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As You Like It

Although As You Like It received little or no critical recognition prior to the early eighteenth century, it has become one of Shakespeare's most-performed comedies. Adapted primarily from Thomas Lodge's pastoral romance Rosalynde, As You Like It was written and first performed between 1598 and 1600, perhaps for the opening of the Globe Theatre. Many commentators have criticized As You Like It for its minimal plot and limited action, while praising the play for its dynamic characterizations and energetic prose. Past critical commentary has addressed such thematic issues as Touchstone's comic role, Rosalind's sexual disguise, and the depiction of time in the Forest of Arden. These topics continue to garner the attention of contemporary critics as well.

Scholars consider Touchstone to be one of Shakespeare's most important additions to the original cast of characters he borrowed from Lodge's Rosalynde. Described as an intellectual fool, Touchstone was regarded as a new figure in English drama. In contrast to the assertion by some that the role of Touchstone was written expressly for jester Robert Armin, who joined the Lord Chamberlain's Men in 1599, Guy Butler (1983) has contended that the role was "originally intended for [Will] Kempe, an old style clown," who was replaced by Armin in 1600. According to Butler, Shakespeare adapted Touchstone's part to Armin's "new style witty fool" in a deliberate decision to merge "the rival styles of humour" found in the taverns and on the stage in Elizabethan times. The significance and dramatic function of Touchstone in As You Like It has been of enduring interest to many critics, who frequently see the clown as a mediator between the action onstage and the audience. As such, David Frail (1981) has pointed out that as the "wise fool," Touchstone's function is to blur the line between wisdom and folly. Through his "riddle-dissolving riddles," Touchstone prods the members of the audience into acknowledging their own paradoxical thoughts, actions, and beliefs, thus enabling them to see what "foolish humans" they truly are. In a similar vein, Bente Videbaek (1996) has asserted that Touchstone's purpose is to "lift the audience to a higher level" of awareness and enjoyment. The critic has claimed that Touchstone mirrors, mocks, and exposes the folly of those he encounters so that the audience can anticipate and "view the 'strange capers' on stage from the delightful distance this new transparency brings."

Rosalind's disguise as the youth Ganymede continues to intrigue modern scholars, particularly as it relates to the theme of sexual identity. Philip Traci (1981) has asserted that although the characters themselves are heterosexual, the dramatization of Rosalind's multiple identities reveals the homosexual side of As You Like It, especially when the role is performed by a boy actor, as it was in Elizabethan times. Analyzing the impact that homosexuality had on families, sex, and marriage in early modern England, Mario DiGangi (1996) has relied on the Ganymede myth, a narrative that recounts Jupiter's desire for his page Ganymede in lieu of his wife, Juno. DiGangi has contended the myth, used by Shakespeare as a "parable of conflict between husbands and wives," reflected the Renaissance culture's promotion of male homoeroticism and fear of female sexuality. Thus, Rosalind's male disguise permits her to "assay the sincerity of Orlando's love" and assuage her fears of postmarital sexual rejection.

The concept of time in As You Like It remains a focus of modern critics. Although the Forest of Arden has frequently been hailed as a timeless refuge where the inhabitants "fleet the time carelessly, as they did in the golden world" (I.i.118-19), recent criticism has focused on alternative views. Frederick Turner (1971) has suggested that time itself has not been eliminated, but that the "measurable, social time of clocks" has transmuted into diverse modes of time that reflect the characters' perceptions: the personal, subjective time that rules Rosalind and Orlando, the historical, objective time that Jacques embraces, and the natural, biological time that governs Touchstone. Arguing for the existence of "more than one 'time-sense'" in the play, Rawdon Wilson (1975) has examined the shift from objective to subjective time, noting that it marks not only the journey from the court to the forest, but the characters' attitudes toward change as well. Harry Morris (1975) has delved into the darker aspects related to the subject of time in As You Like It—death and decay. According to Morris, Touchstone is the initiator of the "death-in-Arcadia motif," the agent of time. His announcement, "Ay, now am I in Arden," echoes the expression, "Ay, now am I in Arcadia," the translated version of et in Arcadia ego. This phrase was inscribed on the tomb of a shepherd found in seventeenth-century pastoral paintings by both Guercino and Nicolas Poussin, nearly twenty-five years after As You Like It was written. Morris nevertheless has speculated that perhaps an earlier source was available to Shakespeare, given the parallels between the death elements in the paintings—the skull, the dead shepherd, and all-devouring time—and those found in the Forest of Arden.


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D. J. Palmer (essay date 1971)

SOURCE: "As You Like It and the Idea of Play," in Critical Quarterly, Vol. 13, No. 3, Autumn, 1971, pp. 234-45.

[In the following essay, Palmer analyzes the nature and purpose of play in As You Like It, and contends that "[t]he heart of the comedy might be described as a demonstration of man's natural propensity for play."]

Now in myth and ritual the great instinctive forces of civilized life have their origin: law and order, commerce and profit, craft and art, poetry, wisdom, and science. All are rooted in the primeval soil of play.

(J. Huizinga, Homo Ludens, 1949)

Here nowe I recke not much, to passe over untouched, how no maner acte, or noble deede was ever attempted, nor any arte or science invented, other, than of whiche I might fully be holden first author.

(Erasmus, The Praise of Folie, translated by Sir Thomas Chaloner 1549)

There is only enough story in As You Like It to send the main characters to the Forest of Arden and finally to bring most of them out again. Once in the forest, the action virtually dispenses with narrative plot. Rosalind, for instance, no longer requires her disguise when she has found her father, whom she came to seek, and Orlando as well; but she delays the discovery of her identity for as long as she can. Like the other sojourners in Arden, she passes the time (although there seems nothing to wait for) by playing games. The heart of the comedy might be described as a demonstration of man's natural propensity for play.

We first hear of Arden in the opening scene, when Charles the wrestler describes how Duke Senior and his companions live in exile:

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

It seems as though life has become a pastime for the Duke and his followers, as though they have passed out of reality into a story-book world. A legend of Merry England is merged with the classical myth of the Golden Age, and even in the word 'flock' there is a hint of pastoral associations. Yet this is only by report, as the repetition of 'they say' reminds us. Hearsay distances reality, and is itself the way in which legends come into being. We are left uncertain, therefore, whether this idyllic picture of life in Arden is the creation of the Duke and his followers or of Charles and his informants.

As a world of make-believe, however, it certainly reflects a sharp contrast with the stern realities of court life, where instead of a society of 'merry men' there is the conflict of brother with brother. As Duke Frederick usurped his brother's throne, Oliver now plots against Orlando, and immediately after Charles' description of the pastimes pursued in Arden we hear talk of another kind of play: 'You wrestle tomorrow before the new Duke?' Wrestling makes sport out of conflict, yet Oliver has a sinister design to turn Charles' match with Orlando into a game to be played in deadly earnest.

The juxtaposition of these two images of play is followed in the second scene by Celia's persuasion of her cousin to shake off melancholy and 'be merry':

Rosalind: From henceforth I will, coz, and devise sports. Let me see; what think you of falling in love?

Celia: Marry, I prithee, do, to make sport withal; but love no man in good earnest, nor no further in sport neither than with safety of a pure blush thou mayst in honour come off again.

Rosalind: What shall be our sport, then?

Celia: Let us sit and mock the good housewife Fortune from her wheel, that her gifts may henceforth be bestowed equally.

Rosalind: I would we could do so . . .

(I. ii. 20-31)

Their sport is in devising sport, experimenting with the exhilarating possibilities of play, and casting around for some suitable object for their wit and mockery. At this point Touchstone joins them, and the advent of the professional fool adds another dimension to the treatment of life as a game. The fool's wit is intelligence at play, delighting in its own caprice, and extending by inverting them the contrary values of folly and wisdom.

Before we reach Arden, therefore, we are given some anticipation of the nature of play, and of the equivocal relations between fiction and reality, game and earnest, folly and wisdom. Each of the different kinds of pastimes presented in these first two scenes is a response to a society broken by violent enmities: Duke Senior and his companions turn their exile into a make-believe life of good fellowship; the wrestling match between Charles and Orlando is a projection of the hostility between the two brothers; while the games of wit that Celia and Rosalind play with Touchstone make sport out of adversity ('Nature hath given us wit to flout at Fortune', as Celia says). Play may be seen as a civilising impulse to create a better world, or as a way of releasing energies restrained by civilised life. Significantly, in a world that has been reduced to barbarism, where violence and cruelty are real enough, there is little use for play: the wrestling match turns into a murder-plot, and the fool is put to silence. Wrestling is a fairly primitive form of sport, in any case ('Is there yet another dotes upon rib-breaking?' says Rosalind, determined out of perverse humour to stay and watch a sport not fit for ladies). But while it reflects what has become of courtly tastes and values in the ascendancy of Duke Frederick, it also suggests by analogy the element of ritualised conflict that exists in wit-combats and games of mockery. Similarly, the pastoralism of Duke Senior's way of life in Arden, as Charles describes it, is both primitivist and civilizing.

If poetry and drama are themselves forms of play, Shakespeare is also playing games with his own art in As You Like It. His critical intelligence and creative imagination are held in perfect equilibrium as he sports with style through parody and burlesque, and finds in the pastimes of Arden primitive analogues to the spirit of comedy. The forest itself, as we are several times reminded, is both literally and figuratively 'this wide and universal theatre', the wooden circle into which we are drawn, like fools at the call of 'Ducdame', and the 'abandoned cave' that we leave when the comedy is over.


After Charles' picture of the exiled Duke and his 'merry men' fleeting the time carelessly, it comes as something of a surprise when we first encounter the Duke in Arden to find him indulging a vein of serious philosophising:

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

(II. i. 1-12)

The climate, too, is apparently less hospitable than Charles' comparison with the golden world led us to anticipate. But it is only the nature of the game that is different: this is just as much an exercise in make-believe as playing at Robin Hood. The Duke is using imagination to convert the harshness of existence in Arden into a blessing in disguise; the struggle for survival in a hostile world becomes a benevolent schooling in self-knowledge. It is not the philosophical truth of the Duke's propositions that require assent, but his willingness to look on the bright side. So Amiens responds, not with 'How wise, how true, how noble', but with

Happy is your Grace,
That can translate the stubbornness of fortune
Into so quiet and so sweet a style.


The only moralist in evidence is the winter's wind, whose 'churlish chiding' is in marked contrast with the 'sweet' style of the Duke. He speaks here as a poet, a maker of fictions, even necessary fictions.

But discarding this role for another, the Duke abruptly changes his tune by proposing another pastime, and one that matches the cruelty of nature which has just been his theme:

Come, shall we go and kill us venison?

The victim of adversity would now reverse roles; but he recollects himself immediately and returns to his vein of fanciful reflection:

And yet it irks me the poor dappled fools,
Being native burghers of this desert city,
Should, in their own confines, with forked heads
Have their round haunches gor'd.


By attributing rights of prior occupation to the deer, and conflating their 'forked heads' with those of the huntsmen's arrows, the Duke puts man and beast on the same level, and relates bloodsport to the barbarism of the world that has expelled him.

This is the attendant lord's cue to report Jaques' meditation on the 'poor sequestered stag'. It echoes the Duke's own sentimentalising of misfortune so well that we can recognise Jacques and the Duke as complementary figures, even though the Duke's 'sweet' style and his love of fellowship are antithetical to Jacques' bitter raillery and solitariness. The wounded deer was a commonplace emblem of affliction and melancholy retirement, and the familiar Elizabethan pun of hart/heart, which lies just below the threshold of this image, enables it to be extended to conceits about amorous suffering, as we shall see. For his part, by identifying with the forlorn beast Jaques dissociates himself from his comrades-in-exile:

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 kill them up
In their assign'd and native dwelling-place.


Hunting now provides the metaphor for another pastime played between Jaques and the ducal party. His invective 'pierceth through/The body . . . of this our life' like a wounding arrow, but it causes amusement instead of pain, for the Duke and company treat Jaques as fair game for their mockery. The scene ends as the Duke goes to seek Jaques like a sportsman stalking his quarry:

Show me the place;
I love to cope him in these sullen fits,
For then he's full of matter.

Again, in introducing Jaques through the attendant lord's account, the technique of report has been used to arouse anticipation and to present action at an ironic distance.

The first scene in Arden reflects the equivocal nature of play as a series of reversible roles: the victim of misfortune is also its agent, man and beast change places, the usurped become the usurpers, the hunters hunted, the critic a butt of his adversaries. Men are feelingly persuaded what they are, not by 'churlish chiding', but by the contrary parts they play in their games. And these games are a bitter-sweet mixture of whimsical sentiment and wanton cruelty.


Play in Arden takes the form of a series of encounters, seemingly at random, for the suspension of narrative progression produces a sense of timelessness. Scenes must follow each other in linear succession, but the effect created is also that of simultaneity as we are taken from 'one part of the forest' to 'another part of the forest', in the words that eighteenth-century editors used for their sceneheadings. Indeed within Arden there is no constant impression of different locations; although logically we must suppose that the Duke's encampment, Rosalind's cottage, and the trysting-place of Touchstone and Audrey lie at a distance from each other, the play as conceived for the Elizabethan stage calls only for a forest setting. The sense of meandering through the forest, of paths that cross by chance, and of a corresponding dislocation in the time scheme, is essential to the feeling of liberation in the free activity of play.

It is curious, therefore, that time occupies so much attention in Arden. In the original golden world of pastoralism, there was no time; spring was eternal. Arden, however, is subject to 'the penalty of Adam,/The seasons' difference', and characters are aware of the passing of time. But since 'there's no clock in the forest', as Orlando says, the sense of time is relative, and Rosalind replies, 'Time travels in divers paces with divers persons'. Despite Orlando's assertion, Touchstone has brought a timepiece with him, for Jaques describes the fool drawing 'a dial from his poke':

And, looking on it with lack-lustre eye,
Says very wisely 'It is ten o'clock;
Thus we may see' quoth he 'how the world wags;
'Tis but an hour ago since it was nine;
And after one more hour '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'.

If this melancholy rumination is an antecedent of Macbeth's despairing reflections on the 'petty pace' that creeps through 'tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow', it is also a tale told by an idiot. Touchstone is mocking the sense of futility produced not by time itself but by the way time is spent, in fruitless moralising. 'Pastime', on the other hand, is the way in which those who devise sports 'lose and neglect the creeping hours of time'. Rosalind, for instance, is well aware that love is subject to time: 'men are April when they woo, December when they wed; maids are May when they are maids, but the sky changes when they are wives'. But the purpose of play is to 'fleet the time carelessly', to make time pass quickly, as in MarvelPs response to 'time's winged chariot':

Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.

Since 'life is but a flower', in the words of the song, sweet lovers must 'therefore take the present time'. There is nothing leisurely about Rosalind's life in Arden; 'woman's thoughts run before her actions', and in addition to her impatience and restlessness, the headlong dash of the prose she speaks is that of a wit moving so fast that the tongue and breath can scarcely keep up with it:

Good my complexion! dost thou think, though I am comparison'd like a man, I have a doublet and hose in my disposition? One inch of delay more is a South Sea of discovery. I prithee tell me who is it quickly, and speak apace. I would thou could'st stammer, that thou might'st pour this conceal'd man out of thy mouth, as wine comes out of a narrowmouth'd bottle—either too much at once or none at all. I prithee take the cork out of thy mouth that I may drink thy tidings.

(III. ii. 180-189)


The mating game is of course the comedy's principal pastime, and like the other encounters in Arden those between the lovers have a certain combative quality which recalls the wrestling at the beginning of the play. Indeed Orlando and Rosalind fall in love in wrestling terms. The conqueror of Charles confesses that 'my better parts are all thrown down' at his first meeting with Rosalind, and she acknowledges a similar defeat:

Sir, you have wrestled well, and overthrown
More than your enemies.

(I. ii. 233-234)

It is only one of the many perversities in love that losers are also winners (as in Juliet's paradox, 'learn me how to lose a winning match').

After this preliminary but decisive bout between Rosalind and Orlando, their mock-courtship in the forest is like a further series of rounds in which roles are again reversed. As Orlando was the unknown youth who overthrew Charles, he now finds himself outplayed by 'Ganymede'. Rosalind exploits the advantage of her disguise not only to take the initiative in wooing but to floor her partner in the lists of love (until she is herself literally floored by the sight of Orlando's bloody napkin). The analogy between love and fighting is continued in Rosalind's comparison of the encounter between Celia and Oliver with 'the fight of two rams and Caesar's thrasonical brag of "I came, saw, and overcame'".

The wrestling match was a game played in deadly earnest, and the treatment of love as a contest between adversaries is a means of using play to explore the cruelties and antagonisms inherent in sexual relationships. Similarly the bawdiness of the comedy confronts aspects of sexuality denied by romantic or Petrarchan attitudes; as the hunting song puts it,

The horn, the horn, the lusty horn,
Is not a thing to laugh to scorn,

(IV. ii. 17-18)

but we do laugh at the old jest about cuckoldry, because we are inclined to joke about what is otherwise embarrassing. So Touchstone's impromptu jingle parodying Orlando's bad verses reflects in its indecent wordplay the use of game to release repressed realities:

If a hart do lack a hind,
Let him seek out Rosalinde.
If the cat will after kind,
So be sure will Rosalinde . . .
He that sweetest rose will find Must find
love's prick and Rosalinde.

(III. ii. 91-102)

The point of 'love's prick' is felt by Silvius as 'the wounds invisible/That love's keen arrows make', as he sublimates the pain of unrequited passion into extravagant conceits. Though Silvius the fictions of the Elizabethan sonneteers are taken to their furthest extreme and reduced to absurdity, in Shakespeare's own game with contemporary poetic fashions. But Silvius himself is not disabled by the wounds of mockery, embracing his folly and wallowing in Phebe's scorn. Their 'pageant truly played' is a sado-masochistic farce, another variation of that sexual conflict called love. Yet at the point of Phebe's greatest cruelty, when she would employ Silvius thanklessly in her own suit to 'Ganymede', the game ceases to be quite so funny, and Silvius' devotion becomes for one brief glorious moment entirely moving instead of merely silly:

So holy and so perfect is my love,
And I in such a poverty of grace,
That I shall think it a most plenteous crop
To glean the broken ears after the man
That the main harvest reaps.

But the poignancy topples over into absurdity again:

Loose now and then
A scattered smile, and that I'll live upon.

(III. v. 98-103)

Such a moment illustrates the precarious poise between playful and serious values in this comedy, and Shakespeare's ability to turn artifice inside out. 'The truest poetry is the most feigning'.

Of all the love-games played in the forest, Rosalind's counterfeiting with Orlando is the most sophisticated and double-edged. It is essentially equivocal because Rosalind has three personae, as herself, as 'Ganymede', and as 'Ganymede-playing-Rosalind', and we often cannot tell with which voice she is speaking. 'Ganymede' is an inversion of Rosalind's true identity both sexually and as an enemy of love:

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 punish'd and cured is that the lunacy is so ordinary that the whippers are in love too. Yet I profess curing it by counsel.

(III. ii. 368-372)

As the free play of a sportive disposition, assuming attitudes for their amusing possiblities rather than their truth, Rosalind's wit has something in common with the teasing disinterestedness of Touchstone's mockery, and her disguise is another version of the fool's motley. But at the same time, since we know 'how many fathom deep in love' she is, the constant scepticism directed towards love's young dream verges on the melancholy disillusion of Jaques. The distinguishing feature of her wit is that, unlike Jaques who is always in earnest and Touchstone who never is, Rosalind/Ganymede is poised in ambivalence:

The poor world is almost six thousand years old, and in all this time there was not any men died in his own person, videlicet, in a love-cause. Troilus had his brains dash'd 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 liv'd many a fair year, though Hero had turn'd 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 drown'd; 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.

(IV. i. 9-95)

This is the literary game again, turning artifice against itself in mockery of poetic fictions. But if there is a joyful exuberance in the demolition of the 'foolish chroniclers', felt through the running-on of the clauses, the last sentence invites a pause and a slight change of tone. One can almost detect a certain wistfulness in the dying fall of the conclusion, 'but not for love', as though Rosalind sighs behind 'Ganymede's' back. Her enthusiasm for play reflects both security and insecurity in love:

Rosalind: Now tell me how long you would have her, after you have possess'd her.

Orlando: For ever and a day.

Rosalind: Say 'a day' without the 'ever'. No, no, Orlando; men are April when they woo, December when they wed; maids are May when they are maids, but the sky changes when they are wives.

(IV. i. 127-133)

At moments such as these, there is a precarious balance between wit and feeling, between the delightful make-believe and the uncomfortable reality.

As for Orlando, for most of the time in these scenes he is little more than Rosalind's 'feed' and the butt of her wit. Her treatment of her lover, whose charm hardly lies in his mental agility, betrays a latent sexual aggression which sometimes rises to the surface:

Rosalind: Make fast the doors upon a woman's wit, and it will out at the casement; shut that, and 'twill out at the keyhole; stop that, 'twill fly with the smoke out at the chimney.

Orlando: A man that had a wife with such a wit, he might say 'Wit, whither wilt?'

Rosalind: Nay, you might keep that check for it, till you met your wife's wit going to your neighbour's bed.

Orlando: And what wit could wit have to excuse that?

Rosalind: Marry, to say she came to seek you there. You shall never take her without her answer, unless you take her without her tongue. O, that woman that cannot make her fault her husband's occasion, let her never nurse her child herself, for she will breed it like a fool!

(IV. i. 144-157)

In those unenlightened days, before Women's Lib was afoot, such an attitude was accounted shrewishness. Rosalind was sufficiently peremptory when she encountered it in Phebe:

Down on your knees,
And thank heaven, fasting, for a good man's love,

(III. v. 57-58)

but her own treatment of Orlando bears a close resemblance to that belligerence she falsely attributes to Phebe's style:

Why, 'tis a boisterous and a cruel style;
A style for challengers. Why, she defies me,
Like Turk to Christian.

(IV. iii. 31-33)

If Rosalind's wit frequently leaves us guessing how far she believes what she says, it also seems at times to run away with her: 'the wiser, the waywarder'. 'We that have good wits', says Touchstone, 'have much to answer for: we shall be flouting, we cannot hold'. Her disguise is not merely the assumption of another personality; it serves as a liberation and extension of her true self, licensing what feminine modesty and a sense of decorum would else inhibit. Her game with Orlando is a lesson in awareness for each of them, a rehearsal for encountering with resilience the adversities that lie ahead. Yet, if she is being cruel only to be kind, there is no doubt that she also enjoys the sport, and that she proves herself as capricious as 'that same wicked bastard of Venus, that was begot of thought, conceived of spleen, and born of madness, that blind rascally boy'. The truths that are spoken in jest flout not only at romantic illusions but at the painful realities as well. Nevertheless, if love has its limitations, so does the play-world of Rosalind's wit. She seems willing to prolong the game for ever, but when Orlando hears that his brother and Celia are betrothed without fussing about such preliminaries as courtship, he loses interest in make-believe, finding 'how bitter a thing it is to look into happiness through another man's eyes'. The game must come to an end when he 'can no longer live by thinking'.


As commentators on the world of play around them, Jaques and Touchstone are complementary figures, the one transparently foolish in his wisdom, the other opaquely wise in his fooling. In a comedy composed of mutually balancing elements, where the qualities of correspondence and antithesis are as evident in the encounters between the characters as in the disposition of the scenes or the characteristics of the prose style, Jaques and Touchstone are symmetrically related. Jaques himself recognises this kinship of opposites in his ambition for motley, though his description of his meeting with the fool is another example of the dramatic use of report to gain ironic distance:

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.

(II. vii. 28-31)

The encounter might have been staged, but instead the joke is enriched at Jaques' expense by having him relate what is patently a parody of his own 'deep-contemplative' moralising, while he himself remains oblivious to the irony: 'O that I were a fool!'

Jaques might be described as the one character in Arden who lacks the capacity for play, since he refuses to join any of the pastimes around him. In another sense, however, to this detached observer of the passing scene life has indeed become no more than a play, as he declares in his speech on the Seven Ages of Man. 'All the world's a stage', and he is its spectator. Yet nobody takes him at his own valuation, because there is a self-conscious preciosité about his melancholy that smacks of affectation:

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

(IV. i. 14-18)

Jaques is suspected by his fellow-exiles of playing a game, and ironically he is made a subject for their sport; even Orlando gets the better of him. But Jaques comes into his own at the end of the comedy, by sustaining his part after they have abandoned theirs. He will remain in Arden while they return to court, and his consistency lends a certain authority to his wry benedictions. As he awaits the next party of 'convertîtes', Jaques the spectator is the only character who refuses to believe that the comedy is over.

If Jaques is paradoxically at home in exile, Touchstone is out of his element in Arden, wasting his sharpness on the desert air and the rustics, 'like Ovid among the Goths'. True to his name, his wit serves to bring out the nature of those he encounters, particularly through parody. He seems only to exist as a witty echo of those around him, turning all experience into a disinterested love of wordplay. His encounter with Corin is typical:

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

Touchstone: Truly, shepherd, in respect of itself, it is a good life; but in respect that it is a shepherd's life, it is nought. 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 that it is in the fields, it pleaseth me well, but in respect it is not in the court, it is tedious. As it is a spare life, look you, it fits my humour well; but as there is no more plenty in it, it goes much against my stomach.

(III. ii. 11-20)

Touchstone's wit is evasive. He remains perfectly uncommitted, sceptical of every point of view. His motley is so impenetrable that we wonder whether there is any identity at all beneath it. And his relationship with Audrey especially brings out this opaqueness: it is impossible to be certain whether he is happy or cynical, infatuated or merely contemptuous in his intentions towards her:

I press in here, sir, amongst the rest of the country copulatives, to swear and to forswear, according as marriage binds and blood breaks. A poor virgin, sir, an ill-favour'd thing, sir, but mine own; a poor humour of mine, sir, to take that that no man else will.

(V. iv. 53-57)

One can understand Jaques' concern for Touchstone, and bafflement at intelligence seemingly wasting itself in this way: 'O knowledge ill-inhabited, worse than Jove in a thatched house!' Perhaps his function is no more than that of the professional fool, to expose others but not himself. Yet delightful as it is there remains a sense of limitation in Touchstone's inability to do anything except in play, forever hedging his bets.

Before the lovers are united in Hymen's bands (the ceremonials of the theatre doing service for those of the church), it is Touchstone who rounds off this comedy of pastimes with his account of how a quarrel may be translated into a courtly game:

O, sir, we quarrel, in print by the book, as you have books for good manners. I will name you the degrees. The first, the Retort Courteous; the second, the Quip Modest; the third, the Reply Churlish; the fourth, the Reproof Valiant; the fifth, the Countercheck Quarrelsome; the sixth, the Lie with Circumstance; the seventh, the Lie Direct. All these you may avoid but the Lie Direct; and you may avoid that too with an If. I knew when seven justices could not take up a quarrel; but when the parties were met themselves, one of them thought but of an If, as: 'If you said so, then I said so'. And they shook hands, and swore brothers. Your If is the only peace-maker; much virtue in If.

(V. iv. 85-97)

Like the Lie Direct, the confusions of make-believe are finally resolved with an If, as Rosalind reveals herself:

Duke Senior: If there be truth in sight, you are my daughter.

Orlando: If there be truth in sight, you are my Rosalind.

Phebe: If sight and shape are true, Why then, my love adieu!

Rosalind: I'll have no father, if you be not he; I'll have no husband, if you be not he; Nor ne'er wed woman, if you be not she.

And Hymen unites the lovers in similar style:

Peace, ho! I bar confusion;
'Tis I must make conclusion
Of these most strange events.
Here's eight that must take hands
To join in Hymen's bands,
If truth holds true contents.

In the world that now lies before them, subject to time and the stubbornness of fortune, there is indeed much virtue in vows made with If. 'If is the provisional assent that play requires of us.

Joseph Alulis (essay date 1994)

SOURCE: "Fathers and Children: Matter, Mirth, and Melancholy in As You Like It," in Shakespeare's Political Pageant: Essays in Literature and Politics, edited by Joesph Alulis and Vickie Sullivan, Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 1994, pp. 37-60.

[In the essay below, originally presented at the University of Chicago in 1994, Alulis argues that As You Like It is about the relation between differing social statesone of convention, represented by the fathers, and the other of nature, represented by the childrenand examines issues of justice and dependence that occur in the play.]

Midway through As You Like It, in act 3, scene 4, there occurs a passage that, taken in context, is very amusing and, as Duke Senior might say, "full of matter." Rosalind speaks to her "coz" and confidant, Celia, of a chance encounter with her father in the Forest of Arden. She brings her account to an abrupt close by saying, "But what talk we of fathers, when there is such a man as Orlando" (3.4.34-35).1

Part of what makes this line so attractive is that it captures the spirit of the comedy. We laugh because of the pleasure we take in the sight of young love. Granted, one might criticize Rosalind for a lack of filial piety. She seems inconsiderate of a father from whom she has been long separated.2 But in her defense it might be said there is a natural justice in the daughter's neglect of the father for the sake of the lover: for every old father was once a young lover. This equation is made explicit just after Rosalind has fallen in love with Orlando. Celia, seeing her cousin absorbed in thought, asks her if she is thinking of her exiled father. Rosalind replies that that is only partly true; part of her thought is for her "child's father" (1.3.11).3

The significance of Rosalind's line in act 3, scene 4 is, first, that it reflects the structure of the play. The play literally begins with the children talking of the fathers; first, Orlando talking of his father, Sir Rowland de Boys, then Celia and Rosalind talking of their fathers, Dukes Frederick and Senior. The latter two fathers dominate acts 1 and 2 respectively. Then, in the center of the play, the fathers are forgotten. Through all of act 3, save a short first scene, the fathers are gone from the stage and this is true of all of act 4 as well and nearly all of act 5. It is only at the end, in the last scene of the play, that the fathers are recalled.

This structure, in turn, points to the play's "matter," that is, what the play is about.4 The great division in the play is between the court and the Forest of Arden. This division, as has often been noted, is not one between a corrupt state of society and an idyllic state of nature but rather between two different social states or ways of life: one a way of wealth and brilliance, the other, of simplicity and freedom.5 But the contrast between these two ways of life, by raising the question of which is better (cf. the conversation between Touchstone and Corin, 3.2.11-83) suggests the idea of nature, not as a possible human state distinct from society but as a standard by which different social states may be evaluated. In this way, the theme of the relation of nature and convention emerges. This theme is then readily associated with the relations of fathers and children. For it is the fathers who make the rules, thereby defining a way of life, and it is the children who encounter these rules as an alien imposition upon their own natural impulses. But nature in this sense is not a standard but the human given, which must be shaped to conform to the standard. Thus nature appears in two lights. If the fathers represent "the right way of life," then nature is both child and "super" or "first" father.6 In the play, Rosalind personifies both senses, as teacher and lover, judge and daughter.

The argument of this chapter is that the matter of the play is the relation between nature and convention, the former understood as both standard and native impulse, the latter understood as a society's accepted ideas of right and wrong and the mechanisms by which such ideas are made to govern our lives. The play explores the different standards of justice supplied by nature and convention and the different ways in which the children, or nature, are dependent upon and independent of the fathers, or convention. What makes this play the delightful affair it is, is that while it affirms an essential goodness of nature, hence the deficiencies of convention that depart from nature's standard, it also shows the necessary role of convention in relation to natural impulses, both in curbing those that are harmful and in protecting and fostering those that are beneficial. It rejects the melancholy view, occasioned by the spectacle of human injustice, that both nature and convention are meaningless, respectively teaching and serving only the pursuit of selfish ends by the most powerful. Shakespeare invites us to see our condition in nature and the world rather as an occasion of mirth. Whether we wish to accept that invitation is another question.

Matter: Nature and Convention

The matter of a tension between nature and convention, that is, between what is simply good and what is so because it is our own, is presented most plainly in the scene that introduces Rosalind, in the conversation between her and Celia that opens the scene. Celia's father, Duke Frederick, has taken from Rosalind's father, Duke Senior, the dukedom to which the latter possesses conventional title as "senior." Celia complains that Rosalind's sadness at her father's exile proves that Rosalind does not love Celia as much as Celia loves her. Had their situations been reversed, Celia says, she would have taught herself to take Rosalind's father as her own (1.2.7-13). But while the two men are equally fathers, they are not equally worthy of love: Duke Frederick is an unjust man and Duke Senior, his brother, is not. Celia loves her father as her own, not as good, and so cannot expect another, lacking this motive, to love him as she does.

That Celia understands this, act 1 makes clear. In her initial conversation with Rosalind, she tacitly censures her father's usurpation by assuring Rosalind that when she, Celia, inherits the dukedom, she will restore it to Rosalind (1.1.16-19). The censure is merely tacit because of filial piety: Celia honors her father as good because he has been good to her.7 This piety is reflected in her anger at Touchstone later in this scene when he makes an observation that reflects badly upon Duke Frederick (70-79). At the same time, Celia honors what is good simply, that is, what is just, even though counter to her father's will. This is expressed in her commitment to restore the dukedom to Rosalind. In one sense, here, too, the good is merely conventional: the dukedom belongs to Rosalind as heir of the conventionally sanctioned possessor. But Celia's commitment seems to spring primarily from her "affection" for Rosalind for her personal qualities and as such may be said to reflect a love of justice as determined by nature. Rosalind should have the dukedom because she can make the best use of the office.8 For Celia's love for Rosalind is a tribute to Rosalind's superior merit (cf. 1.3.67-68). In fact, Celia does love Rosalind more than Rosalind loves Celia because Rosalind is more worthy of love.9 Though it is "natural" for Celia to protest against this inequality, it also appears that she accepts it and this, too, may be described as natural. In this way Celia is to be distinguished from her father.

Before scene 2 ends Celia does explicitly express her distress at her father's actions. When Duke Frederick refuses to reward Orlando for his victory in the wrestling match, Celia comments to Rosalind: "My father's rough and envious disposition/Sticks me at heart" (1.2.230-31). Here, too, a dual loyalty is expressed. A natural love of justice binds Celia to condemn the action while the tie of blood makes this necessity painful. In the third scene of act 1, in which Duke Frederick commits his third act of injustice, banishing Rosalind, Celia breaks with her father. But she does not seek to undo his actions or even openly reproach him; she removes herself from his dominion. Celia freely renounces all the goods associated with her father's rule: "Let my father find another heir" (1.3.95). Even more to the point, making clear the real meaning of her first speeches in the play, Celia seeks Rosalind's father for her own. After Duke Frederick leaves, having pronounced his sentence of banishment, Celia says to Rosalind, "Wilt thou change fathers? I will give thee mine" (1.3.87). Then, when the two plan their course of action in banishment, it is Celia, not Rosalind, who suggests that they seek out Rosalind's father in the Forest of Arden (102-3). Children love and need their fathers, just as all human beings need and love some rule that orders their collective life. But while they honor their fathers, all children wish that their fathers might be good, just as human beings desire that their collective way of life may be one that most closely conforms to what is simply good for humankind.

In order to distract themselves from melancholy reflections, occasioned by the presence and absence of fathers, Celia makes the following suggestion: "Let us sit and mock the good hussif Fortune from her wheel, that her gifts may henceforth be bestowed equally" (1.2.30-32). Celia's chief complaint against fortune, it seems, is the accident of her birth, that she should have the father she has rather than another. But whether this is a complaint against fortune or nature remains a question.

The way in which Rosalind takes up Celia's invitation offers a further development on the relation between nature and convention: "I would we could [mock fortune into bestowing her gifts equally]; for her benefits are mightily misplaced, and the bountiful blind woman doth most mistake in her gifts to women" (33-35).10 Unlike a comparison of particular individuals, like Duke Frederick and Duke Senior, Rosalind speaks of women as a class being unjustly treated by fortune. She cannot mean that the distribution of worldly goods among individual women is mistaken because there is no reason to think this is any more mistaken among women than among men. The context suggests why this thought should be present to her mind. Fortune has deprived her father of his dukedom and in so doing has imposed a burden upon her as well. But fortune's blow to Duke Senior is assuaged as hers is not. As Duke Senior tells us in his first speech in act 2, the forest, being free of the ills inescapably associated with the life of the court, offers some compensation for his loss of office (2.1.1-17). Rosalind, however, detained at court, is denied that compensation. Her detention by her uncle reflects the fact that generally women, as the weaker sex, are denied the freedom men enjoy. Rosalind's thought, then, is that, in general, because women are weaker than men, fortune treats them less well. But Rosalind does not make her complaint against nature for making women physically weaker. Nature, presumably, has supplied ample compensation for the difference in bodily strength. For Rosalind, what is at issue is not nature but how we respond to nature; that is, the conventional arrangements that govern the relations of men and women. The natural physical weakness of women does not dictate that they be accorded an inferior status: that is the work of convention, the will of the fathers. If "the good hussif Fortune" is especially unjust in her treatment of women, it is only because of the antecedent injustice of the fathers.11

In directing her complaint against fortune rather than the fathers, Rosalind may be understood as shielding Celia from a harsh truth. Indeed, Celia is herself engaged in a kind of salutary self-deception insofar as her complaint against fortune on account of her father is, in fact, a complaint against nature. By substituting fortune for nature she succeeds in redirecting her complaint away from a provident deity, as nature's author, and toward a goddess of notoriously unreliable character. Rosalind's superiority to Celia is evident in her clear-sighted recognition of what belongs to each, nature and "fortune," and her ability to bear with equanimity the spectacle of the unequal distribution of their gifts. In particular she is able to bear the injustice to which she as a woman is subject. This capacity for bearing results from a recognition of a kind of necessity: because men are physically stronger, they can impose rules that are more advantageous to themselves and so will do so.12 But it seems also to be related to a recognition that the natural relations of men and women also serve to moderate the degree of injustice that the former naturally do the latter. When they are searching for some sport to make themselves merry, it is Celia who suggests that they sit and mock fortune. Rosalind makes a different suggestion: "What think you of falling in love?" (1.2.24). Love softens the harshness of the dictates of the fathers.13 Further, if convention unfairly forecloses from us the enjoyment of some of the pleasures that nature affords us as human beings, it does not necessarily foreclose all. One measure of the degree to which the conventional idea of justice departs from a natural standard is the quantity and quality of the natural pleasures it leaves within the power of those capable of enjoying them. In turning her thoughts to love in the fullest sense of the idea, Rosalind turns to what is the preeminent good available to her and, perhaps, the preeminent good available to any human being as such.14

The next stage of the conversation confirms the idea that Rosalind's account of fortune directs our attention to the relation between conventional and natural goods. Celia agrees with Rosalind that fortune treats women unjustly but she apparently misunderstands Rosalind's meaning.

Celia: 'Tis true, for those that she makes fair, she scarce makes honest; and those that she makes honest, she makes very ill-favouredly.

Rosalind: Nay now thou goest from Fortune's office to Nature's; Fortune reigns in gifts of the world, not in the lineaments of Nature.


Celia is, at least in part, making a little joke: the "fair," being the object of so much attention, have a greater need for chastity than the ill-favored, while it is precisely the lack of opportunity that makes the ill-favored "honest." (Hamlet, in a less playful way, also comments on the relation between beauty and honesty.15) By making beauty a gift of fortune, Celia again begs the question of what belongs to nature and what to fortune. Rosalind distinguishes between the gifts of nature, beauty and just parents, and those of the world, wealth and, apparently, honesty. Celia responds to Rosalind by seeking to reassert fortune's rule even in nature's realm: "No? When Nature hath made a fair creature, may she not fall into the fire?" (42-43).

This idea of the power of accident, however, does not lessen the utility of Rosalind's distinction between nature and "the world." Rather it clarifies the relation between the two. Because the good things that nature gives us may, in a contingent universe, suffer harm, the fathers should arrange things in the world to protect them. The role of convention is to protect and foster nature's goods. The fathers are entrusted with the responsibility to take care of things in the world for the common good. They do this best when their ideas of justice and right and wrong conform most closely to what nature dictates in these matters.

An important way in which convention protects and fosters nature's goods is by education, especially moral education. When Celia speaks, in the context of beauty and chastity, of a fair creature's "fall into the fire," the primary significance of "fire" is not literal but metaphorical. Fire is a common Shakespearean usage for "sexual ardor" or lust and from this takes on the additional meaning of the burning of venerai disease.16 In this sense, it is "honesty" that saves one from the "fire" and Rosalind, in reply to Celia, makes honesty a gift not of nature but of the world. Honesty is the product of the education ordained by the fathers for the protection of the children.17 Here is a convention that conforms to nature's rule, an instance in which the fathers' will is simply benign.

If we now turn to the first scene of the play, we see that it concerns the issue of education as, in both a literal and legal sense, the dictate of a father's will. Moreover, the issue here is precisely the distribution of material goods so as to protect and cultivate nature's gifts. The play opens with Orlando lamenting the fact that his education or, rather, lack of it, "mines [his] gentility" (1.1.20). His father, Sir Rowland de Boys, upon his death, provided for Orlando's education but his eldest brother, Oliver, in whose hands it rests to execute Sir Rowland's will, has deprived Orlando of his due. The old father's will is frustrated by his successor, the new father. Such gentility as Orlando possesses is not a product of education but a gift of nature. He is "gentle, never schooled yet learned, full of noble device" (1.1.164-65). Insofar as "gentility" includes virtue (cf. Touchstone's play with the different meanings of "manners," 3.2.39-43), one sees another sign of it in Orlando's native sense of justice.

