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As You Like It

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

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

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

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


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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 51326

Ralph Berry (essay date 1971)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9 James Smith, p. 26.

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

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

John A.Hart (essay date 1980)

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

(I, i, 165-171)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Later, he generalizes his attitude toward life:

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

(III, ii, 73-77)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(V, iv, 55-57)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Given the characteristics of the Forest world, given the attachments of Duke Senior, Touchstone, Orlando, and Rosalind to the outside world, the resolution 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, 108-110). Hymen joins the lovers and reintroduces the Duke to his daughter: "Good Duke, receive thy daughter, Hymen from heaven brought her …" (V, iv, 111-112). 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, 62-63, 106-107). 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 a 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, 166-169)

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, 170-175)

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
With measure heap'd in joy, to th' measures
                                   (V, iv, 176-179)

"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.

R. Chris Hassel (essay date 1980)

SOURCE: "'Most Faining': Wits and Wise Fools in As You Like It," in Faith and Folly in Shakespeare's Romantic Comedies, The University of Georgia Press, 1980, pp. 110-48.

[In the following essay, Hassel concentrates on Shakespeare's comic vision in As You Like It, describing it as an "affirmative celebration of man's follies and his potentialities. "]

As You Like It is a banquet of the follies of human perception and human behavior. But unlike Much Ado about Nothing the emphasis is decisively on the celebration rather than the discovery and acknowledgment of this folly. Partly because of the uniqueness of Arden and its inhabitants, absurd behavior is readily acknowledged throughout the play by the lovers, the shepherds, and the courtiers. Paradoxically, only the fool and the would-be fool in Arden, Touchstone and Jaques, seem to lack this humility. Their naiveté is especially amusing not only because it is their profession to know themselves to be fools, but also because they so frequently allude to Erasmian and Pauline statements of this wisdom. That strange and delightful absence of humility in these Erasmian fools, like its unusual presence among the rest of the characters in Arden, can deepen our understanding of the wisdom of folly in Shakespeare's romantic comedies.

As You Like It is also unique in its treatment of epistemological folly. Like A Midsummer Night's Dream it persistently involves us in romantic and aesthetic truths which surpass all knowledge. But A Midsummer Night's Dream focuses most of its attention on Bottom, the four lovers, Theseus, and the audience as beholders or interpreters of the transcendental. As You Like It, on the other hand, deals more with its expressive side, with the attempts of the lover or the artist, Orlando or Rosalind or Shakespeare himself, to convey transcendental truths. Like A Midsummer Night's Dream, but with more subtlety, As You Like It simplifies and enriches these rather esoteric aesthetic and epistemological themes with their analogies to attempts to convey the insights of religious faith. Religious rituals thus become the metaphoric counterpart in As You Like It to the observances and conventions of lovers and artists.

But all such conventions inevitably risk the folly of expressing the inexpressible, a folly familiar to both St. Paul and Erasmus.1 Shakespeare thus joyously and ingeniously links fool, lover, artist, and priest in As You Like It into a common bond. They are all fools, and unless they acknowledge that folly they will never be wise. The foolish wits of Arden never quite grasp this wisdom. But the lovers, like the playwright, seem to know or to learn that their great feignings, the conventions they both must use to say what they so deeply feel, might also be great follies. For what they have to express may transcend both their art and human understanding. In an age that was unusually interested in sectarian controversies concerning the nature and efficacy of religious rituals,2 such a comic interest in the rituals of lovers and artists could have seemed quite timely.

i. The Folly of the Fools

In Twelfth Night, it can be demonstrated that Feste is a truly wise fool. By "venting" a folly that is virtually universal in Illyria, he leads his victims to acknowledge and rejoice in their own absurdities, and he leads some out of their self-love. Viola praises his folly in precisely these terms at the beginning of Act III: "For folly that he wisely shows, is fit" (III.i.65). Feste's catechism of Olivia (I.v.52-67) early in the play and his late conversation with Orsino (V.i.10-20) reveal Feste's own awareness of this role of proving others to be fools, playing their enemy but being their friend. As he says, we are all patched men, some "patched with virtue," some "patched with sin." If we cannot mend ourselves, we must "let the botcher mend" us (I.v.40-44). His work with Toby, Andrew, and Malvolio is a similar if sillier tailoring. Through all of this wisdom, however, Feste never loses sight of his own patched clothes or of the folly that they represent. He always knows that he is a fool. And in that knowledge he is, like Viola in her foolish disguise, most healthy and most wise.

Touchstone and jaques have quite another role to play in As You Like It. Both of them seem superficially aware of the same Pauline and Erasmian commonplaces that Feste and Viola know so well. But though one is clearly an amateur fool and the other both a natural and a professional, neither can consistently admit that he is foolish. Jaques seems completely unaware that the motley coat he desires signifies first and foremost his certain knowledge that he is a fool. Touchstone, though more often aware of his patches, is just as likely to praise the wisdom of his own folly. Their lack of the wisdom of humility is almost always silly rather than sinister. Only Jaques occasionally tries our patience, along with that of Duke Senior and Rosalind, in his notso-blissful ignorance. But we remain fond of both fools in the forest; we do not blame them too much for their folly.

In fact, their delightful naiveté about their own folly actually highlights the unusual degree of humility else-where in Arden.3 Outcasts all, all seem aware of a common folly, personal and social if not cosmic as well. Duke Senior articulates this philosophy in his "sweet are the uses of adversity" speech, but in fact his attitude runs throughout the forest in courtiers and shepherds as well as lovers. With few exceptions, its inhabitants know their folly or readily learn of it, and they rejoice in the lesson. In one of his rare glimpses of this truth, Touchstone announces a lesson that most of the lovers in Arden would readily agree to: "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.49-51). Orlando is delighted to be a fool in love: '"Tis a fault I will not change for your best virtue" (III.ii.270-71). Rosalind, in the same scene and also madly in love, can proclaim as Ganymede:

Love is merely a madness, and, I tell you, deserves as well a dark house and a whip as madmen do; and the reason why they are not so punished and cured is that the lunacy is so ordinary that the whippers are in love too.


Look at Oliver and Celia, or Orlando and Rosalind, or even Silvius and Phebe to see how variously this madness is exhibited and finally also embraced. The fools in Arden are those who would make fun of this strange love. The lovers are merely mad, and they know it and love it.

As a result of the unusually widespread humility and self-knowledge in Arden, the fools are consistently rendered foolish by trying to expose a folly that is already acknowledged, or a simplicity that is equally aware of itself. Touchstone glories in confounding the foolish rather than the wise. And while we enjoy his silliness with, say, the shepherd, we know at the same time that Corin is not damned for bringing his sheep together or for his lack of courtly manners. The shepherd's words of simple duty, absolute self-knowledge, and humility render the fool's role useless and elicit our admiration. In fact, he is wiser than the fool who is trying to demonstrate his folly:

Sir, 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.


William near the end of the play is similarly impervious to Touchstone's assault. He may be dumb-founded but he is not frightened by either the false learning or the silly blustering of Touchstone's challenge:

To wit, I kill thee, make thee away, translate thy life into death, thy liberty into bondage. I will deal in poison with thee, or in bastinado, or in steel; I will bandy with thee in faction; I will o'errun thee with policy; I will kill thee a hundred and fifty ways. Therefore tremble and depart.


William leaves, but hardly gasping for fear: "God rest you, merry sir" (V.i.58). For again Touchstone has delightfully proven only himself a fool. These humble innocents are beyond his wit and his wisdom. So is most of the assemblage in Arden.

Touchstone proves his own folly most decisively when he refers naively to Pauline and Erasmian commonplaces about folly and wisdom. The wise fool would use his humility to demonstrate the folly of the proud, the wise, and the powerful, but Touchstone exposes the humility of his quarry by proving his own foolish pride. First he thinks that William is a clown and he, the clown, is a wise man:

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.


Then he responds to William's relatively innocent "Ay, sir, I have a pretty wit" with this:

Why, thou say'st well. I do now remember a saying, "The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool."


The paradox, of course, is St. Paul's, filtered perhaps through Erasmus's The Praise of Folie.4 But though Touchstone remembers it well, he understands or applies it poorly: "You are not ipse, for I am he" (V.i.43). He is proud of his wisdom rather than his folly. When William asks, "Which he, sir?" we know that he has proven Touchstone the fool in his own confounding innocence. The professional fool just doesn't have a chance in Arden.

Neither does the amateur. Jaques is just as adept as Touchstone at proving himself a fool, and just as un-aware of the lessons of humility he might be learning. His first scene depicts Jaques as a melancholy fool who has no sense of the absurdity others enjoy in him. Of Amiens' song, he moans as painfully as any lover,

More, I prithee more! I can suck melancholy out of a song as a weasel sucks eggs. More, I prithee more!


Duke Senior and his brothers in exile love these sullen fits of folly; in fact they encourage them, though without sarcasm or bitterness:

I love to cope him in these sullen fits,
For then he's full of matter

But Jaques, like Touchstone, is unaware of his own absurdity. Worse, he is therefore more scornful of that folly which he assumes lies only outside of himself. We see this naiveté throughout the play. But nowhere is it more obvious than in the scene with Amiens.

This is the scene in which Jaques sings his "ducdame" refrain about the universal folly in Arden:

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.

Throughout the play Jaques evidences this frustrated desire to demonstrate the folly in others. Paradoxically, whenever he tries, he most clearly exposes his own. The Duke will indeed see a gross fool, Jaques, "if he will come to me." In explaining "ducdame," his mysterious invocation of fools, Jaques experiences the same paradoxical proof of his own folly. But again he will not accept it:

'Tis a Greek invocation to call fools into a circle. I'll go sleep, if I can; if I cannot, I'll rail against all the first-born of Egypt.


The conjurer Jaques must be in the center of the circle, and therefore at the center of its folly. The railing Herod is the most obvious exemplar of the folly of pride in all of the mysteries; to our delight, Jaques completely misses the connection.

This blindness to his considerable folly continues throughout the play. With Duke Senior, in his next appearance, Jaques exults over seeing a fool in the forest:

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.

We know that Jaques could have seen himself in the fool's edifying glass. Touchstone is aping his melancholy, "deep-contemplative" moralizing "on the time." But characteristically, all Jaques can see is the folly of the fool:

              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,
A worthy fool! Motley's the only wear.

He is already wearing it, of course, already being measured by the fool's dial. But he will not admit it.

As William asks of Touchstone, so Duke Senior asks of Jaques, which fool he refers to. We hear echoes of Feste trying to get Malvolio to acknowledge his share of universal folly in Twelfth Night: "Are you not mad indeed? or do you but counterfeit?" (IV.ii.l10-11). But like Malvolio, albeit with more humor, Jaques remains naive: "O that I were a fool! / I am ambitious for a motley coat" (II.vii.42-43). With "thou shalt have one," the Duke prods to Jaques to acknowledge the patches that are his birthright. But against all of the Pauline and Erasmian precepts to which he is at this very moment alluding, Jaques still assumes his wisdom obvious, and has little sense of his folly:

Provided that you weed your better judgments
Of all opinion that grows rank in them
That I am wise.

He would be a wise physician to the "foul body of th' infected world" (II.vii.60), yet he cannot even diagnose his own sickness. The exasperated but still charitable Duke finally assaults his blindness directly. "Physician, heal thyself," is the thrust of his remonstrance:

Most mischievous foul sin, in chiding sin.
For thou thyself hast been a libertine.

Again Jaques evades the Duke's obvious lessoning. By taking the Duke's thrust as an attack on satire, rather than on his own lack of humility, he can go on pridefully playing one who "cries out on pride" (II.vii.70). His quick wit often allows Jaques to evade edifying humiliation. But this is a comic curse, as it was to Berowne and Beatrice, not a blessing. For it deprives them all of the greater wisdom of humility.

The two most familiar examples of the liabilities of his witty pride occur in exchanges' between Jaques and the lovers Rosalind and Orlando. As soon as we see Orlando absurdly tacking up verses all over the trees in Arden we acknowledge the silliness of his love, but also its attractiveness. Nowhere is the ambivalence more obvious than in Rosalind's mixed delight and amusement over his actions. But Jaques, like Touchstone, can only see the lover's folly, and must try again to prove it. Instead, he is again the inevitable victim of his proof. For in his relative humility Orlando is almost fool-proof, as in his witty pride Jaques is always in absolute jeopardy.

ORLANDO. I will chide no breather in the world
  but myself, against whom I know most
JAQUES. The worst fault you have is to be in
ORLANDO. 'Tis a fault I will not change for
  your best virtue. I am weary of you.
JAQUES. By my truth, I was seeking for a fool
  when I found you.
ORLANDO. He is drowned in the brook. Look
  but in and you shall see him.
JAQUES. There I shall see mine own figure.
ORLANDO. Which I take to be either a fool or a

Like Malvolio, Jaques will accept neither humbling alternative, even if he must therefore ignore what everyone else can see. Monsieur Melancholy is for this reason far more fool than Monsieur Love. For the latter knows himself to be a fool, and loves it.

With Rosalind, Jaques is again proven a fool for refusing to admit his folly and its universality. All other melancholies may be foolish—the scholar's, the musician's, the courtier's—but his is not (IV.i.10-18). He similarly evades her exposure of the folly of his travels. And then by sarcastically responding to Orlando's euphoric line of blank verse ("Good day and happiness, dear Rosalind" [IV.i.27]) he slips away from further proof. We can assume that Rosalind's parting shots also fall on deaf ears, for Jaques cannot yet embrace this essential comic lesson. Even Touch-stone wears some humility in his tattered suit, his foolish antics, and his foul wife Audrey, though he would not be too well-married. But Jaques still finds the patched suit unbearable. As a result, he cannot share the experiences of marriage or festivity which conclude the play. Hymen implies in his final blessing of the fools and lovers that Touchstone's marriage with Audrey will not last long. But Jaques, who will hazard neither love nor folly, will therefore lose this chance at festive joy. His departure from the revellers suggests his inability to celebrate the wisdom of their mutual folly; he thus remains alien to their paradoxical happiness. Our response to his departure is not satisfaction, however, but a Jaques-like melancholy of our own. For we like him still, and we wish him well. After all, he is our fellow in folly, even if he does not know it yet.

ii. The Follies of the Play

Uniquely, then, most of the follies that Jaques and Touchstone expose are their own. The few follies they do hit upon in Arden are usually either the unpretentious silliness of innocents and simpletons or the assorted madnesses the lovers have already joyously acknowledged. But the play contains over sixty references to "fool," "folly," "foolish," and related morphemes. Where is the rest of this folly? Oddly, much of it lies outside of Arden, and even outside the world of the play, providing these two fools with some "matter" for their flouting wits in spite of the unusual humility of Arden's inhabitants. The rest lies in the romantic and pastoral fabric of the play itself. Because Shakespeare allows these fools to expose the follies of his dramatic medium and its sources along with their anatomies of general behavioral absurdities, he leads us to understand how the folly of the play and the folly of the players coalesce in As You Like It. If the Forest of Arden is an unusually humble place, so is the play itself. For it fosters in Jaques and Touchstone its own worst critics, and smiles like the lovers at the acknowledged follies they persistently try to expose.

Though anatomies of universal follies are among their most familiar moments in the play, few readers have noticed that Jaques and Touchstone are exposing follies that lie for the most part outside of Arden. Touchstone's anatomy of the courtier is in this category (v.iv.42-46), as is his subsequent analysis of the seven "degrees of the lie" (v.iv.65-97), the "Retort Courteous," the "Quip Modest," the "Lie Direct," and the rest. So is his earlier proof that the knight "that swore by his honor they were good pancakes, and swore by his honor the mustard was naught" was not forsworn (I.ii.59-63). Jaques's anatomy of the seven ages of man (II.vii.139-66) and his explosion against pride in the same scene also anatomize universal or general follies that lie largely outside of the boundaries of Arden. Both of them are rather successful with this abstract kind of foolery, and Touch-stone probably deserves the Duke's praise, "He uses his folly like a stalking horse, and under the presentation of that he shoots his wit" ( But while Touchstone and Jaques make us mark the universal pageant of man's general folly, they also emphasize its relative absence in Arden, except among themselves. Jaques's seven ages, like Touchstone's seven degrees of the lie, is a conventional set-piece, a "progress" leading nowhere, a denial of value. So when they try to expose specific and widely acknowledged follies among the lovers, the country-folk, and the exiled court, they expose more of their own absurdity.

But the fools also expose the follies of the play, follies inherent in its pastoral and romantic sources as well as follies unavoidable in the conventions of drama. That Shakespeare gives his fools this latitude suggests that his comic attitude toward folly has grown to include the work itself and its author. As in A Midsummer Night's Dream this humility also includes the audience, which is willing to be taken in by these aesthetic follies even after having been made aware of them. We find a similar attitude in Twelfth Night, and see its culmination in The Winter's Tale. Shakespeare exhibits this aesthetic humility in various ways in As You Like It, with implications that are finally epistemological too. In fact, many critics—C. L. Barber, John Russell Brown, T. M. Parrott, and Sylvan Barnet, among others—have noticed the play's fascination with itself as a strangely conventional, pastoral, romantic, and dramatic creature.5 Because its unusual self-criticism is so widely accepted, we need to review only a few of the most vital moments when the fools, or the play itself, exposes the strange tactics a play sometimes has to use to imitate reality.

We have already mentioned some examples of the fools' exposures of this aesthetic folly. Some of it simultaneously exposes the folly of the lovers. Jaques responds to Orlando's line of verse in the midst of a prose exchange with, "Nay then, God b' wi' you, an you talk in blank verse" (IV.i.28-29). Earlier Touchstone has his own go at Orlando's verse (and Rosalind's charming sentimentality) with parody as well as direct criticism:

Sweetest nut hath sourest rind,
Such a nut is Rosalinde.
He that sweetest rose will find
Must find love's prick, and Rosalinde.

Admittedly Orlando's verse is not good: "This is the very false gallop of verses. Why do you infect yourself with them?" To Rosalind's response, "Peace, you dull fool! I found them on a tree," he responds, "Truly, the tree yields bad fruit." It does indeed. But both Rosalind and Orlando can smile good-naturedly at the inevitable folly of this conventional expression of their love, even while they are earnestly committing it. The feelings of Orlando are as true as the verse or the courtly pose is false. It takes a bright fool, a Rosalind or a Shakespeare, to know and to cherish this inner truth as she smiles at its outer folly, and to learn how to pick the meat out of the shell.

Touchstone has another go at romance after Silvius describes his love for Phebe in hopelessly conventional terms: "as true a lover / As ever sighed upon a midnight pillow" (II.iv.23-24). Witness Silvius's inexpressible passion:

Or if thou has not broke from company
Abruptly, as my passion now makes me,
Thou hast not loved. O Phebe, Phebe, Phebe!

This too is textbook stuff, hack work, both the card-board lover and his verse. But they remind Rosalind of a truer love not all that far removed from this highly conventional one:

Alas, poor shepherd! Searching of thy wound,
I have by hard adventure found mine own.

Lest we be swept up by her passion, however, Touch-stone offers his fool's version of romantic ecstasy. It smacks of love's prick rather than its spirit, and it therefore serves as a vital corrective for the absurdities which true lovers, not to mention their portrayers and viewers, can commit:

I remember, when I was in love … the kissing of her batler, and the cows' dugs that her pretty chopt hands had milked; and I remember the wooing of a peascod instead of her, from whom I took two cods, and giving her them again, said with weeping tears, "Wear these for my sake." 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.


This little ritual or sacrament of the cods fleetingly suggests the Communion words, "He toke the cuppe, and when he had geven thankes, he gave it to them, saying,… drinke it in remembraunce of me" (p. 103). With Touchstone's odd fetishes, it reminds us that the follies of mortal lovers are indeed rich and strange. Such a silly moment corrects a romantic atmosphere that had briefly become too sentimental and too conventional with a healthy dose of comic realism.

The pastoral's tendencies towards philosophising and sentimentality are other conventions both Touchstone and Jaques assault through parody and direct criticism. Touchstone must be mocking Jaques's melancholy philosophizing when he "morals on the time" in front of him. Less consciously, Jaques is Shakespeare's agent of a criticism of similar extremes directed against Duke Senior and his fellow pastoral exiles. To lament the "poor dappled fools" who "should in their own confines … have their round haunches gored" (II.i.22-25) is silly stuff all by itself. Jaques's moralizing of this spectacle "into a thousand similes" carries it beyond the brink of absurdity. He stands on the bank, "weeping and commenting / Upon the sobbing deer" (II.i.64-65). When the first lord describes the weeping of the wounded deer, whose "big round tears / Coursed one another down his innocent nose / In piteous chase" (II.i.38-40) he could as well have been describing

Jaques's compassion for the deer as the deer's self-pity. Such extremes are unfortunate characteristics of the pastoral mode. By exaggerating them in Jaques, Shakespeare makes the exiles' folly and that of the genre obvious and funny to all of us.

Similar is Touchstone's confrontation with Corin right after we have heard the first of Orlando's poetical efforts. Its foolish anatomy of the shepherd's life is nonsense on the one hand, but good sense too. Pastorals tend to praise the outdoor life too uncritically. But in truth, whether we are selecting ways of living or dramatic modes, most of our choices are teasingly relative. So is the reality these choices seek to achieve or express:

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… . Hast any philosophy in thee, shepherd?


Literary genres, ways of living, the conventions of artists or lovers games, rituals, and disguises—all are partly true and partly false, too sentimental or not sentimental enough, adequate in this respect, and inadequate in that. Only a pastoral or a romantic vision that accepts and celebrates the folly of this relativity has achieved the Pauline and Erasmian humility that underlies so much of Shakespeare's comic wisdom. Neither Touchstone nor Jaques has this wisdom, at least not consistently. But during this momentary wit-strike, and while they parody and criticize the pastoral and romantic conventions of their play, they at least suggest it to us.

In the scene that follows this one, Touchstone makes the play's most important statement about the relative truth of its aesthetic conventions. Characteristically, he doesn't understand what he has said. But if we listen to him we will realize that the folly of the play is analogous to that of the lovers. The reason is that the conventionality of art, like that of courtship (or religious ritual), is a great feigning that can express great truths, so long as it doesn't take itself too seriously. In making this important connection for us, albeit absurdly, Touchstone leads us, Bottom-like, to sense the epistemological as well as the aesthetic dimensions of the themes of faith and folly in Shakespeare's romantic comedies.

The scene is well-enough known. Touchstone is trying to explain to Audrey the concept "poeticall." In this role he is intriguingly like Bottom blundering into his appropriate paraphrase of St. Paul when he needs to express the inexpressible. Jaques betrays his continuing misunderstanding of the paradoxical wisdom of folly when he comments on this vehicle of truth: "O knowledge ill-inhabited, worse than Jove in a thatched house!" (III.iii.7-8). Audrey then sets Touchstone up with one of the great straight lines in comedy: "I do not know what poetical is. Is it honest in deed and word? Is it a true thing?" (III.iii.14-15). Touchstone replies with unknowing Sidneyan and Platonic sublimity: "No, truly; for the truest poetry is the most faining." We are all familiar with Plato's indictment of poetry as an imitation, "three removes … from the truth," which "tends to destroy the rational part."6 Where Touchstone picked up this piece of Platonic lore is anyone's guess; but that he is about to abuse it is a sure bet.

A logical progression of this warped Platonism is his assumption that only foulness guarantees honesty: "Praised be the gods for thy foulness" he tells Audrey. And later he tells Duke Senior, "Rich honesty dwells like a miser, sir, in a poor house, as your pearl in your foul oyster" (V.iv.57-59). Beauty, like poetry, is most feigning. Touchstone will therefore trust only the opposites of the appearance of truth. The kernel of truth must be distinguished from the chaff and the husk. But the figure of the pearl is much more appropriate to Touchstone in As You Like It than that of wheat and chaff, for with it Shakespeare exploits the unexpectedness of imaginative insight, the suddenly perfect, polished shape out of the rough barnacled mass, the pearl out of the mouth of the philosophic oyster Touchstone. Erasmus and St. Paul would have found him a fit spokesman.

For there is wisdom here as well as absurdity. If we look closer at Touchstone's indictment of poetry as "most faining," we will see that his sloppy syntax has caused him to proclaim the value of poetry, its truth rather than its folly. "For the truest poetry is the most faining," is what he actually says. The husk and the chaff are the stuff of the shadow world, the specific moment, scientia, accidence. The wheat, the pearl, is the kernel of truth, sapientia. The unique capacity of art and of ritual is to capture the primary, the sapiential, in an enduring form. As Sidney says, great poetry does not affirm accident; therefore it never lies. It is not "labouring to tell you what is, or is not, but what should or should not be."7

The greatest truth requires as its only adequate vehicle the most elusive and imaginative aesthetic conventions. The truest poetry must therefore always be the most feigning. This is why the great poets must always walk on Ferlinghetti's tightrope across the abyss of folly ("Constantly Risking Absurdity"). In case we are not following the gist of his banter with Audrey, Touch-stone then relates this paradox about the reality of artistic conventions to the truth of the feigning conventions of lovers. Again he stumbles upon the wisdom: "and lovers are given to poetry, and what they swear in poetry may be said, as lovers, they do feign" (III.iii.17-18). When Audrey asks him, "Do you wish then that the gods had made me poetical?" he replies incongruously, "I do truly; for thou swear'st to me thou art honest. Now, if thou wert a poet, I might have some hope thou didst feign." His apparent contradiction must go in this direction: if Audrey were poetical, her swearing of honesty would mean lightness, and the shortsighted Touchstone could seduce her on the spot. He would gain then a goat-woman indeed, tarnished physically as well as spiritually, a foul pearl in a foul oyster, the least poetical woman possible. Luckily for him, she is not quite that.

Related types of true if foolish feigning in As You Like It are games and similar moments of playing and fantasizing. These frivolities remind us on the surface of childishness and of unsophisticated literary modes. At the same time they can also express and enact complex relationships among characters, and complex epistemological insights. The wrestling, for example, so obviously symbolic as a clash of values and perspectives, is also an image of Orlando's lovelessness and Frederick's loveless society. Grown men should not have to wrestle with such pretty women looking on and wanting to join the fray ("The little strength that I have, I would it were with you" [I.ii.178]). Running away from home, the courtship game, aimless philosophizing about nature and fortune, playing Robin Hood, carving on trees, saving a brother from a snake or a lion, and then forgiving him and finding him regenerated, love at first sight, oaths, magicians, the rituals and miracles of love—all of these beautifully childish and dreamlike feignings are facets of "inscape" which become almost literal in Arden. The reason is Shakespeare's genius, of course, but also the fact that games and related feignings and follies are natural to the human condition. Literalness is no more natural than figurativeness, nor is work more real than play, or reason than fantasy.8 Only severely limited perspectives like those of a single-minded individual or a single literary mode would categorically prescribe one reality and exclude the others. Shakespeare keeps all of his options open in As You Like It by simultaneously enjoying and exposing the folly and the loveliness, the artificiality and the naturalness of all of these conventional games and rituals, these related feignings of man and of art.

Nowhere is this attitude more obvious than in the play's own amused self-criticism. Jaques and Touchstone have pointed out some of its aesthetic follies, but they have characteristically assumed that they shared none of them. In contrast to their uninvolved parody, and more like Rosalind's spirited role-playing, As You Like It gamely tries on the foolish, conventional, ritualistic garb of the comic and the romantic and even the satiric stage, and seeks to incorporate all of their shreds and patches into a new, comprehensive comic vision. Since the form of burlesque suggests that no single perspective—be it romantic, pastoral, idyllic, melodramatic, satiric, ironic, mythic, or what you will—can adequately express the complexity of reality, perhaps a blend of them, a comprehensive comic vision to match the comprehensiveness of reality itself, is the only adequate perspective. Shakespeare seems in As You Like It to be confirming his belief in the truth of the feignings of composite artistic conventions and modes by exposing the relative dishonesty of each of them individually, and then including valid parts of each perspective into his larger vision. This is so widely acknowledged a characteristic of the play that only a brief survey of its pertinence to our thesis will be presented here.

The play is full of aesthetic follies so grotesque and obvious that they must be calling attention to their own absurdity. It flaunts its folly by exaggerating its conventionality. The first scene, for example, begins and ends with a long, dreary piece of prose exposition, much like Prospero's speeches to Miranda in Act I, Scene ii of The Tempest. Rosalind's epilogue makes fun of this inauspicious beginning. The whole play is also strangely devoid of developing action, as the series of tableaux in Act II makes clear. Time stands still in the forest for more reasons than the lack of a clock. Further, characters like Duke Frederick and Oliver are so unabashedly villainous as to be mere humors of jealous ambition. Perhaps that is why they can be so easily converted when they enter the forest of Arden. The pastoral excesses in Duke Senior's first scene ("Sweet are the uses of adversity") are equally obvious as flauntings of the follies of the dramatic and pastoral modes. The bathetic responses to the sobbing, sentient deer, whose "big round tears / Coursed one another down his innocent nose / In piteous chase" (II.i.38-40), like the moralizing on those "native burghers," is foolish enough for many readers to catch a jangling note of absurdity before Jaques's obvious parody to come. But if this sentimental moralizing is pretty foolish, so is the overblown ideality, language, and sentiment of the prelapsarian Adam, the perfect pastoral servant, talking to his equally perfect master Orlando: "O my gentle master, O my sweet master, O, …" etc. (II.iii.2-4). He will follow Orlando "to the last gasp." We may also gasp at this, but not for admiration alone. Still, with many of these pastoral and dramatic excesses there is delight in indulging our sentimentality and our pastoralism, even while we recognize its folly. We relish the "tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything" even as we know that it is not quite true, a pastoral feigning in style and content. The same might be said of the anaphoric exchange of Orlando and Duke Senior in Act II, Scene vii (ll. 113-23). Part of the magic of As You Like It is that we can have it either way, critically or conventionally, or even both ways at once.

In a similar celebration of its aesthetic folly, the play just stops for Jaques's oration "All the world's a stage" in Act II, Scene vii. For all of its rhetorical beauty it is a thoroughly conventional set-piece expressed with a naive cynicism. But at the same time, Jaques's evocation of the trope of the theater of the world, however accidentally, can reinforce our understanding of man's inevitable folly and his ultimate need for humility, his position as actor in a moral universe before an eternal auditor. The theme of humility in The Tempest derives from a similar use of the same trope by Prospero. Such aesthetic follies are legion in As You Like It, and they have been often observed. They parody the pastoral romance from which the play is descended while simultaneously including As You Like It securely within that genre and also securely within the community of folly.

In a similar combination of parody and celebration, Touchstone and Audrey and then Silvius and Phebe parody the romantic love of Rosalind and Orlando, but they also expand our understandings of its dimensions. For the extreme physicality of the clowns and the extreme conventionality of the pastoral figures are both true if feigning (and faining) aspects of the richer relationship of the primary pair. Like the love at first sight which we like in Orlando and Rosalind, and Oliver and Celia, but howl at in Phebe and Touchstone (or Olivia and Viola, or Bottom and Titania in related situations), we are forced to be aware of the "most feignings" of character, action, theme, and verse before we are allowed to celebrate their great truths as well. If we like it we can laugh at the follies and love the profundities at once. "For ever and a day" cannot be accepted uncritically into this vision. But it can be included, if it is willing to be criticized: "Say 'a day,' without the 'ever'" (IV.i.133). And so as audience we must always be en garde as well, lest we enjoy one of these conventional phrases, actions, sentiments, philosophies, too uncritically. This is a strenuous aesthetic vision that involves us in its wise humility. But it is also a joyous one.

Three of its cleverest manifestations come when Shakespeare connects the conventions of romance with highly conventional and ostensibly dramatic religious forms. We have already mentioned the faint echo of Communion in Touchstone's "sacrament" of the cods. Orlando and Rosalind also occasionally talk like the Student and Master of the Catechism during his instruction as a lover. Later they join Silvius and Phebe in an elaborate litany of love. These last two parallels deserve closer attention.

When Rosalind instructs Orlando "who Time ambles withal, who Time trots withal, who Time gallops withal," etc. (III.ii.294-96), the style of questions and answers is clearly a parody of the catechism. The Master-Student relationship is part of that parody, but more important is the imitation of the unnatural style of the genre, a style itself based on the feigning of a dramatic situation. Orlando's lifeless questions about time ("Who doth he trot withal?," etc. (III.ii. 297, 303, 309, 313)) are met by Rosalind's equally repetitive and unimaginative answers, paradoxically livelier here because they are so dull. Also like the catechism is the analysis of each answer into four- or six-part responses. They recall the familiar "How many parts hath the Lord's Prayer?" or "Into how many parts dost thou divide this whole confession of faith?"9 One can imagine the frustration of schoolboys and girls trying to memorize such abstract and repetitive material. That experience is not likely to have been forgotten, or to have been remembered too fondly, either. "To answer in a catechism" is to answer predictable questions in dull and lifeless responses. Celia herself refers to this unpleasant if necessary conventionality during the same scene (III.ii.216-17), making sure that no one misses the parody to come. Paradoxically, even the flatness of this conventional religious form edifies and orders, and thereby justifies its own stilted aesthetic existence.

The highly conventional litany to love is sung by the four lovers just after Rosalind-Ganymede has promised to resolve all of the complexities that their feignings have wrought (V.ii.79-109).10 Its hyperbolic conventionality, as well as its antiphonal form ("And I for Ganymede. / And I for Rosalind. / And I for no woman") is again grotesquely contrived. Can love possibly be all of these things, this incredible combination of outward signs and inward qualities? Could any lover be so dedicated? They are all posing, or lying, or exaggerating. And yet even the one who is consciously feigning, Rosalind Ganymede, is only literally feigning. Secretly she is rejoicing with the rest, rejoicing even more because of her secret and the joy that she holds for them all. What of the conventionality of their litany? Is it so patently conventional? Notice the gradual transition from the artificial into the genuine, from the mechanical into the fluid. Notice the lovely crescendo as Silvius moves into the spirit of his hymn. It builds to "observance" and to "humbleness" and then the decrescendo begins, out of that moment of ultimate reality and ultimate convention, back to the conventionally juxtaposed "patience and impatience," back to the pure and passionless "trial" and the repeated "observance." That repetition combined with the awful, fourfold, later refrain ("If this be so, why blame you me to love you?") suggests on the one hand that the litany is running down. But simultaneously, repeating "observance" emphasizes the importance of observance not only to love but to any type of ritualized celebration. Observance makes the abstract concrete, expresses the inexpressible, like art, like ritual, like these words of Silvius. The conflicting and hyperbolical qualities of love are qualities confirmed by and contained in his litany. Likewise the direction of the celebration is carefully contrived: from sighs and tears to faith and service; from symptom to symbol; from fantasy to faith; from belief to worship; from protestation to celebration, the observance of belief, its manifestation. This characteristic moment has much to say of romantic faith and romantic folly, of the truth as well as the falsehood of the rituals and the conventionality of humankind.

One of the most outlandish of all the aesthetic conventions in As You Like It is the appearance of Hymen, a deus ex machina, in the final scene. The natural magic of Rosalind would have been quite sufficient, thank you, for the resolution of the plot. Like our first reaction to Adam's praise of his master, Orlando's catechism, or the lovers' litany, we may want to gasp or laugh out loud at the audacious folly of this moment. But while the appearance of such a figure makes fun of all conventionally contrived romantic endings, it also leads the audience, in the spirit of humility that permeates As You Like It, through its own ritual of romantic celebration, just as Silvius earlier led the lovers' litany. This most conventional dramatic creature, a feigning, a mere symbol, a figure of speech upon the stage, encourages us to celebrate the reality that we have learned to perceive in conventionality, games, and all of the playlike ritualistic qualities that enrich and direct human life. Laughable as Hymen is, a patent feigning, he still represents and embodies the audience's common and charitable wish for successful love and general comic happiness.11 Such an "embodiment," such a "representation," might be all Hymen was ever supposed to stand for, as a god or a dramatic character. The greatest feigning is again the truest. Placing as it does the audience's most festive and charitable wishes before them on the stage, it merges stage and audience, confirming again the frequency of romantic and dramatic miracles, and the impossibility of expressing great truths without little lies.

But best of all of these moments of aesthetic self-criticism is Rosalind's epilogue, which once and for all explicitly admits the play's folly and its feignings and rejoices in it. First, it bluntly reminds us that the play also started with Orlando's long, undramatic prose passage, and criticizes both conventions: "It is not the fashion to see the lady the epilogue, but it is no more unhandsome than to see the lord the prologue" (11. 1-3). She continues in this vein with her analogy between good wines and good plays: "If it be true that good wine needs no bush, 'tis true that a good play needs no epilogue; yet to good wine they do use good bushes, and good plays prove the better by the help of good epilogues." From the obvious humility of considering the play no better than a good wine, Rosalind goes even further into the play's folly. It is neither a good epilogue nor a good play: "What a case am I in then, that am neither a good epilogue nor cannot insinuate with you in the behalf of a good play!" Still, she will not be a beggar on behalf of this foolish play.

Rather she will be true to its title by asking her audience merely to like as much of it as pleases them. Playfully, she suggests that the play, and the pleasure, can be understood in more than one way when she asks that "between you and the women the play may please" "for the love you bear to women." And then comes that most magical moment of all, when Rosalind exposes the play's last and best "feigning" and admits the folly of her pretended womanhood: "If I were a woman I would kiss as many of you as had beards that pleased me, complexions that liked me, and breaths that I defied not." But she is not a woman, in spite of our belief in that most faining, a belief that has ripened almost into love by the magic of Shakespeare's conjuring. She is a boy actor who has been playing a woman playing a young man, and now she is a boy actor again. And so we must bid farewell to her false "case" with the rest of the dramatic illusions. This last piece of dramatic self-criticism is also the best. For it takes us right to the center of the folly and the wisdom of the imaginative contract between the audience and the play. Rosalind's final, literal stripping away of dramatic conventions confirms and celebrates the intricate conventionality of man, in love, in art, in society. Her profound foolishness, like Touchstone's, encourages us to understand how the rituals of any society may contain their most elusive truths. If they are sometimes the "most faining" it is because they are intricately allied to the least.

It is a paradox with Erasmian and Pauline precedent that characters like Bottom and Touchstone stumble forth in Shakespearean comedy to lead us to its profoundest truths. In A Midsummer Night's Dream the lovers are all mad, but they are also divinely mad. In As You Like It the lovers and the poet are all liars, but the audience is gladly fooled. In The Praise of Folie Erasmus cites St. Paul's authority when he reminds us that romantic dreamers and religious visionaries are "nere sybbe" in their madness and in their bliss. Harry Caplan suggests that like other Neoplatonists, Pico della Mirandola knows the possible folly of the imagination. But he also acknowledges its occasional necessity: "Higher faculties … cannot do without it; only let them guide it therefore, and it may act as the lens through which the intellect beholds the truth, it may prove to be the instrument of good prophesy, it may have part in the revelations of faith, and on it, as on wings, the mind may rise to contemplation of things divine."12

Touchstone has tried to tell us something like that in As You Like It. The lovers and the play itself are the imaginative pearls within the foul oysters of romantic and pastoral conventions. The audience is asked to share this humility by knowing how much it needs such feignings to understand such truths. But however we respond to the follies the play parades before us, we cannot criticize them condescendingly. For the play's aesthetic humility disarms that criticism by anticipating it, much as a character's ethical humility disarms the arsenal of the fool. Only the observer who must be condescending, like Jaques, remains immune to its festive happiness. And even Jaques is included in its wide-armed embrace of folly.

iii. The Folly of the Lovers

Touchstone's blundering philosophizing and Rosalind's epilogue leave little doubt that As You Like It is intensely interested in the realities that transcend the greatest feignings of fools, lovers, and artists. Man requires conventional rituals and roles to embody otherwise inexpressible feelings and truths, and to convey them to others.13 But absurdity can result from an in-adequate understanding of this conventionality. Touch-stone is one extreme exemplar of such folly. He tries on as many roles as he has observed—lover, traveller, courtier, scholar, literary critic, philosopher, duellist, husband—but he can only be an insensitive parodist, a fool, a stone, in each of them. On the other extreme is the contemplative Jaques, who anatomizes but resists all roles. As a result he remains a mere observer of life, uninvolved in most of the follies and the joys of its earnest if foolish conventionality. He is even more a fool, as Rosalind tries to tell him, for this un-involvement. But he recognizes his folly even less than Touchstone, and he would not change it.

Unlike Touchstone, the other characters, according to their capacities, reveal even while they experience it the complex truth which underlies their conventional feignings. The vision of As You Like It is not the satiric Narrenschiff Jaques might have presented but an affirmative celebration of man's follies and his potentialities. The widespread role playing that goes on among most of them heightens the positive, creative connections, between psychological and aesthetic conventions. And these connections, paradoxically, are highlighted by the character, Jaques, who seems to understand them least, during his cynical anatomy of the world as a stage. The others discover what he may never know, that all of the roles people (or artists) play can be creative as well as static, profound as well as foolish, and are often both at once. But when they work, these aesthetic or romantic conventions, these rituals and roles of artists and lovers, can lead to expressions and understandings of otherwise inaccessible truths. Their mutual feignings thus emerge from the comic vision of As You Like It as legitimate and essential ways to understand and cope with the humbling reality of man's finitude.

Orlando and Rosalind are the most realistic pair of characters in the play, but they engage us also as the most feigning. That their elaborately conventional behavior both edifies them and enriches their characterization illustrates how central the concept of "most faining" is to the play's vision of the wisdom of folly. It is precisely because the emotions and impulses of love are so erratic, so powerful, and so confusing that love's seemingly foolish rituals and conventions, like those of art and religion, can serve such vital functions. Each of these feignings channels chaotic impulses into creative, acceptable, and comprehensible patterns, patterns which do not have to be rediscovered by each new lover, but which rather are the common legacy of all. Their gamelike, ritualized behavior in Arden thus frees Orlando and Rosalind from the stumbling, tongue-tied attempts at communication that they undergo at their first meeting. It simultaneously frees them from embarrassing frankness, from the "base truth" of their physical impulses, and from the threat of its direct, nonfigurative, sexual gratification. Orlando is given a voice by these formal and prescribed rituals and games, even if for a while it is a foolish voice. Rosalind as Ganymede is given a protective if foolish disguise against her lover and herself. Their feignings, their romantic rituals, are therefore true in many ways. They control their love, making it more formal than it really is—more orderly—giving it a prescribed, repeatable, and socially acceptable form of expression. They direct their intensely personal, even idiosyncratic emotion into a universalized form, which grants it dignity and importance. And they remind the lovers of their continuing folly while allowing them to express and refine their enduring love.

That they can embrace the folly of this feigning as well as its exhilarating joy attests to their unusual comic wisdom. It also points to their role in the play's analogous aesthetic vision. Like the play, and unlike Jaques, both Rosalind and Orlando are fully aware of their own folly and of the inescapable folly of love. Also like the play, as Mark Van Doren notices, both of them delight in that folly without ever becoming cynical about it.14 J. D. Palmer has recently suggested that the lovers' unusual awareness of their own folly is connected to the play's theme of universal feigning: "There is a general agreement in the play that, as the song puts it, 'most loving is folly,' and accordingly Rosalind's counterfeit wooing is intended not merely to ridicule the foolishness of lovers, herself included, but to make it fully aware of itself in terms of a charade, a pretense, in which it is foolish to be wise15 orlando "will chide no breather my in the world self, against whom I know most faults" (III.ii.267-68). Rosalind knows that if "love is merely a madness … the lunacy is so ordinary that the whippers are in love too" (III.ii.376-80). They obviously share a joyous understanding that love, like faith, is a manner of madness. That understanding is surely related to Erasmian and Pauline paradoxes.

Orlando loves Rosalind at first sight, and he continues to love her throughout the whole play. The "heavenly Rosalind" of their first meeting is a faith from which he never substantially wavers, through all of the tests his love must encounter. But that first faith is strengthened by the conventional postures, the feignings, that both Orlando and Rosalind go on to assume. On their first meeting he can say nothing:

Can I not say 'I thank you'? My better parts
Are all thrown down, and that which here
  stands up
Is but a quintain, a mere lifeless block.

By the time he has reached Arden, he says far too much, in bad verses pasted upon every tree:

O Rosalind! these trees shall be my books,
And in their barks my thoughts I'll character.

But this howling, love-struck, tree-carving Petrarchan lover, like the earlier speechless one, will be laughed out of his excessive conventionality by the criticism of Touchstone and Jaques as well as Celia and Rosalind, so that by the beginning of Act IV he will have only a single line of blank verse: "Good day and happiness, dear Rosalind" (IV.i.27). This is still too much for Jaques, but it represents a considerable moderation in Orlando's excessively conventional and foolish behavior.

Orlando's sudden change into the humor of a Patrarchan lover continues to parody the play's literary heritage and its own conventionality. But it also reveals a momentary narcissism and a reluctance to grow up that Orlando must overcome. Like the antics of the gentlemen of Love's Labor's Lost, Orlando's false pose is too much surface and too little substance, therefore an impediment to both growth and self-expression. Orlando must learn that he can "live no longer by thinking" (V.ii.48), at least like this, too conventionally, in ways that obscure emotions and spirit rather than expressing them. Certainly the courtly pose is far less deeply ingrained in Orlando than it is in Berowne, and therefore more easily cured by Rosalind. But Orlando's immaculate dress, like his belief that a perfect woman loves him, must bother Rosalind; both excesses betray too much self-love, not just a conventional posture. Paradoxically, Rosalind's disguise, her feigning as Ganymede, functions to erode the false surface of Orlando's courtly humor and his narcissism at once, and thus frees him to love her more truly. This contrast between productive and unproductive folly, like the change finally effected in Orlando, is nicely opposed to Jaques's static anatomy of the seven ages of man. Man is not doomed to be the lover, though he may have to learn just how much of the lover to avoid and how much to keep by trying on the whole role briefly. Folly like Orlando's can free as well as enslave, especially if a Rosalind is around.

Much like his satiric counterpart, Silvius, Orlando is also something less than a man in his courtly pose. As Rosalind justly asks Celia of his versifying, "Is it a man?" Celia's answer, "And a chain that you once wore, about his neck" (III.ii.172), reminds us that Orlando is, indeed, a man, victorious over both Charles and Rosalind. But it also suggests distressing if amusing changes since then. Even before his effeminate and immature courtliness, Orlando's love of Rosalind seems to have cost him some manliness. If he has overthrown more than his enemies, he is also left somewhat impotent in Rosalind's presence after the wrestling:

                     My better parts
Are all thrown down, and that which here
  stands up
Is but a quintain, a mere lifeless block.

Silvius is similarly emasculated by Phebe's scorn. As Rosalind admonishes him, "Well, go your way to her, for I see love hath made thee a tame snake" (IV.iii.70- 71). That both of them finally become better men through Rosalind's feigning intervention as a man, and that Rosalind and Phebe also become less masculine through the same contrivance suggest that Shakespeare is having a bit of fun with their androgynous relationships. A similar interest in shifting sexual roles in Rosalind's epilogue suggests its relationship to the whole play. Like the other roles and elements the play depicts and satirizes—fools, philosophers, the artistic form—so even the most basic human roles of male and female are never absolute. On the most basic physiological level of Touchstone's relationship to Audrey, the man needs the woman, the woman the man, for sexual satisfaction. In another sense, there is some yin and yang, some res extensa and some res cogitans, some dominance and some submissiveness, in all of us. Especially is this ambivalence true during adolescence, "as a squash is before 'tis a peascod, or a codling when 'tis almost an apple" (Twelfth Night, I.V.151-52). Having to court another man—an effeminate one at that, appropriately called "Ganymede"—is the perfect purgative to drive out Orlando's excessive courtliness and his immaturity, along with his sexual ambivalence. But neither Orlando nor Rosalind can reject all such ambivalence, or they would both become as simplistic as a Charles or an Audrey, a virtuous Adam or a villainous Frederick. The sorting out, the juggling, never completely end. One can never be completely male, or mature, or natural, without becoming as static as the frozen portraits of Jaques's ages. If such ambivalence, social or sexual, is embarrassing, it is also an inevitable folly of the maturing personality. Shakespeare has ingeniously woven these ideas into the roles and disguises in As You Like It.

Orlando's related conventional assumptions about "the beloved" are also moderated by the edification of Rosalind-Ganymede, who has more than academic reasons for wanting to dispel his extremist expectations of his lover. Even Rosalind could never live up to his image of her perfection, and she would reject it if she could. For such a static posture of Platonic perfection is really no role at all for her; it is rather a non-role, another meaningless convention. Nor could Rosalind ever live with a rhapsodic sap who thinks that people die for love. So she tells Orlando, "Men have died from time to time, and worms have eaten them, but not for love" (IV.i.96-98). The stories to the contrary are "all lies," most feignings. Still, it must be pleasant and flattering for Rosalind to have a lover who momentarily believes in them, or one who would not be cured of his love except to prove his faith (HI.ii.449). It is likewise both silly and exciting for her to find those verses everywhere. Orlando is proving himself a good Petrarchan lover and a good man even as he is being cured of the worst excesses of his tribe. And Rosalind, in spite of her own good taste, rather likes it.

Another important lesson for them both is the lesson of the horns that Benedick and Beatrice also grapple with in Much Ado about Nothing. No woman is perfect; many are quite imperfect. Orlando must at least acknowledge the possibility of imperfection in Rosalind before his edification is complete. Their love-game will dispel his excessively conventional faith in all women; but at the same time it will intensify his faith in one woman, Rosalind. We never seriously think, despite her warnings, that he will have any reason to repent this faith.

She begins her lesson during their first meeting in the forest. Women are "touched with so many giddy offenses" (III.ii.330) that they can hardly be recounted. Among them are many of the roles Rosalind-Ganymede will play in the courting game:

changeable, longing and liking, proud, fantastical, apish, shallow, inconstant, full of tears, full of smiles; for every passion something and for no passion truly anything, as boys and women are for the most part cattle of this color; would now like him, now loathe him; then entertain him, then forswear him; now weep for him, then spit at him.


Of Rosalind's actual relationship to these roles we shall have more to say later, but we can see that their catalogue here is designed to disillusion the excessively trustful Petrarchan lover of his naive image of the beloved. She is likely to prove less than perfect, if better than this.

Specifically, she is likely to cuckold him. This threatening imperfection is the focus of Ganymede's assault on Orlando's continued faith in their next meeting.

The destiny of any husband is "horns; which such as you are fain to be beholding to your wives for" (IV.i. 54-55). Orlando is sure to meet "your wife's wit going to your neighbor's bed" (IV.i.155). And he will find her ever changeable:

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, more clamorous than a parrot against rain, more newfangled than an ape, more giddy in my desires than a monkey. I will weep for nothing … when you are disposed to be merry; I will laugh like a hyen, … when thou art inclined to sleep.


In short, she might be jealous, henpecking, fashion-conscious, lecherous, opposite in all things—the perfect shrew. Of course she will not, but she could be any or all of these things at one time or another, and Orlando no less than Benedick must at least be aware of the possibilities to appreciate what he actually gets, and to be forewarned of what could be his. If Benedick fears too much of this, Orlando fears it too little, and Rosalind's game is an important corrective for his naiveté. The song of the foresters about horns (Act IV, Scene ii), the constant, blessed state of cuckoldry, is a conventional statement of the same truth about human imperfection.16 Without that awareness, Orlando will never be ready to wed, for he will be unable to expect, let alone cherish, the imperfection that is his, hers, and everyone's.

Rosalind also becomes more worthy of love and more aware of herself as a result of the games that she plays with Orlando and the Petrarchan masks that she tries on. In fact, there is an extremely complex character behind the feignings of her role. Her disguise as Ganymede results from expediency, to be sure. It also betrays to a degree her own reluctance to mature and a decided enjoyment of controlling the action, of dominating events and people. She looks forward, for example, to playing a man:

                     Were it not better,
Because that I am more than common tall,
That I did suit me all points like a man?
A gallant curtal-axe upon my thigh,
A boar-spear in my hand.

She has also promised Orlando that she will try to dominate him once they are wed. There is some truth in her role and her promise, and Orlando had better heed it.

The ritualized courting of Rosalind and Orlando, while certainly a game they both enjoy, grants her the proper courting she deserves as the daughter of the Duke. It also provides a civilized context she can control even though she is in Arden. For while they go through those conventional, even silly paces of boy courting boy, she is truly well-courted and Orlando well-trained in courting. Both are also thus protected from the potential folly of their unchecked passion. Further, as Rosalind enacts the conventions and rituals of the disdainful maiden—scorn, indifference, impatience, haughtiness, jealousy, spite, sarcasm, cynicism, and most of the others—she is doing more than parodying the conventional Petrarchan woman, though she is certainly doing that. She is also trying those postures on in a context in which she cannot be held accountable, much as the lovers in A Midsummer Night's Dream can behave madly, violently, and cruelly without personal blame because of Puck's magic potion. Rosalind is evaluating, like Orlando, the excessive postures of the courted woman, and approaching womanhood and the via media as a result of their game.

A good example of the complexity of her feigning occurs during her response to Orlando's verses. Though she can lament the lame feet and the tedious homily of his words as she plays the traditionally disdainful maid, she can also be secretly delighted that they are written to her. Thus Touchstone's assault on their "false gallop" and their "bad fruit" is aimed more at Rosalind's edification than at Orlando's: "If the cat will after kind, / So be sure will Rosalinde." Her kind, Touchstone is saying, is the nutty fool of love: "Sweetest nut hath sourest rind, / Such a nut is Rosalinde" (III.ii.98-99, 104-5). Her folly in loving the verses while she pretends to criticize them is especially clear when she tries lamely to defend them and herself against Touchstone's criticisms: "Out, fool! … Peace, you dull fool! I found them on a tree" (III.ii.94 , 110). As the fool says of these attempts to avoid embarrassment, "You have said; but whether wisely or no, let the forest judge" (III.ii.116-17). This is one of his few chances to expose unacknowledged folly in the play, and he does it brilliantly. For the nuts who read and secretly love such bad verses are of the same kind as the nuts who write them. And "truly, the tree yields bad fruit" (III.ii.111). Though that is momentarily an embarrassing folly for Rosalind to bear, it is also a joyous one.

Its joy becomes obvious in her later exchange with Celia, which she begins by feigning indifference and scorn towards the poet. But after Rosalind's criticism of the tedious and lame verses ("I was never so berhymed since Pythagoras' time that I was an Irish rat, which I can hardly remember" (III.ii.168-69), she is soon beside herself to find out who wrote them, and to confirm her hope that it is Orlando:

I prithee tell me who is it quickly, and speak apace. I would thou couldst stammer, that thou mightst Dour this concealed man out of thy mouth… . Is he of God's making? What manner of man? Is his head worth a hat? or his chin worth a beard?

(III.ii.188-96 passim)

And then when it is confirmed, this recently and soon-again-to-be disdainful maiden sputters out her joy and her love in a foolish and delightful explosion of questions too many for Gargantua's mouth to answer:

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.


Because this delicious exuberance, this high folly, this near madness of her womanly love bursts quite through her feignings both as Ganymede and as the haughty mistress, we are never in any doubt that Rosalind is truer than Ganymede: "Good my complexion! Dost thou think, though I am caparisoned like a man, I have a doublet and hose in my disposition?" (III.ii.185-87). Fortunately for us and for Orlando, even her most feigning is never that true. Here, and when she faints at the sight of the handkerchief, the true folly of her great love is most manifest. The folly and the joy are both conveyed again just after this exchange by the continued images of nuts and fruits. Celia answers Rosalind, "I found him under a tree, like a dropped acorn." And though Rosalind can hardly have forgotten Touchstone's recent chiding, she has little doubt about the quality of the fruit this oak tree bears: "It may well be called Jove's tree when it drops forth such fruit" (III.ii.225-26). When she later says in the most horribly conventional Petrarchan style, "he comes to kill my heart," we see that Rosalind and Orlando are nuts of the same tree, and we smile and are delighted.

