, may also be associated with this group, which, . . . has been linked with the social egalitarianism of King Lear.
26 Jacques Lacan, The Ethics of Psychoanalysis 1959-1960, ed. Jacques-Alain Miller, trans. Dennis Porter (London: Routledge, 1992), book VII, p. 92. The whole of ch. 7, with its discussion of the problem of human happiness and desire, is relevant to this play.
27 Harold Jenkins, 'As You Like It', Shakespeare Survey, 8 (1955), 40-51, and Ann Barton, Introduction to As You Like It, Riverside Shakespeare, 365-8.
28 The cultural significance of Rosalind has been a major topic of feminist and new historicist criticism, engendering numerous disparate interpretations concerning whether she is more proto-feminist or patriarchal. See e.g. Clara Claiborne Park, 'How a Girl can be Smart and still Popular', in Carolyn Lenz, Gayle Greene, and Carol Neely (eds.), The Woman's Part: Feminist Criticism of Shakespeare (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1980), 100-16; Lisa Jardine, Still Harping on Daughters: Women and Drama in the Age of Shakespeare (Totowa, NJ: Barnes & Noble, 1983), 9-33; Linda Woodbridge, Women and the English Renaissance: Literature and the Nature of Womankind, 1540-1620 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1984), 153-6; Catherine Belsey, 'Disrupting Sexual Difference: Meaning and Gender in the Comedies', in John Drakakis (ed.), Alternative Shakespeares (New York: Methuen, 1985), 166-90; Barbara J. Bono, 'Mixed Gender, Mixed Genre in Shakespeare's As You Like It', in Barbara Kiefer Lewalski (ed.), Renaissance Genres: Essays on Theory, History, and Interpretation (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1986), 189-212; Phyllis Rackin, 'Androgyny, Mimesis, and the Marriage of the Boy Heroine on the English Renaissance Stage', PMLA 102-/1 (Jan. 1987), 29-41; Leah S. Marcus, Puzzling Shakespeare: Local Reading and its Discontents (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988), 98-103; Jan Kott, The Gender of Rosalind: Interpretations: Shakespeare, Büchner, Gautier, trans. J. Kosicka and M. Rosenzweig (Evanston: University of Illinois Press, 1992), 11-40; Jean E. Howard, The Stage and Social Struggle in Early Modern England (London: Routledge, 1994), 118-21; and Juliet Dusinberre, 'As Who Liked It?', Shakespeare Survey, 46 (1994), 9-21. For a fuller bibliography on what has become an extensive literature on the multifaceted sexual politics associated with Rosalind and the other cross-dressed Shakespearean heroines, see Ann Thompson, 'Shakespeare and Sexuality', Shakespeare Survey, 46 (1994), 1-8. Interestingly, three central cultural materialist-new historicist discussions of Shakespeare's (and other) cross-dressed heroines—Stephen Greenblatt, Shakespearean Negotiations: The Circulation of Social Energy in Renaissance England (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988), 66-93; Jonathan Dollimore, Sexual Dissidence (Oxford: Clarendon, 1991), 291-306; and Alan Sinfield, Faultlines: Cultural Materialism and the Politics of Dissident Reading (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992), 52-79—all eschew central discussion of Rosalind in favour of Olivia or Portia; and Louis Adrian Montrose, The Place of a Brother in As You Like It: Social Process and Comic Form', Shakespeare Quarterly, 32 (Spring 1981), 28-54, shifts the centre of attention in his reading of the play from Rosalind to Orlando. In contrast, for feminist critics Rosalind tends to be central.
29 See Dusinberre, 'As Who Liked It?', on the connections with Ariosto (and his English translator John Harington) of Orlando, whose hanging of poems from trees mimics a popular poem-hanging episode of Orlando Furioso which was also a favourite subject of illustrators.
30 See e.g. Dusinberre, 'As Who Liked It?', who, in a complex argument, finds a body-affirming Rabelaisian discourse in dialogue with a heroic one derived from Ariosto, both strands associated with Ariosto's English translator, and author of a treatise on the water-closet, Sir John Harington. Rosalind is overdetermined, but one of the carriers of the Rabelaisian: 'In As You Like It, Shakespeare acknowledges . . . the realities of passion as evasive of self-discipline. Passion is dangerous; it thrives not on liberty but on repression. . . . The energy of the play derives from a constant oscillation, centered mainly in Rosalind herself, between repression and expression, from which powerful fantasies of sexual desire are generated, and circulate through the entire theater, revitalizing both players and audience' (p. 19).