In complaining to Adam of his plight, he shows he is able to weigh carefully what is due himself and what is due others: "I will no longer endure it [the injustice Oliver does him], though yet I know no wise remedy how to avoid it" (1.1.23-25). Though the victim of injustice, Orlando will not be so unjust to others, or to himself, as to embrace a remedy that he cannot approve as wise. Orlando is, so to speak, naturally virtuous. And yet one may perhaps detect a slight weakening of his disposition in the desperate remarks he makes to Rosalind and Celia before the wrestling match. He claims to have no friends, which is unjust to Adam; declares himself willing to die in a frivolous cause, which is unjust to himself; and opines that the world will suffer no injury by his loss because he has no place in it, which is unjust to the world. For we already know from his brother how much he is "in the heart of the world" for the sake of his natural gifts (1.2.177-80, 1.1.165-67). In short, as he says to his brother, he is in danger of being "marred" by his fortune (1.1.31-34).

Like Duke Senior Orlando is the victim of injustice at the hands of his brother. But by a natural standard he is a victim of injustice at the hands of Sir Rowland as well. For Orlando clearly possesses greater natural gifts than his brother, Oliver, and therefore can be expected to make better use of the world's gifts. But convention, the will of the fathers, dictates that the eldest son be favored before the youngest. In Shakespeare's source, Thomas Lodge's Rosalynde, Orlando's counterpart, Rosader, though the youngest, is awarded by the father the largest share of the estate because of his natural virtue.18 Shakespeare alters his source to place Orlando in a situation where he can be described as suffering injustice at the hands of convention. In scene 2, when Rosalind makes a gift to Orlando to compensate for Duke Frederick's poor treatment of him, she speaks of herself as "one out of suits with fortune" (1.2.236). We recognize this description as appropriate to both young people because of the particular injustices they have suffered. But, as Shakespeare has taken care to suggest, it fits them also as members of classes of persons who are disadvantaged by the fathers generally.19

To women and youngest sons we may add as a third class of persons who are "out of suits with fortune": those of mean birth, like Adam.20 Though we see Adam only as an old man, he recalls a time when he was Orlando's age. He tells us he was seventeen when he began service to Orlando's father and shows us by his account of his prudence (his temperance and his savings) that he is not unintelligent (2.3.71-72, 38-39, 47-51). Nonetheless, fortune decreed that he should lead the life of an "ox" and in age, be treated like a "dog" (1.1.10, 81). And yet Adam accepts his position and we are invited to admire his loyalty to the master who treats him well within the limits of the relation in which fortune has placed them both.

Here then is the question of the relation of nature and convention in its most troubling form. We have considered three characters "out of suits with fortune," Rosalind, Orlando, and Adam. Each represents a class— women, youngest sons, persons of mean birth—that suffers by convention or the will of the fathers. Each by reason of personal merit deserves better at the world's hands. But not one condemns the fathers or seeks to reverse the fathers' will by force or fraud, justifying such expedients by an appeal to a natural standard. Shakespeare dramatically endorses their self-restraint by portraying each favorably and then ratifies this endorsement by portraying unfavorably a similarly situated character who does violate convention's dictate. This is Duke Frederick, who, like Orlando, is a younger son. In the persons of Frederick and Orlando Shakespeare presents two contrasting understandings of nature and convention and the relation of the two.

Like Orlando, Frederick appears superior to his brother in certain natural gifts. Clearly Duke Senior is superior morally: lords follow him into exile in devotion to his character and we see him in the forest of Arden bearing his exile without bitterness (1.1.100-104; 2.1.1-17). But the very fact that he is in exile may be taken as a sign of his weakness as a ruler. He has been taken unawares by his brother and deprived of his dukedom. Moreover, unlike Prospero in The Tempest, Duke Senior does not recover his state by his own actions. This suggests that Frederick, at least in a kind of practical sagacity, is superior to his elder brother. But Orlando, occupying a similar position of superiority vis-à-vis his brother, does not even think of justifying usurpation on that ground. He is wary of acting too rashly even in advancing his strictly conventional claims (1.1.23-35). The ground of this wariness is suggested by the way he characterizes that conventional arrangement that accords the greater share to the eldest. Orlando calls it the "courtesy of nations" (1.1.46). By contrast, Frederick's disregard for the same convention bespeaks a view of it as the "curiosity of nations," an arbitrary arrangement not worthy of respect. Frederick, like Edmund, mocks courtesy; Orlando respects it.21

The rules of courtesy prescribe those practices by which human beings curb their egoism in their interactions with others so that society may be peaceable. The idea of the courtesy of nations reminds us of the constant danger of an appeal to force in human intercourse. In his first encounter with Duke Senior, when Orlando appears sword in hand to demand satisfaction of his needs, the older man asks him if he is "a rude despiser of good manners" (2.7.93). Of course, Orlando is just the opposite and, at the hands of one like himself, secures his needs by courtesy rather than force. In despising courtesy Frederick implicitly embraces an appeal to force to decide differences among egoistic human beings. He does so confident that his superior ability will reward him with success regardless of harm to others.

It is the most powerful, the fathers, who set down the rules of courtesy as a restraint upon themselves as well as the less powerful. But it is more than an egoistic desire for peace that prompts respect for the imperfect rules of justice they dictate. When Orlando confronts Oliver over the injustice Oliver does him within the limits of convention, he tells us twice in the space of fifty lines that he is prompted to do so by "the spirit of [his] father" (1.1.21-22, 70). The spirit of his father aims at justice even if the father's will is defective.22 One submits to the will of the father, though it sometimes be unjust by nature's standard, because the spirit is true. That spirit is itself a gift of nature. It is that disposition to justice that we all have to a greater or lesser degree by nature. In the case of Orlando and Rosalind the formula "spirit of my father" applies literally. Sir Rowland de Boys and Duke Senior are both men who love justice, hence the tie of love between them (1.2.224; 1.3.27; 2.7.198-99).23 But Celia, who we have noticed loves justice, is the daughter of a father who does not, just as Sir Rowland has a son, Oliver, who does not. Each case casts some light upon the other. As a just Sir Rowland had two sons, one just and one unjust, so one might imagine that Duke Senior and Duke Frederick had a father who was just.

The love of justice in Celia is the spirit of her father's father. The generational scheme Shakespeare presents us in the two families leads the (traditional) mind backward to the first father, Adam, whom God made in his image. The conversions of Oliver and Duke Frederick at the play's end depend ultimately upon the triumph in them of the spirit of the first father, a triumph the possibility of which is thus suggested in the opening scene of the play. By the same token, reliance upon God is a reliance upon the spirit God places in man. Thus, in venturing forth with Orlando, Adam, the old servant, trusts that "He that doth the ravens feed, / Yea providently caters for the sparrow, / [Will] be comfort to may age" (2.3.43-45). When Adam is saved from starvation in act 2, scene 7 by Duke Senior, we are invited to think his faith is rewarded.24

Frederick's scorn for courtesy, his appeal to force to attain his title and to secure it for his heirs, suggests a radically different vision of nature and convention. In this view nature ordains no good but personal advantage, the will of the fathers seeks no more than this, and the spirit of the father aims only at power. If convention only serves the advantage of the more powerful, why shouldn't Frederick scorn it when it is disadvantageous to him, especially if he has the force and wit enough to do so successfully?25 In this view the world is a place of "stern alarums" rather than "delightful measures" and life is to be encountered with vigor as a bracing struggle to get to the top of the heap by fair means or foul.26 To one who does not share this view, however, this vision is an unattractive one. It is the world described by Duke Senior and the lords who surround him in the forest of Arden, a world that the egoism of individuals fills with "peril" and "ingratitude," in which "most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly" (2.1.4; 2.7.176, 181). Love in this view is not the preeminent good but a snare and a weakness (cf. 3.2.277-78).

Surely there is peril, ingratitude, and falseness in the world, but that these things are dominant is a vision of the world that Shakespeare encourages us to reject as false. By and large, the world appears very well in this play. The world loves Orlando for his natural virtue (1.1.162-69) and one surmises it is for the same reason that it loved his father (1.2.224-25). Each day men of power give their allegiance to Duke Senior in preference to his usurping brother (5.4.153-54). Moreover, though Frederick is temporarily successful, it is the very nature of the world that dooms his usurpation to ultimate failure. The people are devoted to Rosalind for her virtue, which raises the likelihood that they will support her restoration at the earliest opportunity. It is this natural bent of the world that Frederick attempts to counter by banishing Rosalind ( 1.3.76-78).27 But we know that his effort to secure the title to his heirs is fruitless because Celia has already promised to restore the dukedom to her cousin.

Finally, Shakespeare portrays the ground of Frederick's view and action as ugly. His action arises from something like a resentment of nature's goodness—resentment that nature's goodness does not yield to his will. Duke Frederick treats Orlando unjustly at the wrestling match because Orlando's father, Sir Rowland de Boys, was his enemy (1.2.213-19). Sir Rowland's enmity presumably sprang from the fact of Duke Frederick's injustice. By means of that injustice Duke Frederick attained the power, in terms of the world's gifts, that he must have thought would make him esteemed. Yet nonetheless, "all the world" loved Sir Rowland for his goodness while even those who pay court to Duke Frederick do not respect him (1.2.224-25 and Le Beau's remarks to Orlando in the same scene, 256-57). Frederick hates Sir Rowland and thereby Orlando because of their goodness and because the world in esteeming them more highly for their goodness than him for his "worldly" success is not as craven as he is.28

If the world were really such as Frederick imagines it, that would be an occasion for melancholy for anyone who loved the idea of justice as something more than the egoism of the strongest. It is that thought which accounts for the presence in the play of one of Shakespeare's most memorable characters, Jaques. Nature looks to Jaques as it does to Frederick; it is the scene of a cruel struggle for power by selfish individuals. But while this spectacle fills Frederick with ambition and resolve, it fills Jaques with dismay. He is, in Orlando's phrase, "Monsieur Melancholy" (3.2.288-89). Jaques represents, by reflection, the idea of nature as incapable of recognizing a good understood as independent of human will for its being. Shakespeare's depiction of Jaques, then, constitutes a further exploration of the matter developed in the first act of the play and to that depiction I will now turn.


Jaques is not merely a memorable character; we tend to like him and Shakespeare gives us some good reasons for doing so. He belongs to the circle of Duke Senior, which puts him in the camp of the just. He is one of those Lords of whom Charles spoke who have sacrificed their property out of love for Duke Senior (1.1.99-104). Jaques, not present on Duke Senior's first appearance, is spoken of by the Duke and other lords with evident goodwill (2.1.25-69); his melancholy is treated as a harmless, even amusing, disposition. If he is somewhat excessive in his criticism, still there is much in the world of which to be critical. He does not appear to be depressing company. And who has not sometime or other sucked melancholy out of a song (2.5.11-13)?29

It remains, however, that Shakespeare censures Jaques. Successively, in acts 2, 3, and 4, Duke Senior, Orlando, and Rosalind respectively, rebuke, reject, and ridicule Jaques's melancholy. One must feel the full force of this repudiation to appreciate the play's meaning.

The occasion for Jaques's melancholy seems to be the wickedness of the world (cf. 2.1.25-63). But in his consciousness of this Jaques is not unique. All in Duke Senior's party comment upon the same theme. In the speech that opens act 2, Duke Senior describes the court as "envious" and favorably compares the "icy fang . . . of the winter's wind" to the "flattery" of "counsellors" (2.1.6-11).30 The idea is echoed by the song the Lords sing in the last scene of this act, which concludes: "Heigh-ho, sing heigh-ho, unto the green holly, / Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly" (2.7.190-191).

But while the other lords observe and comment upon the injustice of humankind they do not take pleasure in the contemplation of it the way Jaques does. More important, for Jaques the wickedness men do suggests that nature is utterly corrupt. In describing his melancholy to Ganymede, he tells "him" that it results from "the sundry contemplations of my travels" (4.1.17-18). What prompted Jaques to travel and what he saw he does not say. But we can surmise the answers to these questions from what we already know about Jaques. From the first, Jaques is presented as a witness to the folly, misery, and wickedness of human beings. As the First Lord reports to Duke Senior, in his moralizing, Jaques "invectively" pierces through "The body of country,.city, court" (2.1.58-59). The manners of men differ from one sphere to the other but are no less wicked. We are led to the thought that Jaques went abroad to see if there was any place where men were wise, happy, and just and discovered that no such place exists.31

The melancholy of Jaques suggests that the will of the father is hopelessly corrupt. Whatever good nature may be said to intend for humankind, convention does little to foster it and much to undermine it. But the fathers are themselves products of nature. If their wills are hopelessly corrupt, then so is nature. One conforms to the will of the fathers, adopts manners, to escape the brutality of unchecked egoism but does not thereby escape the more refined egoism of social life in which manners merely cloak our indifference to or even hatred of each other (cf. 3.2.249-54). The choice for the individual seems to be between the savagery of anarchy or the injustice of the fathers' rule. Jaques presents this melancholy view most fully in the last scene of act 2 and it is in the same scene that it is most effectively rebutted.

In the third scene of act 2 we see Orlando flee Oliver for fear of his life, accompanied by Adam. They have no clear destination. In scene 6 we see Adam on the verge of collapse from hunger. Orlando settles him in some shelter and goes in search of food. In the next scene he comes upon Duke Senior's group and attempts to extort food from them by the threat of force. He has recourse to force because he thinks he is no longer in the realm of the fathers but in a Hobbesian state of nature: "I thought that all things had been savage here" (2.7.107). Duke Senior responds in such a way as to make him doubt this judgment. Orlando then applies the following test to determine whether these strangers are civil rather than savage. Here is what he asks his unknown host:

If ever you have look'd on better days;
If ever been where bells have knoll'd to church;
If ever sat at any good man's feast;
If ever from your eyelids wip'd a tear,
And know what 'tis to pity and be pitied,
Let gentleness my strong enforcement be.


To this Duke Senior replies in kind:

True is it that we have seen better days,
And have with holy bell been knoll'd to church,
And sat at good men's feasts, and wip'd our eyes
Of drops that sacred pity hath engender'd;
And therefore sit you down in gentleness,
And take upon command what help we have
That to your wanting may be minister'd.


The effect is a kind of litany, chanted by the new father and the old father, of the way of the fathers when that way is designed to foster and cultivate nature's goods. The first institution characteristic of this way is the family. When Orlando, surveying a group of men separate from women and children, asks them if they have seen "better days," he is inquiring if they have known the gentling experience of family life. The second institution is that of religion, that is, the means by which we express our love of God who alone is good. Beyond this, his speech describes mores that encourage liberality and compassion. These are the means to tame egoism and foster nature's goods.

Just before Orlando entered Jaques had described a different way to deal with the wickedness of humankind. Given his vision of our moral incorrigibility, the aim would not be to make us good so much as to hold wrongdoing in check. He addresses the Duke: "Give me leave / To speak my mind, and I will through and through / Cleanse the foul body of th' infected world" (58-61). Now around the time this play appeared satire was very much in fashion. In 1598 John Marston published a work in this genre entitled The Scourge of Villainy. This is exactly what Jaques is proposing: to scourge men, verbally by raillery and mockery, to curb their wrongdoing by calling attention to the ugliness of their wickedness.32 This is a very different approach from that which Orlando describes and Duke Senior echoes. Shortly after Marston's book appeared, the Bishop of London banned all works of satire.33 The thought behind this action may have been the same as that which prompts the Duke to reply to Jaques with a rebuke.

Most mischievous foul sin, in chiding sin.
For thou thyself hast been a libertine,
As sensual as the brutish sting itself,
And all th'embossed sores and headed evils
That thou with license of free foot hast caught
Wouldst thou disgorge into the general world.


The result of Jaques's proposed railing would be the opposite of what he intended. One whose ability to expose wickedness to mockery depends upon his own intimate acquaintance with it may rather put ideas in the heads of the innocent than correct the erring.34 More important, Jaques would corrupt because his scourging would be seen by many, especially the young, as a cynical portrait of the way men inescapably are. In the end, what Jaques would inculcate, to use one critic's description of Marston's view, is "a dark pessimistic weariness that falls little short of complete despair."35

When Orlando leaves to fetch Adam, Jaques delivers his "seven ages" of man speech (2.7.139-66). This is, probably, the most often noted speech of the play. But given the context, it is a mistake to read this as intended by Shakespeare as a simply true or complete picture of human experience. Rather, the speech perfectly expresses Jaques's melancholy by portraying its cause. It depicts life as low and meaningless, dominated by senseless passion and corrupt motives. James Smith likens it to Macbeth's more famous comparison of life to the part acted by "a poor player": "a tale / Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, / Signifying nothing."36

Though he has just rebuked Jaques for his melancholy vision of humankind, the Duke does not object to this speech. He is silent, I think, because it is well for us to be reminded of our foibles as long as the reminder is offered in a manner that reduces the likelihood of corruption. Jaques's scourge of villainy here is not "as free as the wind" but is restricted to a small circle; it is a rebuke to the ruler, the Duke, not to forget himself.37 In addition, as has been often noted, all who hear it see something contrary.38 They see a young man, "the lover" of Jaques's "seven ages," moved by "sacred pity" to care for an old man whose known worth marks him as a venerable being not a "pantaloon" and these two greeted by a "justice" whose wisdom we known is not a matter of "saws" drawn from books but something "feelingly" acquired in the Forest of Arden.

What makes Jaques attractive to us is precisely his goodness. He is not simply hopeless. His travels may have shown him that most men are corrupt and yet he knows some who are not: himself and those friends of the Duke who sacrificed material goods out of loyalty to virtue. In act 2, scene 5 where he improvises his "ducdame " stanzo, he mocks those who leave "wealth and ease / A stubborn will to please" (49-50) meaning, surely, those he addresses with his "Greek invocation," the followers of the Duke. But he is one of their number. Here he is like the Fool in King Lear, noting what the wicked think wise without himself following their opinion.39 But he is less wise than the Fool because too doubtful of his own goodness. By suggesting that his action springs less from decency than "a stubborn will" he does himself, and nature, an injustice.40 By the same token, we can let our perception of the world's injustice distort our vision. There is reason to be more hopeful about nature than Jaques. This reason is suggested in the persons of Rosalind and Orlando, the children, and it is to them, especially Rosalind, that I turn for my discussion of mirth.


The word mirth occurs only twice in the play, but these two instances frame the action of the drama. It occurs in the second scene of the play and in the last. In the first case Rosalind is the speaker; in the second, Hymen. But insofar as Rosalind controls Hymen, it is she who speaks both times (cf. 5.2.58-62). The first time she comments that she is without mirth; the second time, the scene of the weddings that conclude the play, there is mirth in abundance. Both usages suggest a single meaning: mirth is occasioned by a union of two things that belong together, fathers and children, men and women. In the first scene, Rosalind is without mirth because of the forced separation between her and her father (1.2.2-6). In the last scene, there is mirth because she has been united, not only with her father but with "her child's father." Here is what Rosalind gives Hymen to say on the latter occasion: "Then is there mirth in heaven, / When earthly things made even / Atone together" (5.4.107-109).41 The proper relation of fathers and children, that is, when nurture looks to and accomplishes the good of nature, is an occasion for mirth. Mirth is the sentiment proper to the comedic resolution of the matter of the play; it is the state to which a comedy about fathers and children, nature and convention looks as its conclusion.

But Hymen adopts a heavenly perspective. There is another kind of mirth on earth occasioned by just the opposite phenomenon: discord between things that belong together. Much of the humor of the play involves this earthly mirth: discord between nature and convention and discord within nature itself. Hymen's speech in the last scene serves as our point of departure. The point of view in these lines is explicitly divine and the divine teaching of the Judeo-Christian tradition, the tradition the play evokes in the person of Adam and in the word "atone" in the above speech, is that nature is good, albeit fallen.42 These two ideas, the essential goodness of nature and our fallen condition, underlie both kinds of mirth stirred in us by the events in the Forest of Arden.

If heavenly mirth is occasioned by the redemption of nature, earthly mirth is occasioned by the disjunction between its essential goodness and its fallen condition.

Fallen nature establishes conventions that do not nurture but mar nature's goodness. An earthly mirth is then occasioned by nature's escape from convention seen as something alien and inferior.43 When the children are free of the fathers' discipline, seen now not as care but as constraint, the experience is mirthful. We experience this escape in contemplating Orlando free of his brother's tyrannic will but even more so in contemplating Rosalind in disguise. Given that it is Rosalind who raises the issue of the injustice convention does to women, it is not surprising that it is she who volunteers to adopt the role of the man in her flight with Celia from the court (1.3.110-12). For in pretending to be a young man she not only escapes the unjust constraint of convention but heartily mocks that convention. In her account of the natural weakness of women, as "changeable," "proud," "shallow," and the more witty, the more "wayward" (3.2.398-400 and 4.1.152-53), she presents the justification offered for the inferior status convention assigns to women. But she thinks this justification false since she thinks women are treated unjustly. In presenting it seriously now to Orlando, whom she loves and who she knows loves her, she accomplishes an important object. In drawing from Orlando a defense of women, or at least of his Rosalind (4.1.60-61), she educates the future father of her child, freeing him from the corruption of unjust convention.

But if nature is essentially good, it is also fallen and contemplation of our fallen condition may also be a source of mirth so long as no serious harm results.44 Atonement is the act by which humankind is pardoned and spared the ultimate penalty of the fall, the penalty of death. But humankind continues to suffer the penalty that Aquinas likens to a demotion in social status in a hierarchical society, in which a person born to one rank is made subject to the laws of an inferior rank.45 From the perspective of our birth rank as rational beings the control the body and human passion exercises over our judgment is very amusing: it is an occasion of mirth. Nowhere is this control more tyrannical than when we fall in love. It is funny to see Silvius's infatuation, still funnier to see Phoebe, who scorns him for it, herself smitten. But best of all, it is delightful to see Rosalind in love.

When Rosalind first encounters the poems written for her by Orlando, not knowing their author, she mocks them for their technical crudeness. To Celia, who reads her one of them, she replies "what tedious homily of love have you wearied your parishioners withal" (3.2.152-53). When Celia first hints of the identity of the author, however, Rosalind adopts a different tone. Up till now she had loved Orlando without knowing that he loved her as well. The possibility that he does has, by Celia's testimony, a physical impact: "Change you colour?" (179). Rosalind is, by her own description, powerfully moved: she begs Celia "with most petitionary vehemence," to tell her plainly who the author is (186-87). When Celia does so, Rosalind's pleasure at the news is such that she showers Celia with a multitude of questions she does not allow her to answer (215-47). Love, as Rosalind says, is a kind of "madness" (388) and the actions it compels, so long as they cause no harm, fill us the spectator with mirth just as the experience of love, on the same condition, occasions mirth in the lover.

But the experience of another pair of lovers in the play, Touchstone and Audrey, suggests that fallen nature uncorrected by convention may lead to harm. Touchstone's love for Audrey is utterly egoistical and in his intentions he is careless of any harm he may do her (3.3.81-85). For himself, he could not honestly echo Silvius's account of love, that it is "all made of faith and service" as do Orlando and, tacitly, Rosalind (5.2.88, 91-92). Fallen nature as manifest in Touchstone must be checked by convention. Appropriately enough, it is Jaques who discovers Touchstone's designs upon Audrey. Jaques, we may imagine, by reason on his own experience as a libertine, is well acquainted with such expedients as Touchstone's proposed "bush" marriage. In his self-assumed role of chastiser of human wickedness he prevents it: "Get you to church, and have a good priest that can tell you what marriage is" (3.3.75-77). For Jaques, love is little more than the "brutish sting itself (2.7.66). It is a piece of folly, that is, a "fault," something to be mocked as he does in his "seven ages" speech, not enjoyed as it clearly is by Orlando and Rosalind (3.2.277-78; 4.1.195-98). Conventional arrangements like marriage check the fault or limit the damage. For the other pairs of lovers, however, love has a deeper meaning, it is as much made of "patience" as "impatience," of "duty and observance" as of "passion" and "of wishes" (5.2.94-96).

But for them, too, the conventional arrangement of marriage is necessary. Their love impels Rosalind and Orlando to marriage, first to the mock wedding of act 4 and then to the formal ceremony of act 5. For what Rosalind says of woman is characteristic of humankind's fallen state in general: passion has learned to reason and will outface reason itself.

You shall never take her without her answer, unless you take her without her tongue. O that woman that cannot make her fault her husband's occasion, let her never nurse her child herself, for she will breed it like a fool.


Rosalind here personifies nature as a beautiful woman who tells the truth about her own capacity for deceit so that convention, in the person of her child's father, may be better able to protect that beauty and the good it occasions from harm. The convention of wedlock protects what is good in nature from the harm nature might do itself. It may be seen as a check to something vicious but this is a one-sided view. It is as much an "honoured" crown to what is good in nature, a means by which that good may be brought to fruition (5.4.140-45).

This image of Rosalind as personifying nature, a nature that knows her own essential goodness as well as her fallen state, takes us back to the passage with which I began in act 3, scene 4: "But what talk we of fathers." Rosalind has mentioned to Celia an encounter with her father the day before. Her father did not recognize her in her disguise, which she took as an occasion for a joke. The Duke asked her what her parentage was and she replied it was as good as his at which, she reports, "he laughed and let me go" (3.4.33-34). Now both father and daughter laugh for a similar reason. Rosalind laughs because she knows the remark is true but also knows that it does not appear to be true to her father. The Duke laughs because he thinks he knows that the remark is not true but also thinks that it must appear to be true since he bears no marks of his noble birth. Though the joke is similar on both sides, it is the daughter who has the better laugh because she laughs twice: once at her father's failure to recognize who she is and a second time at his confidence that he understands the situation better than she does. The encounter is symbolic of the meaning of the play. Convention, seeing the waywardness of fallen nature, mistakenly thinks itself superior. Nature, however, as essentially good, knows its own worth; but it knows as well its debt to convention for protection and nurturing. Finally, however, insofar as convention is true, both nature and convention have a common author. To paraphrase Rosalind's laughing response to her father, Duke Senior's parentage is as good as hers.


This paper was originally prepared as a talk for the University of Chicago's Basic Program Spring Weekend, April 22-24, 1994. I am grateful to Chris Colmo and Vickie Sullivan and to the readers for Rowman & Littlefield for their comments on earlier drafts of this essay.

1 All references to As You Like It are to the Arden edition, ed. Agnes Latham (London: Methuen, 1975; reprinted, London: Routledge, 1989).

2 Coleridge comments on this scene that "Rosalind is not a very dutiful daughter." While he grants that her neglect of her father "though not quite proper, is natural enough," he concludes that "she might, at any rate, have shown more interest in her father's fortunes," A New Variorum Edition of Shakespeare: As You Like It, ed. Horace Howard Furness (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Co., 1891), 195.

3 Rowe in his second edition (1714) altered this to read "father's child" and while Theobald (1733) restored Shakespeare's language, Pope (1723), Johnson (1765), and other editors accepted Rowe's emendation. Coleridge comments of the unemended passage, "Who can doubt that this is a mistake . . . ?" (Furness, New Variorum Edition, 49).

4 See the entry for "matter" in C. T. Onions, A Shakespeare Glossary, enlarged and revised by Robert D. Eagleson (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986).

5 Cf. Alfred Harbage, William Shakespeare: A Reader's Guide (New York: Farrar, Straus and Co., 1963), 229; Michael Taylor, "As You Like It: The Penalty of Adam," Critical Quarterly 15 (1976): 76; Russell Fraser, "Shakespeare's Book of Genesis," Comparative Drama 25 (1991): 122.

6 Cf. C. L. Barber on the dual attitude toward nature in Shakespeare's festive comedy: In these plays "the poetry about the pleasures of nature and the naturalness of pleasure serves to evoke beneficent natural impulses; and much of the wit, mocking the good housewife Fortune from her wheel, acts to free the spirit as does the ritual abuse of hostile spirits. A saturnalian attitude assumed by a clear-cut gesture toward liberty, brings mirth, an accession of wanton vitality." But at the same time the saturnalian attitude brings "the clarification of limits which comes from going beyond the limit." "The plays present a mockery of what is unnatural," that is, whatever restrains "wanton vitality" at the same time that "they include another, complementary mockery of what is merely natural" (Shakespeare's Festive Comedy [Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1959], 7, 13, 8). See also Barber's discussion of Rosalind in Ibid., chap. 9, "The Alliance of Seriousness and Levity in As You Like It."

7 Cf. Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics 1162a5f.

8 The classic statement of this view of what nature dictates as regards rule is the idea of the philosopher king, Republic 473a-e. The modern critique of this view is probably best expressed by Hobbes, Leviathan, chap. 10, section on "Worthinesse, Fitnesse."

9 Cf. Aristotle Ethics 1158b23-28.

10 Harbage fails to see much significance in this con versation: "The logic chopping about Nature and Fortune will do as a sample of small talk between lively and cultivated girls, but it seems to come from the top of their heads" (Reader's Guide, 225). John Shaw, on the other hand, sees in this conversation between Rosalind and Celia, 1.2.30-53, "on one level . . . the plot of As You Like It in epitome," "Fortune and Nature in As You Like It," Shakespeare Quarterly 6 (1955): 46. He argues that "behind the gay romancing of the characters throughout As You Like It there is a basic philosophical strife between Fortune and Nature that would be obvious to the Renaissance" (45). In this reading Rosalind, Orlando, and the Forest of Arden are associated with nature understood as wisdom and virtue and Frederick, Oliver, and the court are associated with fortune and the use of "policy and cunning" to win her gifts (48).

11 Cf. John Stuart Mill, "As for vicissitudes of fortune, and other disappointments connected with worldly circumstances, these are principally the effect either of gross imprudence, of ill-regulated desires, or of bad or imperfect social institutions," Utilitarianism in On Liberty and Other Essays, ed. John Gray (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), 146.

12 Cf. Plato Republic 458c-d.

13 Cf. David Hume, An Inquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals, Library of Liberal Arts, ed. Charles W. Hendel (New York: Macmillan, 1957), 21-22.

14 See the discussion of the observations of Aristotle and Tocqueville on the place of women in the polity in Mary Nichols, "The Good Life, Slavery, and Acquisition: Aristotle's Introduction to Politics," Interpretation 11 (1983): 28-54 and Delba Winthrop, "Tocqueville's American Woman and the True Conception of Democratic Progress," Political Theory 14(1986): 239-59. When I speak of love "in the fullest sense of the idea" I have in mind the notion of love as an ascent to the highest as expressed in its classic form by Socrates in the Symposium.

15Hamlet, 3.1.103-15. All references to other plays by Shakespeare are to The Complete Works, ed. Alfred Harbage (Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1969).

16 Eric Partridge, Shakespeare's Bawdy, 3d ed. (London: Routledge, 1968), 106; cf. Hamlet, 3.4.83-86.

17 Cf. Fraser's treatment of this passage where safety from the fire is the product of fortune understood as grace, "Shakespeare's Book of Genesis," 125-26.

18 Geoffrey Bullough, Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare, 8 vols. (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul; New York: Columbia University Press, 1957-1975), 2:161.

19 In an excellent article, "'The Place of a Brother' in As You Like It: Social Process and Comic Form," Shakespeare Quarterly 32 (1981), Louis Montrose argues that Orlando's plight as a younger brother disadvantaged by primogeniture is the source of conflicts, generational and social, the resolution of which give the plays its comic form (29). He views the play through the lens of the social anthropologist as a dramatization of a successful "transition" from youth to manhood, from poverty to gentility and the reconciliation of classes of persons divided into superior and subordinate by a patriarchal social order. This transition is brought about not by dissolving that order but by translating it "into a quiet and sweet style" (29-30, 35, 41).

20 It may be worth noting in passing that according to a tradition first recorded in the seventeenth century, Shakespeare played the part of Adam: Samuel Schoenbaum, William Shakespeare: A Compact Documentary Life (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1967), 202. And like Adam, Shakespeare as a player was, at least technically, a servant of the Lord Chamberlain, obliged, in order to enjoy the law's protection, to "carry [his] patron's livery as [one of] his personal retainers," Andrew Gurr, The Shakespearean Stage, 1574-1642 (London: Cambridge University Press, 1970), 20.

21King Lear, 1.2.4. I think Montrose errs in reading into Orlando's speech the sentiments of Edmund simply because their place is similar, namely, that of younger brother ("The Place of a Brother,'" 30-31). For, first, Orlando's response to their similar plight is so different from Edmund's and second, Shakespeare has introduced Frederick, who does act as Edmund does, as a foil to Orlando. Cf. 41-42, 47-48. See my "Wisdom and Fortune: The Education of the Prince in Shakespeare's King Lear" Interpretation 21 (1994): 373-90.

22 Cf. Aristotle Politics 1269al-2.

23 It is noteworthy that three times it is said that Duke Senior loved Sir Rowland but nowhere is it said that Sir Rowland loved Duke Senior. Sir Rowland, it may be supposed from this, is the superior of the two, the goodness of Duke Senior being reflected in his love for the best man. It may be taken as a sign of Sir Rowland's superiority that, unlike Duke Senior, he was not dispossessed of his property and, moreover, that as subordinate in rank to Senior he did not himself attempt to usurp the latter's office. The idea of such a usurpation of duke by knight is suggested by Oliver's conduct. When in scene 1, Oliver asks Charles for news of "the new court" he specifically asks about Rosalind: "can you tell if Rosalind the Duke's daughter be banished with her father?" (1.1.105-6) It is significant that he here speaks of Rosalind's father as the Duke without qualification. Charles speaks of "the old Duke" and "the new Duke" and Oliver in his next two speeches also employs this language. But it remains that he has insinuated that the new Duke's claim to the title is less good than the old Duke's claim and thus Celia's claim as heir is less good than Rosalind's. Oliver's inquiry suggests a scheme to attain the Dukedom by marrying Rosalind and using her claim to unseat Frederick, not with a view to justice but to personal advantage.

24 Cf. Aristotle Ethics 1165a21-24.

25 Cf. Hamlet, 1.2.103-4. Arguing that Hamlet's grief at the loss of his father is excessive, Claudius says it is "To reason most absurd, whose common theme / Is death of fathers." Reason, indeed, questions the rules of the fathers and may see their deaths as an opportunity to reform; in the eyes of Claudius, however, one feels that reason's theme is less the death than the murder of "fathers" and that for strictly personal ends: Claudius is not himself a father.

26Richard III, 1.1.8. In the BBC production of Richard III the last image offered to the viewer is one of Richard, literally, "on top of the heap," the heap being a pile of corpses with Richard's corpse in the arms of a madly cackling Queen Margaret.

27 Cf. Pericles, 4.3.28-39; see also, 4.Cho.5-40.

28 Cf. Othello, 5.1.18-20; see also, 1.3.311-14.

29 Latham offers a generally positive account of Jaques, which highlights his most attractive qualities and defends him from those critics who have seen him in the harshest light ("Introduction" to Arden Edition, xlvii and lxxvi).

30 Cf. King Lear, 3.2.14-18.

31 Though Harold Jenkins sees Jaques as expressing "a jaundiced view of life" and thinks it "strange that some earlier critics should have thought it might be Shakespeare's," nonetheless he links this view of life with what he takes to emerge from the conversation of Touchstone and Corin of act 3, scene 2: "In city or country, all ways of life are at bottom the same, and we recognize a conclusion that Jaques, by a different route, has helped us to reach before" (As You Like It ," Shakespeare Survey 8 [1955]: 45, 48). Speaking of Touchstone then as the author of this "realistic" view, he comments: "Whether he is wiser or more foolish than other men it is never possible to decide, but Touchstone is, as well as the most artificial wit, the most natural man of them all; and the most conscious of his corporal needs" (48). Cf. 50-51.

32 Latham notes that a number of critics have commented on the way in which Marston may be seen as the model for Jaques ("Introduction," xlviii-li).

33 Latham, "Introduction," xxvii; The Poems of John Marston, ed. Arnold Davenport (Liverpool, UK: Liverpool University Press, 1961), "Introduction," 3.

34 Cf. Robert Pierce, "Moral Language of Rosalynde and As You Like It," Studies in Philology 68 (1971): 172.

35 Davenport, "Introduction" to The Poems of John Marston, 17; cf. Helen Gardner, "As You Like It, " in Shakespeare: The Comedies, ed. Kenneth Muir (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1965), 70.

36"As You Like It," Scrutiny 9 (1940): 16; Macbeth, 5.5.24, 26-28. Cf. Barber, Shakespeare's Festive Comedy, 266, who describes it as a speech in "praise of the folly of living in time."

37 For a different account of Duke Senior's silence see Harbage, Reader's Guide, 234.

38 For example, see Jenkins, "As You Like It, " 49; Harbage, Reader's Guide, 235; Gardner, "As You Like It, " 67.

39 2.4.65-73.

40 Cf. Davenport, "Introduction" to The Poems of John Marston, 18: "This corruption Marston sees as universal, and he certainly recognizes it in himself. Unlike Hall and the earlier satirists, . . . who took the standpoint of being right-minded, moral men righteously lashing the base wickedness in others, and applying in their judgments criteria of unquestionable soundness, Marston is not certain of his own criteria, and is clearly aware 'that he is part of what he is attacking. The position of superior and aloof satirist he leaves to Hall.'" Davenport here quotes Hallett Smith, Elizabethan Poetry.

41 As regards Rosalind's authorship of this speech, note that she uses similar language in her own name: 5.4.18, 24-25.

42 Cf. Gardner, "As You Like It," 70-71.

43 Clearly this view is not that of Calvinist Christianity, the view which Davenport attributes to Marston, that "fallen man is wholly corrupt and if he is virtuous it is solely by the grace of God" ("Introduction" to The Poems of John Marston, 20). By introducing Jaques into the play, Shakespeare underscores the difference between a Calvinist Christian vision of nature and the Christian vision implicit in the story of Rosalind in the Forest of Arden. Russell Fraser appears to opt for a Calvinist reading of the play: "The joker in the pack and a puzzle to modern readers, grace, an absolute despot, complicates the relation between cause and effect" ("Shakespeare's Book of Genesis," 125.) For another discussion of the role of grace in the play see Taylor, "The Penalty of Adam," passim.

44 I wish to reserve the word mirth, both heavenly and earthly, for a positive emotion. But one might speak of a splenetic mirth that is indifferent to the harm caused by the disjunction between an original and fallen nature. Cf. Measure for Measure, 2.2.117-23.

45 St. Thomas Aquinas, Treatise on Law (Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1970), 28.


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David Frail (essay date 1981)

SOURCE: "To the Point of Folly: Touchstone's Function in As You Like It" in The Massachusetts Review, Vol. XXII, No. 4, Winter, 1981, pp. 695-717.

[In the essay below, Frail asserts that Touchstone mirrors the "kaleidoscopic" nature of As You Like It, blurring the lines between wisdom and folly so that we may free our minds long enough to recognize ourselves as "the foolish humans we are. "]

Some recent critics of Shakespeare's comedies have emphasized the plays' dissonant undertones and somber forebodings of the later (and, it is implied, greater) tragedies and romances. Since As You Like It is the next-to-last of the comedies, it is particularly vulnerable to this meteorological approach, which spots the dust particles about which the thunderheads form. Ralph Berry, for example, finds that the "reality principle," not the "festive principle," is Shakespeare's criterion by which to judge the comedies. In this light, Berry sees As You Like It as a pastoral idyll, but a "fairly perturbed" one, in which the characters keep finding themselves reflected in one another and react to these mirrorings with undue hostility—a latent tragic motif, to be fulfilled in, say, Iago's hatred of Othello? (Berry doesn't specify a particular masterwork so much as detect a mood-swing in the canon.)1

Thomas McFarland goes further than Berry and finds the moodswing within As You Like It itself. "The situation at the start," he says, "could . . . as well serve for a tragedy as for a comedy." The play "labors to keep its comic balance" under the staggering burden of the theme of Cain and Abel; while it manages to exhibit "more humor" than the earlier pastoral comedies, it finally contains "much less happiness," as if it were too exhausted by such weighty matter to do more than a perfunctory dance at its close.2

Now, we certainly may wonder with Berry why Rosalind chides Phebe so harshly, but I think we do so only after the play. I find it quite amusing to watch Rosalind explode so suddenly, so unaware that she chastises her own cruelty to Orlando. And while McFarland accurately sees the tragic potential in the opening, he doesn't acknowledge the effect of the opening's texture, which holds that potential so firmly in suspension that it could only be manifested if the entire play were rewritten. As You Like It would simply no longer be itself.