There are other brilliant glimpses of the true Rosalind through her feigning with Orlando, and we consistently see her womanhood better because she is playing the man. When, for example, she questions Orlando's lack of the proper symptoms of love, "lean cheek," sunken eye, "beard neglected," "shoe untied" and the rest (III.ii.352ff.), she is reciting romantic conventions that don't always represent reality. But she is also a bit distressed that Orlando does not conform more exactly with the textbook lover, and voices that distress through her feigning. She is still a little unsure of him; do those neat clothes suggest vestiges of narcissism? In a similar way her test of his faith is a real test as well as a game. She enjoys the excuse to be around Orlando, but she would also like to be as sure of his love as possible. Of course absolute surety is not vouchsafed to the true lovers in Shakespearean comedy. Hazard is a major ingredient of love's folly and its faith. And Rosalind always has some sense of hazard, though Orlando is as sure a bet as Shakespeare will depict.

Rosalind's distrust, her fear of imperfection, surfaces more clearly when we see Rosalind-Ganymede again. She "will weep," even if "tears do not become a man," because Orlando is late. "His very hair is of the dissembling color" she says, and yet, "I'faith, his hair is of a good color." Celia chides her with more of the nut joke: "An excellent color. Your chestnut was ever the only color… . But why did he swear he would come this morning, and comes not?" A question to be asked. For Rosalind, no less than Orlando, must learn of her mate's possible imperfections as she tests his faith in her. Perhaps he is a "worm-eaten nut," without "verity in love" (III.iv.1-23 passim). As Celia says, you are a fool to believe in a brave young man, especially in Arden:

O, that's a brave man; he writes brave verses, speaks brave words, swears brave oaths, and breaks them bravely, quite traverse, athwart the heart of his lover, as a puisny tilter, that spurs his horse but on one side, breaks his staff like a noble goose. But all's brave that youth mounts and folly guides.


But Rosalind chooses to be that fool, despite her doubts; so later does Celia with the tarnished but redeemed Oliver. Their choice of such folly represents a faith in more than feigning, and it is destined to end happily for both of them.

C. L. Barber comments best on this paradoxical lesson on their mutual fallibility that Orlando and Rosalind must both undergo:

As Rosalind rides the crest of a wave of happy fulfillment,… we find her describing with delight, almost in triumph, not the virtues of marriage, but its fallibility… . Ordinarily, these would be strange sentiments to proclaim with joy at such a time. But as Rosalind says them, they clinch the achievement of the humor's purpose. Love has been made independent of illusions without becoming any the less intense; it is therefore inoculated against life's unromantic contradictions.17

That they can both learn so much of their folly and simultaneously strengthen their faith in one another through the charade Rosalind-Ganymede conjures for them in the forest is one of the great achievements of Shakespeare's art. It continues to draw strength from the Erasmian and Pauline paradoxes about faith and folly that lie behind it, even though those paradoxes are more deeply submerged than they were in Love's Labor's Lost, A Midsummer Night's Dream, or Much Ado about Nothing.

Rosalind's upbraiding of Orlando for being an hour late is also more than a mere feigning, though she quickly enough forgives him for his snail's pace. After all, he has only stood up a stand-in, and so he can hardly be blamed for making light of the transgression. Though we know better, this whole relationship seems to him a feigning pure and simple, and it is one that he will increasingly tire of. In the sequence that follows, Rosalind directs her own courting, and edifies Orlando as well as she can concerning the Petrarchan excesses he still exhibits, especially his naiveté about perfect women. Her playful feigning ends with another promise to meet in the forest. After Orlando's departure, she reminds us again of the true love that lies behind her feigned cynicism: "O coz, coz, coz, my pretty little coz, that thou didst know how many fathom deep I am in love!" (IV.i.189-90).

Then she almost destroys her cover by swooning over the bloody napkin (IV.iii.157). And Orlando finally does tire of the feigning: "I can live no longer by thinking" (V.ii.48). The conventions of lovers are supposed to free as well as restrict. Their rituals are supposed to allow the lovers to express inexpressible feelings, to perceive imperceivable truth, and to sense their communion with all past and future lovers. Like the conventions of religion or of art, the lovers' observances can make them larger than themselves, at least momentarily. But they are also feignings that are less than life, and finally their celebrants must return to the world of the body as well as the mind. For none of us can live forever by thinking, and least of all can lovers, unless they are of the hopelessly ethereal kind (like Orsino through most of Twelfth Night). Even he must finally see Viola in her woman's weeds, as must Orlando now in As You Like It. His feignings, like Rosalind's, were "most true"; but because of that they must finally be superseded by that elusive experience we like to call "real life." That return to the literal is also the thrust of Rosalind's epilogue. The fools have paradoxically deprived themselves of this joy by remaining oblivious to their own folly. The play has revelled in its absurd conventionality, and found there its "greatest poetry." The lovers, by embracing the follies of their feignings with an analogous joy, have evidenced the spiritual health they share with the play's attitude toward itself. They have also equipped themselves for the vicissitudes, as well as the joys, of life ever after. Their delicious balancing of play and seriousness, artifice and realism, folly and profundity, defines and emphasizes the atmosphere of humility in which the whole play must be understood.

Again, this strenuous comic vision demands an un-usual degree of assent from the audience. Shakespeare and his audience must share a healthy sense of their mutual inabilities to express or understand the inexpressible and the inconceivable for the play to work fully. J. D. Palmer has already suggested that the self-conscious role-playing of the lovers and Shakespeare's playfulness with his art both involve the audience in "the equivocal relations between fiction and reality, game and earnest, folly and wisdom."18 The blundering foolery of Touchstone and Jaques also contributes to this vision, especially when Touchstone discusses the "most faining" of artists and lovers. So, we will recall, did Bottom's Pauline allusions and the lovers' Erasmian ones as they awoke to a new wisdom in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Both plays, because they display an interest in the limits of human understanding and expression, would naturally have drawn upon and suggested such familiar and analogous Erasmian and Pauline paradoxes about foolish wits and wise fools.

iv. The Folly of the Liturgy

We have seen, through the folly of the fools, the lovers, and the play itself, how completely As You Like It investigates the realities that lie behind the conventions and rituals of human behavior and the aesthetic experience. We have suggested the epistemological dimensions of these interests and their Pauline and Erasmian contexts. But David Bevington, Jonas Barish, and Russell Fraser have also argued that the play touches, however obliquely, a heated Renaissance liturgical controversy. All three of them understand the play, partially, in terms of the contemporaneous Puritan-Anglican conflict between asceticism and artifice. To them, and to me, this widely fought controversy seems analogous to the distrust of artistic and psychological "feignings" we have found expressed so overtly and so ironically by Touchstone in the middle of As You Like It. We lack the numerous explicit allusions which invited us to pursue and understand the pertinence of another doctrinal controversy in Love's Labor's Lost. But in As You Like It a persistent interest in the ritualism that characterizes so much human activity, be it romantic or aesthetic, plus Touchstone's glance at a central issue of the controversy, the concept of "most faining," encourage us to pursue at least a few general parallels.

Fraser argues that the Puritans distrust the religious rituals and rites of the Anglican church (music, vestments, candles, crosses, genuflection, and the like) because they, like Touchstone, are unimaginative Platonists. They cannot see that these "most fainings" might be attempts to express or represent the "greatest poetry" of faith, as something "more than pure reason ever comprehends." To the Puritan mind any concrete representation of spiritual or abstract truth must be suspect because it feigns man's ability to perceive the ineffable.19 David Bevington suggests how broadly such a dispute could have applied to the age and the play:

Shakespeare insists … on the fallacy of oversimplifying the appeal to withdrawal, whether to courtly artifice or to ascetic plainness… . Man cannot turn his back on social rituals of legal contract, hierarchy, and divine worship. The appearance of the outcast Orlando in the forest prompts Duke Senior to think not of society's ingratitude, but of their joint need for the dignified forms of civilization that must be reclaimed.20

And so the duke invites Orlando, and Old Adam too, to share their communal feast: "Sit down and feed, and welcome to our table" (II.vii.104). Such sharing reminds both of them of similar shared social rites and rituals in better times. Both Duke Senior and Orlando have

              with holy bell been knolled to church,
And sat at good men's feasts, and wiped our
Of drops that sacred pity hath engend'red.

Barish takes this demonstration one important step further by showing that the distrusted religious ritual is often explicitly compared by the Puritan controversialists to the equally abhorred feignings of the stage:

From Tyndale onward, through the writings of the anti-vestiarian polemicists, the controverters of the mass, the anti-episcopal satirists, the admonishers and apologists and animadverters, expounders of doctrine and compilers of cases of conscience, popish liturgy is scornfully likened to the theater, and much picturesque invective mustered to drive the point home. For Thomas Becon, the priests come to the altar like "game-players" to a stage, in "Hickscorners apparrell," in "gay, gawdie gallant, gorgious game-players garments." For the conciliatory Bishop Jewel, the "scenic apparatus of divine worship" is a "tawdry" thing which Christians should be able to do without; the sacraments should cease to be ministered "like a masquery or a stage play." For John Foxe, the decay of the primitive church meant that Christ's true votaries were supplanted by "a new sort of players, to furnish the stage, as school-doctors, canonists, and four orders of friars." Ridley informed his superiors that the prescribed ministering garments were "abhominable and foolishe, & to fonde for a vice in a playe," and when Hooper, in 1551, to the disgust of the zealous, consented to preach in them, he was said to have come forth "as a new player in a strange apparel … cometh forth on the stage." … And John Rainolds, inveighing against the stage, finds room for particular censure of "the profane and wicked toyes of Passion-playes, … procured by Popish Priests," who, "as they have transformed the celebrating of the Sacrament of the Lords supper into a Masse-game, and all other partes of the Ecclesiasticall service into theatricall sights; so, in steede of preaching the word, they caused it to be played."21

His vivid details illustrate both the customary outrage of the Puritan controversialists and their repeatedly pejorative references to the "playing," the feigning rituals, the games that mar the pure worship of God. In this contemporaneous play that is persistently interested in both the truth and the folly that underlies the "playing" of lovers and artists, Touchstone talks to Audrey about the feignings of both groups, and tells her that "the greatest poetry is the most faining." And Jaques tells us in a set-piece that "all the world's a stage." Such interests at a moment when drama as well as ritual was under severe Puritan attack suggest intriguing if elusive parallels between the play and the controversy. Speaking of such parallels, Fraser sees As You Like It only as a "bucolic lament for an age already and irremediably past."22 But Bevington finds the play tactfully committed to the preservation and defense of many "social rituals." The play argues through being rather than through rhetoric that a man, like a work of art, needs psychological, social, political, legal, and religious rituals if he is to remain fully a man, and fully civilized.23 I am persuaded by his argument and by the argument of the play that Bevington is correct. If he is, the religious dimensions of Shakespeare's treatment of faith and folly in As You Like It would have been all the more visible for his audience.

A discussion of general relationships between art and liturgy by Romano Guardini in The Spirit of the Liturgy suggests in conclusion how natural it would be for a play like As You Like It to reflect issues of the liturgical discussion through the paradox of the wisdom of folly. Appropriately, his discussion begins with the intuitive wisdom of the child. Child-play at its spontaneous, affirmative best is analogous to art or ritual, but precedes them both in time. It is a type of prelapsarian art or ritual, "purposeless but full of meaning nevertheless." "Because it does not aim at anything in particular, because it streams unbroken and spontaneously forth, its utterance will be harmonious, its form clear and fine; its expression will of itself become picture and dance, rhyme, melody and song. That is what play means; it is life, pouring itself forth without an aim, seizing upon riches from its own abundant store, significant through the fact of its existence" (p. 179). Art and liturgy, to Guardini, must try to recreate this intuitive wisdom of the child. To do so they would both teach profound truths indirectly rather than directly, by "being," in Bevington's term. They would immerse the audience, like the child at play, in the aura of truth itself: "The liturgy wishes to teach, but not by means of an artificial system of aim-conscious educational influences; it simply creates an entire spiritual world in which the soul can live according to the requirements of its nature… . [Like art] it is not a means which is adapted to attain a certain end—it is an end in itself (p. 177).

But art, finally, can only attempt to represent "the higher life of which [man] stands in need, and to which in actuality he has only approximately attained. The artist merely wants … to give external form to the inner truth." The liturgy, though it uses many of the forms and methods of art, can actually recreate something of the lost wisdom of the child:

In it man, with the aid of grace, is given the opportunity of realizing his fundamental essence, of really becoming that which according to divine destiny he should be … a child of God… . Because the life of the liturgy is higher than that to which customary reality gives both the opportunity and form of expression, it adopts suitable forms and methods from that sphere in which they are to be found, … from art. It speaks measuredly and melodiously; it employs formal, rhythmic gestures; it is clothed in colours and garments foreign to everyday life; it is carried out in places and at hours which have been coordinated and systemised according to sublimer laws than ours. It is in the highest sense the life of a child, in which everything is picture, melody and song.

Such is the wonderful fact which the liturgy demonstrates; it unites art and reality in a supernatural childhood before God.

(Pp. 180-81)

This analysis of the relationships between art and liturgy inevitably brings to mind the vision of both of Shakespeare's epistemologically oriented comedies, A Midsummer Night's Dream and As You Like It. What Mircea Eliade has said of religious symbols is equally true of the feignings of these two plays: "They unveil the miraculous, inexplicable side of life, and at the same time the sacramental dimensions of human existence."24 Hymen is as useful in the latter as the fairies are in the former in representing this miraculous dimension of human experience. Bottom and Touchstone help us understand our epistemological folly in relationship to it. For man's imagination can be as erratic and as undisciplined as his behavior, as Pico, Erasmus, and St. Paul all suggest.25 But that imagination, for all its madness, is also partly divine. Through this faculty man can contemplate the transcendental, and devise liturgical and artistic rituals to aid that contemplation. In such a context Jaques's "all the world's a stage," and Touchstone's "the truest poetry is the most faining," like Bottom's "most rare vision," are as relevant as they are naive. If they are obviously foolish as they grope toward these profoundest awarenesses, so are we all most foolish when we attempt to transcend our own finitude. At such moments our epistemological kinship to these Erasmian fools is almost inescapable.

A recent critic of relationships between comedy and Christianity, Nelvin Vos, reminds us how traditional and how timeless this Erasmian and Pauline identification of such folly and such wisdom really is. He asserts that comedy has always combined the incarnational view of man (only human) with the eschatological one (more than human). We laugh both at and with the comic victor/victim because he is "the image of dignity intermingled with frailty." He both unmasks "the incongruous involvement of the finite and the infinite" and also affirms it. In so doing, the fool—the Touchstone and the Jaques, the Feste, the Falstaff, the Bottom—helps us see "that the grossly human and the grandly sublime" are "wonderfully and repugnantly mixed" within us.26 The wisdom of such folly is not the whole truth of As You Like It. But it is an important part of that truth. We have ignored the play's Erasmian Touch-stones long enough.


1 See ch. 1, pp. 9-15; ch. 3, pp. 53-63.

2 Richard Hooker, for example, devotes an entire book of his Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity (Book 4) to this topic. See Davies, Worship and Theology in England, chs. 1-3; and George and George, The Protestant Mind of the English Reformation, pp. 348-63, on the importance of this controversy.

3 Agnes Latham, among many others, notices this unusual humility in the green world in her introduction to As You Like It. She attributes it to the forest's magic (pp. lxx-lxxi), but banishment is itself humiliating enough to have achieved some natural magic among the foresters. Surprisingly little has been made of the important effects of this humility on the fools.

4 Morris Palmer Tilley cites 128 proverbs concerning fools and folly. That none of them contains this Pauline and Erasmian paradox illustrates its unique biblical context. See A Dictionary of the Proverbs in England (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1950), pp. 226-34.

5 See Barber, Shakespeare's Festive Comedy, pp. 233-39; Kreider, "Genial Literary Satire," p. 222; Peter G. Phialas, Shakespeare's Romantic Comedies, pp. 219, 254; Brown, Shakespeare and His Comedies, pp. 145-50; T. M. Parrott, Shakespearean Comedy, p. 168; and Sylvan Barnet, "Strange Events: Improbability in As You Like It," p. 120.

6 Plato Republic Book 10, 598e, 605b, trans. Paul Shorey, Loeb Classical Library.

7 Sir Philip Sidney, An Apology for Poetry, in Criticism: The Major Texts, ed. Walter Jackson Bate (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1952), p. 97.

8 D. J. Palmer has written two excellent articles on this theme in As You Like It: "Art and Nature in As You Like It," and "As You Like It and the Idea of Play."

9 Nowell, A Catechism, pp. 142, 191.

10   PHEBE. Good shepherd, tell this youth what 'tis
    to love.
  SILVIUS. It is to be all made of sighs and tears;
  And so am I for Phebe.
  PHEBE. And I for Ganymede.
  ORLANDO. And I for Rosalind.
  ROSALIND. And I for no woman.
  SILVIUS. It is to be all made of faith and
  And so am I for Phebe.
  Phebe. And I for Ganymede.
  Orlando. And I for Rosalind.
  ROSALIND. And I for no woman.
  SILVIUS. 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 observance;
  And so am I for Phebe.
  PHEBE. And so am I for Ganymede.
  ORLANDO. And so am I for Rosalind.
  ROSALIND. And so am I for no woman.

11 G. Wilson Knight, The Burning Oracle, p. 21, intuits this metaphoric phenomenon when he suggests that dramatic action becomes sacramental when the audience participates in it.

12 Pico della Mirandola, On the Imagination, p. 6.

13 Although many critics mention role-playing as a motif in As You Like It, few consider it as central as I do. See especially Palmer, "Idea of Play," pp. 237-38. For other prominent statements see Bradbrook, Shakespeare and Elizabethan Poetry, p. 220; Kreider, "Genial Literary Satire," p. 212.

14 Mark Van Doren, Shakespeare, pp. 127-35.

15 Palmer, "Art and Nature," p. 38.

16 Peter J. Seng, "The Forester's Song in As You Like It," p. 249.

17 Barber, Shakespeare's Festive Comedy, p. 236.

18 Palmer, "Idea of Play," p. 235.

19 Fraser, The War against Poetry, pp. 40-44.

20 Bevington, Tudor Drama and Politics, p. 298.

21 Jonas A. Barish, "Exhibitionism and the Antitheatrical Prejudice," pp. 6-7.

22 Fraser, The War against Poetry, p. 79.

23 Bevington, Tudor Drama and Politics, p. 302. Jackson Cope's The Theater and the Dream, pp. 172-218, also comments on connections between drama and liturgy. He suggests that As You Like It, like Thomas Heywood's Apology for Actors (1612), defends theatrical illusion through the use of the theological topos of the theater of the world (pp. 173-74).

24 Mircea Eliade, "Methodological Remarks on the Study of Religious Symbolism," in The History of Religions, p. 98.

25 For Erasmian and Pauline statements, see chs. 1 and 3. See Pico della Mirandola, On the Imagination, pp. 5-6.

26 Vos, The Drama of Comedy, p. 114.

Donn Ervin Taylor (essay date 1982)

SOURCE: "'Try in Time in Despite of a Fall': Time and Occasion in As You Like It," in Texas Studies in Literature and Language, Vol. XXIV, No. 2, Summer, 1982, pp. 121-36.

[In the following essay, Taylor argues that rather than presenting contradictory descriptions of time-typified by the timelessness of the forest and the time consciousness of court—As You Like It evinces a unified vision of time as the seizing of fortune and occasion.]

One of the more provocative interpretive problems of As You Like It is presented by the coexistence of two obvious but apparently contradictory facts. Under normal standards of rhetorical emphasis, the frequency with which time and the effects of time are mentioned throughout the play attests that time is one of the play's fundamental concerns, and thus that understanding the dramatist's vision of time is essential to interpreting the play. At the same time, however, the contradictory descriptions of time voiced by different characters at various points in the play make it extremely difficult for the modern audience to determine just what the dramatist's vision of time may be.

Indeed, recent inquiries into this problem have held that Shakespeare portrayed not one view of time, but two: that a relationship of unresolved contrast, perhaps of dialectic, exists between the threatening time associated with Duke Frederick's court and a strangely benevolent time found in the Forest of Arden. Accepting at face value Orlando's statement that "there's no clock in the forest,"1 Jay L. Halio has argued that "Shakespeare throughout the play contrasts the timelessness of the forest world with the time-ridden pre-occupations of court and city life," concluding that the forest is "the repository of natural life devoid of artificial time barriers."2 More recently, Rawdon Wilson has described the problem in Aristotelian terms, holding that an "internal dialectic … arises from the constant play between the objectivity of time (as the correlation of motion) and its relativity (as the correlation of a knowing mind)."3 Wilson holds that the chief characters' perception of the objective, threatening time of Frederick's court undergoes gradual change to "a sense of interior time which becomes possible in Arden" and which "can exist, as a particular reflection of consciousness, only when objective time loses its importance and is no longer marked."4

I should like to argue that, on the contrary, the dramatist consistently envisions time as a phenomenon which exists objectively, independent of the individual characters' perception of it and independent of the place in which it is perceived, whether court or Forest of Arden. This vision becomes more apparent when primary attention is focused on the dramatic structures of the play, especially emblematic elements, and when the conflicting opinions of time expressed during the play are understood in terms of the pronounced changes of viewpoint which the chief characters experience during their stay in Arden.

This last consideration is particularly important, for recent interpretations have emphasized the chief characters' growth toward maturity in attitude and understanding during their passage through the forest. Albert R. Cirillo, for example, explains that those who enter Arden "emerge with a new perspective on life,"5 and Helen Gardner views Arden as "a place of discovery …where each man finds himself and his true way".6 In Arden, throught experiences which critics have described variously as "encounters,"7 confrontations with self8 or "feignings," "disguisings," and "trial and error,"9 youth grow to achieve understanding of themselves and their relationship to the world around them. This process of growth, with its attendant changes in viewpoint, is so pervasive in As You Like It that it must be considered in interpreting any part of the play. As we shall see particularly with Orlando, part of each character's growth to maturity involves discovery of his relationship to time, and his opinion of time at any given point reflects his state of growth. It is thus necessary to describe each character's progress through the growth process before his opinions of time can be properly interpreted, and for this reason it is best to approach the subject of time through dramatic structures.

The subject of time is introduced emblematically in the play's second scene through Rosalind's and Celia's conversation about the goddess Fortune. Fortune's bestowal of material rewards on her favorites is much in evidence in As You Like It,10 but the present discussion is more concerned with her temporal attributes. The associations of Fortune with which the Elizabethan audience was familiar had been transmitted through a long tradition of the visual arts in which Fortune's attributes as bearer of rewards had become merged with those of Occasio, or Occasion, the bringer of opportunity, forming the composite figure which Howard R. Patch has termed the "Fortune of Time."11

This merging process has been described extensively in studies by Patch, Erwin Panofsky, and Samuel C. Chew.12 According to Panofsky, the concept of the opportune moment which we now know chiefly as Occasio was in the ancient world represented by Kairos, a young male figure who carried the scales of decision balanced on the edge of a shaving knife, and whose momentary or fleeting character was portrayed by the wings on his heels and shoulders. In somewhat later representations, Kairos stood on a wheel, or two wheels, and (as Panofsky tells us) "his head often showed the proverbial forelock by which bald-headed Opportunity can be seized."13 Shortly after the eleventh century, the image of Kairos merged with the feminine image of Fortune to become the "Fortune of Time."14 Panofsky suggests that the impulse toward fusion was aided by the fact that Occasio, the Latin name for Kairos, was feminine in gender and thus led toward a feminine visual representation. The merger must also have been aided by the inherent similarity of the two concepts, for Fortune's notorious inconstancy is a function of time, while Occasio's fortunate moment brings the opportunity for good Fortune. But by whatever process of reasoning or association, the attributes of the two did become merged. Referring to this composite figure as "Fortune, standing for Occasio," Patch ex-plains that because of the merged attributes "Fortuna is goddess of time in general and deity of the lucky moment."15

This merging of attributes may be observed visually in an emblem by Florentius Schoonhovius in which the goddess displays the prominent forelock of Occasio, yet identifies herself specifically as Fortune: "Audentes Fortuna juvo " ("I, Fortune, assist the daring"). The same merging is revealed by different means in a 1574 French language edition of Alciati's Emblemata. The emblem portraying the opportune moment is properly entitled Occasio, but as the heading at the top of the page indicates, Occasio is presented in a section entitled FORTVNA. And in the same manner, Vincenzo Cartari discusses Occasio under the heading FORTVNA in his mythological manual Imagines Deorum,16 which was well known to the London literary world for which Shakespeare wrote.

Shakespeare's own use of this tradition of merged attributes is attested by a passage from Julius Caesar, a play nearly contemporaneous with As You Like It. The passage in question is the famous speech of Brutus:

There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
                            (IV, iii, 218-21)

This speech assuredly describes the arrival of the fortunate moment, and the fact that only Fortune is named reflects the interchangeability of the two goddesses in the mind of the dramatist and, apparently, in the minds of the public for whom he was writing.

Similarly, the allusions by Rosalind and Celia to "the good housewife Fortune" in the second scene of the play (I, ii, 34) would have evoked for the Elizabethan audience associations of time and Occasion, and these temporal associations would have been reinforced before the end of the scene by the arrival of the fortunate but ethically critical moment in which Rosalind meets Orlando17 and, more important, by Orlando's seizure of Occasion through his defeat of the churlish wrestler Charles. The wrestling match, of course, is the critical action which precipitates virtually all of the later actions in the play. Indeed, one of the prominent dramatic structures of the play is the succession of critical moments presented to the chief characters both before and during their passage through Arden, so that time threatens all the characters throughout the play, regardless of whether they are in court or in the forest. Most of the characters seize their Occasion, complete their growth to maturity, and are joined in good Fortune through the multiple marriage which concludes the play. But even in the seemingly benign environment of Arden, there exists the serious possibility that one may let his Occasion slip, and this potential for mis-Fortune is dramatized through such characters as the melancholy Jaques and the phlegmatic William.18

Although William is a minor character, his experience argues with particular eloquence against the existence of a special, nonthreatening time in Arden. William tells us that he was born in the forest (V, i, 24-25), but neither his origin nor his continued presence in the forest protects him from the loss of Audrey. Touch-stone exclaims, "We shall find a time, Audrey" (V, i, 1). He and Audrey seize their Occasion, and William is dismissed: one may "lose his time" as easily in Arden as in Duke Frederick's court.

After its introduction through allusions to Fortune, the threat of time is reinforced by frequent references to time and its effects, and some of these references contain multiple meanings which link the narrative and symbolic levels of the play. An exchange of this kind occurs between Celia and Rosalind soon after Orlando's victory over Charles:

Celia: Come, come, wrestle with thy
Rosalind: O, they take the part of a better
  wrestler than myself!

Celia: O, a good wish upon you! you will try
  in time in despite of a fall.
                                       (I, iii, 21-25)

As Richard Knowles has shown, Celia's first comment aids in allegorizing a traditional Renaissance theme, the conquest of the passions by the intellect.19 Her second comment serves as the juncture of several meanings. First, it creates humor by conjoining the disparate acts of wrestling and loving. Through two senses of the word try—the senses of struggling and acting (or standing) in legal judgment—Celia states the condition of all men in their search for Occasion. At the same time, she evokes the Fall of Man, which was first suggested by the presence of an old man named Adam in the play's opening scene, so that through the shadow of the archetypal fall, the situation of Rosalind (and of mankind) becomes resonant with associations of love, sin, death, and man's inability to recover any potential for good—any Occasion—which he has let slip. In the same lines, the values of Adam's antique world are presented in implied contrast to the corrupt standards of Duke Frederick's court. And almost immediately after Celia's speech, Duke Frederick banishes Rosalind, underscoring the dramatist's vision of threatening time with the warning, "If you outstay the time … you die" (I, iii, 90-91).

The threat of time is further developed through Jaques's report of the scene in which Touchstone "rail'd on Lady Fortune" in the forest. The fool's vision of time is simplicity itself:

'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.
                            (II, vii, 24-27)

This knowledge is, of course, quite literally what any fool knows, and it is amusing primarily because it omits the one fact that man must know in order to seize his Occasion, namely, the moment when time is fully ripe. Ironically, Jaques wastes an hour laughing at Touch-stone (II, vii, 32-33), quite unaware that he continues to miss his own Occasion.

Touchstone's metaphor of growth to ripeness is used frequently during the play to reflect the proximity of Occasion. In the first such usage, the fool's directly sexual parody of Orlando's Platonic-Petrarchan love poetry provokes Rosalind's response, "You'll be rotten ere you be half ripe" (III, ii, 125). The second usage occurs in the Touchstone-Jaques encounter discussed above. Just before the account of his battle with the lioness, Orlando (through Oliver) portrays Rosalind's approach to Occasion by describing Ganymede as one who "bestows himself / Like a ripe sister" (IV, iii, 87-88). The metaphor receives its final statement when Touchstone refers to William's twenty-five years as "a ripe age" (V, i, 22). William's unharvested ripeness represents an opportunity not taken, and he is banished from the possibility of love. In a similar metaphor, Celia and Rosalind describe Orlando as an acorn, a fruit dropped from Jove's tree (III, ii, 248-50), thus implying his growth toward mature status as an oak.

The threat of time is further developed by Orlando's love poetry, in which he claims for Rosalind "the touches dearest prized" from women renowned as patterns of feminine beauty. Rosalind's qualities include "Helen's cheek, but not her heart, / Cleopatra's majesty, / Atalanta's better part, / Sad Lucretia's modesty" (III, ii, 153-56). But these allusions convey more than conventional praise of the heroine's personal qualities, for their comparison of Rosalind to persons famous for suffering tragic ends implies the possibility of such an end for Rosalind.

And as these allusions suggest possibilities of mis-Fortune for Rosalind, a second allusion to Atalanta suggests similar possibilities for Orlando. Atalanta's downfall began when she turned from her footrace to pursue three golden balls rolled across her path by Hippomenes, her would-be lover. This delay cost her both the race and the freedom of her maiden state, and it began the series of events which ended in her transformation into a beast.20 The allusion linking Atalanta and Orlando occurs early in Orlando's development in the forest when the young lover rejects the melancholy company of Jaques. As Harold Jenkins and Peter G. Phialas have pointed out, this incident is significantly placed just before the first of the play's two major love scenes.21 When Orlando deftly resists the old gentleman's attempts to detain him, Jaques remarks, "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" (III, ii, 292-95). The allusion seems to imply that tarrying to rail against misery would equate to Atalanta's turning from her goal. But Orlando does not let his Occasion slip: Signior Love dismisses Monsieur Melancholy and moves directly to his first forest-encounter with Rosalind.

Jaques, of course, has his own view of time, and it might be observed that one of his chief occupations in the play is delaying the completion of love. Ironically, delay is appropriate when he dissuades Touchstone from the fool's first attempt to marry Audrey (III, iii), for this delay prevents Touchstone's seizure of an unripe time. The fool is thus saved for the proper Occasion of the play's final scene, so that many varieties of love rather than his variety alone can simultaneously be joined in marriage. But Jaques's other attempts at delay would, if successful, prevent the seizure of Occasion. Having failed to delay Orlando, Jaques tries with equal lack of success to delay Rosalind (IV, i), and even as the couples gather for the multiple marriage, he delays Touchstone with a discussion of dueling, nearly the opposite of love (V, iv).

Jaques's view of time is in fact diametrically opposed to Orlando's view that "there's no clock in the forest." If Orlando speaks of immunity to time, Jaques in his Seven Ages of Man speech holds that time, not man, determines what man shall be, for in this melancholy vision there is no Occasion to be seized. In Jaques's view, infant gives way to schoolboy, and schoolboy is followed inexorably by lover, soldier, justice, shrinking old age, and, finally, complete incapacity "Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything" (II, vii, 166). However, Jaques's speech is followed immediately by the scene in which the aged Adam receives in lavish quantity the love, care, and honor which hold no place in the melancholy outsider's scheme of things, and recent interpreters have tended to agree that the dramatist's juxtaposition of the two scenes signals his intention to refute Jaques.22

But if the dramatist rejects Jaques's extreme view of time, he also signals his rejection of the opposite extreme expressed by Orlando. And since Orlando is the chief exponent of Arden's timelessness, the development of his perception of time makes an excellent case study. Orlando begins as an unnurtured but naturally gifted youth and develops by Act V into a knowledgeable and confident young man who fully merits the "potent Dukedom" which is then announced as his heritage. But his development is by no means steady, for it contains several instances of regression. The play's opening scene reveals Orlando's sense of approaching crisis, and his seizure of Occasion through the defeat of Charles is the central event of the play's first two acts. But the time-conscious Orlando of these early scenes has begun to suffer the illusion of timelessness when, soon after his withdrawal to Arden, he describes Duke Senior's courtiers as men who "Lose and neglect the creeping hours of time" (II, vii, 112). As he is wrong in attributing savagery to these courtiers, he is also wrong in his perception of their relationship to time; and soon after this encounter, he begins to "fleet the time carelessly" in the manner which Charles had somewhat earlier attributed to the young men of Arden.23

This time-careless Orlando comes into conflict with a time-conscious Rosalind. Rosalind asks, "What is't o'clock?" (III, ii, 317), and he responds with his often quoted remark that "there's no clock in the forest" (III, ii, 318-19). Ironically, this exchange occurs immediately after the critical moment in which Orlando correctly used time by rejecting Jaques's invitation to tarry and rail against Fortune. Orlando's claim of timelessness prompts Rosalind's catalog of varied perceptions of time by people in differing situations, ending with the sleeping lawyer who perceives no movement of time at all. Rosalind understands that one's perception of time does not slow the actual passage of time. Indeed, an important part of the courtship game between Orlando and Rosalind/Ganymede is devoted to the heroine's attempts to change her lover's view of time. Rosalind chides Orlando for his late arrival, while he feels it sufficient to come within an hour of his promise (IV, i, 42). When Orlando consents to the mock marriage, it is Rosalind who demands, "Ay, but when?" (IV, i, 133). And, echoing Celia's earlier reference to trial by time, Rosalind charges her lover to be on time for their next meeting: "Time is the old justice that examines such offenders, and let time try" (IV, i, 203-04).

Orlando's growth to maturity—including the development of his perception of time—appears to climax with his victory over the lioness. Although this scene has received several conflicting interpretations, virtually complete agreement exists that the lioness incident is the climactic event of the play, the decisive turning point This interpretive which marks the beginning of the denouement.24 This interpritive consensus is reinforced by the fact that the indecisive, time-careless Orlando who entered the battle emerges with the quiet confidence of a man who has attained maturity and self-knowledge. This newly confident Orlando, now more time-conscious than Rosalind, ends their inconclusive love-game with the temporally oriented statement, "I can live no longer by thinking" (V, ii, 55), and it is through ending the game that he again seizes Occasion by the forelock. Viewed in the overall context of the play, then, Orlando's belief in Arden's timelessness is merely an illusion held briefly during his passage through Arden and then abandoned as he achieves self-knowledge and maturity.

During the denouement which follows Orlando's victory, the dramatist's vision of threatening time is confirmed by the juxtaposition of dramatic actions and by the fact that no other view of time finds expression in the final act. The denouement is organized around a motif of convergence, a movement from the dissonance of the conflicting impulses which result from imperfect self-knowledge toward the individual and societal concord imaged by the multiple marriage of the final scene. In the scene immediately following Orlando's victory, Touchstone signals the movement toward Occasion with the double-edged remark, "We shall find a time, Audrey" (V, i, 1). He promptly banishes the ripe but phlegmatic William, who knows neither himself nor the passing of his Occasion. The next scene presents Oliver's and Celia's seizure of opportunity and Orlando's ending of the love game. Rosalind then arranges the multiple marriage, and her arrangements are followed immediately by the song which celebrates a lover and his lass who "take the present time" (V, iii, 31). Ironically, Touchstone fails to perceive the song's relevance to his own situation. The fool's conversation with the First Page reflects a marked difference in their range of vision, for Touchstone speaks only of the song, while the page speaks of the cosmic principle which the song celebrates.

Touchstone: … though there was no great
  matter in the ditty, yet the note was very
First Page: You are deceived, sir: we kept
  time, we lost not our time.

Touchstone: By my troth, yes; I count it but
  time lost to hear such a foolish song.
                (V, iii, 35-41; emphases added.)

The irony of this exchange is deepened when Touch-stone goes directly from this encounter to the marriage in which he not only achieves his victory over time but (with Audrey) acts out the very song whose relevance he has just denied. In the final scene, the movement to convergence is completed by the marriage in which eight of the central characters are shown to have "lost not our time," and immediately afterward the audience learns the fate of Duke Frederick and Jaques, the chief characters who did lose theirs. Thus, the design and emphasis of the play's denouement confirm the vision of threatening time introduced in Act I through the temporal connotations of the goddess Fortune.

In addition to establishing the consistency of the dramatist's portrayal of time, the preceding discussion should remind us just how pervasive the imaging of time is in As You Like It. As suggested earlier, time is certainly one of the play's fundamental concerns, and it is appropriate at this point to ask how the dramatist's portrayal of time should influence our understanding of the play. The chief effect of this portrayal is to require reexamination and redefinition of the nature of Arden. The knowledge that time's threat is present even in the idyllic world of the forest requires us to approach that world with much greater seriousness, and because of this seriousness we must view the play's fictional events and the individual characters' responses in a significantly different way. The threat of time, held constantly before the minds of the audience, provides a consistent background of cosmic reality against which the drama's moving pageant of human striving is to be viewed. The dramatic character may believe that in Arden he has world enough and time, but at his back the audience is always to hear the inexorable movement of time's winged chariot. And although we may wish to perceive Arden as a place "where each man finds himself and his true way," the background of threatening time and the examples of those characters who have "lost their time" remind us that not all who seek in Arden are destined to find. Shakespeare's Arden is not necessarily a place of discovery, but it is necessarily a place of struggle. It is that liminal place where each man must strive to achieve mature understanding of himself and the world around him before the arrival of some fated moment whose approach is unknown to him during the course of his striving; it is a place where each man must as a descendant of Adam "try in time in despite of a fall."

But although Shakespeare holds this potentially tragic aspect of the human condition constantly before his audience, he does not allow it to dominate their response to the play. During the course of the play, the audience is made aware of many dire possibilities, but is not permitted to become overly concerned about them. With carefully modulated emphasis and balance, the dramatist has insured that the play's darker potential be intellected rather than felt, so that the tone and feeling of comedy predominate in governing the audience's response. And, most decisively, he has chosen to shape his potentially tragic materials into a comic resolution. As we have seen, the final act of As You Like It celebrates the chief characters' seizure of Occasion, and this comic resolution signals that in this play the dramatist's statement of man's relationship to time is one of qualified optimism. During the state of imperfect perception which youth experiences near the beginning of its passage through the forest, Orlando and Charles's young gentlemen may experience an illusion of freedom from the demands of time, and a person like Jaques, who has "lost his time" and is unable to come out of the forest, may experience the opposite illusion that man is the slave of time. But through the contrast afforded by these extreme views, Shakespeare brings his audience into contact with a more viable position of compromise: man is neither exempt from time nor is he, as Jaques would have it, a helpless victim. Although subject to the vicissitudes of Fortune, a man possessing the natural gifts of Orlando can complete his passage through Arden to the self-knowledge of mature manhood, can cooperate with time, can seize his Occasion by the forelock, and can claim both his bride and his rightful inheritance of "a land itself at large, a potent Dukedom."


1As You Like It, III, ii, 318-19. The edition used is The Complete Works of Shakespeare, ed. Hardin Craig and David Bevington, rev. ed. (Glenview, Ill.: Scott, Foresman, 1973). All references are to this edition and are hereafter given parenthetically following the citation.

2 Jay L. Halio, '"No Clock in the Forest': Time in As You Like It," Studies in English Literature, 2 (1962), 204, 207. Thomas Kelly, "Shakespeare's Romantic Heroes: Orlando Reconsidered," Shakespeare Quarterly, 24 (1973), 20-21, presents a similar view.

3 Rawdon Wilson, "The Way to Arden: Attitudes toward Time in As You Like It," Shakespeare Quarterly, 26 (1975), 17.

4 Ibid., p. 18.

5 Albert R. Cirillo, "As You Like It: Pastoralism Gone Awry," ELH, 38 (1971), 21.

6 Helen Gardner, "As You Like It," in More Talking of Shakespeare, ed. John Garrett (London: Longman, Green, 1959), p. 28.

7 Harold Jenkins, "As You Like It," Shakespeare Survey, 8 (1955), 50.

8 D. J. Palmer, "Art and Nature in As You Like It," Philological Quarterly, 49 (1970), 33.

9 Gardner, p. 28.

10 John Shaw, "Fortune and Nature in As You Like It," Shakespeare Quarterly, 6 (1955), 45-50, develops the implications of Fortune as bringer of rewards, but does not pursue Fortune's temporal implications. Subsequent treatments have tended to follow Shaw. William S. Hecksher, "Shakespeare in His Relationship to the Visual Arts: A Study in Paradox," Renaissance Drama: A Report on Research Opportunities, 13-14 (1970-71), 57-58, addresses the dramatist's problem of communicating emblematic elements to the Elizabethan audience: "… whenever Shakespeare … merely alludes and leaves it to his reader to divine the existence of a pictorial source of inspiration, we may assume that he was confident that his audience (or at least those among his audience who were imbued with the Elizabethan and Jacobean culture) would respond almost automatically with recognition… . Where, however, Shakespeare went out of his way to hold up to us a work of art and where he used to this end all the devices of descriptive rhetoric, we can be fairly sure that no actual work of art was in his mind."

11 Howard R. Patch, The Goddess Fortuna in Medieval Literature (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1927), pp. 115-17.

12 Erwin Panofsky, Studies in Iconology: Humanistic Themes in the Art of the Renaissance (1939; rpt. New York: Harper & Row, 1962), p. 72. Samuel C. Chew, "Time and Fortune," ELH, 6 (1939), 95-113, discusses both the Fortune-Occasio merger and a similar fusion of Fortune with the three fates: Fortune's wheel becomes a spinning wheel with which she spins the thread of life.

13 Panofsky, p. 72.

14 Panofsky, p. 72; Patch, p. 115; Chew, pp. 103-04.

15 Patch, pp. 116-17.

16 Vincenzo Cartari, IMAGINES DEORVM, QVI ab antiquis colebantur . . . (Lyons, 1581), pp. 303-22.

17 Response to the sight of one's beloved is always ethically critical in the Platonic love theory of the 1590s. In this theory love is defined simply as the desire to possess beauty, but the attempt at possession may be either mental or physical. Properly understood, earthly beauty (beauty in material objects) is perceived to be the reflection of divine beauty (intelligible beauty without a physical body). As the only being created with both a rational soul and a physical body, man is the only creature to experience ethical conflict in attempting the possession of beauty. He has the moral obligation to choose the purely mental possession which leads toward God, but his body engenders impulses toward the physical possession which leads away from God. Consequently, each sighting of beauty is an ethically critical moment in which man must (as the Platonists saw it) will himself upward toward the life of the gods or allow himself to descend toward the life of the beasts.

Comparatively few of Shakespeare's contemporaries would have learned Renaissance love theory from its wellspring, Marsilio Ficino's Commentary on Plato's Symposium (c. 1485), but many would have been familiar with Ficino's ideas (in somewhat modified form) through Baldassare Castiglione's phenomenally popular The Courtier (1528), available to the London public in two English versions, both of which had been republished twice before 1588. Most reasonably well-read members of Shakespeare's audience would have been familiar with these ideas through English sources such as Sir Philip Sidney's Astrophel and Stella, the many other sonnet sequences, or Book III of Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene.

18 Harry Morris, "As You Like It: Et in Arcadia Ego," Shakespeare Quarterly, 26 (1975), 269-75, focuses directly on the play's darker potential. Similar views are presented in Thomas McFarland, Shakespeare's Pastoral Comedy (Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1972), pp. 98-103, and René Fortin, "'Tongues in Trees': Symbolic Patterns in As You Like It," TSLL, 14 (1972), 569-82.

19 Richard Knowles, "Myth and Type in As You Like It," ELH, 33 (1966), 4-5.

20 Ovid, Metamorphoses, X, 560-704.

21 Jenkins, p. 46, and Peter G. Phialas, Shakespeare's Romantic Comedies: The Development of Their Form and Meaning (Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1966), p. 232, emphasize the fact that Jaques is dismissed immediately before each of the play's two extended love scenes, once by Orlando and once by Rosalind.

22 Gardner, p. 27, and Geoffrey Bullough, Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare, Vol. II, The Comedies, 1597-1603 (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul; New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1958), p. 150.

23 Charles's speech gives the audience its first information about the Forest of Arden, and thus the speech deserves a careful reading to determine the exact extent of this information. On the subject of time, Charles says only that "they say many young gentlemen flock to him [Duke Senior] every day, and fleet the time carelessly, as they did in the golden world" (I, i, 123-25). This statement asserts only that the young gentlemen act as if time were ineffective in Arden; Charles and his informants remain uncommitted as to the actual nature of time in Arden. In my view this passage serves two purposes: (1) it universalizes the forest experience by applying it broadly to many youths rather than allowing it to remain an unusual experience reserved for a chosen few and (2) it prefigures Orlando's illusion that "there's no clock in the forest."

24 For varied interpretations, see Fortin, pp. 576-82; Halio, p. 206; Knowles, pp. 5-7, 12-13; McFarland, pp. 102-03; and John Doebler, "Orlando: Athlete of Virtue," Shakespeare Survey, 26 (1973), 114-17. Halio, Knowles, and Doebler emphasize the climactic nature of the incident.

William Kerrigan (essay date 1994)

SOURCE: "Female Friends and Fraternal Enemies in As You Like It," in Desire in the Renaissance: Psychoanalysis and Literature, edited by Valeria Finucci and Regina Schwartz, Princeton University Press, 1994, pp. 184-203.

[In the following essay, Kerrigan investigates the psychological underpinnings of As You Like It, including those associated with sibling rivalry, female friendship, and heterosexual love.]

As You Like It is clearly less menacing than the dramas that surround it in the canon, including the comedies yet to come, and I treasure it for just this reason. Beginning with Hamlet, though of course with prior intimations, through to the consummatum est of Timon of Athens, plenty of stage time is given to what Wilson Knight used to call "the Shakespearean hate-theme"—poisoned idealism, anger at ingratitude and trust betrayed, misanthropy, world-hatred, sex-disgust, everything high and sweet collapsing into a chaos without distinction.1 The Shakespearean hate-theme is a fear-some thing. Nothing and nobody stands in the way of it. As soon as triggered, it leaps from the particular to the global, and blasts away, in great pulsating tirades of poetic fury, at the very designs of nature and civilization. It speaks through Hamlet in most of the soliloquies, his enraged rejection of Ophelia's virginity, and the dagger-talk to his mother, through Othello, Lear, Coriolanus, and Timon, but finally it seems to be free of character or dramatic motive, hovering about the work of this period as an almost impersonal force, like pressure seeking outlets.

Fraternal rivalry, the "primal eldest curse" of Hamlet, is one of those outlets. Shakespeare writes the success story of a "band of brothers" in Henry V, then he relates the failure of a conspiracy of brothers in Julius Caesar, and then—assuming the correctness of the Evans chronology2—he writes As You Like It, which opens in a world torn by fraternal strife. The late Sir Rowland de Boys had three de Boys and has left the family lands and most of their money to Oliver, who now mistreats his youngest brother, Orlando, refusing him funds, denying him an education, and making him eat with the servants. So far as inheritance went, this was, as Louis Montrose has reminded us, the "courtesy of nations": primogeniture, the right of the firstborn to the family title and estates.3 Younger sons of the aristocracy were indeed, like Orlando, resentful. Some became wastrels. Others became lawyers, clergymen, and civil servants. For such careers education was a prerequisite; hence Oliver's peculiar nastiness in refusing to educate his youngest brother.

Oliver de Boys even strikes Orlando de Boys while calling him a "boy" (1.1.52).4 The blow precipitates a wrestling match. When next Orlando wrestles, the treacherous Oliver will have chosen a proxy—Charles, the Ultimate Warrior of the Normandy World Wrestling Federation, a brother-killer, who warms up for Orlando by tearing three of them to pieces.

Elder brothers despise younger brothers. When attention shifts to the dukedom, we learn that the direction of such hostility can be reversed. "What's the new news at the new court?" Oliver asks (1.1.96-97). Charles's reply is metadramatic: "There's no news at the court sir, but the old news. That is, the old Duke is banished by his younger brother the new Duke." The new news is the old news, a younger brother deposing his elder. The new news will go on being the old news as late as The Tempest, where younger brother Antonio usurps the dukedom of Prospero. Some things never change.

But villainy is a plodder in As You Like It. Oliver shows little agility in preparing Orlando's downfall. He simply gives Charles an account of his own character—envious of others, a backstabber, a plotter against his brother—and attributes it to Orlando. The height of his villainy is a plan to torch Orlando's bedroom; Richard III would have done better than that. Nor will Duke Junior put the murderous machiavel to school. When he realizes that Orlando is the son of Rowland de Boys, a great favorite with Duke Senior, his sibling hatred flares anew, and soon lights on his niece Rosalind, whom up to now he has appeared to love.

All of this is old news, business as usual in Shakespeare. Male aggression divides kingdoms, friends, lovers, and families. Passages of social criticism else-where in the play remind us of other typical symptoms of male contentiousness: the new self-interestedness with which men move upward in hierarchies, forgetting the antique bonds of service, as represented here by Adam; the ingratitude of friends; the pompous rigor with which insults are registered on the way to fighting a duel. Men seem to be making a mock of civilization. Old news.

What feels new, though it isn't quite, is the extraordinary closeness of Celia and Rosalind. Begun in the cradle, it has almost magically survived the hostility between their fathers. In A Midsummer Night's Dream, Hermia and Helena are "sweet playfellows," bosom companions, before love rivalry divides them.5 But the friendship of Rosalind and Celia is presented as mysteriously exceptional: "… for the Duke's daughter her cousin so loves her, being ever from their cradles bred together, that she would have followed her exile, or have died to stay behind her. She is at the court, … and never two ladies loved as they do" (1.1.107-12). Their loves, a courtier remarks, "are dearer than the natural bond of sisters" (1.3.266). There does not appear to be, in other words, a standard model for this intimacy. No other women have loved this way. The love is dearer than that between sisters. Dearer, I wonder, because it is without rivalry?

For language such as this describing a bond between two people, begun in what is virtually a twinning in childhood, then continued into young adulthood, we have to jump ahead to Leontes and Polixenes in A Winter's Tale. That childhood friendship was broken by the "fall" of sexuality; women came between the two men, as they do again in the unfolding romance. Leontes' jealousy is a dark variant on the catfighting scenes in A Midsummer Night's Dream: narrative's sharpest way of dividing two friends is to have one of them suppose that the other has stolen his or her beloved. But the friendship between Celia and Rosalind, as we will see, is made exempt from this fate.

Rosalind has been called the wittiest woman in the canon. A wit can make do with a simpleton, but give a wit an answerably witty companion, as Shakespeare has in pairing Rosalind with Celia, and the result is a magnificent picture of great but unsentimental intimacy. The three or four scenes between Celia and Rosalind seem to me much the most beautiful things in the play. The way, never ceasing to score quips and quibbles, they still manage to adjust each other's emotions in benign directions, correct imbalances, get at the hard truths behind circumlocutions—it's a marvel! Shakespeare, who had two sisters and two daughters, observed well. Did Touchstone train these female wits? It seems likely that they trained him, for they are completely his masters in the Shakespearean art of verbal fencing.

When they hit the road for Arden and Duke Senior, soon to be followed by Orlando and Adam, we feel that they really do go "To liberty, and not to banishment" (1.3.134). They are too fine for Duke Junior, with his ridiculous claim that Rosalind in her wit and grace makes Celia seem a "fool." In fact, a fool is too fine a thing for the vain and witless Duke Junior to understand. Celia reiterates the preciousness of their bond:

                     If she be a traitor,
Why so am I. We still have slept together,
Rose at an instant, learn'd, play'd, eat
And whereso'er we went, like Juno's swans,
Still we went coupled and inseparable.6

And thus are born Ganymede and Aliena, brother and sister.

You have to make some choices in reading Shakespeare. The historical evidence is not decisive one way or the other, but the stakes are high, for on these choices depends the Shakespeare you experience and interpret. Some recent critics have made much of the fact that female roles were taken by men or boys on the English Renaissance stage.7 They claim that there is always a certain metadramatic awareness of this; an aura of homoerotic flirtiness or knowingness surrounds feminine roles in Shakespeare, and comes to the fore with special intensity when cross-gender disguises are donned. It may seem to confirm this view that Rosalind takes the name of Ganymede, Zeus's cupbearer, the mythic prototype of the glamorous homosexual boy. But the historical evidence is never decisive, especially in the realm of myth. Maybe Shakespeare just kept the name from his source, Lodge's Rosalynde, where Ganymede was a better-motivated choice, since Rosalynde played the part of a page, not a brother. A male homosexual name could be thought appropriate to Shakespeare's Rosalind/Ganymede in the sense of "destined never to love a woman," the truth that she will stage for Phebe later in the play.

The larger question at stake is whether Shakespeare made good in dramatic terms on his mimesis of women—and whether, on the other side of the stage, his audience was willing to accept boy actors as women, even when these women in turn disguise themselves as boys.8 Whipping up an artificial campiness around the feminine characters in As You Like It would erode the dramatic solidity of female friendship, to my mind a main source of the comedy's goodness.9 The play does indeed accumulate a charge of homoerotic feeling, but it is not to be enjoyed as readily as some modern interpreters imagine. Work must be done before the epilogue, where "Rosalind" is clearly a male actor's female part, releases a homoeroticism kept largely in check during the comedy proper.

Though all the world's a stage, and men and women the players, Jacques's famous speech is about, narrowly, the ages of man. But in my view As You Like It is more profoundly concerned with the ages of woman, and with the place that might be assigned in the ages of woman to the radiant friendship (more than kin, and more than kind) of Rosalind and Celia.

But I have neglected to mention what happened before their exile to Arden. There would be no comedy without it: Rosalind and Orlando have fallen in love at first sight. The tongue-tied Orlando is "thrown down" and "overthrown": wrestling, with its fraternal rivalry and male violence, has been metaphorically transformed into love. The women in turn accept the metaphor, and it becomes part of their witty intimacy.

Celia. Come, come, wrestle with thy
Ros. O they take the part of a better wrestler
  than myself.

It is surely a portent that Orlando gets tongue-tied the moment he falls in love. Rosalind gives him a chain, perhaps actually places it around his neck, and Orlando finds himself transformed into "a mere lifeless block": "Can I not say, 'I thank you'?" (1.2.239). A moment later he has no difficulty in saying "I thank you sir" to Le Beau (1.2.257), yet the onslaught of love renders him speechless. It's the usual Petrarchan pattern, to be sure; but given his devotion to this woman, the fastest mouth in the play, Orlando's weighted tongue foretells that he will be the submissive partner in his love match. Maybe it also implies a degree of ingratitude due in part to his immaturity; since the death of his father, no one has given him anything. He has in particular complained of not receiving an education. Orlando will certainly be schooled in the discourses of courtship and marriage when Dr. Ganymede, the magical love counsellor of Arden, is finished with him.

The play is interested in time and how time can be divided, distinguished, and periodized. Jaques notes that "we ripe, and ripe, / And then from hour to hour, we rot, and rot. / Thereby hangs a tale" (2.7.26-28). Eventually the tale of ripening and rotting gets told, in Jaques's famous speech on the seven ages of man.10 Rosalindis several times made to display traditional lover's trait of impatience. In one of her wit lessons for Orlando she compares various subjective experiences of time to the gaits of a horse. A maiden rides the hours between her betrothal and her wedding at a "hard trot," because her impatience makes her uncomfortable. Orlando, in the end, is exhausted with delay: "I can live no longer by thinking" (5.2.50).