31 See Elaine Hobby, '"My Affection hath an Unknown Bottom": Homosexuality and the Teaching of As You Like If, in Lesley Aers and Nigel Wheale (eds.), Shakespeare in the Changing Curriculum (London: Routledge, 1991), 125-42, for a discussion of this and other sexual equivocations, often ignored in traditional annotations of these lines. Similarly, the title comes from another such often ignored double entendre, this time one in which 'bottom', according to Hobby, could refer to both penis and posterior.
32 Wilson, 'Like the Old Robin Hood', 13.
33 See Schwartz, 'Rosalynde among the Familists'.
34 Montrose, 'The Place of a Brother in As You Like If, 49-50, saw the horn in its phallic mode as involved in constructing male solidarity out of sexual anxiety. Similarly Peter Erickson, Patriarchal Structures in Shakespeare 's Dramas (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985), 15-38, sees the phallic horn as primarily affirming male solidarity in the service of patriarchy while Marilyn Williamson, The Patriarchy of Shakespeare's Comedies (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1986), 41-53, sees the cuckoldry references of the play as intrinsically misogynist (although she notes that Rosalind gets in some feminist points). None of these critics entertains the possibility of Utopian readings of the motifs.
35 e.g. Valerie Traub, 'Desire and the Differences it Makes', in Valerie Wayne (ed.), The Matter of Difference: Materialist Feminist Criticism of Shakespeare (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1991), 81-114, and Philip Tracy, 'As You Like It: Homosexuality in Shakespeare's Play', College Language Association Journal, 25 (1981), 91-105.
36 Hobby writes: 'For a lesbian and feminist reader/teacher such as me, however, the central focus of the play's concern with order is found in the character of Rosalind. . . . In Rosalind, we are presented with two interwoven challenges to the stability of gender. This is achieved through a juxtaposition of Rosalind's characteristics as young woman with her behaviour when playing the part of a young man; and through a series of jokes about the actual gender identity of the actor playing Rosalind/Ganymede's part'; 'My Affection hath an Unknown Bottom', 134.
37 Traub, 'Desire and the Differences it Makes', 106.
38 See Ejner J. Jensen, Shakespeare and the Ends of Comedy (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991), for a cogent argument critical of the tendency of 20th-cent. criticism of Shakespearean comedy to privilege the conclusion of plays over the dissonances and contradictions of the works' 'performative comedy'. He particularly faults Barber and Frye for this tendency. I would add that this procedure seems to me a consequence of the Modernist 'spatialization' of the work, which requires an array of its elements frozen in a single instance of time, an instance which has almost always been the work's ending (see Hugh Grady, The Modernist Shakespeare (Oxford: Clarendon, 1991), 92-112). Jensen, however, calls for a return to an older paradigm based on immediate theatrical effects—an approach reminiscent in my view of Å. Å. Stoll's iconoclastic but pre-Modernist criticism—rather than developing what seem to me the Postmodernist implications of his argument: that the ending is always already deconstructed by the textuality of the work.
39 See particularly Kott, The Gender of Rosalind, and Belsey, 'Disrupting Sexual Difference', 180-5.
40 Jensen, Shakespeare and the Ends of Comedy, discusses both Hymen and the epilogue of the play as instances of complex events difficult to 'fix' into a determinate teleological ending, citing the contradictory readings of 20th-cent. critics in support of this view; see pp. 75-8.
41 Evans, Signifying Nothing, 145-90.
42 Raymond Williams showed many years ago that 'culture' can never be neatly assigned as the exclusive property of a single class; see his Culture and Society, 1780-1950 (1958; repr. New York: Harper, 1966).
43 Karl Marx, 'Speech at the Anniversary of the People's Paper', in The Marx-Engels Reader, ed. Robert Tucker (New York: Norton, 1972), 428.
Source: "Reification and Utopia in As You Like It: Desire and Textuality in the Green World," in Shakespeare's Universal Wolf: Studies in Early Modern Reification, Clarendon Press, 1996, pp. 181-212.