Such anti-romantic readings as Berry's and McFarland's do make valuable contributions to our understanding of Shakespeare's plays, but we must beware their tendency to falsify our experience of the comedies—especially As You Like It. In it romance and anti-romance counterpoint each other effortlessly, balanced as neatly as the phrases of Touchstone's evaluation of court and country. Like his speech, the play holds reason at the mercy of pure desire—and catches desire in the forms of reason and rhetoric. As You Like It demands a radical subjectivity from us: we are "conjured" to "like as much of the play as please you" (Epilogue), and if we wish to like it all, we must dismiss our urge to choose reality over festivity, or vice versa. Critical judgement, as Touchstone, says, is the forest's duty; ours is to let the forest do so, and thus become wiser than we are 'ware. We should laugh as Stephen Dedalus does, "to free his mind from his mind's bondage."3 The criticism we commit after experiencing the play is possible only when we have fallen back into that bondage from which the play seeks to free us. We all are caught in Jaques' predicament, trying to relate our encounter with "a fool!" and in the attempt transforming ourselves into—or, rather, recognizing ourselves as—the foolish humans we are.

Let us proceed with that transformation, then. We would do better, I'd suggest, to focus on how As You Like It goes about "un-meaning," rather than trying to say what some of its meanings are. At the least, we can figure out why there seems to be such a dissonance between our experience of the play and what we make of it afterwards; at most we will affirm Enid Welsford's claim that "comedy is the expression of the spirit of the Fool."4 For I hope to show here that the "kaleidoscopic" structure and language of As You Like It force us into the vertiginous freedom of a radical subjectivity, and that this kaleidoscopic nature is mirrored by—even mirrored from—its Fool, Touchstone.

Surprisingly few have taken Shakespeare at his word and regarded Touchstone as the touchstone of As You Like It. Even Harold Jenkins, the play's best critic, calls Rosalind, not the fool, "expert in those dark riddles which mean exactly what they say."5 Rosalind does embody the answers to those riddles, but she is expert only in acting them out, not in articulating them; it is Touchstone who, if he gives no answers, is expert at propounding the questions. Rosalind acts out her play-within-a-play of the paradoxes of identity and disguise, fidelity and cuckoldry, faith and cynical mockery on Touchstone's terms. (Certainly she does so with such exuberance and vitality that we'd rather call her up on the phone than Shakespeare.) Touchstone, tagged along into Arden by Rosalind and Celia, seems to be a mildly diverting, even intrusive "comfort to our travel" (1. iii. 129).

But this very sense of his intrusiveness, our very doubts about the necessity of his presence, is precisely his most important quality, and leads us to recognize his function. If Rosalind is the center of the play, Touchstone is the counter-center essential to its structural and textural relativity. We can let Jenkins sum up the play's meaning as a paradox (one which holds for comedy in general):

. . . longing to escape to our enchanted world, we are constantly brought up against reality . . . Yet in As You Like It ideals, thought always on the point of dissolving, are forever 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.6

But we must also recognize that Touchstone offers us a counter-meaning—an undoing of meaning—by snatching the play and us up to that point where paradoxes themselves dissolve into folly.

To better understand how Touchstone goes about propounding his riddle-dissolving riddles, I want to call on two very fine writers on fools, Enid Welsford and William Willeford. I shall discuss their studies at some length before turning to As You Like It, to show how completely the Fool's "mere presence," as Welsford claims, "dissolves events, evades issues, and throws doubt upon the finality of fact," be it physical, social, psychological, or linguistic fact.7

The conventional notion of the "wise fool," Willeford cautions us, reveals the nature of the Fool only to conceal it. Duke Senior's praise of Touchstone is typical:

He uses his folly like a stalking horse,
And under the presentation of that shoots his wit.

(5. iv. 106-7)

But the shrewd control that the Duke attributes to Touchstone is actually his own: he unwittingly extracts the "wit" from the "folly" and treats the latter as mere verbal disguise. We must remember that the "whetstone of the wits" (1. ii. 53) is also the "cutter-off of Nature's wit" (1. ii. 47-8). In fact, only by cutting it off does a Fool whet wit, as Welsford asserts.

The Fool does not lead a revolt against the Law physical, social, moral, he lures us into a region of the spirit where, as Lamb would put it, the writ does not run.8

The "wisdom" to be found in this region of "the spirit" is neither conventionally wise nor spiritual. Willeford more appropriately describes the Fool's luring as "a kind of play . . . in which the final ignorance of our natures is brought to expression."9 Wisdom and folly, then, are synonymous here. If we are to preserve the phrase "wise fool," we must treat it with the respect due to paradoxes, and acknowledge its synergetic powers: its significance is greater and qualitatively different than the sum of its parts. If we can locate the phrase's accuracy, it lies at the point of semantic fusion of the two words into an oxymoron.

If such a thing as "semantic fusion" occurs, that is. Since we are speaking of a "writ-free" region of experience, we might just as accurately call our experience of paradox a semantic diffusion, a scattering of ordinary meaning into an aporia.10 "Oxymoron," "paradox," with this uncharacterizable "point" contained within them, are the best terms in which to describe the nature of the Fool, though we must remain aware that it is the nature of folly to take us beyond such terms. We can rest somewhat comfortably with "oxymoron" and "paradox," however; for just as the Fool dissolves our habitual modes of thought, perception, and behavior, so a paradox exposes those modes as illusions by running us up against their limits. W. V. O. Quine has described how one paradox, expressed in Gödel's Theorem, reveals that the concept of proof in mathematics is founded upon only an assumption of certainty. Not even numbers are made of iron. Other paradoxes, according to Quine, have driven logicians to construct "a hierarchy of truth locutions," in which statements have a relative degree of truth—a paradox in itself.11 The Fool has an analogous effect, driving us to describe a "writ-free" region in writing, and to relish the irony rather than despair over it.

The Fool derives his power of dissolution-through-paradox from his playing out, and playing upon, those contradictions within ourselves with which we rest complacently or simply ignore. Welsford and Willeford work with different pairs of conceptual oppositions, but both show how the Fool engages us in a perpetual see-saw game with these oppositions.

Welsford describes this "certain inner contradiction" in fairly general terms.12 We have a sense of ourselves as compounds of "Nature," or the biological, and "Leviathan," the network of the mental and social through which we civilize ourselves. When we encounter a Fool, he tips both ends of our see-saw selves, as it were. We perceive him as "Nature's natural" (1. ii. 47), and recognize our own "naturalness" without the shame "Leviathan" imposes on us to preserve social order. At the same time, we also perceive him through the eyes of our "Leviathan" selves, and

. . . we laugh also because we are normal enough to know how very unnatural it is to be as natural as all that.13

"Normal" here means the rationality of our "Leviathan" selves. Welsford makes clear, however, that we all sense that "Nature" is as normal as the systems we build. When those logical and civil constructs threaten to crush the "original personality" within us, she says, the "natural" Fool leads us to escape and to feel "a birth of new joy and freedom."14

Despite Welsford's recognition of the mutual doubleness of Fool and human, she tends to treat the Fool as merely the "natural," or as an Ariel-like spiritual creature. By translating Welsford's general terms into the language of psychology, William Willeford offers a more complex and useful analysis of Fool and human. He defines the inner contradiction as the division of consciousness into the conscious, rational ego and the irrational unconscious. We necessarily, though mistakenly, assume that the conscious is all. But the "totality of the self is a vast Gestalt composed of the unconscious, the rhythms of the body, "tuned-out" responses to external stimuli, all of which have "a dynamism and meaning that exceed our grasp . . . but that belong to the self nonetheless."15 The Fool symbolizes this "essential self-division" of the self, a "violation of the human image," yet whole himself.16 For Willeford, then, the Fool is not merely a "natural"; he embraces both Nature and Leviathan and yet is neither. Here we return to the Fool's place at the "point" of paradox: to Willeford, the Fool sits on the boundary between the unconscious part of the Gestalt and the conscious center, flickering back and forth across this line like a giddy electron. Willeford goes on to analogize from his model of boundary and center to describe how the Fool inhabits the point (or gap) at which several fundamental antinomies meet: Leviathan and Nature, wisdom and folly, order and chaos, form and formlessness, meaning and meaningless, stasis and change, reality and illusion.

What happens when we encounter a Fool? How does he lead us to this point? According to Willeford, he frees us from our ordinary modes of thought, behavior, and speech by imprisoning us in them:

Any fool we see is demarcated from what we assume to be a non-foolish background . . . We see this fool here only by disregarding that fool or those fools there, including the fools that we are.17

That is, in order to recognize a Fool at all, we must employ our rational powers of perception and cognition. But that fool within us, whom we push to the boundaries of our consciousness so we can see that Fool without, escapes us and leaps to the center of our attention, projected on to "that" Fool. We face our own folly, and only if we deny that it's our own. The Fool compels our "immediate and total" recognition of him, as Willeford aptly puts it.18 Only after our encounter can we recognize that folly as ours.

Since much of our encounter with a Fool consists of jokes, we would expect that his language has the same effect as his presence. And so it does. The significance of Foolsprach lies not so much in the "translations" into sense and wisdom that we make as in our experiencing "the shattering of our customary forms of ignorance (i.e., normal speech)."19 Willeford describes three ways in which a Fool's jokes lead us to their point, at which sense and nonsense meet:

. . . when we 'get the point', it strikes us as intelligent enough to seem unintelligent; it impinges upon meaning at least enough to be felt as a violation of meaning. The point of a joke may lie in a hidden meaning, and this, as it comes to light, may be what strikes us as funny. But the point may also lie in the fact that the joke issues into nonsense with only a few strips and tatters of sense or that it seems to have a sense that one cannot get at; one gets stuck in one's inability to deal with it meaningfully at all.20

Touchstone, we should note, is especially full of this last kind of joke, the hidden sense of which we instantly grasp and laugh at, but which requires the most delicate dissection to expose its logic (or pseudologic). Perhaps this is why so little has been written on his function in As You Like It; to explain a line like "Nay, I shall ne'er be ware of mine own wit / till I break my shins against it" (2. iv. 56-7), much less place it in context, can make one feel like an overly rational sort of fool.

Touchstone is also full of the first kind of joke, portentously intoned riddles which, as Jenkins says, "mean exactly what they say":

The heathen philosopher, when he had a desire to eat a grape, would open his lips when he put it into his mouth, meaning thereby that grapes were made to eat and lips to open. (5. i. 31-4)

Of course we say that here Touchstone does in fact utter a profound comic truth: we are actual beings in an actual world. We must admit, however, that we formulate this statement after the fact of utterance, and as if to rescue our short-circuited expectations; Touchstone inflates us and then deflates us, and we re-inflate the deflation. We get stuck in the paradox of uttering abstractions that insist on the physicality of the world.

Once we have extracted this profound truth, as equally profound doubt presents itself: Is that all there is? Lips and grapes? Touchstone has provoked us into awareness of what William Lynch calls the "double longing" that makes comedy possible. On the one hand, we want the "maximum beauty and insight" of full, pure meaning (a perfected Leviathan); on the other hand, we also want the experience of "pure, unalloyed, concrete objects" (a perfected Nature).21 As Father Lynch proposes:

We want the unlimited and the dream, and we also want the earth. . . . The ideal solution would be that the world should 'signify' without becoming less actual in so doing.22

When we laugh—before we start rationalizing—we confront the comic, "ugly and strong," through which, Lynch argues, we achieve the "pure cognition" which satisfies our double longing.23

Lynch denies the Fool this comic function. I don't, since I define the comic not as satisfaction of these desires, but as the rendering irrelevant of such double binds. The Fool's comic power is his ability to get us so stuck in contradictions that the forms burst open, if only for a moment. We have discussed some of the mental, social, and linguistic oppositions that the Fool dissolves, and may now sum them up as the Fool does, in his physical appearance. Mikhail Bakhtin has brilliantly defined the grotesque as a mode of imagination and expression which celebrates change and renewal by fusing the death of one form and the birth of another into a single image.24 The Fool is just such a grotesque figure, ugly and strong; the point between fragmentation and wholeness at which he sits is that grotesque point of transition. As Willeford says, the Fool is the image of possibility: the possibility of order, meaning, physical there-ness, of "ripeness" in all senses. Paradoxically, though, from hour to hour he rots and rots, stuck at the point of change. Yet if he never can fulfill any of his possibilities, he can unfix us from our rigid "fulfillments."

This sense of grotesque potential leads us to encounter the Fool with what Welsford describes as

. . . that strange twofold consciousness which makes each one of us realize . . . that he is a mere bubble of temporary existence threatened each moment with extinction, and yet be quite unable to shake off the sensation of his being a stable entity existing eternal and invulnerable at the very centre of the flux of history, a kind of punctum indifferens, or point of rest.25

Here, in this see-sawing twofold consciousness, is the essence of the comic. Most theorists have argued that this essence is the "vital balance," the "pure sense of life," the "joy of life invincible," the "living," or the "ugly and strong . . . actual."26 But Welsford and Willeford's emphasis on doubleness and contradiction, and Bakhtin's emphasis on the grotesque's celebration of transition, remind us that death and dead forms are as essential to comedy as vitality. We can know this experience of pure life and joy only after we are re-imprisoned in those "dead" forms of "normality." The "pure sense of life" can manifest itself only in impure forms.

It is the fusion into diffusive paradox, then, our resolution of one contradiction into another and yet another, that is the comic. And it is the Fool who leads us into this state of mental and physical freedom, that state of possibility. We immediately fall out of this state, but the possibility remains that we will immediately re-enter it by way of the Fool. And so his "show," as Willeford calls it, flickers us back and forth between present-mindedness and laughter, the security of paradox and its dizzying release, until we believe we can stand on and laugh at the folly of such a belief.

Let us now apply this theory of the phenomenology of folly to Touchstone and watch how he cuts off the wit of As You Like It. In three crucial scenes he acts as "detached commentator upon the action,"27 as Welsford describes the Fool's use of his license in drama, and carries the play to the point of folly.

As we noted above, Touchstone always seems to intrude upon the action of the play. It is as if he stands on the boundary of the stage and tries to claim its center whenever he can. Each time he succeeds, he involves the other characters (and the audience) in a "show" which diffuses the conventions of the preceding scene into "mangled forms" like those with which his brain is said to be crammed (2. vii. 42). Yet by convincing us that the matter at hand is a mere bubble of convention, Touchstone also reveals the punctum indifferens from which such conventions are generated: desire.

In Act 1, Scene ii, Touchstone literally intrudes on Celia and Rosalind to deliver a message and cuts off their argument over Nature's and Fortune's gifts. His presence suspends the women's discussion in ambiguity: has Fortune exploited Nature's purest creation, her "natural," to defeat wit, the one gift of Nature which enables humankind to defeat Fortune? Or has Nature herself sent in Touchstone to strengthen her one weapon against Fortune, whetting wit with dullness? Just as Celia and Rosalind find it difficult to keep their philosophical categories distinct, so we find them fusing together in Touchstone's presence. For if he is Nature's weapon as whetstone, he "sharpens" wit by leading it into folly. And if his mere entrance pushes the women's argument to the verge of contradiction, Touchstone's own proof of the paradoxical nature of oaths and honor leads us through all contradictions to the point of folly.

This process begins as soon as Celia asks him, "Were you made the messenger?" and Touchstone replies, "No, by mine honor, but I was bid to come for you" (1. ii. 57-9). He apparently contradicts himself, and so forswears that honor; after all, someone who comes for you is a messenger. But from another point of view, Touchstone's contradiction confirms his honor. He asserts that he is a courtier forced to do a lowly messenger's job. By merely implying this in the polite, judicious rhetoric of a courtier, he "proves" that he is one. His ability to contradict himself—the diplomat making a "fine distinction"—proves that he hasn't contradicted himself. Now of course Touchstone isn't a courtier, but a Fool. As Willeford says, our recognition of him as such is "immediate and total," and we can perceive him only as a Fool trying to be something else. We all reply to him as Celia does: "Where learned you that oath,fool?" (1. ii. 60; my emphasis).

But while his dullness whets our wits by challenging us to pierce through an obvious deception, it has also led us to drop our guards. He has exposed a contradiction which isn't a contradiction. Although we quickly dismiss his word-play and call him "fool," we proceed to accept the very contradiction we dismiss. For Touchstone's explanation of where he learned that mere "oath" depends on an oath: namely, the conventions of logical discourse. No argument can proceed unless all parties accept its premises; these premises, then, are "oaths," sworn statements about the nature of reality. Touchstone, then, uses oaths to prove logically the illusory nature of oaths. Furthermore, since honor depends on one's keeping oaths, it follows that honor, too, is illusory.

If this description of Touchstone's methods is a bit dizzying, it is because Touchstone's method is to dizzy us into accepting his fallacies as valid—or to make us wonder if his truths are fallacious. Or both. To proceed: although we deny that he is a courtier, we allow him to engage us in the gentlemanly art of the duel:

Ros. Ay, marry, now unmuzzle your wisdom.
Touch. Stand you both forth now . . .

(1. ii. 68-9)

We have mocked him as dull, yet gleefully accept the premise that he is intelligent enough to formulate an argument. Who is the fool? He who proposes the fallacy that "If you swear by that that is not, you are not forsworn" (1. ii. 73-4), or we who not only accept this premise, but believe that such a cheaply made tool as the syllogism enables us to arrive at truth?

An oath is always a syllogism; one always swears by something. For example, when I swear to rescue the princess, I implicitly or explicitly swear by mine honor. I also assume that this conditional is true; therefore, it necessarily follows that I will rescue the princess. But all that I've done, really, is to will my intention to save her into a necessity. I intend to kill the dragon—but will I? If I fail, my fellow knights won't question the folly of assuming that wishes can be transformed into necessities. They'll simply assume that my conditional was false, that I had no honor, and thus preserve the convention so that Sir Next-Knight can sally forth.

Touchstone, however, explodes the conventions of oath-taking and argument by using nothing but fallacies to prove, or apparently prove, his case. For one thing, his premise ignores the point of oath-taking entirely. One wants to make his intentions come true, not figure out a way to preserve one's honor while evading the responsibilities of honor. And as for logic, consider how Touchstone leads up to his premise:

Touch. Stroke your chins, and swear by your beards that I am a knave.
Cel. By our beards, if we had them, thou art.
Touch. By my knavery, if I had it, then I were . . .

(1. ii. 69-72)

He knows full well, with a cunning beyond the merely human, that Rosalind and Celia will accept his consequent as true—indeed he is a knave; but he has manipulated them into accepting a false conditional—obviously they have no beards. They have accepted Touchstone's premise and sworn "by that that is not." Of course, this also means that they are not forsworn, which leaves open the possibility that Touchstone is a knave. But he turns this possibility against them by reducing it to a tautology: "If I had knavery, then I would be a knave." But since they are arguing according to Touchstone's premise, he does not have knavery. Therefore, his dishonorably swearing by that that is not, his knavery, proves that he is honorable. Celia's assertion that he is a knave is false, since she swore by her imaginary beard. Furthermore, his hypothetical knight, who swore by honor which he didn't have, didn't dishonor himself by praising the pancakes and damning the mustard. So Touchstone has logically proven an obvious falsehood, knavishly asserted his honor, shown his knight to be both honorable and knavish—and, according to his premise, nobody, including his opponents, is forsworn.

Further still, another paradox presents itself. If Touchstone has exposed the folly of oaths, he has done so by hoodwinking us into accepting his judgment that the knight mis-tasted the pancakes and mustard—and the taste of knights and fools is subjective indeed. Touchstone swears that the knight was wrong—but does he swear here, too, by that that is not? Rosalind and Celia, and we, have no way to verify this oath; yet we all trust a Fool's proof that there is no basis for proof, a Fool's promise which undermines the very nature of promises. We have shown how Touchstone reveals that an oath is a syllogism, and a syllogism a kind of oath; so logic, Touchstone reveals here, is a mode of rhetoric. Honor and argument are both mere bubbles of language, a film of immeasurable thinness "containing" nothing more substantial than the air out of which words are made. Yet something, in a sense, "inhabits" those bubbles. Touchstone does reveal the punctum indifferens which causes us to blow them: the desire to harmonize one's perceptions, one's taste of pancakes and mustard, with those of one's fellows.

Rhetoric is a mode of logic. Each of us makes implicit and explicit promises in order to maintain his place in the social order, and in doing so concedes that his senses might not tell the truth. For if we insist that we're right, we risk losing our portion of pancakes and mustard. We constantly and tacitly swear by that that is not in order to preserve the Leviathan which insures that Nature's various hungers will be satisfied. Our "great heap of knowledge," like Touchstone's, is an inverted pyramid, stacked on the point of our desire to eat.28

It may be objected that I have extracted this wisdom from Touchstone's own great heap, and contradict my own thesis about "wise fools." Yes, I have—to write about it all, one has to. Our experience of his argument in l.ii is probably like this: knowing that Touchstone wants to show that he is a courtier, we await a clever proof from this "dull" fool, confident that he will make fools of Rosalind and Celia. But Touchstone shifts his ground so quickly that perhaps even an Elizabethan audience grounded in the conventions of logic and rhetoric would have trouble following it on first hearing. In Willeford's terms, it "impinges on meaning at least enough to be felt as a violation of meaning."29 It also impinges on nonsense just enough to feel like a violation of meaninglessness. We feel as if that fool within us understands Touchstone (as he should, since, according to Willeford's notion of projection, that fool within confronts us in the figure of Touchstone). We "ourselves," however, can't quite grasp the point; the sense remains a potential sense. The point grasps us, and we are caught up into folly.

We remain thus caught up throughout the argument, until suddenly an easily graspable meaning shoots forth. This occurs when Touchstone reveals that his hypothetical knight is apparently an actual person who, the fool plainly declares, had no honor to begin with. One could argue that the point of Touchstone's argument is not to diffuse conventional modes of thought, but to shoot this wise satirical bolt shot from under the stalking horse of folly. But compare his satire to other characters' invective against social corruption—say, Orlando's praise of Adam for preserving "the constant service of the antique world" (2. iv. 57), Duke Senior's praise of life in Arden (2. i. 1-17), or Jaques' wish to "cleanse the foul body of th'infected world" (2. vii. 60). The follyfull context out of which Touchstone's bolt flies makes that bolt seem too improvisatory, fortuitous, even uncanny to be so purposefully controlled as the satire of the non-fools. Furthermore, the non-fools would replace one iron network of laws with another, while Touchstone's very mode of speaking mangles the forms in which such beams and girders are cast. His aim isn't to reform the world, but to claim a place in it—the whole place, in fact. He wants to occupy our attention, not merely as courtier, but as king. And so he does, ruling the center of the stage and our consciousness. Yet his leap to the center displaces the very world and mind he would rule, substituting his no-place of folly. When he does momentarily enter the world of sense and satire, we suddenly realize what Touchstone is up to, and we drive him back to the boundary of consciousness, silencing him, like Celia, with the threat of whipping him with the instruments of Leviathan.

More important than this insult is the way that Touchstone's argument mirrors, funhouse-fashion, the scene preceding it, in which Celia cheers up Rosalind with arguments and oaths. Their mind-play is not about knights' breakfast, however, but about love.

Cel. Herein I see thou lov'st me not with the full weight that I love thee. If my uncle, thy banished father, had banished thy uncle, the Duke my father, so thou hadst been still with me, I could have taught my love to take thy father for mine. So wouldst thou, if the truth of thy love to me were so righteously tempered as mine is to thee.

(I. ii. 7-13)

. . . for what my father hath taken away from thy father perforce, I will render thee again in affection. By mine honor, I will, and when I break that oath, let me turn monster. Therefore, my sweet Rose, my dear Rose, be merry.

(1. ii. 18-22) (my emphasis)

Like Touchstone, Celia swears by that that is not, the hypothetical case that she would love Rosalind were she in her position. She concludes with an oath sworn on her honor, from which it "necessarily" follows that Rosalind agree with her—not on the grounds of logic, but of her desire for Rosalind's happiness. Like Touchstone's, Celia's argument is pseudo-logical, exploiting the syllogism's persuasive force. Unlike Touchstone, she finally urges her opponent to agree on the grounds of charity (the fool's pseudo-logic ends with a self-interested insult).

Rosalind, and we, easily accept Celia's oath—but enter Touchstone soon after, and such oaths and honor are exposed as illusions. In fact, Touchstone's exposure throws back at us what we dismiss out of charity when judging Rosalind and Celia: the fallacious nature of this reasoning, and its generation by a desire to reach a consensus. We allow Celia and Rosalind their logical errors, if we notice them at all, since they commit them in the name of love. Touchstone enters and reveals that reasoning itself is a fallacy committed in the name of love (even if, like Touchstone, we commit such love out of self-interest in our self-preservation). It's wonderful to watch the two young women resolve such a difficult situation so easily, and with such a fragile thing as adolescent love. Perhaps it's more wonderful to watch Touchstone ironically expose the fragility not only of their resolution, but of all such resolutions. In so doing, he shows us that such a mere bubble is also the punctum indifferens at the heart of all human relationships, the self-interested charity which transforms briars into burrs of "holiday foolery" (1. iii. 14).

Thus Touchstone intrudes upon the main action of the play and, by diffusing both that action and our ability to judge it, enables us to clarify our judgments. He does so again in Act 3, Scene iii, when he tries to attach himself to the action in Arden by courting and marrying Audrey. Once again he diffuses the action of the previous scene, in which Ganymede, Rosalind and Orlando agree to "cure" Orlando's love-sickness through a mock-courtship. And once again Touchstone's diffusion reveals the desire which underlies and generates our conventional forms of expression:

As the ox hath his bow, sir, the horse his curb, and the falcon his bells, so man hath his desires; and as pigeons bill, so wedlock would be nibbling.

(3. iii. 76-9)

Touchstone unexpectedly transposes desire and marriage in this double analogy, and in doing so sounds the keynote of As You Like It. Desires are "natural," "animal" forces, yet they also "curb" one in that they force one to act out certain forms. That is, desire "in itself may have no shape, but we only know it as specifically formed urges. In this sense one's desires "curb" one's polymorphous energies, even if one seems to uncurb or unleash them when one expresses them or fulfills them. Marriage is the highest, most elaborate form of sexual desire (certainly in Shakespearean comedy). Yet marriage, even if it is a bubble of artifice, is blown out of desire. So, if desire domesticates us, wedlock drives us out to (and provides) pasture to nibble and nourish. If Touchstone's transposition confuses the natural and the artifical, he forces us to see that desire and marriage are fused. His lines may be as inarticulate as pigeons' billing, but like the birds' song, they signify a joyful resignation to the "curb" of love (Touchstone's patent insincerity appropriately enough, only serves to heighten the joy in his delivery).

Just before Touchstone's courtship scene, Rosalind and Orlando have managed just such a fusion of desire and form, though not in animal imagery. Orlando accepts Ganymede's offer to "cure" him of his love when he realizes that the proposed mock-courtship will preserve his "madness," rather than restore him to the sanity of lack-love. As Ganymede, Rosalind will cure her love for Orlando by mocking him without penalty. Just as Rosalind and Celia agree out of love to transform their sadness into self-consciously devised "sports" (1. ii. 23)—including falling in love— so Orlando and Rosalind self-consciously transform their desire into the sport of courtship. Their wooing will be a game, an illusion.

Orlando, of course, is unaware just how far the sport goes. While he thinks that he is fooling a shepherd boy into thinking that the youngster is saving him from love, he doesn't realize that he's pretending that Rosalind is Rosalind. What Orlando thinks is illusion is true. He doesn't realize that when he swears to be rid of his love "by the faith of my love" (3. ii. 418), he wins in sport what he wants in life (here, for once, someone in the play swears by that that is—the consequent, not the conditional, is obviously false).

Enter Touchstone and Audrey, who virtually rewrite Rosalind's and Orlando's scene the way that Touchstone "re-reads" Orlando's love poem as a filthy ditty (3. ii. 100-14), and Rosalind "re-reads" Phebe's love poem as "meaning me a beast" (4. iii. 50). Every revision by the fool-couple strips the disguises beneath the disguises of Rosalind and Orlando to reveal that punctum indifferens of desire. With their witty debate on time, and their time-consuming arrangements of their "sport," Rosalind and Orlando prolong their courtship and so preserve and heighten their desire. They would foreplay forever. Touchstone travels to a counter-pace: he tries to conflate the whole ritual into one brief scene, from wooing, winning, and wedding right through to the cheating (he even engages the priest before he engages the bride). It's as if he takes the idea of carpe diem literally, counting it "but time lost to hear such a foolish song" (5. iv. 39) as the one the pages sing—or the one that Rosalind and Orlando act out. His hurry exposes the folly of the lovers' elaboration and delay; if love is here one day and all's gone the next, then don't waste time singing about time, don't hold off fulfilling desire by describing it. Touchstone's rush through each step of the way catches up marriage into a Bergsonian flow of duration, ripening and rotting in one instant. If the fool-couple's speed seems grotesque, in Bakhtin's sense of fused forms, then so by comparison do the elegant measures of Rosalind and Orlando.

Even fools, though, can't roll their strength and sweetness into one ball. Their desires inevitably manifest themselves in the forms of courtship, but in such degraded form that they are diffused. As if in imitation of Rosalind, Touchstone tries to follow the shepherd's fashion and put on a "simple feature" (3. iii. 3). But he can only be a Fool. When he tries to be something else, he comes close to being nothing at all, as Audrey unwittingly reveals: "Your features, Lord warrant us! What features?" (Orlando, too, has none of the "marks" of the lover (3. ii. 362).

This inauspicious opening sets the pattern of this pattern-breaking rite. As Willeford observes, a Fool is often either "not enough there" or "too much there,"30 and just so Touchstone's wooing see-saws from botch to botch. He tries using the lover's rhetoric of the pastoral idyll to address an impenetrable (in all senses) mistress. He doesn't compliment this mistress with this rhetoric, but insults her. Worst of all, his elegance doesn't conceal, but reveals, that his aim isn't marriage but seduction.

His statements about love and marriage similarly seesaw. He treats honesty and beauty, sluttishness and foulness, as two pairs of inseparably fused qualities, never admitting the possibility that a woman could be foul and honest or beautiful and sluttish. In the same way he couples courtship with fidelity, and marriage with "horns," excluding the middle of a constant marriage. Just as his motley breaks apart the colors of his clothes, so Touchstone breaks up love into a crazy quilt of its qualities.

The crucial dip of the see-saw comes with Touchstone's play on a famous and fundamental idea:

Touch. I would the gods had made thee political.

Aud. I do not know what poetical is. Is is honest in word and deed? Is it a true thing?

Touch. 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.

(3. iii. 15-21)

To see how Touchstone diffuses this idea, we should place it in historical context. Robert Jordan explains that the Renaissance humanists believed that poetry is "literally untrue," since the poet had to speak in

. . . such terms as only the initiated could understand . . . the obscurity of the surface and the need to penetrate it enhanced the value of the hidden truths and preserved them from vulgarization.31

To paraphrase Dante, the more beautiful the lie, the more beautiful the truth. This poetics goes back at least to St. Augustine's explanation of the Bible's obscurities. As Robert Kellogg and Oliver Steele point out, it informed the sonneteers' insistence that they worshipped the ideal woman in their praise of their beloveds' less spiritual qualities.32 The more elaborate the confession of love, the more intense was the love confessed; the more one "feigned" in verse, the more one "fained" in life. Orlando understands this principle when he eloquently insists that "neither rhyme nor reason" (3. ii. 389) can express his love. His rhyme adequately expresses his love by denying its own adequacy. Now, Orlando could be lying. After all, the eloquent surface of language conceals one's passion even as it expresses it. We must infer the nature of the depths from the nature of the surface. Poetry, then, is an intentional illusion through which we must penetrate, if we can, to the truth.

In one sense, Touchstone's poetry is relatively easy to crack, since the Fool himself breaks up its illusory surface to reveal the desire beneath, or within. The truth that his "feigning" hides, however, is not the sonneteer's "faining" for the ideal, but physical lust. His whole courtship is a lie pure and simple, as he himself emphasizes by prefixing "truly" to line after line. Yet he also speaks truly; none of us doubt that he wishes Audrey were merely feigning her "honesty." Audrey herself is both unpoetical and poetical. When Touchstone feigns that she is beautiful ("No, truly, unless thou wert hardfavored"), she insists that she is hard-favored. Yet she is poetical, if unwittingly so, in that she accepts the illusion of Touchstone's "faining"; she can't penetrate that illusion and see what he is truly after. Finally, though, Touchstone drops all his feigning and fains plainly: "Well, praised be the gods for thy foulness! Sluttishness may come hereafter" (3. iii. 38-9).

The fools, then, expose the "feigning" of Rosalind and Orlando's feigned courtship. They degrade the lovers' self-conscious construction of an illusion which enhances the hidden truth of their "faining," transforming eloquence into a sham poetry which exposes a sham "faining," lust. Yet Touchstone shows us how desire generates the rhetoric of courtship, the illusory surface within which desire is fulfilled. Even if the surface is illusion, if language is a tissue of lies, desire fulfills itself, and so makes the lies true. Like Ovid, Touchstone is capricious yet honest—not chaste, but candid about his capriciousness (well, inadvertently candid). He frees us to see professions of love as lies, and the lust beneath as noble, and to dismiss this inversion with a fit of laughter.

It is ironically appropriate that Jaques disrupts and dissolves the fool-couple's wedding ceremony. Jaques assumes that Touchstone wants to get married, and mocks the fool's ignobility in getting married "under a bush like a beggar" (3. iii. 81). The cynic merely dislikes the categories of existence; he can't destroy them. Jaques wants Touchstone to "re-form" and be decently married. In his mockery, as Touchstone's aside makes clear, Jaques misses the fool's de-forming point entirely. Desire is beyond the categories of beggar and noble, bush and church, and Jaques can't glimpse beyond them, and beyond ideals and cynicism, to that desire informing them all. This rational man is the most foolish guest at the fool's wedding.

In both Act 1, Scene ii and Act 3, Scene iii, we have seen Touchstone diffuse the resolutions of the preceding scenes into parodie, joyful nonsense by breaking up the social, logical, and linguistic conventions through which such resolutions are achieved. We have also seen how Touchstone's diffusions also offer us—or that Fool within each of us—a revelation of the impulse of desire underlying those conventions, which drives us to both generate and violate such forms. In each scene preceding Touchstone's, a pair of non-foolish characters charitably agree on the nature of their situation and apparently deny its reality. By assenting to such illusions, however, Rosalind and Celia and Rosalind and Orlando shape reality "as they like it." Such is the "liberty" (1. iii. 136) of the Forest of Arden: it is the place where "desire, set deep within the eye," in the words of Wallace Stevens, can perceive by its own lights.33 If the "eye of reason" is not deluded in Arden, as Jenkins says, it is because its function is taken over by that deeper sight; wit in Arden is cut off and freed to play.

If we take the Dukedom as the "center" and Arden as the "boundary," we can say that this latter realm of folly claims the center of our attention just as the Fool does. Ironically, and happily, enough, this occurs because the usurping Duke Frederick interprets reality as he likes it, banishing Rosalind as a traitor, and, significantly, pronouncing his daughter Celia "a fool" (1. iii. 84). We may call the Duke an overly tyrannical ego, whose only way of maintaining an illegitimate rule over the self is to banish vital, if not so rational, elements of that self, such as charitable daughters, their friends, and their Fools. The Duke's willful attempt to shape reality fails, of course, as Celia reshapes reality as she likes it: "Now go in we content / To liberty, and not to banishment" (1. iii. 135-6). And so folly displaces rationality, tagging one Fool along and leaving a greater fool behind.

It's not fair to say that reason is utterly banished from Arden. As we know from watching Touchstone in action the poor faculty is exploited by desire in the service of folly. But if reason is exposed as a rhetorical mode, it is also celebrated as such. Appropriately enough, Touchstone delivers the eulogy, in his praise of "the only peacemaker" (5. iv. 102), the virtuous "If." We have noted how non-fools use obviously fallacious syllogisms, with veridically false "Ifs," to persuade each other of virtual, loving truths. This is precisely the plot of Touchstone's parable of the seven stages of a lie.

That is, almost precisely. Touchstone characteristically inverts and parodies this process of consensus-making. His "If begins not as a peacemaker, but as a troublemaker. Like Duke Frederick with Rosalind and Celia, Touchstone insists on imposing, not proposing, his interpretation of reality upon another: "I did dislike the cut of a certain courtier's beard" (5. iv. 69-70). This courtier proceeds from this completely subjective premise, and he and Touchstone build their seven-link chain of enthymemes:

He sent me word, if I said his beard was not cut well, he was in mind it was: this is called the Retort Courteous. If I sent him word again it was not well cut . . .

(5. iv. 71-4)

The question of the truth value of their judgments never figures in the quarrel. (We'll never know if the courtier's beard was well cut or not.) The splendid conclusion of this debate is that the two avoid the Lie Direct, and the inevitable duel, by agreeing to drop this unstated question of truth and falsity entirely. Touchstone and the courtier agree, it seems, out of cowardice, not daring to do more than measure swords. When Touchstone goes "by the book" (5. iv. 90), for the pedant Jaques' benefit, he makes it clear that the question dissolves in the agreement that "If you said so," then it follows that "I said so" purely out of a desire to make peace, swear brothers, and preserve the social order. By veridical standards, such a proposition is a Lie Direct—but veridical standards don't apply, for that "I f suspends them and substitutes virtual ones. Neither party cares if he actually said "so," he simply wants to agree.

Compared to Jaques' lugubrious lock-stepping of man through his Seven Ages of discomfort, pain, and decay, Touchstone's life of the Lie is by far the more preferable description of how we all are "merely players" (2. vii. 140). According to Touchstone, merely playing with fictions is the one thing necessary to human freedom, harmony, and joy. His Fool's argument persuades us of the truth of Stevens' "Nudity at the Capital" (quoted here in full):

But nakedness, woolen massa, concerns an innermost atom; If that remains concealed, what does the bottom matter.

Stevens' wry epigram on the impossibility—and irrelevance—of revealing that innermost atom of truth is the truth celebrated by As You Like It. The entire play is finally one vast Fool-show, a mere bubble of a marriage song, which feeds us with questioning until we ask "If truth hold true contents" (5. iv. 130). By the time we reach this point in the play, we have learned not to doubt according to reason but to dismiss reason and transform doubt into the wonder of faith (5. iv. 138-9).

Over and over again through the play this question of truth's contents, both its substance and its satisfactions, is rendered irrelevant. The dance and spectacle of the closing triple marriage is the final diffusion. It is appropriate that Hymen so abruptly appear to insist that she "make conclusion to these most strange events" (5. iv. 126-27). The goddess who presides over the shaping of our desire for love is herself compelled by her desire to perform her office (and she herself is a "shape" of desire, a fiction). And she who bars confusion does so not by clearing up the illusions of Rosalind's appearance, but by unwittingly preserving them (once again the arbitrary interpreter of reality is made to look willful and foolish). Rosalind's punning "cure" of Orlando's madness preserves it beyond the courtship into the marriage itself, as he lives on never knowing that his "if" Rosalind was his "true" Rosalind.

Thus the play, as if it were a Fool, concludes balanced on the point of possibility, the point at which desire takes the form of marriage. One might conclude that the play does return from folly to normality. After all, Hymen does bar the confusion, the merry company is about to return to the Dukedom, and we at least are undeceived by Rosalind's cure. We should, however, recall Northrop Frye's observation that comedies end happily because they conclude the action at the point where the potential for a good marriage and just society, not the accomplished fact, is affirmed.34 The moment of the wedding is also the point of folly: we guests are freed from having to consider the couple's future in the light of reason.

As for our freedom from confusion over Rosalind, Shakespeare slyly shows us how deluded our clarity is. We spectators are like Orlando, who lives "by thinking" (5. ii. 20), that is, by imagining that Ganymede is Rosalind. He never realizes that this self-conscious fiction-making is also plain life. And so has our "thinking" been unwitting living: just as Rosalind dispels Orlando's illusions only to replace it with another, so Shakespeare diffuses his dramatic illusion into life, and suggests that life is yet another dramatic illusion. For the moment the play closes it opens again. "Rosalind" steps on stage to deliver an Epilogue, in which "she" reveals that this woman who played a shepherd boy is herself played by a boy—and who is "he" played by? We have sat outside the play, rational spectators enjoying our self-conscious, self-controlled "thinking" of this pack of fools, and now we discover that we, too, have been caught up into the Fool-show of As You Like It. The play moves from Dukedom to "Ducdame"; when we leave the theater, do we return to our own Dukedom, or to a "Ducdame"? Does it matter? By leading us to this point, the play has performed the Fool's essential function: to "break down the distinction both between wisdom and folly, and between life and art."35


1Shakespeare's Comedies: Explorations in Form (Princeton: Princeton U. Press, 1972), p. 14 and 21, and 175-195.

2Shakespeare's Pastoral Comedy (Chapel Hill, N.C.: U. of North Carolina Press, 1972), pp. 98ff.

3 James Joyce, Ulysses (New York: Random House, 1961), p. 312.

4The Fool: His Social and Literary History (Glou cester, Mass.: Peter Smith, 1966), p. 324. "Kaleidoscopic" is her term for the structure of As You Like It. I try to elaborate her brilliant one-word description.