Yet we feel in Rosalind herself a drive contrary to this conventional impatience. She clings to her disguise and uses it more often and with more dedication than the plot itself requires. Why is she so concerned, when she faints over Oliver's presentation of the bloody hand-kerchief, that this feminine swoon will give her away? Beyond that, why does she swoon at all?11 Because her anger at Orlando's lateness is instantly transformed, by the handkerchief, into anxious concern? It has crossed my mind that two things cross in the mind of Rosalind. The bloody handkerchief evokes both the violence done to Orlando and a sweeter violence that Orlando will do to her—the consummation of the wedding sheets: that which, in other words, she ought to be impatient for, but which in fact she appears to be warding off through the intrigues of her disguise. "O ominous!" Rosalind declared when first aware of Orlando's presence in the forest, "he comes to kill my heart!" (3.2.242). The handkerchief presents to her in one anamorphic image the pictures of killing her beloved and marrying (being killed by) her beloved, his blood spilt and her blood spilt. That conjunction knocks her out.

Comedies are mechanistic. Beloveds are found early in the play. They endure complications. Then, with some element of surprise, Jacks have their Jills, and the marriages crank into line. Viola in Twelfth Night is caught passively in her disguise, like patience on a monument smiling at grief, yet we never feel that her will is somehow resisting the mechanism of the plot. Her passivity can be viewed as a faith that "time," the comic plot, "must untangle this, not I" (Twelfth Night 2.2.39). But Rosalind seems freely to indulge in her disguise, to explore it, and for a time this indulgence acts as a drag on the destined resolution of the comedy.

Why? First of all, obviously, Orlando is undergoing a love test. Several Renaissance gender clichés operate in As You Like It. One of them is that women talk a lot, say whatever is on their minds—Rosalind mentions that one, and realizes how well it fits her. Another is a cliché about men, that they break vows made to women during courtship. This stereotype is alluded to early in the play, in one of Celia's speeches after Orlando's victory at the wrestling match: "If you do keep your promises in love / But justly, as you have exceeded all promise, / Your mistress shall be happy" (1.2.232-35). So Rosalind's doses of acid truth for Orlando are in part meant to test his fidelity. She induces him to make promises—that, for instance, he will appear at a certain time. Transgressions are punished, for they represent metaphorically the possibility of breaking love oaths. Perhaps, too, the charade of purporting to cure Orlando's love continues a pattern established the very first time she sees him; when they fell in love at first sight, she was also on a mission to dissuade him (from wrestling), and failed. Wrestling becomes courting: maybe she liked the fact that she failed to move him. Maybe she relishes, in Greenblatt's term, the friction.12

Usually we are meant to feel at the end of a comedy that the young have been freed from their complications and are now ready, with marriage, for a deeper happiness, something of great constancy. But Ganymede's scathing love cures feature some fairly chilling looks at the treacheries possible in marriage. Maybe Rosalind clings to her disguise because, as certain feminist readers have suggested, it removes her from the standard positions of the gender system. According to Catherine Belsey, devices such as the Ganymede disguise have "momentarily unfixed the existing system of differences, and in the gap thus produced we are able to glimpse a possible meaning, an image of a mode of being, which is not a-sexual, nor bisexual, but which disrupts the system of differences on which sexual stereotyping depends."13 On this view, Rosalind/Ganymede enters a state of liminality, neither man nor woman, betwixt and between, and in this state enjoys the freedom to stock her spirit with novel perspectives.

I find a great deal to recommend this view, though I am not sure that Rosalind's state really is outside the Renaissance gender system, which is maybe not so pitiless or clear-cut as some feminists suggest. Court-ship itself—which is certainly part of the gender system, and in comic drama has a whole genre given over to it (comedies end in marriage: another way of saying this is that comedies are typically about courtship)—is after all a liminal state, and is represented as such throughout Shakespearean comedy. During courtship some of the major dichotomies in life are experienced at the same time. The participants in a wooing may exchange vows and love tokens, at once married and not married; in the Renaissance this sort of doubleness flourished in the time between troth-plight (sponsalia per verba de futuro) and the exchange of performative vows completing the marriage (sponsalia per verba de praesentï).14 Wooers are also chaste and sexual, settled and unsettled, adult and not fully adult, sane and mad.

Courtship, moreover, in Shakespeare as in our own day, can involve a feeling of being in disguise. Receiving a quick or sudden love puts one into a dis-guise: this person does not know you, and couldn't possibly love you, so it must be that some disguised version of yourself is loved. Even when love is gradually rather than suddenly declared, both parties often have a sense of slowly undisguising themselves as the relationship moves toward the ideal of full revelation. The true state of the courtship must also, for a time, be kept from other people. Thus Donne, in "Lecture upon the Shadow": "So whilst our infant loves did grow, / Disguises did, and shadows, flow, / From us, and our care; but, now 'tis not so." During courtship, then, identity can mutate into a series of pretenses.

Of course the ordinary liminality of courtship does not include female/male, as it does for Rosalind. Or does it?

There seem to be two conditions that must be met before, imaginatively, Rosalind will be ready to doff her disguise. One of them is satisfied when she encounters Phebe and Silvius acting out the familiar Petrarchan scenario of an extravagantly dogged male pursuing a coldly unyielding woman. Rosalind has no sympathy for this form of female superiority, though it is, in the abstract, not unlike what she has been imposing on Orlando. Maybe her chiding words to Phebe are in the manner of a self-repudiation. The content of her intervention, in any case, is a spirited attack on Phebe's self-love, which she interprets as the consequence of Silvius's misplaced devotion. Ganymede gives voice to an anger that the Petrarchan male, nourshing his obsession, keeps under wraps; this scolding induces Phebe's sudden crush on Ganymede. "It is a pretty youth," Phebe declares, "—not very pretty—/ But sure he's proud, and yet his pride becomes him. / He'll make a proper man. The best thing in him / Is his complexion; and faster than his tongue / Did make offence, his eye did heal it up" (3.5.113-17). Ganymede is not yet a man in the dazzled eyes of Phebe, and for this reason, the speech implies, is not enslaved by female beauty; Ganymede retains sufficient pride of his own to rebuke her feminine pride, rather than begging her to relent like the Petrarchan Silvius.15 Phebe also senses a femininity in the body language of Ganymede, a friendliness of eye and gesture that "heals up" the sting of his rebuke. We might conclude that this crush somehow "completes" Rosalind, rounding out her liminality. She's looked at love from all sides now: as a woman, she enjoys the reciprocal love of a woman (Celia) and a man; as a man, she is loved by a woman (Phebe) and (in the game being played with Orlando) by a man.

The second condition for dropping the disguise seems to be the appearance of a male lover for her soul mate Celia.

Freud's recurrent problem in his four famous papers on female psychosexual development, and the main reason for the continual revisions of his theories, lies in his inability to understand how the little girl gets into an oedipal position.16 For a heterosexual boy, the love object remains constant from cradle to grave: the mother, the sexualized mother of the Oedipus complex, and metaphorical derivatives of the mother in courtship and marriage. But the little girl, to emerge from childhood with a heterosexual disposition, has somehow to shift her love from the mother to the father. How can this happen without some traumatic disappointment with her mother, or with femininity itself? Throughout his life Freud kept trying to figure out how this shift might typically occur. Though the plot kept changing, the major scene remained the same. Somehow this shift must involve an injury to the girl's narcissism.

In Paradise Lost Milton anticipates Freud on this question. Eve's famous narrative of the first human court-ship in Book 4 of the epic shows us that, even in Eden, the first suitor had a rival in Eve's own image, which is her first love. In loyalty to this primal affection, she does not fall in love at first sight, but rather turns and runs away.17

It is harder for a woman than it is for a man to realize that she needs the opposite sex to complete her. Here, I think, we are close to the heart of the Celia/Rosalind twinship. As in girlhood, so on the verge of courtship and marriage: the Rosalind/Celia relationship is puberty's renegotiation of the old attachment to the early mother. They jest about suitors, sexuality, having babies, but they are not, at the beginning of the play, courted. How could they be, when they are inseparable, waking together and eating together? Men will inevitably divide them. Their friendship is an attempt to achieve a completeness and self-sufficiency right on the threshold of mature sexuality—and as such this friendship does not really want to deal with the fact that maturity has to involve its dissolution. The moment Rosalind falls in love with Orlando, the friendship appears to receive its death notice. It has survived the violent rivalry of fathers, but now, with hetero-sexual love on the horizon, it seems to be doomed.

We see no signs of jealousy in Celia, though she is sometimes bored with Rosalind's Orlandoizing and appalled at her accounts of feminine treachery. In his book The Theater of Envy: William Shakespeare, René Girard concedes that the Rosalind/Celia relationship is aThere notable theories exception of mimetic desire.18 There ought to be rivalryhere. There ought to be rivalry the very moment that Rosalind tells Celia to "Let me love him for that [because he is deserving], and do you love him because I do" (1.3.34-35). Their friendship does not obey the ordinary laws of human relationship in Shakespeare.19 But Girard, rather than interpreting this suspension of the ordinary, gets worried about his theory; instead of suffering the scandal of an exception, he blames the idiocy of the pastoral genre, too stupid to allow for conflict, devises a convoluted scheme in which mimetic desire governs the play after all, and winds up with the exception proving the rule. But the plot of As You Like It, with the promise of goodwill evident in its title, moves to protect this friendship from internal as well as external disruptions. Celia need not be jealous; the plot will provide. With the appearance of a reformed Oliver, both women can simultaneously, in a twinned marriage ceremony, make the transition into adulthood, choose marriage over female friendship, yet at the same time elevate their cousinhood into sisterhood, becoming aunts to each other's children. A pair weds a pair. For the friendly cousins to marry brothers—and better than that, brothers who have settled their sibling rivalry—is the best-case situation for preserving their old oneness in the adult context of marriage. Resentments that divided their fraternal fathers have already been ironed out in their fraternal husbands.

Let me put this another way. Courtship is a time of liminal experimentation for a woman—both Shakespeare and Milton know this, and since they do, it cannot be altogether outside the gender wisdom of the Renaissance. Let's suppose that courtship in Renaissance culture has its own gender channels. Men declare their love openly, enjoying what Cressida terms "men's privilege / Of speaking first" (3.2.127-28); if they are tongue-tied and cannot speak, they as it were write poems and hang them on trees. They let women know. But women do not ordinarily profess their hearts. They are courted, and during this time remain ambiguous, disguised, undeclared, and undivulged. It is understood in these cultural arrangements that the resolution of the courtship, its success or failure, is a woman's call. Finally she declares her heart, and it is either at one with the man's declared love or it is not. Courtship is the time of woman's greatest power and liberty.20 It is for her to decide when the comedy will be over. Moreover, this is probably the most important decision of her life. The comedy of courtship is a realm of female supremacy—she's the monarch of the play, as it were, and calls the shots.

Marriage, typically in Shakespeare, is a realm of male supremacy. But this comedy seeks to mediate court-ship and marriage. Rosalind arranges a marriage that, so far as possible, will allow the liberty of courtship—whose main expression is the relationship with Celia—to survive the end of the comedy. The rebuke to feminine pride that Freud posited at the threshold of the female Oedipus complex, and the echo of that rebuke at the threshold of courtship, when feminine friends must partially give way to male lovers, are deflected onto Phebe. The play gives to her the castrating disillusionment of trying to make a woman do for a man. In Rosalind and Celia, Shakespeare builds a nest for feminine pride, bestows the gift of mutual wit to prevent that pride from becoming pathological, and in the end folds friendship into heterosexual marriage. When the forthcoming nuptial arrangements are repeated before Duke Senior, Rosalind and Celia leave the stage together, and soon return, Rosalind having discarded her hose and doublet, with the figure of Hymen, who then performs the only marriage ceremony wholly completed on Shakespeare's stage.21 Their entrance with Hymen in tow is a crowning emblem of the comic transformation of their friendship. Hymen unites rather than severs them.

The absence of the hate-theme clears a space for this triumphant empathy. But a full analysis of the achievement must include the comedy's successful defensive measures for denying a purchase to wrath and rant.

In the plays that lead up to As You Like It, Shakespeare avoids serious conflict with the father. Precisely that avoidance is the watchword of Henry V's career. As a young man he acts a prodigal. But at the end of Henry IV, Pt. 1, he rescues his father in battle; at the end of Pt. 2, he repudiates Falstaff, assimilating his father's disapproval; finally, in Henry V, we see him fulfilling his father's political ambitions, right down to wooing Katherine with the thought that one of their sons might lead a crusade (5.2.206-10). As Shakespeare planned Julius Caesar, he edited out Plutarch's suggestion that Caesar was Brutus's father.22

Rosalind remarks at one point: "why talk of fathers, when there is such a man as Orlando?" (3.4.34-35). But in fact the paternity of Orlando is early on presented as the rationale for her love. Rosalind feels free to love Orlando because Duke Senior loved Rowland de Boys. This relayed affection also bears upon Oliver's hostility toward his brother. He professes to resent the younger man's natural gentility and charisma. But I think we can be certain that another way to describe his envy is that Orlando (but not Oliver) has inherited the bearing and the grace of his father; Orlando himself says that the "spirit of my father" (1.1.70) compels him to rebel against his ill-treatment by Oliver. So Rosalind, in loving Orlando, repeats in the sphere of heterosexual love her own father's love for Rowland de Boys. Duke Senior sanctions or, better, initiates her love.

The prominence of fraternal rivalry at the beginning of the play serves to close off the possibilities for cross-generation hostility. Oliver does not curse Sir Rowland for failing to transmit his natural endowment to him; all his aggression is subsumed in his hatred for Orlando. The one exception is Celia, who rejects Duke Junior in accompanying Rosalind to the forest of Arden. Shakespeare disposes of this conflict with the deus ex machina of Duke Junior's instantaneous fit of monastic penance, brought on by his encounter with an old religious man. This, combined with Oliver's abrupt submission to the spirit of his father as embodied in Orlando, squares things with the paternal generation. At the end of the play there is no reproach whatsoever for fathers. We certainly sense that such themes are straining to get out, and they will, though somewhat disguised, in Hamlet. Reading the plays in sequence, it seems clear that Shakespeare, as Barber and Wheeler maintain, is laboring mightily to postpone Hamlet23 The paternal outlets of the hate-theme are sealed off by the end of As You Like It.

The escape from tragedy is of course embodied in a place, the forest of Arden. Early in the play, Rosalind and Celia debate the correct way of distinguishing between the realms of nature and fortune, that house-wife at her wheel. Fortune is said to supply the gifts of the world, whereas nature bestows the "lineaments" (1.2.41) of one's fundamental endowment. Shakespeare will be preoccupied for the rest of his career with various conceptions of nature.

No doubt Arden to some extent is nature. The exiled courtiers talk about suffering weather and the changing seasons. They debate with Jaques about man's place in nature—about, for example, whether men should live on fruit or vension. But if we take Arden in this way, we must be struck by the fact that the exiles' relationship to this nature is transformed utterly by their literacy. The whole question of man's relationship to nature is a pastoral question—and thus a question whose precondition is literacy. In the "uses of adversity" speech, Duke Senior concludes that "our life, exempt from public haunt, / Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, / Sermons in stones, and good in everything" (2.1.15-17). Arden is a text, something read. So is Jaques; Duke Senior now and then browses him: "I love to cope him in these sullen fits, / For then he's full of matter" (2.2.67-68). Indeed, there are poems on the trees.24

Arden is a forest of literacy, teeming with heteroglossia. Amiens sings a song celebrating the movement from corrupt court to nature; Jaques inserts a verse ridiculing the stupidity of anyone who would abandon wealth and ease to live in a forest. Song, mock-song. Orlando puts up his Rosalind poems; Touchstone proceeds to grind out mock-Rosalind poems. Even the vicar is named Martext. There's a resident satirist in Jaques, who has his own love affair with the resident fool. The horns of the deer inevitably, given language, are transferred from nature to culture, to branch out as the horns of the cuckold—horns that any married man must be prepared to wear. The comic and satirical scenes tend to assume the exhaustive structure of encyclopedia entries: on the kinds of melancholy, the strides of time, the seven varieties of insult, the seven ages of man. Philosophy and theology are sent up. There are burlesque versions of Caesar's "I came, I saw, I conquered," Troilus and Cressida, Hero and Leander. Ovid's myths are also burlesqued, as when Orlando tells Jaques to look at his image in a pond. There are lawyer jokes, priest jokes, rich-man jokes, lover jokes, simpleton jokes, women jokes, men jokes, fool jokes, and so on. "Nay then God buy you, and you talk in blank verse," says Jaques, talking in blank verse. The fool compares his state to Ovid's exile, and Phebe, a rustic shepherdess, quotes Marlowe: "Dear shepherd, now I find thy saw of might, / Who ever lov'd that lov'd not at first sight"—a heroic couplet, the form in which Marlowe wrote Hero and Leander. Arden is less nature than a heteroglossic rap on nature—an adventure in the forms and counterforms of literate life.

The followers of Jaques Lacan maintain that language is paternal, a system we are inserted into by virtue of oedipal castration. But of course that isn't true. Nothing that Jaques says is altogether true. Language is embryonically a part of the mother/infant dyad. Infants are bathed in language, and the first distinct signifiers are gradually differentiated from this global immersion in baby talk, body talk, clucks, goo-goos, coochie-coos, lullabies—the "blooming buzzing confusion" of William James.25

I almost hesitate to say it, because it is such an obvious point, and so comically open to any interpretation whatsoever, but this forest where maybe you should kill deer, and maybe you shouldn't… . Shakespeare's mother came from a prominent family of landowners in Shakespeare's mother came from a prominent family of landowners in Stratford, and her name was Mary Arden.26 Shakespeare's grandfather cultivated Arden forests as a tenant farmer. Can it be incidental that Shakespeare writes his mother's maiden name when Englishing Ardennes? With all the literacy in As You Like It's Arden, does the play contact an early mother there, a set of problems that stand prior to conflict with the father?

Sibling rivalry must surely predate the Oedipus complex for Shakespeare. I think it has its roots in being displaced at the breast, as a new baby usurps the mother's central affections while her former darling stares in envy at the new arrival occupying his one-time place.27 Duke Junior claiming the manor for himself might be read as the younger brother displacing the older. If we shift to the sibling feud in the de Boys family, Oliver forcing his younger brother to eat with the servants seems from this perspective an appropriate revenge. In the same spirit, one could read Duke Senior's migration to Arden as a wishful undoing of this primal usurpation. Junior has the dukedom, but Senior has the mother—Mother Earth, Mother Nature, Mother Arden.

Both sets of exiles discover that, in order to get to Arden, one must nearly starve; hunger in infancy is what calls forth the mother, transforming her absence into presence. These cues suggest that the flight to Arden is at some level a flight to the mother of in-fancy.

But this early mother also has her terrible aspects; she is a devourer, engulfer, smotherer. I see her in the "suck'd and hungry lioness" (4.3.126), more dangerous than the snake, who lies in wait for the sleeping Oliver:

Under an old oak, whose boughs were moss'd
  with age
And high top bald with dry antiquity,
A wretched ragged man, o'ergrown with hair,
Lay sleeping on his back. About his neck
A green and gilded snake had wreath'd itself,
Who with her head, nimble in threats,
The opening of his mouth. But suddenly
Seeing Orlando, it unlink'd itself,
And with indented glides did slip away
Into a bush, under which bush's shade
A lioness, with udders all drawn dry,
Lay crouching head on ground, with catlike
When that the sleeping man should stir; for
The royal disposition of that beast
To prey on nothing that doth seem as dead.
This seen, Orlando did approach the man,
And found it was his brother, his elder

An impotent father presides. The "old oak" overseeing this extraordinary scene evokes a very old man, like the oak in Jonson's "To the Immortal Memory and Friendship of… Sir Lucius Carey and Sir H. Morison" that falls "a log at last, dry, bald, and sere."28 This is the father sans everything, reduced to an emblematic presence only. But men of such antiquity, according to the logic of the seven ages, reencounter their opposites in "second childishness" (2.7.165). Events transpiring beneath the tree bear the stamp of relived infancy. The oak is bald, the man beneath "o'ergrown with hair." Yet in the drama unfolding below, in the ground-level realm of second childishness, the "dry" of the treetop reappears as the "dry" udders of the lioness. Oliver has neither youth nor age, but a predinner sleep of exhaustion, dreaming on both.

The scene bristles with maternal meance. All the players are dry and hungry. In this "wretched ragged man" we have for the third time confirmation that exiles to Arden arrive there in a state of near starvation. As he sleeps, ancient nightmares—the "indented" and "catlike" totem animals of the maternal hate-theme—seem to materialize about him. Choking or poisoning might be the aim of the female snake wound around Oliver's neck, reminiscent of the chain Rosalind gave to his younger brother after the wrestling match.29 "Nimble in threats," she moves toward the mouth in a deadly assault on the first site of mother/infant merger, later the first site of ego boundaries, and still later the site of speech. What does the snake intend to do before it slithers away at the appearance of Orlando? Her prey is in need of nourishment; the maternal beast waiting in the bush is sucked and hungry. The blasts of the winter wind, in one of Arden's songs, are "not so unkind / As man's ingratitude" (2.7.176).30 I think the snake threatens to enter his mouth and bite an ungrateful tongue, a tongue like Orlando's earlier in the play, that cannot say, when a woman puts the gift of a chain around his neck, "I thank you." Reimagining the chain as a snake, this scene projects that ingratitude back into the preliterate recesses of psychic time as a motive for maternal vengeance and therefore also as a deep motive for the speechless ingratitude of mature males, whose tongues are weighted with the unconscious stings of infantile revenge tragedies. Unlike the snake, who threatens a motionless prey and slinks off when distrubed by Orlando, the "royal disposition" of the beast crouching in the bush's shade—a regressive figuration of the classic vagina dentata—requires animated game, the pleasure of a kill. The lioness "with udders all drawn dry" is a nightmare out of Melanie Klein, a talionic mother who will devour her child because, in that child's primitive fantasy world, he has devoured her.31

Twice Orlando turns his back on the endangered brother. But "kindness" and "nature" defeat revenge and justice (4.3.128-30). Orlando saves his brother from the lioness, at the cost of being wounded himself, and immediately the sibling rivalry is over. They weep to hear each other's story; after a brief audience, Duke Senior formally assigns the duties of hospitality for the newcomer to his "brother's love" (4.3.144). As Oliver was excessive in hostility, so now he is excessive in beneficence: he will give Orlando the estates, and live in Ardenic bliss with his beloved Aliena.

In sum, the older brother forgives the younger brother because the younger has rescued him. I think this is a dramatic representation of one of the earliest checks against all-out sibling rivalry. That new brother has taken my place; see how Mother dotes on him, when she should be doting on me. But on the other hand, there is the counterthought we have come to expect in the reversible intellectual structures of Arden: it is good to be free of that mother, to mourn my losses and become an independent self. The usurper is also a liberator. I will no longer be engulfed. The new baby has pushed me toward my future.

The fear of being engulfed by a primeval mother might translate, on a much later plane of psychic development, into a dread of being overmastered by the wit and bossiness of a dominant wife. Maybe that is yet another reason why the wound ends the masquerade and rounds off the love test: by surviving the onslaught of the most savage early mother, the hungry dry-dugged lioness, Orlando has proven himself fit for marriage to a Rosalind.

After which, an epilogue of elaborate pointlessness:

It is not the fashion to see the lady the epilogue; but it is no more unhandsome than to see the lord the prologue. If it be true that good wine needs no bush, 'tis true that a good play needs no epilogue. Yet to good wine they do use good bushes; and good plays prove the better by the help of good epilogues. What a case am I in then, that am neither a good epilogue, nor cannot insinuate with you in the behalf of a good play? I am not furnished like a beggar, therefore to beg you will not become me.

Strictly from hunger, Rosalind's epilogue seems condemned to offer and then to undermine rationales for itself. Yet the logic of the play is still subliminally at work in this self-thwarting appendage. An impulse to epilogue seems at war with an impulse to anti-epilogue. Rosalind is pretending to a great deal of trouble in asking for the audience's gratitude. By the end we realize that the epilogue cannot request this gratitude without first delivering to its audience the comedy's mixed sexual messages. Before the comedy can receive its due, theater must come clean.

As is conventional in epilogues, the play is reduced to an object of primitive judgment. Like wine, it is either good or bad, to be spit out with hisses or taken in with applause. And in fact things look bad for As You Like It in this suspended state between fiction and fact, performance and reception: Rosalind has neither a good epilogue for a bad play nor a good epilogue for a good play. It would certainly be a good epilogue for my interpretation if this lighthearted condemnation of the comedy could be associated with the primitive object encountered in the forest of Arden. Metaphorically a bush (the ivy sprig, traditional sign of the vintner) and a woman, the prologue may indeed remind us of "Into a bush, under which bush's shade / A lioness… ." That may seem a stretch. But when the epilogue discovers a raison d'être, it has to do with kissing, bringing mouths together without hatred or reproach:32

My way is to conjure you, and I'll begin with the women. I charge you, O women, for the love you bear to men, to like as much of this play as please you. And I charge you, O men, for the love you bear to women—as I perceive by your simpering none of you hates them—that between you and women the play may please. If I were a woman, I would kiss as many of you as had beards that pleased me, complexions that liked me, and breaths I defied not. And I am sure, as many as have good beards, or good faces, or sweet breaths, will for my kind offer, when I make curtsy, bid me farewell.

This is As You Like It. What women like in the play, they should equate with the love they bear to men; what men like in the play, they should equate with the love they bear to women. Dr. Ganymede is on the audience's case: liking the play is equivalent to hetero-sexuality; the gravity of the genre produces marriages. But this heterosexual declaration is followed by an evocation of male fellowship.

The fear of being engulfed by a primeval mother might also translate, on a much later plane of psychic development, to a fear of being drawn into dangerous fantasies by a masterful work of art. The epilogue banishes this fear in jovial acceptance. Ganymede's insistence that Orlando treat him as Rosalind echoes the male actor's insistence throughout the performance that the audience treat him as Rosalind. Exposing this similitude, the epilogue balances the theme of female friendship with good spirits between men. There is one final undermining in the offer to kiss pleasing mouths: "If I were a woman… ." He is not. The woman-man that has been "Rosalind" here divides into a role and an actor; our lady the prologue is our lord the prologue. After heterosexuality has been linked to the liking of the play, after the male actor has expressly dis-engaged himself from the female role, homosexual desire surfaces in the kisses that he in playing she would plant on the audience's most attractive faces.23As You Like It has met and survived the hungry lioness; homosexuality holds no terror, since the imago that might compel it has been overcome. Written by a male, performed by males, and ultimately addressed to males, the play has as its bottommost wish the desire to cleanse and reaffirm the realm of the oral, blocking out the hate-theme at its source. Even if the good comedy is bad, it will be good. Even if the hetero-sexual desire celebrated in the play is homosexual desire, it will be good. As the comedy itself becomes a primitive object in its epilogue, the very idea of a primitive object becomes comic—a thing created by men for the entertainment of men. With a most flirtatious curtsy the actor exits to applause, having shown to the limits of Shakespeare's imagination that men can reconfigure their dread of women.


1 G. Wilson Knight, The Wheel of Fire (rpt. London: Methuen, 1986), p. 236.

2 I refer to the sequence given in G. Blakemore Evans et al., eds., The Riverside Shakespeare (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1974), pp. 47-56.

3 Montrose, '"The Place of a Brother' in As You Like It: Social Process and Comic Form," Shakespeare Quarterly 32 (1981): 28-54. I have some local dis-agreements with Montrose. For example, I see no evidence that Orlando is bitter about the principle of primogeniture. His allusion to the "courtesy of nations" is not sarcastic (Montrose, 31, 32, 36); he instead resents the particular indignity of his treatment at the hands of Oliver. Stressing the social elevation of Orlando through his marriage to Rosalind, Montrose believes that the play appeals to the grudges of younger brothers. Moreover, he assumes that Renaissance attitudes toward primogeniture were governed by self-interest, younger brothers resenting it, eldest brothers favoring it. I therefore find it odd that he never mentions, even in passing, Shakespeare's own status as an eldest brother. This oversight may count as an aporia, since it is impossible to see how Shakespeare, given Montrose's belief in the necessary selfinterestedness of social attitudes, could have sympathized so fully with younger brothers. But the major problem with the Montrose essay is that his approach via primogeniture all but ignores the heart of the play: the friendship between Celia and Rosalind. Orlando is actually a rather dull character, and the best bits in the first two acts (which Montrose admits are his primary focus) concern the radiant female friends. Toward the end of this essay I will offer some psychoanalytic suggestions about the treatment of fraternal rivalry in As You Like It.

4 All citations of the play are from Agnes Latham, ed., As You Like It (Londo : Methuen, 1975).

5 One also thinks of the female community gathered around the princess in Love's Labour's Lost, though Boyet is so prominent in their scenes that they have scant opportunity to converse with one another, the opening of 5.2 being the lone exception. Perhaps a better example of the power of female unity is Richard III 4.4, where the three queens make common cause against Richard, weave their curses together, and imaginatively put an end to the Wars of the Roses.

6 The coupled swans recall Spenser's "Prothalamion," probably written in 1596. For other sources, consult The Works of Edmund Spenser: The Minor Poems, Vol. 2, ed. Edwin Greenlaw, Charles Osgood, Rederick Padelford, and Ray Heffner (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1947), pp. 667-73. The image fore-shadows the union of friendship and marriage at the entrance of Hymen in Act 5.

7 Examples may be found in Lisa Jardine, Still Harping on Daughters: Women and Drama in the Age of Shakespeare (New York: Columbia University Press, 1983), pp. 9-36; and Stephen Orgel, "Nobody's Perfect, or Why Did the English Stage Take Boys for Women?" South Atlantic Quarterly 88 (1989): 7-29.

8 The alternative, as Robert Kimbrough suggests in "Shakespeare's Androgyny Seen Through Disguise" (Shakespeare Quarterly 33 [1982]): 17-33, is that almost all of the plays would have to have been treated as farce (p. 17).

9 A review of the early criticism of the play reveals that my main predecessor in this view is H. N. Hudson. An appreciation of the Rosalind-Celia friendship shines through the haze of his Wordsworthian prose. "Instinct with the soul of moral beauty and female tenderness, the friendship of these more-than-sisters 'mounts to the seat of grace within the mind.'" He finds sister-hood in the very serenity of Arden: "the graces of art and the simplicities of nature meet together in joyous, loving sisterhood." Shakespeare: His Life, Art, and Characters, 4th ed., rev.; 2 vols. (Boston: Ginn and Company, 1891), 1:346, 349.

10 C. L. Barber, Shakespeare's Festive Comedy (New York: Meridian Books, 1963), p. 226.

11 On swooning in medieval romance and Shakespearean comedy, see the interesting remarks of E. E. Stoll in Shakespeare Studies (New York: Macmillan, 1927), pp. 40-42.

12 Stephen Greenblatt, Shakespearean Negotiations (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988), pp. 66-93. "And the effect of her humour," the foreshadowing Hudson writes of Rosalind, "is, as it were, to lubricate [his emphasis] all her faculties, and make her thoughts run brisk and glib" (Shakespeare, 1:345).

13 "Disrupting Sexual Difference: Meaning and Gender in the Comedies," in John Drakakis, ed., Alternative Shakespeares (London: Methuen, 1985), p. 190. See also,

14 On the oddities of marriage law, consult Frederick Pollock and Frederic Maitland, The History of English Law, 2 vols. (rpt. Washington, D.C.: Lawyers' Literary Club, 1959), 2:368-99.

15 In a comparable scene in Twelfth Night (1.5.238-58), Viola/Caesario first (unlike Rosalind/Ganymede) praises the beauty of Olivia, then (like Rosalind/Ganymede) indicts her pride. Like Phebe, Olivia clearly prefers this freedom from enamorment to Orsino's Petrarchan enslavement.

16 These essays, cited from James Strachey, ed. and trans., The Standard Edition of the Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, 24 vols. (London: Hogarth Press, 1953-74), are "On the Sexual Theories of Children" (9:207-26); "The Dissolution of the Oedipus Complex" (19:172-79); "Some Psychical Consequences of the Anatomical Distinction Between the Sexes" (19:243-58); and "Femininity" (22:112-35). Scorned by the first generation of academic feminists, these papers have recently been hailed by some members of the second and third generations—an event so momentous as to have made the cover of Newsweek in 1991. See the introductory matter in Elisabeth Young-Bruehl, ed., Freud on Women: A Reader (New York: Norton, 1990).

17 Interpretations of Eve's courtship from a Freudian point of view may be found in Mark Edmundson, Towards Reading Freud: Self-Creation in Milton, Wordsworth, Emerson, and Sigmund Freud (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990), pp. 57-86; William Kerrigan and Gordon Braden, The Idea of the Renaissance (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989), pp. 201-3; and my "Gender and Confusion in Milton and Everyone Else," Hellas 2 (1991): 195-220.

18 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), pp. 92-105.

19 So far is Celia from jealousy that she plays the priest in the mock wedding of 4.1.118-24.

20 Several points in this account of courtship are illustrated in one of Cressida's speeches:

If I confess much you will play the tyrant.
                            … See, we fools!
Why have I blabb'd? Who shall be true to us
When we are so unsecret to ourselves?—
But though I lov'd you well, I woo'd you not;
And yet, good faith, I wish'd myself a man,
Or that women had men's privilege
Of speaking first.

Carol Thomas Neely, in Broken Nuptials in Shakespeare's Plays (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985), pp. 6-22, offers a brief and historically informed account of the "deidealization" to which married women are subjected in Shakespeare. Recent generalization about this subject is too often guided by Lawrence Stone's The Family, Sex and Marriage in England 1500-1800 (New York: Harper and Row, 1977); I suspect that the balanced views of Keith Wrightson, English Society 1580-1680 (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1982), pp. 89-117, are more trustworthy.

21 Ann Jennalie Cook, Making a Match: Courtship in Shakespeare and His Society (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991), p. 223. Cook also stresses the unreality of the marriage, its distance from contracts and settlements. Property came under English common law, which preferred that it be exchanged in public; thus brides were customarily endowed at the church door (Pollock and Maitland, History of English Law, 2:374-75).

22 Ernest Jones, Hamlet and Oedipus (New York: W. W. Norton, 1949), pp. 121-25.

23 C. L. Barber and Richard P. Wheeler, The Whole Journey: Shakespeare's Power of Development (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986), pp. 237-42.

24 Dryden was dead wrong in supposing that Shakespeare "needed not the spectacles of Books to read Nature"—D. Nichol Smith, ed., Shakespeare Criticism 1623-1840 (London: Oxford University Press, 1963), p. 16.

25 For a distinguished psychoanalytic discussion of this point, see Hans Loewald's "Primary Process, Secondary Process, and Language," in Joseph H. Smith, ed., Psychoanalysis and Language (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1978), pp. 235-70.

26 William George Clarke seems to have been the first to note, in his edition of 1864, that Arden "was the maiden name of his very own mother—Mary Arden, whose ancient family derived their name" from the forest of Arden in Warwickshire; see Richard Knowles, ed., A New Variorum Edition of Shakespeare's As You Like It (New York: MLA, 1977), p. 556. James Joyce includes the association in the great "Shakespeare chapter" (9) of Ulysses, ed. Hans Walter Gabier (New York: Random House, 1986): "—As for his family, Stephen said, his mother's name lives in the forest of Arden" (p. 171). Barbara Bono has also argued for this connection; see "Mixed Gender, Mixed Genre in Shakespeare's As You Like It," in Barbara Lewalski, ed., Renaissance Genres: Essays on Theory, History, and Interpretation (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1986), p. 194. One should also consult the long note on "forrest of Arden" in H. H. Furness, ed., As You Like It (New York: Lippincott, 1890), pp. 16-18.

27 Gilbert would have been the usurping brother in Shakespeare's own childhood. Though one cannot rule out the possibility of a wet nurse, I strongly suspect that Mary Arden nursed her own children. The smothering fantasies discussed by Rothenberg (see note 29) might have resulted from Mary Shakespeare's feeling that, having lost Joan in 1559 or 1560 and Margaret in 1563, she would need to provide her next child with a great deal of nourishment in order for it to survive infancy. I will extend these comments in a forthcoming book, Hamlet's Perfection. The locus classicus for the idea of a sibling rivalry originating in being replaced at the breast is Augustine's Confessions 1.7.

28Ben Jonson: The Complete Poems, ed. George Parfitt (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1975), p. 213. "Under an old oak, whose bows were mossed with age" gives prominence to "old," which refuses to submit to metrical law. One commentator (see Furness, As You Like It, p. 241) "cannot believe that in an otherwise deftly wrought and perfectly rhythmical passage, Shakespeare would load a line with a heavy monosyllable, entirely superfluous to any purpose other than that of marring the description and making the verse halt."

29 Montrose, in '"The Place of a Brother'" (p. 50), connects the snake to the chain Rosalind gave to Orlando at their first meeting. Celia later recalls it when trying to identify for Rosalind the lyricist of her name: "And a chain, that you once wore, about his neck" (3.2.178). For infantile fantasies about choking and smothering in Shakespeare, see Alan Rothenberg, "Infantile Fantasies in Shakespearean Metaphor: (1) The Fear of Being Smothered," Psychoanalytic Review 60 (1973): 205-22; and "The Oral Rape Fantasy and Rejection of the Mother in the Imagery of Shakespeare's Venus and Adonis," Psychoanalytic Quarterly 40 (1971): 447-68. Rothenberg does not suggest an etiology for this complex of fantasies in Shakespeare, but see note 27.

30 Wilson Knight (cited in note 1) always assumed that anger over ingratitude was at the heart of the Shakespearean hate-theme, in part because he was the only major critic of his generation to accept the centrality of Timon of Athens to Shakespeare's tragic phase. See Viola's contempt for ingratitude above all other vices in Twelfth Night 3.4.363-66.

31 One thinks here of the bear in The Winter's Tale; see Murray Schwartz, "The Winter's Tale: Loss and Transformation," American Imago 32 (1975): 158-59.

32 I have discussed some of the roles of kissing in Renaissance lyric poetry in "Kiss Fancies in Robert Herrick," George Herbert Journal 14 (1990/91): 155-71.

33 I am anticipated by, among others, Leslie Fiedler, The Stranger in Shakespeare (New York: Stein and Day, 1972), p. 47, and Stephen Dedalus in Joyce's Ulysses, p. 157: "But his boywomen are the women of a boy. Their life, thought, speech are lent them by males." On the female dislike of kissing men with beards and bad complexions see Much Ado About Nothing 2 .1.26-28, Marston's The Dutch Courtesan 3.1.10ff., and the ninth lyric of Jonson's "The Celebration of Charis." The rejection of these men in the audience, the men that he in playing she would not wish to kiss, might be taken as a comic version of the wound the lioness inflicts on Orlando.

Andrew Barnaby (essay date 1996)

SOURCE: "The Political Conscious of Shakespeare's As You Like It," Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900, Vol. 36, No. 2, Spring, 1996, pp. 373-95.

[In the following essay, Barnaby studies the ways in which As You Like It confronts and reflects the moral and political economies of late-Elizabethan culture.]

the purpose of playing … [is] to hold as 'twere the mirror up to nature: to show virtue her feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure.

Hamlet (III.ii.20-4)

When in As You Like It the courtier-turned-forester Jacques declares his desire to take up the vocation of the licensed fool, he is immediately forced to confront the chief dilemma of the would-be satirist: the possibility that his intentions will be ignored and his words misconstrued as referring not to general moral concerns—the vices of humankind, for example—but rather to specific realities, persons, events (II.vii.12-87).1 Given that Jacques has just demonstrated a laughable inability to grasp the barbs of a true practitioner of the satiric craft (Touchstone), we must be wary of taking him as a reflexive figure of Shakespeare's own vocation. But the lines undoubtedly show Shakespeare's discomfort with the recent censoring of satiric material (including a well-publicized burning of books in June of 1599),2 and his own earlier experience with Richard II, as well as Ben Jonson's recent jailing for the "seditious and slanderous" content of the Isle of Dogs, had certainly made him familiar with the danger posed by those readers who misread the typical as the straightforwardly topical. Despite his simple-mindedness, then, Shakespeare's Jacques does in some way reflect a working playwright's continual anxiety that his works might be misconstrued as deriving meaning not from his intentions but from ideas and events beyond the signifying scope of his labors.

The modern equivalent of this reader-writer conflict resides not in the competing interpretations of author and court censor but in those of author and scholar-critic. But the necessity of facing up to such interpretative discrepancies has for the most part been obscured by the reigning critical methodology in Renaissance studies, New Historicism, and in particular by its inability to formulate a convincing explanatory model for the processes of acquisition by which texts come both to represent and to participate in the larger discursive systems that determine them. Although it would be counterproductive to dismiss the very impressive critical achievements of New Historicism, we might yet need to consider what we are to make of writing itself as a purposeful and perspectivally limited activity: what of writers as the agents of meaning within their own textual compositions? what do we do when what we can reconstruct of authorial intention runs counter to "cultural" evidence? and, more broadly, how precisely can any literary work be understood to signify historical reality?

In taking up these issues, Annabel Patterson has recently argued that it has become necessary to "reinstate certain categories of thought that some have declared obsolete: above all the conception of authorship, which itself depends on our predicating a continuous, if not a consistent self, of self-determination and, in literary terms, of intention." And she adds specifically of poststructuralist criticism of Shakespeare that the "dismissal of Shakespeare as anybody, an actual playwright who wrote … out of his own experience of social relations" has shown itself to be both incoherent methodologically and reductive at the level of historical understanding.3 Such out-of-hand dismissal precludes the possibility of understanding how the early modern period actively conceptualized and debated its cultural forms or how an individual writer may have sought to engage in those debates.

The remainder of this essay will focus on how As You Like It (and so Shakespeare himself) does consciously engage in debate concerning the crises points of late-Elizabethan culture: the transformation of older patterns of communal organization under the pressures of new forms of social mobility, an emergent market economy, and the paradoxically concomitant stratification of class relations; the more specific problems of conflict over land-use rights, the enclosure of common land and its attendant violence, poverty and vagrancy.4 In considering how modern historical understanding might itself seek to articulate this engagement, moreover, I shall be arguing that the play's meditation on the unsettled condition of contemporary social relations is precisely, and nothing more than, an interpretative response to the perceived nature of those conditions.

To recognize that what we have in Shakespeare's play can never be anything but a rather one-sided dialogue with social conditions then current is not to deny that the play is, in crucial ways, at once topical and discursively organized. But it is to acknowledge that such topicality and discursivity are necessarily transformed by the historical condition of writing itself. What we are left with, then, is not a symbolic re-encoding of the entire sweep of current circumstances (as if the play could encompass the full historical truth of even one element of Elizabethan culture in its own tremendous complexity). Shakespeare does indeed address the peculiar historical circumstances of late-Elizabethan culture, and that engagement is evidenced in the formal elements of his play (most particularly in its pastoral form, an issue that will be examined in greater detail in subsequent sections). But if As You Like It is historically relevant it is so primarily because it can be read as a rhetorical (and so intentional) act in which one writer's sense of things as part of history becomes available to his readers in the purposeful design of the play. It is to an understanding both of that design and of the limitations of current critical practice that the following discussion is directed.


The play begins with Orlando's complaining of his mistreatment at the hands of his older brother, Oliver, who has refused to fulfill the charge of their father, Sir Rowland de Boys: it was Sir Rowland's wish that his youngest son receive both a thousand crowns and sufficient breeding to make a gentleman of himself, despite being excluded from the much greater wealth of the estate because of the law of primogeniture. But Oliver has treated Orlando as a servant instead, and, in likening himself to the prodigal son (I.i.37-9), Orlando seeks both to remind Oliver that, unlike his gospel counterpart, he has yet to receive his promised inheritance and to register, for the audience as well as for Oliver, the discrepancy between his noble birth and his current circumstances.

In the course of rebuking Oliver for being so remiss in his fraternal duties, Orlando violently, if briefly, seizes his brother. In his finely nuanced reading of the play, Louis Montrose has argued that, in its explosive suddenness and aggressiveness, Orlando's action captures the essential tension caused by the culturally charged nature of the sibling conflict over primogeniture in Renaissance England, where younger sons of the gentry were excluded from the greater wealth of family estates in increasing numbers.5 Moreover, the symbolic associations of the violence complicate the political inflections of the scene. For, in context, the violence does not just move from younger brother to older brother but also from servant to master and from landless to landowner, and these associations extend the cultural scope of the already politicized conflict. As Montrose suggests, in the broader discursive contextualization of the scene, Orlando's alienation from his status as landed gentleman serves "to intensify the differences between the eldest son and his siblings, and to identify the sibling conflict with the major division in the Elizabethan social fabric: that between the landed and the unlanded, the gentle and the base."6

Richard Wilson has recently elaborated on this argument by suggesting that the play's central conflicts reenact the particular tensions unleashed in Elizabethan society by the subsistence crisis of the 1590s.

According to Wilson, in its "discursive rehearsal" of the social hostilities generated out of the combination of enclosure and famine (especially severe in the years just prior to the play's composition and in Shakespeare's native Midlands), the play becomes complexly enmeshed in the "bitter contradictions of English agricultural revolution," a struggle played out in the various conflicting relations between an enervated aristocracy, a rising gentry, and a newly dispossessed laboring class and effected primarily by the emergence of a new market economy.7

As compelling and historically informed as Wilson's reading is, however, it is yet undermined by its vagueness concerning how the play actually represents these issues. That Wilson wants and needs to posit the dia-logic encounter of text and context as the site of the play's (and his argument's) meaning is evidenced by his own critical rhetoric. As we have just noted, he refers to the play as a "discursive rehearsal" of a multifaceted sociocultural history; elsewhere he writes that "the play is powerfully inflected by narratives of popular resistance"; that "social conflict [over famine and enclosure] sears the text"; that Duke Senior's situation in the forest of Arden "chimes with actual projects" associated with the capitalist development of the woodlands; that the play "engages in the discursive revaluation of woodland" that emerged as part of the rise of a market economy in late-Renaissance England.8 The problem with this type of phrasing is that it never renders intelligible the processes by which text and context come into contact. We are dealing, in short, with the theoretical problem of how precisely a literary work may be said to allude to, reflect, meditate on, or even produce the historical forces that form its enabling conditions.

To put the issue another way, Wilson's reading is stranded by its inability to assess what we might call the play's signifying capacity. While I am not disputing that the particulars of enclosure and famine (and more generally the social transformation of late-Elizabethan society) constitute the proper historical backdrop of the play, Wilson consistently scants the historical conditions of writing and reception, and he therefore has no means of assessing the work of the text as a site of meaning.9 Eschewing any reliance on the text's own coherence or Shakespeare's possible intentions as explanatory models, Wilson's argument relies instead on the juxtaposition of select formal elements of the play (plot details, bits of dialogue, character motivation, etc.) with a dense evocation of historical details that appear circumstantially relevant to the play's action. While this mode of argumentation—what Alan Liu has recently termed a kind of critical bricolage10—yields some perceptive insights into the workings of the play, social reality, and the discursive networks connecting them, what it really produces is a series of strange allegorical encounters in which the play is said to provide shadowy symbolic re-encodings of a broad spectrum of historical realities: legal edicts, demographic statistics, anecdotes from popular culture, institutional practices, persons, events, and even vast structural changes in the organization of English culture.

To get a clearer sense of this method we might consider just a few of his more suspect interpretative findings. For example, according to Wilson, Rosalind's lack of "holiday humor" in I.ii stems not from her father's banishment but from her recognition of a broader crisis of the aristocracy (particularly centered on a new "aristocratic insolvency"), and this even though her own subsequent banishment is read as a symbol of the expulsion of tenant farmers from common lands; and later her cross-dressing becomes an "impudent challenge" both of rural poachers to "the keepers of game" and, more generally, of class and gender trespassers to the patriarchal hierarchy maintained by the Elizabethan upper orders. The "obscure demise" of Orlando's servant, Adam, figures the rising "mortality rate" in rural England due to the late-1590s dearth, even though Adam does not die (he merely disappears as a character—a point to which we shall return). Orlando's carving of his beloved Rosalind's name on the forest trees is said to symbolize a Stuart policy of marking trees as part of the surveying that preceded royal disafforestation; and this is so even though such a policy post-dates the composition of the play and even after Wilson has described Orlando as a gentleman-leader of popular resistance for whom the damaging of trees was a potent sign of protest.11 In almost all of the examples he gives, the text is so overdetermined by contradictory historical realities that it becomes virtually unreadable; despite his historicizing efforts, Wilson seems to repeat the very argument of those he terms "idealist critics" who see the play as "free of time and place."12

The argument's lack of coherence appears to derive primarily from Wilson's attempt to analyze what he calls the play's "material meaning." Although he never says precisely how we are to understand the phrase, his one effort at glossing suggests that it is something known only in the negative, as that which is concealed or evaded by the text's explicit statements.13 This is an odd notion, given the ease with which Wilson finds the text making explicit statements about the social situation;14 indeed, given his practice, it makes more sense to take the term "material" in its traditional Marxist sense: the "historical" as located in a culture's dominant mode of production. In the case of As You Like It the "material" would then include the cultural struggle over agrarian rights, the conversion of wood-land to arable land, and the broader movement of a regulated to a market economy (seen especially in the capitalization of land-use rights), and this "material" history would provide the base from which the manifestations of superstructure (including the play) would derive meaning.

The problem with this formulation is that it both reduces the play to a straightforward (albeit jumbled) allegory of "history as it really happened" and avoids the theoretical problem of how (or where) the play actually represents this history. Addressing precisely this hermeneutic problem in relation to the Shakespearean text (and so offering a different sense of "material meaning"), Patterson properly asks: "how do words relate to material practice?" And she notes that Shakespeare himself "used both 'abstract' and 'general' as terms to denote his own form of material practice, writing for a popular audience, the 'general,' and abstracting their experience and his own into safely fictional forms."15 Such a critical stance depends on several related notions: that Renaissance writers were quite capable of comprehending the cultural situation of their own productions; that these productions must be read as forms, that is, as organized, fictionalized, and generically regularized abstractions of perceived realities; that any discussion of form must consider the representational practices by which historical situations are reproduced aesthetically; and that, as abstractions, forms take their meaning from a variety of interpretative exchanges—between author and world as an act of perception, author and reader/audience as a rhetorical act, reader/audience and world as an act of application—and therefore cannot be explained by recourse to the notion of a general, all-encompassing discursive field. To view fictional form as a significant material practice in its own right is to see that it at once signifies historical realities and constitutes its own reality, that it is both constantive and performative; it thus "both invite[s] and resist[s] understanding in terms of other phenomena."16

As texts such as Ben Jonson's Preface to Volpone suggest, for Renaissance writers this invitation and resistance is played out primarily (though not exclusively) in ethical terms.17 The citation from Hamlet that stands as my epigraph makes a similar point: "to hold … the mirror up to nature" is to engage in moral discrimination, distinguishing virtue from vice in acts of praise and blame. Such acts might themselves be understood as historically relevant; indeed, Hamlet's earlier assertion that actors are "the abstract and brief chronicles of the time" (II.ii.524-5) suggests that dramatic representations were expected to speak to contemporary history (albeit in "abstract and brief form). Leah Marcus takes this point even further in her claims that "local meaning was at the center" of Renaissance literary practices, and that what contemporaries "attended and talked about" concerning a literary work was its "currency … , its ability to … 'Chronicle' events in the very unfolding." But, as she also points out, Renaissance "poets and dramatists [typically] looked for ways to regularize and elevate topical issues so that they could be linked with more abstract moral concerns."18 In As You Like It that ethical sensibility, "regularizing and elevating" a pressing cultural debate over current social conditions, is marked especially in the play's engagement with the traditions of pastoral, where pastoral must be understood as a form obsessively concerned with the related questions of social standing (the constant re-marking of distinctions between gentle and base) and moral accountability.19 It is to an attempt to assess the moral and political commitments of the play, as well as the representational strategies it employs to render these commitments intelligible, that we now turn.


The three plays that Shakespeare wrote in 1599—Julius Caesar, Henry V, and As You Like It—are all variously concerned with aristocratic identity, an issue cited, probed, redefined in late-Elizabethan culture in "a vast outpouring of courtesy books, poetry, essays, and even epics," all directed toward "the fashioning … of the gentleman or the nobleman."20Julius Caesar looks at the issue as a crisis of aristocratic self-definition in the face of Tudor efforts at political and cultural centralization; the play examines this crisis and moralizes it in terms of a questioning of the continued possibility of aristocratic excellence (defined primarily in terms of humanist notions of virtuous civic action).21Henry V explores the relationship between aristocratic conduct and national identity in the context of militarist expansionism, but this focus is extended to an examination of the aristocratic capacity for responsible leadership of commoners and the popular response to that leadership.22 As critics have recently argued, both plays are concerned with the nature of historical understanding itself, and especially with examining the possibilities and limits of applying knowledge of the past—already an interested rhetorical activity—to present concerns.23 Like As You Like It, then, both plays are interested at once in the vexed relation between aristocratic culture and the broader workings of political society and in the representational and interpretative practices by which fictional accounts serve as mediatory sites of informed public concern over contemporary affairs.

As You Like It returns the meditation on aristocratic conduct to the domestic sphere where, as we have seen suggested, it focuses on the related issues of inheritance practices, agrarian social structure, and the current controversy over land-use rights. Right from its opening scene, in fact, the play introduces us to its particular interest in the problem of aristocratic definition. Indeed, despite Orlando's complaints against the system of primogeniture which denies him his brother's authority, the real source of his frustration is that his "gentlemanlike qualities"—the very marks of his class, so crucial in a deferential society—have been obscured by his having been "trained … like a peasant" (I.i.68-70). Throughout the opening scene, in fact, what Orlando is most concerned with is the possibility that his status might be taken away simply by its not being properly recognized. In its particular locating of Orlando's predicament, then, the play's opening scene initiates a line of inquiry that will both inflect the rest of the play and share in a culturally charged debate: by what markings is it possible to identify the true aristocrat?

But the issues of status and its violation, of place, displacement, and recognition—all so central to the play's comic vision—are not confined to the interactions among the upper orders. For they are raised as part of an exploration of the customary bonds between the upper and lower orders as well. And, as the relationship between landowner and landless servant depicted in the opening suggests, the play also puts in question the nature and meaning of aristocratic conduct toward social inferiors. Shakespeare, we shall see, interlaces the depiction of violated noble status with a depiction of the displacement of laboring classes (represented in the opening scenes by both Orlando and Adam) from their traditional places in the service of the rural nobility.

The play's concern with the related issues of social standing and displacement, aristocratic conduct, and the moral bonds connecting high and low, is further developed in II.iii. Upon returning from Frederick's court, Orlando is secretly met by Adam who warns him of Oliver's villainous plot:

              this night he means
To burn the lodging where you use to lie,
And you within it.

Amidst the special urgency of the moment, Adam's warning is enveloped in a broader meditation on what has happened in the wake of Sir Rowland's passing. So he addresses Orlando:

                     O unhappy youth,
Come not within these doors! 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—

This is no place, this house is but a butchery;
Abhor it, fear it, do not enter it.
                                     (II.iii. 16-28)

Marking the logical consequence of the sibling conflict set in motion in the opening scene, Oliver's "unbrotherly" act is viewed here as particularly heinous, totally unnatural, a kind of abomination; indeed, as Montrose notes, we hear in this struggle the echoes of the original fratricide, the elder Cain killing his younger brother Abel.24 But the fratricide is clearly rewritten in the cultural context of Renaissance inheritance practices, for we note that Oliver's "sin" is figured particularly as a repudiation of the familial duties and obligations emanating from a line of inheritance between noble father and noble son. Sir Rowland's heir, in effect, perverts the very link between nature and human social order—the family—and thereby dis-avows the very foundation of his inheritance. Oliver's unbrotherly dealings mark the violation of more than just the person of his brother; they are symbolically broadened to assimilate the house itself, symbol of both the family and the larger estate as an extension of the family. In dishonoring his place within the family, Oliver threatens the very cultural inheritance that extends a sense of place to those outside the family. Adam thus identifies Oliver's special villainy as a violation of kinship ties that both reenacts human history's primal scene of violence and marks the loss of that "place"—the noble manor—whose very purpose is to locate the various lines of interaction defining the social order.25

In II.iii, then, younger brother and elder servant are linked together in their experience of the psychically disorienting effects of displacement, a loss registered particularly in the feelings of estrangement they voice over their impending exile (II.iii.31-5, 71-4). There is something extremely conservative in this nostalgic evocation of tradition, of course, but it is important to insist that the image of "proper" social relations that Shakespeare depicts does not offer merely a moralized restoration of traditional cultural forms but provides rather an extended meditation on the political economy that should at once reveal and sustain the moral economy.