5As You Like It, in Shakespeare: Modern Essays in Criticism, ed. Leonard F. Dean (New York: Oxford U. Press, 1957), p. 132. I am much indebted to Jenkins' discussion of the play's joyful subjectivity. Berry, p. 187ff, also names Touchstone "the standard" by which to judge the play, but defines that standard differently than I do.

6 Jenkins, p. 132.

7 Welsford, p. 324.

8 Welsford, p. 323.

9The Fool and His Scepter: A Study in Clowns and Jesters and Their Audience (Evanston, I11.: Northwestern U. Press, 1969), p. 50.

10 J. Hillis Miller's "The Critic as Host," in Deconstruction and Criticism, ed. Harold Bloom (New York: Seabury Press, 1979), came to my attention too late to inform my essay, but it is clear that Touchstone's power to de-center the play, and to suspend critical discussion between opposed terms such as "fusion" and "diffusion," makes the fool a precursor of deconstructive critics such as Miller. Inspired by Jacques Derrida's argument that language is a chain of tropes rather than a univocal set of meanings "carried by a single referential grammar" (Miller, p. 222), Miller urges us to acknowledge the "uncanny antithetical relation" (221) between conceptual oppositions, word pairs, and meanings within single words. By seeking out such relations in literary works, we should come to recognize the "undecidability" of the meaning of the work's meaning: ". . . the critic can never show decisively whether or not it is capable of being definitively interpreted" (248). To use Miller's own metaphor, Touchstone inhabits the "host" text like a parasite and, like the deconstructive critic, leads us to the point where we question which is host and which parasite until the opposition breaks down in "undecidability"—or folly.

11 "Paradox," in Scientific American 4 (April 1962), pp. 84-96.

12 Welsford, p. 322.

13 Welsford, p. 322.

14 Welsford, p. 323.

15 Willeford, p. 173.

16 Willeford, p. 23.

17 Willeford, p. 31.

18 Willeford, p. 31.

19 Willeford, p. 29.

20 Willeford, p. 51.

21Christ and Apollo: The Dimensions of the Literary Imagination (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1960), p. 15.

22 Lynch, p. 19.

23 Lynch, p. 106.

24Rabelais and His World, trans. Helene Iswolsky (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1968), pp. 24-33.

25 Welsford, p. 325.

26 "Vital balance" and "the pure sense of life" are Susanne K. Langer's terms, in Feeling and Form (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1953), pp. 330 and 327; "the joy of life invincible" is Joseph Campbell's, in Hero with a Thousand Faces (New York and Cleveland: World Publishing, 1956), p. 28; "the living" is Henri Bergson's, in "Laughter," in Comedy ed. Wylie Sypher (Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor Editions, 1963 passim; "the ugly and strong . . . actual" is Lynch's, p. 106.

27 Welsford, p. 325.

28 I am indebted here to Donald Howard's citation of Hannah Arendt's discussion of Nietzsche's thesis that promises are the foundation of the social order in Howard's introduction to his edition of Twentieth Century Interpretations of Gawain and the Green Knight (Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1967).

29 Willeford, p. 51.

30 Willeford, p. 26.

31Chaucer and the Shape of Creation: The Aesthetic Possibilities of Inorganic Structure (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard U. Press, 1967), p. 7.

32 D. W. Robertson discusses St. Augustine's theory of figurative expression and its influence through to the Renaissance in A Preface to Chaucer: Studies in Medieval Perspectives (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton U. Press, 1962), pp. 52-64.

Kellogg and Steele's discussion of the sonneteers' aesthetic of elaboration and idealization is contained in their introduction to the Amoretti in their edition of The Faery Queene: Books I and II (Indianapolis and New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1965), pp. 450-454.

33 "An Ordinary Evening in New Haven," in The Palm at the End of the Mind: Selected Poems and a Play, ed. Holly Stevens (New York: Random House, 1972), p. 332.

34Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton'u. Press, 1957), pp. 169-70.

35 Welsford, p. 27.

Guy Butler (essay date 1983)

SOURCE: "Shakespeare and Two Jesters," in Hebrew University Studies in Literature and the Arts, Vol. 11, No. 2, Spring, 1983, pp. 161-79.

[In the following excerpt, Butler describes the influence that rival jesters Robert Armin and John Stone (circa 1600) had on Touchstone's evolution into a "new-style" fool]

My two jesters are Robert Armin, who joined the Chamberlain's Men in ca. 1600, generally accepted as the first interpreter of Touchstone, Feste, and Lear's Fool; and John Stone, a great, but neglected, tavern fool. They were both well-known, and rivals, about the year 1600. I shall attempt to show their influence in one play only, As You Like It, and on Touchstone in particular.

Robert Armin is in some respects the most remarkable among the first actors of Shakespeare's plays. He was, like Jonson and Shakespeare, an actor-playwright. His literary legacy is considerably larger than that of the only other Elizabethan fool to commit himself to print, William Kempe, whom he succeeded as chief comic actor in the Chamberlain's Men. Not only did he play the fool on the stage, but set himself up as an expert on fools; his Foole upon Foole1 appeared in the year he joined the Chamberlain's Men, (1600). Before Armin was engaged by the Chamberlain's Men, their chief playwright, Shakespeare, must have watched him in performance. He might have taken particular note of him in the star role of Tutch, in The History of the Two Maids of More-clacke,2 a play written by Armin himself.

I have called both Armin and Stone jesters. I could also have called them fools, even, possibly, clowns. The terms were used very loosely by Shakespeare and his contemporaries, and this vagueness is no help when we have to decide what jesters, or fools, or clowns wore in plays in which costume and disguise are important. As our text is AYLI and our focus Touchstone, we have to grapple with Shakespeare's Motley once more.3

Touchstone has always presented critics with a problem. A very useful summary of their responses to the supposed inconsistencies in his characterisation will be found in the New Variorum edition of the play, (ed. R. Knowles, 1975). Bethell (1944) expresses the widely held view that Touchstone has "two irreconcilable 'characters'," but he thinks they are "held in parallel throughout the play"; Gordon (1922) thinks that "the forest of Arden simply brings out the best in him"; Goldsmith (1943) and several others think that any inconsistencies are due to alterations in a role originally intended for Kempe, an old style clown, and now adapted to Armin, a new style witty fool. Harold Jenkins (Shakespeare Survey, 8, p. 42) believes that the play, particularly Act I, shows signs of haste and lack of revision, and that Shakespeare "has not quite decided about the character of Touchstone."

But much of this critical confusion disappears if we can see these teasing incompatabilities as quite deliberate, indeed necessary, to achieve one of the dramatist's purposes. To do this we need to entertain the following propositions:

First: when Armin joined the Lord Chamberlain's Men in 1600 he was already well-known for a kind of witty foolery very different from that of the traditional rustic clown whose place he had taken (William Kempe). He helped to transform the stage fool, This has been well argued by Baldwin, Felver, Hotson, Bradbrook and others.4 In his own play, Two Maids of Moreclacke, Armin had created a clever character called Tutch, in whose guise he mimicked John o' th' Hospital, and other fools.5 Second: in 1600 John Stone, a very well-known traditional tavern fool, was practising a very different kind of wit, and attacking the new style, earning the animus of Jonson, among others.6

The ordinary was a most colourful and democratic meeting place, the popular exchange of news and gossip in a society without newspapers or radio.7 It provided an audience for fools and entertainers of various calibre, many of whom exploited the unsophisticated 'clowns' from the country by claiming to be experts in courtship, swearing, duelling, etc. Hostesses gave them free meals if they attracted gulls to their tables, or otherwise added to their custom. By the end of the century, however, the more discriminating found the quality of most of this tavern humour tedious.8 A new species appeared, the wits, who appealed to the more sophisticated portion of the audience, who clashed in something like flytings with the old-style entertainers. This clash found its best-known echo on the stage, when William Kempe, a clownish fool, left the Chamberlain's Men, shortly to be replaced by Robert Armin. For some years (about two decades, I suspect) a running battle between the witty fool and the clownish fool was waged on the public and the private stages, in the taverns and ordinaries, and at select entertainments in great houses of the nobles and the wealthy.

Scholars accept that Armin played a crucial role in that battle, by acting Shakespeare's new-style fools—Touchstone, Feste and Lear's Fool. I believe that his main opponent was John Stone, who, I would argue from the evidence of Jonson alone, was the chief among the tavern fools, an indomitable opponent of the wits and of the new set fools, i.e. fools who spoke no more than the dramatist set down for them. The new fools did not have an easy victory. People like Malvolio regarded the wits who applauded him as no better than fools themselves,9 and is delighted when an ordinary fool (Stone) puts down a set fool (Feste-Armin) in Iv. 77. The old style fool seems to have continued to flourish. The death of Stone, (1605) according to Jonson, was felt acutely.10

Third: If, then, London theatre audiences, actors and playwrights were thoroughly aware of both a stage character called Tutch and a tavern fool called Stone, would any dramatist create a fool called Touchstone in an absent-minded fit, or as a mere compliment to his new actor's erstwhile apprenticeship to a goldsmith? Surely not. Shakespeare is inviting his audience to witness a catalysis or symbiosis of rival styles of humour. By combining the names of representatives of these styles—Tutch, the new, Stone, the old—he arrived at the happy oxymoron Touchstone: a character who, I believe, incorporates qualities of both his antecedents. The word, of course, has other connotations, which Shakespeare did not fail to exploit.

If we can accept this proposition we shall find that obscure pieces of business and dialogue are transformed into delightful visual and verbal jokes. I shall pay particular attention to the visual aspect, which professors of literature tend to neglect, but which producers and actors cannot. Let us start by reminding ourselves, with the aid of contemporary illustrations, of what the very different costume characteristics of the three main types of fool were.

First the Jester, usually found in courts and great houses, distinguished by his coxcomb, bauble, and bells. . . . I incline to the view that his costume was parti-coloured.11 Second, the Clown, a popular entertainer. When dancing a jig, he will have a pipe and tabor, and festive trimmings to his costume. . . . When playing the bumpkin, or clown proper, he will be dressed in ill-fitting clothes, with exaggeratedly large slops, as shown in Elizabethan caricature. . . . Third, the Innocent, or simpleton. . . . Dressed like a baby in long petticoats made of a cloth called motley, he was frequently a pensioner, in large establishments, or looked after by institutions like Christ's Hospital, London. Now, which of these very different costomes did Touchstone wear?

Leslie Hotson in Shakespeare's Motley has, I think, established the nature of the motley which Touchstone is wearing in Arden, and which so delights and surprises Jaques.12 It is the long innocent's garment, which Tutch wore when impersonating John in the Hospital. It is the garment—rather than several others he wore in his play—that Armin chose to be remembered by when he had the block cut for Two Maids of More-clacke. . . . What surprises Jaques is the incompatibility of the motley costume and the reasoned quality of the speech of this fool in the forest: he does not ramble nor babble, he uses good set terms. Where I part company with Hotson is in his assumption that this form of motley costume is Touchstone's normal wear. Is he dressed in motley in Duke Frederick's palace? In the stage directions he is called, quite unequivocally, clown, (not fool, as in Lear); and, more important, "clownish fool" by Rosalind (I.iii.130).

We know, from Armin's own Two Maids, that as Tutch the clown he wore Sir William's household livery. We also know that Shakespeare had transformed a clown to a gaily dressed servingman in The Merchant of Venice.13 What is more, he gave Launcelot no more than fifteen lines in which to change.14 This suggests the simple donning of a servant's coat "more guarded than his fellows" over his clown's russet outfit. We must insist on "clown", because Rosalind does. But it is possible that the "fool" portion of Rosalind's phrase "clownish fool", signifies "jester" as it does in Lear: in which case we would have the very curious combination of slops, servingman's household coat, and fool's cap. There are, however, English illustrations of this possibility. The oddity of the combination may have appealed to Shakespeare. . . . This, with a cockscomb and a shortened surtout over exaggerated slops, gives us a comic enough effect. . . . However he is dressed, I suggest Armin is got up to remind the audience of Stone, and that he imitates his mannerisms. He is doing one of his famous turns, taking-off a fellow fool: in this case, one whom he has already lampooned in song in his play, Two Maids.15

Rosalind and Celia prepare us for a somewhat thick-witted presence. These two cultured, witty young ladies refer to him as a natural (i.e. simple, but also uneducated), as "a cutter off of nature's wit," a phrase which would have considerably more point if applied to the tavern fool, Stone, already engaged in a war of words with the new type of witty fool. The visual takeoff of Stone is accompanied by Celia's double pun on whetstone.16 ". . . Nature . . . hath sent this natural for our whetstone; for always the dullness of the fool is the whetstone of the wits." This "whetstone," twice, has been a puzzle, e.g. to 'Q'., who says "It is rather remarkable that Celia appears to be making no reference to Touchstone's name here. Indeed, the audience do not hear the name until II.iv.19."17 Exactly, but if Shakespeare's concern is with Stone, whose likeness is on the stage, the puzzle ceases and becomes a joke at Stone's expense.

Celia cries ironically, to "whetstone," "How now, wit! Whither wander you?"18 In his replies the "roynish clown" comes out with a gentleman's oath (By mine honour) which leads to an exchange that immediately places him, and his sense of humour, as "ordinary." To Rosalind's surprised question, "Where learned you that oath, fool?" he replies:

"Of a certain knight that swore by his honour that they were poor pancakes, and swore by his honour the mustard was nought" [I.ii.59.]

Where, but in an ordinary, would a knight make such observations on the pancakes and mustard? He would certainly not do so in high society, least of all at a duke's table.

Yet this "clownish fool" is not quite as dim as the bright girls have suggested; and he is redeemed for his devotion to Celia, and her fondness for him. The scene ends with the plans of the two girls to fly into the forest of Arden in his company. They will travel incognito, of course, with assumed names. Some time is devoted to discussing their disguises.19 But how will the clown (Stone) disguise himself? This is kept from us. My belief is that he dons innocent's motley as a disguise. We see him in it for the first time in the forest. The stage direction for their next appearance makes good sense if we accept that the fool has been transformed by his disguise of motley, and that he, too, has acquired an alias, Touchstone, as the others had done earlier. Enter Rosalind for Ganymede, Celia for Aliena, and Clown alias Touchstone (II.i.V.). . . .

Of the three disguises, then, this will come as a surprise; and yet, not entirely so; for Armin has donned his own favourite garment—Tutch's motley—over 'Stone's' russet garb. Tutch and Stone have been synthesised. The first jokes will be visual. In addition to the coup of forcing the Stone fool to assume as disguise the garment of Tutch, we have Armin's movements. There is some evidence that the dwarfish Stone was clumsy on his feet, a fact to which Jonson drew attention in his satirical portrait of him as Amorphus in Cynthias Revels (1600).20 Shakespeare gives Armin his brief for a similar telling bit of mime for his Arden entry. He enters, according to the stage direction, after the girls, no doubt limping laboriously.

Rosalind: O Jupiter! how weary are my spirits.

Touchstone: I care not for thy spirits, if my legs were not weary.


A few lines later when Touchstone cries, "Ay, now am I in Arden, the more fool I," he may well be quibbling on 'fool': more fool, less clown. A twitch or swirl of the motley to reveal the russet beneath would make the point. The point made, at least the wits in the audience would enjoy Rosalind's slowly spoken first utterance of his fool/clown name:

Touch: . . . but travellers must be content.

Ros: Aye, be so, good Touchstone.

In making Rosalind give him this name, Shakespeare is articulating in one word what the audience is witnessing: the transformation of a clownish fool—who is twice called whetstone on his first appearance—into a touchstone of wit. Armin, the authority on Fools, and on quick changes of costume, is now wearing the costumes of two fools.

We all know that, however quick and precise the touch of this witty fool may be, he is more down to earth than his successors, Feste and Lear's Fool. Unlike them, his personal love-life is part of the action of the play. Blunt, like Stone, "he knows what he knows and why he must mate with Audrey."21

Corin and .Silvius now enter, and discourse of the agonies and fantasies of lovers. The distraught Silvius departs, hallooing his beloved's name aloud to the reverberate hills,

. . . O Phebe, Phebe, Phebe!

Ros: Alas, poor shepherd: searching of thy wound I have by hard adventure found mine own.

This is Touchstone's cue for a comic debate of a well known variety, with himself. 'Tutch' and 'Stone' take turns:

Touch: And I mine. I remember when I was in love, 1 broke my sword upon a stone, and bid him take that for coming a-night to Jane Smile.22

The New Variorum comments: "Obviously a joke is intended here, but wherein the joke consists is not transparently clear." Hudson (ed. 1880) says that 'him' is the imaginary rival for whose visits to Jane the stone was held vicariously responsible. No doubt, but why is the rival symbolised by a stone?23

But if my thesis is accepted the source of the joke becomes clear. We have seen that Armin had written a song (in Two Maids) which took a swipe at Stone for seducing an unknown Jane Smile; but as the stone was apparently insensate, the blow was ill-considered, and a waste of wit. As the laughter at Tutch's chivalrous attack with sword, like a true knight, subsides, hey presto, his green motley is swept back, and there, in his clown's russet, stands 'Stone' in his slops, who immediately gives his account of how 'fantasy' affected his wooing. It is low comedy stuff; with a dairymaid, cows, milking, butter making, and, once more, vegetables such as peascods, as props. When 'Stone's' wooing is done, the motley sweeps back once more but unbuttoned, so that the audience is aware of both green & russet, fool and clown, Touch-Stone; who now speaks for both of them. The change to the first person plural, while embracing Rosalind and Corin, can also be Touch-stone's royal "we."

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.

[I. 52.]

Shortly after this speech, Corin, a countryman, enters, whose costume is, of course, clownish.

Touchstone: Hallow; you, clown!

Rosalind: Peace, fool, he's not thy kinsman.


Touchstone is playing on one of the older meanings of the word clown: countryman, bumpkin; while Rosalind is playing on its more recent meaning of comic entertainer but of a different breed or kin to that of the innocent fool, which Touchstone is pretending to be. Without some such quibbling on both meaning and on costume there seems little point to the exchange. That Touchstone continues with some fool/clown by-play or mimicry may explain Rosalind's otherwise inexplicable "Peace, I say."

This is the lesser of Touchstone's two encounters with clowns, but it is sufficient, if played this way, to lend point to his expression of his dislike of the entire breed when his second target, William, approaches.

Touchstone: 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.


The visual joke is over; and we now have a display of wit at the expense of simplicity.24 I also believe that Touchstone in his set passages and exchanges may be mockingly imitating and ironically refining the characteristic mode of speech of Stone the Jester.25

The climax of the play is the multiple wedding (V. iv. 104). Folio's bald stage direction—Enter Hymen, Rosalind and Celia—is expanded by Q. to read: Enter, as in a masque, persons representing Hymen and his train, together with Rosalind and Celia in their proper habits. What habit will Touchstone wear? With everyone else (except Jaques), returning to decorum, what will happen to his innocent's disguise? He cannot, as I see it, return to the clownish fool's garb of the first act without losing the entire point of the symbiosis in Arden. I suggest he wears his coxcomb with his innocent's motley, which is over the clown's garb. Armin is now clown, innocent and jester, all in one. . . . There is, in fact, a delightful cut of a female fool which shows us how these two items, Innocent's motley and Jester's coxcomb could have been combined. . . . This would have the merit of uniting visual element of his Act I costume with his Arden disguise. And, as Professor Bradbrook has suggested to me, the jester icon would help to reinforce the return of the exiled Duke to the formal rituals of his court.

Armin appears to have had a good voice, which, as Feste and Lear's Fool, he is allowed to use. Why is Touchstone songless? Is it not that Shakespeare, no doubt with his new quick-change actor's enthusiastic concurrence, is doubling him with Amiens?26 Is there not a quibble on Armin and Amiens?27 But Shakespeare was less interested in Armin as quick change artist or as master of gesture and voice than in his ability to project mercurial shifts of stance and mood within the same character. The electrifying volatility, which is to characterize Lear's Fool, starts in Touchstone:28 and Touchstone's range and versatility is the result of Shakespeare's demand that Armin should combine his own light Tutch with the clodishness of Stone. Such a blend of extremes might provide a moral Touchstone, but I have never found him the unerring distinguisher between false and true, which the alchemical pun suggests. Touchstone refers, rather, to a wit which is discriminating, a wit like Tutch's, honed on whetstones, like Stone.


1Foole upon Foole (London, 1600). Armin's reissue of this in 1608 as A Nest of Ninnies is much expanded. The additions are some indication of how his experiences in the ambience of Shakespeare had expanded and deepened his view of foolery. Available in Armin, Works (ed. Grosart, 1800, rept. Johnson Reprint Company, 1972). The work seems to have been popular. Editions appeared in 1600, 1605, 1608 (enlarged).

2The History of the two Maids of More-clacke, with the life and simple Maner of John in the Hospital (London, 1609, rept. in Robert Armin, Works, ed. A.B. Grosart, 1880). T.W. Baldwin, "Shakespeare's Jester," MLN, 39 (1924): 452 dates the first performance between June 1597 and winter 1598.

3 The best starting point for this debate is Leslie Hotson, Shakespeare's Motley (London, 1952).

4 T.W. Baldwin, "Shakespeare's Jester," p. 447; CS . Felver, Shakespeare Quarterly, 7 (1956): 135-37; Leslie Hotson, Shakespeare's Motley, Ch. 7; M.C. Bradbrook, "The New Clown," Shakespeare the Craftsman (1969).

5 "I would have again inacted John myself." Armin's Introduction to the Two Maids of More-clacke. Felver, on the evidence of Armin's introduction, says: "This opens up a new area of activity for the company clown, who presumably filled individual engagements in which he performed as a mimic of different fools he had observed in London and elsewhere." Robert Armin (Kent, Ohio: Kent State Univ., 1961), pp. 15-16. It is clear from this and from his miming of John o' th' Hospital, that he did not confine himself to stage fools.

6 See Appendix B, p. 190.

7 " . . . he found, that an Ordinary was the only Rendevouz for the moft ingenious, moft terfe, moft trauaild, and moft phantaftick gallant: the very Exchange for newes out of al countries: the only Book-fellers fhop for conference of the beft Editions, that if a woman (to be a Lady) would caft away herfelf uppon a knight, there a man fhould heare a Catalogue of moft of the richeft London widowes: at leaft, that it was a fchoole where they were all fellowes of one Forme, and that a country gentleman was of as great coming as y proudeft Iuftice that fat there on y bench aboue him: for he that had the graine of the table with his trencher, payd no more than he had place'd himfelf beneath the fait. The Non-dramatic Works of Thomas Dekker, ed. A.B. Grosart (rpt N.Y.: Russell & Russell, 1963), III: 221.


The lurcher Loll us at the Ordinarie,
Will ieft of all mens manners in the Cittie,
Another fot applaudes him fitting by
Thus: Sir, by heau'ns, that was wondrous wittie:
I ouwer-heard, and when I heard the beft,
In faith t'was but an ordinarie ieft.

John Weever, Epigrammes in the Oldest Cut & Newest Fashion (London, 1599; rpt. Sidgwick & Jackson Ltd., 1911. Re-issued at Stratford-upon-Avon: The Shakespeare Head Press, 1922).

9 "I protest I take these wise men that crow so at these set kind of fools no better than the fools' zanies." I.V.80.

10 " . . . they do lack a tavern foole extremely," Volpone, II.i.54.

11 Figures are on pp. 173-178. Figs. 3, 7, 9, 10, 12, 13 and 14 are by K. Robinson, Senior Lecturer in Theatre Arts, Dept. of Speech & Drama, Rhodes University, Grahamstown.

12 II. vii. 12.

13 Il.ii. 138-43.

14 He leaves Shylock's service in II. iii, and enters as Bassanio's servant in II. iv.

15 See Appendix A, p. 181.

16 For a good note on the punning possibilities see R. Knowles, AYLI(Variorum, 1975), on I.ii.55. "It is clear that Celia refers to the ordinary uses of the ordinary stone"—a nice unconscious pun on both ordinary and on stone. See also Jonson, Cynthias Revels, Induction 1. 37 and II.iii.85ff.

17AYLI (Cambridge, 1926), p. 115.

18 This phrase occurs in several plays during this "moromanchia."

19 Celia will be in "poor and mean attire" (I.iii.lll), Rosalind will be suited in all points like a man: "A gallant curtle axe upon my thigh, A boar-spear in my hand." (ibid., 117).

20Cynthias Revels or The Fountain of Self-Love. A comical satyre. As it hath been sundry times privately acted in Black Friars by the Children of her Majesties Chappell (London, 1601), entered S.R. 23 May 1601. The Folio tells us it was first acted in 1600. See Appendix B, p. 190.

21AYLI, p. xv.

22 One hesitates to press for a profound quibble here: but as we are dealing with rival methods of pleasing the muse of mirth, may not Jane Smile be something more than the name for an easy wench?

23AYLI (Variorum ed. R. Knowles, 1973), p. 93.

24 After reading an earlier version of this paper Dr. David Wiles suggested that Touchstone, played by the new style fool, Armin, is ridiculing an old style fool, William, so called by Shakespeare to remind his audience of William Kempe, the clown who had recently left the Lord Chamberlain's Men. This strikes me as highly probable.

25 See Appendix B. Certain topics, which Touchstone treats of, bear a close similarity to topics treated by Amorphus, Johnson's satirical picture of a tavern fool in Cynthias Revels. I would argue that both characters owe much to Stone, not only for matter, but for manner.

26 Suggested by CS . Felver, Robert Armin, p. 45. "A tour de force celebrating his appearance in the first role tailored specifically to his talents."

27 Suggested by D.C. Maclennan in conversation.

28 Although we see its potential very clearly in Mercutio.

Bente A. Videbaek (essay date 1996)

SOURCE: "Touchstone in As You Like It" in The Stage Clown in Shakespeare Theatre, Greenwood Press, 1996, pp. 85-94.

[In the essay below, Videbœk maintains that Touchstone's function is to serve "the interests of the audience," and thus mirrors, mocks, and exposes the folly of those he encounters in order to "lift the audience to a higher level" of awareness and enjoyment.]

Touchstone of As You Like It is probably the clown who has had most attention from critics. He is so well integrated in the play that at times he can seem to be a real participant. His part is undoubtedly a large one, and he is on stage regularly throughout the play. Touchstone is indeed an interesting object of analysis, and at times we may feel that we know him well and intimately, but what we really know is the pattern of the clown's part, and such predictability may mislead us.

Rosalind and Celia first prepare us for Touchstone. Rosalind uses the term "Nature's natural" (I.ii.47), for as Touchstone enters the ladies have been sporting their own wit and skill at punning, playing with the word "nature." A term like this comes easily to Rosalind's nimble mind. Celia speaks of "the dullness of the fool [which] is the whetstone of the wits" (52-53), but neither remark describes Touchstone's abilities, and his very first mental capers are far from "dull":

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

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 nought. Now, I'll stand to it, the pancakes were naught and the mustard was good, and yet was not the knight forsworn. . . . 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.


Touchstone takes his examples from two widely different worlds, the common man's table with its pancakes and mustard and the lofty spheres of knights and unreliable honor. We are reminded of our knowledge of the very court in which we stand with Touchstone. He needs no "transformation" from the lowly to the witty, his wit is ready, sharp, and to the point from the very beginning. He grasps the opportunity to rail at the two witty ladies, "The more pity that fools may not speak wisely what wisemen do foolishly," and now he is acknowledged by Celia, "By my troth, thou sayest true" (I.ii.80-82). Touchstone is far too involved in the court circles to be "Nature's natural," he is an allowed or artificial fool and can therefore be expected to have considerable intelligence. But first and foremost he is a brilliant stage clown, and his duty as such is in serving the interests of the audience.

Touchstone, more than any other of Shakespeare's jester clowns, works well paired off with another player. Our first experience of him in this capacity is at the opening of II.iv, the arrival of the disguised travellers in Arden, where Rosalind sparks his wit: "O Jupiter, how weary are my spirits!" and Touchstone replies, "I care not for my spirits, if my legs were not weary" (II.iv.1-2). The audience has already developed an affection for Rosalind. We know of her background, her sweetness and resolution, and with Touchstone we have seen her falling comically in love.1 We have throughly enjoyed her worry during the wrestling match, her giving Orlando a favor, and her unwillingness to part from him. Now Touchstone reminds us of this scene as he comments on the unhappy love of Silivius the shepherd:

Rosalind. Alas, poor shepherd, searching of thy wound, I have by hard adventure found my own.

Touchstone. And I mine. I remember when I was in love I broke my sword upon a stone, and bid him take that for coming a-night to Jane Smile . . .


Silvius's lament is in conventional verse, and lovesick Rosalind echoes him. When Touchstone breaks in with his mock lament in prose, using the most down-to-earth examples, the audience is alerted to the empty ring of Silvius's conventional phrasing, but also made aware that Rosalind's love needs maturing if it is to become real and lasting. Touchstone uses a wonderful technique, taking the lofty and making it ridiculous by putting the conventions to lowly use. The challenge to a duel becomes a sword broken on a stone, so at this point Touchstone will be brandishing his wooden sword furiously.2 The reason for the challenge is not romantic, it is a direct accusation of sexual congress, and moreover it is not delivered to the rival but, as if practicing, to a mere stone, which cannot come "a-night" to anyone. Still the stone proves to be his superior and breaks the sword. In the wording of this monologue there are innumerable suggestions to the actor on how to behave on stage. The prime purpose, though, whether or not props are involved, must be heavy underscoring of the sexual aspects of love and courtship, so different from Silvius's stilted nonsense. Touchstone's sword can serve excellently as a prop to embody each and every reference to the penis. It will be a good batler, a fine peascod, could even be milked and kissed like the udder, and naturally serves grandly for a sword. The whole idea of romantic love is summed up at the very end of the speech: "We that are true lovers run into strange capers;3 but as all is mortal in nature, so is all nature in love mortal in folly" (II.iv.51-53), and Rosalind replies, "Thou speak'st wiser than thou art ware of" This point can and should be debated, Rosalind and Celia, and later Jaques, interact with Touchstone the court jester and treat him like the inferior he is supposed to be. His wit is expected to be brilliant, but as far as intelligence is concerned he is seen as belonging on a lower plane. To the audience there can be no question that Touchstone is constantly aware of and adjusting to the people he associates with, and he lays bare their every folly at such an early point in time that we can anticipate what our protagonists will be doing next. Touchstone lifts the audience to a higher level, from which they can view the "strange capers" on stage from the delightful distance this new transparency brings. After all, there is no joke quite as enjoyable as the one we have seen through beforehand.

But Touchstone does not even have to be present on stage for him to make his points and for us to enjoy his mirror of the world. In H.vii Jaques comes to the court of Duke Senior and reports a meeting with "a motley fool" in the forest Jaques, the self-established malcontent, who "[him]self [has] been a libertine" (II.vii.65), has been made "ambitious for a motley coat" (43); he exposes himself and his ulterior motives to the audience by quoting what Touchstone has said to him, and his own overjoyed reactions. In his delight he repeats Touchstone's by now familiar actions and style as best he can, but instead of becoming parallel to the fool, maybe even his successful rival, he is an abuser of the license to which he aspires. Touchstone's mirror shows us Jaques's distortion.

What Jaques has marked most clearly is the clown's opportunity for castigating comments. First of all there is the famous "dial speech" with all its punning, which is made unsavory by Jaques's approach;4 moreover, Touchstone is said to have exposed the conceit of the young ladies at court (37-38), but we already know Touchstone's views. Jaques envies the freedom of expression of the court jester. In the speed of performance every aspect of the mirroring and distortion may not emerge clearly, but an audience does not have to be consciously aware of every little tool of Shakespeare's trade for it to work. Duke Senior speaks to a well-prepared house when he chastises Jaques (H.vii.64-69). To any audience Touchstone's mission, even when he is absent, is perfectly clear.

The Forest of Arden itself and its symbolic function as representative of a golden age is also utilized, mirrored, and mocked by Touchstone. It is interesting to note that the character of Touchstone is one of few additions Shakespeare made to Lodge's Rosalynde, the main source of this play, and that the idea of comic mirroring is Shakespeare's own. It serves to expose the reverse of life in Arden to any who might be romantically inclined, and later it will serve to castigate Rosalind and her romantic sentiments to the joy of the audience.5 In III.ii, paired off with Corin, Touchstone describes life in Arden:

[I]n 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 that it is in the fields, it pleaseth me well; but in respect it is not in the court, it is tedious. As it is a spare life, look you, it fits my humour well; but as there is no more plenty in it, it goes much against my stomack.

(III.ii. 13-21)

Touchstone even succeeds in cornering Corin and delivering the final blow to the innocence of a shepherd's life, and at the same time he prepares the audience for the love scenes to come:

Corin. . . . the greatest of my pride is to see my ewes graze and my lambs suck.

Touchstone. That is another simple sin in you, to bring the ewes and the rams together, and to offer to get your living by the copulation of cattle; to be a bawd to a bell-wether, and to betray a she-lamb of a twelvemonth to a crooked-pated old cuckoldly ram, out of all reasonable match.


Touchstone's railing against the conventionally pure and innocent life in an unspoilt setting invests even the ideal life of a shepherd with rampant sexuality. The comedy is delightful when Rosalind enters with one of Orlando's conventionally romantic verses, which is extremely badly written. To the modern-day audience her disguise lends extra comedy to the scene, and Shakespeare's audience had the added spice of knowing that they were watching a boy playing a dressed up as a boy, sexually a most confusing and amusing combination; but any actress delivering a rapt reading of this awful doggerel will provoke laughter:

From the east to western Inde
No jewel is like Rosalind.

Her worth being mounted on the wind,
Through all the world bears Rosalind.


Touchstone, never in the mood for this kind of nonsense, proceeds to demonstrate what these verses lack:

If a hart do lack a hind,
Let him seek out Rosalind.
If the cat will after kind,
So be sure will Rosalind.


The audience cannot help seeing Touchstone's point; amidst our laughter at this sheer nonsense, delivered partly to us, we realize that any healthy human union cannot thrive on airy nothings. Touchstone could be supported by Celia, who could give a scathing reading of the next Orlandian verse; but Rosalind still has her head buried in a pink cloud, and Touchstone leaves in disgust (157-159). Rosalind/Ganymede's scene with Orlando in III.ii certainly demonstrates how "all nature in love [is] mortal in folly."

Rosalind is about to have Orlando woo her in her boy's disguise, a most comic situation, but despite the fun the audience sees Rosalind's feelings mature during the courtship. Orlando's views are also expanding, and his perception of the female sex is becoming less romantic. The comedy of the wooing is delightful, and it is made even more so by the contrast provided by Touchstone's wooing of Audrey. The two share the remainder of Touchstone's scenes; he has been furnished with a living prop, not unlike Launce's dog Crab.

The very fact that Touchstone admits to having sexual feelings and is willing to act upon them sets him apart from most of his brother clowns, and only Costard goes further than Touchstone. They both use their own sexuality to teach the audience about the world of the play. In Love's Labour's Lost, Costard's admission comes early because the audience needs this pointer to bring home the futility of the king's decree. We are being guided into an interpretation, and the rest of the play will be seen and understood accordingly. Lavatch and Launce also demonstrate some interest in women. Lavatch claims to be "driven on by the flesh" (I.iii.26-27) and to want "issue of [his] body" (23), but his interest in "Isbel the woman" disappears soon enough. Launce of The Two Gentlemen of Verona reads us the catalogue of his milkmaid lady-love (III.i.263-360) to show us the role of calculated wooing in this play. But both Launce and Lavatch keep their sexuality within the accepted bounds for a clown; everything remains at the verbal stage, and the "lovers" are never seen together. Costard's and Touchstone's sexuality is more intricate, but specifically because their respective plays demand this. Shakespeare keeps the clown type unblemished, however, by never having a true love scene between Costard and Jaquenetta, and never letting Touchstone accomplish anything physical because of Audrey's prudishness. But the couples are together on stage, and this opens up the possibility for various forms of comic clown courtship, which could well become quite rowdy. Still, both Costard and Touchstone stay within tradition. Their sexuality—blatant indeed for a clown—serves to create understanding of and distance from the madness of a world which has willfully chosen celibacy, or where male and female are totally intermixed and indistinguishable to the lover both in appearance and behavior.

The lady loves of Lavatch and Launce can be seen on stage only at the discretion of a director. Jaquenetta is more substantial with a sizable part and a comic effect of her own, but Audrey is quite another matter. She can well be seen as Touchstone's comic partner after the pattern of Dogberry and Verges or Stephano and Trinculo. Audrey is the passive, Touchstone the active partner of the relationship, which serves as an ingenious mirroring of the Rosalind-Orlando courtship. Where Rosalind is in control of the maturing love between herself and Orlando, Audrey is in control of the static relationship between herself and Touchstone; and Touchstone is mirroring Rosalind who ought to remain passive, being beloved and female. The clownish lovers constantly remind the audience of the physical aspects of love, a purpose elegantly served by the Celia-Oliver union as well. Moreover, the more foolish aspects of the wooing and winning of Orlando are held up to ridicule.

The parallels between the Touchstone-Audrey and the Rosalind-Orlando unions are legion, for example the lovers' use of their mistresses' names. The first nine lines of the fifth act has Touchstone use the name "Audrey" no less than four times, and Orlando uses "Rosalind" constantly. Rosalind's name can be spoken in many ways, as we see from Orlando's and especially Touchstone's rhymes, but Audrey's, which is connected with goats and sheep in our consciousness, can be given a baa-ing or lowing sound which will suit her slovenly appearance, her occupation, and the affair generally.

In III.iii, Touchstone and Audrey discuss poetry, recalling Rosalind's reading of Orlando's verses:

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 feign.


Where Orlando's poetry is written as an outlet for passion, Touchstone sees the medium as a route of ingress into the fortress of the female. Orlando innocently expresses his infatuation, Touchstone sees poetry itself as devious, as a means of subtle communication. Only once is Touchstone directly involved with poetry itself. In V.iii he may or may not join in the singing of "There Was a Lover and His Lass," but he is certainly listening with Audrey. The song has the usual carpe diem theme, which Audrey could have been expected to comment negatively upon, but she refrains. The word "poetry" is not included in even her passive vocabulary.

While there is no doubt that Rosalind is intended to be a beautiful and admirable specimen of womanhood, Audrey is her opposite. She admits to ugliness herself (III.iii.29), and Touchstone is by no means blinded by Cupid: "A poor virgin sir, an ill-favoured thing sir, but mine own; a poor humour of mine sir, to take that no man else will" (V.iv.57-60). This, however, is not quite true. In V.i, Audrey's professed lover William appears on stage. William is a country clod, totally devoid of wit and an unworthy rival of Touchstone's. Audrey, who is always keeping up her image of the pure and honest woman, denies any relationship with William; still she is flattered to have the attention of two males. The audience sees an amusing parallel to another lover's triangle in the forest, the one between Silvius, Phebe, and Rosalind/Ganymede (III.v), with Touchstone acting comically in Rosalind's part, that of the omniscient controller. The difference between Touchstone and the two rustics is just as great as the one between Rosalind and the shepherds, but where Rosalind uses her knowledge of the hopelessness of Phebe's infatuation to punish kindly, Touchstone becomes intimidating:

Touchstone. . . . Now you are not ipse, for I am he.

William. Which he sir?

Touchstone. He sir that must marry this woman. Therefore you clown, abandon—which is in the vulgar leave—the society—which in the boorish is company—of this female—which in the common is woman. Which together is, abandon the society of this female, or clown thou perish est; or to thy better understanding, diest; or, to wit, I kill thee . . . Therefore tremble and depart.

Audrey. Do, good William.

William. God rest you merry, sir.


There is wonderful opportunity for Touchstone to clown in this scene, and for Audrey to contribute her share. In close contact with the audience, Touchstone has gradually worked his way from feigned friendliness to equally feigned frenzy, and he delivers his challenge capering about William and brandishing his wooden sword, making himself as large and dangerous as possible. Touchstone often uses his "superior learning" to best an opponent or score a point, and he never hesitates to use his "courtly" ways against the inhabitants of the forest. We know from Jaques that Touchstone's dress is "motley."6 Whatever a director chooses to dress Touchstone in, there should always be an element of the comic in his garb to set him apart. When he blows himself up with words, the ridiculousness will be underscored and magnified by his clothes. Whatever such a fellow claims to intend, he will never convince his audience of ill intentions, we know that such wordiness never produces action. William's polite leave-taking, cap in hand, makes Touchstone's victory almost ridiculous, but still we love him. Audrey, though proud of her lover's prowess, must show some concern for William's welfare, so she hastens his departure and may even shoo him along, for a duel would stain her reputation.

The placing of the comical lovers' triangle lays the foundation for the audience's perception of the confrontation with the shepherds (V.ii.76). The four voices repeating their refrain would be amusing even without a Touchstone, but after we have just seen the thoroughly comic lovers in action, this sighing and moaning becomes doubly ridiculous:

Phebe. . . . 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 service, And so am I for Phebe.

Phebe. And I for Ganymede.

Orlando. And I for Rosalind.

Rosalind. And I for no woman.


The rhythm of the repetitions may suggest a dancelike choreography, which would add to the comedy. Still, amidst our amusement, we can see that Rosalind is playing her tricks with greater and greater skill, not only exposing the conventionality of the shepherds but also her beloved Orlando, who joins in the sighing; she herself does not.

Throughout the last half of the play there is much talk about marriage. Marriage is always a part of Rosalind's and Orlando's wooing, but Touchstone's ideas are of another stamp. He knows that marriage is the only way to gain ground with Audrey, and because his intentions are far from honorable he tries to get around the conventions as best he can. His whole ploy is set up and fails in III.iii:

Touchstone. . . . sluttishness may come hereafter. But be it as it may be, I will marry thee; and to that end I have been with Sir Oliver Martext, the vicar of the next village, who hath promised to meet me in this place of the forest and to couple us.

Audrey. Well, the gods give us joy!


Both Touchstone's choice of words and the vicar's name clearly indicate to the audience what his true intentions are, and he reveals as much a short while later in conversation with Jaques:

Touchstone. As the ox has his bow sir, the horse his curb, and the falcon her bells, so man has his desires, and as pigeons bill, so wedlock would be nibbling.

Jaques. . . . 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.

Touchstone [aside]. 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. . . . Come, sweet Audrey,

We must be married or we must live in bawdry.


Touchstone only seeks sexual gratification. The wife is not the bow, the curb, and the bells; his desires are. The woman he will deal with later if necessary. Sexual desire is present, unpleasant, and must be served. His feelings for Audrey are summed up well in the final rhyme on her name.

When next we see the couple, marriage is still under discussion (V.i). Apparently Touchstone has fled Sir Oliver in fear of being truly bound, for Audrey was willing enough to accept the vicar, "the priest was good enough, for all the old gentleman's saying" (3-4). Apparently Audrey's decision to remain chaste until marriage stands firm, for Touchstone repeatedly returns to the subject. In the scene with William it is, "I am he . . . that must marry this woman" (V.i.43-45), and the opening lines of V.iii are

Touchstone. Tomorrow is the joyful day, Audrey, tomorrow will we be married.

Audrey. I do desire it with all my heart; and I hope it is no dishonest desire, to desire to be a woman of the world.


Rosalind's plotting gradually solves problems and slowly imposes order on her self-created chaos, and likewise Touchstone is brought to order by Audrey; no mean feat, and a very comical one. Where before he was all for bawdry, now he seems to be all for Audrey, and in performance this comes out clearly. At the beginning he is the active partner in the relationship, wooing her in a mock-pastoral, mock-conventional manner by helping with her goats and sheep (III.iii). All the while the audience is well aware of his sexual innuendo and attempts at seduction; goats are notorious lechers as we all know. But in the fifth act Touchstone has given in, and more comedy is created. Audrey may even lead the way in this act. She can come in trailing him behind in her relentless pursuit of marriage and honesty, which now begins to sound like female blackmail. In other regards Touchstone seems himself to the very end. As the problem-solving marriage ceremony approaches, all the protagonists are assembled on stage and Touchstone delivers his famous speech on "[the] lie seven times removed" and "the degrees of the lie" to Jaques (V.iv.67-102). Touchstone in the forest was somewhat out of depth amidst fatigue and hardship and maneuvered about by a woman. Touchstone at the court is quite another matter. Here he may sport his wit and be understood and praised. He is in his element as a court jester. But even Touchstone is not allowed to escape from the sea-change Arden works upon everybody who enters, and he emerges saddled with a wife. Still, his last remark is in praise of the great "virtue of If" (102).

Touchstone is not allowed to escape the stage. He has to be present with his Audrey at both the wedding ceremony and the final dance, and he will make his mark on both. Hymen addresses Touchstone and his wife with "You and you are sure together/As the winter and foul weather" (V.iv. 134-135); and Jaques says, "And you to wrangling, for thy loving voyage/Is but for two months victuall'd" (190-191). Winter and foul weather may not promise the brightest of prospects, but they are suited to each other. Seeing Touchstone and Audrey with the three other couples will demonstrate to the audience that the four unions are seriously joined, not just a two months' venture as Jaques suggests, and this makes the impression even more comical. Here is our sprightly Touchstone tamed by a female, and what a female! But so was Orlando and Oliver, and both Silvius and Phebe for that matter. Audrey gradually gains the upper hand in the battle between the sexes, and she can make a wonderful, comic contribution to the clown partnership in the process. Fortunately Touchstone is not diminished by his sexual defeat, and during the final dance if not during the marriage ceremony he and Audrey must stand for the purely physical aspect of marriage, where Silvius and Phebe represent the tensions of the power struggle, and Celia and Oliver the true accord, all of which are elements of Rosalind's and Orlando's ideal union.


1 In I.ii Touchstone last speaks the lines 127-129, but he is given no exit. It is an excellent idea to let him remain with the two young women and let him underscore the comedy of Rosalind and Orlando's falling in love by parodying their gestures, looks, and sighs in intimate detail.

2 There are many indications that the clown's sword was indeed made of wood, the most famous example being Shakespeare's own; he lets Feste sing of it in Twelfth Night, IV.ii. 125-132. Why mention a "dagger of lath" if the clown was not brandishing one at the time?

3 His "we" will not include Silvius, but will include Rosalind and himself and everybody in the audience.

4 "And so from hour/whore to hour/whore we ripe/search, and ripe/search, /And then from hour/whore to hour/whore we rot and rot (from syphilis),/And thereby hangs a tale/tail/penis" (26-28). See H. Kökeritz, Shakespeare's Pronunciation (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1953), 58-59.

5 Duke Senior himself is well aware of the hunger and cold this world may offer its people. Touchstone is wary, already on entering it: "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" (II.iv.13-15).

6 For a competent discussion of what "motley" probably looked like, see Leslie Hotson, Shakespeare's Motley (London: Rupert Hart-Davis, 1952); and Guy Butler, "Shakespeare and Two Jesters" (Hebrew University Studies in Literature and the Arts 11 no. 2, 1983).

Sexual Identity

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Philip Traci (essay date 1981)

SOURCE: "As You Like It: Homosexuality in Shakespeare's Play," in CLA Journal, Vol. XXV, No. 1, September, 1981, pp. 91-105.

[In the essay below, Traci discusses the intimations of homosexuality between Orlando and the Ganymede/boy actor found in the text of As You Like It.]

The diversity of sexual preference in As You Like It has long been noted. "As its title declares," Dame Helen Gardner explains, "this is a play to please all tastes."1 Agnes Latham, editor of the recent New Arden, is one who echoes this idea. She sees the title of the play as "particularly suited to the do-as-you-please atmosphere of Arden, a place where a very mixed collection of people very happily go their own various ways."2 Harold Jenkins, in his well-known and penetrating article on the play, emphasizes that "the characters do not keep in step. When they seem to be doing the same thing they are really doing something quite different, and if they echo one another, they mean quite different things by what they say—as could easily be illustrated from the little quartet of lovers in the fifth act ("And so am I for Phebe—And I for Ganymede—And I for Rosalind.—And I for no woman."), where the similarity of the tune they sing conceals their different situations."3

Critics thus have commented on the diverse sexual preferences of both characters and audience. Miss Latham, for example, observes that in the quartet of lovers "the sides we take in such encounters, if we take sides at all, are to a great extent dictated by our own inclinations."4 The diversity, moreover, has been seen to extend to other than the lovers. For example, both Jaques, the ex-libertine, who now loves both fools and melancholy, and the exiled Duke, finally are "for other than dancing measures" (V.iv. 192).5

Generally, nonetheless, extended comments about the preferences in the play have focused on the heterosexuality of the audience and characters. Such is also the chief focus of the play. It is precisely because Ganymede is really a woman that Phebe takes Silvious only because he is a man. Her attraction for Ganymede is a heterosexual lust. She notes that he is a "pretty youth" (III.v.l 13) and that "he'll make a proper man" (III. 1.115). Touchstone's love for Audrey is transiently "victuall'd" (V.iv.191) because of his lust, which is also heterosexual. Orlando's love for Ganymede most of the time seems but an unrealized or immature heterosexuality. He can "no longer live by thinking," and the desire to consummate with Rosalind is evident even without the pun on "live." It never occurs to him to have sex with Ganymede. His world is as heterosexual as Phebe's. His attraction to the boy is occasioned only as a last resort, inadequate substitute, or even cure, for Rosalind. His attraction to the boy is caused by the fact that "the boy is fair/Of female favour, and bestows himself like a ripe sister" (IV.iii.85-87). Duke Senior agrees with Orlando that the boy looks like Rosalind (V.iv.26-29).

But to see only the heterosexual side of the preferences is, in the words of one of the major spokesmen, to be "damn'd, like an ill-roasted egg, all on one side" (III.ii.36-37). One of the diverse preferences in the play, the homosexual way, is dramatized largely through the audience's awareness of the multiple identities (boy actor, Rosalind, and Ganymede) of the play's central character.

Nor has this homosexual side of the play been ignored. Jan Kott, for example, with his focus on the androgyny in the play, informs us that Rosalind's choice of name of Ganymede is not chance.6 The name, he underscores, "remained above all, as it had been in antiquity, the symbol of pederasty."7 Kott's analysis demonstrates his awareness both of the homosexual aspects of the Ganymede-Orlando relationship and of the fact that this is but one side of the relationship. He tells us, for example, that "Orlando does not recognize Rosalind in the shape of Ganymede. Rosalind woos him with intensity, but she does it as a boy, or rather as a boy who in this relationship wants to be a girl for his lover."8 And yet more deeply: "On the surface of the dialogue, on the higher level of a disguise, identical with that of Twelfth Night, two youths, Ganymede and Orlando, play a love game. On the intermediate level we have Rosalind and Orlando in love with each other. But the real Rosalind happens to be a disguised boy."9

Kott's insight is aided by his undoubtedly being able to see the production in his mind's eye. With the Restoration and the boys no longer taking women's roles, it has apparently become more difficult for some to picture the many identities Kott points to in the play. Marvin Rosenberg in his well-known study on Elizabethan acting correctly generalizes that "apparently the audience forgot the 'boys' were male."10 Quite so, but not in this play where the audience is exhorted to remember even at a moment when we might have otherwise forgotten. Michael Jamieson in his article on "Shakespeare's Celibate Stage" is specific in referring to this suspension of disbelief in As You Like It. He states flatly that "the moment an audience accepts Ganymede as a boy, instead of as a credibly disguised woman, the drily romantic irony of Rosalind's scenes with Orlando evaporates."11 He continues as he demonstrates that Shakespeare stresses Ganymede's "femininity" in three ways: (1) by making a "comic theatrical point of Rosalind's falling short of that pose," (2) by fully exploiting Celia as a confidante to whom Rosalind "constantly speaks of herself as a woman," and (3) by "cunningly" suggesting to his audience "the close association of boys and women."12 It is only in the Epilogue that he sees any emergence of the boy actor. He observes correctly, I believe, that this Epilogue has "nothing comparable elsewhere in Shakespeare" or "in other plays of the period." It provides, he explains, "a daring break with tradition." He sees the end of the play merely as "the cue for the boy-actress, as star of this comedy to take a solo 'curtain.'"13

And yet we do not forget that, until the Epilogue, the boys were male. The idea peeks out with intermittent appeal to a double consciousness, as the play occasionally provides added humor with the hint. Jamieson himself supplies evidence that this manner of viewing boys playing girls and yet remembering them as both, is not simply a 20th century Brechtian effect as he describes it. Jamieson quotes Goethe as he watched boys play girls in Roman comedies. Goethe says, "Only a kind of self-conscious illusion was produced." The poet explained that "We experience a double charm from the fact that these people are not women, but play the part of women. We see a youth who has studied the idiosyncrasies of the female sex in their character and behaviour; he has learned to know them, and reproduce them as an artist; he plays not himself, but a third, and in truth, a foreign nature."14 Jamieson analyzes Goethe's attitude in this way: "The performance was analogous to an Elizabethan one, but Goethe's attitude was sophisticated; he was over-conscious of 'the thought of art.' What he enjoyed was akin to the Brechtian alienation-effect. That 'initial strangeness' differentiates him from the Elizabethans. . . . "15

Clearly the Brechtian alienation-effect has existed long before even Goethe. Samuel Pepys experienced it while watching a performance of a play with multiple identities closer to As You Like It than to the Roman comedy Goethe viewed. The play was Epicoene; the actor was the famous Edward Kynaston, the only boy actor whose portrait survives.16 In an entry dated January 7, 1660-61, Pepys speaks of Kynaston appearing "in three shapes: first, as a poor woman in ordinary clothes, to please Morose; then in fine clothes as a gallant, and in them was clearly the prettiest woman in the whole house, and lastly, as a man; and then likewise did appear the handsomest man in the house."17

An even earlier observation of boy actors, one Jamieson could hardly see as different from an Elizabethan one, makes clear a contemporary double consciousness of the boy actor and female part he played. The observation is that of Thomas Heywood in An Apology for Actors. "But to see our youths attired in the habit of women," he observes, "who knows not what their interests be? Who cannot distinguish them by their names assuredly knowing they are but to represent such a lady at such a time appointed?"18 If Heywood could make this generalization about all boys playing women's parts, is it not fair to assume that in a play that virtually asks us to, members of an Elizabethan audience might recognize by name the boy actor of a major repertory company who was playing the starring female role?

Heywood, moreover, makes this observation in order to defend the boy actors from a charge which itself would add strength to the case for homosexual implications in As You Like It. The lines that immediately precede Heywood's comment about the audience knowing the boys' names, moreover, makes clear that they are but a defense against charges of the boys' homosexuality. Even the defense reflects that it was aimed at many who felt that at least some of the boys were homosexual. If the particular sexual orientation of a particular boy actor were known, that might color the perspective of the play, especially in the Epilogue. I acknowledge the "if." Heywood protests that "to do as the Sodomites did, use preposterous lusts in preposterous habits, is in that [biblical] text flatly and severely forbidden, nor can I imagine any man that hath in him any taste or relish or Christianity to be guilty of so abhorred a sin. . . . "19 Heywood's comments make known not only that some contemporaries felt the boys might well be homosexual, but, in his phrase "in preposterous habits," that transvestism and homosexuality need not be mutually exclusive.

Rosenberg, moreover, makes it apparent that the charges were well known. He does so, while, like Heywood, defending the boys against charges of homosexuality. "In the 16th and 17th centuries," he speculates, "men who wanted to act like women must have seen the stage as a kind of natural home. I certainly do not mean to say here that most—or even many—of Shakespeare's 'boy actors' were homosexual; but there may well have been some grains of truth in Prynne's furious assaults upon the "Sodomiticall' theatre."20 Gordon Lell, in his article entitled "'Ganymede' on the Elizabethan Stage: Homosexual Implications of the Use of Boy-Actors," offers detailed contemporary evidence to support the idea that "the stage convention was susceptible to such homosexual implications. [This] is suggested by attacks leveled against plays between 1579-1583."21 The most developed study of the boy actor also briefly discusses the idea of their homosexuality. The issue is summarized with consummate taste: "It is not necessary to discuss at length the justice of the Puritan charges of homosexuality against the players and the boy actors; doubtless there were some grounds for them and certainly it was inevitable that boys brought up in an artistic and somewhat raffish atmosphere should fall as short of the Puritan level of conduct as they soared above the Puritan understanding of the very mixed business of living."22 Neither is a prolonged discussion of the ultimately unanswerable question necessary here. What is worthy of our consideration, however, is the possibility that the boy actors, especially the ones who play Rosalind/Ganymede and Orlando, might be known by name and as homosexual. Whatever their sexuality, however, the possibility of homosexuality between Orlando and Ganymede/boy actor is suggested in the play.

Whether or not the boy actor who plays Rosalind/Ganymede is homosexual, the text of the play comically points to the potential homosexual relationship between boys. While it has been argued by Jamieson, as but one example, that Shakespeare makes us aware of the similarity between boys and women to encourage our suspended belief of the differences between them, we are encouraged to notice their sexual similarities as well. When Ganymede tells Orlando he will impersonate Rosalind, he develops an idea in Shakespeare's source: "At which time, would I," says Ganymede, "being but a moonish youth, grieve, by 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 colour" (III.iii.396-402). The speech is, after all, not without a flirtatious quality such as that the boy actor utilizes in the Epilogue. Given the context, whether one stresses psychoanalytic or other revealing fantasies, the expressions "longing and liking" and "for every passion" are a bit coquettish for this lad whom Orlando agrees to woo. Even the comic "for the most part," that may well remind us of "la différence" between boys and women, is not without sexual implications. The fact that the boy's name is Ganymede, which Kott, we have noted, explains "remained above all, a symbol of pederasty," should also surely lend support to this reading. That Shakespeare felt the boy actor Rosalind's choice of the name was more than a perfunctory imitation of his source is attested to by his using the name or that of Ganymede's lover, Jupiter, six times in the play. At the last point the name is mentioned three times (I.iii.120-21; II.iv.l; III.ii.84; IV.iii.157-59). I say "the boy actor Rosalind" to reinforce the kind of thought Gordon Lell has when he notes, "It must be remembered too that since Lodge's Rosalynde is a prose tale rather than a drama, the possible Greek-love reference to the Jove-Ganymede tradition is based solely on the disguise of a real girl and has none of the additional suggestions that the boy-actor of drama would provide."23

The reason Clifford Williams' 1967 all-male National Theatre Company of Britain production failed to enlighten us to any homosexual implications in the play is that if boys and women share many similarities, men and women do not necessarily do so. If occasionally men played women's roles on the Shakespearean stage,24 they certainly did not do so in As You Like It. The references to Rosalind as young are made by characters with as diverse perspectives toward Ganymede as Phebe and Jaques (III.v.l 13 and IV.i.l). Most important, Orlando repeatedly views Ganymede as a "youth" from their first meeting (III.iii.413,421). Nor is pederasty the specific point. Orlando is no Jove to Rosalind's Ganymede. Orlando is a young man (I.i. 127; I.ii.149, 161, 162, 169, 188, 201, 210, 211, 218, 222, 226, for example).

Another reason Williams' all-male production threw little light on the homosexual preferences in the play, is that its aim was to avoid all physicality, whatever the orientation. The director's "Clockwork-Orange" focus on violence and 1970s unisex distorted the play. Williams' said he found at "the very heart of As You Like It," a "sexual purity that transcends sensuality in the search for poetic sexuality."25 There was as little heterosexuality as homosexuality in his production.

Surely these homosexual overtones must be in the audience's consciousness during what has been dubbed the mock-marriage episode. Agnes Latham devotes an entire appendix to this interlude. The scene, you remember, begins with Ganymede "in a holiday humour," "like enough to consent," exhorting Orlando to "Come, woo me, woo me" (IV.i.65-66). Ganymede asks Orlando what he would do if he were his "very very Rosalind" (IV. 1.67-68). Orlando replies he would kiss before he spoke. After a good deal of flirtation and love play, Orlando asks Celia to marry them (IV.l. 120), but Celia "cannot say the words" (IV.l. 121). Argues Latham in her appendix to the New Arden edition informs us why Celia cannot: "Harold Brooks has called my attention to the validity of the mock-marriage, which comes very near to being a real one, a fact of which Rosalind, Celia and the Elizabethan audience must all have been aware."26 Maura Slattery Kuhn in a recent article in Shakespeare Quarterly also discusses the episode at length. Her conclusions, though not aimed at explicating homosexual implications in the play, do much toward that end. Mrs. Kuhn validates the First and Second Folio reading, usually emended, standing as is:

That thought mightst ioyne his hand with his Whose heart within his bosome is.

(V.iv.l 13-14; emphasis is mine)

"To allow the First and Second Folio pronouns to stand as first printed," Mrs. Kuhn explains, "permits a reenactment of the mock-marriage between Ganymede and Orlando in which Ganymede has said: 'Give me your hand, Orlando' (IV.i.114). The final stage picture of these two boys holding hands should mirror the earlier scene.'"27 Her evidence, including such textual evidence as the Folio reading above as well as the fact of stage timing that would not allow Ganymede to change into Rosalind's gowns, is convincingly developed. With the two boys in this final picture mirroring an earlier mock-marriage, the homosexual implications are clear.

It is long before this reenactment, however, and even before the mock-marriage that the text asks us again and again to have the kind of double or triple consciousness Goethe described while viewing another play—the kind of viewing Pepys and Heywood shared with him. The boy actor often peeks through Rosalind/Ganymede's identity. He does so, if not in being known personally to the audience as Heywood suggests, in the reminders we receive from the text: "Is it a man?" (II.ii.177). "Dost thou think though I am comparisoned like a man I have a doublet and hose in my disposition?" (III.ii.191-93). "Do you not know I am a woman?" (III.ii.245). "Am I not your Rosalind?" (IV.i.84). Can so many provocations to remember the well-known stage convention escape the audience?

The reminders never stop. "I thank God I am not a woman" (III.ii.339-40), says Rosalind. "Take a good heart and counterfeit to be a man" (IV.iii. 173-74), says Oliver to Ganymede. Never one to drop a joke, Shakespeare repeats the line and the idea when Ganymede responds to Oliver, "I pray you commend my counterfeiting to him" (IV.iii. 181-82). Given the mock-marriage of two boys, one named Ganymede, and the constant reminders of the boy actor as player, is it not clear that homosexuality forms part of the themes and stage business of As You Like It? That some of these puns lack the sexual purity that Williams found in his all-male production is perhaps made most blatant in such lines as "He that sweetest rose will find/Must find love's prick and Rosalind?" (The lack of subtlety in emphasis is mine.) The line reminds us how humorously Shakespeare dramatizes the theme of sexual role playing whether on stage or off.

This dramatization of multiple sexualities is made repeatedly evident to the audience through the use of the word "if." It reverberates throughout the text with a frequency28 that rivals "do," "did," and "deed" in Macbeth. It sets a suppositional mood that reminds us of the power of poetry to feign even sexual roles. If these boys are playing women, they also are Rosalind, Celia, Phebe, and Audrey.

The suppositional mood of the play is set early with Touchstone's lengthy story of the knight swearing by his beard—if he had one. When Touchstone asks Celia and Rosalind to "stroke your chins, and swear by your beards," there is yet another reminder of the boys playing the roles. Flute, not wanting to play Thisbe, illuminates what the women share with young boys when he protests that he cannot play a woman because he has a beard coming. Rosalind and Celia, as well as the boy actors who play them, share Beatrice's pronouncement that "he that hath no beard, is less than a man . . ." (Much Ado About Nothing, II.i.37).29 Since neither Rosalind nor the boy actor has a beard, Touchstone's line and the "key of If in which the play is written,30 help to set up the fact that Rosalind is also a boy before she becomes Ganymede and has a near marriage with Orlando.

This fanciful and suppositional frame of mind so important to the illusion of the play is often delivered with ritualic force when we least expect it. Orlando, for example, reflects the tone when he asks the banished Duke:

If ever you have look'd on better days;
If ever been where bells have knoll'd to church;
If ever sat at any good man's feast;
If ever from your eyelids wip'd a tear. . . .

(II.vii. 113-16)

It is precisely at this point that Jaques informs us that the play itself is an illusion, an "if that includes the audience as well as the characters. If As You Like It was presented to commemorate the opening of the new Globe theatre with its Latin motto about the world as a stage,31 Jaques' speech would underscore to the audience that their world, too, was but a stage. "All the world's a stage," he begins, "And all the men and women merely players" (11.139-40). If the "merely" here carries the additional Elizabethan force of "utterly," then the roles a man might play can include even that of woman. It is conceivable that this is hinted at in the shift in point of view from "all the men and women" to "one man." The shift is to "one man in his time plays many parts." Is one of those many roles a female one?

The "if takes on incremental significance in the fugue-like repetitions of Silvius, Phebe, Orlando, and Rosalind, in the quartet which Jenkins observes reflects individuality rather than agreement. It is in this same quartet, as we have seen, that Miss Latham notes that "our own inclinations" play a part. After the many quartets: "And I for Phebe.—And I for Ganymede—And I for Rosalind.—And I for no woman" (V.ii.84-87; 89-92 and 98-101), Rosalind exits with a speech filled with "ifs":

[To Sii.] I will help you if I can. [To Phebe] I would love you if I could. Tomorrow, meet me all together. [To Phebe] I will marry you, if ever I marry woman and I'll be married tomorrow. [To Orl.] I will satisfy you, if ever I satisfied man and you shall be married tomorrow. [To Sil.] I will content you, if what pleases you contents you, and you shall be married tomorrow


In a play in which we are made repeatedly aware that Rosalind is acted by a boy (she is Ganymede when delivering the line), can we deny the homosexual implications in a boy saying to another boy, "If ever I marry woman," "I will satisfy you, if ever I satisfied man," and "I will content you, if what pleases you contents you"? Even such negatives as implied in "I would love you if I could," are comic in their homosexual overtones. The allusion to homosexuality is there when Hymen informs Phebe of an alternative. "Or have a woman to your lord" (V.iv.133), he says, and whether one interprets that as comic absurdity or alternative, the manner of Hymen's delivery may direct us more than "our own inclinations." In any case, Hymen does not explicitly rule out this marriage.

Although it is far-fetched to see homosexual intention in suggesting that Celia and Rosalind love as "never two ladies loved" (I.i.112), one has to be obtuse to a sustained joke if he misses the multiple sexualities of Rosalind/Ganymede/boy actor with Phebe/boy actor. This, too, has the support of "if." "You say you'll marry me, if I be willing?" (1.11), Rosalind playfully queries Phebe. The homosexual potential of the line gains even more support with the added Elizabethan force of sexual desire in the word "will." This additional meaning is sustained when Rosalind asks Silvius, "You say you'll have Phebe if she will?" (1.16). Although the primary joke is founded on the "fact" that Ganymede is really Rosalind, the play's thematic concern with multiple sexual identities and diversity in love makes us aware that not only Rosalind, but Phebe herself, are boys—just as both also are women.

In the same scene the suppositional tone is continued as Touchstone echoes his earlier speech with an "i f and a beard when he talks of the seven lies rhetorical. While the speech has never received the critical attention of the seven-ages-of-man speech, audiences have seen the artistic significance of the dazzling tour de force. I have rarely attended a performance of the play when the speech was either cut or unapplauded. Does the echo of seven help to remind us that just as life is a stage, so are both life and stage ultimately but lies? Touchstone has already told us that "the truest poetry is the most feigning." Are we asked again if feigning can include even sexual roles?

All these you may avoid but the Lie Direct; and you may avoid that with an If. I knew when seven justices could not take up a quarrel, but when the parties were met themselves, one of them thought but of an If, as 'If you said so, then I said so.' And they shook hands and swore brothers. Your If is your only peacemaker: much virtue in If.


Hymen, the god of marriage himself (even if played by Corin with an elevated language that reflects his transcendence of self) rests his case in the last scene on "if:

Here's eight that must take hands
To join in Hymen's bands,
If truth holds true contents.


It is in the epilogue, however, that the homosexual possibilities of "i f are most fully exploited in the play. Rosalind, still dressed as Ganymede,32 and about to marry Orlando, confronts us now, Mrs. Kuhn informs us, as "the Lie Direct in person."33 The boy actor/Ganymede/Rosalind overtly refers to his many sexual identities, and with them separately flirts with the diverse sexualities of the audience. These include not only the heterosexual men and women, I suggest, but the homosexual ones as well. With Rosalind dressed as Ganymede, Mrs. Kuhn tells us that "as a dividend, the Epilogue line 'If I were a woman' can be spoken without threat for the woman who plays Rosalind. But actresses are not the only ones affected: a boy actor portraying a woman dressed in boy's attire saying 'If I were a woman' can bring a delight that is part and parcel of the play's effect."34

Part of this parcel of delight in the Epilogue derives from the sexual overtones, some of them homosexual, that come fully into play only when a boy playing a girl dressed as a boy delivers them. While the complexity of the puns, given the ambiguity of such a speaker, make the direction and intention of individual puns debatable at best, the sexual and flirtatious nature of the entire Epilogue is hardly arguable. The boy/girl/boy "charges" the women for the love they bear to men, "to like as much of this play as please you." But who is it who turns to the men to charge them for the love they bear to women? Is it Rosalind? While the phrase "for the love you bear to women" implies the heterosexuality of the audience, it does not imply that either the boy actor or Ganymede shares that preference. The context of that phrase, moreover, may well suggest a homosexual reading:

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 the women, the play may please.

While D. J. Palmer has aptly pointed out the bawdy heterosexual pun in "between you and the women the play may please,"35 it should not be forgotten that the phrase "between you and the women" is, after all, the very land in which he/she dwells. He/she rather charges them for the love they bear to women.

Even when the boy actor emerges over the other selves in the line "If I were a woman," homosexuality provides some of the delight:

If I were a woman, I would kiss as many of you as had beards that pleased me, complexions that like me, and breaths that I defied not.

The boy does not explicitly say that since he is a boy he would not kiss them. The line is rather flirtatious even in the world of If. The details of the line, moreover, inform us that the boy actor is, though now out of character, still regarding other males as a woman might—that is, homosexually. The boy's progression in the criteria he gives for kissing the men, as I interpret the line, begins with the beard that connotes virility. It then proceeds to a comic touch of exclusiveness in the second clause, and finally, to an hilarious desperation, not unlike Phebe's (who is not for all markets), that includes any man who doesn't have halitosis! The word "defied" may even suggest that he means any man who fulfills the virility requirement of the beard, and doesn't reject him. This exact progression from beards to complexions to those whose breaths defy not is repeated in the equally flirtatious final line of the boy actor, who again makes "his kind offer" to the audience. The fact that the boy is this time appealing primarily to the men, is clear with the repetition of beard:36

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,37 bid me farewell.

The pun on "fare well" may signal the men that he has not given up on his hopes of his offer being accepted, as they applaud his performance and the show. The boy's offer, like the tone of the play, echoes the kind of tone Shakespeare found in the line in his source that is said to have inspired his own title aimed at all tastes, "If you like it, so."38


1 "As You Like It," in More Talking of Shakespeare, ed. John Garrett (London: Longmans, Green and Company, Ltd., 1959), p. 17.

2 Agnes Latham, Introd., As You Like It, New Arden edition (London: Methuen and Co., Ltd., 1975), p. lxix.

3 Harold Jenkins, "As You Like It," in Twentieth Century Interpretations of As You Like It, ed. Jay L. Halio (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, Inc., 1968), p. 32. Cf. Agnes Latham, p. lxxxii.

4 Latham, p. lxxxiv.

5 All quotations from As You Like It in this paper are from the New Arden edition cited in footnote 2.

6 Jan Kott, Shakespeare: Our Contemporary, trans. Boleslaw Taborski (Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Co., Inc., 1966), p. 319.

7 Ibid., p. 318.

8 Ibid., p. 319.

9 Ibid., pp. 319-20.

10 Marvin Rosenberg, "Elizabethan Actors: Men or Marionettes?" in The Seventeenth-Century Stage, ed. Gerald Eades Bentley (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1968), p. 98n.

11 In The Seventeenth-Century Stage, p. 86.

12 Ibid., pp. 86-87, et passim.

13 Ibid., p. 88.

14 Quoted in Jamieson, p. 76.

15 Jamieson, p. 76.

16 See the picture of Edward Kynaston printed opposite the title page in W. Robertson Davies, Shakespeare's Boy Actors (1939; rept. New York: Russell and Russell 1964). The original is in the Gabrielle Enthoven Collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum.

17 Quoted in Jamieson, pp. 77-78.

18 Thomas Heywood, An Apology for Actors, quoted in Alfred Harbage, Shakespeare and the Rival Traditions (1952; rpt. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1970), p. 211.

19 Ibid.

20 Rosenberg, p. 98n.

21 In Aegis, 1 (1973), 9.

22 Davies, p. 26.

23 Lell, p. 12.

24 See Jamieson, p. 79. Cf. J. B. Street, "The Durability of Boy Actors," who argues that at least two Elizabethan actors played female roles for a span of more than fourteen years, Notes and Queries, n.s. 20, 461-65.

25 Clifford Williams, "Production Note," in October 17-19, 1974, program for performance at The Music Hall, Detroit, Michigan.

26 Latham, p. 133 (Appendix B).

27 Maura Slattery Kuhn, "Much Virtue in If" Shakespeare Quarterly, 28 (1977), 44.

28 Mrs. Kuhn's article on the frequency and significance of "if in the play was published after this article was written and delivered to my Department. Its conclusions are reassuring in their independent interpretation of the suppositional tone of the play, and especially in their penetration into the utilization of the word "to draw up a contract between players and the audience." "If you will suspend your disbelief," she says the play agrees, "you will be delighted by our play" (p. 49). The conclusions of my own section on "if in the play offer a different perspective by the very nature of our differing topics.

29 I cite the Signet edition by David L. Stevenson, II.i.37. N.B. It is Beatrice's observation, given her desires, that a boy and a woman are "less than a man."

30 Kuhn, p. 50.

31 See Latham, p. xxvii.

32 Mrs. Kuhn offers convincing proof of this fact in her article. I'll have occasion to refer to the implications of this final costuming on more than one occasion.

33 Kuhn, p. 42.

34 Ibid., p. 43.

35 Cited in Kuhn, p. 50.

36 I say "primarily" to the men, although I am aware that a beard could allude to the female pubic hair (as cited in Eric Partridge's Shakespeare's Bawdy with a reference to Twelfth Night, III.i.46-54).

37 Mrs. Kuhn cites evidence in the OED that it was "an act appropriate to both sexes" in Shakespeare's time.

38 Thomas Lodge, Preface to "Rosalynde," in Geoffrey Bullough, Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare (New York: Columbia University Press, 1968), II, 160. See Latham, p. lxix.

John Powell Ward (essay date 1992)

SOURCE: "Chapter 3," in Harvester New Critical Introductions to Shakespeare: As You Like It, Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1992, pp. 38-56.

[In the following essay, Ward explores the androgenous dimensions of Rosalind and suggests that her sexual ambiguity heightens sexual intrigue and contributes to the play's sense of unity.]


At this point the discussion becomes more convoluted. When Rosalind disguises she compounds the fact that all acting is performance anyway, with the further complication that in our day Rosalind is normally played by a woman, whereas Shakespeare had to assume an adolescent male took the part, as indeed was the case for all his female parts. Furthermore, while women characters have already worn male disguise in Twelfth Night, Two Gentlemen of Verona and The Merchant of Venice, As You Like It is unique in that Rosalind also plays another part, the male youth Ganymede, who then plays or re-plays her own self, folding the matter back in upon itself while giving it an extra twist. Finally the diverse conceptions of disguise, crossdressing, androgyny and transvestitism break up the straightforward matter of gender concealment into a subgroup of yet further possibilities.

We disguise much of the time anyway, to look tough, rich, respectable, Westernised, poor or pathetic. There is also a continuum between the aim to conceal what we are and the aim to reveal it. Men in the 1960s didn't grow long hair in order to be mistaken for girls, but to suggest unisex identification, or emancipation more generally. It is curious today that while women have commonly adopted what was male clothing—trousers, caps, rugby shirts—you don't see men in skirts and stockings or lace blouses without assuming they are fully transvestite. Disguise would seem to be something more specific.

In Elizabethan England females disguised themselves as males, or were presented as doing so on stage, from a number of motives: a) to cover their female parts and avoid lascivious approach; b) to get male privileges; c) to express defiance at patriarchy; and d) to get an erotic kick. Rosalind and Celia—and Julia in Two Gentlemen of Verona—disguise for the first reason given here (TGV II, vii, 39-43; AYLI I, iii, 106-10). A number of feminist critics (Howard, 1988, et al.) also ascribe the second motive to Rosalind and Celia, in the sense that those two thereby become liberated to speak freely, as men may already. The third motive, not unconnected, was that of the gangs of male-dressed women who roamed London in the late sixteenth century, and were attacked by offended males for their turpitude, as in the now well-known pamphlet of 1620, Hie Mulier (anon., published 1973). The fourth motive was the gist of the Puritan attacks on the theatre itself, as result of which boys were used for acting instead of women, not that this prevented titillations of a more homosexual nature arising instead. But, even if we see (as suggested earlier) some degree of phallic envy in Rosalind, and some lesbianism in Celia, it is hardly more than latent. So the first two of these four motives for cross-dressings look the likely ones for Rosalind. But they are also the two in which full disguise, as concealment, is essential. The fourth does not need concealment, although it is normally likely, and the third positively demands display as a protest against female suppression.

So, if Rosalind is disguising her womanhood from Orlando—the very person in the long run she most wants to know it—what credence can we give to the androgyny theories that have been widely elaborated in recent years as deep in the substructure of Shakespeare's mature, full-heroine comedies? Are Rosalind and those like her at last enjoying being fully women, normally under wraps through the subordinate role they normally get? Or are they for once enjoying being men, by inwardly at least savouring associating with men on basis of gender-equality? It is often said now that Rosalind can be fully woman at last because this is re-routed round through Ganymede. But even if this is true, a level of subtlety in the play is surely lost if we aren't awakened to the inner mixture of gender role and experience Rosalind must be thought of as gaining by playing both female and male at once. The further question is raised, then, of how far gender is itself socially constructed, as the modern proandrogyny faction normally suggests. If Rosalind's physical sex does not change, is her response merely political, merely a sense of rights? Is she not experiencing a bit of malehood in her doublet and hose, or at least some kind of gender neutrality for social equality to hold her allegiance as well? The extreme sorority of the feminist movement might argue an equal-but-different (or superior-but-different) position anyway, but they would hardly go along with Rosalind's yearning for Orlando in the first place. Added to this is the question of Shakespeare's own approach; whether he was supporting female emancipation or silently subverting it (by bringing the women back to marriage at each play's end).

The renewed attention to the boy actor in recent years makes for further difficulties. It is underlined that there are four layers: the boy-actor, Rosalind, Ganymede and 'Rosalind' to Orlando. In fact, there are only three layers of performance: the boy playing Rosalind, Rosalind playing Ganymede and Ganymede playing 'Rosalind'. More importantly, these actings appear on scrutiny to have quite different degrees in them of the 'disguise' element we have already considered.

There is a boy-actor. Let us call him Basil (Boy Actor Simulation In Love). Basil plays Rosalind, but everyone knows it is a boy, and indeed an actor; the 'disguise' is not a concealment. Rosalind, however, plays Ganymede, but within the different world of the play; and this is part concealment, part not. Within the play's world Celia and Touchstone know who she is, and who her 'sister Aliena' is. No one else does. Below that line, however, the layers of acting divide. For Ganymede now plays Orlando's original lady-love, whom we might call Moira (Male Orlando's Idealised 'Rosalind' Acted). So we have the four: Basil playing Rosalind playing Ganymede playing Moira. But Ganymede is still visible to Orlando as Ganymede as well, and still within the same level of reality, the play's world. A final component to the situation is added by Orlando's position at this stage. If Ganymede is acting Moira to Orlando's full knowledge (just as Basil is acting Rosalind to the audience's full knowledge) then Orlando is acting too; he is at least playing along, with his 'then love me Rosalind' and (to Celia) 'pray thee marry us' (IV, i, 109, 120).

At a political level furthermore, if the very presence of the boy-actor reminded the women in Shakespeare's Elizabethan audience of their own suppression more generally, then that dimension has now departed, to some degree at least, when we see the Vanessa Red-graves and Fiona Shaws play the role today. (From one point of view, no doubt frivolous, this seems sad. As Juliet Dusinberre says (1975, p. 253), boys make bewitching girls, girls make lumbering youths.) So we have to choose between these two periods for interpretation of political significance, or turn to a different approach. I don't myself doubt the interest and truth of the political dimension, though I do wonder what Shakespeare made from it. But it is not the only dimension on which these cross-dressing plays can be read. There is, for example, the Foucault dimension of the raising of sexuality into existence by the very act of the articulation of its suppression (see Foucault, 1979). This historical process seems to parallel the way our play brings the woman's body into prominence by the act of hiding it, by disguise, from male approaches. But it seems to me that the approach most likely to gather all these strands of disguise and its ramification into a manageable idea is the one which makes the theatre, and acting, central themselves. It takes Jaques literally.

All these aspects of disguise—cross-dressing, boy-actors, comic doublings (Rosalind as Ganymede's twin), concealment, role-playing and the rest—are performances, all part of the theatrical world. The idea that all the world's a stage is explicitly highlighted by disguise, role-playing and even dressing. Normally disguise itself is as inherently suspenseful a situation for the audience as is, for example, whether a burglar will be caught or a lover interrupted. The small tension between what the person is and what they pretend to be, keeps the watching mind in gear, at the ready, waiting for developments from a possible disclosure, even when nothing is happening. But with Rosalind it is different. When the disguised person merely plays her original self, that tension is suspended. It is kept; it doesn't dissolve, because the actor does re-route herself round through another part, unknown to the observer on stage. But the action is stopped by the blocking circle of actor imitating herself. There is a void at the heart of the action, awaiting movement which doesn't come until she is ready for it. After all, Rosalind could have acted another woman and then played her own bed-trick. But she didn't. And because she is not acting another, no other is implicated. This takes the event into the heart and very principle of acting. It is sheer acting, sheer role-playing; playing oneself. The response from others present is, as the audience knows, not what matters. Orlando can only take so much of this pretence, and Celia just waits for Rosalind to finish. It is Rosalind who stands or falls, arrests or grows.