As an example of this concern, Shakespeare's complex adaptation of the gospel parable he so carefully etches into the opening scene deserves greater attention. We noted earlier that at the very outset of the play Orlando's self-figuration as the prodigal son is intended to register the discrepancy between his noble birth and his current circumstances. But the very lack of applicability of the parable to Orlando's case—unlike the prodigal son he has neither squandered his inheritance nor even received it—is even more significant within the play's moral and political vision. This discrepancy is critical primarily because it reconfigures the parable's central focus on the interaction of family members from how each of the two brothers interacts independently with the father to a direct confrontation between them. At the most obvious level, this change has the effect of politicizing the fraternal struggle by making it a conflict over the now-deceased father's patrimony, whereas in the parable the fraternal conflict is less about inheritance per se than with the sibling rivalry over the attentiveness of the still-living father. Shakespeare, that is, transforms a story concerned with the nature of a future "heavenly" kingdom into a decidedly human, indeed, political affair.

More specifically, the retelling provides a completely different context for understanding the roles of the two brothers within the parable. For example, whereas the parable faults (even as it treats sympathetically) the elder brother's uncharitable attitude toward his younger brother, the play, by contrast, renders this animosity, and the behavior that attends it, unsympathetic; indeed, Shakespeare appears to conflate two different parts of the parable by rewriting the elder brother's (now perverse) behavior as the cause of the (now innocent) younger brother's degradation. Living among the hogs and eating husks with them, Orlando appears as the dutiful son, toiling long years without just recompense. Although the play never quotes the parable directly on this point, Shakespeare subtly borrows from the parable the elder brother's complaint to his father—"All these years I have slaved for you and never once disobeyed any orders of yours"—and reassigns the context to Orlando's frustration with Oliver's unfair treatment of him. And as Orlando is no longer responsible for his fallen circumstances, so his situation ceases to represent a moral failing—a lapse in personal ethical responsibility—and comes instead to mark a political and economic awareness of the social mechanisms that lead one into such penury.

Oliver's role is thereby refigured (loosely to be sure) as "prodigal." In the parable, of course, it is the elder brother who laments that while he has never "disobeyed any orders" of the father, his prodigal brother enjoys all the special privileges even after "swallowing up [the father's] property." But Shakespeare makes the true bearer of privilege appear prodigal precisely because, while he has done nothing to earn his portion of the estate (other than being the eldest son), he has enjoyed its benefits without sharing them with his hard-working brother. And even as the play merges the Judeo-Christian primal scene of violence—Cain's killing of his younger brother Abel—with the Christian parable of the difficult demands of brotherly love, it also recontextualizes the elder brother's failure of charity in the political relations not just between elder and younger sons (already politicized in Renaissance culture) but also between masters and servants, landed and landless, gentle and base. Moreover, while the opening scene stages, in the guise of Orlando's violence, a threat to the overturning of traditional authority, the subsequent scenes stage a recognition of what is more precisely in need of transformation: the aristocratic figure who fails to fulfill the obligations of status and custom, and especially to maintain cultural stability by sustaining the moral (and political) value that accrues to social place.

It is within the context of such unbrotherly dealings and their symbolic affiliation with social injustice conceived on a broader scale that Duke Senior's praise of rural life at the opening of act II has its strongest resonance:

Now, my co-mates and brothers in exile,
Hath not old custom made this life more
Than that of painted pomp? Are not these
More free from peril than the envious court?
Here feel we not the penalty of Adam.

Exiled to Arden by his usurper-brother, Frederick, Duke Senior moralizes his own violated status as a paradoxically edifying experience, one in which the recovery of a communal (fraternal) ethic, in opposition to a courtly one, marks the return to a prelapsarian condition.

We must pause over such an idealization, of course. For it is possible to read the "pastoral" vision here as merely mystifying the class consciousness it appears to awaken. Montrose asserts, for example, that Renaissance pastoral typically "puts into play a symbolic strategy, which, by reconstituting the leisured gentleman as the gentle shepherd obfuscates a fundamental contradiction in the cultural logic: a contradiction between the secular claims of aristocratic prerogative and the religious claims of common origins, shared fallenness, and spiritual equality among … gentle and base alike."26 For a modern reader especially, the very social structure maintained in Duke Senior's Arden weakens the political force of his claims for ethical restoration. From this limited perspective, that is, Duke Senior bears a remarkable resemblance to the gentleman-shepherd of so many Elizabethan pastorals, who, "in the idyllic countryside" is most determined to "escape temporarily from the troubles of court." As Montrose adds, "in such pastorals, ambitious Elizabethan gentlemen who may be alienated or excluded from the courtly society that nevertheless continues to define their existence can create an imaginative space within which virtue and privilege coincide."27 The duke's idealization of the leisured life of the country would then, despite its egalitarian appeal, serve to re-emphasize the division between baseness and gentility and to celebrate aristocratic values in isolation from a broader vision of how those values serve as the foundation of an entire network of social relations.

We might note further how Duke Senior's aristocratic rhetoric appears to de-radicalize its own most potent political symbol: the image of a prelapsarian fraternal community. As Montrose and others have pointed out, from the Peasants' Revolt of 1381 onward popular social protest in England often challenged class stratification by appealing to a common Edenic inheritance. Powerfully condensed into the proverb, "When Adam dalf and Eve span, who was then the Gentleman?" such protest offered a radical critique of aristocratic privilege, both interrogating the suspect essentialism inherent in the notion of "degree" and reversing the valuation of labor as a criterion of social status.28 Duke Senior's speech, however, does neither: it never questions the "naturalness' of his rank within the fraternal community (which never ceases to be hierarchically organized) nor does it champion labor as a morally edifying and communal burden. For Duke Senior, the retreat to a prelapsarian condition becomes rather the site from which to critique court corruption and decadence.

Nevertheless, we should not underestimate the reformist, populist impulse embedded in that critique. For, as act I depicts it, the condition of fallenness that exists in Frederick's court is defined primarily by its persecution of those members of the nobility—Orlando and Rosalind—most popular with the people (Li. 164-71, I.ii.277-83). Moreover, Orlando and Rosalind are conceptually linked to Sir Rowland himself, so universally "esteemed," as Frederick tells us, and so an enemy (I.ii.225-30). Frederick's function as the play's arch-villain is registered therefore, like Oliver's before him, by a lack of respect for the memory of that overdetermined father whose recurrent, if shadowy, presence in the play provides a "local habitation and name" to a broader cultural ideal: the forms of customary obligation that link gentle and base in pastoral fraternity, an evocation of religious communion that emphasizes social dependency and reciprocity even as it does not thereby reject society's hierarchical structure.

Much of the value (both moral and political) associated with that community is symbolized in Duke Senior's phrase "old custom" and its own associations with popular protest. As Patterson remarks, even when such protest did not advocate structural changes in the social order, an appeal to the authority of "origins" (again, often condensed into the recollection of a common Edenic origin) "was integral to the popular conception of how to protest, as well as providing theoretical grounds for the 'demands,' for the transformation of local and individual grievances into a political program."29As You Like It makes it clear that the duke's use of the phrase cannot be seen as privileging the rights of the nobility alone; indeed, Adam's subsequent lament over his exile (II.iii.71-4) is designed to set out the meaning of "old custom" from the perspective of the rural servant. Linking together a sense both of the immemorialness of custom and of its historical embeddedness by reference to his age and associating that further with the original Edenic dispensation through his name, Adam's speech marks how an appeal to customary practices could serve the interests of the lower orders.

In the tradition of popular protest, an idealization of the past could serve as the focal point of protesters' awareness of current social injustice, even as the perception of injustice was rarely separated from an appeal to the moral economy taken to subtend the political one. This ethical evaluation of the mutual interests of the upper and lower orders is powerfully figured in the tableau that closes act II: Duke Senior, Orlando, and Adam gathered together at a life-sustaining meal. Here, the problem of rural poverty (old Adam is starving to death) is answered in the nostalgic evocation of "better days," when paupers were "with holy bell … knoll'd to church, / And sat at good men's feasts" (II.vii. 113-5). The meal, reimagined as a Sabbath-day feast, symbolizes the restoration of social communion especially as this is founded on those culturally sustaining lines of authority in which servants and masters properly recognize each other with reciprocal "truth and loyalty" (II.iii.70), the very qualities that were the hallmark of the days of Sir Rowland.30

In focusing on the paired plights of Orlando and Adam up through the end of act II, the play defines that perception of injustice, and of the moral obligations of the community, from the perspective of the lower orders and their first-hand experience of the effects of enclosure and eviction, dearth and hunger. Moreover, what Wilson misreads as Adam's subsequent "demise" (his disappearance from the play after act II) can be better understood as Shakespeare's attempt to give even more nuanced attention to the plight of the lower orders. In replacing Adam with the shepherd, Corin, as the play's test case, Shakespeare refocuses the issue of the condition of rural laborers in a character whose situation more obviously typifies such conditions in their particular relation to enclosure and eviction, especially in the face of the new commercialization of the land.

Significantly, Shakespeare puts the words describing the bleak prospects for rural living into Corin's own mouth; he thereby suggests a clear-sighted popular consciousness of the current situation. So Corin has earlier described his living in response to Rosalind's request for food and lodging:

I am shepherd to another man,
And do not shear the fleeces that I graze.
My master is of churlish disposition,
And little reaks to find the way to heaven
By doing deeds of hospitality.
Besides, his cote, his flocks, and bounds of
Are now on sale, and at our sheep-cote now
By reason of his absence there is nothing
That you will feed on.

Hunger is again the central issue, but the exchange subtly shifts attention away from the almost incidental hunger of disguised aristocrats (who can afford to "buy entertainment" [line 72]) to the plight of the rural laborer whose suffering derives from the very condition of his employment (significantly, in the service of an absentee landlord). As Lawrence Stone summarizes the historical situation described here:

the aristocracy suffered a severe loss of their landed capital in the late-Elizabethan period, primarily because of improvident sales made in order to keep up the style of life they considered necessary for the maintenance of status. When they abandoned sales of land and took to rigorous economic exploitation of what was left in order to maximize profits, they certainly restored their financial position, but at the expense of much of the loyalty and affection of their tenants. They salvaged their finances at the cost of their influence and prestige.

He adds that as part of a "massive shift away from a feudal and paternalist relationship" on the land, "these economic developments were dissolving old bonds of service and obligation," a process compounded by an "increasing preference [among the nobility] for extravagant living in the city instead of hospitable living in the countryside."31 A figure for the current destruction of the manorial economy, Corin's master is guilty of all these charges simultaneously: he is absent from the estate; he exploits the (once commonly held) land for profit; he threatens to sell the estate with no concern for his workers' future prospects; he refuses the ethical responsibilities of his class—hospitable living, the sustenance of the customary culture, leadership of the countryside. The scene's concern with the immediate need to allay hunger becomes then a stepping-stone to a broader mediation on hunger's place in the complex socioeconomic transformation of late-Elizabethan culture. From the immediate perspective of the play, moreover, this transformation threatens to become a dangerous social upheaval, the blame for which must be assigned to the moral failure of well-to-do landowners.

As idealistic as it is, then, Celia and Rosalind's offer to purchase the "flock and pasture" and "mend" Corin's wages (II.iv.88 , 94) retains an element of popular political consciousness; for it suggests that it is still possible for laborers to reap the rewards of faithful service to masters who know how to nurture traditional lines of authority.32 Shakespeare's revision of his source text, Thomas Lodge's Rosalynde, is particularly relevant on this point, not the least for its demonstration of the deliberateness with which Shakespeare addresses the specific issue of economic hardship among the rural poor. In Lodge's romance, the shepherd (Coridon) offers Aliena and Ganimede the simple comforts of his lowly cottage as part of a traditional extolling of pastoral content:

Marry, if you want lodging, if you vouch to shrowd your selves in a shepheardes cotage, my house … shalbe your harbour … [A]nd for a shepheards life (oh Mistresse) did you but live a while in their content, you would saye the Court were rather a place of sorrowe, than of solace. Here (Mistresse) shal not Fortune thwart you, but in meane misfortunes, as the losse of a few sheepe, which, as it breeds no beggerie, so it can bee no extreame prejudice: the next yeare may mend al with a fresh increase. Envie stirs not us, wee covet not to climbe, our desires mount not above our degrees, nor our thoughts above our fortunes. Care cannot harbour in our cottages, nor do our homely couches know broken slumbers: as we exceede not in diet, so we have inough to satisfie.33

The fact that the sheepcote is for sale (and so, by a stroke of good fortune, available as a home for the wandering noblewomen) is only incidental to Coridon's prospects; the simple pleasures of his life will hardly be affected by a change in masters. Shakespeare, by contrast, revalues Corin's poverty by tying it explicitly to his economic vulnerability in the new commercial market: as one who, as "shepherd to another," does not "shear the fleeces" he grazes. In associating Corin's straitened circumstances—his limited supply of food is not "inough to satisfie"—with his very lack of authority over the estate (and his master's unreliable owner-ship practices), Shakespeare's revision of the scene emphasizes the real threat of rural dispossession; he thus makes it clear that "pastoral content" can only result from a functional economic relation between servant and landowner: hence, Corin's concern that his new masters actually "like … / The soil, the profit, and this kind of life" (II.iv.97-8).

The conflicted relationship between leisured gentleman and base laborer is symbolically played out in the conversation between Corin and Touchstone in III.ii. Although the confrontation is humorous, it also includes a more serious evaluation of the attendant problems of social stratification, marked especially by the lack of respect shown toward common laborers. As Judy Z. Kronenfeld points out, Shakespeare here transforms the typical pastoral encounter in which an "aristocratic shepherd" (a gentleman pretending to be a shepherd) demonstrates courtly superiority by mocking the "clownish countryman" (or what is really a "burlesque version of the countryman").34 What Shakespeare depicts instead is an encounter between a lowly court servant (now a pretended gentleman) and a sympathetically realistic shepherd. Touchstone's pretense to gentility in the scene hearkens back to his original meeting of Corin in II.iv. There, in the company of Celia and Rosalind, Touchstone responds to Corin's "Who calls" with the demeaning "Your betters, sir" (lines 67-8): the response mockingly raises Corin to the level of the gentlewomen ("sir") only to reassert the difference in social standing ("your betters") and to place Touchstone in that higher circle.

Touchstone maintains the masquerade in III.ii when he attempts to flout Corin's baseness in a condescending display of courtly sophistication (lines 11-85). But, as Kronenfeld notes, the sophistication comes off as mere "court sophistry," and the emptiness of his claims to superiority is thereby exposed as nothing more than a witty social rhetoric covering over an absence of any clearly defined essential differences between gentle and base. Shakespeare thus uses the tradition against itself, for the typical encounter of aristocrat (pretending to be a shepherd) and countryman—where the contrast is meant to "reaffirm the social hierarchy"—is rewritten to suggest (albeit humorously) the mere pretense of that contrast.35 It is possible to read the scene as positing that there are no differences between gentle and base, a position which might include the more radical recognition that class standing itself is merely the result of an ideological manipulation of cultural signs. Within the context of the play as a whole, however, it perhaps makes more sense to read it as a moral commentary on class division and especially on the meaning of aristocratic identity: if gentility is as much a social construct as it is a privileged condition of birth, its maintenance requires that it be continually reconstructed through meritorious signs, and these signs are to be made legible in the virtuous conduct shown toward those whose livelihood depends on how the "gentle" fulfill the obligations of their class.


In discussing George Puttenham's Arte of English Poesie in the context of Elizabethan pastoral discourse, Montrose cites Puttenham's claim that pastoral was developed among ancient poets "not of purpose to counterfait or represent the rusticall manner of loves and communication: but under the vaile of homely persons, and in rude speeches to insinuate and glaunce at greater matters, and such as perchance had not bene safe to have beene disclosed in any another sort."36 Puttenham'srelated concerns with safety and the necessity of dissimulation in a dangerous social environment, the poet's self-awareness as a cultural commentator, and the struggle to make homely fiction serve the higher ends of instruction bring us back to Patterson's contention that Shakespeare's own "material practice" purposely seeks out "safely fictional forms" to achieve its ends. In As You Like It, moreover, Shakespeare's practice turns explicitly to pastoral form, which, we might surmise, is deliberately deployed to "glaunce at greater matters" "cleanly cover[ed]" (as Spenser puts it in the Shepheardes Calender) by a "feyne[d]" story.37

The precise nature of those "matters" and Shakespeare's specific ends may be debated, of course. But it is hard to imagine that they are any less comprehensive than those attributed by Montrose to Puttenham. Puttenham, Montrose writes, conceives "of poetry as a body of changing cultural practices dialectically related to the fundamental processes of social life"; and his "cultural relativism and ethical heterodoxy, his genuinely Machiavellian grasp of policy, are evident … in his pervasive concern with the dialectic between poetry and power."38 It comes as some surprise, therefore, when Montrose later revises this estimation and gives us a Puttenham whose writing only serves the ends of personal aggrandizement within the confined circles of the court, whose sense of his culture's complexity is merely the sophistry of a "cunning princepleaser," and whose grasp of the political purposes of poetry never rises above its merely politic ends. And, as Montrose dismisses the narrowness of Puttenham's courtly orientation, so he dismisses pastoral discourse itself, whose power to "glaunce at greater matters" is suddenly reduced to courtliness in another form: thus, the "dominantly aristocratic" perspective of Elizabethan pastoral becomes but a reinscription of "agrarian social relations … within an ideology of the country," which is "itself appropriated, transformed, and reinscribed within an ideology of the court."39 Pastoral's "greater matters," it seems, are only the matters of the great for whom the masks of rural encomium serve their own (narrowly defined) hegemonic interests. For Montrose, that is, despite pastoral writers' own recognition that their art form is "intrinsically political in purpose," pastoral's central concern with aristocratic identity only serves to mystify the issues of class standing and social relations it appears to raise.40 As he argues, finally, because Renaissance pastoral "inevitably involve[s] a transposition of social categories into metaphysical ones, a sublimation of politics into aesthetics," it necessarily functions as "a weapon against social inferiors."41

Without denying pastoral's aristocratic orientation, we might note that it is only from the reductively binary perspective of the New Historicist that an "elite community" must be opposed to all "egalitarian ideas," or that its members could have "little discernible interest" in the condition of those who serve them.42As You Like It certainly suggests that such a critical perspective fails to register the possibility of the presence of dissenting voices within the dominant culture. Indeed, if the play is not in full support of the popular voice, it is yet concerned to link an aristocratic crisis of identity to the more vexing problems of the "base." Shakespeare's pastoral world is thus less concerned with celebrating nobles as virtuous than in reexamining the precise nature of aristocratic virtue. And lest we think Shakespeare is the exception that proves the rule, it is instructive to recall the aristocratic Sidney's own brief meditation on pastoral in his Defence of Poesy: "Is the poor pipe disdained, which sometimes out of Meliboeus' mouth can show the misery of people under hard lords and ravening soldiers and again, by Tityrus, what blessedness is derived to them that lie lowest from the goodness of them that sit highest?"43 That "blessedness" moreover, is not presumed to be the reality of his culture but only a symbolic idealization challenging his aristocratic readers to a kind of creative, ethically oriented imitatio.

Montrose's Historicism cannot envision this possibility because he denies to Renaissance pastoral writers any critical distance from the courtly aristocracy from which they drew support (including occasional financial support). He goes even further in denying that "the mediation of social boundaries was [even] a conscious motive in the writing of Elizabethan pastorals," let alone that a cultural critique might have been leveled "in terms of a consciously articulated oppositional culture."44 Such a dismissal of Renaissance writing as a purposeful, socially engaged activity is typical of New Historicist criticism more generally, which matches a methodological subordination of individual intention to larger "systems" of thought with a tonal condescension toward the capacity of earlier writers to comprehend their own cultural situations. Against this effacement of the subject, I would counter that an interest in the historical conditioning of texts is necessarily concerned with the conditions of their being written and being read, with the social processes by which meaning is formulated and communicated, with acts of knowledge as acts of persuasion, with the "rhetoricity" of texts as the essence of their historicity.45 The reduction of historical criticism to the impersonal voice—to what Foucault once called the "it-is-said"46—precludes the possibility of understanding how the movement of ideas within discursive systems requires real readers and writers whose very activities help reveal to us the contours of historical existence.


1 All references to Shakespeare's plays are to The Riverside Shakespeare, e d. G. Blakemore Evans (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1974).

2 Celia's earlier remark to Touchstone—"since the little wit that fools have was silenc'd, the little fool-ery that wise men have makes a great show" (I.ii.88-90)—obliquely refers to this.

3 Annabel Patterson, Shakespeare and the Popular Voice (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1989), pp. 4, 24.

4 For a concise summary of these changing historical circumstances, see Lawrence Stone, The Causes of the English Revolution, 1529-1642 (New York: Harper and Row, 1972), pp. 58-117.

5 Louis Montrose, '"The Place of a Brother' in As You Like It: Social Process and Comic Form," SQ 32, 1 (Spring 1981): 28-54.

6 Montrose, '"The Place of a Brother,'" pp. 34-5. That the exchange between Orlando and Oliver is more than just the struggle between younger and older brothers is emphasized by Orlando's response to Oliver's insulting question: "Know where you are, sir?" Orlando replies: "O sir, very well; here in your orchard" (I.i.40-1). The condition of "gentility" (marked in the mocking uses of "sir") is clearly tied to the question of who actually owns the property.

7 Richard Wilson, '"Like the old Robin Hood': As You Like It and the Enclosure Riots," SQ 43, 1 (Spring 1992): 1-19, 3-5. For a historical overview of the broader cultural, political, and economic issues conditioning this hostility, see Roger B. Manning, Village Revolts: Social Protest and Popular Disturbances in England, 1509-1640 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988).

8 Wilson, '"Like the old Robin Hood,'" pp. 4, 5, 9; my emphases.

9 Wilson's lack of interest in what the text itself does to produce the meanings he finds in it is perhaps not so surprising given his attempt, formulated elsewhere, to theorize the fundamental irrelevance of literature to the forces of history and culture that must always supersede it. See his Introduction to New Historicism and Renaissance Drama, ed. Richard Wilson and Richard Dutton (London: Longman, 1992), pp. 1-18. It should be noted that Wilson considers himself a "Cultural Materialist" rather than a "New Historicist," and in that Introduction he seeks to differentiate the critical assumptions governing their respective practices. But the mode of argumentation employed in his essay on As You Like It does not bear out the differences he alleges.

10 Alan Liu, "The Power of Formalism: The New Historicism," ELH 56, 4 (Winter 1989): 721-71, 721.

11 Wilson, "'Like the old Robin Hood,'" pp. 4, 6, 9, 10-11, 13, 18.

12 Wilson, "'Like the old Robin Hood,'" p. 3 and n. 15. Liu remarks that "the limitation of the New Historicism is that in its failure to carve out its own theory by way of a disciplined, highlevel study of the evolution of historically situated language, its discoverable theory has been too assimilable to the deconstructive view of rhetoric as an a-, trans-, or uni-historical figurai language" (p. 756). Although his own critical practice employs precisely this kind of formalism, Wilson himself makes much the same complaint about New Historicist critics, whose elision of historical referent in favor of the "textuality of history," he asserts, aligns them with New Critics (New Historicism and Renaissance Drama, pp. 9-10).

13 Wilson first uses the phrase, without defining it, on p. 3 of '"Like the old Robin Hood'"; later he cites Foucault's observation that "in every society discourse is controlled and redistributed to avert its dangers and evade its formidable materiality." As an instance of this, Wilson notes that "pastoral discourse … will conceal the real revolution in the forest economy" (p. 17; my emphases). (Inexplicably, although in his Introduction to New Historicism and Renaissance Drama Wilson again notes Foucault's claim for the '"formidable materiality' of all discourse" [p. 9], he does so as part of his critique of the overly abstract post-Marxist practice of Foucault and other French intellectuals, especially as this tradition has become the philosophical foundation of American New Historicism.) For discussion of the trope of revelatory "concealment" within post-structuralist criticism, see Richard Levin, "The Poetics and Politics of Bardicide," PMLA 105, 3 (May 1990): 491-504, 493-4.

14 One example: Touchstone's quip to the bumpkin, William, concerning their rival claims on Audrey—"to have, is to have" (V.i.40)—means, we are told, that a new concept of property ownership is now superseding traditional agrarian rights based on the notion of collective possession (Wilson, p. 18).

15 Patterson, p. 14.

16 Ibid.

17 See Preface to Volpone, in Ben Jonson, ed. C. H. Herford and Percy and Evelyn Simpson, 11 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1925-52), 5:18-9. Having been jailed again in 1604, along with Chapman and Marston, for the anti-Scottish sentiments of Eastward Ho!, Jonson used the Preface to chastise readers for their propensity for assigning topical meanings to his plays: by substituting local for more general meanings, Jonson thought, his readers would necessarily fail to appreciate the moral lessons of his writing and so not see how his meanings were to be used for their own edification and improvement.

18 Leah Marcus, Puzzling Shakespeare: Local Reading and Its Discontents (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1988), pp. 26, 41.

19 For discussion, see Louis Montrose, "Of Gentlemen and Shepherds: The Politics of Elizabethan Pastoral Form," ELH 50, 3 (Fall 1983): 415-59, esp. 425, 433.

20 Wayne A. Rebhorn, "The Crisis of the Aristocracy in Julius Caesar," RenQ 43, 1 (Spring 1990): 75-111, 81.

21 For discussion, see Timothy Hampton, Writing from History: The Rhetoric of Exemplarity in Renaissance Literature (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1990), pp. 198-236.

22 For discussion, see Patterson, pp. 71-92.

23 Hampton, pp. 210-4; Patterson, pp. 83-90.

24 Montrose, '"The Place of a Brother,'" p. 46.

25 On the importance of the noble manor to the aristocratic ethical ideal, see Don E. Wayne, Penshurst: The Semiotics of Place and the Poetics of History (Madison: Univ. of Wisconsin Press, 1984).

26 Montrose, "Of Gentlemen and Shepherds," p. 432.

27 Montrose, "Of Gentlemen and Shepherds," p. 427.

28 Montrose, "Of Gentlemen and Shepherds," pp. 428-32; Patterson, pp. 39-46.

29 Patterson, p. 41.

30 For discussion of the cultural importance of the meal as a marker of "serviceable" authority in the Renaissance, see Michael Schoenfeldt, '"The Mysteries of Manners, Armes, and Arts': 'Inviting a Friend to Supper' and 'To Penshurst,'" in "The Muses Common-Weale": Poetry and Politics in the Seventeenth Century, ed. Claude J. Summers and Ted-Larry Pebworth (Columbia: Univ. of Missouri Press, 1988), pp. 62-79.

31 Stone, pp. 68, 72, 84.

32 The promise of increased wages for Corin recalls the 500 crowns Adam has saved under Sir Rowland (II.iii.38). Although Orlando goes on to extol Adam's virtue as "the constant service of the antique world, / When service sweat for duty, not for meed!" (lines 57-8), we see that dutiful service rightfully expects proper compensation.

33 Thomas Lodge, Rosalynde, in As You Like It (A New Variorum Edition), ed. Howard H. Furness (Philadelphia, 1890), p. 338; spelling slightly modernized.

34 Judy Z. Kronenfeld, "Social Rank and the Pastoral Ideals of As You Like It," SQ 29, 3 (Summer 1978): 333-48, 344.

35 Kronenfeld, pp. 345, 344.

36 Quoted in Montrose, "Of Gentlemen and Shepherds," p. 435.

37 Edmund Spenser, The Shepheardes Calender, "September" (lines 137-9), in Poetical Works, ed. J. C. Smith and E. de Selincourt (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1970), p. 453.

38 Montrose, "Of Gentlemen and Shepherds," pp. 435-6.

39 Montrose, "Of Gentlemen and Shepherds," pp. 438-44, 426, 431.

40 Montrose first makes this point in '"Eliza, Queene of shepheardes,' and the Pastoral of Power," ELR 10, 2 (Spring 1980): 153-82, 154.

41 Montrose, "Of Gentlemen and Shepherds," pp. 446-7.

42 Montrose, "Of Gentlemen and Shepherds," p. 427; for broader discussion, see Kevin Sharpe, Politics and Ideas in Early Stuart England (London: Pinter, 1989), esp. chaps. 1-2, 6, 10.

43 Quoted in Kronenfeld, p. 334.

44 Montrose, "Of Gentlemen and Shepherds," pp. 427, 432; my emphases.

45 For discussion of the promise of this kind of "rhetorical" criticism, see Liu, p. 756.

46 Michel Foucault, The Archaeology of Knowledge, trans. A. M. Sheridan-Smith (New York: Pantheon Books, 1972), p. 122.

Appearance Vs. Reality

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 15436

Peter Hyland (essay date 1978)

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

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

Shakespeare clearly saw that to achieve the audience involvement that he wanted he had to allow the disguised heroine to dominate the play; even so, in As You Like It, because he still feels the need to justify the act of disguising he does not bring Ganymede into the play until II.iv. As Ganymede, Rosalind does dominate the play, but it is significant that until she takes on her male disguise she appears to be weaker than Celia. Celia it is who suggests the idea of flight and disguise, while Rosalind can only raise somewhat fearful objections:

Why, whither shall we go? …
Alas, what danger will it be to us,
Maids as we are, to travel forth so far!
                          (I. iii. 102, 104-5)

It is only when she gets the idea of disguising herself as a man that Rosalind becomes the stronger and more active of the two. So, at her first appearance as a man, Rosalind consciously takes the dominant position: "I could find it in my heart to disgrace my man's apparel, and to cry like a woman; but I must comfort the weaker vessel, as doublet and hose ought to show itself courageous to petticoat; therefore, courage, good Aliena" (II.iv.4-7). And as doublet and hose assert themselves here, so do they throughout the play, as all confusions relate directly to Rosalind's disguise.

Rosalind's primary, female persona steps quite consciously out of the action, leaving the secondary persona Ganymede to inhabit the same plane as the other characters. The effect of this is to put Rosalind in the position, shared by the audience, of acknowledging the artifice of the play. "I'll prove a busy actor in their play" (III.iv.54), she says as she decides to interfere in the affairs of Phebe and Silvius, and her words, in their self-consciousness, could well refer to her position in the play as a whole. For much of As You Like It is in effect created and stage-managed by Rosalind. When she persuades Orlando to pretend that Ganymede is Rosalind she puts herself in a position to play her own part and yet keep at a distance from it; the audience, at the same distance, appreciates fully the nature of her control. She is Rosalind watching Ganymede watching Rosalind, and fully aware of her own position and its relation to that of the audience. In projecting herself out into the audience in this way, she draws them further into the play. This is important, since it is Rosalind's point of view that balances and encloses all others, both romantic and satiric, and the use made of her disguise firmly aligns the audience with this point of view.

Rosalind's special consciousness of her position in relation to the artifice of the play is emphasized in the last act. In presenting the masque which resolves all the confusions of the play she is equating herself with the playmaker, who necessarily stands outside the action; while at the same time her participation in the masque returns her to the artifice of the action, since Ganymede disappears and Rosalind once again joins the actors within the illusion. Not for long, however, for she soon steps out of the play once again in order to speak the Epilogue, and it is worth noting that this is the only occasion in Shakespearian drama where a female character speaks the Epilogue or even, indeed, the last word. It is most appropriate that she should, for in directly addressing the audience in this way she is acknowledging the intimate nature of the relationship they have shared throughout the play.

Wolfgang Iser (essay date 1983)

SOURCE: "The Dramatization of Double Meaning in Shakespeare's As You Like It," in Theatre Journal, Vol. 35, No. 3, October, 1983, pp. 307-32.

[In the following essay, Iser explores the dramatic representations of language in As You Like It, in terms of themes of doublingdouble meanings, doublings of character through disguise, and doubled worlds.]


As You Like It is a dramatic adaptation of a well-known pastoral romance, and as such it testifies to the irresistible wave of shepherds that engulfed the literary scene of the Renaissance.1 The pastoral world embraced all genres of the age, and changed the system of genres by introducing a new one in the shape of the pastoral romance, which broke down the boundaries within which the eclogue had been confined. But even the traditional form of the eclogue had not used its shep-herds merely to depict rustic life—they always served to designate something other than themselves. In the pastoral romance, this purpose was fulfilled by the representation of two different worlds: Arcadia would either reflect the social and political world, or be con-fronted by it. And as Arcadia was, from the very beginning, a product of art—with its origins in Virgil's Eclogues—the romance also made it possible for the reader to observe the relation of art to reality as well as the effects brought about by this relation. Further-more, Renaissance pastoral was considered to be a product of the feigning process through which reality could be repeated as a game, allowing a sort of replay of those courses of action excluded by the real actions of the social and political worlds. Thus the pastoral world remained tied to one outside itself, and by linking the two the pastoral romance took on its generic pattern.

Now despite the interrelation of these two worlds, they in fact embody two very different semiotic systems, with a clearly marked boundary running between them. The far-reaching importance of this dividing line can be gauged from the fact that the central characters who cross from the socio-political into the pastoral world are split into two persons, and thus by doubling themselves are able to act out the difference between what they have been and what they have now become. Playing a double role reflects the duality of the two worlds represented by the characters themselves, and in speaking with two voices, they are able to exceed the limitations of each of those worlds.

Though Shakespeare took the plot of his comedy from Lodge's Rosalynde, his adaptation did not focus so much on action as on the double-voiced discourse " given dramatic expression by the dialogue.2 And as the different speeches are spoken in different worlds, they have to incorporate the distinction between these worlds; thus the political "voice" has to be different from the pastoral—what is hidden by the one will be revealed by the other.

One might say that the whole comedy is based on the principle of doubling. At the beginning the political world itself appears on two different, though parallel levels: Oliver has his double in his brother Orlando, who also has a claim to his father's inheritance, and Duke Frederick has his in his brother, the Old Duke, whose position he has usurped. In both cases the presence of the double is regarded as a threat which can be removed only by means of separation—the Old Duke is driven away, and Orlando is robbed of his rights. This separation, however, can be achieved only by breaking the code upon which the usurper depends for the stability of his own position: for Frederick it is government, for Oliver it is the family. Their protection of themselves through the very system they have violated entails the constant potential presence of their doubles, and herein lies the basic pattern of the political world.

The theme is made evident right from the start, through the eyes of Orlando, the rejected double. He is depressed by the miserable situation in which he is kept by his brother Oliver:

My brother Jaques he keeps at school, and report speaks goldenly of his profit: for my part, he keeps me 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; for besides that they are fair with their feeding, they are taught their manage, and to that end riders dearly hired: but I, his brother, gain nothing under him but growth, for the which his animals on his dunghills are as much bound to him as I. Besides this nothing that he so plentifully gives me, the something that nature gave me his countenance seems to take from me.


The word-play on keep and unkept lights up connotations which, in each case, are swiftly snuffed out. The individual meanings of the word must clash if Orlando's sadness (I.i.4) is to find expression. Since he receives so much of the nothing, and since Oliver continually takes away the something nature (their common stock) gave him, the key words of Orlando's statement can only be understood by way of their opposites (e.g., keep means unkeep, and give means take away). Thus the speech incorporates another speech which is not articulated because it lies outside the words spoken, but is nevertheless present through the distortion of meanings.

Nothing and something here are dialogic words that yoke together meaning and contradiction in such a way that each cancels out the other. Obviously, this brings out the unnaturalness of the brother's behavior, but the opening of the play contains more than just this piece of exposition. It also introduces the theme which is to be orchestrated throughout the comedy. Orlando's speech is what Bakhtin called a "dialogized hybrid," for it is "precisely the fusion of two utterances into one", in which the speaker is present to the extent that he is there only to be displaced by a voice that is not speaking.3 Thus the words incorporate the conflict between two voices, the dramatic point being that the silent voice prevails over that which is speaking.

The probability that Oliver will fail to suppress his double is already clear from the first dialogue between the brothers. After a short exchange, it leads very swiftly to violence, for Orlando continually doubles Oliver's words with their unsuspected implications, thus imposing on him the very double that he wishes to be rid of. The climax of this dialogue comes not with the actual violence but with a play on words. As the two of them scuffle, Oliver calls Orlando a villain (I.i.55), whereupon Orlando answers:

I am no villain. I am the youngest son of Sir Rowland de Boys: he was my father, and he is thrice a villain that says such a father begot villains. Wert thou not my brother, I would not take this hand from thy throat till this other had pulled out thy tongue for saying so. Thou hast railed on thyself.


Thus if Orlando is a villain—because he is fighting Oliver—then Oliver is not only insulting their father, whose blood is doubled in the two sons, but also himself, because he is Orlando's double. Oliver may well have been unconscious of this implication at the moment of speaking, and he would most certainly not have intended it. But the implication is by no means an arbitrary one, for it links the utterance to a code that is valid for both characters, thereby endowing it with a meaning that must either thwart Oliver's intention or show it to be a violation of the code. Oliver remains unaware of this duality, for it is a feature of the language of usurpation that it is monologic—it always seeks to equate language and reality, thereby expunging those connotations which even a denotative use of language cannot help evoking.

The implications, however, which remain unconscious in such pragmatic speech may have their repercussions if only through the fact that the listener must interpret his partner's words in order to understand them. There can never be an automatic transfer of intentions from one partner to the other; meaning is not integral to an utterance, but has to be ascribed to it by the listener, which entails a process of interpretation. This in turn depends upon the implications contained within the utterance, and these cannot always be fully controlled by the intention of the speaker. Thus the verbalization of the unspoken can lead to all sorts of surprises.

The dialogic character of language is thus evident from the very first lines of the very first scene: Oliver's injustice emerges through Orlando's irony, and Oliver's intentions fail through the implications of his utterances. This bracketing together of meanings that run counter to each other dramatizes the dialogic nature of the words.

For Oliver the best solution is a deliberately monologic use of words, and this is what he practices in the ensuing scene with Charles. Charles is a wrestler prepared to take on all challengers, but with the warning that the outcome of any match will be fatal. Charles is worried that Orlando wants to fight him and may therefore suffer a fate that Charles would rather not impose. Oliver, however, sees his chance to be rid of Orlando, and so he tells Charles about his brother's "villainous" nature and evil plots. Thus the two finally come to an understanding, but it is an understanding in which what is said (Orlando's alleged plotting) conceals what is meant.

The examples we have quoted at the beginning of the play reveal a conspicuous doubleness of the language, and although this varies in its nature, in all cases it is marked by the distinction between the manifest and the latent. The more the language negates itself, as in Orlando's speech, the more apparent is the latent meaning; the more exclusive the manifest seeks to be, the more illusory becomes the utterance. Orlando's speech appears to be negated as alien meanings insinuate themselves into what he says; although they are silent, they dominate the utterance. Orlando, then, is present in what he is not. Oliver's speech appears to be illusory, as he eradicates the interconnection between what is said and what is implied. Oliver, then, experiences this obliteration as a thwarting of his intentions. The difference which marks off the latent from the manifest may vary in degree, thereby requiring us to change our sense of the patterns of their relationship, but—whatever the relation—the difference can never be eradicated even if it is supposed to be. When difference is emphasized, negations abound; when it is wiped out, the utterance becomes illusive. Whichever is the case, difference makes itself felt in one form or another, and consequently all language use is inevitably marked by it. Regardless of which element is dominant, the latent comes to the fore both in negation and illusiveness, spotlighting what has not been coped with in the respective instances.

The dialogue arises out of what needs to be mastered, and it is doubtful whether it can ever take on a finality other than the pragmatic; for it would seem that the latent can never be fully integrated into the manifest, in consequence of which the dialogue can only unfold varying relationships between the two. This at any rate is the situation of the dialogue in the political world at the start of the play.

If the very first dialogue in the comedy fails, this is because words for Orlando are dialogic and for Oliver monologic; for the former the spoken is doubled by the unspoken, which endows it with its meaning, while for the latter the spoken aims at an equation of language and object, with all implications being suppressed. For Orlando, however, the dialogic word is merely a weapon with which to strike Oliver, and so ultimately it is subjected to pragmatic ends; the monologic word, on the other hand, is an expression of power which—because it imposes univocal meanings—inevitably results in a split between utterance and intention. In the first instance the double meaning is pragmatized, and in the second it has to be suppressed, and so it becomes a negative foil to the array of possibilities that are unfolded in the Forest of Arden.

There is one further sense in which the language of the dialogue acts as a reflection of the political world. The latter is characterized by the theme of usurpation—Oliver in the context of family, Duke Frederick in that of government. Usurpation depends on the suppression of the double, and this is why the monologic words of the usurper are always calculated to establish the univocal meaning he desires. But this very requirement betrays the fact that behind his utterances lurks a 'latent' which cannot be banished if the cherished purpose is to be fulfilled. Thus the monologic word is also caught up by the inherent structure of language itself. The spoken is always impregnated with associations that cannot be dispensed with, and every object to which the spoken refers is one that has already been described in countless ways, so that whatever is said about it can only be a selection from the possibilities, thus defining itself by what it excludes. The dialogue in the political world of this comedy shows the extent to which the unspoken is always present alongside the spoken. In the example we discussed earlier, what is unspoken in the quarrel between Oliver and Orlando is the breaking of the code that is equally valid for both—though here the unspoken establishes its presence by an utterance which undoes its own intention. The dialogue brings home to us the continual presence of something that is absent, and this applies even when hypocrisy—at least to the spectator's eyes—makes the spoken appear to be the suppression of the true intention. Through the doubling process of the overt and the covert, language brings about a constant switch between the present and the absent, and in this way it runs counter to the pragmatic actions of the political protagonists.

Thus we have Duke Frederick banishing Rosalind from his court and telling his daughter Celia, who has pleaded on Rosalind's behalf:

She is too subtle for thee, and 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.

Here the Duke projects his own fear onto the situation of his daughter, whom he sees as being threatened by her double in such a way that along with the loss of her name she might herself be obliterated. This may well have been the reason for his removing his own double. Yet what is spoken appears to be unreal the moment Celia reveals what has so far been concealed, namely that she and Rosalind are two in one ("thou and I am one" [I.iii.93]). This is why they now flee together to the Forest of Arden, although the whole point of the Duke's banishing Rosalind was to remove this "identity."

Thus failed speech-acts highlight the situation of the usurpers in the political world. They may be able to get rid of their doubles, but they cannot escape the doubleness of language. This endows the language of power with a touch of comedy, as the usurpers' removal of their respective doubles is imposed on language itself by eradicating its interplay between the manifest and the latent. Language, then, seems almost to defend itself against this manner of its use, re-establishing the doubleness between revealing and concealing by making the excluded strike back at the excluder. What has been suppressed now wrecks the plans that underlie the spoken, and this process turns language itself into a comic paradigm as it both undercuts the position of power and promises a resolution of the conflict. The pattern of restitution necessary for such an outcome is provided by the doubling of worlds that Shakespeare took over from the pastoral romance.


The Forest of Arden, to which the main characters run away, is a northern Arcadia. Although the shepherds themselves become peripheral figures through the intrusion of the refugees from the political world, this does not affect their sign value, which invokes the traditional function of the pastoral world. This remains a creation of art which does not designate itself or exist in its own right, but refers to another world to which it is tied. No matter how different the rustic world may be from the political, this difference is never taken so far that the pastoral world can establish itself as a counter to the real one. If it did, it would have to carry its own definition with it, thus losing its true function: to mirror what is concealed in the world to which it is linked.

Although the usurpers force their doubles to take refuge in the Forest of Arden, this is neither conceived as a haven for the banished nor as a realm of escape. On the contrary, it is a place of freedom, as Celia points out when they are crossing the boundaries between the two worlds: "Now we go in content/To liberty, and not to banishment" (I.iii.133-134). Thus the relation of rustic to political is one of the counter-image rather than the counter-reality. Whatever may be the nature of the individual images, the rustic world as an image clearly represents something other than itself. Normally this 'other' is the political world, and so the conflicts and quarrels of this world constantly recur in the pastoral, but the image embodies, as Gadamer has put it, "an increase in being" of that which it pictures, and this is bound to result in a change of what is represented.4

Since the image changes the nature of the reality it depicts, clearly the change will be all the more fundamental in the case of a counter-image. This, like all images, takes an extract from reality, but turns it up-side down, so that whatever may be the realities of the political world, in the pastoral they take on the character of a game. The Old Duke talks of them in terms of "the scene/Wherein we play in" (II.vii.138-139). Whatever the actual events, life in the Forest of Arden is put in brackets, thus providing an opportunity for the characters to bring out into the open what the code of the political world had denied them. The substance of the ensuing game is a repeat of the lives of the characters who, being released from the encroachments of reality, indulge in playing themselves. Turning themselves into actors allows them to stage their own other selves. The masks they have donned appear to be a mirror reflecting the reverse side of what they are, thereby making them aware of their own rear view, as it were. Thus they rehearse their actions as a test of reality in order, ultimately, to revolutionize the political world to which they will eventually return.

Furthermore, this constant staging and rehearsing of realities indicates that whatever is termed a world only reflects a state of affairs; it is one among many possibilities, and no single possibility can ever be equated with the world. Thus, the world mirrored in the counter-image is bound to undergo a change, simply because the state of affairs portrayed reveals itself as a particular form of world, highlighted by the fact that the pastoral counter-image has put the represented world in brackets. But since form is indispensable for the presentation of the world, only play allows for a depiction of the world as if it were such, thus avoiding the identification of the world with its form.

The game not only spotlights an aspect different from the world put in brackets, but it also represents the very conditions according to which a world may be assembled. This, however, is something which in the pragmatic world of political and social realities is always eclipsed, so that only the reality staged in the counter-image provides a glimpse into the circumstances that give rise to the organization of worlds. And this, in turn, can only be acted out in play, as any other means of objectifying would be tantamount to an explanation of origins, which play is forever subverting.

The distinction between the two worlds has certain repercussions on the language that may be seen on two widely differing levels. The first concerns the two extremes marked by Jaques and the fool, and the second is to be found in the characters who are disguised. The participation of Jaques and Touchstone in the two worlds is unbalanced in that Jaques only lives in the forest, whereas Touchstone lives in both worlds. Jaques and Touchstone also differ from the main characters in that they are not disguised and thus do not enter the play in the form of a counter-image.

Jaques' language is conspicuous through a feature which, in the political world, is only to be observed in Orlando's speeches. In the dialogue with Oliver, Orlando brought out the hidden implications in order to reverse the manifest meaning by uncovering the latent. In Jaques this tendency becomes virtually an obsession. Even before he comes on stage, we hear that:

Thus most invectively he pierceth through
The body of 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.

Jaques views all conventions as social disguises. They are for him fictions in which people wrap themselves in order to conceal the motives behind their behavior. This is why he regards himself as an outsider, living on the fringes of society. As conventions are merely a disguise, he continually pulls the rug from underneath all utterances in order to bring the speaker's overt behavior crashing down. In the political world, only Orlando unmasked the latent behind the manifest, but in the Forest of Arden this linguistic self-defense heads off in a slightly different direction. In principle, Jaques does the same as Orlando, but within the counter-image the same can never be the same, for while the real world is, the image world reflects. Exposing the hidden aspects of utterances in order to show them up as disguises must in turn entail a hidden code which regulates all links between the manifest and the latent in terms of a determinate relationship. Jaques sees this code as being integral to language itself, and so for him double meaning simply reflects concealment: it is a semiotics of duplicity. But this brings him into difficulties with his melancholy, which he takes to be the only genuine reality that he has gained from experience—experience of which Rosalind remarks: "Then to have seen much and to have nothing is to have rich eyes and poor hands" (IV.i.22-23). If the manifest is only a disguise of the latent, then one cannot help suspecting that Jaques' identification of himself with melancholy can itself only be a disguise. Indeed, it could even be the expression of a hidden desire to belong to the very society that he appears to despise. If this were so, the double meaning that Jaques purports to have seen through might well rebound on him, for the code he keeps unmasking would also apply to himself. Excepting oneself from an otherwise universal law is indicative of a blindness which in turn may raise the possibility that the link between manifest and latent is not as automatically coded as Jaques' unmasking technique would seem to imply. But if it is not, then either there must be alternative structures of double meaning, or Jaques is guilty of double standards.

The political world makes double meaning appear to be a matter only of disguise and unmasking, but this is not due to the structure of double meaning so much as to the prevailing pragmatic pressures. Jaques does identify the relation between the manifest and the latent with these pressures, for he invokes as evidence the lessons of his experience. But that which orients the political world does not govern behavior in the Forest of Arden, for this is not a world of experience: it is a reflection of the world to which it is linked for the purpose of divulging what has hitherto been concealed in that world.

Now, to what extent does Jaques reflect the reverse side of what became obvious in the dialogue between Orlando and Oliver? In the latter, double meaning indicated that which escaped mastery, whereas for Jaques double meaning is reduced to a trope for universal duplicity. Through him, the underlying structure of dialogue pervading the political world is repeated in the pastoral world, reifying, however, one aspect of the relation between manifest and latent, and thereby blacking out the whole range of possibilities inherent in this relationship. And this makes him into an outsider not only for the society in which he finds himself, but also for the pastoral play world. Whoever is in the game, but cannot take part in it, will be over-come by melancholy.

This is why Jaques cannot stand the game, for to him it is not different from reality; on the contrary, "All the world's a stage" (II.vii.139), as he says at the beginning of the famous speech with which he equates the pastoral and political worlds. By cancelling out the semiotic difference between game and reality, Jaques only causes this difference to emerge again as a sort of split in his own behavior. What he takes to be the code of double meaning appears to be nothing but an oppositional relationship between showing and concealing which merely points toward the pragmatic function double meaning is meant to serve, at the same time indirectly drawing attention to its other potential functions. What Jaques regards as his identity is as deceptive an appearance as the masks of the other characters, for he does not recognize that the melancholy by which he defines himself is as much a definition by convention as that which he applies to them. Ultimately his speech-acts, which he regards as acts of unmasking, always fall on stony ground because the play world brackets off that very reality within which the disclosure of hidden implications takes on its pragmatic significance. If Jaques takes one particular mode of double meaning to be its nature, then the nature of double meaning emerges from the fact that what he takes to be insight is actually blindness. Nowhere is the difference between game and reality, which Jaques suppresses, more evident than in the language of Orlando which Jaques reflects; in the political world, Orlando's language was self-defense, and by mirroring this speech-act under the changed conditions of the Forest of Arden, Jaques' language turns out to be a defense against other possible forms of double meaning. What led in the first instance to revelation, here in the second becomes concealment of all the other potential structures inherent in the relation of manifest to latent. In the pastoral counter-image, then, Jaques' utterances serve to show—though involuntarily—not only that there is multifarious interplay between the manifest and the latent, but also that the form of this relationship changes according to context. If the hidden can be drawn forth from dialogue, this implies that every utterance is doubled by what remains unspoken, the articulation of which makes the utterance transparent. But this, in turn, requires a standpoint which is able to bring forth the unspoken, thereby itself being doubled by an unspoken which does not become transparent in that particular speech-act. And so on, ad infinitum.

This prevents Jaques from becoming a fool, though he would like to be one (II.vii.42). He has great admiration for the fool, but in fact he misunderstands him because he thinks that what is said and what is meant coincide in the fool's language, thereby eliminating double meaning (see especially II.vii.14-34). This implies, however, that in such cases Jaques cannot help presuming that the eradication of difference between saying and meaning in the fool's speech arises out of an as yet unfathomed meaning. If that were so, the much admired speech of the fool would not just high-light the obliterated interplay between the manifest and the latent, which Jaques assumes to be the case, but would turn the fool's speech into a manifest meaning pointing to an undisclosed latent one. Thus Jaques falls prey to the structure of double meaning which—though he recognizes it—he has reduced to double-tongued duplicity. His failure to see what he already knows—i.e., the double meaning of language—is due to the fact that he thinks transparency removes double meaning. Although he shows an awareness which the characters from the political world lack, he nevertheless falls victim to this very awareness by making it the beall and end-all and so failing to grasp that which gives rise to awareness. When he meets the fool, Jaques' failure to discern the difference between manifest and latent results in an admiration that amazes even himself; when he meets the other characters his awareness of the difference is all too strong, so that his idea of double meaning is itself a univocal meaning. Consequently his unmasking activity seems futile because in the play world the context for such speech-acts has changed, and therefore double meaning as he sees it appears to be distorted and thus serves to show up his own lack of awareness. Double meaning has, so to speak, caught Jaques out because he can only conceive of it in terms of the pragmatic conditions pertaining to the political world. If Jaques were not acting in a play world, he would be a figure of fun because his own consciousness dupes him. But in the play world, the man who thinks he knows everything becomes melancholic, because his certainty stops him from grasping the other possibilities which the game might add to those he already knows.

Unlike Jaques, Touchstone belongs to both worlds, though at the same time he remains an outsider to both. From the very start he has a double role which he can unite in his single person, in contrast to the other characters. In the political world, the protagonists suppress their doubles, and in the pastoral world they double themselves through their disguises. The fool, however, is always his own double without ever having to disguise himself. The Fool is traditionally a doubling figure, usually functioning as an inverted mirror-image of his master—the classic example being the Fool in King Lear. Touchstone also functions as a double, both in the world where the double is suppressed and in that where the characters provide their own doubles.

In Touchstone's first conversation with Celia and Rosalind, he swears by his honor that he is not a messenger from Duke Frederick. The dialogue continues as follows:

CELIA: 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
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. No more was this
  knight, swearing by his honour, for he never
  had any; or if he had, he had sworn it away
  before ever he saw those pancakes or that
CELIA: Prithee, who is't that thou mean'st?
TOUCHSTONE: One that old Frederick your father

The logical proposition, the stringency of argumentation, and the linguistic precision are meant to substantiate the so-called honor that Touchstone has sworn by. Now honor is the highest value in courtly society and is therefore the prevailing convention in the political world of Duke Frederick. The argument itself is two-edged, for the social value is implicitly downgraded by being linked to culinary matters in order to provide a seemingly unmistakable reference that will consolidate its validity. Built into this logical argument is a sort of toppling effect which, while leaving the argument itself intact, nevertheless sets it against a back-ground that totally trivializes the point it seeks to make. This foreshadows the basic fabric of double meaning which can now emerge from the dialogue in so many different guises.

In this example, honor is trivialized because the knight in question has none. In this respect, the trivialization does not entail a devaluation of the social norm. But the knight happens to be a trusted follower of Duke Frederick's, and so if a man whom the duke loves has no honor, then the social system which the duke represents is unmasked as dishonorable. Conversely, if the knight does have honor, then the fool must be a knave. But since the ladies swear by their beards that he is a knave, thus basing their oath on something that does not exist, it follows that the fool is not a knave, and so the manifested social values of the political world are indeed shown to be disguises. Furthermore, the fool endows his speech with a high degree of precision, but this precision is based on something that does not exist. In this way the fool's language reflects the monologic speech of the usurpers, who not only make reality conform to what they say, but also invent states of affairs, in order to posit them as realities.

The fool's language explodes into multiple senses, each of which co-exists with the others and is controllable by the lexical meaning of the words, allowing for the comprehension of each of the individual significations. This multiplicity arises out of the fact that his utterances are always voiced in given situations which are themselves conditioned in many different ways. As the fool refrains from adopting any one permanent stand-point, he is in a position to bring out the many potential meanings inherent in a situation. He is therefore often misunderstood by his partners because they tend to extract a single sense from his utterances—a sense which may well have been intended but nevertheless is a misrepresentation insofar as this sense is only one among several and therefore takes its relevance from its relation to other senses and not so much from an understanding of the situation. The fact that his language is marked by multiple senses but is interpreted as if it were unequivocal points to the paradoxical structure of meaning itself. The multiplicity of senses is caused by the fact that every situation, brought about by interdependent actions and intersecting viewpoints, contains a plurality of voices. If this plurivocity is to be verbalized, the distinctions and differences of the various senses pertaining to and inherent in the situation have to be strictly observed. In order to accomplish this, the fool cannot have a personal language of his own, but must be able to speak all the "languages" of the situation without ever opting for just one, for if he did, he would then identify himself with that one and so exclude all the others. It is only because he has no language of his own that he can speak all these "foreign" languages. His partners, however, are bewildered by the apparent instability of his speeches, because what he says seems to be constantly switching over to other possible senses. And so when they mis-understand him or regard his utterances as nonsensical or opt for just one of the possible senses, they ought to realize that meaning only becomes meaning by way of the attitude adopted to what has been said. But this attitude is of a pragmatic and not a semantic nature; it reveals the use that is made of meaning, as well as the degree to which this practical function blots out the range of other possibilities. Thus the pragmatic meaning is doubled by that which it excludes; it becomes meaning because of its preciseness, and this depends on those elements which the language does not articulate.

The dialogues between the fool and the other characters continually illustrate this principle. Thus unlike Jaques, the fool does not pull out the double meaning of every utterance in order to expose its disguised motivations, but he twists every situation in such a way that its multifariousness reveals the extent to which meaning fulfills its pragmatic function by consolidating itself to the exclusion of other meanings.

Since the fool refrains from adopting any stance toward his own language, each of the emerging senses is made to topple over into another, and as this happens to all of them, they begin to parody one another. "Linguistic consciousness—parodying the direct word … its absurd sides … constituted itself outside this direct word and outside all its graphic and expressive means of representation. A new mode developed for working creatively with language: the creating artist began to look at language from the outside, with another's eyes, from the point of view of a potentially different language and style … The creating consciousness stands, as it were, on the boundary line between languages and styles. This is, for the creating consciousness, a highly peculiar position to find itself in with regard to language."5 The fool has this creative mind insofar as he always stands on the boundaries of possible senses, toppling what has been hidden by one out into the openness of the others. There are always several languages intersecting in his speeches, and the point of their intersection is a kind of semantic blank which denotes that meaning is not to be deduced from meaning but from a source that is not in itself semantic. In the fool's language, difference itself is made visible as the generative matrix out of which the multiplicity of senses arises, and as they mutually encroach upon each other, they point to an origin which is non-semantic in nature.

The fool does not have to alter his linguistic behavior when he accompanies Rosalind and Celia to the Forest of Arden. As he is, so to speak, extraterritorial in relation to both worlds, his basic mode of speaking remains the same, though differently orchestrated in relation to the prevailing circumstances. If the mutual toppling of the multiple senses reveals what each one of them has excluded, then difference gives rise to a semiotic interplay between the overt and the covert. As the political world is dominated by pragmatic pressures of various kinds, this semiotic interplay is virtually endless; it reflects the never-ending exclusions brought about by the pressing demands pervading the political actions—demands which are counteracted by the plurivocity of the fool's speech. In the Forest of Arden everything turns into a game, allowing the fool to play with the toppling effect of his own plurivocal speech. In the political world, his language refers mainly to the norms of courtly society, whereas in the Forest of Arden its main concern is the game of love, but since the pastoral world is already a mirror of relationships as they existed in the political world, the fool's speeches go one better than this mirroring effect by bringing out the reverse side of the love-play, i.e., they reflect what even play tends to eclipse. This is clearly to be seen in the conversation between Touchstone and Audrey, the shepherdess he is wooing:

TOUCHSTONE: When a man's verses cannot be
  understood, nor a man's good wit seconded
  with the forward child, understanding, it
  strikes a man more dead than a great
  reckoning in a little room. Truly, I would
  the gods had made thee poetical.
AUDREY: I do not know what 'poetical' is. Is it
  honest in deed and word? Is it a true thing?
TOUCHSTONE: No truly; for the truest poetry is
  the most feigning, and lovers are given to
  poetry; and what they swear in poetry may
  be said as lovers they do feign.
AUDREY: Do you wish then that the gods had
  made me poetical?
TOUCHSTONE: I do truly. For thou swear'st to
  me thou art honest. Now if thou wert a
  poet, I might have some hope thou didst

At best, Touchstone's speech seems to Audrey to be loaded with countersense, and in any case, what he tells her overtaxes her intellect. Audrey swears she is honest, and thus implicitly invokes a love code through which society has brought man's basically antisocial passion under control. Now, if the desire for love can find its expression in terms of a prevailing code, then clearly it has already been tamed by social convention. Despite this adverse effect, the code is necessary if passion is to be fulfilled within the desired context. That which appears to be mutually exclusive can only be brought together by poetry, for only poetry can give uninhibited expression to the desire for love. Whenever expression is verbalized, this very act is permeated by a basic ambivalence. "Expression in language… . like all codes, has a double status: it is both the necessary systematization of experience and a reification of that experience".6 Consequently, an awareness of fictionalizing is to be inscribed into the very language which is designed to express the complexity of the passion, thus avoiding its reduction to the level of convention or killing off the desire altogether. Only through feigning—an act that crosses all the boundaries—can the boundlessness of passion find its expression.

At this point there occurs a new turn in the toppling effect, introduced by Audrey's question: "Would you not have me honest?" (III.iii.24). In his speech the fool had endowed feigning with a positive status, but Audrey interprets it according to the prevailing code as something dishonest which cannot therefore express her own passion. As she tries to clarify the fool's speech, the utterance takes on a double meaning she does not suspect. She is right to interpret feigning as lying, but her being right is the result of a selective interpretation of the fool's words; she has unwittingly closed off those possible meanings which he had brought into play and which now have their own repercussions on Audrey's words by making her correct interpretation appear trivial or even ridiculous. The exclusion of possible senses may have a stabilizing effect within the political world, but in the pastoral counter-image they show up the comic limitation of whatever meaning has been formed.

We have not yet by any means exhausted the range of possible senses connected with Touchstone's language. When he describes poetry as feigning, he uses a superlative: "the truest poetry is the most feigning," thereby opening up a new perspective on the poor verses that Orlando had written for Rosalind in the preceding scene. The verses are bad because they follow the Petrarchan code and so attempt to equate desire with its linguistic expression. They lack the feigning force that crosses all boundaries and alone is able to picture unrestrained desire. Instead, Orlando subjugates his passion to censorship practiced by the Petrarchan love code, with the result that in trying to describe his wings of passion he finally clips them.

Once again another sense emerges: against the back-ground of such bad poetry, "true" poetry shows that passion must be something feigned. As a basic human impulse it can only achieve expression by way of existing conventions that govern human relations; but imposing a form on desire deprives it of its very nature. Consequently, only through distortion of forms can it burst out into the open, and such manifestations work best when desire discloses itself within the realm of conventions as something utterly fictional, mingling existing realities with that which they have negated. Passion cloaked in the trappings of pure invention is the adequate counter-image to the realities of existing conventions. The true lover must therefore always poeticize this passion, signalizing that whatever is said is meant to be outstripped. Only when he clothes his passion in the language of lies, according to existing conventions, can this passion be satisfactorily characterized through the distortion of the prevailing code. True poetry has absorbed the taint of untruth, because only in this way can expression be given to the truth of passion against the background of convention. It is therefore no accident that Jaques, who overhears the fool's conversation, is filled with admiration, for the fool succeeds in showing the falsity of poetry to be truthful, thereby achieving a balance that Jaques has sought in vain while penetrating the linguistic disguises of his fellow creatures.

What marks the fool off from all the other characters is the fact that his language differs from theirs. He does not identify himself with any one language, nor does he speak any one language that might be compared to the others. This is mainly because differentiation is a continually effective force within his own speech, turning it into a rhetoric of double meaning. It certainly cannot be seen as a rhetoric of emphasis, for it does not set out to bring about whatever is said through it. Thus it differs from the rhetoric of persuasion that tries to obtain explicit agreement.7 This is why the fool is frequently misunderstood by the other characters, for they do not understand his rhetoric but only that which is said through the rhetoric. This, of course, complies with normal expectations of dialogue. The fool's rhetoric renounces emphatic persuasion because for him the utterance is merely a medium to ensure the return of elements suppressed by what has been said. This deconstruction of conventional emphatic rhetoric makes it possible to penetrate through the pragmatic and semantic functions of the utterance in order to show that such functions are the reason for exclusion taking place in all speech. The rhetoric of double meaning brings the utterance and that which it has excluded into co-presence, thereby making the displaced rebound on what is said. This "carnivalization" of rhetoric, according to Bakhtin, parades all definite meanings produced by language—provisional, restricted and illusory as they are.8 Hence the continual overturning of senses which ensue from the fool's speech.

This is evident in the dialogue about honor as well as in that about love. Each sense that emerges from the dialogue acquires its substance by excluding something equally pertinent, which in turn invalidates the first sense when it takes its own place in the foreground of the conversation. The one does not, however, establish ascendancy over the other; the process is rather one of reciprocal exclusion according to whatever elements have given rise to the respective sense. Carnivalization of rhetoric leads to a continual overturning of definitive meanings, and this spotlights the basic structure of meaning as a doubling of the overt by the covert.9 Each definitive meaning, obtaining its position from pragmatic circumstances, is a resolution of the difference between the overt and the covert, but the fool's parade of topsy-turvy meanings continually re-inscribes difference into meanings, and the resultant deconstruction of them lays bare the conditions that give rise to meaning.

By toppling all the senses of his speech, the fool stresses difference as the mainspring of sense, and he is able to afford this "game," because double meaning as thematized by his utterances is not tied to pragmatic applications. On the contrary, he banishes all practical usages from meaning in order to show that double meaning is the precondition for any definitive meaning. In this respect he contrasts with all the other characters in the play and, consequently, provides the necessary counter-image for each of the two worlds. It is through this incessant mirroring of the proceedings that the dialogue of the characters takes on its dramatic dimension, for the difference that he continually re-inscribes into definitive meanings is bridged by many speeches made by those characters whose pragmatic intentions require unequivocalness.

If the game of double meaning is cancelled for reasons of political power (Oliver and Duke Frederick), there is a corresponding increase in the degree of suppression, with the double meaning present as the displaced element. If the game is pragmatized, the revelation of implications serves to defend the disadvantaged party (Orlando), with double meaning present as a strategem (Orlando), or as the failure of intended speech-acts (Oliver). And if the game is seen as being regulated by a code of concealment inherent in language itself (Jaques), then double meaning is present in the guise of self-deception. However the difference may be bridged, double meaning cannot be obliterated, even though every pragmatic application of language has such obliteration as its aim.

This situation highlights an important consequence, the discussion of which will be deferred to the end of the essay. Each character assumes his or her own individuality through the way in which difference is overcome in the respective speech-acts. Thus bridging of difference turns out to be a basic condition for the act of representation which varies according to the individual mode in which difference is resolved. But from the standpoint of the fool, all the other characters' speech-acts appear merely as possibilities contained within the semiotic game of double meaning. This game is dramatic in that either one must act and therefore inevitably lose, or cancel out all actions, as does the master of the game, the fool himself.

This gap is always evident in the dialogues involving the fool. As a result, his partners find his speeches paradoxical, because he adapts himself to their expectations of dialogue only to elucidate double meaning on the semantic level, thereby undermining the vital precondition for the success of any linguistic interchange. On the surface he may appear to be making a concession to his partners, but in fact on the semantic level double meaning takes on the appearance of a failed speech-act, because at one moment the utterance is shown to be the suppression of something concealed, and the next what is concealed is shown to be the distortion of the utterance. The rhetoric of double meaning practiced by the fool can only be conveyed through the disintegration of semantics, which explodes into comedy. His language is comic because the utterance always has an annulling effect on what it says, while the replies to his speeches also appear comic because they try to reduce his words to an unequivocal meaning, the annulment of which gave rise to his speech in the first place. But this very process makes it possible for us to become aware of the losses and distortions that are the price of semantic clarity. Hence the dialogues involving the fool often result in failure, though the comedy of this failure holds out the promise of restitution, amounting here to a reconciliation of what appears to be irreconcilable: the pragmatic purpose of a speech-act and the structure of double meaning. The pattern of restitution is unfolded by the protagonists in the Forest of Arden.

Rosalind and Celia disguise themselves when they cross over from the political world to the pastoral. Celia becomes Aliena, and Rosalind becomes Ganymede. Just as the pastoral world is the counter-image to the political, these two characters assume roles opposite to themselves. The very name Aliena is a clear indication of Celia's self-alienation, and Rosalind alienates herself from her own sex, thus doubling herself in two mutually exclusive ways. There are two basic effects here: first, the radical split between appearance and reality, and secondly the character's own awareness of the split in her person. This in turn is a doubling of the structure of the two different worlds. Consequently, Rosalind will not only speak with two voices, but she will also use both registers of this double-voiced language simultaneously. Whenever this happens, disguise and real character function as reciprocal reflections. However, if the real self is reflected in the disguised character, the original Rosalind cannot remain unchanged, as the mask—being Rosalind's own otherness—adds something to what she has been so far.

Now disguise is a fiction, and in Elizabethan eyes it constituted an illusory concealment of the reality hidden behind it. Therefore the disguise endowed that which was hidden with a higher status of reality than that represented by the disguise.10 This process is a counter-image of the situation in the political world. Duke Frederick and Oliver were not in disguise, but their conduct was a disguise, concealing the reality which motivated their actions and with which they identified themselves. With Rosalind and Celia, the process is turned upside down in that the disguise is seen right from the start as something alienating—either through the name (Aliena) or through the change of sex—so that the character can direct herself as someone split apart from herself, thus enacting a play between the mutually exclusive selves.

When Rosalind speaks as Ganymede, Ganymede must constantly refer back to Rosalind because the disguise cannot be a true representation of herself. And so Rosalind always speaks through Ganymede as if she were someone else, and Ganymede, when he speaks, can only elucidate what Rosalind is. If Rosalind is the hidden reality behind Ganymede, Ganymede is a sort of guinea-pig through whom Rosalind can adapt to reality. Originally Rosalind and Celia assumed their disguises in order to protect themselves on the way to the forest, but the function of the disguise changes once they have entered the pastoral haven. Initially Rosalind became a man to defend her womanhood, but now in the guise of Ganymede she wishes to play the role of the reluctant lady, so that she can test Orlando's love. Thus the character again doubles herself behind the mask by playing the role of the cynic—a role in accordance with the highly elaborate Petrarchan love code.

When Rosalind discovers Orlando's verses on the trees, her reaction is split. At first she speaks ironically of the low standard of this conventional poetry, without thinking of the author. But when she learns that Orlando wrote the verses, and must therefore be in the neighborhood, her attitude changes. She is suddenly shocked by the vast difference between what she is and what she appears to be. She asks Celia: "Good my complexion! Dost thou think though I am caparisoned like a man I have a doublet and hose in my disposition? One inch of delay more is a South Sea of discovery" (III. ii. 191-194). She is afraid that as a woman playing the role of a man she will not have sufficient control over her own emotions: "Do you not know I am a woman? When I think, I must speak. Sweet, say on" (III. ii. 245-246). Here a conflict of language begins to emerge within the conflict of roles, for as a man Rosalind cannot say what she feels, even though it demands immediate expression. How can that be said which must not be said although such a mind must needs say it?

Ganymede begins the conversation with Orlando by making ironic comments on the bad verses which evidently he had placed on the trees. Orlando acknowledges that the verses are his, whereupon Ganymede feigns astonishment at the fact that Orlando has none of the classic symptoms of a lovesick poet:

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 … Then your hose should be ungartered, your bonnet unhanded, your sleeve unbuttoned, your shoe untied, and everything about you demonstrating a careless desolation.

[III. ii. 363-371]

Ganymede criticizes Orlando because his appearance has so little in common with the code of convention that underlies his poetry. But through Ganymede's criticism we can discover Rosalind's own desire to provoke Orlando so that she can hear more about his love. For Ganymede's critique of the Petrarchan clichés in Orlando's verses expresses Rosalind's own dissatisfaction with a love that clearly regards the Petrarchan code as an adequate means of describing itself. The reproach that Orlando does not look like a Petrarchan lover turns into an appeal to make Orlando reveal the true nature of his love, and evidently this can only be done if the conventional code is now abandoned.

The dialogue in this scene is typical of the conversations between the lovers. The silent voice of Rosalind is always speaking through the utterances of Ganymede. This entails a switch from one language function to the other, but frequently they are present at the same time. What Ganymede says always represents something else, and this something may be Rosalind's expression of her love, or it may be an appeal to Orlando to reveal his innermost feelings; and when Ganymede's speech represents the Petrarchan code of love, the language of representation is meant to give presence to both expression and appeal simultaneously. What is said serves to say something else without actually having to say it, and thus the character communicates the unsayable. In accordance with the progress or regress of the dialogue, the language function which is dominant at each respective moment will either topple into or adumbrate another one, but as already stated they are frequently present at the same time, and it is the simultaneity that gives to Ganymede's speech its double meaning. The completed utterance does not exclusively point to what is intended, but at the same time reveals what is eclipsed by it, so that Ganymede's language "means one thing, at the same time means another, and yet at the same time does not cease to mean the first thing."11

If double meaning entails an alternating dominance of one language function over the other, this must of necessity have certain effects on the relation between character and disguise. Although representation, expression, and appeal constantly shade into each other, and so appear to be simultaneously present, each nevertheless dominates at a given moment and therefore all bring out varying identities of Rosalind. Sometimes she is Rosalind herself, sometimes she is Rosalind pretending to be Ganymede, and sometimes her double role of Rosalind/Ganymede serves to fictionalize Rosalind. And so whenever the expression of, or an appeal for, love takes over, the mask represents that which it is actually meant to conceal, but represents it without making it overt. When Rosalind, disguised as Ganymede, fictionalizes herself, she is at one and the same time herself and outside herself. At such moments she herself is almost pure difference, which manifests itself in a rapid change of roles, bringing about a co-presence of the three different language functions. Thus once again the unspoken speaks through what is said and indeed depends on the spoken for its presence. Even if every sentence has a definite reference, this always vanishes in order that the sentence may bear a different reference. And so when representation is uppermost, it ceases to portray the Petrarchan love code, the fading of which turns the sentence into a carrier for either expression or appeal.12

We have here two languages that continually inter-weave, establishing and obliterating differences. So long as Rosalind/Ganymede tries to sound out Orlando about his love, using the Petrarchan code, her own desire can only be articulated through the fictionalization of this code. For only when this ceases to be able to represent love can her love take on expression. If expression is made possible by the fictionalization of the code, then the code itself must be outstripped by something which in turn does not have a form specific to any code. Outstripping the code testifies to the overpowering desire that breaks up the differentiation inherent in the code, whose distortion is proportionate to the genuineness of the passion to be communicated.

This transgression of the code is different from that which is to be found in the political world. There the code was violated so that the suppressed could remain hidden; here it is violated so that the hidden may be expressed. Thus each language function in Rosalind's speech brings out another function, which in turn changes into another, in consequence of which there is a constant interplay between differentiation and dedifferentiation. As this process is synchronic, the meaning of her utterance is decentred, so that meaning may be traced to a source other than semantic. Double meaning arises out of the difference which permeates the language functions, annuls their standpoints and makes them coalesce. Thus the descriptive function of representative speech is annulled so that this can become the medium for a hidden desire; appearing either as unarticulated expression or as a wordless appeal to the lover. The manifest function is made to disappear in order to ensure the manifestation of the latent, though the suppressed function leaves behind its own traces in that it is the bearer of the now manifested unspoken. This is almost a direct reversal of the relation we discussed earlier between the manifest and the latent: here the overt becomes present by transforming the overt into the latent.

Despite its density, Rosalind's language does not itself have multiple meanings, even though what is said continually refers to something hidden, and every utterance is part of a disguise. The shifts and disguises do not spring from the wish to hide something, but signify that in the synchronic application of the different language functions, the dynamism of her passion is urging expression in the language in semantics. This is the reason why all the operations of the mask—to be conceived of as a structured focusing on existing challenges—are doubled by an operation of dedifferentiation carried out by the character underneath, reversing what the mask articulates. Each operation is doubled by a counter-operation, and the two operations in their simultaneity result in a depiction of change, catching it at the very moment of its happening. One might call this recurrent change the signified which, though ungraspable, burrows its way through the synchronic process of structured focusing (mask) and latent de-differentiation (character underneath).

How is this process of constant change to be communicated? Rosalind/Ganymede seeks to produce in Orlando the same change of being that she has produced in herself. She wishes to cure him of his Petrarchism and so to penetrate below the surface of the code and bring forth the truer level that her love hopes to find. Therefore she arranges a game in which the male Ganymede plays the female role in the make-believe Petrarchan courtship. And as Ganymede knows that Orlando would do anything for love of Rosalind, he/ she forces him to play the game:

He was to imagine me his love, his mistress; and I set him every day to woo me. At which time would I, being but a moonish youth, grieve, be effeminate, changeable, longing and liking, proud, fantastical, apish, shallow, inconstant, full of tears, full of smiles, for every passion something and for no passion truly anything.

[III. ii. 395-402]

As Ganymede, Rosalind plays the mistress's role and involves Orlando in a game which, had it taken place in the courtly world of Duke Frederick, would have been taken for reality, being in keeping with the prevailing conventions of courtly society. But what remains unconscious in the court is immediately observable in the Forest of Arden. Ganymede and Orlando are not playing roles that are accidentally thrust upon them by prevailing social conventions—they deliberately play what they are not or what they do not want to be. And so Orlando, being conscious of the fiction, can hint that Ganymede's acting is no true substitute for the real Rosalind. But while they are both playing their roles, they are also acting themselves. Rosalind is enacting her passion in order to test Orlando, and Orlando is enacting his and thereby leaving the Petrarchan code (as embodied by Ganymede) far behind. While Rosalind and Orlando each act their parts and at the same time play themselves, the game becomes a means of mastering that which is absent. Orlando enacts the fulfillment of his passion—and only the game makes it possible for him to express what is otherwise denied to him—and Rosalind experiences the love of Orlando, which assumes the desired form through the disintegration of the Petrarchan code which Ganymede represents.

Thus it turns out that only the game can be an adequate vehicle for double meaning, for it is understood within the play that whatsoever is enacted must be taken as if it were real. Consequently, the game mirrors the latent which is hidden behind the manifest. By mastering the absent, the game sets in motion a process of change, for it provides a form in which difference is simultaneously present and constantly bridged. Difference emerges as the constitutive matrix of play not least through the basic play movement of back and forth which is a constant effort to overcome difference, but it results only in an endlessly varied patterning of play structures. Obviously the dialogue achieves its ideality when speech loses its finality. But this is possible only in play, which alone can stage that which remains excluded from our everyday reality.


The variations we have observed so far in the relationship between manifest and latent all arise from and are conditioned by dialogue. This seems only natural as dialogue is the medium of drama, and is moreover governed by the basic rule of lingustic interaction: the interplay between the overt and the covert. This rule enables language to function and appears to be a property of language existing independently of the context and code which further condition it. Each dialogue attempts to achieve a purpose, and it is this final goal which regulates the interplay of the overt and covert both in everyday conversation and in drama. This may be a reason why Bakhtin views drama as a monologic form of speech, because the purpose to be accomplished by dramatic interchange impedes the unfolding of the "dialogic word," conspicuous for its multifarious allusions and references.13 The prevailing pragmatics which govern the interplay between the overt and the covert are thematized in Shakespeare's comedy; consequently the pragmatic intentions permeating the dialogue are bracketed off in order to dramatize the basic rule of language use itself. Each purpose that arises in dialogue is only to be taken as if it were one—a fact borne out by the pastoral mode in which the whole interchange is cast. Instead of dialogues we have staged dialogues; and it is a distinctive feature of pastoral literature that it mirrors fundamental aspects of human life: in this particular instance, the aspect is the basic rule of language use itself.

If the interplay between the spoken and the unspoken is to be foregrounded or thematized, the purpose which normally regulates the relationship in question must fail, because otherwise our attention would focus on the purpose rather than on the relationship. But at the same time, if dialogue is to disclose its basic rule, clearly the disclosure cannot be separated from the dialogue, and this in turn has repercussions on the interplay itself. Even the rule governing dialogue requires language for its depiction, and since all speech is intentional, the presentation of the rule will never escape the pragmatics of dialogue. The rule cannot be presented by itself, and so the pragmatic intentions of dialogue will shape the interplay between the overt and the covert, in consequence of which none of the forms it takes will ever encompass all the possibilities inherent in it. Instead, it will be disclosed only in variations according to what the dialogue is designed to achieve, so that its many manifestations may, more often than not, be in direct conflict with one another.

Now, when the speech-acts of the usurpers fail, their attitudes reflect either an unawareness of the interplay between overt and covert, or—if they are aware—a perception of it as a pair of opposites to be manipulated according to the purpose pursued. Their use of language prevents them from controlling the implications of their words, because they fail to see how the unspoken can rebound on the spoken. They are usurpers not only because they have suppressed their doubles, but also because they believe the manifest to be the successful suppression of the latent.

The interplay, however, is most vividly illuminated only when it is reflected in the mirror of the pastoral world. Jaques regards the interrelation between manifest and latent as one of dissimulation, thereby revealing its negative side as practiced in the political world. But if the interplay is unmasked as one of disguise only, then it is reduced to a univocal allegorization which brings the semiotic interplay between the spoken and the unspoken to a grinding halt.

The deficiency of this univocal allegorization is shown up by the multiple senses of the fool's language; its plurivocity opens up what Jaques' reduction eclipses. He wrecks all frames of reference essential for Jaques in order to expose the conditions on which they hinge. Thus the simultaneity of overt and covert within the fool's speech brings about a sort of explosion of meanings.

What is split asunder by the multiple senses of the fool's speeches is drawn together in Rosalind's synchronous use of language functions. The intentions underlying her words must be covered up in order that her wordless passion may be given linguistic expression.

All these variations within the relationship between the spoken and the unspoken are nothing but paradigms of double meaning, and indeed double meaning can only emerge through paradigms, since by itself it cannot be grasped. The paradigms, in turn, are conditioned by the ineradicable pragmatic intentions prevailing in each dialogue, and that holds true not least for an elucidation of the actual rule that underlies dialogue. Even in the pastoral world, where the interrelation between overt and covert becomes the topic of a multifaceted play, it is nevertheless tied to dialogue, with the resultant paradox that elucidation of the rule of dialogue can never be fully achieved because elucidation is itself a pragmatic function.

Thus whatever the manner of elucidation, something is always going to be excluded. In the dialogue of the political world, it is the interplay between manifest and latent that is excluded, with the result that this world is marked by usurpation and failed speech-acts. In the pastoral dialogues, the interplay becomes the theme, but when conceived in terms of a univocal allegorization (Jaques), it excludes the multiple senses inherent in it, whereas when multiple senses are to be spotlighted (Touchstone), then there can be no telescoping of the overt and the covert. And even when the unspoken articulates itself through the spoken (Rosalind), there is still an exclusion, this time relating to the pragmatic function of dialogue itself. We have to keep in mind that dialogue in the pastoral world is already a staged dialogue, which is now turned into the subject of a game between Rosalind and Orlando, thus deliberately bracketing off the pragmatic function of what is spoken, in order for the unspoken to make its appearance through what is said. It is only the mutually agreed inconsequence of the Rosalind/Orlando dialogue that allows for the instantaneous presence of three different language functions: representation, expression and appeal—all undoing each other and using each other for what each of them intends but does not verbalize. If the pastoral world is a mirror-image revealing the reverse side of the political world, the staging of a play within this make-believe world constitutes a last chance of elucidating that which defies linguistic presentation. The play within the play is a form eminently suited to this process, for, as a heightened illusion it gives presence—albeit in the form of a fleeting semblance—to that which by its nature can never assume even the shape of a given.

The paradigms discerned gain their individuality from the way in which the overt and the covert interrelate. Yet whatever the relationship may be like, something is excluded in every instance. As the excluded rebounds, the effect of the absent on the present emerges as a rich source of comedy. What has been cut off by the intentional speech-act, re-appears and the resultant simultaneity of the mutually exclusive turns comedy into a potent medium for the dramatization of double meaning. But while the individual speech-acts become comic paradigms, their sequence also leads to another basic feature of comedy, which is the pattern of restitution. This, however, can only follow upon failure, and so the question arises, what exactly is it that fails here?

We have seen that double meaning takes on different forms according to the pragmatic function behind the dialogue. These forms are not double meaning itself, but are its representatives, whose difference denotes that double meaning can never be presented as itself. The moment it takes on a form through the finality of the dialogue, it establishes its presence through the fact that whatever is excluded from that form will strike back at it, subverting its claim to be truly representative. Consequently, the various representations of double meaning suffer the same fate as that which Freud attributed to the representation of drives—representations meant to make something present which they themselves are not and which hence cannot be equated with the drives. However, the continual formulation and failure of these representatives is necessary if one is to formulate a concept of that which can never be delineated.

Language, then, becomes the medium for comedy—not because it is comic in itself, but because the interplay between manifest and latent can only be conveyed through a form that seeks to represent something which cannot be conveyed through any form. Comedy as a string of failed actions indicates that the structure of double meaning itself can never be cast in any form, since it is the generative matrix of language which defies translation into the symbolic order of language.

Comedy is an ideal setting for the elucidation of this process, because every failed action bears with it the promise of restitution. This interdependence highlights double meaning as an ineradicable structure inscribed into language itself which gains visibility through the dramatization of its failed representations, the inexhaustible variety of which assures a resolution to every conflict arising. There is always an alternative to failure, and consequently double meaning itself cannot finally fail, thus testifying to the fact that it is an inalienable part of our anthropological makeup.

The spoken is constantly toppled by the unspoken, and this toppling movement is further differentiated by the switch that keeps taking place between the comedy of the characters and that of their use of language. The less the characters know about how language functions, the more they are caught up in comedy which makes their unconscious language use rebound on them. Unlike most of the other characters, the fool is not subject to this type of comedy which, however, enhances the comedy of his linguistic manipulations. For him everything spoken becomes a springboard for everything unspoken, so that he produces a form of language which wrecks the pragmatic finality of the dialogue. And finally, Rosalind's play within a play is the complete carnivalization of all utterances, which so accelerates the toppling movement that double meaning appears as a process of transformation. This is without doubt the most comprehensive (though, of course, still not all-encompassing) form of its representation.14

Our argument so far yields another completely different aspect of double meaning which also pertains to its dramatization, though it is not restricted to comedy. Whenever the manifest and the latent shade into each other and co-exist, their relation is one of double meaning, as a prevailing difference marks them off from one another; without difference, there could be no double meaning. The difference, however, is a continual propellant for its own removal and this leads to the creation of a gestalt. All the paradigms discussed arose out of an attempt to bridge difference, and their very differentness indicated the variety of possibilities inherent in difference as the constitutive matrix of double meaning. Removal of difference is therefore the impulse that gives rise to representation. This applies above all to the individuality of the characters, which establishes itself in accordance with the way they interweave the spoken and the unspoken. What they say is overshadowed either by what remains hidden or by what has been displaced through the utterance; this, in turn, reinscribes itself into what is spoken, thus delineating the individual contours of the characters. Each attempt at bridging difference has a unique feature, and so both the acknowledgement of difference and its removal turn out to be the origin of representation in literature.

If representation arises out of bridging difference, it can no longer be conceived of in terms of mimesis, but must be construed in terms of performance, for each act of difference-removal is a form of production, not of imitation. Furthermore, the fact that performance is a means of bringing something about suggests a process of staging, and this endows it with an intangible quality.

There is yet another even more comprehensive sense in which representation springs from the bridging of difference. Our individual paradigms showed that double meaning was revealed in ever-changing forms, culminating in Rosalind's play within the play turning transformation itself into a representative of double meaning. Now this constant switching, which becomes visible on all levels, thus emerges as the represented subject of the comedy. But this cannot possibly be mimetic; its performative starting-point lies in the removal of difference—a process which continually alters the positions which it has marked out.

Difference, then, inspires the attempt to remove it, and it is this attempt that leads to representation as performance. Yet difference inscribes itself into representation by revoking the assumed authenticity of representation with regard to that which it makes present, and in so doing it turns representation into aesthetic semblance. Thus difference, though the origin of representation, is present as deferral of knowing what origins are. Representation, therefore, has no original substance of its own, but is the imaginary capture of something that cannot be captured. Its transformation into aesthetic semblance is the price that representation must pay if it is to be successful. The compensation for such a price, however, is the ineluctable variety of depictions of something whose very nature prevents it from ever being conceived in terms of an object: in Shakespeare's comedy, this is transformation itself.


The dramatization of double meaning reveals to what extent the semantics of language is left behind, though double meaning is still semantic to the extent that it has a form. But this serves primarily to focus on the processes whereby meaning is formed and to elucidate that fact that meaning cannot be its own origin. The question therefore arises as to how far this dramatization conditions its own reception. It is clear from the epilogue that it is meant to do so. The epilogue is delivered by Rosalind, who steps out of all her disguises to confront the audience as an actress—or, in Shakespeare's day, as a boy actor. What Rosalind has shown in the play is now to take effect on the audience. But how is she to address them? She decides: "My way is to conjure you" (V. iv. 208). Conjure has a striking double meaning—to charge, as she puts it a moment later, but also to produce through magic. Now by retreating to the pastoral world, Rosalind had alienated herself into her own otherness, and through her disguise she had undergone a transformation of what she had been. By the same means, she also worked a similar transformation in the other characters who had fled to the forest, and now that they have been transformed they may themselves produce equally magic changes in the political world. Thus the actor or actress ends the play by "conjuring" the audience, or charging them with a responsibility toward the play—that is, to like as much of it as pleases them and as perhaps their experience will allow ("for the love you bear to men, / women")—the implication being that the magic of the play might make them even capable of changing that experience; she asks them to make a decision about their response to the play.

Dramatized double meaning will give the audience the impetus for change through the problems they will have in registering it. These problems begin when the plurality of senses is interwoven in the form of mutual dissimulation or is condensed by telescoping; they continue whenever the utterance becomes merely the medium for the recurrence of what it has displaced; and finally, they occur when a particular sense says something definite in order to mean something else. Such a presentation of double meaning either scatters the audience's attention or demands their multiple attention.15 But the latter is contrary to the normal mode of perception. It is true that perception is also marked by a form of doubling, since it bisects each field of perception into figure and ground, but this doubleness is always hierarchically organized, whereas double meaning is distinguished by the absence of any such hierarchy. Hence double meaning brackets off the basic structure underlying perception—its pragmatic orientation—and in doing so, it makes us aware of the schemata that guide perception. Multiple attention is even more provocative to our acts of comprehension, for whenever phenomena have to be linked up with each other, either a predicative or a passive synthesis is required. Double meaning, however, runs counter to any such dialectic solution, and so just as it delimits pragmatic semantics in relation to perception, so it delimits predicative semantics in relation to acts of comprehension.

All this becomes a dramatic experience when the spectator takes on the role of third party, being the only person in a position to perceive the presence of the absent in the present. Although it is the characters that produce this simultaneity, they are blinded to it by the pragmatic aims of their dialogue. But to this rule there are two exceptions: with the fool, the pragmatic element is wrecked, and with Rosalind it is put in brackets. These two exceptions sharpen our awareness that everything spoken is doubled by an unspoken. And once the spectator, as the third party, allows the dialogue to function as the bearer of double meaning, he or she may sense something of the nature of double meaning through the very exclusion of those principles which otherwise stabilize perception and comprehension.

Such an experience demands multiple attention, for the spectator has to grasp something that can emerge only through the suspension of established patterns of comprehension. And yet this demand is related to nothing in the least extraordinary, for the interplay of the overt and the covert is a basic principle of ordinary language. What happens here is simply that something is brought to the surface which normally remains hidden. But when double meaning translates itself into the production of multiple attention, it does run contrary to our everyday acts of perception and comprehension. Consequently the spectator must either transmute his multiple attention into acts of selective comprehension—thus reacting like those characters in the play who always foreshorten the double meaning—or he must maintain an awareness that will keep up with what is happening to him. Making someone aware of what had previously been closed to him entails conditioning him for a change. This is why Rosalind "conjures" the audience in the epilogue to link up their experience of the play with their own experience.

Since multiple attention cannot be maintained indefinitely, it triggers the demand for a semantic ordering of what has been given to experience. The meaning arrived at both in the reception of the text and in its subsequent interpretation turns out to be a semantic appropriation of an imaginary experience which in itself cannot be semantic, because the result cannot be its own origin. The imaginary, however, can only become an experience when moulded by something other than itself which allows it to assume a tangible form. Thus double meaning may be regarded as the medium of the imaginary. When multiple attention releases an activity of semantic ordering, the spectator bridges differences and thereby repeats the very act out of which representation as performance has arisen in the text. The direction such processings will take depends on whether the spectator's existing codes remain dominant or are suspended by the imaginary experience. Multiple attention opens up a path for an unfamiliar experience to travel along by delimiting both the division between figure and ground, which is basic to perception, and the relations operative in predicative judgments which are basic to comprehension. Such a decentering lays the spectator open to the imaginary experience, which establishes itself against the background of that which it has suspended.


1 All quotations from As You Like It (The Arden Shakespeare), ed. by Agnes Latham, London 1975.

2 For the terminology and its application, see M. M. Bakhtin, The Dialogic Imagination. Four Essays, (Slavic Series 1) ed. by Michael Holquist and transl. by Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist (University of Texas Press: Austin and London, 1981), p. 324 ff.

3 Bakhtin, p. 361.

4 Hans-Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method, trans. Garrett Barden and John Cumming (New York, 1975) p. 124.

5 Bakhtin, p. 60.

6 This is a point developed by Nina Schwartz in her paper "As It Likens You: The Metamorphosis of Consciousness in the Fictional Order," submitted in my seminar in the winter quarter 1980 at the University of California, Irvine.

7 See Hans Blumenberg, Wirklichkeiten in denen wir leben (Stuttgart, 1981) pp. 112f.

8 For reference see the German translation of Bakhtin: Michail M. Bachtin, Literatur und Karneval. Zur Romantheorie und Lachkultur (Munich, 1969) pp. 47-60.

9 See Dieter Henrich, "Freie Komik" in Das Komische (Poetik und Hermeneutik VII), ed. by Wolfgang Preisendanz and Rainer Warning (Munich, 1976) pp. 385 ff.

10 See also

11 Paul Ricoeur, Hermeneutik und Strukturalismus. Der Konflikt der Interpretationen I, German transl, by Johannes Riitsche (Munich, 1973) pp. 82 f.

12 For the individual speech functions, see Felix Martinez-Bonati, Fictive Discourse and the Structures of Literature. A Phenomenological Approach, trans. Philip W. Silver (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell Univ. Press 1981) pp. 87 f.

13 Bakhtin, Dialogic Imagination, p. 405, maintains, however: "To a certain extent comedy is an exception to this."

14 The plot of the play sheds revealing light on this assumption. Those characters in the political world who have suppressed their doubles as well as the double meaning in their own speech, are never in a position to change into their own otherness. But at the end they are totally transformed. Duke Frederick and Oliver cease completely to be that which they had been before. In the political world they had constantly invoked—though always violated—the codes of government and family, and so they gave the impression that their conduct was regulated by these codes. However, they were not aware of the degree to which their conduct was in fact regulated by the breaking of these codes. Thus they had long since distanced themselves, unconsciously, from the selves associated with such codes, as a result of which they are now able to break radically with that which they had hitherto always claimed to be their guiding principles.

Duke Frederick comes to the forest, undergoes a religious conversion, and resolves to lead a monastic life. Oliver leaves the political world, and takes on a new identity in the pastoral world. And so the characters who had banished their doubles now change identities because they have never known what it was to play their own otherness.

Such a total transformation is fairytale in character, because what happens to Duke Frederick and Oliver is miraculous and unforeseen. In fairytales the miraculous is commonplace, since it offers "the only possible guarantee that the unmorality of reality has ceased to be" (André Jolies, Einfache Formen, Tübingen, 1956, p. 203). But even this fairytale transformation is marked by the simultaneity of the mutually exclusive. The miracle is miraculous because it is shot through with failure. In the fairytale, however, such a difference is bridged by miraculous transformations.

15 On the problem of multiple attention, see Anton Ehrenzweig, The Hidden Order of Art (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1971) pp. 22 f.

Pastoral Elements

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 20732

Rosalie L. Colie (essay date 1974)

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

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


By the end of the sixteenth century, the pastoral mode embraced many particular genres, offered rich options to writers interested in literary experimentation, particularly in mixed genres, and, furthermore, had become embroiled in one of the great literary quarrels which characterized Renaissance literary theory. The pastoral permitted and encouraged opportunities for mixing in one work "imitation" with "invention," art with artifice, the artless with the artful—and generated discussions of such mixes. Eclogues were the principal pastoral form, hallowed by antiquity, but other pastoral lyrics flourished: the love-lyric, the dialogue, the song. Pastoral episodes regularly offered relief in poems largely devoted to epic gests; an English poet wrote a heroic epic in prose entitled, in spite of its relatively scant preoccupation with shepherds, Arcadia, and set into this prose-epic a series of pastoral poems which are themselves a self-sufficient anthology of pastoral forms and themes. Following hints from Italian eclogue-writers and fulfilling medieval Latin literary traditions, Marot and Spenser presented unabashed models of Christian pastoral, enriching the imaginative possibilities for their successors; both poets also experimented successfully with satirical poems within the pastoral mode. Indeed, one can recognize anthologies of pastoral work—Sannazaro's Arcadia is one example; The Shepheardes Calender offers a survey of pastoral themes and topics, and Sidney's shepherds in the Arcadia offer a magnificent epideictic display of the eclogue's range of possibilities, formal and topical.1

From commedia dell' arte and other popular forms to the grand productions of Tasso and Guarini, drama exploited pastoral scenes, pastoral characters, and what might be called (in the Renaissance anyway) the lyric pastoral pathétique.2 The way in which the pastoral locale was taken as an official site for love-play and for love-poetry can be illustrated by a late anthology of pastoral lyrics published in 1600, England's Helicon; that an English Arcadian rhetoric and a mildly Arcadian logic were produced at the turn of the century shows how powerfully the literary notion of Arcadia had come to operate across the spectrum of literary possibility in England's green and pleasant land. From one end to the other of the social and literary scale, pastoral myths and patterns were available: in Whitsun pastorals, pastoral interludes, pastoral romances, in narrative books and on the stage, pastoral masques and (even more common) pastoral episodes within masques, spectators could take their pastoral experience. The ways of pastoral, then, were many and varied; the mixtures of forms, conventions, devices in pastoral allowed a very wide range of decorums.

The richness of the mixture is not really surprising: the literary critical quarrel over the pastoral as the mixed dramatic genre, thus as the official locus of tragicomedy,3 broke out over Guarini's Il pastor fido and culminated in the establishment of the pastoral play as the official mixture of comedy with tragedy (sometimes with satire as well), exemplified in such devices as double-plotting, mixed styles, and even interludes from the non-literary arts, such as music, dancing, and the visual arts.4 Wherever one looked, one could find pastoral—and once-found, twice-found, for the generous, nearly boundless forms of pastoral offered immense opportunities for craft and for imagination.

From such a background, Shakespeare's sophisticated traffic with pastoral is hardly surprising; typically, he experimented with the mode in various ways, in both early and late plays. In As You Like It, a play with a remarkably tight thematic construction, he worked with many pastoral themes and motifs, to say nothing of pastoral types in the dramatis personae, in what is primarily a romantic love-story derived from a prose narrative. Although "romance" and its proper subject, love, dominate this play, with the shepherding and versifying rather its decoration than its psychological locus, nonetheless the skeletal structure of this romantic comedy is the standard dramatic pastoral pattern—a pattern of extrusion or exile, recreative sojourn in a natural setting, with ultimate return "homeward" from the exile, a return in moral strength reinforced by the country experience of kind and kindness.

As You Like It is, for once, about sheep, but this plotform, from academic drama to commedia dell' arte, was so thoroughly identified with the pastoral that as a formula it could imply without overtly stating a great deal of standard pastoral thematics. Sheep, for instance, were often quite absent from such plays, which sometimes lacked even the pasture environment. But the themes associated with pastoral (court-country, art-nature, nature-nurture) could be counted on to inform plays with this plot-pattern. A plot on this plan, thus, was a recognizable vehicle for discourse on the pastoral themes, an abstraction designed to interpret problems of nature and nurture originally associated with more overtly pastoral topics.

Though it follows the pastoral dramatic plot and has to do with sheep and shepherds, As You Like It is by no means "officially" pastoral. It ignores, certainly, some of the major cruces of Italian pastoral dramatic theory: it has no double-plot, for instance, in the pure sense. Though the De Boys story is separate from the ducal story, nonetheless Orlando is early displayed at court, catching the attention of Rosalind; throughout, his situation is seen as a counterpart to hers. Although the country lovers overlap with their courtly parallel figures, they are in the play rather to round out the range of pastoral alternatives than to divert into a "plot" of their own. Nor are there radical shifts of locale and of genre in As You Like It: the ducal and gentlemanly affairs, so to speak, are conveniently focused in one place, the forest, by means of the exile-device; though the breath of tragedy blows through the forest, the dominant tone is always, through Duke Senior's and Rosalind's efforts, kept lucidly "comic."

Duke Senior, Rosalind, Orlando: all are exiled, and in their company come the spiritual exiles who will not part from them, Celia, Touchstone, the Duke's men, Adam. In the forest these exiles, valiantly seeking some cheer, meet that symbolic, alienated, self-exiled figure, the melancholy Jaques, already located in the wood. All these victims—Jaques too—of the world find renewal in the simple culture of the Forest of Arden, and all, save Jaques and Touchstone, return triumphantly to reconstruct the social world from which they had been driven out. Against this basic construction, the play is rich in additional pastoral themes and motifs, many of them ultimately Theocritan and Vergilian, reworked throughout the Latin Middle Ages, reconceived in the Renaissance.

The play makes much of the dialogue and dialectic which so inform pastoral: the love-debates of Silvius and Corin, Silvius and Phebe; the discussion of court and country between Corin and Touchstone; the styles of courtship of Orlando and Rosalind; the dialogue on nature and nurture between Orlando and Oliver; and, as in Spenser's wonderful array of pastoral debates, The Shepheardes Calender, the themes so dialectically handled provide an enriching counterpoint to one another. Both the pastoral agon (Corin-Silvius) and the pastoral paragone of real sheep-herding versus literary sheep-keeping (Corin-Touchstone) are part of the play's thematic structure. Among the many things this play is, it is a comparative work about competing life-styles, among these the competition of shepherdly lives, with real shepherds who dip their sheep and lambs, whose hands smell of tar and of the oil from the sheep's wool, and others who live "poetically." We are asked to measure the real and literary shepherds against each other, not once but several times. Behind the prating of the shepherd's life, important thematically as it is in the play, lies a grander anthropological conception, the (pastoral) myth of the Golden World, "the antique world" in which there was perfect commerce and mutual service among men naturally well-disposed to one another, the myth, then, of the Golden Age.5 In antiquity, the pastoral life had been assigned to the Age of Gold, when men lived in commutual confidence and kept their flocks and herds together, their natural characters attuned to the gentle world they inhabited, their goods held comfortably and easily in common. Such a world had no need for war and was therefore an ideologically pacifist community; such discomfitures as men suffered were not caused by human agency but by natural hazards (winter and rough weather) and by creatures not yet enrolled in the peaceable kingdom (wolves and snakes, in ancient pastoral; snakes and lions in As You Like It; metaphorical kites and wolves and real bears in The Winter's Tale). Insofar as this ideal theme bears upon the dialectic of pastoral, it implies the corruption of an imperfect world of men—urbs, the court—against which its perfections could be fully felt.

With the development of a pastoral pathétique by which men identified with the gentler creatures and, in the Renaissance, allowed themselves the luxury of self-cultivation, even of emotional self-exploitation,6 love officially became the major pastoral occupation, taking precedence even over keeping sheep real or poetical. That is, the shepherd was naturally a poet in the pastoral genres, but before long was also a poet-lover. At first, the pastoral world was pleasant, natural, easy, and so was its love—although the shepherd's complaint about his cold, coy, or faithless mistress (with a corresponding saddening of his landscape to match his emotional situation) was the celebration of another kind of love, troublesome, upsetting, potentially destructive of the mutuality of pastoral society. Gradually shepherds and, later, shepherdesses began to die of love—even the pastoral landscape was not always sufficient to nourish the love-struck pastoralist through his emotional afflictions. Though the pastoral world with its celebration of timelessness and harmony would seem to have been created precisely to deny the efficacy of death, nevertheless death's shadow lay across even its green perfections to chill its warm airs.7

The pastoral elegy offers a marvelous rationale for death, with its classic expression of the wonderful comforts and assuagements for personal loss; it provides the pattern for the pastoral relation of man to nature, of creation to inspiration: there, the shepherd-singer, the shepherd-maker, is gathered into the pastoral artifice of nature's eternity, these two fused into one. At one with this imaginative and nutritive nature, the dead shepherd-poet becomes a part of the inspiration he had himself once drawn from nature's store. In life poetically competitive—shepherd, goatherd, and cowherd continually sang in agon, each praising his own particular life-style, ritualized into poetic activity—and in death tradition-preserving, the pastoralist invented a world of the imagination in which, depending on his temperament, he could live as he would. He might, then, live sparingly, in simple opposition to urban luxury, confident of nature's power to provide for him; or he might live richly, feasting from nature's endless store, recreating himself and his art thereby. Whichever "nature" he chose as his setting, that entity was expected to provide sufficiently for his aesthetic and emotional needs—in other words, to nurture him.8

Theocritus, with whom this all began,9 was less concerned with the relative values of city and country than with the positive recreations of the country: what court-country agon we find in him, we bring with us from reading subsequent pastoral writers. Vergil, however, made overt the paragone of city and country life; certainly implied in his eclogues and subsequently in the pastoral psychology is the sense of relief from the pressure of daily concerns (negotium) in a "liberty" and "freedom" (otium) consciously contrasted to the workaday round, a praise of simplicity (and, therefore, of "nature") as contrasted with the artificiality of urban life.10 As needs no reminder, the inventors and practitioners of literary pastoral were not professional shepherds, but highly sophisticated city-dwellers, whose country life of the imagination was quite different from that enjoyed by the inhabitants of the real Arcadia or, after erosion, of the real Sicily. Thomas Rosenmeyer has put it well: Theocritus' Sicily is not so much a geographical place as a cartographical fiction. Even the country of Vergil's Eclogues is a mixed scene, by no means the recognizable North Italian locality of the Georgics, for instance.11 To call such a locale "Arcadia," Rosenmeyer tells us, is precisely to rob it of its "real" geographical implications, to insist that, as a natural spot, it is a mental artifact, a concept, an image in itself.

The encroachments of the city on the green world—of negotium upon otium—are destructive not only of a simpler form of society, but also of the psychological symbol the pastoral world is. For the literary pastoral celebrates the glorious unrealities of the imagination, its necessary furlough from its assignment of work, obligation, and duty.12 The iron, or at best brazen, world is man's normal portion: as Sidney put it, "poets only deliver a golden." In the literature with which we have here to deal, the literary opposition between urbs and rus shifted to become in the Renaissance a topos in itself, but with a particular fit to Renaissance literature and socio-economic notions—that is, it shifted its formulation from "city" to "court," and the court-country paradigm became one major focus of pastoral organization.13 The naturalness, freedom, delightfulness of the pastoral ethos often criticized, overtly or by implication, the self-seeking, selfaggrandizing materialistic artificiality of any court—"court" a synechdoche for any artificial, programed social organization. "Sicily" and "Arcadia" were not measured merely against (as Poggioli believed) the megalopolis, Alexandria, Rome, Paris, but against any strict program of social forms, formalities, polite fictions, or flatteries. At Versailles, later, queen and courtiers carried crooks and passed their time as shepherdesses and dairymaids; consciously or not, they acted out the extreme solipsism of the pastoral fiction, so delicately self-referential that only the most sophisticated can comprehend its significations. In the ambivalent symbiosis of court and country, at least in Renaissance pastoral writing, it was the courtier who came for instruction of confirmation to the shepherd, from whom the courtier, an apprentice shepherd, could learn what natural "courtesy" was.

Since the poet's world could be reshaped according to the imagination, could reject conventional decorum to set queens in the dairy, eating bread and honey, poetic imagination could work what miracles it would with its pastoral situation. If queens are dairymaids, shepherdesses can just as well be queens, or at least princesses—and so they turned out to be, over and over again, in the wish-fulfilling satisfactions of pastoral myths. The "marvelous," that subject for endless discussion among Italian critics,14 was commonplace in the pastoral environment, with social miracle one of pastoral's chief donations. Not least of these was the re-establishment in the pastoral environment of Golden Ageness ("poets only deliver a golden"), or (better) Golden Agelessness: in this generic country, there was no season's difference, in the forest no clock.15 The landscape stood, at its best, at a perpetual spring, fruiting, and harvest; at worst, the season's round was characteristically benevolent. When the landscape was not at its rich mellowness, the pastoral pathétique was generally to blame—the landscape had fallen off to mirror its shepherd's disappointments or depression. In this fiction, then, a poet's triumph was complete: by its means, he could create a nature whose sole poetic obligation was to identify with his emotional state. Such a nature is entirely dependent upon imaginative art, is a nature openly, proudly artificial, a nature which inverts the usual system of imitation, by which art conventionally looks to nature as its model, to offer an art form on which nature might model itself for its own improvement. The pastoral, then, offered a paradigm for the creative imagination in which the doctrine of mimesis is questioned or rejected16—and so, really, is the idea of decorum. Not that the pastoral has not its own rules, conditions, and decorum—but its decorum is a conscious reversal of worldly decorus standards.

For these reasons, the art-nature question, another major critical topic of the period, was deeply tied to the pastoral mode, which became the debate's normal habitat. Poets played with the notion of pastoral nature, used as a stalking-horse against the artifices of another ethos—itself a magnificent, self-conscious artifact. From pastoral writing (often mixed with notions of education and cultivation generally classed as georgic),17 men took a major metaphor, that of the "improvement" of natural things, especially the improvement of breeds by crossing or grafting. "Breeding," that most natural of procedures, became an area where art counted most. The question was delightfully debated: was a man entitled to use his wit to perfect nature, or did he, by interfering in natural processes ("The Mower against Gardens"), degrade and adulterate natural patterns and products?18

For agriculturalists as well as for poets speaking metaphorically, this is at once an aesthetic and a moral problem—involving, among other things, the rights of the arts (all the arts, not just poetry, certainly not just pastoral poetry) to do what art does: that is, to "improve" the nature it imitates. In the simplified and rigid scheme of styles and topics inherited by Renaissance theorists ("systematized" is surely the better word19), shepherds are honest people, as George Herbert put it: they speak in a simple, or low, style befitting the life they lead and the landscape in which they dwell. Should, then, kings and princesses masquerading as shepherds and shepherdesses undertake a simple style of life and of speech? What does such disguise do to a literary decorum based upon a hierarchy of values, with strict relations observed between social rank and level of style? Should those nobles who opt for the country learn, like Berowne, an uncourtly speech, doff, like Kent, the latinate orotundities of rank? Should they not, in short, suit their words to their new actions? Within the artifice of the pastoral frame, all this is made problematical, to be interestingly explored in many works. If, as countless Renaissance pastoralists demonstrate, the pastoral natural world is a complex imaginative artifice, why should not princes and princesses, with their sophisticated and fine-spun speech, be welcome in Arcadia, where their rhetorical finesse simply adds to the imaginative beauties in the pastoral ecology? And welcome they were—which meant that another mixture of decorums was made in this already most mixed of modes.

Such genera mixta bring their own contradictions. For instance, in this literary ethos so deceptively simple, the best of everything is selected: the best of genres, the best of styles, the best of solutions to human problems. No wonder then, when we seem to lose a major figure in Tasso's Aminta by suicide, we yet recover that figure alive by love's magic power and the accident of a convenient bush: Aminta is too valuable to be spared, and the landscape's marvels are sufficient to save even the most despairing shepherd. Art rescues men from the trials of their lives, and the pastoral makes no bones about it. No wonder, then, that as Guarini laboriously insisted against his fierce opponents and as Fletcher so gracefully observed, comedy and tragedy came so easily to dwell together in the nurturing environment of literary pastoral. Fletcher's comment on his own Faithful Shepherdess, written after As You Like It and well after the major documents of the Guarini quarrel, states the plain case for the mixture of comic and tragic modes:20

A tragie-comedie is not so called in respect of mirth and killing, but in respect it wants deaths, which is inough to make it no tragedie, yet brings some neere it, which is inough to make it no comedie: which must be a representation of familier people with such kinde of trouble as no life be questiond, so that a God is as lawfiill in this case as in a tragedie, and meane people as in a comedie.