What does Rosalind do in this arrested space of her own making? We can come to that, but I'll throw my cap and towel into the ring at this point. I think that Shakespeare loved Rosalind, as Dante is said to have loved Beatrice and as, in some way perhaps, Dickens loved Little Dorrit. Rosalind was at least the fourth woman he had dressed as a man in his work, and, as Virginia Woolf said, his was the prototype of the androgynous mind. His males are inadequate, his women dominant whether generous or wicked. Rosalind seemed, in Lodge, a chance for him to write her in with the action stopped so that he could look at her in a full way, the camera frames seized. He wanted to enter her with his whole self; but he could not be so ungallant as to proclaim such conquest, so he put a double disguise over her as defence against his own intrusions. As Jan Kott (1967) said, Orlando doesn't know Rosalind is there, but she is there. Whether there is a real heterosexual meeting between Orlando and Rosalind is an open question. After Romeo and Juliet Shakespeare did not write another full love-story. The political implications of either cross-dressing or subordination didn't concern Shakespeare except as material; what he revealed about his own ideologies is another matter.

Rosalind's body

She has none; but the wounded deer has. So have Orlando and the lioness who wounds him. Is Shakespeare remotely suggesting the body is to be ignored? Or that in a truly civilised and green world all wounding and all blood will have gone; no tooth and claw? Shakespeare loved minds, perhaps, or so expresses it.

Was Rosalind a virgin? The one place where we might find the answer is at v, ii, 116 when Rosalind makes her round of promises to Orlando, Silvius and Phebe. To Orlando she says 'I will satisfy you, if ever I satisfied man, and you shall be married tomorrow'. The past tense might imply, as one would say, former relationships. And broadly Rosalind's tone of confidence and competence in the wooing scenes might strongly suggest necessary experiences. Yet the imaginative realm of the play won't let us particularise as to what such a man would have been like, or—more significant—even allow the existence of any such particularisation. In real life, given such a situation, one might wonder what the bloke was like. But Rosalind exists in a closed play; you can't 'wonder what the bloke was like' for to do so would be to invent another character within the play's fabric, which is impossible. An enclosed, finished fictional world of the play can't entertain an extra person, inserted from another world. To that extent the ethereal quality of the play, much beloved of the Victorians, does seem to insist itself.

The only conceivable candidate, therefore, was and is William Shakespeare. If he thought of her as not a virgin, then she wasn't one, and he was responsible. Since he doesn't say, the question, so far as it presses, hangs forever in balance, and again surely we are free to delight, perhaps required to delight, that it can only have been the one person who had gone with her to Arden and known her there, playing many parts in such times.

Do we know what she looked like? He knew her, but hardly tells us. Even where he briefly does, it is contradictory. At I, iii, III she is 'more than common tall', but at I, ii, 262 we were told by Le Beau that 'the taller is his daughter', that is Duke Frederick's daughter Celia. Unless Celia was a giantess this is either a mistake in transcription (the view of most editors) or, as I perversely suggest, Shakespeare planting false clues, something he just may have done on the virginity question. This one really is as we like it, a phrase the play's commentators must normally labour to avoid, so temptingly does it repeatedly offer itself. We don't ask, as of the number of Lady Macbeth's children, whether Rosalind was a virgin, for it is open but not blank; tenuously half-way; and we don't want to know what she looked like.

This last is a matter of the language, which leads us always sinuously around avoiding any matter of lily-white breasts, lovely blue eyes, slender legs or anything else of the kind one sees in much of Spenser and in Marlowe's Hero and Leander. In both of those poets the verbal allure is less voiced than physically present, sumptuously erotic:

Her goodly eyes lyke Saphyres shining bright,
Her forehead yvory white,
Her cheeks lyke apples which the sun hath rudded,

Her lips lyke cherryes charming men to byte,
Her brest lyke to a bowle of crearne uncrudded,
Her paps lyke lyllies budded,
Her snowie necke lyke to a marble towre,
And all her bodie lyke to a pallace fayre

(Spenser, Epithalamion 171-8)

—which on Rosalind would have been absurd whether 'heavenly' or not. Such standing-back regard by the poet is nowhere found in Shakespeare's play. Rather, Shakespeare gives Rosalind a general sexuality in various ways. There is the occasional bodily reference which comes through jocular dialogue to which Rosalind never directly responds:

Rosalind . . . I prithee take the cork out of thy mouth, that I may drink thy tidings.

Celia So you may put a man in your belly.

Rosalind Is he of God's making? What manner of man? Is his head worth a hat? Or his chin worth a beard?

(III, ii, 199-203)

This is a good case of the extraordinary technique of indirection the play evinces (another is that Audrey of all people asks the big questions about poetry), for Rosalind's body is the one in question, in this scene most of all. But this passage is also the one where Rosalind is put before us with her own desire heightened, and a musk of sexual excitement gathers:

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

Rosalind I prithee who?

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

Rosalind Nay, but who is it?

Celia Is it possible?

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

Celia O wonderful, wonderful . . . !

And Rosalind pesters Celia for more and more information, but with almost panting volubility herself: 'One inch of delay more is a South Sea of discovery. I prithee tell me who it is quickly, and speak space. I would thou couldst stammer, that thou mightst pour this concealed man out of thy mouth, as wine comes out of a narrow-mouthed bottle . . . '

According to Barbara Everett (1990), Shakespeare's characters are forms not persons, but, however, being perceived by the author as, and somehow bodily, embodied. But the embodiment of Rosalind comes out of her own mouth, without the distance of Cleopatra's lustrous barge (an indirection for herself) or Pandarus's news of Cressida's state when she is just coming to meet Troilus:

She does so blush, and fetches her wind so short, as if she were frayed with a spirit! I'll fetch her: It is the prettiest villain; she fetches her breath as short as a new-ta'en sparrow.

(Troilus and Cressida III, ii, 29-33)

If the play is indeed riddled with puns and doubles entendres, both sexual and otherwise, it makes for a seamless verbal web by which sexuality, and perhaps androgyny, pervade without exact placing of unique bodily detail on to separate characters. It makes the play, and Rosalind herself, porous, X-rayed; we needn't stray about on the skin to know her that way. I think incidentally that this may account for the credibility we can easily allow in believing that Orlando never recognises Rosalind. It wasn't that Elizabethans, lacking the high-tech photographic experience we have now, didn't know who they were talking to. They were attentive enough to facial detail, as the friar in Much Ado About Nothing makes clear:

Hear me a little;
For I have only been silent so long,
And given way unto this course of fortune,
By noting of the lady. I have mark'd
A thousand blushing apparitions
To start into her face, a thousand innocent shames
In angel whiteness beat away those blushes,
And in her eye there hath appear'd a fire,
To burn the errors that these princes hold
Against her maiden truth. Call me a fool;
Trust not my reading nor my observations,
Which with experimental seal doth warrant
The tenor of my book; trust not my age,
My reverence, calling, nor divinity,
If this sweet lady lie not guiltless here
Under some biting error.

(Much Ado About Nothing IV, i, 155-69)

Elizabethan preoccupation with eye-darts, blushes and the rest seems unlikely to have gone along with literal misrecognition of the actual face of the individual so emoting. Rather the switch of role symbolically put on by disguise was accepted, or certainly is in this play where all is a stage, as more significant than the incidental bodily differences individuals might have inherited. In As You Like It it is words themselves that are androgynous, or gendered. The double meanings pass quickly over in bush, nest, hind, heart, cote, bestow, cattle, misuse, forest, doublet, ripe, sister, wine, part, prick, Ganymede and many others. They saturate our awareness of the human physical presence in general and, of the characters in some cases, their alerted feelings. They undermine myth, whose double meanings are not verbal but palpable, animal, symbolic.

Rosalind's wooing

Rosalind neither woos Orlando nor acts the part of Moira. Rosalind draws Orlando inward to a sexual play-acting he always treats as such (he returns an hour late and then politely leaves) but which for all we know is not even heterosexual; and she never pretends to be Moira at all. Rather she tells Orlando what he needs to do to win Moira. As Rubinstein points out (1984, p. 123), 'heavenly' has the implication of homosexual, in that Plato contrasted heavenly love with earthly as that between man-man and man-woman. One reading of Orlando's silence at the play's end is disappointment. He has found this youth Ganymede rather attractive, and Ganymede is gone. His romanticising with his verses was merely the correct 'young man' thing to do; his heart was hardly in it.

The wooing has two phases. In the first (III, ii, 292-423) Rosalind persuades Orlando to agree to let this 'Ganymede' before him teach him how to woo and win his desired lady. In the second phase (IV, i, 36-190) she actually does this, although there turns out to have been more and less to it. The first phase is based on titillation, the second on language. The technique throughout the first phase is to intrigue Orlando by indirection. She repeatedly says the opposite of the truth, knowing Orlando knows the truth, so that even to raise the opposite is to raise a contrast and so hold his attention, his tension. He is drawn in to the orbit of the language, of its affirmations, so that his mind and feelings can't escape them. Even when what she says is not strictly untrue, it is underlyingly sexual, yet in such a way as not to raise suspicion of direct approach. His enticement is purely erotic.

As soon as she has asked him the time and he has replied that there is no clock in the forest, her answer is an untruth, the truth of which she herself knows is known to Orlando. 'Then there is no true lover in the forest.' He is that lover, as she knows. She then offers to tell him about time, not just generally, but its four speeds, a rich fabric of potential information about human foibles. The next erodila is her answer when, now thoroughly intrigued, Orlando asks where she lives. 'Where dwell you pretty youth?' 'In the skirts of the forest', she replies enticingly, 'like fringe upon a petticoat', but quickly adds 'thank God I am not a woman', a possibility Orlando may not have thought of but will immediately start incubating: ' . . . to be touched with so many giddy offences as he hath generally taxed their whole sex withal'. The next move is the extended pretence (III, ii, 349-74) that Orlando is not the lover pinning verses to trees, and the disdainful suggestion that he is hardly dressed for the part (368-71). She has thus raised the whole wooing subject while never seeming to do so herself, a technique used to far more sinister effect by Iago throughout the third act of Othello, to a point where the Moor is knotted up with a nightmare tangle of what he believes to be his own thoughts.

Rosalind ends on the sexually potent 'come' (415, 422—it recurs at IV, i, 65), the refrain more plangent from Juliet when her lover was not listening:

Come night, come Romeo, come thou day in night,
For thou wilt lie upon the wings of night
Whiter than new snow upon a raven's back.
Come gentle night, come loving black-brow'd night,
Give me my Romeo . . .

(Romeo and Juliet III, ii, 17-21)

Orlando does 'come', but only 'within an hour of my promise', and that speech-act failure is cue to his ensuing entanglement, in the second 'wooing' phase (IV, i, 36-190), in every kind of talk. Again, he has already started at a disadvantage. Not to elaborate each, there is the broken promise (42), the 'slander' of his wife (59), the naming of 'Rosalind' (62-3), the demand that he woo (65) and the interchange about talking and kissing (66-9), the talk of orators (72-3), the suit pun (82-3), the affirmations of saying (87-8), the accusations of male lies (89-103, especially 101), the request for favours (108)—all leading to the culmination in the mock-marriage (117-31), itself a form wholly of words though one now moving dangerously close to irreversible intimacies. But Rosalind does not leave it there. Orlando must say how long he would have his wife (135), hear how she will clamour and laugh (143, 147); and the whole is then summarised by Rosalind herself in a self-knowing mockery of her own volubility: 'You shall never take her [your wife] without her answer, unless you take her without her tongue' (162-4). The conclusion is disarming in its success, as Rosalind preposterously declares that 'That flattering tongue of yours won me' and ends with a spate of speech-acts which lead Orlando into essential courteous withdrawal:

Rosalind By my troth, and in good earnest, and so God mend me, and by all pretty oaths that are not dangerous, if you break one jot of your promise, or come one minute behind your hour, I will think you the most pathetical break-promise, and the most hollow lover, and the most unworthy of her you call Rosalind, that may be chosen out of the gross band of the unfaithful: therefore beware my censure and keep your promise.

Orlando With no less religion than if thou wert indeed my Rosalind. So adieu.

(IV, i, 178-88)

Sexual enticement and the traps of language: Orlando is not wooed but entangled. Yet the language is generous; one couldn't really imagine the scene ending other than agreeably, although the degrees between fall-about laughter (Celia included) and the wistfulness of Rosalind in her speeches about male unfaithfulness (IV, i, 89-103, 138-48) may vary considerably as to how we imagine them. This might depend on what we feel about Orlando's entanglement. Is he so fated? What does he think this youth Ganymede is after? Or is he himself enticed toward that relationship, his own Moira fading? The mock-marriage is a conclusion, the game can't really go on; yet nothing has happened. The marriage was a fantasy. From his clinical studies Winnicott observed (1974, p. 32) that, with fantasy unlike with imagination, when you return to reality, nothing has happened. The titillations were indirect and the language-games rolled around, but where are we? Nowhere but with the happy question of uncategoric, indistinct gender: a boy-playing-girl-playing-boy, a boy-playing-boy, and a boy-playing-girl; one talking his/her head off, one answering moderately, one silent.

According to the founder-sociologist Georg Simmel, the dyad or interaction between two is characterised by triviality and intimacy. If true, then wooing is entrapped in the character of the dyad—whether of wooers or not—and all interaction between two is a kind of wooing itself, unless formalities are observed and constructed. One couldn't ask for more comment on our sexually ambiguous natures and situations.

Rosalind the hetero

The silent one (now there's a girl one might pin poems to trees for) has taken a lot; a lot too much, some critics have argued, among them Ralph Berry, Bernard Evans and Dr Johnson himself. Few agree today (though many sympathise with Celia) but perhaps the question needs a look. For it is deeply germane to the gender question, or so I shall argue.

Here is the case against Rosalind:

  1. She is self-pitying (I, iii, 88, III, iv, 1-4).
  2. She is vain: useless and faint-hearted about going to Arden until the self-indulgence of dressing-up is suggested (I, iii, 104-27) (Leggatt, 1974, p. 194, is surely wrong).
  3. She brings talk back to herself (II, iv, 57-8, III, ii, 215-16, 225-6).
  4. She doesn't reveal herself to her father, despite the joy it would presumably have given him (III, iv, 31-5); in fact she seems disdainful of him (34).
  5. As indeed of everyone else, apart from Orlando; she never praises, never thanks. On occasion she is down-right rude.
  6. She never stops nattering (passim).
  7. She is an interfering busybody (with Silvius and Phebe: III, iv, 55; then III, v, 34-63).
  8. She betrays Celia's loyalty and friendship just when it suits her, despite that Celia's accompaniment of her to exile was voluntary.
  9. She is a trickster and a cheat, with Oliver (IV, iii, 172) as well as Orlando.
  10. She swoons at blood, despite all the manly boasts. When she gets desperate, it is unedifying (IV, iii, 161, v, ii, 25-6).
  11. Not once, even at the end (unless v, ii, 70 is such an occasion), does she tell Orlando she loves him.

This is a formidable list. But—aside from its omissions (as well as being amusing, Rosalind is caring, it would seem: II, iv, 3-7; II, iv, 41-2, 67 and 89; III, v, 58; IV, i, 106)—it also omits the vital dimension of self-knowledge and self-monitoring one may imagine in her, which would throw quite a different light across all that is said, The play as self-knowing, as about coming to learn, is validly seen on that front if no other. But it is more than that, and at a qualitatively different level. For my list would presume a 'Rosalind' with a character and biography the play doesn't warrant. This 'Rosalind' is furthermore female in traditional mode, one which, insofar as we can impute intention to Shakespeare in this way at all (and in a play of this one's title), would entail a prior assumption of gender roles which the play, on at least some perfectly legitimate readings, constantly subverts. The difficulty, paradoxically, is brought out as much by those feminist critics who would try to qualify the degree of Shakespeare's pro-feminine stance. Thus Clara Claiborne Park (in Lenz et al., 1983, pp. 100-16), acknowledging the power and autonomy in Shakespeare's main heroines, says that even so his—and perhaps other—young men are vulnerable to too much feminine assertiveness, so that a way had to be found to mitigate this. Portia therefore gives herself into wifely submission to Bassanio before she tricks him over the court scene and the rings; and Beatrice must 'stand condemn'd', as she herself says, before her pride and scorn may continue. Rosalind has more autonomy than any other heroine—it is uniquely her play—in the Elizabethan canon (Park does not mention The Duchess of Malfi). But, as Park's editors say as well (p. 5), even Rosalind's effect has to be muted. For Marilyn French (1983, p. 113) Rosalind must not offend her audience. These critics point to the wedding at the end. The games are over and Rosalind will submit to her lord.

Both these views, the suspiciously male-sounding anti-Rosalind view of the immediate post-war period and the feminist defence that Elizabethan mores couldn't allow such insubordination in 'shrews' or anyone else, postulate a traditional gender-role differentiation, with its domination and submission. So indeed does the earlier fond, male view (e.g. Dover Wilson) of Rosalind as 'capable', having everything in her control, and so on. What the 'marriages' at the end entail is a matter to which I want to return, but for the present I suggest that Rosalind is a little like Phebe, but with this difference, that 'Rosalind'—the Rosalind figure—transcends Phebe completely, to a point where she overflows the gender distinction altogether, within which Phebe is so firmly trapped.

Rosalind the spellbinder

As Dusinberre (1975) and Barber (1959) have underlined, the woman in disguise is a reveller in her own masque; mistress of misrule until marriage and rain (there is none in Arden) stop it.

Rosalind is banished; she is already a marked character. Duke Frederick ominously tells Celia: 'She is too subtle for thee, and her smoothness, / Her very silence, and her patience / Speak to the people and they pity her' (I, iii, 73-5). Rosalind has already placed a talisman, a gold chain, round Orlando's neck, binding him to her. In Arden she walks up to the men one by one, Corin, Orlando, Jaques; and when in between she approaches Phebe, that girl is mesmerised into love. Disguised, Rosalind draws Orlando into the intricacies of her inferential talk about love, and takes him into a marriage ceremony with curious implications, and possible legality (Lathem, 1975, Appendix B). When her swooning threatens to bring back the real world she tells Orlando of the 'magician, most profound in his art' (V, ii, 61) whom she knew in childhood and by whose skill she will make all things even in love. In a gentle, subdued chant she tells all this to the pairs of lovers; in another, the next day, she completes the spell's implications and demonstrates their culmination (V, ii, 111-22; V, iv, 115-16, 121-3). In the play's epilogue, she 'conjures' the women in the audience toward liking the play and to love in general.

In A Midsummer Night's Dream there was no disguised woman weaving spells; rather, the women were themselves under spells, and returned from the moonlight to growth of awareness when released from that state. The failure to see was not because of the object (disguised woman) but in the subject (the woman under the spell). The nature description in A Midsummer Night's Dream thus could be exact and colourful, for it goes direct to the audience: Ralegh was right. But Rosalind is no witch or woodland sprite. There is not a phrase in the play to suggest that option. On the contrary, pretending to magic is just one more of Rosalind's strategies. Furthermore she is doing nothing wrong, for she merely leads Orlando toward the very thing he incessantly says he wants—leading him forward yet preventing undue precipitousness too. Rather, her controlling actions reconcile good and evil, comic pairings, the sexes, the brothers, the country and the court. Beckman (1978) has discussed this concordia discors and sees it as essentially borne out through marriage. Traditional critics saw a Christian motif in the play too, and certainly there are traces; for instance, Silvius's rhapsody on love is a romanticised version of 1 Corinthians 13. But is it marriage that effects this reconcilement?

One may as easily see androgyny as reconciling the sexes. Howard (1988) suggests that an androgyny privileging males (women seen as merely lesser men) was at work in Elizabethan England, and that the challenge to this by women's defiant cross-dressing led to the authoritarian need for gender construction, the ideology by which it could be shown that women had subordinate roles justified by difference. As Dusinberre argues (1975, especially pp. 1-19), the humanistic strain of Erasmus and More, attesting to the equal capability of the woman's mind for educational expansion, led equally to this reaction. Today the androgynous argument is used to support the view that gender is normally socially constructed—in favour, of course, of males. True enough as far as it goes, but it makes androgyny into a support-argument in a political cause, whereas if any truth of human gender does lie in androgyny, then that is surely what is important, that is where the focus of our attention might be expected to go.

It is probably therefore more fruitful to see how the sexual and gender signs woven into Rosalind are presented, along with the several degrees to which they tie to herself personally and to people generally. It would be excessive to say Rosalind is androgynous; that argument would mean that she was hermaphrodite, epicene, bisexual. The race is androgynous, or otherwise, as the case may be. Many critics make a prior assumption of sex-gender as clear separation, leading to a subordination demanded of women. They then divide, insisting either that this is plain unjust (equal but different) or unjust because illogical (equal and same, equal because androgynous). Linda Bamber's stimulating and sympathetic book (1982) accords to Shakespeare not full feminism, but acknowledgement of women as 'Other' in a dialectic with feminism which is 'persistent, various, surprising and wholehearted' (p. 5). That is generous indeed, but what if Shakespeare did not see women as so 'other'?

The further complication of the boy-actors, already mentioned, is severally interpreted by several critics (e.g. Jardine, 1983; Greenblatt, 1988), again informatively but somewhat according to varying political disposition. Roughly speaking, if one sees the matter politically, then the playwrights used Basil to show that women are as good as men while still women. If one was more sexual in disposition, then the intertwining of the boy-actor with the woman-role (compounded in As You Like It, of course) attracts attention as to the degree of androgyny and bisexuality implied. The actress Juliet Stevenson—not alone in this—states that when Rosalind is dressed as Ganymede she can be most truly herself. But that is ambiguous, it begs the question. Does it mean that, trapped in a women-subordinated world, she can only be truly woman when disguised as man, and only then can her non-male, fully female self—normally suppressed—emerge? Or does it mean the very opposite: that only when in male clothes can the male, or at least bisexual, figure deep down inside her fully and secretly live itself? It is these questions which the whole political, sexual, and political/sexual argument hangs round.

The evidence from within the play has to be listed briefly. Rubinstein (1984) states: 'in As You Like It, as the title itself may have been intended to communicate, a feeling of bisexuality pervades the whole play' (p. 358). Rosalind takes for herself the name 'Ganymede': catamite; male prostitute. She is 'more than common tall', comes to life at the thought of wearing men's clothes, more than once puns on 'suit', and, of course, does wear male attire for most of the play's duration. Finally there is the brief suggestion of her relationship with Celia as 'dearer than the natural bond of sisters' (I, ii, 266). According to the Northrop Frye theory, comedy regenerates because the women imply the power of nurture; yet Rosalind (like most Shakespearian characters, it must be said) has no mother, and is contemptuous of 'ill-favoured children', the only reference she makes in the play to children apart from the admittedly ambiguous joke about her 'child's father', i.e. Orlando, at I, iii, II. (Some traditional editors reversed those two words; Norman Holland (1964) cited but questioned the view that it was a Freudian slip.)

There is another curious line on androgyny because of the play's historical position. In the seventeenth century, when Ganymede was on stage, a boy played a boy. Rainolds thought this 'monstrous', but in fact our actor Basil could, if he liked, mentally leave the woman bit out and just do Ganymede. By contrast, when a contemporary actress plays Moira she too, if she chooses, can, in her inner sense of the part, omit the male dimension of Ganymede altogether. And yet it is still the same part! It is Shakespeare's Rosalind from As You Like It. One could hardly have a more comprehensive illustration of the seamless stretch from female to male and back which this part provides. It does so uniquely, of course, because in no other play does the woman disguised as male then play back herself as woman too.

My suggestion is not that Rosalind is bisexual, less still lesbian, in some crude direct sense. Rather, Shakespeare has written into her that androgynous dimension, those signals, at least to a degree, and this attractive etherealised part, person or character alone can thus give a male-female reconciliation as deep as that of sacramental marriage. The latter implies separate genders; the androgynous is already a unity. Dusinberre shows (1975, pp. 200, 243, 251) that Erasmus, George Meredith and Virginia Woolf all moved, if varyingly, toward the idea of the androgynous as prototype of the adult mind, which rises above gender difference. Rosalind's spells thus work to inculcate this sense of union to the point where marriage may be seen as one (though perfectly valid and satisfying) form of it. It comes at the end, if at all. And since her spells are poetry itself, this secret is the secret of the play's unity, its undifferentiated, even if unusual, harmonies.

Works Cited

Bamber, Linda, Comic Women, Tragic Men: A study of gender and genre in Shakespeare, Stanford: University of California Press, 1982.

Barber, C.L., Shakespeare's Festive Comedy: A study of dramatic form and its relation to social custom, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1959.

Beckman, Margaret Boemer, 'The figure of Rosalind in "As You Like It"' , Shakespeare Quarterly 29 (1978), pp. 44-51.

Dusinberre, Juliet, Shakespeare and the Nature of Women, Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1975.

Everett, Barbara, 'The fatness of Falstaff—Shakespeare's characters' (British Academy Shakespeare Lecture, 24 April 1990.

Foucault, Michel, The History of Sexuality, vol. 1 (trans. Robert Hurley), London: Allen Lane, 1979.

Frye, Northrop, 'The argument of comedy' in Shakespeare: Modern essays in criticism, ed. Leonard F. Dean, Oxford University Press, 1967, pp. 79-89.

Greenblatt, Stephen, Shakespearian Negotiations: The circulation of social energy in Renaissance England, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988.

Holland, Norman N., Psychoanalysis and Shakespeare, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1964.

Jardine, Lisa, Still Harping on Daughters, Brighton: Harvester, 1983.

Kott, Jan, Shakespeare Our Contemporary, London: Methuen, 1967.

Lenz, C.R.S., G. Greene and CT. Neely, The Woman s Part: Feminist criticism of Shakespeare, Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1983.

Park, Clara Clairborne, 'As we like it: how a girl can be smart and still popular', in The Woman's Part: Feminist criticism of Shakespeare, ed. CR. Swift Lenz, G. Greene and CT. Neely, Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1983, pp. 100-16.

Ralegh, Walter, Shakespeare, London: Macmillan, Morley's Men of Letters Series, 1907.

Rubinstein, Frankie, A Dictionary of Shakespeare's Sexual Puns and Their Significance, Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1984.

Winnicott, D.W., Playing and Reality, Harmondsworth: Penguin Education, 1974.

Mario DiGangi (essay date 1996)

SOURCE: "Queering the Shakespearean Family," in Shakespeare Quarterly, Vol. 47, No. 3, Fall, 1996, pp. 269-90.

[In the essay below, DiGangi analyzes homoeroticism in As You Like It as it relates to the early modern family and the mythological narrative that recounts Jupiter's desire for his page Ganymede.]

Is there anything queer about the family in Shakespeare's England? Until the mid-1980s, scholarship on early modern marriage and domestic life had proceeded as if homoerotic desire were largely irrelevant to its concerns. An obviously significant example of this tendency is Lawrence Stone's influential The Family, Sex and Marriage in England 1500-1800, which, despite its monumental scope, has very little to say about the relation of homosexuality to the family, sex, or marriage throughout three hundred years of English history.1 As gay, lesbian, feminist, and queer scholarship have demonstrated with increasing subtlety and cumulative force, however, to ignore the place of same-sex desire or nonreproductive sexuality in early modern domestic life is to provide a historically inaccurate portrait of Renaissance social structures. It is to project back onto the Renaissance particularly modern biases and ideologies, especially the notion that there are two distinct sexualities, heterosexuality and homosexuality, and that only the former has anything to do with the constitution and production of families.2

Given the centrality of Shakespeare to Renaissance studies and his dominance as the dramatist of romantic married love, queer scholarship on the family in early modern England faces a double task. One, it must insist on the homoerotic dimensions of courtship, marriage, and domestic experience inside the Shakespearean canon. Two, it must also look outside the canon to less familiar, even obscure texts that depict the homoerotic dimensions of these institutions and experiences more explicitly or, at least, differently than Shakespeare's. As the plays of Jonson, Chapman, Middleton, or Fletcher will show, Shakespeare simply does not exhaust the possibilities for representing the homoerotic practices of his society.3 For instance, Shakespeare's contemporaries often present a fuller picture of the early modern household and the same-sex relations enabled by its particular functioning and composition.4 Perhaps Shakespeare's status as the most familiar Renaissance playwright depends in part on his status as the most familial: the one who seemingly celebrates the affective heterosexual couple that we "recognize" as the source, both biologically and historically, of the modern family. Indeed, Lynda Boose's essay "The Family in Shakespeare Studies; or—Studies in the Family of Shakespeareans; or—The Politics of Politics" exerts much of its rhetorical power precisely by reinscribing a familiar, naturalized, notion of the family even as it critiques familiar/familial gender politics. Boose, writing in 1987, observes that scholarship on the family is repeating the power dynamics of the family: feminists write about female subjectivity, gender, and the domestic, while male new historicists write about male subjectivity, power, and the state, effectively marginalizing their female colleagues. While Boose rightly insists that the patriarchal nuclear family is a historical and ideological construction, her essay reconstructs this family as a trope, as the "natural" way to describe the political relations between male and female Shakespeare scholars and their metaphorically male and female methodologies.5

As You Like It has enjoyed an especially familiar place in studies of gender, sex, and marriage in Shakespearean comedy. But because its resonance for a queer critique of the early modern family remains under-appreciated, I have chosen it as my focus here. For Catherine Belsey and Mary Beth Rose As You Like It serves to illustrate the ideological contradictions within late-sixteenth-century discourses of marriage. While both critics read the play as an index of transformation of gender definitions and sexual relations, neither discusses "sexuality" other than as it occurs between women and men.6 A reading of As You Like It that accounts for homoerotic as well as heteroerotic relations can be found in the powerful work of Valerie Traub. Her analysis distinguishes between gender and eroticism and severs erotic identity from erotic desire—both strategies of queer theory—and concludes that the polymorphous desire traversing As You Like It finally "prevents the stable reinstitution of heterosexuality, upon which the marriage plot depends."7 Her emphasis here on the affirmative quality of the play's homoeroticism is later qualified in an indispensable essay, "The (in)significance of 'lesbian' desire in early modern England," which argues that, because the plot of As You Like It moves toward heterosexual marriage and reproductivity, "an implicit power asymmetry" distinguishes the woman who enunciates and clings to homoerotic desire (Celia) from the woman who abandons it (Rosalind).8 Traub's later reading, which still resists mapping erotic identity onto characters, moves closer to the position I take as my own—namely, that anxieties about homoeroticism in As You Like It are manifested and managed through the asymmetrical, shifting erotic roles taken by or imposed on characters.

In what follows, I want to pursue this more anxious assessment of As You Like It via the myth Rosalind summons when she takes the role of "Jove's own page" (1.3.120).9 The explicit naming of mythological figures in the play, along with the representation of banishment, familial discord, and homoerotic desire, evokes a tale familiar to Shakespeare and his contemporaries: Jupiter's replacement of Hebe with Ganymede, a move that angers Juno and alienates her from the marriage bed. An analysis of this mythological subtext brings into sharp relief the discordant aspects of Rosalind's enactment of Ganymede, by means of which female homoerotic desire (Celia's for Rosalind) and male homoerotic desire (Orlando's for Ganymede) are both finally rejected. Rather than considering Shakespeare's characters as the stable embodiments of mythological identities (e.g., that Rosalind "is" Ganymede), I will follow Traub in arguing that certain characters occupy contingently the familial and erotic roles delineated by this mythological narrative. These roles and the erotic transformations they help to effect are crucial to our understanding of the marriages that conclude the play, because the marriages succeed to the extent that premarital female homoerotic desire and postmarital male homoerotic desire have been successfully banished.

Many critics have found Jupiter's desire for Ganymede of signal importance in describing the particular age- and status-inflected structure of male homoeroticism in early modern England. But the myth also exists in an extended version as a familial drama involving Jupiter's wife, Juno, and their daughter Hebe, who is Juno's favorite and the royal cupbearer. According to Thomas Cooper's influential classical dictionary, when Hebe one day "chaunsed to fall, and disclosed further of hir neather partes, then comlinesse woulde have to be shewen, Jupiter, to the great displeasure of his wyfe Juno, removed hir from that office, and appointed Ganymedes to serve hym at his cuppe."10 What is the meaning of Hebe's downfall? Does the uncomeliness of her fault reside in the public disclosure of "neather partes" or in the fact that specifically female "neather partes" have been disclosed? The latter explanation is suggested by Marlowe's treatment of the myth in Dido, Queene of Carthage, where Jupiter has no qualms about risking the public display of Ganymede's nether parts. The play opens with Jupiter "dandling Ganimed upon his knee" and "playing" wantonly with him. When Juno later expresses her "hate of Troian Ganimed, / That was advanced by my Hebes shame," she reinforces the sense that it is the display of "shameful" female parts (the "pudendum") that provokes Jupiter's ire.11 Jupiter not only rejects Hebe but openly declares his love for Ganymede, "say Juno what she will," and bestows on him the necklace that "Juno ware upon her marriage day."12 The little familial drama of this myth reveals a great deal of anxiety about female sexuality.

In fact, the rejection of women and devaluation of female sexuality recur in Renaissance versions of the Ganymede myth. In John Lyly's Gallathea (1592) the virgin rejected as a sacrifice because she is "not the fairest" is appropriately named Hebe.13 In John Mason's play The Turk (1607) the courtier Bordello cites Jupiter's substitution of Ganymede for Hebe as a precedent for his renunciation of all women:

BORDELLO Pantofle.

PANTOFLE At your pleasure sir?

BORDELLO Thou hast bene at my pleasure indeed Pantofle, I will retreate into the country, hate this amourous, Court and betake my selfe to obscurity: I tel thee boye I wil returne by this Circyan Isle without transformation since Hebe hath discouered her secrets I will turne Iupiter, hate the whole sexe of women, and onely embrace thee my Ganimede.

PANTOFLE Sfoot sir you are as passionate for the disloyalty of your Sempstresse, as some needy knight would be for the losse of some rich magníficos widdow: doe you not see how the supporters of the Court, the Lady of the labby gape after your good parts like so many grigges after fresh water, and can you withhold the dew of your moyster element?

BORDELLO I tel thee should the Lady Iulia when she was aliue haue profered me her cheeke to kisse, I would not haue bowed to that painted image for her whole Dukedome: Mercury had no good aspect in the horoscope of my natiuity: women and lotium are reciprocal!, their fauour is noysome.14

Betrayed by a woman who "discouered her secrets" like Hebe, Bordello transforms himself into a Jupiter who will have sexual relations only with his Ganymede, or page. In Marlowe's Edward II (1594) after Queen Isabella has been sexually rejected by her husband, she finds in the myth a model for her own grief: "Like frantick Juno will I fill the earth, / With gastlie murmure of my sighes and cries, / For never doted Jove on Ganimed, / So much as he on cursed Gaveston."15 The court favorite in Marston's The Malcontent (1604) is similarly blamed for precipitating a conjugal rupture: "Duke's Ganymede, Juno's jealous of thy long stockings."16 As these examples indicate, playwrights of the early modern period readily allude to this familiar myth in order to convey disruptions in male-female sexual relations and marital harmony.

The discordant connotations of the Ganymede myth should therefore alert us to similar conflicts and anxieties that attend the comic marriage plot of As You Like It. Behind the disruption of familial bonds in Shakespeare's play lies the mythic disruption of Jupiter's family caused by his banishing Hebe and advancing Ganymede. Touchstone's claim to be exiled as was "Ovid . . . among the Goths" reminds us obliquely of the Metamorphoses as it pointedly recalls those forced into exile by the "most unnatural" behavior of Duke Frederick and Oliver (3.3.6; 4.3.122), the "tyrant Duke" and "tyrant brother" who destroy familial harmony (1.2.278). The poet William Barksted describes Jupiter's dismissal of Hebe as an act of destructive rage:

With this he storm'd, that's Priests from altars flie streight banish'd Heboe, & the world did thinke

To a second Chaos they should turned be, the clouds for feare wept out th' immortal drinke.17

Like Hebe in Barksted's poem, Rosalind is "streight banish'd" by a capricious patriarch. But Celia willingly appropriates Hebe's role when she insists that, by banishing Rosalind, Duke Frederick has actually banished his own daughter. Shakespeare does not establish a firm correspondence between an Ovidian figure and a single character; rather, the Ovidian myth provides a repertory of possible erotic/familial roles which the characters draw on in different ways. Hence Rosalind not only exchanges the disgraceful position of banished Hebe for the more exalted position of adopted Ganymede, "Jove's own page"; she further adopts the fluid erotic (though not the angry paternal) agency of Jupiter. Just as Jupiter transfers his affections from the female sex (Hebe and Juno) to the male sex (Ganymede), so Rosalind has begun to transfer her affections from Celia to Orlando.

In the triangular structure that will develop in Arden, then, Rosalind plays both Ganymede and Jupiter. She plays Ganymede to Orlando's Jupiter—a "fair youth" wooed by a man (3.2.375); she plays Jupiter to Celia's Hebe/Juno—a "man" who turns from female to male companionship (1.3.112). It is no wonder that Celia, given the Hebe/Juno role, delays telling Rosalind of Orlando's arrival in Arden, impugns the sincerity of his love for her, and hesitates when saying the words of the mock marriage between them. At precisely the moment Rosalind confidently adopts "no worse a name" than Ganymede, Celia names her own worsened state "Aliena" (11. 120, 124). Whereas "Celia" suggests Hebe's divine birth and habitation, "Aliena" not only describes Celia's present alienation from her father's love but also foreshadows her increasing alienation from Rosalind's love.

Rosalind's desire for Orlando relegates Celia's desire for her to a safely distanced past.18 For Celia this is an ideal past symbolized by Juno, the "Lady of mariage, and gouernesse of child-birth " by whom Roman women swore.19 The wedding song that closes the play proclaims that "Wedding is great Juno's crown, / . . . blessed bond of board and bed" (5.4.140-41), and Celia figures her bond with Rosalind, in which they shared board and bed, as just such a marriage:

We still have slept together,
Rose at an instant, learn'd, play'd, eat together,
And whereso'er we went, like Juno's swans,
Still we went coupled and inseparable.


Coupled like swans, Celia and Rosalind serve under Juno, the patron goddess of female sexuality. Swans, however, were the birds not of Juno but of Venus. In the contemporary play The Maid's Metamorphosis (1600) Juno herself makes much of this distinction, bitterly complaining that rival Venus's "Doues and Swannes, and Sparrowes" are prized above her own "starry Peacocks."20 By assigning Venus's swans to Juno, Shakespeare has Celia peacefully "couple" these often combative goddesses of love and marriage, just as she couples herself to Rosalind. Hence she reminds Rosalind that "thou and I am one" (1. 93). Very soon after Celia evokes their seemingly permanent union, however, Rosalind takes on the role of Ganymede; during the time she plays this role, Juno is never mentioned. Instead, allusions to Jupiter proliferate, beginning with the first words Rosalind speaks as Ganymede: "O Jupiter, how weary are my spirits!" (2.4.1). Ganymede swears twice by his master and lover—"Jove, Jove!" (1. 57), "O most gentle Jupiter" (3.2.152)—and praises as "Jove's tree" the oak under which Orlando is found (1. 232). As the latter instance makes especially clear—not least to Celia—Ganymede's evocations of Jupiter signal the shift in Rosalind's affections from her childhood companion to the man she hopes to marry.

In conjunction with the substitution of Orlando for Celia (and of Jupiter for Juno), a more purely symbolic or emblematic substitution facilitates the courtship between Rosalind and Orlando. Even before Rosalind impersonates a boy, a role that allows her to couch her heteroerotic desire for Orlando as a homoerotic desire for Jupiter, wrestling, an unmistakably masculine activity otherwise unavailable to her except as a spectator, offers her a language of desire. The spectacle of vigorous male-male combat staged before Rosalind not only occasions heteroerotic desire but becomes a central metaphor for it. Witnessing Orlando's victory over Charles, Rosalind confesses that he has "overthrown / More than your enemies"; he, too, feels "overthrown" and "masterfed]" by "Charles, or something weaker" (1.2.244-45, 249-50). Orlando is mastered not by Charles, of course, but by the weaker young woman who must "wrestle" with her own new affections (1.3.20). Orlando's attribution of his erotically induced confusion to Charles, while comic, signals a transition from wrestling as a male-male sport conducted in the court to wrestling as a figure for the male-female sport pursued in the forest. In Arden, Celia confirms this transferrai by describing Orlando to Rosalind as the person "that tripped up the wrestler's heels and your heart, both in an instant" (3.2.208-9). Rosalind, in turn, recalls the wrestling match as an erotic as well as a competitive event: "Looks he as freshly as he did the day he wrestled?" (11. 226-27). The subsequent exchanges between Ganymede and Orlando constitute mental and emotional wrestling matches that substitute the friction of physical struggle between men with the friction of linguistic struggle. In short, once Charles is "borne out" of the play (1.2.209 SD), Ganymede emerges as Orlando's new wrestling partner. That this substitution requires the complete physical and verbal incapacitation of Charles illustrates emblematically the point made narratively by the alienation of Celia and analogically by the discordant aspects of the Ganymede myth: Rosalind and Orlando's movement toward marriage implies strife and loss as well as concord and pleasure.