Part of the reason for the tragicomic mix, then, is in the nature of the action; another reason lies in the mixture of ranks involved in most pastoral romances and plays, where disguise of great ones is a principal plot-device.

With these literary or generic and social mixes, comes also moral mixture, a mixture of ways of life set in actual or implied contradistinction or even contradiction.21 Looking back to Theocritus, we can see that some cultural distinction underlies the agonistic presentation of pastoral eclogues, in the competitions between singers judged for their skill in singing—or, to say it another way, between singers judged for their success in defending their particular variant upon the pastoral life. Neatherd, goatherd, shepherd challenged one another, to be challenged in turn by fishermen and mowers, sometimes even by hunstmen22—and, given such a thoroughly country mixture, why not by a courtier as well, especially a courtier disguised as a countryman?23 Of course, by the time we arrive at this particular elaboration of pastoral agon, a radical discharge of original pastoral democracy has been effected: when court invades country, rank, however understressed, intrudes upon such egalitarian commutuality as countrymen enjoy, alters the condition in which, as the Golden Age myth had it, social class was irrelevant. Once the mixture of class is accepted in the pastoral system, then alienation may become a conscious topic, too: perhaps this is Vergil's point in the First Eclogue. So the melancholy Jaques may not be all that out of place in the Forest of Arden, even though he is "Monsieur Traveler" and, it would seem, at the very least a university wit. He has, presumably, become disgusted and worn out by the conflicting sophistications he has seen and is, at least, true to the Arden he criticizes, when alone of the cast he declines to return to court. Celia's choice of pseudonym, Aliena, honors the reason for her voluntary exile and is one token of her courtier-status within the forest. The pastoral world is not for the disappointed and victimized alone, to relearn their integrity; it exists also for those more seriously estranged from society, as the early reference in As You Like It to Robin Hood suggests.


As You Like It24 miraculously collects the major themes of the pastoral, manipulating and juxtaposing them so as to bring that rich mix under critical scrutiny. Not only is the classic pastoral dramatic pattern its basic fiction—exile from court; country restoration; triumphant return to court—but so also are the themes of nature and nature, of art and nature, of art and artifice, of court and country debated in eclogue-like exchanges uttered by representatives of pastoral and non-pastoral (sometimes even anti-pastoral) positions. The "parallel and parody" of the play, so well analyzed by Jay Halio and others,25 works beautifully to undermine doctrinaire attitudes, social, moral, or literary. The play's perspectivism is sufficient exposure of the implications of the vie sentimentale for which pastoral had come so masterfully to stand.

Even satire and folly, embodied in Jaques and Touch-stone, in turn set into agon, come to challenge and to reinforce the values of this pastoral. The love at the center of the play is not a particularly pastoral love, save in that the playwright works toward eliminating the artificial and non-natural aspects and elements of love; but the pastoral tradition, with its exquisite concentrations upon the emotional muances and values of love, offered a superb literary opportunity for examining the love-subject.

Nor is love the only topic so scrutinized: Corin speaks of his content in the life he leads, in open contrast to Touchstone's obvious dependency upon his ladies, yet we know from his own mouth that Corin is shepherd to another man and not, in Fletcher's sense, one of the true literary shepherds who are "owners of flockes and not hyerlings."26 Corin qualifies his own position: so does Touchstone who, praising the court above the shepherd's life, by his witty chop-logic lays open the shabbiness of the court's customs. Shepherd and jester are brothers, after all, under the skin: Touchstone, remembering Jane Smile, recalls that early love in the generic language of the peasant Corin. The "country copulatives" comment on each other, and on the courtiers: Orlando, courtly mock-shepherd genuinely disinherited, dotes on Rosalind; Silvius, a real shepherd who has learned his love-role as thoroughly as Orlando has his, dotes upon Phebe; Phebe, a real shepherdess struck by the coup de foudre prescribed by Marlowe (to whom they refer as "the dead shepherd," in pure literary idiom), dotes upon Ganymede; and Ganymede dotes, as he insists, upon no woman.

All of them, even the trim Ganymede, smugly apart from their encirclement, show some aspects of pastoral loving; all of them, in turn, have been called (like all fools) into a circle. Ganymede assumes with his disguise (Shakespeare's one-upmanship is manifest in this boy-actor-disguised-as-a-girl-disguised-as-a-boy-acting-the-part-of-a-girl) one proper pastoral love-attitude, that conventionally assigned the shepherdess, of coolness to the lover. Orlando may not have been given a gentleman's education by his hard-hearted brother, but he knows all the same that proper pastoral lovers hang poems on trees. Silvius loves his lady totally, as if she were perfectly beautiful, in spite of Rosalind's rebuke to Phebe; and Phebe illustrates, before our very eyes, how totally love can wipe out all other considerations, particularly those of common sense.

Yet all shall be changed: though in the beginning each loves the wrong person, we see Phebe settle for Silvius; we see Touchstone, clad in his courtly aura as well as in motley, win the goat-girl Audrey from the well-todo rural William—win her, then, by his courtly "rank." We see Aliena paired with the repentant Oliver, both of them struck as finally as Phebe by Marlovian love at first sight. And we see, by a magic attributable to her forest-character, Ganymede-Rosalind claim her lover Orlando. Only Silvius and Phebe, of the whole crowd, are what they seem and no more: the others, one way or another, have been disguised from others and from themselves. And all of them, save Silvius and Phebe, must cope with the undisguising: Audrey must be either taken to the court by her fool or brutally abandoned: Aliena-become-Celia at once threatens her lover's recent vow of shepherdhood, that sign of his reconciliation with kind nature; Orlando must learn what his beloved is to inherit.27

Desengaño does not rob the pastoral of its sweetness in As You Like It. These considerations do not intrude upon the play itself, in which, however much pastoral love is mocked, its sweet fidelities are rewarded, too. By making fun of Orlando's language, Rosalind jokes him into ever-increasing avowals of his love for her. She may seem to mock all lovers, but at the news of Orlando's hurt by the lion faints like a green girl. Touchstone does not want to be in Arden and contrasts Corin's life unfavorably with what he had known at the court, but he makes the best of his forest opportunities, and his logic actually recoils on him, to endorse the simplicities Corin embodies. The melancholy-satiric Jaques comes to scoff at pastoral sentimentalism, but he is scoffed at in his turn—and for pastoral sentimentalism at that. The data of various literary modes are mocked and yet, through all the mockery, reaf-firmed: questioned, teased, tested, found wanting—and found valuable in spite of manifest weaknesses.

In this way, perspectivism is built into this play; it is the play's method, but it relies on traditional implications within the mode, by developing an inherent dialectical tendency in pastoral eclogues to an astonishing degree. Many contests question the traditions which ultimately they endorse: the lovers' fourfold catch suggests the merry-go-round illusion of the experience of loving; Corin and Silvius speak not just about love, but about the kinds of love appropriate to the different ages of man, and Jaques deals with love as developmental folly in his far more total indictment of man's ages and the illusions of each age. Touchstone and Corin debate the life of court and country to demonstrate the limitations of both. Jaques marches through the play, in his melancholy isolation a challenge to everyone's social assumptions and conclusions: like Philisides, Sidney's name for his symbolic self in the Arcadia, Jaques has retired to the forest in disappointment with the world's offerings. Though established in Arden, Jaques is characterized as a traveler, a continentalized Englishman who (as the character-books assure us) can never find aught at home good again. He is also—a bit unexpectedly—the superpastoralist of the play, speaking out for the pathetic identification of creatural suffering with human unhappiness. He it is who criticizes the Robin Hood band of gentlemen around Duke Senior for their unbrotherly attacks upon the deer-commonwealth, whose "fat burghers" are slaughtered for men's whims and pleasure; but all this while he is also unpastorally melancholy, unpastorally anti-social. As we look at him more narrowly, of course, we see the social role his melancholy fulfills, and how consistently Jaques acts the part the Duke's men expect of him. It is he who recognizes a freedom even greater than that of the forest in his cry, "Motley's the only wear!" He knows how to call all fools into a circle; he, in short, reminds us by most unpastoral means that Arden is a pleasaunce, that for all its rough weather, the forest is also Cockayne, where all is upside down to be set aright. He knows what his fellow-fool recognizes at sight: "Ay, now I am in Arden; the more fool I; when I was at home I was in a better place; but travellers must be content." And yet Arden is his home, as he chooses to remain in the forest now solitary enough for his nature.

What the forest is, is never made entirely clear, although it is obvious that, even with the season's difference, the forest is a better place than the usurper's court. In the forest there is no need for "new news o' the new court"; fashionable gossip is irrelevant to the fundamental constants of courtesy, civility, and humanity. And yet, for all the talk of the golden world, Arden is never "really" that—Corin's master was of churlish disposition and inhospitable, ready to sell his sheepfarm for gold. Unprofessional cleric that he is, Sir Oliver Martext is nonetheless at home in Arden; Duke Senior's fellow exiles do not hesitate to comment on the bitter wind, painful to them if less "unkind" than man's ingratitude. The moral arrangements of the golden world are, come wind come weather, scrupulously observed, together with the pastoral delusions. The melancholy Jaques is courteously received, his idiosyncrasies are respected, enjoyed, and even admired;28 when Orlando, assuming the role of salvage man, bursts in upon the fête champêtre, he is welcomed, not repulsed, in spite of his words and his sword; the country lovers ultimately accept each other with grace. The Duke lives, "the Robin Hood of England" to whom young gentlemen flock "every day, and fleet the time carelessly," so that such rank as he has is, like Robin Hood's, only first among equals. To the forest come Rosalind and Celia, Touchstone faithfully in attendence; to the forest comes Jaques; to the forest comes the outlawed Orlando, with old Adam on his back.29 In the forest Oliver de Boys and Duke Frederick make their moral recoveries and find their various rewards. In the forest, the fairy-tale world rules: a serpent and a lion, hitherto inconceivable, threaten the only newcomer distinguished for his savagery: in token of his recognition of the beast within, Oliver had become a hairy man.30 In Arden, an untaught innocent younger-brother-hero can save that newcomer from these creatures by the "kindness" of his "nature," which marks him as trueborn in spite of his deprivation of nurture. In the forest, whatever nature's natural draw-backs, nature makes written calendars irrelevant: there are no clocks in the forest, and there is time enough for everyone's inner and social needs: the forest, as C. L. Barber reassuringly claims, induces and confirms holiday humor.31

Time does not pass, theoretically at least, in the golden world—but this rule does not hold for our play, where we are endlessly made aware, both in earnest and in jest, of the passage of time: in the confrontation of generations (Silvius and Corin, dukes and daughters, Sir Rowland's sons and his aged servant Adam);32 Orlando comes late to his appointments with Ganymede, who rates him for that—because she is a young girl in love, as she tells us in her psychological typology of time, time trots hard with her. A living emblem of the last age of man, the nearly dying Adam is brought in to emphasize Jaques' classic oration. In other words, this forest is at once ideal and real; the inhabitants of Arden insist that their life is unvaried, as in the Golden Age; but the play works in the rhythms of experience's human actuality. On one side, Arden is holiday, and thus timeless; it offers a chance for recovery and redemption, a parodic, exalted imitation of the real world, now corrected and purged. In Arden, fools are visibly in circles, men feast graciously on venison and wine—but time passes as they do so, as we are continually reminded, and men ripen and rot in spite of the lack of clocks.

What the forest offers is its liberties: love finds what it seeks; Jaques is allowed to criticize as he likes; Touchstone may mock, Corin may be threatened with impoverishment. But nothing untoward happens; the forest offers restitution to the dispossessed as well as the far more important imaginative freedom in which the natural spirits of men and women may expand. Duke Senior, Rosalind, and Orlando know that this forest is their goal; there they find a world where even real brothers can be brothers. For with the psychological flowering favored in Arden, we are reminded that all life is not so free: Cain and Abel patterns recur in the play, in each generation. Even in that pattern, indeed, one can find a pastoral analogue: the pastoral Abel is the contemplative man, Cain the cultivator, the active man, the man of violence prepared to defend the value of his way of life and its produce. In his under-populated world, Cain felt he had to savage his brother, as Duke Frederick and Oliver seek to savage their brothers. When these romance-brothers enter the forest, however, reformation strikes at once; the virtuous maintain and corroborate their gentility and their gentleness, and the evil recover or discover the gentleness in themselves they had denied. Orlando's lapse into savagery, so clearly motivated by his concern for old Adam, is immediately reversed by the gentleness with which his threat of violence is received. As is usual in these discussions of pastoral nature, we find throughout the play the terms which form its structure: nature, natural, kind, kindness, civil, civility, gentle, and gentleness. For nature is kind, and kindness: a recognition of one's kind, a response designed to protect and to strengthen whatever is mutually human.

Against this background, Orlando's complaint against his unnatural nurture makes full sense. His brother owed him, as kin, to raise him as the gentleman he is, but chose instead to rob him of his rights and to cast him, if he could, as a type of Prodigal Son. Finally, Oliver even tried to kill the boy, in an unmotivated gesture of the supreme unkindness. Oliver is presented, as Iago was to be, as simply evil—"simply" evil. The question of nature and nurture running through so much of the play is nowhere debated outright, but from the start the debaters are given real parts in the play. In contrast to his brother, Orlando is, as his behavior consistently confirms, preternaturally "gentle," even though he is also preternaturally strong. Actually, as he and we come to recognize, he has no need of that mysterious education he laments, and grows into a symbolic portion far grander than his inheritance would have been. Orlando assumes responsibility for Adam, grown old in his father's service, to the extent that he violates his own nature by attempting to steal for his sake. He cannot pass by on the other side and let the lion attack his sleeping brother, for all that his brother has done against him. His natural qualities caused him to fall in love with Rosalind, and her to fall in love with him. He speaks of his own gentility ("Yet am I inland bred")33 and recognize the same "inland" quality in Ganymede's speech, anomalously cultured for the child of the forest he claims to be. Folk hero that he is, Orlando, the youngest of three sons, is eminently suited to take his place at the head of his family and to marry the Duke's daughter at the end of the play, to return with daughter and Duke to the court, confident of exhibiting the courtliness he has always naturally displayed.

The debate between nature and nurture overlaps the problem of nature and art: nurture is education, altering, improving, grafting, conventionally taken as "good." In Orlando's case, it turns out that the art of which he laments the lack is in fact superfluous. He is what he is "by nature"—and when he assumes various stylized, courtly poses, such as in his role of pastoral lover, Rosalind makes fun of his efforts. As often happens in Shakespeare's versions of pastoral, the nature-nurture debate is skewed and ultimately denied, as received dialectical opposites are shown to be fused in the person (Orlando, Perdita, Arviragus, Guiderius) whose gentle birth marches with his courteous nature. Nurture is not necessary for such as these: all the education in the world had failed to improve Oliver, until he experienced his brother's miraculous assertion of kindness. In Jaques, we see that education has even weakened his feelings for his kind. Rosalind is not the nutbrown boy she pretends she is; her cultivated ancestry of magicians is a fiction to account for the cultivation of her nature and her breeding. In her case, indeed, the disguise which makes it possible for her to take her place in Arden is a fiction in itself. Though she is spokeswoman for what is natural, real, and psychologically sincere, and persuades Orlando to natural and unstylized love, she is of course always neither simple nor boy.

The forest, then, shelters a countersociety, idyllic and playful, offering a model of possibility to the real world,34 a countersociety made up on the one hand by the fictions of a literary convention and on the other by the types of that convention, determined to express the goodness of their natures. The pastoral second chance offered by the Forest of Arden is not just a second chance for the people in the play; it is equally a second chance for the larger society of which the dramatis personae are representatives. As the procession troops courtward, men with antlers on their heads, girls dressed as country brother and sister, nutbrown from sun or dye, dukes and reconciled brothers, we believe in the escapade and in their unlikely return, believe in their capacity to maintain reform, because of the upright good sense they have demonstrated or learned in the forest, because of their natural courtesy, kindness, and radiant moral strength. But we believe in them also because the pastoral refuge has acknowledged the flawed realities of the workingday world; the holiday has recognized real experience. Touchstone is not the only character on whom the truth of experience can be proved: all of them try, assay, essay the pastoral myth, each from his own perspective, and all of them find at its heart the recreative values of nature, kind, and kindness promised by the tradition. The play's perspectivism insists also upon the convergence of all views at its central and controlling point, the symbolic, simple truth of this most artificial of literary constructs.


1 Thomas G. Rosenmeyer, The Green Cabinet (Berkeley, 1969), is the most valuable analysis of pastoral thematics I have seen; see also

2 See Rosenmeyer, pp. 77-85, who offers a corrective to the view of Renato Poggioli as expressed in "The Pastoral of the Self," Daedalus, LXXXVIII (1959), 686-99; see also

3 For this, see F. H. Risiine, English Tragi-comedy (New York, 1910); Marvin T. Herrick, Tragicomedy (Urbana, 1962), esp. pp. 125-71; Madeleine Doran, Endeavors of Art, pp. 182-215; Karl S. Guthke, Modern Tragicomedy (New York, 1966), pp. 3-5, 45-92; Cyrus Hoy, The Hyacinth Room, pp. 270-73.

4 Cf. Rosenmeyer on the "mix" of pastoral, pp. 145-67; and K. M. Lea, Italian Popular Comedy, I, 196, for commedia dell' arte mixtures.

5 For this topic, see the classic work of A. O. Lovejoy and George Boas, A Documentary History of Primitivism and Related Ideas in Antiquity (Baltimore, 1935); Harry Levin, The Myth of the Golden Age in the Renaissance (Bloomington, 1969); Rosenmeyer, pp. 220-24; Mia I. Gerhardt, Het Droombeeld van de Gouden Eeuw (Utrecht, 1956); and E. H. Gombrich, "Renaissance and Golden Age," Norm and Form, pp. 29-34.

6 See Renato Poggioli, "The Oaten Flute," Harvard Lib. Bull., XI (1957), 147-84; "Pastoral of the Self; and Rosenmeyer, p. 223.

7 The classic statement of this is Erwin Panofsky's '"Et in Arcadia Ego,'" in Philosophy and History, ed. R. Klibanksy and H. J. Paton (Oxford, 1936); reprinted in Meaning in the Visual Arts (Anchor, 1955), pp. 295-320. Cf. Rosenmeyer, pp. 224-31.

8 Cf. Lovejoy and Boas, passim; Poggioli, "Flute" and "Pastoral of the Self."

9 Rosenmeyer's. book deals primarily with the Theocritan elements of the pastoral lyric tradition; for Virgil, see Michael Putnam, Virgil's Pastoral Art (Princeton, 1970); and Kermode, Introduction, pp. 14-15, for the city-country transition to court-country.

10 Rosenmeyer, pp. 65-97, 98-129; and Barber, Festive Comedy, chapter 2 and pp. 223-29.

11 Rosenmeyer on "place" p. 232; on chores, p. 25.

12 Empson, Versions of Pastoral; Barber, Festive Comedy; Harry Berger, Jr., "The Ecology of the Mind," Centennial Review, VIII (1964), 409-34; "The Renaissance Imagination: Second World and Green World," Cent. Rev., IX (1965), 36-78.

13 An interesting instance of unawareness of generic traditions occurs in Charles Barber's discussion of The Winter's Tale in Shakespeare in a Changing World, ed. Arnold Kettle (London, 1964), pp. 233-52.

14 Cf. Baxter Hathaway, Marvels and Commonplaces (New York, 1963), pp. 35-56.

15 For the timelessness trope, see Rosenmeyer, 86-88; and above, footnote 5.

16 Though the pastoral mode, utilizing the "low style," observed strict prescriptions of mimesis with respect to matching style to country matters and, in many cases, to primitive states of society, nonetheless (by the Renaissance anyway) part of its literary power lay in the ironies involved in portraying this kind of society for a courtly audience. With the development of a literary criticism centering on maraviglia (see Hathaway, op. cit., passim), as well as the theory of tragicomedy which accepted pastoral setting as requisite to the new genre, mimesis in the strict sense fell out of the debate, in spite of continued talk about decorum and "matching."

17 In his forthcoming work, Dr. Alarik Skarstrom will lay out some of the "georgic" aspects of pastoral.

18 This question, a topic in Pliny and Seneca, is discussed in "My Ecchoing Song, " pp. 36-38; see Edward A. Tayler, Nature and Art in Renaissance Literature (New York, 1964), pp. 16-17; and Charles Barber, "The Winter's Tale and Jacobean Society," Shakespeare in a Changing World.

19 See Fred J. Nicholls' excellent (though oddly-titled) article, "The Development of the Neo-Latin Theory of the Pastoral in the Sixteenth Century," Humanística Lovanesia, XVIII (1969), 95-114.

20 Cited in Eugene M. Waith's valuable book, The Pattern of Tragicomedy in Beaumont and Fletcher (New Haven, 1952), p. 44.

21 See Rosenmeyer, pp. 68-70, 86-88.

22 J. C. Scaliger, Poetics, II, xcix.

23 I.e., Florizel in The Winter's Tale fulfills the simple prescription, while the guileless Perdita's unconscious disguise as a shepherdess moves into the problematic realm. See Rosenmeyer, p. 103.

24 See Edwin Greenlaw, "Shakespeare's Pastorals," SP, XIII (1916), 122-54; Mary Lascelles, "Shakespeare's Pastoral Comedy," More Talking of Shakespeare, ed.

John Garrett (London, 1959), pp. 70-86; Helen Gardner, '"As You Like It,'" ibid., 17-32; Peter G. Phialis, Shakespeare's Romantic Comedies (Durham, N.C., 1966), pp. 219-31; Harold Jenkins, "'As You Like It,'" S. Stud., VIII (1955), 40-51; R. P. Draper, "Shakespeare's Pastoral Comedy," Études anglaises, XI (1958), 1-17; Waith, Pattern, pp. 80-83; Sylvan Barnet, "Strange Events: Improbability in As You Like It," S. Stud., IV (1968), 119-31; Marco Mincoff, "What Shakespeare did to Rosalynde," Sh. Jhrb., XCVI (1960), 78-89.

25 Jay L. Halio, Introduction to As You Like It: Twentieth Century Views (Englewood Cliffs, 1968); and see Gardner, "'As You Like It,'" pp. 61-62.

26 Waith, p. 44; Rosenmeyer, pp. 99-103.

27 For the convention of disguise as written into pastoral drama and interlude, see Lea, I, 191. Also Walter R. Davis, "Masking in Arden," SEL, V (1965), 151-63. For love-in-a-circle, see Lea, I, 182.

28 For the combination of satire and pastoral see Waith, 81-85 (citing Donatus' confusion of satire with satyr); Rosenmeyer, p. 25; Greg, p. 411; Ralph Berry, "No Exit from Arden," MLR, LXVI (1971), 11-20; and James Smith, "As You Like It," Scrutiny, X (1932), comparing the satiric element with that of the tragedies.

29 For this as an emblem of pietas, deriving from the Aeneid, see Nancy R. Lindheim, "King Lear as Pastoral Tragedy," Some Facets.

30 See Richard Bernheimer, Wild Men in the Middle Ages (Cambridge, Mass., 1952).

31 Barber, Festive Comedy; Berger, "The Renaissance Imagination."

32 Jay L. Halio, '"No Clock in the Forest,'" SEL, II (1962), 197-207; Frederick Turner, Shakespeare and the Nature of Time (Oxford, 1971), pp. 28-44.

33 Madeleine Doran, '"Yet Am I Inland Bred,'" Shakespeare 400, pp. 99-114.

34 For countersociety, see Berger, '"The Renaissance Imagination."

Eamon Grennan (essay date 1977)

SOURCE: "Telling the Trees from the Woods: Some Details of As You Like It," in English Literary Renaissance, Vol. 7, No. 2, Spring, 1977, pp. 197-206.

[In the following essay, Grennan examines the means through which Shakespeare extends the pastoral conventions of his source material to create in As You Like It a work that is allusive, ironic, and "pastoral in the fullest sense possible."]

Some general assumptions about the nature of As You Like It tend to divert critical attention from certain of the play's specific details, either drawing them without distinction under the "pastoral" or the "anti-pastoral" umbrella or ignoring them altogether.1 The aim of the present essay is to subject a few of these usually neglected details to a scrutiny more exact and speculative than they normally receive. Such a reading will establish, I trust, the precise manner in which the play is "pastoral" or "anti-pastoral." In different ways all of the details to be examined are connected with this generic affiliation. Looked at with a fresh eye, they confirm yet again our respect for the practical genius with which Shakespeare exploited his sources and influences in the creation of a work that, for all its conventional freight, is entirely and inimitably his own.


Since it is the manifesto of English pastoral poetry, it is odd that Spenser's Shepheardes Calender is rarely if ever mentioned in connection with As You Like It.2 To look at the play by the light of Spenser's work, however, is to see more clearly certain elements in the drama that are common to all pastorals (Shakespeare's major source, Lodge's Rosalynde, among them) as well as to understand better a few details that cannot be accounted for by the principal source. Many of the components of As You Like It, for example, can be assigned to one or another of the "three formes or ranckes" into which the enigmatic E.K. divides the twelve eclogues of the Calender. According to the commentator the individual poems are "eyther … Plaintive … or recreative … or Moral." The plaintive includes elegies and laments, amorous and otherwise; the recreative deals with "matter of love, or commendation of special personages"; the moral may range from the status of poetry to the reverence due old age, and "for the most part be mixed with some Satyrical bitternesse."3

As lovers, Silvius and Orlando represent the amorous side of the plaintive mode. Orlando is the less serious, albeit more complex, version of the type, Silvius its complete embodiment. As "the shepherd that complain'd of love," caught in the act of "Praising the proud disdainful shepherdess / That was his mistress" (III.iv.50-51),4 this despairing but irrepressible lover epitomizes the convention. As with all such conventional lovers, both men are poets. While Orlando merely writes his poems, however, and hangs them like pastoral fruit on the trees of Arden, Silvius' whole life is enacted in a language deliberately poetic, remote from the everyday tones of even his fellow shepherds. Like the laments of Spenser's shepherd-lovers, often presented as songs sung either by the lover himself or by a friend—"January" and "December," for instance—all of Silvius' utterances are in the nature of "performance," most obviously in the "pageant truly play'd" between him and his scornful lady (III, v).5 The recitation of Orlando's poems by Rosalind, Celia, or Touch-stone makes an allusion in a different key to this aspect of the convention.

The elegiac side of the plaintive mode is also fully represented in As You Like It, although, in tune with his practice throughout the play, Shakespeare alters in important ways the traditional model. As with Spenser's "November," the elegy of As You Like It must also be regarded as a performance. Its subject is that most indigenous of the forest's inhabitants, the deer. First, in an elaborate set-piece delivered by an anonymous lord, the expiring beast is set in a stylized landscape—"Under an oak, whose antique roots peep out / Upon the brook that brawls along this wood" (II.i.31-32)—attended by a single mourner, Jaques. In pathetic rhetoric the death of the animal and its implications are lingered over, with Jaques's moralizing in this part matching the meditation in "November" on the "trustlesse state of earthly things" (1.153). True to its conventional nature the closing lines of Spenser's poem achieve the apotheosis of its subject. "Carefull" is transformed into "joyfull" verse, and the dead Dido is translated into one who "lives … with the blessed Gods in blisse" (1.194). The conclusion of the deer episode in the play is an ironic reflection of this conventional transition from elegy to ecstasy. There, an unusually ebullient Jaques plans to present the slain deer to the Duke "like a Roman conqueror" (IV.ii.3-4). Whether this is the same animal he wept over earlier does not really matter. Together, the incidents compose a single, recognizable, pastoral event. The elegy begun in grief concludes in celebration, accompanied by a song that fulfills conventional requirements: the dead deer's horns become an emblem of the lusty living, and the slaughtered beast finds his apotheosis in a picture of continuous if illicit generation:

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.
                                   (11. 13-18)6

Just as certain of Spenser's eclogues display elements that belong to more than one category, the earlier part of Jaques's elegy for the deer, as well as pertaining to the plaintive mode, also falls into E.K.'s third "forme" or "rancke." The poems in this "moral" category (e.g. "Februarie," "Maye," and "August") often mine the pastoral world for metaphors and allegories to express certain spiritual truths; and although of a more secular cast than those of the Calender the truths wrung from the landscape of Arden certainly belong to this group. Duke Senior's first speech, in fact, perfectly illustrates the workings of this kind of poetry: "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). Touchstone's brief lecture to Audrey on the nature of poetry (III.iii.18ff.) may also be placed in this category, both because of its subject matter and because it is in part "mixed with some Satyrical bitternesse."7

It is Jaques, of course, who speaks most consistently in the accents of moral pastoral. "Did he not moralize this spectacle?" asks the Duke of Jaques's response to the death of the deer, catching perfectly the melancholy observer's nature and function. As Spenser's shepherd-poets extract satirical human truths from beast fables (e.g. "Maye"), Jaques translates the abandoned deer into an allegorical anatomy of social life: "Thus most invectively he pierceth through / The body of the country, city, court" (II.i.58-59). Conventional pastoral can also account for the fact that Jaques's sour, satirical nature is attributable to his having been a traveler (IV.i.l7ff.).8 Spenser's Diggon, critic of the world's abuses, was also a traveler:

In forrein costes, men sayd, was plentye:
And so there is, but all of misery.
I dempt there much to have eeked my store,
But such eeking hath made my hart sore.
                     ("September," 11. 28-31)

While Jaques is not Diggon, certain similarities between them do emerge:

Rosalind: 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.
Jaques: Yes, I have gain'd my experience. Rosalind: And your experience makes you
  sad.                                         (IV.i.21-27)

Jaques's specifically pastoral nature may also help to explain another of Shakespeare's invented, and apparently "unpastoral," characters. The seventh and ninth eclogues of The Shepheardes Calender deal with "dissolute shepherds and pastours," with Diggon's "Satyrical bitternesse" in "September" directed mainly against ecclesiastical abuses and bad priests,9 Unlikely as it may seem, Jaques's diatribe against the "dissolute pastour" of the forest, Sir Oliver Mar-Text, may be best understood through this conventional lens. Having dismantled the makeshift nuptials of Touchstone and Audrey, the irate Jaques gives them the following sound moral advice: "Get you to church, and have a good priest that can tell you what marriage is. This fellow will but join you together as they join wainscot; then one of you will prove a shrunk panel, and like green timber warp, warp" (III.iii.84-89). In his final action at the end of the play Jaques confirms himself in his role as the agent of moral pastoral. There he commits himself to "other than … dancing measures" (V.iv.193), leaving the enchanted circle of redeemed lovers for the company of the newly converted Duke Frederick, who "hath put on a religious life" (V.iv.181). Admittedly a device to erase all shadows from the play's sunny conclusions, it is nonetheless noteworthy that Shakespeare chooses just such an exit for his satirist. By doing so he seals the association between Jaques and the moral dimension of conventional pastoral, ironically enclosing him within the borders of a convention from which, from the start, he has sought to be excluded.10

The last of E.K.'s learned categories to be considered is the "recreative," to which belong the intensely lyrical inset songs of "Aprili" and "August." Since, as Book VI of The Faerie Queene and As You Like It illustrate clearly, the pastoral experience itself is essentially "recreative," such songs lie at its very heart; they celebrate both themselves (the experience of song) and the pastoral landscape from which they draw their lyrical sustenance. This dual function is well suggested by the following lines from "Aprili":

Upon her head a Cremosin coronet,
With Damaske roses and Daffadillies set:
  Bayleaves betweene,
  And Primroses greene
Embellish the sweete Violet.
                                   (11. 59-63)

Furthermore, these songs are presented also in the nature of explicit "performances," for the delight of a group of auditors within the poem's own world.

Interspersed through the dramatic action of As You Like It are musical interludes which clearly fall into this "recreative" category. Whether sung by Amiens, the two pert pages, or an anonymous lord, these songs are refreshing pauses in the play's progress. Each takes the pastoral landscape itself as its subject, whether to praise it directly ("Under the greenwood tree") or to employ its details metaphorically, as in the contrast between certain of its features and the norms of "civilized" behavior ("Blow, blow, thou winter wind"). Such songs translate both the rough and the smooth facts of their environment into what Amiens refers to as "so quiet and so sweet a style." And in the very act of doing so they serve as extended metaphors for the traditional pastoral experience itself.

Even in the songs, however, Shakespeare does not let us immerse ourselves in the pastoral dream. As always in As You Like It, celebration must coexist with irony, so that Jaques can taunt the naive optimism of "Under the greenwood tree" with a "verse" of his own, and even the sweetness and delicacy of that most beautiful of all pastoral lyrics, "It was a lover and his lass," are countered by the mockery of its auditor, Touchstone.11

Although in a graver mode, the masque of Hymen partakes of the recreative quality of the songs. Like Spenser's "Aprili" the masque stands in relation to the entire work as the perfect pastoral epiphany. It reveals the tendency of the whole form towards an idealized vision of that natural, human, and divine harmony which, embodied in the dance of the Graces, Calidore glimpses for a moment in Book VI of The Faerie Queene. Spenser would have understood Hymen's proclamation: "Then is there mirth in heaven, / When earthly things made even / Atone together" (V.iv.108-10). As Walter Davis says of this pastoral pattern, "The centre is always supernatural, usually either a shrine like the Cave of the Nymphs or the dwelling of a magician. It may be the actual dwelling place of the God."12 This point must be qualified, and in a way that fits neatly into the scheme of the present argument, by the fact that at the heart of such a supernatural event stands a simple mortal: the "fayre Elisa" of "Aprili," though "sprong … of heavenly grace," is the living English queen; the Graces in Book VI surround a "jolly shepheards lasse," the poet's Rosalinde; and Hymen, to the supernatural accompaniment of "still music," presents to her father and her lover the very human Rosalind.


Besides bearing the marks of E.K.'s categories, As You Like It manifests other links with conventional pastoral as exemplified by The Shepheardes Calender, links that may help to explain even a few of the more curious features of the play. One of the most striking aspects of Spenser's work, for example, is its author's repeated allusions to Chaucer. Dressing him in Lydgate's fine phrase as "the Loadestarre of our Language," E.K. notes that "our Colin clout" calls him "Tityrus the God of shepheards, comparing hym to the worthines of the Roman Tityrus Virgile," and in a "Glosse" even refers to Chaucer as "the God of Poetes for hys excellencie" (pp. 416, 443). Spenser himself admits that he, as Colin Clout, "of Tityrus his songs did 1ere" ("December," 1. 4).

This pastoral habit of invoking a famous poetic predecessor may explain an odd detail of As You Like It—the allusions both direct and oblique to Christopher Marlowe. For not only does Phoebe quote verbatim a well-known tag from Hero and Leander, but she also refers to its author as "Dead shepherd" (III.v.81-82). Implicit here is the suggestion that the dead Marlowe was the shepherds' poet-in-residence, while the words may also be taken as "an expression of pity for Marlowe's sad & untimely end."13 Marlowe's presence in the play may also confirm that, as many critics have claimed, an uncharacteristically grave remark of Touchstone's is in fact a reference to the poet's death: "When a man's verses cannot be understood, nor a man's good wit seconded with the forward child, understanding, it strikes a man more dead than a great reckoning in a little room."14 That such allusions occur right after a punning reference to "the most capricious poet" Ovid adds to this whole sequence a specific literary density perfectly appropriate to conventional pastoral. Spenser's invocations of Chaucer and Vergil, for example, establish a literary pedigree for himself as well as underlining the intensely literary nature of the pastoral form itself as it self-consciously incorporates the author's literary ancestors. The examples from As You Like It fit these requirements. Both Marlowe and Shakespeare were indelibly associated in the literary mind with Ovid. Marlowe had translated the Elegies, his Hero and Leander was "steeped in Ovidian memories of the Amores and the Heroides,"15 while, as Francis Meres put it, "the sweete wittie soule of Ovid lives in melliftuous and honey-tongued Shakespeare."16 With Marlowe as Shakespeare's "God of as Shakespeare's" bound to Ovid as Spenser's Chaucer is to Vergil, the dramatist creates for himself a distinctly respectable (if ironically shaded) literary pedigree. By doing this he exploits in his own way yet another of the most characteristic features of conventional pastoral.

For the above assertions to hold good, of course, the dramatist's self would have to appear under some poetic disguise in his own pastoral world, the poet's autobio-graphical presence under a shepherd's mask being an obligatory element of conventional pastoral. Tityrus is Vergil; Tirsi in Tasso's Aminta is a version of the poet himself; Phillisides and Astrophel both serve as pastoral alter egos of Sidney; and under the person of Spenser's Colin Clout, as E.K. tells us, "the Author selfe is shadowed" (p. 418). The presence in As You Like It, then, of a character who bears the author's own name must surely be understood as a bow towards this common element of the convention and not merely as a "mild theatrical in-joke."17 In tune with the mood of the play, however, this conventional feature, too, undergoes an ironic sea-change. Thus the incessantly loquacious poet-lover-shepherd of tradition has been transmogrified into William the silent, "a country fellow, in love with Audrey" as the dramatis personae tells us, whose name is consummately unpastoral, whose lengthiest utterance is all of seven small words long ("Ay, Sir, I have a pretty wit" [V.i.29]), and who accepts with (in conventional terms) unforgivable equanimity the loss of his lady. Although a very minor character, then, William is yet another example of how the dramatist can adapt the most recognizable (and hackneyed) features of conventional pastoral to his own more complex purposes.


A final indication of how Shakespeare turns Lodge's simple idyll into a rich compendium of the pastoral genre itself lies in the conversions to which he subjects his villains. Oliver's description of his transformation stresses its suddenness: '"Twas I; but 'tis not I. I do not shame / To tell you what I was, since my conversion / So sweetly tastes, being the thing I am" (IV.iii.135-37). Equally unprovided for is the entrance of the "Second Brother" with the news of Duke Frederick's spiritual metamorphosis. Pursuing his revenge, the Duke had come

To the skirts of this wild wood …
Where, meeting with an old religious man,
After some question with him, was converted
Both from his enterprise and from the world.

In both cases Shakespeare alters Lodge's narrative: Saladyne experiences his change of heart before he enters the forest, where he has come to seek forgiveness of his brother prior to a penitential pilgrimage to the Holy Land; Torismond, being "slaine in battaile," is granted no conversion at all.18 By calling attention to the seemingly miraculous conversions of his villains, therefore, Shakespeare is deliberately emphasizing the power of the pastoral landscape itself to effect marvellous transformations.19 In doing so he reveals the true nature of this pastoral world, a world whose green is gold, a protected environment that can absorb elements of the actual world and convert them into its own radiant and recreative fictions, translating the stubbornness of reality into the quiet, sweet style of visionary optimism.20

By incorporating so many aspects of the convention, and then by placing them in a context more complex and demanding than that of a normal pastoral, Shakespeare greatly extends and enriches the limited nature of his major source. But as the present argument has tried to show, As You Like It remains, for all its ironic highlights and extensions, pastoral in the fullest sense possible. In its most minute and apparently insignificant details as much as in its wonderfully worked out general design, the play bears brilliant witness to its author's capacious comprehension of the whole pastoral tradition. Most of all, perhaps, it demonstrates Shakespeare's ability to make practical use of the convention within which he had chosen to exercise, as he liked it, his genius.


1 See, for example, the essays in As You Like It: Twentieth Century Views, ed. Jay Halio (Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1968). Agnes Latham's introduction to her new Arden edition (London, 1975), however, is admirable for its patient scrutiny of and perceptive commentary upon the details; her scholarly elucidation of aspects of genre and character is indispensable to any serious study of AYL. In "As You Like It: Et in Arcadia Ego," Shakespeare Quarterly, 26 (1975), 269-75, Harry Morris also enriches our understanding of the play's conventional nature by discussing in a usefully specific way the presence in AYL of motifs from the pictorial pastoral tradition.

2 In two of the most recent substantial discussions of the play, for example, The Shepheardes Calender receives only scant, passing reference. See David Young, The Heart's Forest: A Study of Shakespeare's Pastoral Plays (New Haven and London, 1972), pp. 13, 73; and Rosalie L. Colie, Shakespeare's Living Art (Princeton, 1974), p. 246. For my argument to be valid, of course, it is not necessary to claim the Calender as a "source," merely as a useful point of departure for a study of the play's pastoral nature.

3 In The Poetical Works of Edmund Spenser, ed. J. C. Smith and E. de Selincourt (London, 1912), p. 419. Subsequent references in the text are to the same edition.

4 The edition used for textual refs. to AYL is The Riverside Shakespeare, ed. G. B. Evans (Boston, 1974).

5 On the question of "performance" see Thomas G. Rosenmayer's excellent study of the tradition, The Green Cabinet: Theocritus and the European Pastoral Lyric (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1969), pp. 119-21.

6 That such an incident is nowhere to be found in Lodge's Rosalynde may be taken as further evidence of how Shakespeare intensifies and comments upon the pastoral nature of his work.

7 Possibly Touchstone's remark that "the truest poetry is the most feigning" is a humourously barbed allusion to Sidney's famous discussion in his Defence of Poesie, his witty assertion that the poet "nothing affirmeth, and therefore never lieth," as well as his description of poetry as "faining notable images of vertues, vices, or what els." The Prose Works of Sir Philip Sidney, ed. Albert Feuillerat (Cambridge, 1962), III, 29, 11.

8 The more common way of understanding this is as a function of his melancholy or as proof of his being a portrait (or a caricature) of one or another contemporary satirist. See Latham, "Introduction," pp. xlvi-li, for a full discussion.

9 The attack that Milton's shepherd-poet launches against those "Blind mouths! that scarce themselves know how to hold / A Sheep-hook" is sufficient to show the bad priest as an integral element of the European pastoral tradition. For, as Thomas Rosenmayer says, such Renaissance pastoralists as Petrarch, Mantuan, Spenser, and Ben Jonson "paved the way for Milton's treatment of the church in 'Lycidas'" (The Green Cabinet, p. 211).

10 Latham's assertion that Jaques "can claim … to be most faithful to the pastoral ideal" can best be understood, it seems to me, if he is placed in the special category to which I am assigning him.

11 In its imagery and rhythm this song is the counter-part not only of Spenser's bouncy roundelay in "August" ("It fell upon a holly eve, / hey ho hollidaye"), but also of "Condon's song" ("A blyth and bonny country Lasse / heigh ho the bonny Lasse") in Lodge's Rosalynde.

12A Map of Arcadia, Sidney's Romance in Its Tradition (Yale, 1965), p. 35, quoted by Latham, p. lxxi. See also

13 The remark is Dyce's. See the New Variorum edition of AYL, ed. H. H. Furness (Philadelphia, 1890), p. 206.

14 III.iii.12-15. The best account of this is in Frederick S. Boas, Christopher Marlowe: A Biographical and Critical Study (Oxford, 1940). See especially, for a history of the assumption, p. 283n. Latham (pp.xxxiiixxxiv) agrees that "Marlowe was undoubtedly in Shakespeare's mind" when he wrote AYL, but is not convinced of the reference to his death, finding in it and the neighboring allusions to Ovid an echo of Chapman's Ovid's Banquet of Sense (1595). Neither argument can be proven conclusively, although my present discussion may tend to strengthen the arguments in favor of Marlowe.

15 Boas, p. 225.

16The Shakespeare Allusion Book (London, 1932), p. 46.

17 Latham, p. lxvii. She mentions the suggestion sometimes made that Shakespeare himself played this part. If he did, it gives even more point to my argument. In "William Shakespeare as William in As You Like It," Shakespeare Quarterly, 11 (1960), 228-31, William M. Jones speculates, perhaps over-ingeniously, on the likelihood that the part of William was played by the dramatist himself. Convincing or not, his argument gains piquancy, possibility, and formal relevance in the light of the present essay.

18 For Rosalynde, see Variorum AYL, pp. 358-60, 387. The subject of conversion is touched on by Latham, who refers it, however, to "the world of Shakespearian romance" (pp. lxx-lxxi).

19 It is for this reason that one of Samuel Johnson's few negative observations on AYL is groundless. Had Johnson been more in sympathy with the pastoral form itself, he could not have objected to the fact that "Shakespeare suppressed the dialogue between the usurper and the hermit, and lost an opportunity of exhibiting a moral lesson" (The Works of Samuel Johnson, LL.D., ed. Arthur Murphy, 12 vols. [London, 1806], II, 203-04), since in that very fact lies the required dramatic point about the benevolent nature of the pastoral landscape itself.

20 Cf. the tone and substance of some of Sidney's remarks in the Defence, which seem to point especially towards poetry that is in the deepest sense 'pastoral': e.g., "Nature never set foorth the earth in so rich Tapistry as diverse Poets have done, neither with so pleasaunt rivers, fruitfull trees, sweete smelling flowers, nor whatsoever els may make the too much loved earth more lovely: her world is brasen, the Poets only deliver a golden" (p. 8). AYL is both celebration of and ironic commentary upon such an idealistic stance.

Judy Z. Kronenfeld (essay date 1978)

SOURCE: "Social Rank and the Pastoral Ideals of As You Like It," in Shakespeare Quarterly, Vol. 29, No. 3, Summer, 1978, pp. 332-48.

[In the following essay, Kronenfeld argues that As You Like It, rather than reaffirming the correctness of social hierarchiesas is typical among pastoralspresents a complex examination of the virtues of the high and the low in society.]

Ever since William Empson suggested that the "old pastoral … was felt to imply a beautiful relation between rich and poor," there has been interest in pastoral as a kind of social myth.1 But if pastoral "reinforces illusions of class harmony" and thus assuages "the anxiety and guilt of the dominant classes," as some critics have suggested,2 it becomes a deliberately promulgated, self-consciously "false vision,"3 "a specious, self-interested distortion of the truth."4

Such a view is irrelevant or simply wrong to most students of the pastoral, who might be supposed as saying, with Sydney: "the [pastoral] poet nothing affirmeth, therefore he never lieth." They deny that a symbol of a state of mind, "an imaginary alternative" is meaningful which can standards only,"5 is meaningful only to a hypocritical "dominant class." They remind us that even if the imagined world of shepherd pastime is the courtier's, insofar as he acts the poet or the lover or the man of contemplation, the shepherd's social rank is of little significant concern.

But even if no literature, including pastoral, mirrors "reality" in any simple way, it is surely an error to assume that imaginative aims and achievements necessarily preclude social content or reference. Some pastoral does indeed portray or long nostalgically for "idyllic, feudal, patriarchal relations"6 when "service sweat for duty, not for meed."7 Through its appropriation of the topos of the Golden Age, moreover, pastoral may encompass the dream of economic and social justice. From Vergil's time on, pastoral has manifested an awareness of the ways in which economic and political realities (dispossession for a Meliboeus, wage-labor and a "churlish" master for a Corin) impinge on spiritual or social possibilities. To assume that writers of pastoral were totally oblivious of the social implications of the worlds they constructed, therefore, seems as mistaken as to assume that such social visions, where they exist, are simply self-serving creations of the rich or powerful.

The pastoral view of the social order may be essentially aristocratic, and its view of justice may be that justice is an "aristocratic obligation."8 But it is important to observe, on the other hand, that the holders of non-democratic and non-economic views of social problems and solutions are not necessarily without genuine concern to "reconcile conflict between the parts of … society."9 Sidney, thinking of Vergil, seems to have felt that the pastoral was indeed concerned with making moral sense of the relationship of the high and the low.

Is the poor pipe disdained, which sometimes out of Meliboeus' mouth can show the misery of people under hard lords or ravening soldiers and again, by Tityrus, what blessedness is derived to them that lie lowest from the goodness of them that sit highest?10

The high and the low, the rich and the poor, may literally confront each other in those forms of pastoral in which the chivalric romance has combined with the eclogue to yield the pastoral romance plot of exile, sojourn in a pastoral place, and return to the court. "When court invades country, rank, however understressed, intrudes upon such egalitarian commutuality as countrymen enjoy, alters the condition in which, as the Golden Age myth has it, social class was irrelevant… . "11 When courtiers playing shepherds or literary nymphs rub shoulders with more homespun countrymen, it is not necessarily only a countering of "imagination" by "reality" that we observe.12 In such literary situations, we often see how pastoral works out its social vision, how it "attempts to reconcile conflict between the parts of … society." According to Humphrey Tonkin, this is indeed what happens, for example, in the Pastorella episode of The Faerie Queene, Book VI:

pastoral's] workings suggest that the natural world itself approves and reinforces the social hierarchy: for all that it may look otherwise, the social system is rooted in natural laws. The anxieties and doubts of its readers are mirrored in the structure of romance, but then dispelled. Disguises, sexual confusions, a distinct air of revolution in the hobnobbing of aristocrat and peasant—these resolve themselves as if by miracle into a conclusion which restates the social order.13

If literature "is a social process, and also an attempt to reconcile the conflicts of an individual in whom those of society will be mirrored,"14 pastoral would seem to be fundamentally related, not only to the relationship between the high and the low, but to a tension between the values associated most strongly with the lowly and plain Christian (content, humility, dependence on God) and the values associated with rank and privilege, arts and eloquence, "nobility, magnificence, splendor, and majesty."15 The tension between the egalitarianism of primitive Christianity and the hierarchical thinking of later Christianity and Tudor propaganda was not totally put to rest by the "Elizabethan world picture."16 And the figure of the shepherd, so rich in its connotations, was ideally suited to deal with such tensions, because it could contain opposed meanings. As a figure of leisure, the shepherd may indeed be a gentleman, for whoever "professeth liberali sciences and … who can live idly and without manuali labour, and will beare the port, charge and countenaunce of a gentleman … shall be taken for a gentleman… . "17 Or, the shepherd's idleness may be of quite a different sort: "The wisdom of a learned man cometh by opportunity of leisure: and he that hath little business shall become wise" (Ecclesiasticus xxxvii. 24). He may be as unbusy as the lilies of the field, relying, like the good shepherd Abel and like Spenser's Melibee, on God's providence alone.

I would like to consider As You Like It18 in the context of pastoral's potential for reconciling the different parts of society and the values associated with them. I shall argue that Shakespeare treats, if gently and obliquely, a number of the tensions that separate the high and the low, the Christian and the courtly. In doing so, I think, he calls the pastoral idealizations of these relationships into question. The pressure he puts on the ideal visions, however, if corrective, is positively so. It ultimately serves to revitalize and reaf-firm the pastoral vision of charitable relations among humans.


Although not precisely a noble shepherd (more a noble forester), Shakespeare's Duke seems to have learned the pastoral truth that "it is the mind that maketh good or ill"; he appears to have found "the paradise within." Addressing himself to his "co-mates and brothers in exile" (II. i. 1), he celebrates a rather penitential landscape. The equality and kinship felt here are possible because in the pastoral world men are made mindful of their basic kinship as Christians: they are all children of Adam and all fallen, all exiled from that first paradise.

The winter's wind tells the Duke that he is what others are: mere mortal flesh. And he appears happy for the knowledge. The Duke's behavior springs from Christian fellowship and charity; he is a civilized Robin Hood to the distressed Orlando and Adam and, later, to the wounded Oliver. Although he has been bereft of his dukedom by "stubborn Fortune," he shows the strength of his Nature; he appears to pass the test that pastoral romance is ideally suited to make of its noble heroes who turn shepherd or forester.

So that if we will effectually comprehend the true essence of man, and with a right eie consider his qualities, he should cast off all his habilitie, deprive himselfe of honour, forsake the goodes of fortune, lay aside his costly apparel, and so we ought to behold naked, not his body, but his mind.… 19

Whether raised "rustically" (I. i. 7) like Orlando, like Guiderius and Arviragus, and like Perdita, or subjected to rusticity, characters such as Duke Senior, essentially of the "royal foundling" type, have the best of Nature, but without the corruptions of Nurture. They thus imply the recognition that courtliness can be vicious at the same time that they reaffirm the idea of true blood nobility by suggesting that mere environment cannot produce it. Such characters address the courtesy book question about the nature of true nobility by presenting an ideal mixture of Christian virtue and noble rank.

A passage from the second book of The Courtier is, I think, worth quoting here, because it shows how self-conscious Renaissance writers could be about such strategies. The passage suggests that rusticity and equivalent masquerades were, at least on occasion, pretenses made to be seen through.

[T]here is no better way of showing oneself in such things, at public spectacles … because masquerading carries with it a certain freedom and license, which … enables one to choose the role in which he feels most able, and to bring diligence and a care for elegance into that principal aim, and to show a certain nonchalance in what does not matter: all of which adds much charm; as for a youth to dress like an old man, yet in a loose attire so as to be able to show his vigor; or for a cavalier to dress as a rustic shepherd, but astride a perfect horse and gracefully attired in character; the bystanders … realizing that there is much more than was promised by the costume … are delighted and amused… . If on such occasions the prince puts off his identity as prince, and mingles with his inferiors as an equal (yet so that he can be recognized), then in rejecting his own, he attains to a higher greatness, which is to seek to surpass others not by authority but by ability, and to show that his own worth is not the greater merely because he is a prince.20

When the wife of King René of Anjou appeared as a shepherdess in a fifteenth-century French tournament, she rode an elaborately caparisoned palfrey and carried a crook with silver metalwork.21 In the Arcadia, Sidney describes a joust involving men "apparalled like shepherds, for the fashion." The contender has "furniture … drest over with wooll, so enriched with Jewels artificially placed, that one would have thought it a mariage between the lowest and highest."22 Henry VIII's royally rustic Mayings (for which he sometimes dressed all in green velvet) would also appear to have striven for such a symbolic marriage between humility and pomp, spareness and plenty, the low and the high. During one such occasion, Henry was invited by Robin Hood and his company of yeomen (all his own guard, of course) to see how they lived in the green wood. "Then said Robyn hood, Sir Outlawes brekefaste is venyson, and therefore you must be content with such fare as we use."23 Such games appear to have been imitations of a kindly but elegant relationship between royalty and the people, paralleled later by Elizabeth's relations with her humbler subjects, such as the Cotswold shepherds, in her Progresses. Such entertainments show that majesty has ears for the words of simplicity. Yet one would have been made very much aware of the gap as well as of the effort to close it, just as one is made aware, in the description of entertainments that Castiglione's Frederico gives, that the prince can dress as a rustic precisely because he is not one.

Shakespeare does present the Duke as a model of pastoral virtue; at the same time, however, he under-scores those aspects of the Duke's behavior that suggest a performance, a pastoral masquerade. Amiens' comment on the Duke's sentiments (I. iii. 18-20) hovers between genuine delight that the Duke can derive pleasure from a forced situation and an ironic recognition that the pleasure may be forced, that the Duke has indeed transformed ("translated") reality in the process of moralizing his situation. There is just enough of a note of bombast, of moral self-congratulation in the Duke's speech to make us think he may be compensating for felt discomforts, enjoying his own ability to celebrate a moral tonic somewhat more than he enjoys the tonic itself. Amiens is one of the "loving lords" (I. i. 101) who has left his "wealth and ease" (II. v. 52), but his "I would not change it" (II. i. 18) sounds a little like the indulgence of a kindly parent and marks his detachment from the Duke's vision and enthusiasm. The Duke has replaced the false flattering counselors of the court with the counselors of physical pain and adversity, but he still has his courtiers, who, unlike the wind, are not completely free of the need to flatter, or at least to compliment, his vision. Even among "co-mates and brothers," after all, there are vassals and lords. And it is some-what easier to present a "show / of smooth civility" (II. vii. 95-96) when one is not quite on "the thorny point / Of bare distress" (II. 94-95).

When the Duke permits himself to utter some anti-hunting sentiments upon which he does not quite intend to act (II. i. 21-25), the hint of bombast in the "uses of adversity" speech begins to sound a bit more clearly. The theme of the hunter's usurpation is entertaining matter for the Duke, perhaps a subject for intellectual debate. The far more sentimentalizing Jaques has been expatiating on it in a "sullen fit" (II. i. 68), and the Duke looks forward to an encounter with him. Outside a specifically pastoral setting, hunting is a way to turn a noble's "banishment" into holiday "liberty" (I. iii. 138). For this reason, the Duke's remarks about hunting, seen in a specifically pastoral context, seem to point to a discrepancy between the social idealism of pastoral (which opposes hunting) and the reality of privilege (which licenses it). It is true that Robin Hood, the hunter who champions the poor, becomes a pastoral figure in Renaissance literature, but his hunting is surely in part a matter of denying noble privilege. In Arden hunting seems not clearly a necessity (in which case it might be excused), for fruit and wine are apparently available (II. vi. 98; II. v. 32). So it seems quite likely that Shakespeare is mildly questioning the Duke's position. And if this genuine questioning is muted by the self-indulgent sentimentality of Jaques' anti-hunting sentiments,24 it is still important to remember that hunting is a specifically non-pastoral activity—the prototype of the exploitation of man by man and of war, and unknown in the vegetarian and communal Golden Age. As Arthur Golding phrased it in his influential translation of Ovid,

              The lavas earth dooth yeeld
  you plentiously
Most gentle foode, and riches too content
  bothe mynd and eye.
There needes no slaughter nor no blood too
  get your living by.

The nature of the beast that dooth delyght in
  bloody foode,
Is cruell and unmercifull.
              Oh what a wickednesse
It is to cram the mawe with mawe, and frank
  up flesh with flesh,
And for one living thing too live by killing of

                as if thou could not stawnche
The hunger of thy greedye gut and evil
  mannerd pawnche,
Onlesse thou stroyd sum other wyght. But that
  same auncient age
Which wee have named the golden world,
  cleene voyd of all such rage,
Livd blessedly by frute of trees and herbes
  that grow on ground,
And stayned not their mouthes with blood.25

Thus the Duke enters into an exploitative relation with the forest—a relation to which our attention is called—by engaging in the specifically noble leisure-time sport of hunting, which is traditionally opposed to the peaceful activities of shepherds who live in harmony with nature.26


One would pay less attention to such subtle qualifications of the Duke's pastoral virtue were it not that Shakespeare also underlines the discrepancy between the pastoral virtues of the high and the low.

Although Celia is an excellent example of pastoral virtue in leaving her wealth and ease for love of Rosalind, and although the cousins, in good pastoral fashion, will "mock the good housewife Fortune from her wheel" (I. ii. 31-32), countering Fortune, who "reigns in the gifts of the world" (I. ii. 41), with Nature, they do of course take the "gifts of the world" with them to Arden. "Let's away, / And get our jewels and our wealth together" (I. iii. 133-34). This, in part, is Shakespeare's realism: Rosalind and Celia, like Orlando, expect a wood filled with vagabonds, not a hospitable court in exile. But there is more than realism involved here. Putting jewels in one's purse contrasts strongly with giving up one's purse, which, of course, is what the servant Adam does before departing for Arden. Nor does Adam's generosity stem from having nothing to lose; he knows that to want "money" and "means" (III. ii. 25) is indeed to be in difficult straits; for, as he says, "unregarded age" may be "in corners thrown" "when service should in [his] old limbs lie lame" (II. iii. 42-44). Whatever else they are, then, the "uses of adversity" and the fruits of winter are a matter of practice for the simple Adam, whose "age is as a lusty winter / Frosty, but kindly" (II. ii. 52-53).

Lacking the comforts of the hunt and of courtiers to set his table and seek out entertainment for him, Adam is unsurpassed as a model of pastoral virtue: he exemplifies that aspect of pastoral which comes closest to the evangelical. If the Duke's praise of the biting and blowing winter's wind puts us in mind of our common condition as fallen men, suffering the penalty of Adam and in need of grace, Adam is quite literally an example of that condition. Concerned with dying well (II. iii. 76), he will win the way to heaven by "deeds of hospitality" (II. iv. 82). He is the good shepherd whose condition approaches that of the lilies of the field. For, like Spenser's Melibee (whose little "growes dayly more / Without [his] care"27), he discards all material helps and relies solely on God's providence:

         He that doth the ravens feed,
Yea, providently caters for the sparrow,
Be comfort to my age!
                               (II. iii. 43-45)

As such he contrasts with our noble shepherd the Duke, whose peace of mind is somewhat less convincing and whose ease is at least in some measure the result of his gentlemanly status, even in exile. "The constant service of the antique world" that Adam exemplifies is well repaid by Orlando, who carries Adam on his shoulders as Aeneas carried his father Anchises on the way to the founding of a new society.28 Orlando's support of his servant is also a somewhat clearer image of pastoral humility—and nobility—than the Duke's sententious celebration of equality in the wind and rough weather of Arden before an admiring audience.


As You Like It should be considered in the context of those English pastoral works that juxtapose the high and the low, masters and servants, rich and poor, court and country—with the result that the shepherd can no longer be simply a metaphor for the poet-lover, or for alternative kinds of experience, but must be placed within a social hierarchy. Such hierarchies frequently have three levels. Aristocratic shepherds come from the world of chivalric romance. Literary classless native Arcadians—poets and lovers such as Silvius and Phebe—come from the Italian pastoral drama and the eclogue tradition.29 And "actual" rustics come most immediately from English traditions of the honest countryman Edwin Greenlaw or his comic counterpart, the country clown.30 Edwin Greenlaw long ago remarked on the presence such bumbling shepherds in an article31 on the structural affinities of the pastoral plots of Daphnis and Chloe, Sidney's Arcadia, The Faerie Queene VI (and one might add Greene's Menaphon to his list). In varying ways in each of these works, the "hobnobbing of aristocrat and peasant" finally results in a restatement of the social order.

In Spenser, the validation of rank, the proof of the necessity of leadership, emerges, as it were, in spite of the fact of Calidore's attraction to and praise of Melibee's estate. Shepherds may sing "layes of sweete love and youthes delightful heat" (VI. ix. 4), or, like Melibee, songs of content, but they need to be protected from brigands and similar threats; and prayer is not enough. The bumpkin Coridon, comic counterpart of the honest countryman, balances, or should we say subverts, the praise of Melibee's mean and sure estate—reasserting the necessity of protection and rule by one's superiors. Coridon suffers from "cowherdize" (VI. x. 37) and thus can neither protect Pastorella from a tiger nor guard the pastoral place from the onslaughts of brigands. Thus the contentedness of pastoral inhabitants, even their ability to enjoy the spiritual satisfactions of limitation, becomes, as it were, a gift of noble duty. (This is very traditional and ancient: the poor may win merit for patience and humility because the rich and privileged take on the burden and potential corruptions of action.)

Somewhat similarly, in Sidney's Arcadia, the inappropriateness of pastoral retreat for nobles is indicated by the foolishness of the rustic clowns Dametas, Mopsa, and Miso. Ridiculous in love and war, Dametas is the comic foil for the princes Pyrocles and Musidorus. He hides in a bush while Musidorus kills a bear but emerges once it is dead to give it many a wound, very much as Falstaff might.

In Robert Greene's Menaphon, "style is the vehicle of the social distinctions which are … uniquely empha-sized… . The high style is emblematic of high estate, the low style of the lower classes."32 "Plaine Dorone, as plaine as a packstaffe" (who incidentally had a brother Moron who "died of a surfet"33) is in love with Carmela. They sing a burlesque eclogue, an absurd version of what W. Leonard Grant calls "pastoral cipher."34

Ah, Doron, ah my heart, thou art as white,
As is my mothers Calfe, or brinded Cow 

Thy lippes resemble two Cowcumbers faire,
Thy teeth like to the tuskes of fattest swine,
Thy speach is like the thunder in the aire
Would God thy toes, thy lips, and all were
                                  (11. 137-38)

Although the ecolgue, according to Greene, bespeaks a time "when a ring of a rush would tye as much Love together as a Gimmon of golde" (140), it shows what results when pastoral decorum is carried to a laughable extreme. (A similarly absurd poem is attributed to Dametas in Sidney.35) Greene's attitude toward these "Countrey lovers" (139) is far more mocking than Shakespeare's attitude toward his rude mechanicals, who speak in a somewhat similar, if slightly more lyric, vein in A Midsummer Night's Dream:

       These lily lips,
This cherry nose,
These yellow cowslip cheeks,
Are gone, are gone!
Lovers make moan;
His eyes were green as leeks.
                               (V. i. 330-35)

In Longus' pastoral romance, Daphnis and Chloe, the hero and heroine are aristocratic shepherds, but they are brought up unaware of this fact in the country. They behave like peasants, albeit charming ones, "noticeably Daphnis better looking than ordinary country people."36 Daphnis cares for real sheep, kissing them and swearing by them, and as a result he may smell of them, too. In Angel Day's Elizabethan version of Longus' romance, however, imitated from the French of Jaques Amyot (who seems to be fairly faithful to the original37), many opportunities are taken to emphasize the qualitative difference between Daphnis and Chloe (who are innately noble, refined, and virtuous) and their country companions. In particular, Day, building on some suggestions in Amyot, and to a lesser extent in Longus, and creating his own material where there is a hiatus in the manuscript Amyot used,38 does much to create a noble/bumpkin dichotomy, contrasting the shepherd Daphnis and the cowherd Dorcon, his rival in love for Chloe. Although a somewhat brutish character in Longus, Dorcon is not really outranked socially by Daphnis there. In Day, however, Dorcon is consistently referred to as a "clown" and a base profit-seeker, "with a covetous regard of profit and husband-like desire," who cannot really love in a refined Neoplatonic, manner.39

In As You Like It the confrontation of highborn aristocratic shepherds and lowly countrymen transcends both courtly idealization (as with Melibee) and courtly mockery (as with Coridon, Dametas, Doron and Carmela, and Dorcon) of the country life. The conventions of ideal pastoral hospitality and, ultimately, the myth of those "idyllic, patriarchal, feudal relationships" that pastoral may assert are both qualified and revitalized. The pattern in Spenser is a common one: the wandering noble is greeted by a most polite Arcadian host and immediately given the hospitality of meager, but sweet because simple, food and lodging. Thomas Lodge's eloquent shepherd host immediately offers his poor shepherd's cottage as housing and goes on to extol pastoral content: "and for a shepheard's life (oh Mistresse) did you but live a while in their content, you would saye the Court were rather a place of sorrowe, than of solace… . Care cannot harbour in our cottages… ." The fact that the sheepcote is going to be put up for sale is merely a fortunate accident, revealed after Coridon has offered his cottage, that allows Aliena to carry out her wish to "live low, and content me with a countrey life."40 And in Spenser, as we have seen, the "blessedness derived to them that lie lowest from the goodness of them that sit highest" is, by implication, protection, in return for which the ideal member of the mean and sure estate rests content with his place and offers the simple hospitality he can.


In As You Like It, the parts are not played in accordance with either of these scripts. First, Celia and Rosalind do not count on the convention of pastoral hospitality. Celia immediately suggests that gold be offered for food, though Corin's apparent gentleness, if not courtly eloquence, causes Rosalind to add "love" (II. iv. 71) when she makes the request. Second, what in Lodge appears to be merely a fortunate accident is in Shakespeare the point, an economic one. Corin insists that he is in no position to offer hospitality, for he is "shepherd to another man" (II. iv. 78) whose sheepcote, now on sale, contains nothing for the nobles to "feed on" (II. iv. 86). We are deliberately confronted with a day-laborer who does not have the glamour or the self-sufficiency of the herd-owning shepherd, who may even be a villein who goes along with the sheepcote and flock to its new owner. (An allusion to the difficulties caused by enclosures is hard to miss here;41 whatever their actual extent, enclosures were a potent symbol of the absence of idyllic, patriarchal, feudal relations.) It is as if Shakespeare had asked himself how it could be that Melibee, whether a hired hand or an impoverished herd-owner, could both offer hospitality to nobles and spurn their gold! Mutual benefits require a certain minimum standard unobtainable if masters are "churls" and relations with them far from familial or idyllic. Clearly, the "noble shepherds" in Shakespeare's play must immediately become owners and Corin their new servant. And Corin knows that owners are interested in the economic facts: "If you like … / The soil, the profit, and this kind of life …" (II. iv. 97-98). Patronage and service are now restored and both parts of society are happy again; the patron now has a livelihood to dispense and the servant an appropriate object for his service.

If this constitutes almost an "unmasking" of pastoral,42 however, it is noting that shakespeare does not finally reject its conventions and vision but revitalizes them, especially as regards the charitableness of the lowly. His Corin is not nearly as rough and gross as the plucky Corin of Clyomon and Clamades, who describes the "leisure" of actual shepherds in what appears a most ironic way ("But tis a world to zee what mery lives we Shepheards lead, / Why where Gentlemen and we get once a thorne bush over our head"), and who says that nobles who request hospitality do nothing more than travel "up and downe the country, thus to flout poore men."43 His own dispossessed situation is genuinely distressing to Shakespeare's Corin, and not, as in Lodge, merely a matter of convenience for the nobles. Yet even in this situation Corin pities the "young maid with travel much oppress'd … for her sake more than for [his] own" and wishes that his "fortunes were more able to relieve her" (II. iv. 74, 76, 77). He virtually offers them nothing he has.

Shakespeare first defines the situation as unconventional, then finds within it the conventional virtues, thus revitalizing the idea of pastoral charity, of that "sacred pity" (II. vi. 123) that binds men together in a gentle community. But perhaps "the golden age of hospitality" endures longer in servants than in masters. Although it is often the humbler character who is accused of covetousness or baser desires (e.g., Dorcon in Day's Daphnis and Chloe), here the masters are the "churls" and the servants, once again, most hospitable. Churlishness, then, is not necessarily a matter of rank; a master who "little recks to find the way to heaven / By doing deeds of hospitality" (II. iv. 81-82) may well deserve the epithet.

Corin himself transcends the idealizing and the mocking stereotypes of the country. He is polite, but not eloquent or gently mannered like the traditional shepherd host (what Lodge's Corin attempts to be and what Melibee is). He may not complain unduly about his estate, but neither is he going to exult over the pleasures of penury, as Lodge's shepherd does, in his traditional role as praiser of the mean and sure. Corin is simple and straightforward, but not grossly clownish, as Lodge's Corin is when he is not being eloquent, and as are his namesakes: the Corin of Clyomon and the Coridon of Spenser's Faerie Queene.


As we have seen, in a significant number of pastoral romance plots, there is a juxtaposition of, or an actual confrontation between, aristocratic shepherd and clownish countryman—as, for example, Calidore vs. Coridon, Melicertus vs. Doron. Shakespeare re-focuses the tension between gentleman and clown, court and country, in the figures of Touchstone and Corin. The usual contrast between real gentlemen pretending to be shepherds and the burlesque version of the countryman, which tends to reaffirm the social hierarchy, here becomes a contrast between the pretended gentleman and the real shepherd—a contrast not disadvantageous to the real shepherd. Although he can make fun of the courtier's role on occasion (V. iv. 43 ff.), Touchstone plays it snobbishly and scornfully here; he appears to try to raise his own status by forcing his very marginal "inferiors" into a considerably lower position than they actually merit.44 His scorn for a respectable if simple countryman contrasts with Calidore's attitude of noblesse oblige toward a truly ineffectual countryman. In court, Touchstone is the "roynish clown" or the "clown-ish fool" (I. iii. 13). Yet, as soon as he enters Arden he behaves as Corin in Clyomon says gentlemen behave toward poor men: he will "be flouting" (V. i. 12), enjoying the opportunity to call the first countryman he encounters a peasant: "Holla, you clown!" (II. iv. 66). While Rosalind's admonition, "Peace, fool; he's not thy kinsman" (1. 67), puns on clown, meaning court fool, it also inevitably applies the meaning Touchstone had intended for Corin to himself: "he's not a lout like you." But Touchstone is not silenced, for he answers Corin's "Who calls" with "Your betters, sir" (1. 68), adding the "sir" in a mockery of good grace, suggesting that he speaks not only for the nobles, but with them.

In giving Touchstone so transparent a game of social oneupsmanship to play, Shakespeare implies that the claims of some "nobles" to status are based merely upon such words of condescension. But if the gentleman must be distinguished from the countryman, even in Arcadia, it should be by the way he fulfills his part of the feudal contract—dealing nobly, not basely, with the limitations of the lowborn, with whom, after all, he need not compete! Touchstone's scornful "flouting" suggests failings in his courtly models. Orlando, by contrast, illustrates, in his treatment of Adam, the support that proper gentlefolk should offer those beneath them. By dealing obliquely rather than directly with the relations or tensions between high and low, gentleman and countryman, Shakespeare can reveal where and perhaps why some gentlemen's attitudes miss the truth without implicating gentlemen per se. The confrontation issues, not in the more usual reaffirmation of courtly superiority over country cloddishness, but in a reaffirmation, by implication, of what relationships between the high and the low should properly be like.

The debate between Corin and Touchstone is, then, an interesting version of the pastoral confrontation between high style and low, complexity and simplicity, as well as a variant on the debate between town and country values—as seen in Alexander Barclay's eclogues (e.g., the sixth), Anthony of Guevera's A Dispraise of the Life of a Courtier, and a commendation of the life of the labouring Man (1548; trans. Francis Briant), and such tracts as Nicholas Breton's The Court and the Country, or, A Briefe Discourse between the Courtier and Country-man (1618). It is also an amusing inversion of the "civil conversation" between high and low recommended in sixteenth-century "books for good manners" (V. iv. 95), such as Guazzo's.

In response to Corin's question, "And how like you this shepherd's life, Master Touchstone?" (III. ii. 11-12), Touchstone, of course, replies with his tour de force: "Truly, shepherd, in respect of it self it is a good life; but in respect that it is a shepherd's life, it is naught" (13-15 ff.). Touchstone's use of the pattern of thesis and antithesis indicates Shakespeare's awareness that pastoral attempts to reconcile the high and the low, to combine the best of two possible worlds (the best of the life of plenty, at the court, and of the life of spareness, the mean and sure estate, in the country).45 But, in the dramatic context, Touchstone's speech emerges as a wordy nothing, pure tautology, court sophistry; he undoubtedly hopes that its overpowering tone will carry the message and obscure the fact that there is no content. Corin's turn at philosophy results in a low-style list of banal-sounding sententiae, undoubtedly funny. Yet, while Touchstone's talk is meant to sound impressive to country ears and yet say nothing at all, Corin's country simplicities do say something. Corin announces some of the simple facts that characters re-acquaint themselves with in Arden. "The property of rain is to wet, and fire to burn" (III. ii. 26-27) is reminiscent of the Duke's re-acquaintance with the elemental conditions of human life, the "penalty of Adam … the season's difference" (II. i. 5-6).

Were the conversation between Touchstone and Corin a courtesy-book model, it would perhaps do what pastoral attempts to do: pay homage to the Christian virtues of humility and content and to the Christian concept of the brotherhood of all men, while at the same time asserting the existence of a social hierarchy. The writers of Renaissance courtesy books did feel the weight of the "old egalitarian taunt 'When Adam dolf and Eve span, / Who was then the gentleman?'"46 Thus, according to Guazzo, it is

hatefull and hurtfull … for a brave gentleman to mocke and scorne a simple soule of the country… . [L]et him remember that Gentlemen were admonished by Christ that they should not be puft up with vain glorie, for so much as they ought to say with the common sort (Our father which art in heaven) which they can not say with a pure and unfaigned heart, if they take not yeomen and poore men for their brothers… .

This does not mean, however, that all brothers are equal.

Nowe touching the unnoble or yeomen, they must not for all this, thinke them selves without imperfection, for many of them have an infirmitie more greevous and pernicious than any before rehearsed: which is, that they will not acknowledge and confesse themselves inferiour to Gentlemen, both by nature, fortune, and vertue: not knowing that amongst the seven degrees of superioritie, this is particularly set downe of Gentlemen over the baser sorte, who by all reason ought to submitte themselves to their will and pleasure.47

Touchstone does indeed mock and scorn, not going "by the book" (V. iv. 90), and Corin, in his own way, refuses to confess himself inferior. Touchstone starts out quite typically by advancing the court as the model of manners and morals—as do those Renaissance books for good manners that take the courtier, pursuing honor via arms, the law, or learning, as the model, as contrasted with the countryman, often portrayed as pursuing mere wealth. In response, Corin, somewhat like Breton's countryman,48 avows that staple of a society of "estates": "Those that are good manners in the court are ridiculous in the country" (III. ii. 45-46).

This entirely traditional cultural relativism is in fact what protects Corin from Touchstone's assaults. The simple and pragmatic Corin is unashamed to avow the most unglamourous of facts: for example, the hireling shepherd has greasy hands, and kissing them "would be uncleanly" (III. ii. 50). Because Corin does not accept Touchstone's verdict that he is "damned" for not having been to court, Touchstone is forced to change horses in mid-stream, which he unabashedly does. Having attempted to prove the court most moral, he now attempts to delude Corin by arguing that the court is, in fact, more base or perverse than the country. Indeed, he says, the civet which perfumes courtly hands that never touch labor of any sort is filthier than tar, being "the very uncleanly flux of a cat" (1. 68). The very act of perfuming hands to beautify them soils them more deeply. Now Touchstone is taking the usual position of the exponent of the country, arguing that court manners are the more perverse. (In Breton's tract, courtier and countryman each try to accuse the other of having the filthier habit, eating garlic and using tobacco respectively.) For all his pretensions of superiority, Touchstone now suggests the common humanity of court and country: "Why, do not your courtier's hands sweat?" (1. 55).

While clowns such as Doron and Carmela (in Greene) and Coridon (in Spenser) are presented as failures at the high style or in noble activity, Corin's very lack of compliance in a game of rivalry defeats Touchstone—even when the latter uses an egalitarian sentiment in an effort to be superior! Having forced Touchstone into a ridiculous and untenable position, Corin now refuses to play the game. Insulted for being "raw," however, he does feel a bit of pique: "Sir, I am a true labourer" (1. 73). He enjoys the spectacle of increase in his flocks. Touchstone, unable to resist the opportunity to impugn the innocence of God's preferred, the shepherd—that "most innocent" of persons, as the characterist John Stephens has it49—returns rather desperately but ineffectually to the original premise of the argument: that the country is more wicked, that Corin sins in bringing "the ewes and the rams together" and in getting his living "by the copulation of cattle …" (11. 79-80). In pretending, preposterously, that "a she-lamb of a twelvemonth" (11. 81-82) can be "betrayed," Touchstone betrays himself, for of all the "country copulatives" (V. iv. 55-56), he is most like the "crooked-pated, old, cuckoldy ram" (1. 82) he describes. Even if Touchstone's role in the play is the salutary one of emphasizing the animal component in all human love that is "mortal in folly," he overdoes it here. He treats Corin as if he were another kind of being, not merely one who is lower in rank. Corin, mean-while, has the wisdom the "noble" should have; he is wise enough to avoid trying to compete. This shepherd's content, then, is not the courtier's dream of content, nor is it content based merely on a recognition that it is best to accept limitation in return for not having to risk danger. It is the self-acceptance of an entirely separate and very English caste which would say that "comparisons are odious."


Courtly and clownish lovers are not explicitly contrasted in As You Like It, because all nature in love is mortal in folly50 (unless Touchstone qualifies as country clown!). But the relation between William and Touchstone is almost a parody of such a contrast—as for example, between Doron and Melicertus, or between Coridon and Calidore. In courting Audrey, Touchstone assumes the role of the knight attempting to win a country maid. But while the social distance between the knight and the shepherdess in pastourelle is very great, in Touchstone's case the courtship becomes parody, for he only pretends to a great difference in rank. One of the frequent themes of pastourelle is the "baffling" of the knight by the country maid who prefers her country "Robin" and her country cates: "J'aime mieux mon fromages gras et mon pain et mes bonnes pommes que votre oiseau avec ses plumes."51 But Audrey, who desires nothing more than woman of the world" (V. iii. 4-5), has undoubtedly decided that Touchstone is the better match, and so disavows her country lover William: "he hath no interest in me in the world" (V. i. 8-9).

William seems to be a true country clown. Yet, at the same time, he is a counter to all pastoral stereotypes, even to such bumpkins as Doron and Carmela. They are amusing, as Greene says, because their "country comparisons" are limited (Menaphon, 1. 139); it is their imitation of courtly wooing in country style that allows noble condescension. William, on the other hand, is completely insensitive; he cannot be mocked as an unsuccessful imitator of high culture because he is unaware that he has been presented with superior skills, unaware, perhaps, that anything significant for him has even transpired. Having been duly bastinado'd by Touchstone's rhetoric, he departs with "God rest you merry, sir" (V. i. 59). In spite of Touchstone's condescending translations into the "vulgar" (1. 48), his abundant proof of his ability at the rhetorical skills of amplification and variation, and his "killing" William "a hundred and fifty ways" (1. 57) with tautologies, Touchstone is unable to penetrate William's dullness. In ridiculing William, Touchstone runs at an open door with a battering ram. This second confrontation between pretended gentleman and clown suggests once again, then, that real countrymen have not been designed to flatter the egos of their superiors.


As You Like It is unusual in the context of those pastoral works that involve an actual confrontation between the high and the low. Most such works reaffirm social hierarchy by giving the noble shepherd an apparent monopoly of virtue, suggesting that he does in fact combine the best of both possible worlds. In As You Like It, the Duke's sentimental attitudes and available comforts may not ultimately detract from his charity, but if he, Celia, and the "loving lords" are to be regarded as examples of pastoral virtue, of Christian benevolence and love, Adam and Corin are possibly to be seen as even better examples. The connection between baseness and nobility of spirit and baseness and nobility of rank is very much qualified. It is unusual to praise the lowly for their Christian virtues in a context in which the virtues of the wellborn are qualified, if ever so slightly. But of course, the lowly are not uniformly wise, kindly, or honest either. The idealistic view of the mean and sure estate is qualified by Audrey's status-seeking and corruptibility. And William is a dolt. This mixture of types in all classes—and the rich complexity of their juxtaposition—distinguishes As You Like It from those pastoral works that exhibit noble shepherds and bumbling clowns in a more formulaic way.

Pastoral Shakespeare, with is concerned with reformation, not revolution.53 Shakespeare, working within the tradition, does not really "unmask" pastoral; he merely puts pressure on its social vision in order to revivify it. Ultimately, Orlando is a noble shepherd combining the best of both possible worlds—particularly by contrast with Touchstone, the gentleman manqué, and, more subtly perhaps, by contrast with the Duke. Noble status must be justified both by noble deeds and by noble attitudes. Shakespeare's pastoral world, then, is one in which, instead of celebrating the virtues of the highborn, the playwright reaffirms what those virtues consist of. Indeed, Shakespeare seems to suggest that those "idyllic, patriarchal, feudal" relations must sometimes be restored—or even created—before they can be celebrated.


1Some Versions of Pastoral (Norfolk, Conn.: New Directions, 1960), p. 11. See, for example, Laurence Lerner, The Uses of Nostalgia: Studies in Pastoral Poetry (London: Chatto and Windus, 1972); Raymond Williams, The Country and the City (London: Chatto and Windus, 1973); Humphrey Tonkin, Spenser's Courteous Pastoral: Book VI of The Faerie Queene (Oxford: Clarendon, 1972), esp. p. 115, pp. 290 ff.; Renato Poggioli, "Naboth's Vineyard or the Pastoral View of the Social Order," Journal of the History of Ideas, 24, (1963), 3-24; A. J. Sambrook, "The English Lord and the Happy Husbandman," Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century, 57 (1957), 1357-75; Nancy Jo Hoffman, Spenser's Pastorals (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1977), esp. pp. ixxi, 1-8; Leo Marx, "Susan Sontag's 'New Left' Pastoral: Notes on Revolutionary Pastoralism in America," Literature in Revolution, TriQuarterly, 23/ 24 (Winter-Spring, 1972), 552-75; John Seelye, "Some Green Thoughts on a Green Theme," TriQuarterly, 23/24 (Winter-Spring, 1972), 576-638; Harold Toliver, Pastoral Forms and Attitudes, esp. Ch. II, "Pastoral Hierarchy and Entelechy" (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1971); A Book of English Pastoral Verse, ed. John Barrell and John Bull (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1975), Intro.; Richard Feingold, Nature and Society: Later Eighteenth Century Uses of the Pastoral and Georgie (New Brunswick, N. J.: Rutgers Univ. Press, 1978).

2 Leo Marx summarizing Empson, "Susan Sontag's 'New Left' Pastoral," TriQuarterly, 23/24 (Winter-Spring, 1972), 555.

3 Barrell and Bull, p. 4. "[P]astoral … posit[s] a simplistic, unhistorical relationship between the ruling, landowing class—the poet's patrons and often the poet himself—and the workers on the land; as such its function is to mystify and to obscure the harshness of actual social and economic organization… . At the outset, the Pastoral is a mythical view of the relationship of men in society, at the service of those who control the political, economic and cultural strings of society."

4 Anonymous reviewer of Lerner, Uses of Nostalgia, TLS, 6 Oct. 1972, p. 1186, attributes this view to the book.

5 David Young, The Heart's Forest: A Study of Shakespeare's Pastoral Plays (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1972), pp. 27-28.

6 Poggioli, "Naboth's Vineyard," quoting Karl Marx, p. 23.

7As You Like It, II. iii. 58 in The Riverside Shakespeare (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1974), p. 377. Further references to Shakespeare's plays are to this edition.

8 Poggioli, p. 9.

9 Empson, p. 19.

10 Sidney, Defence of Poesy, ed. Dorothy M. Macardle (London: Macmillan, 1962), p. 24. Surprisingly, Poggioli is the only other writer on pastoral I know of who notes Sidney's statement, in which as he says, "pastoral poetry is viewed as an instrument of pity, which is the prime mover of personal justice" ("Naboth's Vineyard," p. 9).

11 Rosalie Colie, Shakespeare's Living Art (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1974), p. 253.

12 Examples of works in which the introduction of coarser countrymen is primarily a way of juxtaposing "reality" and "imagination" might include Cervantes' Dog's Colloquy in The Deceitful Marriage and Other Exemplary Novels, trans. Walter Starkie (New York: New American Library, 1963)—see pp. 255-56—and some of the maggi described by Marvin T. Herrick in Chapter II of Italian Comedy in the Renaissance (Urbana: Univ. of Illinois Press, 1966). On the other hand, in Lorenzo de' Medici's Altercazione, the nobleman meets a real shepherd who asks if he has come to the country to gloat over his advantages when compared to the difficult life shepherds lead. See Lorenzo de' Medici: Tutti Le Opere (Milano, 1958), III, 11-15.

13 Tonkin, Spenser's Courteous Pastoral, p. 291.

14 Empson, p. 19.

15 Thomas More, Utopia, trans. H. V. S. Ogden (Northbrook, 111.: AHM Publishing Corp., 1949), p. 82. More comments ironically on those things "which public opinion commonly regards as the true ornaments of a nation."

16 See Ernst Troeltsch, The Social Teaching of the Christian Churches, trans. Olive Wyon (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1931), I, 120-27, 280-328, for an account of the egalitarian and hierarchical strains in Christian thought. As Lila Geller notes, in "Spenser's Theory of Nobility in Book VI of the Faerie Queene," English Literary Renasissance, 5 (1975), 56, the courtesy book literature frequently feels it necessary to deal with the conflict. See John Edward Mason, Gentlefolk in the Making (New York: Octagon, 1971), pp. 7, 36. Also see, for example, Robert Dudley, The Tree of Commonwealth, excerpted in Tudor Economic Documents, ed. R. H. Tawney and Eileen Power (1924; rpt. London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1951), III, 14-17.

17 Thomas Smith, De Republica Anglorum 1583 (Menston, Eng.: Scolar Press, 1970), p. 27. Spelling of this and subsequent quotations corresponds to the originals except that I have normalized /' for/ u for v, v for u, and Elizabethan long s.

18 Rosalie Colie, in Shakespeare's Living Art, lists most of the relevant criticism in the notes to pp. 253-60 of her chapter on pastoral; Pastoral and Romance: Modern Essays in Criticism, ed. Eleanor Terry Lincoln (Englewood Cliffs, N. J.: Prentice-Hall, 1969) prints several major essays on As You Like It. Other critics writing on As You Like It and pastoral include David Young in The Heart's Forest; Thomas McFarland, Shakespeare's Pastoral Comedy (Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1972); and Charles W. Hieatt, "The Quality of Pastoral in As You Like It" Genre, 7 (1974), 164-82.

19 Giovanni Battista Nenna, Nennio, or a Treatise of Nobility, trans. Wm. Jones (1595), A Renaissance Library Facsimile Edition (Jerusalem: Israel Univ. Press; London: H. A. Humphrey, 1967), sig. 74v.

20 Baldassare Castiglione, The Book of the Courtier, trans. Charles S. Singleton (Garden City, N. Y.: Doubleday, 1959), pp. 103-4. Harold Toliver has also drawn attention to this passage in Pastoral Forms and Attitudes (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1971), pp. 27-28.

21 Glynne Wickham, Early English Stages: 1300-1600 (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1963), I, 23.

22The Prose Works of Sir Philip Sidney, ed. A. Feuillerat (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1962), I, 284-85.

23 Edward Hall, Hall's Chronicle … 1548 (London, 1809), p. 582.

24 See Judy Z. Kronenfeld, "Jaques and the Pastoral Cult of Solitude," Texas Studies in Literature and Language, 18 (1976), 451-73.

25Shakespeare's Ovid, Being Arthur Golding 's Translation of the Metamorphoses, ed. W. H. D. Rouse (London: Centaur, 1961), pp. 296-97. Also see Arthur O. Lovejoy, et al., A Documentary History of Primitivism and Related Ideas (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1935) I, 14 ff. and Claus Uhlig, "'The Sobbing Deer': As You Like It II. i. 21-66 and the Historical Context," Renaissance Drama, NS 3 (1970), 79-109.

26 For relevant associations of shepherds vs. hunters see the anonymous play The Maid's Metamorphosis and Sidney's entertainment, The Lady of May (though in the latter neither shepherd nor hunter is really worthy).

27 Spenser, Faerie Queene, VI. ix. 21 in Poetical Works, ed. J. C. Smith and E. de Selincourt (London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1965), p. 377. Further references to Spenser's Faerie Queene are to this edition.

28 Nancy R. Lindheim, "King Lear as Pastoral Tragedy," in Some Facets of King Lear, ed. Rosalie Colie and F. T. Flahiff (London: Heinemann, 1974), p. 183, (n. 10) mentions the Aeneas/Anchises, Orlando/Adam parallel.

29 Silvius' name, changed from "Montanus," echoes the many Silvias (Tasso), Sylvios (Guarini), and Sylvanuses (Montemayor) of Continental pastoral. He is the "faithful shepherd" (V. ii. 81), "this most faithful shepherd" (V. iv. 14), il pastor fido. Still, he has some economic standing, for he was going to buy the flock and pasture from Corin's master. Phebe has the petulant literal-mindedness of the coy maid of Italian pastoral and its English imitations, but her standing is less than totally literary, for, according to Rosalind, she has "a huswife's hand" (IV. iii. 27).

30 Charles W. Hieatt classifies the pastoral ranks similarly in "The Quality of Pastoral in As You Like It," but for him "actual" rustics are merely "anti-pastoral figures" as opposed to an intrinsic part of pastoral's social vision. See p. 167.

31 "Shakespeare's Pastorals," Studies in Philology, 13 (1916), 122-54.

32 Walter R. Davis, Idea and Act in Elizabethan Fiction (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1969), p. 174.

33Menaphon, in Life and Complete Works of Robert Greene, ed. Alexander B. Grosart (New York: Russell & Russell, 1964) VI, 68, 102. Further references to Menaphon are to this edition.

34Neo-Latin Literature and the Pastoral (Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1965).

35Prose Works, II, 18.

36 Trans. Paul Turner (Harmondsworth, Eng.: Penguin 1968), p. 22.

37 This judgment is based on a comparison of Amyot, Daphnis et Chloé (Paris: Librarie des Bibliophiles, 1872) with two modern translations of Longus, by George Thorn ley (London: Wm. Heinemann, 1916) and by Paul Turner.

38 See the introductions to the George Thornley translation of Longus and to Daye's Elizabethan version: Daphnis and Chloe, the Elizabethan version from Amyot's translation by Angel Day, ed. Joseph Jacobs (London, 1890).

39 Day, pp. 26-27, 20-21.

40 Thomas Lodge, Rosalynde, in As You Like It: A New Variorum Edition, ed. H. H. Furness (1890; rpt. New York: Dover, 1964), p. 338.

41 According to M. St. Clare Byrne, Elizabethan Life in Town and Country (London: Methuen, 1961), p. 136, the district known as Arden was well enclosed by this time.

42 This is what Nancy Jo Hoffman terms it in Spenser's Pastorals, xi.

43Clyomon and Clamades: A Critical Edition, ed. Betty J. Littleton (The Hague: Mouton, 1968), 11. 1293-94, 1312.

44 Ralph Berry, in "No Exit from Arden," Modern Language Review, 66 (1971), 11-20, sees the drive for dominance as central to the play.

45 Compare, for example, Sidney's way of describing Arcadia: "As for the houses of the country … they were all scattered, no two being one by th'other, & yet not so far off as that it barred mutual succour: a shew, as it were of an accompanable solitarines, & of a civil wildnes." Prose Works, I, 14.

46 Geller, "Spenser's Theory of Nobility"; see n. 16.

47The Civile Conversation of M. Steeven Guazzo, The First Three Books Translated by George Pettie, Anno 1581 and the Fourth Book by Barth. Young, Anno 1586 (London: Constable, 1925), pp. 194-95.

48 See The Court and the Country … in W. C. Hazlitt, Inedited Tracts … (London, 1868), p. 196. "Truly, Cousin, I thinke every thing is best in his owne nature; … for as a Courtier cannot hold the plough … so a Country-man cannot court it… . "

49Essayes and Characters Ironical and Instructive, the second impression (London, 1615), p. 415.

50 In fact, the reductio ad absurdam of "pastoral cipher" found in Sidney's Arcadia and in Greene's Menaphon is here given to Touchstone (II. iv. 46 ff.) where it works to qualify idealistic love in all the lovers.

51Le Jeu de Robin et Marion in Théâtre Français au Moyen Age, e d. L. J. N. Monmerqué et Francisque Michel (Paris, 1842), p. 116.

52 See Leo Marx, "Susan Sontag's 'New Left' Pastoral," p. 553.

The Role Of Women

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Margaret Boerner Beckman (essay date 1978)

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

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

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

Believe then, if you please, that I can do strange things: I have, since I was three years old, conversed with a magician, most profound in his art and yet not damnable. If you do love Rosalind … it is not impossible to me, if it appear not inconvenient to you, to set her before your eyes tomorrow human as she is, and without any danger.1

Even if the play strains the bounds of probability, no magic has been worked in it before this scene. It therefore seems strange that Shakespeare has Rosalind resolve the plot by appearing to work magic rather than by simply stripping off her disguise—particularly if, as is usually asserted, she has disguised herself only because she must find out whether Orlando really loves her. The question, then, is why Rosalind's "strange things" constitute a proper end to the play.

I would like to suggest that Rosalind ends the play as a magician because throughout the whole play she has made extraordinary, seemingly impossible—and thus "magical"—conjunctions between contrary things. Her own person is a seemingly impossible reconciliation of opposites. The magic she performs brings contrarieties together and harmonizes them. The "strange things" she does, then, are not incidental to the play, but rather a logical development from what she has been doing all along.

Although there has been comparatively little analysis of the figure of Rosalind herself, a good deal has been made of the opposites in the play. The conclusion usually drawn is that one or another in a given pair of the play's opposites is the version we are finally to accept. Since the major opposition in As You Like It is generally understood to involve "realism" and "idealism," therefore, critics tend to view Shakespeare as ultimately choosing either idealism or realism and then subordinating its opposite.

The more usual—and perhaps more old-fashioned—view of the play has skeptical, melancholy, or sensual realism disappear by incorporation into a less extravagant final version of the play's depiction of romantic, honorable, love-at-first-sight idealism. For example, although he spends some time showing how one character's point of view contradicts or corrects another's, Harold Jenkins concludes his discussion of the play as follows:

In As You Like It ideals, though always on the point of dissolving, are for ever recreating themselves.

They do not delude the eye of reason, yet faith in them is not extinguished in spite of all that reason can do. "I would not be cured, youth."2

Jenkins regards many of the oppositions in the play as never having been real. Thus, of Orlando's hanging verses on the trees, Jenkins says that "in so human a creature these love-gestures appear not as his raison d'être, but as an aberration." Similarly, Rosalind's mockery of Orlando is not truthful, but "only play at taunting her adorer while allowing her real woman's heart to be in love with him in earnest" (p. 47). For Jenkins, then, any hard opposition dissolves into general approval of an idealistic love that is not uncomfortably extravagant.

The most important dissenter from this view is C. L. Barber. His analysis of the oppositions in As You Like It points toward a concordia discors. But he is bound by his thesis to regard opposition as a means of comically presenting "what is not ideal in man." He therefore concludes that Shakespeare "represents or evokes ideal life, and then makes fun of it because it does not square with life as it ordinarily is."3 Addressing himself to the social value of As You Like It and its effect on its contemporary audience, Barber reads the play as a conflict between "reality and the illusions … which love generates and by which it is expressed" (p. 230). The play offers the audience a "festive release" for its sentimental impulses, but controls those very impulses by "presenting what was sentimental extremity as impulsive extravagance and so leaving judgment free to mock what the heart embraces" (p. 223). Barber views Jaques and Touchstone as representatives of a final realism; their "real position is generally mediate between the audience and something in the play," and Touchstone embodies "in a character and his relations with other characters the comedy's purpose of maintaining objectivity" (p. 228).

To regard Jaques and Touchstone as having this position in As You Like It is, I would argue, to fail to come to terms with the real complexity of the play and in effect to make any real opposition disappear into a general approval of realistic "objectivity." In Shakespeare—and in Renaissance literature as a whole—opposition need not necessarily be resolved by taking one opposite as more "objective" than the other. Opposites were often balanced, if not "yoked," together to form a "new concoction."4 Barber implies such a pattern in As You Like It when he says "romantic participation in love and humorous detachment from its follies, the two polar attitudes which are balanced against each other in the action as a whole, meet and are reconciled in Rosalind's personality" (p. 233). But Barber does not pursue this idea, possibly because such a conception of the figure of Rosalind does not seem to him to help argue "the comedy's purpose of maintaining objectivity."

The problem, as I see it, is that many critics wish to dissolve opposition in As You Like It because they do not conceive of opposition and ambivalence as offering a comedic resolution; to them, comedy is not an affirmation if it maintains alternative perspectives to its very end. But there is really no literary or dramatic reason why opposition, ambivalence, and alternative perspectives cannot work together to form an affirmative whole. If comedy presents a vision of life as "playing," there is no reason not to have opposed sides participating in it. Indeed, much play demands opposition. And opposition need not be overcome to be resolved. If comedy celebrates life, it may regard the rich contrariety of life as its particular vision.

The point I wish to argue is that in As You Like It Shakespeare shows man's "possible perfection" rather than his "certain imperfection," presenting that perfection as a reconciliation of opposites in which both members of the opposition are retained in the face of all temptation to choose one or the other. As You Like It invites us to conceive of the difficult "magic" of two opposites existing simultaneously, truly contrary and mutually exclusive, but bound together in a creative, if paradoxical, union—like man and wife.

For if the plot of this plotless play is about anything, it is about man and wife, about "getting married and living happily ever after." As Hymen, the god of marriage, says at the end of the play,

Then is there mirth in heaven,
When earthly things made even
   Atone together.
                            (V. iv. 114-16)

To make "earthly things … even" is not to make them the same or to make one subordinate to another; it is to reconcile them and make them one ("atone") in a creative relationship. The name for this kind of relationship is "harmony,"5 and its central representative in As You Like It is Rosalind. She is harmony, a coincidence of opposites, promising to "make all this matter even" and to "make the doubts all even" (V. iv. 18, 25). Her "way is to conjure you," she says in the play's Epilogue, because concordia discors defies logic and seems impossible. But the "magic" she performs is not fearful. The opposites she represents are not "yoked by violence together"; her opposites are peacefully reconciled in the harmony of marriage.

Since marriage is a concordia discors,6 Rosalind's image is a complex one. She starts out simply enough as a woman who "on such a sudden … fall[s] into so strong a liking with old Sir Rowland's youngest son" (I. iii. 28-29). She therefore first stands for "idealism." But when she later comes to "speak to [Orlando] like a saucy lackey and under that habit play the knave with him" (III. ii. 312-13), she stands for the "realism" that is opposed to Orlando's idealism. To her it is obvious that Orlando's verses are "a tedious homily" (III. ii. 163). But Rosalind is also "many fathom deep … in love" (IV. i. 210).

Maintaining these two alternative perspectives, she already represents a concordia discors. But Shakespeare heightens the paradox of her figure through a number of other devices. The most important one is that she is a woman presenting the voice of critical realism about love. Celia says, "You have simply misused our sex in your love-prate" (IV. i. 205-6). As this remark shows, women had been traditionally associated with the "heart" or emotions, men with the "head" or intellect. In As You Like It, however, it is Rosalind who intelligently and realistically speaks from the head, as when she tells Phebe, "Sell when you can: you are not for all markets" (III. iv. 60). And it is Orlando, the man, who speaks from the heart, responding to Ganymede's realism with "I would not be cured, youth" (III. ii. 444). As a couple, then, Orlando and Rosalind represent a coincidence of opposites, but the coincidence is made doubly paradoxical by the fact that the two lovers often switch traditional sexual characteristics.

A further intensification of the paradox is achieved by having Rosalind stand by herself for both opposites. She has a more complicated function in the play than Orlando, and in some sense she alone stands for the same thing that they stand for together as a couple. When Shakespeare presents Rosalind as a woman disguised as a man pretending to be a woman, then, he does more than merely "permit her to furnish the humorous commentary on her own ardent love affair" (Barber, p. 233). He offers us a symbolic image of "earthly things made even."

Rosalind's disguise is in fact even more complex, for on the stage she is actually a boy playing the part of a woman disguised as a man pretending to be a woman: the boy actor playing Rosalind disguised as Ganymede pretending to be Rosalind. (The boy actor is important enough to Shakespeare's conception of Rosalind's figure for him to have her make a clear reference to her masculine nature in the Epilogue, even though still maintaining that we see "the lady the epilogue.") Rosalind may thus be related to the Renaissance prototype of all combinations of male and female, the union of Mars and Venus. Erwin Panofsky reminds us that this union represents "the auspicious fusion of two cosmic forces begetting harmony."7 And Edgar Wind has shown that there is an even deeper mystery: that "Venus is not only joined to Mars, but that his nature is an essential part of her own."8

But the union of male and female in Rosalind is not only shown physically and worked out in terms of the head and the heart; it is also presented in the plot line by certain of Rosalind's actions. We see her both as a protecting masculine figure and as a faint-hearted female figure. For example, Rosalind undertakes to protect Celia on their journey to Arden, but after they arrive she faints at the news of Orlando's wound. Each act is made a further concordia discors on its own through the device of implying its immediate opposite. Thus, when she proposes the disguise to Celia, Rosalind says,

                     Were it not better,
Because that I am more than common tall,
That I did suit me all points like a man?
A gallant curtle-axe upon my thigh,
A boar-spear in my hand; and—in my heart
Lie there what hidden woman's fear there
We'll have a swashing and a martial outside,
As many other mannish cowards have
That do outface it with their semblances.
                            (I. iii. 116-24)

Here Rosalind's outside depicts a man's readiness to fight, complete with sword and spear; on the inside she hides "woman's fear." Later, just the opposite physical effect occurs when she faints at the "napkin / Dyed in [Orlando's] blood" (IV. iii. 155-56). There a faint-hearted outside is passed off as a disguse: "Ah, sirrah, a body would think this was well counterfeited! I pray you, tell your brother how well I counterfeited. Heigh-ho!" (IV. iii. 167-69). In both instances the inner "reality"—the woman's fear and the man's courage—are, in a certain light, less real than the disguising outside. The external feigning reveals the internal truth. For Rosalind is taller, braver, and more aggressive than Celia, just as she is shorter, more fearful, and less physically aggressive than Orlando.

After she awakens, Rosalind assures her audience—even though the audience watching this audience knows better—that her faint was counterfeit. But she also admits that she "should have been a woman by right," since she "lacks a man's heart." Indeed, others can be more aggressive than Rosalind. It is Celia who first plans the escape to Arden. But others can also be more weak than Rosalind. It is Orlando who swoons so heavily (IV. iii) that he cannot rise at all. And it is only because Orlando's "masculine" anger at his evil brother has been overcome by "feminine" heartfelt pity that he tackles the lioness. In relation to both Orlando and Celia, then, Rosalind's position is a complex one, paradoxical both emotionally and physically.

Throughout the play we see a male/female coincidence in Rosalind's character. She follows Celia's first plans for their trip and depends on her for their purchase of the rural cottage. But she also organizes Celia's actions, protecting her and deciding the parts she and Celia will play in the forest. She is an attendant on the Duke, but she guides him to his daughter. She leads Orlando into love-making, but must attend while he "break[s] an hour's promise in love" (IV. i. 44). She lacks a lover and father, acting only to bring others together, but she gains a lover and a father and comes together with them in the course of bringing others together. As a man, she swears she will marry no woman; but as a woman, she marries herself to the man she has rejected and marries the woman she has rejected to another. She is the chaste woman who does not tell her love and "will not have" (IV. i. 92) Orlando, but she is also the aggressive lover who forces Orlando's confessions.

Such a central figure is not unusual in Shakespeare: the "master-mistress of my passion" appears, mutatis mutandis, in Viola, Portia, Cleopatra, and Imogene. Shakespeare had a strong interest in the androgynous, but not epicene, sexual figure.9 But it is important to note that his androgynous figure does more than set forth paradox for its own sake. Such a figure symbolizes the natural union of those opposites that are made for each other. Male and female are thus images for all reconcilable contraries. As concrete images, male and female help to demonstrate more abstract reconcilable contraries. That is, since we can readily assent that male and female are opposites that combine, we can be persuaded through such imagery that other opposites combine too. It is not that As You Like It allegorizes the coincidence of Mars and Venus. It is rather that such coincidences as those involving Mars and Venus or Rosalind and Ganymede can be used to symbolize that natural harmony of opposed forces that constitutes man's "possible perfection." And in comedy, man's perfection is epitomized in marriage.

When the figure of Rosalind is seen as in itself a concordia discors, her word-play reveals itself to be the rhetorical expression of her symbolic function. Her puns, witticisms, and paradoxes first of all show her as a "masculine" intelligence, not because Shakespeare thought women incapable of wit, but because to be witty is to be able to control others and to lead them, as Rosalind leads Orlando. Wit is therefore—as an image, not as a conclusion about women—active and "masculine" intellectual expression, as opposed to passive and "feminine" emotional expression. Celia is speaking of Rosalind's wit when she (wittily) says, "You have simply misused our sex in your love prate." And Orlando says, "A man that had a wife with such a wit, he might say 'Wit, whither wilt?'" (IV. i. 166-67). But Rosalind's wit is not held against her, no matter how "masculine" it is, for Shakespeare does not think it necessary that a female wit be epicene or bad-tempered. Like male compassion, female wit is part of a fully realized human character. Thus, although Shakespeare establishes clear differences between the "masculine" and the "feminine" in his plays, he often implies that characters who are totally one or the other are sterile.

Rosalind's wit presents in the mode of rhetoric the same coincidence of opposites that her disguise and actions present in other modes. Her wit is a necessary corollary of her function in the play. To play on words is, after all, to make unlikely connections and to bring together contrary meanings. In word-play what is said "is valid in, refers to, several modes of judgment or of feeling."10 Thus when Rosalind says of Celia and Oliver, "They are in the very wrath of love, and they will together; clubs cannot part them" (V. ii. 43-45), her word-play brings together Jaques' melancholy, Touchstone's sensuality, Orlando's romanticism, and her own warm heart and sense of the ridiculous; the result is a complex total meaning that brings alternative perspectives into an organic relationship with each other. Rosalind here applies all of the play's attitudes about love toward a vision of Celia and Oliver getting married and living happily ever after. If "clubs cannot part them," no audience's sense of man's "certain imperfection" can part them. It is Rosalind's characterization of them as in "the very wrath of love," therefore, and not Jaques' realism, that truly embodies what Barber called "the comedy's purpose of maintaining objectivity."

The complex meaning of Rosalind's description of the love of Celia and Oliver can be built up by only such a person as Rosalind, for complex meaning cannot be constructed simply by adding together all the individual points of view in the play. As William Empson has pointed out,

to say anything in two parts is different in incalculable ways from saying it as a unit… . the only way of forcing the reader to grasp your total meaning is to arrange that he can only feel satisfied if he is bearing all the elements in mind at the moment of conviction; the only way of not giving something heterogeneous is to give something which is at every point a compound.11

Rosalind's word-play serves as a necessary verbal imitation of "earthly things made even," bringing together in union things that are at odds. And her word-play in turn reinforces her magical power to bring about the unions at the end of the play.

Oppositions between melancholy and laughter, country-life and court-life, humble and high estate, danger and safety, time and timelessness, limit and freedom—all have been pointed out and explored by commentators on As You Like It.12 But when one side of each pair is thought of as deposing the other, just as when realism is thought of as triumphant over idealism, only a partial view of the Shakespearean reality emerges.

Rosalind displays a Jaques-like melancholy when she tells Orlando that in this "poor world" there are no romantic love stories like those of Troilus or Leander:

"These are all lies: men have died from time to time and worms have eaten them, but not for love" (IV. i. 106-8). But when Jaques says to her, "I do love [melancholy] better than laughing," Rosalind replies with a condemnation of single-mindedness: "Those that are in extremity of either are abominable fellows and be-tray themselves to every modern censure worse than drunkards" (IV. i. 5-7). Throughout the play Rosalind's laughter implies a certain skeptical melancholy as well as a tolerant good humor.

Similarly, Rosalind is both a courtier and a country shepherd. Orlando has seen both in her, and at the end of the play he attempts to resolve the seeming contradiction when he says of her:

My lord, the first time that I ever saw him
Methought he was a brother to your daughter:
But, my good lord, this boy is forest-born,
And hath been tutor'd in the rudiments
Of many desperate studies by his uncle,
Whom he reports to be a great magician,
Obscured in the circle of this forest.
                              (V. iv. 28-34)

Closely related to the country-court combination is the way Rosalind combines the Arcadian lover with the rustic truth-teller. She is, as Rosalind, a golden figure to Orlando; she whiles away a golden-age time in the forest with the Duke; and she is an Arcadian lover to Phebe, who calls her a "god to shepherd turn'd." But she is also a country plain-speaker like Corin when she tells Silvius that Phebe is no Arcadian maid:

           Come, come, you are a fool
And turn'd into the extremity of love.
I saw her hand: she has a leathern hand,
A freestone-coloured hand: I verily did think
That her old gloves were on, but 'twas her
                            (IV. iii. 23-27)

In like manner, Rosalind's estate comprises both extremes of the play. She has no father, depends on Celia, and is in some danger from Duke Frederick, who has told her:

Within these ten days if that thou be'st found
So near our public court as twenty miles,
Thou diest for it.
                            (I. iii. 44-46)

At the court she is in danger but of high estate; in Arden she is out of danger but of low estate, a simple country shepherd. But even in the forest she combines both low and high estate and both safety and danger, for she depends on others to protect her even as she protects them and unites them. While she passes time in the timeless forest of Arden, she is aware of time (giving Orlando several analyses of it) and effects a realistic, as well as "magical," resolution to her own and others' love affairs. And while she seems as helpless as anyone in the play—under sentence of death, without a father or lover, without money—she also seems to have greater powers than anyone else in the play, directing others as she will and finally entering in Act V with the god of marriage himself.

To know Rosalind is to know that opposites can be reconciled.


1The Complete Works of Shakespeare, eds. Hardin Craig and David Bevington, rev. ed. (Glenview, Ill.: Scott Foresman, 1973), V. ii. 63-66. The Craig-Bevington edition will be used throughout.

2 Harold Jenkins, "As You Like It," Shakespeare Survey, 8 (1955), 51.

3Shakespeare's Festive Comedy: A Study of Dramatic Form and Its Relation to Social Custom (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1959), pp. 228-29.