With her discovery of Orlando's presence in Arden comes Rosalind's first intimation that her impersonation might involve loss or compromise. Yet despite her initial dismay—"Alas the day, what shall I do with my doublet and hose?" (3.2.215-16)—she soon realizes that the disguise provides certain opportunities. Playing an "effeminate" (1. 398) boy who can plausibly impersonate Rosalind allows her to carry on a flirtation with Orlando. At the same time, playing a "saucy lackey" allows her to test his qualifications as a lover and husband, to ascertain whether he will be like or unlike most men, who are "April when they woo, December when they wed" (11. 290-91; 4.1.139-40). Ganymede initially questions the sincerity of Orlando's publicly declared passion: "you are rather point-device in your accoutrements, as loving yourself than seeming the lover of any other" (3.2.372-74). This skepticism about Orlando's effusiveness is understandable, considering that the only time Rosalind spoke to him in her own person, he neither thanked her for her gift of a chain nor reciprocated her compliments. Her plan to "cure" Orlando of his love-sickness seems actually designed to cure her own doubts about his sincerity and constancy: "I would cure you, if you would but call me Rosalind and come every day to my cote and woo me" (11. 414-15). The plan instates a daily regimen in which Ganymede elicits and Orlando performs his love for Rosalind.

The problem, of course, is that it becomes extremely difficult under these circumstances to ascertain the meaning or sincerity of Orlando's performance. This is where the Ganymede role seems to work against Rosalind, producing the very uncertainties about Orlando's desire that it seems meant to resolve. For instance, when Orlando misses his appointment with Ganymede, Rosalind has trouble interpreting his failure: "But why did he swear he would come this morning and comes not?" (3.4.17-18). Has Orlando stood up Rosalind? Or has he merely stood up Ganymede? Would he behave more reliably with the actual Rosalind? How can she tell? Although the ambiguity of playing Ganymede-playing-Rosalind thwarts Rosalind's ability to interpret Orlando's neglect, the disguise does allow her safely to rebuff him for it. Ganymede's imperious dismissal of Orlando is a bluff that the "real" Rosalind could hardly afford to risk: "You a lover! And you serve me such another trick, never come in my sight more" (4.1.37-39). Playing multiply gendered roles enables Rosalind to test, observe, and correct the man she wants to marry; yet at the same time, it prevents her from determining whether or not he actually loves her.

To Rosalind's string of questions regarding Orlando's apparent neglect—"But have I not cause to weep?" "Do you think so?" "Not true in love?" (3.4.4, 20, 24)—Celia furnishes some rather discouraging answers. Repeatedly maintaining that Orlando is not in love, Celia observes that "the oath of a lover is no stronger than the word of a tapster. They are both the confirmer of false reckonings" (11. 27-29). Celia's nonsequitur—"He attends here in the forest on the Duke your father" (11. 29-30)—associates Orlando's falseness to Rosalind with his loyalty to Duke Senior and reminds Rosalind that she is competing with her father for Orlando's time and devotion. Enticing Orlando from her father's side is no small task, given how lovingly Duke Senior welcomes Orlando into his all-male forest community (note how Rowland de Boys, the "name of the father" that unites Duke Senior and Orlando, contains a bilingual pun uniting boys and bois [woods]). The wifeless Duke takes no women to Arden. He is initially accompanied by "three or four loving lords," his "co-mates and brothers in exile," and joined later by "many young gentlemen" who "flock to him every day, and fleet the time carelessly as they did in the golden world" (1.1.100-101; 2.1.1; 1.1.117-19). For Charles, who reports Duke Senior's situation in the play's opening scene, Arden replicates the golden world of Robin Hood and his "merry men" (1. 115). As I hope to show, however, Arden recalls as well another all-male golden world described in contemporary poems—that presided over by Orpheus.

The male communities of Duke Senior and Orpheus are linked by way of Ganymede at the level of Ovidian allusion: Ganymede's story, so central to Shakespeare's play, is told in the Metamorphoses by Orpheus, who celebrates the "prettie boyes / That were the derlings of the Gods." Orpheus has an agenda for such celebration: he "did utterly eschew / The womankynd" and "taught the Thracian folke a stewes of Males too make / And of the flowring pryme of boayes the pleasure for too take."21 The connection between the exclusion of women and the expression of male homoerotic desire in Orpheus's story points to a similar logic within Renaissance culture, a logic that was realized in the transvestite theater of Shakespeare's England. The work of Lisa Jardine and Stephen Orgel suggests that the English convention of having boy-actors play women's parts was meant not merely to arouse the homoerotic interest of male spectators but also to protect them from the anxieties associated with female sexuality and heteroerotic desire. For Jardine, boys who dressed and acted like women were particularly appealing to adult male sexual tastes; for Orgel, boys were less threatening than women as objects of male erotic desire. Both believe that misogynist Renaissance gender ideology could turn men away from women and toward the young boys who were their effeminate substitutes or analogues.22 The Orpheus myth reveals a similar dynamic, and this myth's resonance with the male forest community of As You Like It contributes to Rosalind's uncertainty. Whom or what does Orlando really love: Rosalind? the idea of marrying Rosalind? the public pose of a Petrarchan lover? himself? Ganymede? Ganymede's impersonation of Rosalind? the company of other men? In order more fully to appreciate Rosalind's doubts, it is necessary to appreciate how sixteenth-century versions of the Orpheus myth establish the link between the rejection of women and the promotion of male homoerotic desire.

Because of the diversity of its classical sources and medieval explications, the Orpheus myth was subject to radically divergent interpretations by Renaissance writers. The traditional understanding of Orpheus as a great poet, orator, and musician runs throughout the period.23 Another tradition stresses the erotic aspects of his story, although earlier sixteenth-century treatments tend not to be explicit about Orpheus's misogyny and homoeroticism. Thomas Cooper's dictionary entry of 1565 explains that Orpheus was murdered by women because, "for the sorow of his wyfe Eurydice, he did not onely himselfe refuse the love of many women, and lyved a sole lyfe, but also disswaded other from the company of women."24 Cooper's Orpheus, that is, rejects not just women but love and companionship altogether. In the 1590s the flourishing of erotic satires and mythological narratives brings Orpheus's misogyny and homoeroticism more directly to the fore.25 A discussion of female imperfection in John Dickenson's Shepheardes Complaint (1596) leads to a misreading (or deliberate alteration) of the myth in which Eurydice, not Orpheus, looks back to Hades:

Euridice, which living could not bee accused of inconstancie, was after death blemished with unkindnesse, because forgetting the couenant of her returne from hell, she fondly looked backe. The silver-tongued Thracian, whom Apollo had endued with a double gift of musicke and poetrie, beeing .mooued with this, hated and with hateful 1 disgrace disparadged the woorth of that sexe which before hee had honoured by his matchlesse Art.26

Although Dickenson's Orpheus rejects women entirely, he does not consequently turn to boys.

Orpheus's misogyny does produce homoerotic consequences in two verse treatments of the myth from the mid-1590s. Like the young men who flock to Duke Senior in Shakespeare's play, many husbands flock to Orpheus in R. B.'s Orphevs His Iourney to Hell (1595):

And in inuectiue Ditties [Orpheus] daylie singes, th'uncertain pleasure of vnconstant Loue:
How manie woes a womans béautie bringes, and into what extreames this ioy doth shoue
Poore foolish men, that ere they be awarre
Will rashlie ouershoot themselues so faire.

There gins he sing of secrete Loues deceites, and womens fawning fickle companie.
The outward golden shew of poysoned baytes, that drawes so many men to miserie.
And for an instance sets himselfe to shew,
One that had suffred all this pleasing woe.

Whose songes did sort vnto such deepe effect, as draw mens fancies from thir former wiues:
Womens vaine loue beginning to neglect, and in the fieldes with Orpheus spend their liues:
With which sweet life they seem'd so well content,
As made them curse the former time they spent.


In itself, Opheus's misogynist lore is nothing extraordinary: it derives from the standard Renaissance gender ideology that considered female sexuality to be inherently dangerous and uncontrollable.28 By drawing "mens fancies from thir former wiues," Orpheus merely brings misogynist rhetoric to the logical, if extreme, conclusion of male separatism. In Of Loues complaint; with the legend of Orpheus and Euridice (1597), Orpheus's rejection of women produces a more overtly sexual consequence, the sinful practice of sodomy:

Now still he cryes to flye that weaker kinde,
And addeth base dishonour to their name,
And sayes that nature first hath them assign'd
As plagues to kindle mens destructions flame:
whose heate once ruling in our inner parts,
Doth never die, but with our dying harts.

But what, my chaster Muse doth blush to heare
The onely fault and sinne of this his youth,
It shames to tell unto anothers eare,
Sometimes it profits to conceale the truth;
Better it were none knew the way to sinne,
For knowing none, then none would enter in.

Hee in this path sette his defiled foote,
which leades unto the tree of sinne and shame,
Woe is his fruite, and wickednes his roote,
Both these he tasted, and to both he came;
Such are the snares which craftie sinne doth lay,
That justest men doe stumble in theyr way.

Now he doth teach the soule to sinne by Art,
And breake the Law which Nature had ordaind,
And from her auncient customs to depart, which still ere this were kept untoucht, unstaind,
Teaching to spoyle the flower of that kinde,
Whose flower never yet could any find.


Orpheus's devilish inducements to sodomy, teaching "the soule to sinne by Art," are silenced only when the slandered Thracian women tear him apart. For the writer of this poem, who is courting a scornful mistress of his own, Orpheus's monstrous rejection of women deserves swift and violent retaliation.

Yet for other writers Orpheus's misogyny and homoeroticism do not always seem aberrant or reprehensible, and this is why the myth becomes important for a consideration of Rosalind's doubts about Orlando. R. B.'s Orphevs His Iourney to Hell sympathetically portrays Orpheus as the king of a homoerotic golden world tragically destroyed by female vengeance and vainglory. When Orpheus lures the local husbands to his retreat, the abandoned wives grieve for "their fading glorie" and plot revenge. Having put together their "busie headfs]," the women "flocke incontinent" to Orpheus,

And finding him alone without his traine,
Vpon him fall they all with might and maine.
And with confused weapons beat him downe, quenching their angrie thirst with his warm blood:
At whose vntimely death though heauens frowne, yet they defend their quarrell to be good,
And for their massacre this reason render,
He was an enemie vnto their gender.


Ambushing their defenseless foe, these violently self-righteous women seem merely to confirm Orpheus's tales of the misery that women inflict on men.

R. B.'s polarity between a loving male community and an invasive, disorderly female sexuality suggests the obstacle that the all-male golden world of Duke Senior's court presents to Rosalind in her attempt to assay the sincerity of Orlando's love. At least one contemporary of Shakespeare believed that classical idealizations of male love could actually have the Orphic effect of dissuading English men from marriage. Translator Philemon Holland, reflecting on Plutarch's dialogue "Of Love" remarks:

This Dialogue is more dangerous to be read by yoong men than any other Treatise of Plutarch, for that there be certeine glaunces heere and there against honest marriage, to upholde indirectly and underhand, the cursed and detestable filthinesse covertly couched under the name of the Love of yoong boyes.31

Holland worries that the misogynist promotion of male homoeroticism might well divert the sexual desires of impressionable young men away from wives and toward boys. Holland's fear is, I would suggest, Rosalind's own.

If Rosalind competes with her own father for Orlando's attention during their courtship, she also risks furthering the Orphic project of making a pretty young Ganymede seem erotically attractive to her future husband. By making herself into Ganymede and Orlando into Jupiter, as Stephen Orgel has noted, Rosalind ironically seems to choose the one name that would most inescapably suggest or promote her husband's pederastic desires.32 According to James Saslow's sociological account of the Ganymede myth in the Renaissance,

Jupiter's preferment of Ganymede over Hebe and Juno's consequent jealous resentment were often interpreted as a parable of two closely connected social phenomena: the subordinate status or worth of women and the potentially disruptive effect of a man's homosexual infidelities on the relations between husband and wife.33

Saslow relies mainly on visual and literary sources from sixteenth-century Italy. Shakespeare and his English contemporaries also translated and reproduced this myth as a parable of sexual conflict between husbands and wives. I mentioned earlier the appearance of the myth to signal conjugal rupture in Marlowe's Edward II and Marston's The Malcontent. Marston had already used the myth in his verse satire The Scourge of Villainy (1598) to signify female animosity toward the spread of pederasty in England: "Marry, the jealous queen of air doth frown, / That Ganymede is up, and Hebe down." Thomas Heywood explains that his depiction of Jupiter's same-sex adultery in Pleasant Dialogues and Dramma's (1637) actually condemns "base sordid lust in man." In one rather unpleasant dialogue, Juno complains, "Since this yong Trojan Swain to heav'n thou hast brought, / O Jupiter, thou set'st thy Wife at nought." She elaborates, "I wish in my place you had that Lad wedded, / With whom you ofter than with me have bedded / Since his arrive." Making an antithetical point about marital relations, Robert Greene illustrates proper wifely submission by observing that, when Juno hoped to placate her angry husband, she called upon her rival Ganymede to serve him nectar.34

If the Ganymede myth provided a vocabulary for articulating the early modern phenomenon of marital strife arising from male homoerotic desire, Ganymede himself had his early modern counterparts in the young male servants who populated the public and private worlds of Shakespeare's London.35 Homoerotic desire for a male subordinate informs the early modern institution of personal service for which the myth provided a recognized classical analogue. Rosalind/Ganymede and Orlando are therefore legible as a sexually involved page and gallant—a familiar couple in the "street, the ordinary, and stage" of late-sixteenth-century London if we are to believe the satires contemporary with As You Like It.36 This kinship of Rosalind/Ganymede with the London ganymede, or sexually available page, is further suggested by Adam's curious disappearance from the play. Why should Adam suddenly vanish only after Orlando has encountered the "pretty youth" in the forest (3.2.328)? A possible explanation for the disappearance of old servingmen appears in Marston's play Histrio-Mastix (1599, exactly contemporary with As You Like It), in which faithful old retainers blame their former masters' sons for replacing them with erotically alluring "rascall boyes."37

Rosalind therefore needs to insure that by playing Ganymede (the enticing page) when she woos, she will not play Juno (the rejected wife) when she weds. That is, she needs to reassure herself that her husband will not one day replace her with an actual boy. Immediately following their mock marriage, Rosalind tests Orlando's reaction to the threat of being outwitted and cuckolded by his wife. Yet, I want to argue, she simultaneously tries to determine if Orlando will express a homoerotic desire for Ganymede, whom he has just "married," or if he will remain constant to the absent Rosalind whom Ganymede portrays. Ganymede first warns Orlando that Rosalind will "laugh like a hyen" when he wants to sleep (4.1.147-48). Why is the laughing hyena an analogue for the wife who disturbs her husband's peace in bed? According to medieval and Renaissance animal lore, the hyena experienced an annual sex-change; for this reason, as John Boswell has shown, it was commonly viewed as the symbolic type of an adulterer or homosexual seducer.38 This wonderful ability to transform itself earns the hyena a brief mention in Ovid's Metamorphoses: "interchaungeably it one whyle dooth remayne / A female, and another whyle becommeth male againe."39 By comparing herself to the mocking, adulterous hyena, Rosalind can elicit Orlando's reaction to the possibility of being cuckolded. At the same time, mentioning the hermaphroditism and homosexual behavior commonly associated with the hyena could provoke Orlando into expressing his possible pleasure at finding a "hyena" in his bed. Like the hyena, Rosalind switches between female and male genders, between the forms of Rosalind and Ganymede: might Orlando be tempted to switch his wife for an actual "ganymede"—a page or household servant—in their marriage bed? Reassuringly, Orlando fails to respond with enthusiasm to the amorphous hyena as a figure for the possible homoerotic alternatives to marital (hetero)sexuality: "But will my Rosalind do so?" (1. 149).

Approaching the problem of Orlando's potential homoeroticism from a different angle, Rosalind next raises the threat of adulterous sexuality outside the household. Ganymede warns Orlando that he might find his wife "going to your neighbour's bed." When Orlando wonders what she could say to excuse her infidelity, Ganymede quips, "Marry to say she came to seek you there" (11. 160, 162). Tellingly, Rosalind fails to specify the sex of the neighbor who occupies the bed. She appears to be alerting Orlando that what he might do with another wife, she might do with another husband. Yet her ambiguous phrasing also recognizes the possibility that Orlando as well as she might be caught in bed with the same neighbor—the male neighbor with whom she threatens to cuckold him. Ganymede's wit conveys Rosalind's warning: if you commit adultery with the man next door, she implies, you give me an occasion and an excuse to do the same.40 Rosalind fights sodomy with shrewishness.

Ironically, Ganymede's insistence on the jealousy, inconstancy, and shrewishness of wives risks promoting the very misogyny that, in the Orphic model, turns husbands away from wives to the company of men or boys. Ganymede claims to have once performed an essentially Orphic role by curing a lover's passion for a woman—the same role he offers to play for Orlando. By means of a stereotypically misogynist impersonation of this man's mistress, Ganymede supposedly converted the former lover of women into an Orpheus-figure himself, a recluse who lived in "a nook merely monastic" (3.2.408-9). Orlando does not know that this is Rosalind's fabrication; from his perspective both the substance and the ultimate rhetorical effect of Ganymede's misogynist satire—turning Orlando's love-sick predecessor into a gender separatist—may seem credible enough. As Celia complains to Rosalind, "You have simply misused our sex in your love-prate" (4.1.191-92). As long as Rosalind continues to misuse her sex by playing a misogynist Ganymede, she will never achieve the kind of clarity about Orlando's desires that she so desperately requires.

Whereas Rosalind struggles continuously and anxiously to direct the course of Orlando's desire, even anticipating his possible marital infidelities, the play rechannels Celia's homoerotic desire with far less subtlety. Rosalind's unbelievably hyperbolic account of Celia's attraction to Oliver suggests how ideologically motivated is the play's need to match her with a marriageable partner. Late in the play, Ganymede informs Orlando that Celia and Oliver have fallen instantly in love: "And in these degrees have they made a pair of stairs to marriage, which they will climb incontinent, or else be incontinent before marriage. They are in the very wrath of love, and they will together" (5.2.36-40). Attributing to Celia and Oliver a sexual impropriety characteristic of rakish men and simple women (e.g., Touchstone and Audrey), Rosalind represents Celia not as her loving childhood companion or devoted "sister" but as a bride impatient for the pleasures of the wedding night. By so describing Celia, Rosalind not only marks the end of their homoerotic friendship, thereby positioning both Celia and herself as marriageable women; she also provides Orlando with a model of marriage based in vigorous (hetero)erotic desire.

Yet female homoeroticism has not been eliminated so much as transferred onto Phebe, who falls in love with Rosalind/Ganymede as immediately as Celia falls in love with Oliver. Phebe, of course, believes that she has fallen in love with a boy named Ganymede. Nevertheless, as Traub has convincingly argued, what Phebe finds alluring are the particularly "'feminine'" features of Ganymede's physique.41 Phebe's desires for Rosalind/Ganymede are at once homoerotic and heteroerotic. More to the point, her desires for this unavailable object are ridiculed and ultimately rejected. It is through this rejection that the role of Hebe formerly occupied by Aliena is transferred to Phebe, whose name incorporates Hebe's. Ganymede's initial admonishment of Phebe contains the only mention of a mother in a play that continually returns to fathers: "Who might be your mother, / That you insult, exult, and all at once, / Over the wretched? What though you have no beauty . . . ?" (3.5.35-37). The implication that Phebe derives her inflated pride from her mother recalls Hebe's status as the daughter of Juno, whose bird was the conventionally proud peacock. In the medieval poem "Ganymede and Hebe," Ganymede deflates Hebe's pride through a gendered and racialized discourse of ugliness—"a vile old woman with the hand of a Moor—/ A shrew like this"—much as Rosalind/Ganymede disparages Phebe's "inky brows," "black silk hair," "bugle eyeballs," and "Ethiop words" (11. 46-47; 4.3.35).42 Phebe is humiliated for her folly in pursuing a "boy" who does not love women (Ganymede) and who actually is a woman (Rosalind). Whereas female homoerotic desire had once been a source of strength for Celia in her union with Rosalind, it compromises Phebe's power to negotiate her own marriage. Barred from wedding Rosalind, Phebe is forced to accept Silvius: "You to his love must accord, / Or have a woman to your lord" (5.4.132-33).

When she discards Ganymede, Rosalind is simultaneously released from her promise to marry Phebe and enabled to marry Orlando. Rosalind banishes Ganymede, the boy who disrupts Juno's marriage, and reenters with Hymen. The god of marriage presides over Rosalind's reunion with Orlando as if divine intervention were needed to guarantee the permanence of a marriage so precariously fashioned through courtship inflected by the discordant Ganymede myth. Significantly, when Juno's name returns for the second time in the play, the goddess is no longer linked with Venus as the patroness of women and protector of a female-female couple. She now appears as the goddess of marriage, linked with Hymen, who assures the fertility of male-female couples:

Wedding is great Juno's crown,
O blessed bond of board and bed.
'Tis Hymen peoples every town;
High wedlock then be honoured.

(11. 140-43)

The banishment of Ganymede and Jupiter from the play seems to signal the banishment of the male homoeroticism instrumental in Rosalind's courtship of Orlando but potentially disruptive to their marital harmony. Moreover, with the official sanction of Celia's desire for Oliver and the displacement of Hebe's role to the humiliated Phebe, youthful female homoeroticism no longer obstructs noble maidens' placement within the reproductive marital economy.

Hymen's marital "bands" are further secured by the Epilogue, which disavows the homoerotic mobility that earlier served to orchestrate individual figures into marriageable couples (1. 128). It seems impossible to fix the speaker of the Epilogue as female or male, Rosalind or Ganymede, the "lady" of the play or the boy who played her. But while this fluidly gendered speaker disrupts what Catherine Belsey calls "sexual difference," he/she nevertheless conjures up a consistently heteroerotic model of sexual desire, directly addressing the audience as women who love men and men who love 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 the women the play may please.

(11. 209-14)

Not even an appeal to the collapse of gender difference (and thus of the distinction between homoerotic and heteroerotic relations) produced by the boy-actor/Rosalind/Ganymede can deny that these words not only clearly distinguish between actual men and women playgoers but direct them into heteroerotic exchanges. The Epilogue presents male heteroerotic desire in particular as a completely transparent and universal phenomenon: "I perceive by your simpering none of you [men] hates them [women]." There is simply no acknowledgment that desire among these men and women might also circulate homoerotically. Queer theory, however, allows us to recognize the Epilogue's conceptual division between gender identity (multiple and fluid, at least for the boy-actor) and erotic desire (singular and fixed, at least among the playgoers).

A note of contingency is seemingly injected into heteroerotic fixity when the boy-actor confesses to his male spectators, "If I were a woman, I would kiss as many of you as had beards that pleased me," for he at least acknowledges the possibility of erotic contact with these men (11. 214-16). Moreover, we may assume that at the Globe the boy playing Rosalind/Ganymede would have been complemented by an adult actor (though one with "but a little beard" [3.2.208]) playing Orlando, thus replicating in the casting the homoerotic roles of the plot.43 The Epilogue's metadramatic self-reflexiveness might well remind the audience that when Rosalind played a boy, she was perhaps not adding a layer of disguise so much as stripping one away, revealing the homoerotic foundations of the play's marital structure.

Yet despite the contemporary belief that boy-players, also known as ganymedes, erotically delighted adult men both onstage and off, this particular boy-player in effect refuses, in the Epilogue, to realize his homoerotic potential. He would have sexual contact with a man only "if he were a woman, which he is not, even if he has just played one and even if boys are like women. The Epilogue's if serves not, like the earlier ifs in the play, to promote "erotic contingency"—the sense that anything goes—but to relegate it to what has gone before.44 Those ifs were instrumental in arranging the various couplings between the "appropriate" partners. Once the marriages have transpired onstage, the virtue of the Epilogue's if is to suggest that homoerotic play has been left behind: in courtship, in adolescence, in Arden, in the theater itself. The Epilogue thus redirects attention from Rosalind's erotic play with the conditional to the erotic conditions of playing Rosalind. The actor's homoerotic flirtation is playful precisely because he is figuring homoeroticism as play, as dramatic device. His playing the alluring ganymede for male spectators constitutes a "kind offer" designed to solicit their applause (5.4.219); Rosalind likewise plays Ganymede for Orlando to accomplish her immediate (erotic) designs. But the actor reminds these men that he really is neither woman nor ganymede offstage. Just as Orlando must leave Arden without Ganymede, so these male spectators are encouraged to relinquish to the theater (and to the Arden still represented there at play's end) the fantasy of kissing an attractive ganymede.

In short, the Epilogue not only reveals the homoeroticism of the theater but attempts to establish the theatricality of homoeroticism. Having so openly staged male homoerotic courtship, the play discourages male spectators from identifying with the sodomitical marital role of Jupiter once offered to Orlando. Instead, male homoerotic desire is finally offered as a retrospective theatrical pleasure. This anxiety about appropriate marital sexuality and comic form explains the Epilogue's tendentious promotion of heteroerotic bonds among its spectators. Of course, what an actual audience makes of the gender/sexual ideology of the Epilogue might exceed the text's explicit attempt to reassert heteroerotic desire. Weren't there any ganymedes in the Globe audience, pages who had sexual relations primarily with men? Weren't there any Orlandos, whose simpering for women was indistinguishable from their simpering for boys? Could such a spectator, attuned to (or identified with) the kind of homoerotic desire represented in the play, assume that Orlando might indeed play adulterous Jupiter to Rosalind's rejected Juno?

These considerations lead to a materialist line of inquiry. If Orlando's homoerotic desire represents an actual threat to early modern marriage, as I have argued, then what were the "cruising grounds" in which a husband might have pursued his homoerotic desires? The representation of an all-male court of exiles in As You Like It and in the Orpheus poems suggests that the aristocratic court was a place in which men, separated from their wives, could freely consort socially, and perhaps sexually, with each other or with available ganymedes. Recent scholarship on literary and nonliterary texts leaves little doubt about the significance of homoerotic relations between courtier and courtier, patron and client, king and favorite in the Tudor and Stuart courts.45 The court is not only a place, of course, but a mobile political community, as in Much Ado About Nothing, where Claudio offers to leave his new wife behind to accompany the unmarried Don Pedro. Don Pedro protests that this "would be as great a soil in the new gloss of your marriage as to show a child his new coat and forbid him to wear it" (3.2.5-7). Like Othello ("You must away to-night." "With all my heart." [1.3.277-78]), Claudio places male courtly service above whatever desire he might have to enjoy his new wife sexually. We might also recall how the sharing of beds by married soldiers in Othello gives Iago an opportunity to construct from the unproblematic fact of homoerotic intimacy a plausible narrative of Cassio's illicit sexual desire for Desdemona.

Aside from the court, there is evidence that male homoerotic activity also occurred in the more geographically and socially accessible spaces of brothels, ale-houses, taverns, and public theaters, the latter significantly located in the unruly Liberties of London.46 Much has been written on the public theater as a site of homoerotic titillation and assignation.47 More recently, Joy Wiltenburg has examined popular ballads that admonish unthrifty husbands to avoid the lewd company of the alehouse. In one such ballad, "Lamentation of a new-married man," a wife scolds her frequently absent husband:

Quoth she, "You do not love me,
To leave me all alone;
You must goe a gadding,
And I must bide at home,
While you, among your minions,
Spend more than is your owne."
This life leads a married man.*


Although the term minion in Renaissance usage can refer to either gender, it is often applied to men in homoerotic contexts, as in Twelfth Night, where Orsino calls his beloved Cesario Olivia's "minion" (5.1.125), or in Marlowe's Edward II, where it denotes the king's favorite, Gaveston.49 Having transferred his love to his minions, the husband in this ballad may be "spending" with other men what he should rightfully save for his wife—not only money but seed. In a similar ballad, "Robin and Kate; or, A bad husband converted by a good wife," Kate objects to her husband's visits to the alehouse: "Let not thy companions thus lewdly intice / Thy heart from thy Kate." Robin offers the dubious assurance that he seeks the company of men: "I seek not for wenches, but honest good fellowes: / A pipe of tobacco, a pot, or a jugg, / These are the sweet honies that I kisse and hugg."50 Robin's sarcasm ("These are the sweet honies that I kisse"), even as it intends to deny one kind of erotic interest (in "wenches") may nevertheless reveal another (in "fellowes"). Of course, a husband could pursue homoerotic adultery closer to home, either in a "neighbour's bed," as Ganymede's quip to Orlando may acknowledge, or in his own. Sir Simonds D'Ewes wrote of Francis Bacon that he "desert[ed] the bed of his lady, which he accounted as the Italians and turks do, a poor and mean pleasure in respect of the other." Bacon instead made "his servants his bedfellows."51

More research on the material conditions that facilitated homoerotic activity within marriage in early modern England is required. Here it suffices to observe that, for men at least, patriarchal privilege meant that marriage did not necessarily curtail homoerotic desire, especially since the constitution of the early modern household and the absence of a distinct ideology of heterosexuality allowed a wider range of (adulterous) sexual practices than an ahistorical notion of the family would admit. Bacon seems to have known this. Even if his erotic tastes resembled those of "Italians and turks," Bacon, like most of his countrymen, married.

It is not possible to answer the question of just how common it was for husbands in Shakespeare's England to seek homoerotic pleasure outside the marriage bed. Nor have I chosen to address here the theoretically and historically distinct issue of female homoerotic desire within marriage. But I hope to have demonstrated that the contradictions within early modern gender/sexual ideologies open the space for a critique of the "naturalness" of the marital (hetero)sexuality that appears to coalesce at the end of Shakespeare's romantic comedy. Indeed, the successful comic conclusion of As You Like It's final configuration of male-female couples largely depends on our assent to an ideological imperative, the Epilogue's "charge" that men love women, women love men, and that between men and women "the play may please." The Epilogue intimates that the play will please to the extent that heteroerotic play pleases its audience. For queer readers, then, such (a) play may not please. I would like to believe that my attempt to queer the Shakespearean family will prevent readers from responding uncritically to the Epilogue's heteroerotic interpellation. Such a queer disidentification would mean no longer accepting as simply natural, psychologically inevitable, or blithely comedie—for our time or Shakespeare's—the play's displacement of male and female homoeroticism from the scene of marriage and the formation of the "family."

Finally, more is at stake in my analysis of As You Like It than a queer distrust of "the family" and familial metaphors—although such a distrust is certainly justified by ongoing political and legal assaults against gays and lesbians undertaken in the name of "family values" and the "traditional family." In The Anti-social Family, Michèle Barrett and Mary Mcintosh argue from a socialist-feminist perspective that familial ideology actually impairs other forms of communality and solidarity: "the stronger and more supportive families are expected to be, the weaker the other supportive institutions outside of them become."52 As in Boose's essay on the "Family of Shakespeareans," recourse to familial language for describing social communities like academia not only erases the real disjuncture Barrett and Mcintosh find between "the family" and "the community" but perpetuates, however unintentionally, a conservative and naturalizing definition of the heterosexual nuclear family. As gay historian Jeffrey Weeks observes, "the family is a potent trope even in the hands of those whose adherence to a traditional model is dubious. The language of the family pervades our thinking about private life."53 To Weeks's insight, I would add that the language of the family also pervades—hence limits—our thinking about public life: not only the notion of professional life that we construct for ourselves as a community of Shakespeare scholars but also the notion of domestic life that we construct for early modern England, a construction in which Shakespeare's comedies for the public theater enjoy such a familiar place.


For their generous comments on earlier versions of this essay and the chapter from which it derives, I am grateful to Jean Howard, David Kastan, Jim Shapiro, Nick Radei, Bruce Smith, Valerie Traub, Jonathan Goldberg, and Greg Bredbeck, who helped clarify my thinking about queer theory. Barbara Mowat and anonymous readers for Shakespeare Quarterly provided valuable criticism and suggestions. Finally, I would like to thank Stephen Orgel for the opportunity to present parts of this essay in the session "Renaissance Outsiders" at the 1993 annual meeting of the Modern Language Association, Toronto.

1 Lawrence Stone, The Family, Sex and Marriage in England 1500-1800 (New York: Harper and Row, 1977). Other historical accounts that neglect the homoerotic as a category of early modern domestic experience include Ralph A. Houlbrooke, The English Family 1450-1700 (London and New York: Longman, 1984); and Alice T. Friedman, House and Household in Elizabethan England: Wollaton Hall and the Willoughby Family (Chicago and London: U of Chicago P, 1989).

2 Evidence of homoeroticism within the early modern domestic sphere has been provided by several methodologically diverse studies: Alan Bray, Homosexuality in Renaissance England (London: Gay Men's Press, 1982), 44-51; Bruce R. Smith, Homosexual Desire in Shakespeare's England: A Cultural Poetics (Chicago and London: U of Chicago P, 1991), 82-88; Gregory W. Bredbeck, Sodomy and Interpretation: Marlowe to Milton (Ithaca, NY, and London: Cornell UP, 1991), 115-34; Bredbeck, "Sodomesticity," lecture delivered at the 1992 annual meeting of the Modern Language Association, New York City; Richard Rambuss, "The Secretary's Study: The Secret Designs of The Shepheardes Calender/' ELH 59 (1992): 313-35, esp. 318-21; Jonathan Goldberg, Sodometries: Renaissance Texts, Modern Sexualities (Stanford, CA: Stanford UP, 1992), 123-43. See also the following essays in Erotic Politics: Desire on the Renaissance stage, Susan Zimmerman, ed. (New York and London: Routledge, 1992): Valerie Traub, "The (in)significance of 'lesbian' desire in early modern England," 150-69, esp. 158-65; Lisa Jardine, "Twins and travesties: Gender, dependency and sexual availability in Twelfth Night, " 27-38; and Jean E. Howard, "Sex and social conflict: The erotics of The Roaring Girl, " 170-90, esp. 174-79.

3 One goal of the larger project from which this essay is taken, The Homoerotics of Early Modern Drama, is to reveal the significant variety of homoerotic relations found in the plays of Shakespeare's contemporaries.

4 The early modern household, also known as a "fam ily," was comprised not only of parents and children but also of "non-kin inmates, sojourners, boarders or lodgers . . . as well as indentured apprentices and resident servants" (Stone, 26-27). Bray observes that the practice of sharing beds within the household could facilitate sex between servants or between masters and servants (50-51).

Non-Shakespearean (indeed, un-Shakespearean) representations of homoerotic master-servant relations in the drama are discussed in my essay on Jonson and Chapman, "Asses and Wits: The Homoerotics of Mastery in Satiric Comedy" (English Literary Renaissance 25 [1995]: 179-208); and in Theodore B. Leinwand's essay on Middleton, "Redeeming Beggary/Buggery in Michaelmas Term" (ELH 61 [1994]: 53-70).

5 Lynda E. Boose, "The Family in Shakespeare Stud ies; or—Studies in the Family of Shakespeareans; or—The Politics of Politics," Renaissance Quarterly 40 (1987): 707-51. Boose develops the metaphor of feminism as a daughter and new historic ism as a "legitimate son" (738).

6 Catherine Belsey, "Disrupting sexual difference: mean ing and gender in the comedies" in Alternative Shakespeares, John Drakakis, ed. (London and New York: Methuen, 1985), 166-90; Mary Beth Rose, The Expense of Spirit: Love and Sexuality in English Renaissance Drama (Ithaca, NY, and London: Cornell UP, 1988), 12-42. In a note, Belsey says only that she is "not entirely persuaded" by the argument that boy-actors had a homoerotic appeal (235). She says nothing, however, about the homoerotic valence of the name Ganymede in As You Like It.

7 Valerie Traub, Desire and Anxiety: Circulations of sexuality in Shakespearean drama (London and New York: Routledge, 1992), 123.

8 Traub in Zimmerman, ed., 158.

9 Quotations of As You Like It in this essay follow the Arden text, ed. Anges Latham (London: Methuen, 1975). Quotations of Shakespeare plays other than As You Like It follow The Riverside Shakespeare, ed. G. Blakemore Evans (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1974).

10 Thomas Cooper, Dictionarivm Historicum & Poeticum . . . in Thesavrvs Lingvae Romanae & Brittanicae . . . (London, 1565), J4r. On Shakespeare's probable use of this dictionary, see De Witt T. Starnes and Ernest William Talbert, Classical Myth and Legend in Renaissance Dictionaries: A Study of Renaissance Dictionaries in Their Relation to the Classical Learning of Contemporary English Writers (Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 1955), 111-34. Arthur Golding's 1567 translation of Ovid flatly states that Jupiter advances Ganymede to cupbearer "against Dame Junos will" (Shakespeare's Ovid: Being Arthur Golding's Translation of the Metamorphoses, ed. W.H.D. Rouse [London: Centaur Press, 1961], Bk. 10, 1. 167).

11 Christopher Marlowe, Dido, Queene of Carthage in Vol. 1 of The Complete Works of Christopher Marlowe, ed. Fredson Bowers, 2 vols. (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1973), 1.1 SD, 1.1.51, and 3.2.42-43.

Whatever the anatomical similarities between the sexes posited by the Galenic one-sex model, certain bodily functions particular to women or attributed to women by Renaissance gender discourses were considered "different" enough to evoke male anxiety and disgust. The sixteenth-century physician Thomas Raynalde feared that knowledge of women's unique reproductive processes might lead men "the more to abhorre and loath the companie of women" (quoted in Gail Kern Paster, The Body Embarrassed: Drama and the Disciplines of Shame in Early Modern England [Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 1993], 187). On the Galenic one-sex model, see Thomas Laqueur, Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud (Cambridge, MA, and London: Harvard UP, 1990). Laqueur's account has been criticized for downplaying differences, namely the competing Aristotelian model of sexual difference and the construction of gender differences in early modern texts about women. This argument is advanced by Patricia Parker, "Gender Ideology, Gender Change: The Case of Marie Germain," Critical Inquiry 19 (1993): 337-64, esp. 339-40; and Sally Shuttleworth, review of Laqueur, Journal of the History of Sexuality 3 (1993): 633-35. Paster provides a convincing corrective to Laqueur regarding the physiological/ethical gender differences posited by Renaissance humoral theory (16-17 and passim).

12 Marlowe in Bowers, ed., 1.1.2 and 43.

13 John Lyly, Gallathea in Gallathea and Midas, ed. Anne Begor Lancashire, Regents Renaisance Drama (Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 1969), 5.2.65.

14 John Mason, The Turk, ed. Fernand Lagarde (Salzburg: Institut für Anglistik and Amerikanistik, 1979), 1.2.130-48. Mason's play was performed in 1607 by the King's Revels Children at Whitefriars.

15 Marlowe, Edward II in Vol. 2 of Bowers, ed., 1.4.178-81.

16 John Marston, The Malcontent in Vol. 1 of The Works of John Marston, ed. A. H. Bullen, 3 vols. (London: John C. Nimmo, 1887), 1.1.15-16.

17 William Barksted, Mirrha the Mother of Adonis: or Lustes Prodegies (London, 1607), C7r.

18 On this dynamic, see James Holstun, "'Will You Rent Our Ancient Love Asunder?': Lesbian Elegy in Donne, Marvell, and Milton," ELH 54 (1987): 835-67. In the context of As You Like It, it is significant that Hebe was the goddess of youth (cf. Cooper, J4r). The abandonment of youthful female love is discussed by Traub in Zimmerman, ed.; and by Dorothea Kehler, "Shakespeare's Emilias and the Politics of Celibacy" in In Another Country: Feminist Perspectives on Renaissance Drama, Dorothea Kehler and Susan Baker, eds. (Metuchen, NJ, and London: Scarecrow Press, 1991), 157-78.

19 Abraham Fraunce, The Third part of the Countesse of Pembrokes Yuychurch: Entituled, Amintas Dale (London, 1592), Er. Sir Robert Staplyton, glossing a line in Juvenal's Second Satire, explains, "A man used to make protestation by his Genius, a woman by her Juno" (Juvenal's Sixteen Satyrs or, A Svrvey of the Manners and Actions of Mankind [London, 1647], 28).

20The Maid's Metamorphosis (1600), ed. John S. Farmer, The Tudor Reprinted and Parallel Texts (London: Hazell, Watson and Viney, 1908), C[l]v.