4 See Frank L. Huntley, "Dr. Johnson and Metaphysical Wit: or, Discordia Concors Yoked and Balanced," Papers of the Midwest Modern Language Association, ed. Robert Scholes, 1 (1969), 103-12.

5 See Brendan P. O. Hehir, "Balanced Opposites in the Poetry of Pope, and the Historical Evolution of the Concept," Diss. Johns Hopkins 1959, pp. 22-25.

6 I use "concordia discors" throughout rather than the familiar "discordia concors " because, as O Hehir has pointed out, Dr. Johnson distinguished sharply between the two, "differentiat[ing] the forcible yoking together of the totally diverse (discordia concors) from the harmonious combination of the true opposites, the male and female (concordia discors)," p. 260. Although one cannot hope successfully to continue Johnson's essential distinction, discordia concors seems to me uncomfortably inappropriate to As You Like It.

7Studies in Iconology: Humanistic Themes in the Art of the Renaissance, rev. ed. (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1962), p. 164.

8Pagan Mysteries in the Renaissance, rev. ed. (New York: Penguin, 1968), p. 94.

9 See Barbara Everett, "Much Ado About Nothing," Critical Quarterly, 12 (1961), 319-35, and G. Wilson Knight, The Mutual Flame (New York: Macmillan, 1955).

10 William Empson, Seven Types of Ambiguity, rev. ed. (London: Chatto and Windus, 1963), p. 129.

11 Ibid., p. 269.

12 See Jenkins and Barber; also see Helen Gardner, "As You Like It," in More Talking of Shakespeare, ed. John Garrett (London: Longmans, 1959); James Smith, "As You Like It," Scrutiny, 9 (1940); D. L. Stevenson, The Love Game Comedy (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1960); and Mark Van Doren, Shakespeare (New York: Holt, 1939).

Susan Carlson (essay date 1991)

SOURCE: "Shakespeare's Rosalind: The Strong Woman in the Comic Tradition," in Women and Comedy: Rewriting the British Theatrical Tradition, The University of Michigan Press, 1991, pp. 43-67.

[In the following excerpt, Carlson observes the character of Rosalind in terms of gender roles, specifically as a temporary inversion of the patriarchal status quo in the play.]

Women in British comedy have often been illusory, weak, or—to the feminist, at least—simply objectionable. In Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew, Kate's seeming capitulation plagues feminist critics who defend Shakespeare's women and creates problems for contemporary theater directors. In Jonson's plays, women either have minor roles (Volpone) or are most palatable when they are actually men in disguise (Epicoene). In Wycherley's cynical world, the women are present as either pure virtue or despicable weakness. And in the philosophical world of Stoppard's Jumpers, women are alternately romping acrobats or concupiscent wives. But my concern … is not plays in which women are either objectified or vilified. It is instead the many plays in which women are strong and central, in which comic inversion gives rise to vocal, active women. In other words, the focus of my study is the comic plays that have the most to offer women; for it is in such plays that the tension between powerful comic heroines and restrictive comic structures is most fully on display… .

… I begin with Shakespeare, the earliest British comic playwright to recognize and exploit the power comedy can offer women. In As You Like It, he creates a heroine, Rosalind, who sets the standard for the strong woman in comedy.

At the end of As You Like It, when Hymen teases Phebe with the notion that she cannot love Ganymede—"You to his [Silvius's] love must accord, / Or have a woman to your Lord" (5.4.127-28)—he recalls the comic advantage Shakespeare has found in Rosalind's disguise as Ganymede. Less obvious, however, is his implicit reference to the most steady love of the play, that between two women, Celia and Rosalind. His mockery of such love and the uncharacteristic silence of the women that accompanies it are two act 5 indications of the way women are represented in the play. As You Like It has been acclaimed as a play about the expansiveness of love, the graciousness of fate, and the inevitability of human foible. But it is also a play about women in the comic world.1 And while Shakespeare's women claim control and voice in the play's long-celebrated inversion, they fail to transcend the limits a traditional comic ending imposes on them.

… Shakespeare's plays have elicited the most through critical analysis of women in British comedy. Such analysis offers an exemplary display of the paradoxes that accompany critical discussion of women in comedy. On the one hand, Charlton (Skakespearian Comedy), Nevo (Comic Transformations), Bamber (Comic Women, Tragic Men), and French (Shakespeare's Division of Experience) focus on the festive liberation of the plays to find that comic women benefit from their mid-play freedom. On the other hand, Park ("As We Like It"), Garner ("A Midsummer Night's Dream"), Parten ("Re-establishing Sexual Order"), Erickson ("Sexual Politics"), and Neely (Broken Nuptials) emphasize the power of the comic ending to defuse, even reverse, sexual revolution. Yet as Karen Newman has demonstrated, these opposing responses to Shakespeare's comic women are not strictly incompatible. In studying The Merchant of Venice, Newman argues that inversion is not always "simply a safety mechanism." On the contrary, she asserts, it can be an efficient intrusion on male "structures of exchange" ("Portia's Ring," 29). Thus Newman acknowledges the limitations of inversion but maintains that even a restricted inversion can establish irrevocable transformations. I sympathize with this attempt to hold the two accounts of comic inversion in critical tension. Yet with As You Like It, … I find even the most productive rebellion finally negated by comedy's multiple options for accommodation.

I can best explain the complicated position of this play's women by considering separately the play's status quo, its inversion of that standard order, and its return to order. What is important about the status quo in As You Like It's duration is the fact that it never disappears. While the forest of Arden most obviously represents a rejection of the status quo, both the play's dependence on symmetry and its flirtation with androgyny prove strong indications of an uninterrupted status quo based on sexual double standards. In turn, this pervasive status quo affects the celebrated inversion that Arden represents. Thus my discussion of the play's inversion is focused on women's language and friendships, two areas in which the women's supposed liberation proves to be as qualified as it is empowering. My study of the play's conclusion, then, is a look at how the ending saturated with marriage completes this play's paradoxical foregrounding of women. A final section on contemporary production of the play takes note of recent attempts to secure the power this play offers women, but even these attempts to capitalize on Rosalind's strength prove the durability of comic structures that qualify comedy's women.

The Status Quo

The establishment of a status quo world is a routine feature in Shakespearean comedy. In As You Like It, the court of Duke Frederick is a predictable world governed by civil laws and stable mores. It is also standard in Shakespearean comedy, however, that the status quo world, when it proves hostile to changing conditions, is challenged by an alternate world—usually a different place (Arden)—where the norms are relaxed, even reversed. Ultimately As You Like It, like other Shakespearean comedies, ends with a return to the status quo, a return acceptable because of the modifications that have, supposedly, been negotiated in the alternate location. While critics disagree on the effects of this cycle—is there or is there not a new (or better or different) world at play's end?—they generally agree on its presence.

The special effect such circular motions have on the women of As You Like It has been most thoroughly studied by Peter Erickson. To reach his conclusion that "As You Like It is primarily a defensive action against female power rather than a celebration of it," Erickson compiles an extensive list of the signs of patriarchy present throughout the play ("Sexual Politics," 82). Most important, he shows that the altered world of Arden is only superficially a release from everyday, partiarchal norms, and that as a temporary reversal of the norms Arden is never a threat to them. Although Erickson never makes the connection explicitly, he bases this reading of As You Like It's persistent everyday world on the presence of a sexual double standard. This double standard in Shakespeare's status quo world is not significant simply because it grants women less freedom and power than it does men. Rather, it is important because in the middle world of the play, when norms are reversed, the power and freedom women do gain is still based on the double standard. In other words, the middle world does not revoke the double standard, but only invokes a temporary criticism of it. While the social criticism of As You Like It is not negated by the play's cycle, it is continually undercut by the omnipresence of the play's double standard.

In my examination of As You Like It's middle, I will study how the temporary nature of the play's reversal limits its rebellions. Rosalind's powerful language and close female friendships that flourish in Arden are, for example, muted by the influence of patriarchal norms. Her male dress, symbolically, preserves the male as dominant. As a continuation of my argument that mid-play challenges to order are qualified, my examination of the ending will point to Rosalind's inability not to choose marriage. I introduce these considerations of inversion and ending, however, with a closer look at ways in which the status quo and its sexual double standards establish (and ultimately qualify) the play's portraits of women. Both the play's general manifestations of equality and its specific connections with androgyny are undermined by enduring norms and their reflection of the status quo.

Equality informs language and structure alike. While the words "equal" and "equally" each occur only once in the course of the play, they are notations of a pattern present throughout the play. Celia and Rosalind, in 1.2, offer equality as a desirable goal and a standard of judgment, first when Celia finds that the ideal bestowal of Fortune's gifts must be an equal one—"Let us sit and mock the good housewife Fortune from her wheel, that her gifts may henceforth be bestowed equally" (1.2.29-31)—and later when she counsels Orlando to "a more equal enterprise" (1.2.161) than Charles the Wrestler appears to be. The construction of the play stands as the most striking example of the persistent valorization of symmetry and balance these comments hint at. For example, a standard of symmetry balances one action against another when a conversation on the killing of deer (2.1) is matched by the actual hunting of deer (4.2); when Rosalind's first wooing of Orlando (3.2) is mated to a second (4.1); when Orlando's triumphant dialogue with Jaques (3.2) is repeated in Rosalind's similar victory over the cynic (4.1). The significance of characters is likewise refined when they are considered in pairs—Jaques's cynicism is tempered by Touchstone's loving parody, Silvius's idealism is braced by Corin's realism, one bad brother (Oliver, Duke Frederick) is paired with one good one (Orlando, Duke Senior), and one unrequited love (Phebe's) is upstaged by another one, less vain (Silvius's).

Rosalind is the ultimate incarnation of all such equations, symmetries, and balances. For not only does she act as a matchmaker for others, but she is at the same time self-conscious of her own vacillations between the realistic and the idealistic. By the end of the play, when Silvius offers his litany of love in 5.2 and when Hymen and Jaques parcel out their verbal gifts of love in 5.4, the play's four marriages seem to be natural extensions of a play full of equations and balances. In the play's final scene, Celia's word "equal" has become "even"; first when Rosalind disappears "to make these doubts all even" (5.4.25) and second when Hymen elevates her "even" by rhyming it with heaven: "Then is there mirth in heaven / When earthly things made even / Atone together" (5.4.102-4). "Even," like the "equal" of 1.2, is meant to indicate that by the end of the play life is orderly and balanced.

While it has been common to link the play's balances to an idea of sexual equality, these formal and linguistic symmetries are better seen as reflections of the play's dependence on the status quo than as a guarantee of equitable relations between the sexes. In fact, the androgyny that critics have praised as the pinnacle of the play's many equalities is not a signpost of sexual liberation; instead, it is another signal of the play's foundation on inequitable norms.

In his study of the androgyny of the play, Erickson points out that a leveling of sexual differences is not possible, even in this play's measured world, because the basis for both of As You Like It's worlds is patriarchy ("Sexual Politics," 77).2 In the end, this limitation makes androgyny more meaningful to the men returning to power at the play's end than to the women about to give it up:

However, the conservative counter-movement built into comic strategy applies exclusively to Rosalind. Her possession of the male costume and the power it symbolizes is only temporary. But Orlando does not have to give up the emotional enlargement he has experienced in the forest. Discussions of androgyny in As You Like It usually focus on Rosalind, whereas in fact it is the men rather than the women who are the lasting beneficiaries o fandrogyny. ("Sexual Politics," 77)

Androgyny is not a reality for the women in As You Like It in the same way it is for the men because the women are never equal to the men; the most that they gain is a reversal of an inequitable situation during the middle of the play. This temporary reversal ensures that while men learn their weaknesses and women their powers in the inversion of the play's middle world, norms do not change.3 The status quo of male dominance that Duke Frederick's court represents thus remains present throughout the play. For the women of Shakespeare's comedy, then, the status quo conditions their extraordinary liberation as well as their ordinary endings.

The Inverted World of Arden

The play's inequitable status quo is tested by its free, leveling middle, though little altered by it. Nevertheless, the play's inverted world calls for careful scru-tiny, scrutiny that seeks to identify not only the play's retention of standard norms but also its fierce battles against convention. In Shakespeare, as in Maugham, the position of women in the inverted world is marked by a tension between unconventional power and conventional standards. By first examining women's language and then their friendships, I can detail both where freedom manifests itself and how it is restricted.

Rosalind commands the rich linguistic world at the center of As You Like It, yet her mastery of language varies. Her language is, in other words, a clear indication of the power she alternately does and does not have in the play. In 1.2, Shakespeare establishes the contradictions of the women's linguistic patterns in the realm of the status quo by contrasting their verbal acuity with their acquiescence. In 1.3 also, as Rosalind confronts the censure of Duke Frederick, she displays her verbal skill, but learns that women's language skills carry little weight in the Duke's court. Only when Rosalind and Celia move to Arden—i.e., to a world where Rosalind herself establishes the limits on her own language—does she realize her full linguistic range. Inversion, in short, sets her linguistically free.

In 3.2, Rosalind blossoms as literary critic, witty conversationalist, and lover. She is clear-headed enough to recognize the inadequacies of Orlando's verbal celebrations of her, telling Celia of his verses, "some of them had in them more feet than the verses would bear" (159-60). She can then banter with Celia over the concrete image of "feet" she calls up. She further displays her versatility by matching witty analogies to nature with Touchstone (111-15) and by making more learned allusions at her leisure—calling up Pythagoras, for example (168). But her power and control are most obvious in her first conversation with Orlando. From the exit of Jaques in line 281 to Rosalind and Orlando's joint exit at the scene's end, a simple measure of her command of this conversation is the number of lines both characters speak: Rosalind has ninety-eight lines to Orlando's thirty. But even such lopsided numbers only begin to suggest her mastery of their interaction. Orlando, on the one hand, takes a passive role and feeds lines and questions to Rosalind. In addition, Orlando has brief speeches devoid of imagination or wit. Rosalind, on the other hand, is represented by a hearty prose in which the melodies of the language are the melodies of her love. Act 3, scene 2 is evidence that only in Arden does Rosalind use her masterful prose for both power and pleasure.

There continue to be moments later in the play when Rosalind's wit and verbal acuity command attention, as she chides Phebe in 3.4 or directs the others in the recitations of 5.2. But the depth and range of her linguistic skills are clearest when her heart is in them, in 3.2 and 4.1 especially. Rosalind reaches the height of her powers in 4.1. Here the gymnastic playfulness of 3.2 is transformed into heartfelt pronouncements on love and marriage. When Rosalind plays the realist in denying to Orlando that one could die from lack of love, the great love she feels for him softens her harsh statement and gives it its graceful rhythms:

The poor world is almost six thousand years old, and in all this time there was not any man died in his own person, videlicet, in a love cause. Troilus had his brains dashed out with a Grecian club; yet he did what he could to die before, and he is one of the patterns of love. Leander, he would have lived many a fair year though Hero had turned nun, if it had not been for a hot midsummer night; for good youth, he went but forth to wash him in the Hellespont, and being taken with the cramp, was drowned; and the foolish chroniclers of that age found it was 'Hero of Sestos.' But these are all lies. Men have died from time to time, and worms have eaten them, but not for love. (4.1.85-98)

When Rosalind gives up her language along with her disguise and is silent at the play's end, a gaping hole is left in the play. As ritual takes prominence in the play's final scene, the language of all the characters is diminished. But the loss is greatest for Rosalind. As the emotions and powers of Rosalind's language give way to the comparative shallowness of song and dance, Rosalind takes her silent place in the marriage ritual. Even the epilogue, in awarding the last words to Rosalind, does not make up for her silence in the last scene. Erickson points out that the epilogue, in fact, subverts the woman's world of this play by recalling the boy Rosalind-Ganymede and not the woman who has been the linguistic heart of the play ("Sexual Politics," 79-80). I would suggest, in addition, that Rosalind's return as an actor (whether male or female) reinforces the signal present all along that her power comes only from a suspension of the play's—and the world's—reality. The fact that she still must enact her last moment of power while in her male disguise only increases my suspicion that the Rosalind of the play's middle disappears because her linguistic command is as dangerous as it is endearing.

The epilogue and the silence that precede it are, in fact, only the last indications of the way the women's linguistic powers remain attached throughout the play to assumptions that undercut them. In considering the variations in Rosalind's linguistic command, two conclusions are unavoidable. First, Rosalind's verbal control increases in scope and power when she enters the play's inverted territory of Arden. Second, her linguistic power is always conditioned (even in her grandest moments) by the patriarchal assumptions encouraged by comic structures. In other words, Rosalind's language is never quite her own. A second look at her language in the play will corroborate that her command is always accompanied by a discrediting of women's linguistic power. The discrediting comes pre-dominantly from Rosalind herself, although it has corollaries in the language and behavior of all the play's women.

In 1.3, Duke Frederick warns Celia of the deception in Rosalind's language:

She is too subtile for thee; and the
Her very silence and her patience,
Speak to the people, and they pity her.

His warning is dismissible since his character is suspect; yet Rosalind elsewhere voices similar reservations herself. For example, she prefaces her talk with Orlando in 3.2 by asking Celia the self-deprecating question, "Do you know I am a woman? When I think, I must speak" (3.2.237-38). She reconfirms her diagnosis of logorrhea by lacing the pyrotechnics of 4.1 with similar undercuttings of her skill. Here she warns her future husband Orlando that "certainly a woman's thought runs before her actions" (4.1.127-28) and counsels him, further, to be wary of his wife's wayward wit:

Make the doors upon a woman's wit, and it will out at the casement; shut that, and 'twill out at the keyhold; stop that, 'twill fly with the smoke out at the chimney.


Rosalind's comments are all tongue-in-cheek, but they cannot simply be dismissed as comic. Simply put, the direct discrediting of female language in these statements is of a piece with other subversive tactics that women have adopted.

Rosalind is responsible for the greatest share of such subversion and the self-deprecation it is linked to. Even as Ganymede, she accepts limiting stereotypes. One might speculate that Rosalind adopts her deferential behavior to preserve her male disguise. Yet she is similarly deferential in 1.2, before she adopts the guise of Ganymede. Of the disguise itself, Rosalind suggests in 1.3 that it will help her hide in her heart "what hidden woman's fear there will" (1.3.115). Later, while collapsing at the end of the journey into Arden, she blames the weak female in her: "I could find in my 2heart to disgrace my man's apparel and to cry like a woman; but I must comfort the weaker vessel, as doublet and hose ought to show itself courageous to petticoat" (2.4.4-7). She disdains the woman in herself at the same time that she feels an obligation to comfort CeliaAliena. Even in 3.2, a scene enriched by her confidence and control, Rosalind's doubts about her female self loom large. She tells Celia that she retains the impatience of a woman (3.2.185-89). And later, after teasing Orlando with a catalogue of women's faults—"All like one another as halfpence are, every one fault seeming monstrous till his fellowfault came to match it" (3.2.334-36)—she paints a giddy picture of the female lover:

At which time would I, being but a moonish youth, grieve, be effeminate, changeable, longing and liking, proud, fantastical, apish, shallow, inconstant, full of tears, full of smiles; for every passion truly anything, as boys and women are for the most part cattle of this color; would now like him, now loathe him; then entertain him, then forswear him; now weep for him, then spit at him; that I drove my suitor from his mad humor of love to a living humor of madness, which was, to forswear the full stream of the world and to live in a nook merely monastic.


Rosalind's self-conscious mockery means that such comments are always devalued; yet I am inclined to agree with Celia in her charge to Rosalind, "You have simply misused our sex in your love prate" (4.1.185-86).

What Celia cannot realize, however, is how much the action in the play validates Rosalind's comments. Indeed, the subversion Rosalind vocalizes characterizes the behavior of all the play's women. For example, Rosalind, Celia, Phebe, and Audrey do become giddy and rash when in love, just as Rosalind has foretold. Rosalind herself presents the most severe case when, in 4.1, she demands a wedding ceremony one moment and warns of cuckolds the next. More numerically overwhelming are the many indirect actions of the women in the play. In her disguise, Rosalind gains strength and control, but her indirect expressions of love pale next to Orlando's direct confessions of being "love-shaked" (3.2.346). By the end of the play Rosalind has never once told Orlando she loves him. Phebe's description of her love for Ganymede similarly revolves around negations and contradictions:

Think not I love him, though I ask for him;
'Tis but a peevish boy; yet he talks well.
But what care I for words? Yet words do well
When he that speaks them pleases those that
It is a pretty youth; not very pretty;
But sure he's proud; and yet his pride
  becomes him.

There be some women, Silvius, had they
  marked him
In parcels as I did, would have gone near
To fall in love with him; but, for my part,
I love him not nor hate him not; and yet
I have more cause to hate him than to love
                        (3.5.108-13, 123-27)

Audrey's nearly nonverbal reactions operate on the same principles. Her gross lack of understanding is only a less practiced indirection than the responses of the other women. Celia's love for and relationship with Oliver may be an exception to these female patterns of indirection; but since Oliver and Celia rarely interact, speculation about how she may have avoided indirection is useless.

In studying the consequences of such indirection, linguistic and otherwise, Madelon Gohlke and Coppélia Kahn have found the language of such comic heroines as Rosalind to be the reflection of a patriarchal order. Though Gohlke's work is primarily on the language of tragedy, she connects the linguistic freedoms of comic heroines to the threat of infidelity the women pose for their mates. Arguing that the indirections of the women's langauge cannote infidelity for the men, she identifies the darkest threat implied in free female language such as Rosalind's:

Whereas "honesty" in relations among men may be perceived primarily as a matter of keeping one's word, in relations with women, it is clearly a sexual concern. For a woman to lie is to be unfaithful. For this reason the attribution of complex speech to female characters in the comedies in the form of lies, riddles, puns and statements made in the context of disguise, often involves sexual matters generally or specifically the threat of infidelity.

("'All That Is Spoke,'" 167-68)

While such sexual betrayal remains latent in most comedies, the threat is so real that the linguistic freedom women gain in the play's middle is suspended by the play's end. Touchstone's prolonged digression on lies in 5.4 (which appropriately coincides with Rosalind's silence) is symbolic of the male recapturing of playful language at the end of As You Like It. Discussing The Taming of the Shrew, Kahn uncovers similar consequences in the indirection of a comic heroine's language. She notes that language is Kate's only way of asserting herself and Shakespeare's only device for calling his male order into question. Even so, and despite her ironic reading of Kate's final speech, Kahn ultimately finds such language to be but one more measure of patriarchal control: "But on the deepest level, because the play depicts its heroine as outwardly compliant but inwardly independent, it represents possibly the most cherished male fantasy of all—that woman remain untamed, even in her subjection" (Man's Estate, 117). I believe, with Gohlke and Kahn, that the language of the women in the play does double duty, acting both as a conduit for female power and as an automatic check on it. Through her language Rosalind creates a strong counteruniverse in the inverted world of As You Like It, and yet her power is as temporary as her stay in Arden.

Few playwrights can match Shakespeare in his linguistic richness; therefore, I will not repeat this concentration on women's language in my analyses of Congreve, Shaw, and Ayckbourn. Yet my argument based on the language of As You Like It—that the play's inversion but deceptively empowers women—is transferable (though less applicable) to other plays. The more important subsequent point, … is that women's language has become a major concern and tool in the comic world of contemporary women playwrights. But even in the theater of the last twenty years, language for the women of comedy remains simultaneously powerful and restrictive.

While Rosalind's most obvious source of power in the inverted world of the play is language, a second expression of her strength—as well as the limit to that strength—is her friendship with Celia. Not surprisingly, the friendship between the two women is as much affected by the cyclical patterns of the comedy as is the language.4

Initially, the court world of As You Like It seems hospitable to female attachments. Although Celia and Rosalind's bond is introduced in the hostile environment of 1.1, bone-breaker Charles softens while describing what is, even to him, a beautiful, strong, enviable attachment:

The Duke's daughter her cousin so loves her, being ever from their cradles bred together, that she would have followed her exile, or have died to stay behind her. She is at the court, and no less beloved of her uncle than his own daughter, and never two ladies loved as they do.


When Celia and Rosalind appear in 1.2, the love, trust, and intimacy of their woman's world mark a distinct difference from the combative male world of 1.1. In the second scene, another man—this time Le Beau—reveals the depth of the women's love for one another: "[Their] loves /Are dearer than the natural bond of sisters" (1.2.256-57). But more important, their love glows in the intimate word games that open the scene; here familiarity produces a conversation with two wits in league against the world, not in combat with one another. Such teamwork characterizes the women's verbal games with Touchstone, Le Beau, and even Orlando. Their pleas to Orlando to abstain from wrestling are best described as choric:

Rosalind: The little strength that I have, I
  would it were with you.
Celia: And mine to eke out hers.
Rosalind: Fare you well. Pray heaven I be
  deceived in you!
Celia: Your heart's desires be with you!
Rosalind: Now Hercules be thy speed, young
Celia: I would I were invisible, to catch the
  strong fellow by the leg.
Rosalind: O Excellent young man!
Celia: If I had a thunderbolt in mine eye, I
  can tell who should down.
                        (1.2.177-82; 192-97)

The third scene stands as the climax of the play's celebration of women's love. Significantly, it is Celia, not Rosalind, who gives voice to this celebration.5 The two tributes she makes to their love become the touch-stones by which the cousins' relationship in the rest of the play must be considered. First Celia pleads with her father to respect the women's mutual love:

If she be a traitor,
Why, so am I. We still have slept together,
Rose at an instant, learned, played, eat
And whereso'e'er we went, like Juno's swans,
Still we went coupled and inseparable.

That he cannot understand or respect their love is predictable. That Celia must repeat the same plea to Rosalind suggests less the depth of their bond than its precariousness:

  Rosalind lacks then the love
Which teacheth thee that thou and I am one.
Shall we be sund'red, shall we part, sweet
No, let my father seek another heir.

The disguises the two women subsequently put on—one the garb of a man, one the skirts of a country woman—are obvious manifestations of the rift developing between them. This female-female couple must now become a female-male team to survive. The two can no longer appear (literally) "as one." Thus when Celia and Rosalind set off "to liberty," they set off without the full strength of the love that has previously sustained them. In the next four acts, a charting of their actions shows them moving progressively further apart. They never regain the closeness of act 1.

The forces that separate the two women include the subversion and self-deprecation I noted in my study of language, but most detrimental to their friendship is the assumption in the play that the natural, inevitable pairing is that of woman to man. In 2.2, for example, Duke Frederick assumes either that Celia and Rosalind must have run off with a man in their entourage or that a man is the cause of their running off. Yet as wrong as he is in assuming that they are chasing Orlando, he is only making the same assumption they have made in preparing their disguises—i.e., that two women could not take off on their own. The rest of act 2 reinforces such assumptions. Rosalind, dressed as a man, assumes a protective male role as she transacts the women's business with Corin in 2.4. Jaques, in his "seven ages of man" speech, does women the courtesy of inclusion when he speaks of "the men and women merely players," yet he mentions women again only as supernumeraries—nurses and mistresses. Although Celia and Rosalind temporarily gain power in Arden, they have only entered a different sort of man's world than the one they have left at the court, a world that forces one of them into dress as a man and prods both of them to marriage.

In the rich discussions of acts 3 and 4, further impositions on the women's friendship accumulate. In 3.2, the first scene in which the women are happily settled in Arden, Celia teases Rosalind with her (Celia's) knowledge of Orlando's presence in the forest. In a stressful moment, the two are refreshed and comforted by their well-known patterns of banter. Yet as soon as Rosalind begins to woo Orlando, Celia is silent. Her silence can be partially accounted for by the dynamics of the situation—it is Rosalind and Orlando who are in love, after all, not Celia. But Celia's presence as silent chaperon serves also as a strong visual reminder that her friendship with Rosalind is no longer Rosalind's primary concern. In 3.4, with the two women once again alone together, familiar patterns of conversation return. Celia provides the support Rosalind needs by echoing agreement to each outrageous statement Rosalind makes (3.4.1-23). She matches her praise for praise, complaint for complaint. But while Rosalind gets the support she needs, she can make no thankful acknowledgment of it. Her mind is all on Orlando, not Celia.

The two women continue to appear together in 3.5, 4.1, and 4.3. Yet there is no more linguistic evidence of the comfort and support the two women can provide for one another. While Celia participates in these scenes as a silent partner, Rosalind acts more and more on her own. In 3.5, for example, Rosalind handles Phebe and Silvius without a single word from Celia. In 4.1, at the height of Rosalind's linguistic control, Celia has only six short speeches. And finally, 4.3 is evidence that the two women, even in Arden, have come to face the world separately. The most convincing proof of Celia's sudden love for Oliver is the revival of her language in 4.3, the scene in which Oliver first appears in Arden. Earlier, in her six short speeches of 4.1, Celia had demonstrated a playful distaste for Rosalind's actions, charging her with the misuse of "our sex" (4.1.185), dismissing Rosalind's affections for Orlando as "bottomless" (4.1.193), and responding to Rosalind's announcement of her vigil for Orlando with an atypical lack of concern: "And I'll sleep" (4.1.202). So by 4.3 Celia is ready to focus her energy and concern elsewhere. In the early parts of that scene, she has only two short speeches; once Oliver enters, however, she explodes into speech, and it is Rosalind's turn to be the bystander. In addition, 4.3 marks the first time Celia pays primary attention to someone other than Rosalind. Celia and Rosalind's exit with Oliver at the end of the scene also marks the last time the two women make their motions in tandem. When Rosalind re-enters in 5.2, she is without Celia for the first time in the play. When Celia next appears, at the opening of 5.4, she is similarly without Rosalind, who enters shortly after with Phebe and Silvius. By the end of the play, the dominant pairing for the women is not each other but Celia with her love Oliver and Rosalind with her love Orlando. Hymen's amusement at the coupling of women in his comment to Phebe adds a final, godly consent to the separation of the cousins (5.4.127-28).

Although Rosalind and Celia are the heart of the joyous woman's world, they are only half of the female population in the play. While the cousins are inseparable until the end of the play, Audrey and Phebe live isolated existences throughout. Their separate presences further accentuate the slimness of the possibilities for female community in this world. It is no accident that immediately after Rosalind's first show of power in 3.2 Audrey appears as an unforgettable reminder that few of the world's women are like Rosalind. Audrey is effectively speechless in response to Touchstone's verbal battering (3.3). And she is outnumbered three to one by men telling her what to do. Though she has been seen as a healthy reminder of sexuality in the play, by 5.1 she is no more than Touchstone's sexual possession. The choice of Audrey and Touchstone as the representatives of a lover and his lass in 5.3 is also revealing; instead of celebrating headstrong Rosalind and her lover, the two pages celebrate a more conventional couple, Audrey and her love. Finally, Audrey's fulfillment of expectations about conventional stereotypes of women is certified by her isolation. The only time she appears on stage with any other women is in 5.4, by which time the business of marriage assures she will be part of a married, heterosexual community, not a female one.

Phebe's journey through the inverted world of Rosalind's rule surpasses Audrey's in showing the play's restrictions on female community. Phebe appears first in 3.5 when Rosalind, Celia, and Corin are spying on her conversation with Silvius. For the first time, three women stand together on stage; and a potential expansion develops in that female community as Phebe is attracted to Rosalind-Ganymede. But Rosalind entertains Phebe's affection only as sport, and her decision ensures that Phebe's infatuation is cause for laughter—not for alarm or love. One might speculate, on the basis of her love for Celia, that Rosalind would show sympathy for Phebe. Instead, Rosalind shows disdain for her in 3.5 and belittles her love whenever possible throughout the rest of the play. In 4.3, for example, when Silvius carries Phebe's letter to Ganymede, Rosalind-Ganymede puts Phebe's love in the harshest terms, telling Silvius, "Wilt thou love such a woman? What, to make thee an instrument, and play false strains upon thee?" (4.3.68-69). And in 5.2, when Phebe tells Ganymede of her love, Phebe's desires become the comic link in Rosalind's love chain. In payment for her silly infatuation, Phebe is suitably embarrassed in the couplings of the final scene and must find her refuge in the man who has picked her. While both Phebe and Silvius are silly in their poses, Silvius, through his doggish sincerity earns a redemption Phebe cannot. There is no place in the play's final order for Phebe's attachment to Ganymede-Rosalind.

Audrey and Phebe serve double duty in the play. First they expose the isolation of the women in the play as Rosalind and Celia—with their long-standing love—cannot. In this way they defuse the threat of women that Shirley Nelson Garner finds responsible for similar isolations in A Midsummer Night's Dream; as Garner puts it, "the male characters think they can keep their women only if they divide and conquer them" ("A Midsummer Night's Dream, "61). Second, Audrey and Phebe serve as a multipurpose counter-point to Rosalind and Celia. The power, language, and love of Rosalind and Celia are undercut through the simplistic presences of Phebe and Audrey. What happens to Audrey and Phebe is especially important because they are women only of Arden. They, and not Rosalind and Celia, are the true representatives of Arden's inverted world. Most crucially, then, the presence of Phebe and Audrey assures that Rosalind and Celia are not the rule, that women can be separated, even in Arden. Or perhaps as a result of the underlying patriarchy, women are separated especially in Arden. In the end, the women in As You Like It are both without numbers (there are only four women in a cast of at least seventeen men) and without any effective claim to power and order.6

I have limited hope for the women of the play, partly because—as I have shown—the play limits female language and community and partly—and more basically—because in doing so it precludes change, especially a change for the women. While the inversion of the play allows the women primacy and control, that difference of status points not to change but to the return of convention. Individual change does occur in the play; the most obvious and important comes in Rosalind herself, who matures from a sharp and witty young woman into a loving, wise woman ready for the compromises of marriage. They giddy woman speculating about love in 1.2 becomes the magician of 5.4 and appears content to subordinate her own concerns to those she may share with Orlando. These personal changes, however, make no difference for the communal end of the play and may, in fact, simply allow for the group to take precedence. Rosalind has transformed herself, but the world of Arden (and, more important, the court world she is about to return to) remain firmly patriarchal and able to absorb her personal brilliance. The world emerging at the end of the comedy is marked by four new couples, yet they have been accepted as representatives of a familiar ritual indoctrination. The corrupt rule of Duke Frederick will be replaced by the predictable, benign rule of Duke Senior, Oliver, and Orlando. And as the actions and cycles of the play have made clear, part of that predictability includes the necessity of traditional sexual stereotypes and a naturalization of the double standard. The characters' final acceptance of each other is an acceptance of the limits that the play has enforced, namely, limits on women's words, friendships, and power. To put it more precisely, the kinds of change possible for As You Like It's women are as restricted as are their language and their friendships. In a play headed irrevocably toward marriage, which As You Like It is as soon as it begins, women, their changes, and their choices are from the first circumscribed by the overriding authority of men. There is no lasting change in women's status; there is no lasting challenge to the comic genre.

Based on her considerations of the comic genre, Bamber comes to a nearly opposite conclusion from mine: she finds that the dictates of comedy are so flexible that choice prevails, or more precisely, that the liberation of this world makes choice unnecessary (Comic Women, Tragic Men, 117-29). Catherine Belsey's Saussurian reading of Shakespearean comedy and Renaissance society also suggests a more optimistic possibility for the instabilities allowed in comedy's middle. Studying the structures of sexual identity, she argues that the plurality of the middle extends beyond its duration to offer a "radical challenge to patriarchal values by disrupting sexual difference itself ("Disrupting Sexual Difference," 180). Yet after offering a dazzling account of the unfixing of social and sexual norms in both society and literature, even Belsey must conclude with qualifications. She ends her essay by retaining a hope for change in conventions and their interpretation while acknowledging that even in Shakespearean comedy the happy ending is not necessarily "happy" for the women (190). I am less optimistic about even the unfixed middle of traditional comedy (though, like Belsey, I see Shakespearean comedy as potentially revolutionary). Ultimately, I find that as Shakespeare guides his female characters through the Scylla and Charybdis of revolution and reaction, he offers at best limited change. In other words, intense experience doesn't yield appreciable change either in character or in genre.

The middle of Shakespeare's play presents possibilities for female linguistic power and community; but as I have shown, these possibilities exist side by side with strategies for disrupting them. Ultimately, the disruption of power, community, and autonomy for women is completed by the ending, in which marriage dissolves the temporary triumph of possibility.

The Return to Order

I argued in [an earlier] chapter that the comic ending is the most significant cause of women's compromised presence in traditional comedy. For Shakespeare, as for other writers who have shaped the British comic tradition, marriage determines the overtones of that ending.

In Shakespearean criticism, as in general criticism of comedy, marriage has been portrayed as everything from a "beneficent arrangement through which mankind achieves a maximum of human joy" (Charlton, Shakespearian Comedy, 117) to an imposition on comic characters, both male and female. Several recent feminist investigations of Shakespeare's portrayals of marriage in the context of Renaissance attitudes to marriage have added social scrutiny to such literary study. After suggesting that both patriarchy and mutuality were possible models for Renaissance marriage, Marianne Novy finds that in Shakespeare's comedies "mutuality," or the sharing of responsibility, respect, and love, is the general guide for defining romantic relations between men and women (Love's Argument, 21-44). Carol Thomas Neely also details conflicting opinions on the role of women in Renaissance marriage. Yet she concludes that despite the new egalitarian ideal of the compassionate marriage that arrived with the Reformation, "the woman had unequal status at every point in the process of wooing and wedding" (Broken Nuptials, 11). She adds, however, that a "continuing dialectic" between Renaissance women's gains in power and status and the restrictions such gains called up make definitive conclusions about Renaissance women and marriage "difficult" (19).7 Thus, in each Renaissance comedy the actions offer but a single portrait of the complex social terrain of marriage. The marriages at the end of As You Like It are both defiant of and acquiescent to contemporary practice. They are also firmly dependent on generic convention. And they offer a final example of the intractable limitations to women's power in Shakespearean comedy.

In As You Like It, marriage is more an assumption than a visible institution. Although marriage is the goal of at least nine characters in the play (the four couples, plus William), no character is known to be married, though Duke Senior and Duke Frederick can be assumed to have been. Marriage, thus, exists as an abstract idea with the potential of becoming an ideal. Although the play is overflowing with critical evaluations of life in the country, life at the court, the age itself, and even love, marriage is rarely spoken of. In 3.3, as Touchstone's love for Audrey is to be translated into marriage by Sir Oliver Mar-Text, the first image of marriage is one Touchstone embellishes with a cuckold's horns (3.3.42-55). A brief exchange between Touchstone and Jaques adds to this a picture of marriage as a contest of animal desires (3.3.68-71).

Yet when Jaques refuses to let Touchstone's mockery of a wedding take place, the sanctity of the institution is preserved, curiously, by the biggest cynic in the play. Rosalind is the only other character to consider fully, before play's end, the transformation of love into marriage; and her view, like Touchstone's, is mockingly brutal. As she foretells her life as Orlando's wife in 4.1, her portrait of marriage promises little more than infidelity and animal passions. Orlando's firm response stands as proof against her changes, however, as do Rosalind's own pleas with Celia to "marry" her and Orlando. The play absorbs Rosalind's mockery as it absorbed Touchstone's cynicism. Marriage is rescued once by the realist Jaques and once by the idealist Orlando, and is, in both cases, preserved intact for the play's final scene where the would-be marriages of 3.3 and 4.1 are transformed into real marriages. Marriage remains an ideal unblemished by example.

The less obvious but more pervasive presence of marriage lies in the long-anticipated happy ending of the play. Familiarity with comic convention has led an audience to expect an ending in marriage, at least since Rosalind and Orlando fell in love in 1.2; and Shakespeare's only interference with such expectations comes in the teasing of his aborted marriages and in his omnipresent ironies. The drive toward marriage controls much action, as I have shown; friendship between women, for example, must finally take second place to the search for a mate and to the physical demands for regeneration. Comic endings in marriage are not simplistically happy—as even Shakespeare's array of comedies shows. And extensive criticism has confirmed that there can be no equation between marriage and a happy ending; yet the two remain, even if only ironically, attached and inseparable. The pressing question, however, is what marriage as the ending of comedy symbolizes for the women of As You Like It.

This brings me back to a consideration of convention and the power of an expected ending. Northrop Frye finds that the new society created in the marriages at the end of Shakespearean comedy is a changed one where a younger generation triumphs and gains the right to assert its fresh answers to life's dilemmas (Natural Perspective, 130). The joy of the comic ending is affixed to the promise of social renewal and regeneration. Both Rosalie Colie (Resources of Kind) and Heather Dubrow (Genre) extend the possibilities for some such sort of change, noting that because genres (such as comedy) create expectations, writers can use them to question those expectations and create a climate where actual change can occur. But the changes promoted by comedy are different for the women characters than they are for the men and for the society that these men control. The possibilities for change that do exist for women are severely reduced by an ending in marriage, in large part because comedy's reversals utilize a double standard, as I have previously argued.

Thus, the application of what Rosalind learns about love and self in the middle of the play is limited by the fact that she cannot choose to avoid marriage. Her choice is binary: either she retains the illusory power and freedom of a Ganymede, or she gains the love and predictable comfort of a married Rosalind. The comic genre as Shakespeare adopted it—Love's Labor's Lost notwithstanding—does not allow for the possibility of combining Rosalind's linguistic power, her friendship with Celia, and her marriage to Orlando. The play ends, rather, with her silence, her apparent distance from Celia, and her marriage to Orlando. Like many other comedies, As You Like It investigates the effect of changing power structures, gender structures, and even generic structures. But for Rosalind, Celia, Audrey, and Phebe, any participation in change will be funneled through marriage.

As You Like It on the Contemporary Stage

I conclude my study of Shakespeare's play and its women with an optimistic qualification. Although the women in As You Like It gain a circumscribed freedom, production of this and other Shakespearean comedies in recent years has offered enhanced possibilities for reducing the power of comedy's reversals and ending. The 1978 Ashland Festival Production of The Taming of the Shrew is a case in point. As Martha Andresen-Thom reports, the production placed great faith in the play's ability to counteract its own sexism. For instance, the action that preceded Kate's final treatise on marriage focused the audience on equality, not hierarchy:

In tone and action she [Kate] conveys to us and to the incredulous audience on stage that her alliance is with Petruchio (Rich Hamilton) who attends to her, subdued and moved, until she starts to kneel so as to place her hand beneath his foot. He then goes to her and kneels too, catching her hand in his. Slowly they rise together, face to face, the bond between them enacted in this public ritual and soon to be consummated in the private domain of their bedchamber.

("Shrew-Taming," 123)

The 1983 Royal Shakespeare Company production of Much Ado about Nothing employed a similarly bold and unconventional ending to announce its refusal to accept wholeheartedly the final couplings that are part of the comic tradition. The expected male-female coupling of the festive ending was replaced with a series of circle dances where combinations of men, of women, and of men and women made male-female couples only a minor part of a spectrum. In this broadened range of relationships, the final focus on Beatrice and Benedick was placed in context, with the lovers' relationship retaining its romance not because of but in defiance of traditional assumptions.

The 1985-86 RSC production of As You Like It at the Barbican Theatre in London offers a translation of such feminist staging to As You Like It itself.8 The production was an even more thorough attempt than those I have just mentioned to counteract the forces of traditional comedy. Most important, director Adrian Noble took great pains to imply not only that Duke Frederick's court never disappeared, but also that it was a patriarchal court from which the characters could not escape. Toward these ends, the roles of the two dukes were played by a single actor; he and his men simply covered the elegant tuxes of Duke Frederick's court with blankets to become Duke Senior and his banished men (the blankets later disappeared to reveal tattered tuxes). Visually, in other words, the audience was told that the court (and all it implies) is never really gone or forgotten. This compression of roles helped point to what one reviewer called the production's "consistently bleak view of the male competitive world" (Ratcliffe). Such a critique of the play's status quo world helped Noble and his actors strengthen the radical potential of the production's Arden. Orlando, for instance, was a very strong presence, stronger I would say, than his words. Not only was the actor physically muscular enough to make his wrestling victory in 1.2 more than convincing, but he also exuded during his discussions with Rosalind a strength of presence, an intelligence, that was a match for her powerful, controlling language. Orlando's strength challenged the simplistic sex-role reversals of the play. The treatment of the production's two main women—Rosalind and Celia—was, however, the most forceful attack on the traditional As You Like It.

Reviewer Irving Wardle connected the loss of a traditional pastoral world directly to the enlargement of Rosalind's presence—"Whatever pastoral elements this approach excludes, it is precisely in harmony with the heroine's line of development." I agree. As Rosalind exchanged her evening dress of act 1 for the white pants of Arden, actor Juliet Stevenson came into her own. It was immediately clear that the elaborate dress had physically inhibited her—she moved with energy and athleticism in Arden. As Stevenson puts it, "Literally and figuratively the disguise releases her [Rosalind]: you have to imagine her going into doublet and hose from Elizabethan petticoat and farthingale and a rib-cracking corset… . Rosalind can stretch her limbs, she can breathe properly, and so she's able to embark on increasingly long sweeps of thoughts and expression that take her ever deeper into new terrain" (Rutter, Clamorous Voices, 104). In addition to changing costumes, Stevenson completely discarded physical poses or mannerisms one might associate only with women. She seemed, indeed, a woman freed from confining gender roles. Yet despite the monumental efforts undertaken by Noble, Stevenson, and others to transcend traditional sexual roles and traditional genre expectations, this production too made its compromises.9

In the RSC program, for example, there appear four collections of quotations. One is entitled "In Search of Her Self." While this gesture toward the recuperation of a female subjectivity is laudable, the prose and poetry presented is all written by men and fails to approximate anything like a female point of view. A much more significant determinant of the production's compromises was the choice made about the play's ending. Surprisingly, the enlightened approach that characterized the early and middle portions of the production gave way to a very traditional happy ending. The physical onstage coupling, for example, was all heterosexual, with but a brief moment in which Rosalind and Celia confirmed the continuation of their bond. More surprisingly, Hymen took form as a disembodied, omni-present voice; he commanded (and exacted) a reverence for marriage. Stevenson defends this production choice in arguing that the "miraculous" appearance of the god Hymen suggests Rosalind's "direct access to the gods" and thus confirms her power. Yet Stevenson also acknowledges that this celebration is a difficult one for Rosalind to take part in (Rutter, Clamorous Voices, 118-19). And indeed, the production's final gestures toward the preservation of convention allowed the audience to forget the careful construction of Rosalind's power. For example, reviewer John Barber admired Stevenson not for her challenge to but for her compliance with the traditional portrayal of Rosalind. As he put it, Stevenson "combines a handsome femininity with the leaping vitality of youth, but her 'sex and sexuality' are never in doubt." Stevenson's own comments, finally, suggest the perpetual tension involved in the project of bringing the women of comedy to fulfillment:

The frustration of the play-endings in the comedies is a continuous one—with Isabella in "Measure for Measure" … we could never arrive at a solution and I don't believe we have on "As You Like It" either. I find myself constantly (and isolatedly) arguing in rehearsal against the Happy Ever After choices, because inevitably the heroine is left in a deeply compromised position in order that the status quo should be restored. Such arguments, on occasion, relate not just to the ending but to the whole play, in fact … for 18 months I played a Rosalind that I never felt I'd been allowed to make truly my own.

(Letter, 20 July 1986)

Other recent productions of As You Like It have also stood as efforts to reclaim its strong women and disruptive potential. In the 1986 production at the Royal Exchange in Manchester, Janet McTeer apparently managed to create a Rosalind who was able to retain the affections of both Celia and Orlando (Coveney review). Yet even McTeer's Rosalind, whom most reviewers found refreshing and independent, was found by at least one reviewer to be nothing more than a predictable and risible female type: "It was an angular, archly-humourous portrait of a woman in love with her ability to manipulate men" (O'Neill). Taken together, both of these productions of As You Like It suggest first that performance offers a conduit for transcending the power of traditional comic structures and their effect on women, and second that even in contemporary production, the traditions so central to the play make such transcendence a slippery and illusory business.

As You Like It invites producers and scholars to question their own definitions of comedy and to grapple with the incongruities of women's place in the comic world. In her strength, Rosalind promises possibilities that critics, directors, and actors are struggling to realize.


1 Not As You Like It, however, but Love's Labor's Lost offers the most substantial evidence of Shakespeare's inclination to center on women in an attempt to disrupt comic form. The collision of women and comedy in that play is highlighted by Berowne as he bemoans his still unmarried state at the play's end:

Our wooing doth not end like an old play;
Jack hath not Jill. These ladies' courtesy
Might well have made our sport a comedy.

While a study of Love's Labor's Lost would allow for a fruitful investigation of that play's renegade women, I turn to As You Like It instead, and to a collection of women both disruptive and accommodating. As You Like It, in the range of rebellion to be found in its women, offers a more complete portrait than Love's Labor's Lost of the paradoxes that attach to women in comedy.

2 See also Kimbrough ("Androgyny") is among those who do find the play's androgyny a sign of sexual equality.

3 See Montrose ('"The Place of a Brother'") for a similar view that the reversals of comedy operate as a "structure for her [Rosalind's] containment."

4 See Rutter (Clamorous Voices) for a perceptive reading of the friendship between Rosalind and Celia. In Rutter's interview with actor Juliet Stevenson, they discuss the great feminist possibilities of the connection as well as the persistent difficulties the two cousins face in a patriarchal world.

5 In their playing of the cousins in the 1985-86 RSC production, actors Fiona Shaw and Juliet Stevenson attempted to transmit Celia's ascendancy in the early portions of the play (Rutter, Clamorous Voices, 103).

6 Marjorie Garber (Coming of Age, 140-70) and George Gordon (Shakespearian Comedy, 31-32) read the movement of women away from each other in the play positively, each finding a psychic gain in such separation. Marilyn French (Shakespeare's Division of Experience, 79) and Carole McKewin ("Counsels of Gall") are even more optimistic: French refers to plays such as As You Like It as rare literary sites where female bondage is transformed to female bonding. Most recently, however, both Janet Adelman ("Male Bonding," 82-84) and Carol Neely (Broken Nuptials) have advanced the view that, like mine, finds the play's female friendships ultimately sacrificed by the women. In her book, Neely returns again and again to the conclusion that Shakespeare's plays consistently separate women. Thomas MacCary (Friends and Lovers) provides a complementary study of male friendship, finding that marriage is also often a deathblow to male bonds.

7 Antonia Fraser offers an encyclopedia of specific examples on marriage and Renaissance women. Her study of women in all classes (The Weaker Vessel) suggests how the portrait of marriage varied from class to class and decade to decade.

8 I am responding to the production that transferred from Stratford-upon-Avon to London. For a thorough description and feminist analysis of the original Stratford production, see Rutter, Clamorous Voices, 97-121.

9 Stevenson's analysis of the production (and its feminist possibilities) is somewhat more optimistic than mine. See Rutter, Clamorous Voices, 95-121.

Further Reading

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

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

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

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

Brooks, Charles. "Shakespeare's Heroine-Actresses." Shakespeare Jahrbuch 60 (1960): 134-44.

Focuses on Rosalind's disguise role, and realates this device to Shakespeare's concern with themes of identity, self-knowledge, reality, and illusion.

Brown, John Russell. "As You Like It." In Shakespeare's Dramatic Style, pp. 72-103. London: Heinemann, 1970.

Investigation of stagecraft in As You Like It that focuses on selected scenes in the play for purposes of analyzing language and elements of dramaturgy.

Carroll, William C. '"Forget to Be a Woman'." In The Metamorphoses of Shakespearean Comedy, pp. 103-37. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1985.

Includes a discussion of "real and apparent" transformations in As You Like It based upon the direct and indirect influence of Ovid's Metamorphoses.

Cole, Howard C. "The Moral Vision of As You Like It." College Literature III, No. 1 (Winter 1975): 17-32.

Argues that in As You Like It Shakespeare portrays the complexities of debates and oppositions without taking sides, and tests the conventions of the romance and pastoral genres.

Daley, A. Stuart. "Where Are the Woods in As You Like It?" Shakespeare Quarterly 34, No. 2 (Summer 1983): 172-80.

Warns that exaggerating the sylvan quality of As You Like It makes it difficult to understand the play as it was understood by its Elizabethan audience. Daley distinguishes between two Arden settings, one dark and perilous, the other characterized by sunny fields and a murmuring stream.

Doran, Madeleine. '"Yet am I inland Bred'." Shakespeare Quarterly 15, No. 2 (Spring 1964): 99-114.

Examines the theme of civilized man in As You Like It, allowing that Shakespeare presents a complex social picture in the play that does not favor any of the terms nature, art, or nurture to the expense of the others.

Draper, John W. "Country and Court in Shakespeare's Plays." In Stratford to Dogberry: Studies in Shakespeare's Earlier Plays, pp. 1-10. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1961.

Discusses As You Like It and other plays by Shakespeare in their historical contexts, particularly in the contrast between urban and rural life in Elizabethan England.

Forker, Charles R. "All the World's a Stage: Multiple Perspectives in Arden." Iowa State Journal of Research 54, No. 4 (May 1980): 421-30.

Describes tensions in As You Like It in terms of "Nature versus Grace, Life versus Art, Time versus Timelessness, and Subjectivity versus Objectivity"; arguing that, though these remain unresolved in the play, they reach a synthesis in the character of Rosalind.

Fortin, René E. '"Tongues in Trees': Symbolic Patterns in As You Like It." Texas Studies in Literature and Language XIV, No. 4 (Winter 1973): 569-82.

Focusing on Act II, scene i and Act IV, scene iii, Fortin claims that Shakespeare has subtly transformed his sources to introduce classical and Christian images "that charge these key scenes with symbolic significance."

Hieatt, Charles W. "The Quality of Pastoral in As You Like It." Genre VII, No. 2 (June 1974): 164-82.

Identifies a variety of combinations of pastoral conventions in As You Like It, especially those involving the hero/shepherd motif, and determines that the irony of the Arden scenes is "alien to the pastoral mid-section of romance."

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

Considers Orlando "a breed apart" from Shakespeare's usual romantic heroes, whom we are inclined to regard as peculiarly inept and slightly ridiculous.

Kuhn, Maura Slattery. "Much Virtue in If." Shakespeare Quarterly 28, No. 1 (Winter 1977): 40-50.

Close analysis of the staging, decorum, text, and dramatic recognition of Act V, scene iv of As You Like It.

Mares, F. H. "Viola and Other Transvestist Heroines in Shakespeare's Comedies." In Stratford Papers, 1965-67, edited by B. A. W. Jackson, pp. 96-109. Hamilton, Ontario: McMaster University Press, 1969.

Briefly compares Rosalind's empowering guise as a man in As You Like It to Viola's embarrassment and humiliation while disguised in Twelfth Night.

Martz, William J. "Rosalind and Incremental Development of Character in Comedy." In Shakespeare's Universe of Comedy, pp. 84-99. New York: David Lewis, 1971.

Traces the evolution of Rosalind's experience from romantic to imaginative love, to loneliness and longing, to the wooing process as self-discovery, to the "lyric wonder of love," and finally to love as an earnest passion.

Nevo, Ruth. "Existence in Arden." In Comic Transformations in Shakespeare, pp. 180-99. London and New York: Methuen & Co., 1980.

Treats As You Like It as a "meta-comedy," in which the underlying principles of Shakespearean practice "are drawn out for all to see and turned into the comic material itself."

Traci, Philip. "As You Like It: Homosexuality in Shakespeare's Play." CLA Journal XXV, No. 1 (September 1981): 91-105.

Maintains that Rosalind's multiple identities—reinforced and enlarged by the fact that her original portrayal on stage was by a young, probably effeminate, boy—suggests that homosexuality and pederasty are among the diverse sexual preferences that Shakespeare explores in As You Like It.

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

Comments on the subject of time in As You Like It, examining varied presentations of social time, historical time, and the timelessness of nature, along with their relation to the theme of love.

Wilson, Rawdon. "The Way to Arden: Attitudes Toward Time in As You Like It." Shakespeare Quarterly XXVI, No. 1 (Winter 1975): 16-24.

Discusses concepts of Aristotelian time in As You Like It, concluding that "the consciousness of time continues but is transferred to the interiority of the mind's aperception," causing the concern for "objective, public time" to be lost.

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As Who Liked It


As You Like It (Vol. 46)

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