21 Ovid, Bk. 10, 11. 157-58, 88-89, and 91-92. Shakespeare had already alluded to the homoerotic dimensions of the Orpheus myth in The Two Gentlemen of Verona, where Proteus ironically advises his rival, Sir Thurio, to woo Silvia like Orpheus: "For Orpheus' lute was strung with poets' sinews, / Whose golden touch could soften steel and stones" (3.2.77-78). Proteus recalls Orpheus's homoerotic pastoral life in the image of a "golden" touch applied to male "sinews." These dismembered sinews also prefigure Orpheus's own destruction by the Maenads. The next scene of the play assigns an Orphic role to Valentine, who, banished from Silvia and the court, agrees to lead the band of forest outlaws. The Orpheus myth helps explain why the outlaws find their new commander a "proper man" who is "beautified / With goodly shape" and gifted as a "linguist" (4.1.10, 55-57). We can identify a characteristically Shakespearean associative cluster in both plays—Orpheus/golden world/homoeroticism/outlaws—a cluster fulfilled in As You Like It when Duke Senior and his lords enter in Act 2 "like outlaws" (2.7 SD).

22 Jardine, Still Harping on Daughters: Women and Drama in the Age of Shakespeare (Sussex: Harvester Press; Totowa, NJ: Barnes and Noble, 1983), 9-36; Stephen Orgel, "Nobody's Perfect: Or Why Did the English Stage Take Boys for Women?" in Displacing Homophobia: Gay Male Perspectives in Literature and Culture, Ronald R. Butters, John M. Cium, and Michael Moon, eds. (Durham, NC, and London: Duke UP, 1989), 7-29.

23 See Thomas H. Cain, "Spenser and the Renaissance Orpheus," University of Toronto Quarterly 41 (1971): 24-47. Peggy Muñoz Simonds attempts "to synthesize what Orpheus might have signified to the mature Shakespeare" of the tragicomedies. Although she cites many contemporary allusions to Orpheus as a figure of consolation, she bypasses entirely the homoerotic elements of the myth ("'Killing care and grief of heart': Orpheus and Shakespeare," Renaissance Papers 1990, Dale B. J. Randall and Joseph A. Porter, eds. [Durham, NC: Southeastern Renaissance Conference, 1990], 79-90, esp. 79).

24 Cooper, N2v.

25 See Harry Berger Jr., "Orpheus, Pan, and the Poetics of Misogyny: Spenser's Critique of Pastoral Love and Art," ELH 50 (1983): 27-60.

26 John Dickenson, The Shepheardes Complaint (London, 1596), C2v.

27 R. B., Orphevs His Iourney to Hell, And his Musicke to the Ghosts, for the regaining of faire Euridice his Loue, and hew spoused Wife (London, 1595), D4r.

28 See Orgel, 26; and Howard in Zimmerman, ed., 172. Bruce Smith discusses the Renaissance gender ideology that encouraged men to form intimate friendships (which, he argues, could accommodate homoerotic desire) and that regarded women as the moral and intellectual inferiors of men (33-41 and 56-77). Whereas Smith believes that marriage successfully disrupted male friendship, Joseph Pequigney argues that Shakespeare's homoerotically inclined Antonios are incorporated into the marriages that conclude their plays ("The Two Antonios and Same-Sex Love in Twelfth Night and The Merchant of Venice," ELR 22 [1992]: 201-21).

29Of Loues complaint; with the legend of Orpheus and Euridice (London, 1597), E6v.

30 R. B., Orphevs His Iourney to Hell, D4v.

31 Holland is quoted and discussed by Smith (40), who shows that the translation of explicitly homoerotic Greek and Latin texts played an important role in the discursive construction of homoeroticism in Renaissance England. For Renaissance humanism as an anthropological encounter with another culture, specifically in regard to the Ganymede myth, see Leonard Barkan, Transuming Passion: Ganymede and the Erotics of Humanism (Stanford, CA: Stanford UP, 1991).

32 Orgel, Impersonations: The Performance of Gender in Shakespeare's England (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1996), 57-58.

33 James M. Saslow, Ganymede in the Renaissance: Homosexuality in Art and Society (New Haven, CT, and London: Yale UP, 1986), 116. Significantly, one of Saslow's Italian sources is a passage from Poliziano's 1480 drama Orfeo in which Orpheus sings:

Great Jupiter bears witness to this creed
Who, by the knot of sweet love held in thrall,
Enjoys in heaven his fair boy Ganymede
As Apollo on earth for Hyacinth does call.
To this holy love did Hercules concede,
He who felled giants till Hylas made him fall.
I urge all husbands: seek divorce, and flee
Each one away from female company.

(quoted in Saslow, 122)

34 John Marston, The Scourge of Villainy in Bullen, ed., 3:295-382, esp. 313. Thomas Heywood, Pleasant Dialogves and Dramma's, ed. W. Bang (Louvain: Uystpruyst, 1903), 101. See Robert Greene, Penelopes Web (1587) in The Life and Complete Works in Prose and Verse of Robert Greene, ed. Alexander B. Grosart, 15 vols. (London: Hazell, Watson, and Viney, 1881-86), 5:137-234, esp. 165.

Smith discusses the Jupiter-Juno-Ganymede myth as it appears in Heywood, Shakespeare, Marlowe, and an anonymous poem about James I (199-223).

35 Jardine surveys historical accounts of the high proportion of adolescent male servants in early modern England (in Zimmerman, ed., 29).

36 Michael Drayton, quoted in Bray, Homosexuality in Renaissance England, 33. For scholarship on the homoerotics of service in early modern England, see notes 2 and 4 above. Many of the studies cited there assert that the word ganymede was used colloquially to signify a dependent boy, whether a page, prostitute, or player. Ganymedes and catamites are stock characters in the verse satires that begin to appear in the late 1590s. See Bray, Homosexuality in Renaissance England, 33-57; Bredbeck, Sodomy and Interpretation, 10-18 and 33-39; and Smith, 159-87.

37 Marston, Histrio-Mastix in The Plays of John Marston, ed. H. Harvey Wood, 3 vols. (Edinburgh and London: Oliver and Boyd, 1939), 3:243-302, esp. 271.

38 John Boswell traces the hyena lore back to its early Christian and ancient sources (Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century [Chicago and London: U of Chicago P, 1980], 137-43). The commonplace belief in the hyena's sex-change appears in the Physiologus, which Boswell characterizes as the "single most popular work of natural science of the Middle Ages, [and] one of the most widely read treatises of any sort prior to the seventeenth century" (141). Ann Rosalind Jones and Peter Stallybrass call the Physiologus "one of the most popular books of the early Renaissance" and cite its account of the hyena as an example of the Renaissance discourse of hermaphroditism: "'At one time it becomes a male, at another a female'" ("Fetishizing Gender: Constructing the Hermaphrodite in Renaissance Europe" in Body Guards: The Cultural Politics of Gender Ambiguity, Julia Epstein and Kristina Straub, eds. [New York and London: Routledge, 1991], 80-111, esp. 80-81).

39 Ovid, Bk. 15, 11. 451-52.

40 The term adultery, despite the modern inclination to read it straight, did not in early modern usage necessarily refer to male-female sexuality. William Perkins writes in The Foundation of Christian Religion: "To commit adultery, signifíeth as much, as to doe any thing, what way soeuer, whereby the chastitie of our selues, or our neighbours may be stained." Perkins furnishes examples of heteroerotic, autoerotic, and homoerotic lust (The Workes of that Famous and Worthy Minister of Christ in the Vniuersitie of Cambridge, Mr. William Perkins, 3 vols. [London, 1616-18], 1:58).

41 Traub, Desire and Anxiety, 125-26.

42 "Ganymede and Hebe" Post aquile raptus, twelfth or thirteenth century) is quoted in Boswell (392-98, esp. 395), who provides useful translations and interpretations of the Ganymede myth in medieval texts. On gender and race in Renaissance discourses of beauty, see Kim F. Hall, "'I Rather Would Wish to Be a Black-Moor': Beauty, race, and rank in Lady Mary Wroth's Urania" in Women, "Race," and Writing in the Early Modern Period, Margo Hendricks and Patricia Parker, eds. (London and New York: Routledge, 1994), 178-94.

43 See Smith, 147.

44 On the "erotic contingency" produced by the if, see Traub, Desire and Anxiety, 128.

45 See Smith, 176-79; Goldberg, 29-61; Simon Shepherd, "What's so funny about ladies' tailors? A survey of some male (homo)sexual types in the Renaissance," Textual Practice 6 (1992): 17-30, esp. 23-25; John Michael Archer, Sovereignty and Intelligence: Spying and Court Culture in the English Renaissance (Stanford, CA: Stanford UP, 1993), 76-78; and Bray, "Homosexuality and the Signs of Male Friendship in Elizabethan England" in Queering the Renaissance, Jonathan Goldberg, ed. (Durham, NC, and London: Duke UP, 1994), 40-61, esp. 46-56.

46 See Steven Mullaney, The Place of the Stage: License, Play, and Power in Renaissance England (Chicago and London: U of Chicago P, 1988). Bray mentions the London tavern as a likely site of homosexual prostitution (Homosexuality in Renaissance England, 53-54), and Goldberg remarks on the sodomitical taint of Prince Hal's male tavern companions in the Henriad (Sodometries, 155-56).

47 See, for instance, Bray, Homosexuality in Renaissance England, 54-55; Jardine, Still Harping on Daughters, 9-36; Susan Zimmerman, "Disruptive desire: Artifice and indeterminacy in Jacobean comedy" in Zimmerman, ed., 39-63; and Laura Levine, Men in women's clothing: Anti-theatricality and effeminization, 1579-1642 (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1994), 10-25.

48 See Joy Wiltenburg, Disorderly Women and Female Power in the Street Literature of Early Modern England and Germany (Charlottesville and London: UP of Virginia, 1992). "Lamentation of a new-married man," The Roxburghe Ballads, ed. William Chappell, 9 vols. (Hertford, UK: Stephen Austin and Sons, 1871-99), 2:33-40, esp. 34.

49 Marlowe, Edward II, 1.4.30, 87, and 393. "Min ion," according to Eric Partridge, is "a man's—especially a king's or a prince's—male favourite; not necessarily a homosexual" (Shakespeare's Bawdy: A Literary & Psychological Essay and a Comprehensive Glossary [London: Routledge, 1947], 148). On the roles of "master" and "minion" in Edward II, see Smith, 209-23.

50 "Robin and Kate; or, A bad husband converted by a good wife" (1634) in Chappell, ed., 2:413-18, esp. 41546.

51 Quoted in Bray, "Homosexuality and the Signs of Male Friendship," 55. Bray cites the autobiography of Simonds D'Ewes (British Museum, Harleian MSS, 646/59-59v), written between 1622 and 1624.

52 Michèle Barrett and Mary Mcintosh, The Anti-social Family, 2d ed. (London and New York: Verso, 1991), 171.

53 Jeffrey Weeks, "Pretended family relationships" in Marriage, domestic life and social change: Writings for Jacqueline Burgoyne (1944-88), David Clark, ed. (London and New York: Routledge, 1991), 214-34, esp. 227. Weeks's title quotes Britain's antigay statute, Section 28 of the Local Government Act, 1988.


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Frederick Turner (essay date 1971)

SOURCE: "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, Oxford at the Clarendon Press, 1971, pp. 28-44.

[In the essay below, Turner describes the attitudes of Jaques, Touchstone, and Rosalind and Orlando toward timehistorical, natural, and personal, respectivelyand asserts that all three viewpoints are reconciled through marriage at the end of the play.]

As You Like It opens with two characters who, in terms of the hierarchy of social power, are weak and inferior: Orlando, the younger brother, and Adam, the old man. One is denied his place in society; the other is past his usefulness. Orlando tellingly distinguishes between the 'gentle condition of blood' and the 'courtesy of nations';1 between what is owed him as a member of society, and what is due to his status as a human being. Adam has 'lost' his 'teeth' 'in service',2 and though his master's legal obligation to him has been fulfilled, Oliver refuses to honour his human obligations to look after the faithful servant in his old age.

Those who are weak in the power structure of society—children, old men, beggars, strangers, the insane—can possess the most potent moral power in the human community. But this moral power must be recognized, if it is to exist; Malvolio's crime, we shall see, is to deny the moral power of the Fool. Orlando's description of his 'keeping' as no different from the 'stalling of an ox',3 and Oliver's characterizing Adam as an 'old dog',4 suggest that the socially strong in this play consider those who are socially weak to be no better than beasts, outside the community of man, and therefore ineligible for the basic human rights. But piety (or pité), insists that such figures are the true representatives of the human community, that we should treat them with the respect due to common humanity, whose dignity transcends the evanescent privileges of rank, wealth, or birth. There is only one thing that Orlando and Adam can do: leave the society which has rejected them.

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

If one escapes from the ordinary routine of society, one is on holiday. Rosalind can see nothing but 'briers' in this 'workingday' world; on 'holiday' they are but 'burs'. If, says Celia, 'we walk not in the trodden paths'—if we do not conform to the routines of society—'our very petticoats will catch them'.5 The holiday that the outcasts must take is partly a holiday of the mind. 'Briers' become 'burs' when their attitude changes from 'workingday' to 'holiday'. Rosalind and Celia come to accept their existence with patience, but without paying the price of a vitiating and stoic detachment. On holiday life is only a game, even when it is a game of life and death. Rosalind and Celia are delightful partly because of their holiday attitude to the world—an attitude which combines levity with involvement, wisdom with feeling. Rosalind can satirize love and be in love at the same time.

Orlando, Rosalind, and the Duke Senior are all victims of injustice. They reject and are rejected by the power-structure of their society; and this structure includes its laws. The 'courtesy of nations' has become a tyranny for Orlando; for the Duke Senior it has been overturned. The accusation of treachery levelled by Duke Frederick at Rosalind is a legality divested of its sanctifying ritual of evidence, fair play, and impartiality. Thus the exiles become outlaws: they live 'like the old Robin Hood of England'.6 This brings to mind the connection of Robin Hood with the old holiday ritual of rural England, and the enormous popularity of his story among the common folk. He was the hero of the socially weak; the semi-pagan god of Holiday. The Puritans recognized this strain in his cult when they abolished it nearly fifty years later.

Time in the forest is not social time. The exiled nobles 'fleet the time carelessly, as they did in the golden world'.7 They 'lose and neglect the creeping hours of time;8 the human measurement of time has no meaning here. In Thomas Mann's Magic Mountain, holiday has a similar effect:

Such is the purpose of our changes of air and scene, of all our sojourns at cures and bathing resorts; it is the secret of the healing power of change and incident. Our first days in a new place, time has a youthful, that is to say, a broad and sweeping flow, persisting for some six or eight days. Then, as one 'gets used to the place', a gradual shrinkage makes itself felt. He who clings or, better expressed, wishes to cling to life, will shudder to see how the days grow light and lighter, how they scurry by like dead leaves, until the last week, of some four, perhaps, is uncannily fugitive and fleet.9

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

Helen Gardner discusses this subject illuminatingly in the context of the romantic comedies in general: 'In Shakespeare's comedies time . . .' is not so much a movement onward as a space in which to work things out: a midsummer night, a space too short for us to feel time's movement, or the unmeasured time of As You Like It or Twelfth Night.'10 Of Much Ado About Nothing she says: 'A sense of holiday, of time off from the world's business, reigns in Messina.'11

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

And then he drew a dial from his poke,
And, looking on it with lack-lustre eye,
Says very wisely 'It is ten o'clock;
Thus we may see' quoth he 'how the world wags;
'Tis but an hour ago since it was nine;
And after one hour more 'twill be eleven; . . .'
. . . When I did hear
The motley fool thus moral on the time,
My lungs began to crow like chanticleer
That fools should be so deep contemplative;
And I did laugh sans intermission
An hour by his dial.


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

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

Orl: You should ask me what time o'day; there's no clock in the forest.13

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

Fai: Now, Hal, what time of day is it, lad? . . . etc.14

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

'Then there is no true lover in the forest, else sighing every minute and groaning every hour would detect the lazy foot of Time as well as a clock.'15

Hal says to Falstaff:

What a devil hast thou to do with the time of the day? Unless hours were cups of sack, and minutes capons, and clocks the tongues of bawds . . . etc.16

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

. . . we that take purses go by the moon and the seven stars, and not by Phoebus, he 'that wand'ring knight so fair'.17

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

The Forest of Arden is a poetic region which contains, as well as holiday and outlawry, the forces of natural time, the time of the seasons, of the great rhythms of nature; 'time not our time',18 as T. S. Eliot puts it.

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


Here feel we but the penalty of Adam,
The seasons' difference . . .


Blow, blow, thou winter wind,
Thou are not so unkind
As man's ingratitude . . .


Shakespeare's Arden contains other seasons than a perpetual springtime. It can be 'melancholy',22 'uncouth',23 a 'desert inaccessible';24 it contains real, as well as conventional, shepherds. Most important of all, it works convincingly by natural time. It is a place one lives in, not an abstraction of the poet's mind; it has the obduracy and unconcern for human desires that we recognize as authentic in nature. People can get old here in the forest; time rules over man, but it is the time of the seasons and not the time of the clock.

The exiles carry with them into the forest many of their human attitudes and preconceptions. Jaques relentlessly anthropomorphizes the deer; the nobles are seen as 'usurpers' on the life of the forest, which is contrasted with the human domains of 'country, city, court'.25 For our purposes one of the most significant importations into the forest is Jaques' attitude to time in human existence:

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


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

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

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

Walter Bagehot makes an interesting point about Jaques' speech in a passage which David Cecil quotes and discusses in his charming essay, 'Shakespearean Comedy', from The Fine Art of Reading.27Bagehot's treatment deserves repetition:

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

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

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

In a play the actors are not being themselves, but donning masks and acting a pretence. Jaques' vision of human life is essentially external. For him all there is is the pretence, the mask, the actor's part, the accidents. He describes behaviour, but not experience. Jaques is, perhaps, the first of those great satirical personae that Hugh Kenner discusses with such penetration and wit in his 'historical comedy', The Counterfeiters.28 Like Gulliver describing the Yahoos, like the extraordinary counterfeit sociologist who seems to have written A Modest Proposal, like the bad poet Pope invents to write the Art of Sinking in Poetry, Jaques is concerned not with the inner nature of a person, but with his surface, not with another T but with an 'it'.

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

Jaques' speech contains a certain cynicism, a mood alien, in some respects, to Shakespeare's own, as far as we can judge from his poems and sonnets, as well as from his plays. The other passages we should bear in mind when we read or hear 'All the world's a stage' include not only Prospero's 'our revels now are ended', and 'as an unperfect actor on the stage'; but also Macbeth's 'poor player, That struts and frets his hour upon the stage', and Lear's 'great stage of fools'.

Jaques' vision of human life ends as it began: with second childishness, sans everything; nothing has been gained, life is meaningless, it's all only a play. As soon as Jaques has finished his speech, Orlando, the young man and the lover, enters carrying Adam, the old man who is almost in his 'last scene'; the two are united and ennobled by a sense of love and care which somehow transcends and contradicts the stereotypical categories that would divide and degrade them.

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

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

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

'History' in Jaques' sense, moreover, like philosophy, is a map; a map cannot reproduce the whole landscape in its minute detail. Yet we can only really know the landscape ('known' as connaître, not savoir), if we have all its details about us. A work of art can give us a sense of this but the pre-rational and personal principles of selection which are available to the artist are denied to Jaques' 'historian', who is in pursuit of impersonal truth, whose satire 'like a wildgoose flies, Unclaim'd of any man',29 and who professes a disillusioned rationality.

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

Jaques' 'historical' viewpoint has other characteristics. One is that it is objective, rather than subjective. Jaques does not take into account what is almost the most important feature of time—the peculiar sensation, common to the human race, and therefore taken for granted, of living in time. What does it feel like to live in time? Everything that comes under that question is absent from Jaques' point of view. Since values and meaning exist only in the subjective sphere.30 Jaques is presenting a view of existence as valueless and meaningless. Since the sense of the living self exists only in the present moment (which is given no particular significance by Jaques), he is describing people who seem to have no self.

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

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

Both Jaques and Touchstone satirize the extravagant claims of love; but their points of view should not be confused. What Jaques says is 'see how absurd is the lover, with his sighs and ballads; for what is he, when his act is past? What a puny figure he cuts in the perspective of history! Does he not swiftly turn into something quite different? Surely his self-importance is misplaced. He is only a stage between schoolboy and soldier. His transports and agonies have no significance. .' What Touchstone says is subtly different: 'What is love but Nature's mechanism for .repeopling the earth? When it comes down to it, sex is what the whole thing amounts to after all. I myself, with all my wit, "press in" among the "country copulatives";31 we are all part of the same natural rhythm, there is no qualitative difference between true lovers and the mating of beasts. The true significance of love is biological; the rest only icing on the cake.' Jaques sees the lover in the perspective of history; Touchstone, against the backdrop of brute nature; Jaques' ultimate reality is death, Touchstone's the natural cycle of reproduction; Jaques questions value, Touchstone's values are materialistic.

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

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

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

Orl: I prithee, who doth he trot withal?

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

Orl: Who ambles Time withal?

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

Orl: Who doth he gallop withal?

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

Orl: Who stays it still withal?

Ros: With lawyers in the vacation; for they sleep between term and term, and they perceive not how Time moves.32

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

With the priest and the rich man the emphasis is different. Time 'ambles' for them because there is little in their lives of excitement, anticipation, or pain: but chiefly because an amble connotes indirection and a sense of 'let time take me where it will'. An ambling horse will stray off the path to munch at choice greenery; the rider does not care where he is going, or at any rate how soon he gets there. We are reminded of Tristram Shandy's method of telling his story.33

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ros: Break an hour's promise in love! He that will divide a minute into a thousand parts, and break but a part of the thousand part of a minute in the affairs of love, it may be said of him that Cupid hath clapp'd him o' th' shoulder, but I'll warrant him heart-whole.34

The true lover is concerned not with measurable and divisible time, but with moments. The punctuality Rosalind insists on can be explained in terms of the etymology of the word. The Latin punctus means 'point'; for 'punctual' Webster gives 'I. of or like point'. The lovers' time is a series of points; a temporal approximation is not good enough. The present moment is not an infinitesimal portion of the minute in which we are (if it were, then Zeno's paradox would have no solution); it is like a point, it has no temporal thickness.

Modern manuals on sex have familiarized us with the virtues of timing in love-making. For Rosalind proper timing is all-important. One wonders whether there is not a pun in 'if you break one jot of your promise, or come one minute behind your hour, I will think you the most pathetical break-promise, and the most hollow lover . . . that may be chosen out of the gross band of the unfaithful'.35 In one of the earliest slang dictionaries in the English language,36 a 'coming-woman' is glossed as a woman who is 'free' of her 'flesh' or a 'breeding woman'. Elsewhere in Shakespeare the pun on 'come' would deepen and extend the meaning.37 Whether or not this reading can be upheld, one of the important features of lovers' time is the idea of temporal appropriateness, of timing, of the significance of one moment as opposed to another.

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

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

And therefore take the present time,
With a hey, and a ho, and a hey nonino,
For love is crowned with the prime,
In the spring time, etc.


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

The enemy and test of lovers' time is 'historical' time. 'Well,' says Rosalind, 'Time is the old justice that examines all such offenders, and let Time try.'39 Teasingly she assumes the attitudes of Jaques or Touchstone in order to wring denials out of Orlando: 'Say "a day" without the "ever". No, no, Orlando; men are April when they woo, December when they are wed: maids are May when they are maids, but the sky changes when they are wives.'40 This echoes Jaques' view in its generalization and assumed 'philosophical' detachment; and Touchstone's in its subordination of love to the natural cycle. True love must ultimately deny both 'historical' and 'natural' time; though it must also find some reconciliation or modus vivendi with them. (The tragedy of Romeo and Juliet is that the reconciliation is not made with 'historical' time, the time of the Montagues and Capulets; and it is snuffed out or smothered by it. The tragedy of Troilus and Cressida and Othello, on the other hand, is that there is a compromise with 'historical' and 'natural' time, and not a true reconciliation. See Chapter 6.)

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

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


The great seasons allow a time for love: nature is not essentially opposed to the spiritual movements of man. This reconciliation is brought about thematically by the use of the idea of musical 'time': the rhythm and temporal order of a song can form a bridge between the great natural rhythms and the smaller human ones. The pages who sing the song indicate its significance: 'We kept time, we lost not our time.'42 Touchstone, who has consistently reduced human significances to subhuman natural drives, cannot accept the musical reconciliation: 'I count it but time lost to hear such a foolish song';43 applying the judgments of expediency to it. 'What use is it? It is only a waste of time.' The verdict of Jaques on Touchstone is that 'Time, the old justice that examines all such offenders', will find him wanting: ' . . . thy loving voyage Is but for two months victuall'd.'44 It is significant that when Hymen characterizes the nature of Touchstone's alliance with Audrey, she uses a seasonal image: 'as the winter to foul weather'.45 But Touchstone has served his purpose. He too is a test, an assay. His function, as his name implies, is to point out true love where it exists, to distinguish gold from base metal.

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

. . . you brides and bridegrooms all,
With measure heap'd in joy, to th' measures fall.


Dancing is one of the ways we ritually reconcile the individual with society. The measures of the dance bring together moderation and joy; social, or 'historical' time is reconciled with individual or 'personal' time. Jaques cannot accept this. Though he recognizes Orlando's 'true faith,'47 he states that he is 'for other than for dancing measures';48 'to see no pastime I'49 he insists—a sentiment almost identical to Touchstone's when he reacts to the 'spring time' song.

Obviously the most important thing about the last scene of As You Like It is its marriages. Helen Gardner, in a penetrating discussion of the difference between comedy and tragedy, declares: "The great symbol of pure comedy is marriage by which the world is renewed, and its endings are always instinct with a sense of fresh beginnings. Its rhythm is the rhythm of the life of mankind, which goes on and renews itself as the life of nature does.'50 Marriage is the reconciliation of the subjective faith, love, and hope of the individual, the objectivity and commonsense of society, and the mighty forces of fertile nature:

You to a love that your true faith doth merit;
You to your land, and love, and great allies;
You to a long and well-deserved bed . . .


Marriage can contain love, a legal contract, and sex in an extra-ordinary harmony. 'Personal', 'historical', and 'natural' time are reconciled in its sacrament, its 'blessed bond':52

Then is there mirth in heaven,
When earthly things made even
Atone together.


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

Other themes in As You Like It which are connected with the theme of time, such as providence, false and true sight, and outward appearance and inner reality, may be better dealt with in the next chapter on Twelfth Night. The marvellous modulation by which Shakespeare makes every play an individual organism, based on its own characteristic symbolic and philosophical structure, may be clearly seen in the comparison of these two 'romantic comedies'.


1 I. i. 40.

2 I. i. 75.

3 I. i. 8.

4 I. i. 73.

5 I. iii. 12 et seq.

6 I. i. 106.

7 I. i. 109

8 II. vii. 112.

9The Magic Mountain, c h. iv, 'Excursus on the the Sense of Time', trans. H. T. Lowe-Porter, New York, 1939.

10As You Like It by Helen Gardner, from More Talking about Shakespeare, ed. John Garrett, 1959.

11 Op. cit. My italics.

12 II vii. 20 et seq.

13 III. ii. 282 et seq.

141 Henry IV, 1. ii. 1.

15 III. ii. 285.

161 Henry IV, I. ii. 5.

17 Ibid., I. ii. 12.

18 'The Dry Salvages', 1. 36.

19 II. v. 1.

20 II. i. 5. I prefer 'but' to 'not' here. There is justification for either, though the Folio has 'not'.

21 II vii. 174.

22 II. vii. 111.

23 II. vi. 5.

24 II. vii. 110.

25 II. i. 59.

26 II. vii. 139 et seq.

27 1957.

28 Indiana U.P., 1968.

29 II vii. 86.

30 In using the word 'subjective' I am not attempting to undermine values and meanings; rather I am emphasizing the importance of subjectivity as a way of perceiving truth, and trying to redefine and revive the stronger senses of the word.

31 V. iv. 54.

32 III. ii. 288 et seq.

33 See William Holtz, 'Time's Chariot and Tristram Shandy ', Michigan Quarterly Review, vol. v. (Summer 1966), pp. 197-203.

34 IV. i. 40 et seq.

35 IV. i. 169. My italics.

36A New Dictionary of the Terms Ancient and Modern of the Canting Crew by 'B. E., Gent', 1690.

37 e.g. Romeo and Juliet, II. iv. 94, Antony and Cleopatra, V. ii. 285, etc.

38 V. iii. 24 et seq.

39 IV. i. 177. The same idea, of time as judge, can be found in The Winter's Tale. See Chapter 8.

40 IV. i. 130 et seq.

41 V. iii. 14 et seq.

42 V. iii. 35.

43 V. iii. 36.

44 V. iv. 186.

45 V. iv. 130.

46 V. iv. 172, 173.

47 V. iv. 182.

48 V. iv. 187.

49 V. iv. 189.

50 Op. cit.

51 V. iv. 182 et seq.

52 V. iv. 136.

53 V. iv. 102 et seq.

Harry Morris (essay date 1975)

SOURCE: "As You Like It: Et in Arcadia Ego," in Shakespeare Quarterly, Vol. XXVI, No. 3, Summer, 1975, pp. 269-75.

[In the following essay, Morris observes the "presence of death" and other "dark ingredients" in As You Like It, and examines Shakespeares treatment of time in the play.]

Some recent commentators have emphasized those features of As You Like It that stand as a healthy corrective to the too-readily, too-often applied adjectives of gay, bright, happy, or golden.1 And yet it takes little critical acumen to remark that Jaques injects a note of melancholy, a forest gloom, into the sunshine glade of Arden, and that Touchstone, as his name warns, holds up measurable quantities of the real world. It now seems clear that it is against the views of Jaques and Touchstone that we must judge those yearned-after serenities in the play, those beatitudes of an Eden that man was believed to have forfeited, of a paradise not yet regained.

What is lacking in these views is an awareness of the degree to which Shakespeare carried the somber counterpoint that underlies the joyous vitality of the world's best garden. True it is that Shakespeare's "mature comedy . . . permits . . . criticism of his ideal world in the very centre of it."2 And true it is that Shakespeare "dares to speak in Arcadia, where one can never grow old, of Time's inevitable processes of maturity and decay."3 But the degree of that decay has not been perceived to go beyond a "description of man's final decrepitude."4 To date, the view we have of As You Like It is a composite of two of the most famous pastoral lyrics of the sixteenth century, themselves correctives to each other, but each, by itself, a half view that Shakespeare is able to avoid in the balanced vision that he brings to As You Like It. I have in mind Marlowe's passionate shepherd who will all pleasures prove on an unending succession of May-mornings, and Ralegh's cautious nymph who knows that "flowers doe fade," youth does not last, love does not regenerate unfailingly, joys have their termination, and age has its need. Ralegh's nymph knows that "Time driues the flocks from field to fold."5 But I would like to go one step further to observe the presence of death in the Forest of Arden.

It is pertinent here to recall that Harold Jenkins, like other writers, substitutes for Arden Arcadia—Shakespeare "dares to speak in Arcadia . . . of Time's . . . decay"6—for I am convinced that Shakespeare made the same substitution, and that it was especially in his mind when he gave to Touchstone his answer to the magical utterance of Rosalind: "Well, this is the Forest of Arden" (Il.iv.l l).7 As her words cast spells about us—spells of shallow rivers, melodious birds, and a thousand fragrant posies—Touchstone, on the instant, sounds the counternote: "Ay, now am I in Arden" (Il.iv.l2). If we exchange Arcadia for Arden and read, "Ay, now am I in Arcadia," there comes to us the echo, the cadence of the translated words et in Arcadia ego.

We are reasonably familiar with shepherds and their Arcadian contentment, but perhaps less versed in the elegiac notes that sound in the motto et in Arcadia ego. Unfortunately, the phrase has not been discovered earlier than the 1620s when the painter Guercino used it in a canvas shown to be a forerunner of Nicolas Poussin's famous painting.8 Shakespeare wrote As You Like It no later than 1600, leaving us with approximately a quarter-century in which we cannot prove the existence of the phrase. But for the words to find such ready employment in the sister art of painting as a piece of tombstone verse argues an earlier existence. At least we may hypothesize that many a tomb now crumbled carried the legend borrowed by both Guercino and Poussin within approximately ten years of each other.9

Present in the Poussin painting are shepherds stopped in their pastoral joys by coming upon the tomb of an earlier inhabitant, an experience that has cast them into somber contemplation; present is the phrase upon the tomb, et in Arcadia ego; and present surmounting that tomb is the memento-mori icon, a skull.10 In the Guercino painting are all these elements plus one lacking in Poussin's: Erwin Panofsky calls our attention to a mouse gnawing the skull the shepherds come upon: "a time-honoured and very well-known symbol for all-devouring time."11

We have, then, in a painting coming some twenty-odd years after the composition of As You Like It, a pastoral setting of great loveliness, peopled by youths of great beauty; the youths may be presumed to be leading idyllic existences, yet they have been brought to a moment of harsh reality by a tomb, a skull, and a symbol of time which tells them that their youth, beauty, and love will not last forever, that underneath the stonepile lies a dead shepherd who was once also in Arcadia. To quote Panofsky, "Death himself . . . stops the shepherds and sets them thinking with the awful warning: 'I hold sway, even in Arcadia.'"12 If we can believe that the memento-mori elements, as put together by Guercino and Poussin, were commonly available before 1623, in fact before 1599, and thereby ready to Shakespeare's hand, we can show a thread that runs through As You Like It enforcing the theme found both in the Italian painting and in the French.

"Ay, now am I in Arden." If in these words of Touchstone we hear echoed et in Arcadia ego and believe death consequently introduced into the pastoral landscape, we should expect to find thereafter the other elements of the Guercino and Poussin paintings: all-devouring time, the memento-mori image, the dead shepherd who once like the others lived in Arcadia, and finally the somber meditation that youth, beauty, and love must fade even as men themselves.

But to find these dark ingredients in As You Like It we must do more than rehearse well-known features of the play such as Jaques's role as a conventional Elizabethan stage-malcontent or as a classic case of the Burtonian melancholic; we must do more than point out the very real enemies to joy, such as the double attempt at fratricide in which Oliver tries to dispatch Orlando and then Duke Frederick marches upon Arden with a host "purposely to take / His brother here and put him to the sword" (V.iv.149-50). We must do more than show that not every Jack has his Jill in this bright, gay comedy which concludes with as many marriages as any play in Shakespeare. It is true, of course, that William does not get his Audrey, Phebe does not get her Ganymede; and I do recount these matters before moving on, for it is an important part of the argument that the et-in-Arcadia-ego theme includes distresses other than death in the lovely garden-world. Unreciprocated love such as William's and Phebe's is one of the chief of these.13

Since Touchstone initiates the death-in-Arcadia motif, it is appropriate that he be the agent of time, and he emerges as the contradiction to Orlando's claim that "There's no clock in the forest" (III. ii. 286-87). Although the "dial" he pulls "from his poke" may not be a clock, it is nevertheless a timepiece that gives the lie direct to all young lovers who would have time stand still in order that their love, youth, and beauty may remain always at the golden moment:

"It is ten o'clock.
Thus we may see . . . . how the world wags.
'Tis but an hour ago since it was nine,
And after one hour more 'twill be eleven;
And so, from hour to hour, we ripe and ripe,
And then, from hour to hour, we rot and rot;
And thereby hangs a tale."

(II. vii. 22-28)

The hours are those of mid-morning, approaching the maturation of the day; in a similar fashion, the lovers are in the morning of their lives, just prior to the high-noon maturation of marriage. But the clock will not stop, not even in Arden; and the real impact, the shock that brings us up short, is not the image of maturation, the riping and riping, but the image of decay, the rotting and rotting. We should begin to envisage the memento-mori image of the skull beneath the rotting flesh.

Jaques, who retells these musings of Touchstone, was so charmed by their wit and wisdom that he "did laugh sans intermission / An hour by his dial" (II. vii. 32-33), joining for once in the prevailing mood of Arden, or Arcadia, joining in the supposedly unbroken joy of the Golden Age. But Jaques records for us also the passing of one more hour, to show that merriment too eats up the minutes that haste man toward decay.

The playwright's concern with time is not limited to these speeches, but may be found throughout the play. The noun time appears on forty-three occasions in As You Like It. Only two other nouns occur more frequently. One of these is, quite significantly, man (80 times); the other noun is Rosalind (71 times). The 43 uses of time do not include such other nouns as hour[s] (18), [o']clock (7), minute (4), day[s] (21), months (1), week (1), and year (11), which are measurements of time and would swell the word-count by 63, for a total of 106.14

Jaques's laughter "sans intermission" provides a word-link (sans) with the next passage at which we need look, a passage which produces an unmistakable memento-mori image: Jaques's seven-ages-of-man speech. Time is the vehicle that carries man to his seventh condition, for "one man in his time plays many parts" (my italics); and time carries man out of his time as well, for Jaques does not end this account with "second childishness":

Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

(II. vii. 162-65)

Glosses on this passage have always indicated that the final line is a description of advanced decrepitude,15 the lack of teeth and taste to be regarded as literal, but the lack of eyes and everything to be regarded as metaphorical. But if we read the line as modifying "mere oblivion" rather than "second childishness," the description may be regarded as literal throughout. Lack of teeth, of taste, of eyes, of everything then presents the charnel-house skull. For clarification, Shakespeare's image may be compared to Skelton's memento-mori lyric, "Upon a Dead Man's Head," where we find

Deth holow eyed,
With synnews wyderyd,
With bonys shyderyd,
With hys worme etyn maw,
And his gastly jaw.


Skelton emphasizes the missing eyes and teeth and gives the general impression that everything else is lacking, including a tongue with which to taste. Shakespeare's image is also like Southwell's:

I often looke upon a face
Most ugly, grisly, bare, and thinne,
I often view the hollow place,
Where eies, and nose, had sometimes bin.'


That Shakespeare was familiar with the memento-mori lyric has been demonstrated,18 and that the memento-mori object, the skull, was much in his work about this time can be shown by reference to the plays which bracket As You Like It. Both parts of Henry IV, completed before As You Like It, contain memento-mori imagery, and both evoke the death's-head at moments when merriment or love-making otherwise dominate the action. In 1 Henry IV, inserted in the general revelry of the Boar's Head Tavern, is Falstaff's ridicule of Bardolph's face: "I make as good use of it as many a man doth of a death's-head or a memento mori. I never see thy face but I think upon hellfire" (III. iii. 27-29). In 2 Henry IV, amidst Falstaff's wheezing loveplay with Doll, she wonders when he will reform, and the fat old ruffian quiets her with "Peace, good Doll! Do not speak like a death's-head. Do not bid me remember mine end" (II. iv. 209-10). On the other side of As You Like It is Hamlet, in which the gravedigger scene may be regarded as an extended dramatic treatment of the memento-mori lyric with at least three skulls produced.19

To this point we have produced the elements of time and decay as well as the memento-mori images that Panofsky has shown to be the ingredients of the et-in-Arcadia-ego theme. It remains to discover the tomb and the dead shepherd who lies under it.

The question of the dead shepherd, because of the treatment accorded it by Panofsky, needs some clarification. Panofsky argues that a dead shepherd under the tombstone "could lead to considerations of almost opposite nature, depressing and melancholy on the one hand, comforting and assuaging on the other" (pp. 239-40). For a person to have lived and died in Arcadia "not only warns the readers of the merciless future, but also opens a vision of the beautiful past in that it evokes the thought of a former fellow being who enjoyed the pleasure of life in the same place and under similar conditions" (p. 239). Panofsky appears to accept a further view that interprets the dead shepherd as saying, "'You, who are now happy, are doomed to die' but also 'I, who am now dead, was happy in my day'" (p. 239). And, somewhat strangely in my view, he concludes, "The very idea of death could fade . . . [so that] 'Even in the jaws of death, there may be Arcadian happiness'" (p. 240).

Panofsky's logic (as well as that of his source, for he takes over these views directly from André Félibien [pp. 237-40], a biographer of Poussin) escapes me. I do not see the dead shepherd under the tomb as different in any way from the skull on top of it: mouldered body like bleached cranium says very simply, "Remember man thou art but dust." It is unnecessary to require the dead shepherd to authenticate the joy and happiness of Arcadia, which is evident in the idyllic surroundings and in the youth, beauty, and love of the shepherds who are alive. For a rotted corpse to proclaim that "Even in . . . death there may be Arcadian happiness" works against the whole purpose of the memento-mori object, which is to put its observer into a frame of mind which we might represent best through Southwell's concluding stanza:

If none can scape deaths dreadfull dart,
If rich and poore his becke obey,
If strong, if wise, if all do smart,
Then I to scape shall have no way.
Oh grant me grace O God that I,
My life may mend sith I must die.


Any suggestion that removal from Arcadia to Paradise is merely a transfer from one perfect place to another, no matter how true that may prove to be, defeats and thwarts the purpose of memento-mori art, which is to turn the mind away from earthly felicity to sober meditation on the possibility exactly opposite: the possibility that the unprepared sinner may find himself transported from pleasant meads to plains of horror.

For Shakespeare, then, to add a dead shepherd to the skull strongly suggests some link between As You Like It and the et-in-Arcadia-ego tradition, for both the skull and the shepherd are parts of the Guercino-Poussin pictorial iconography. And in choice of his dead shepherd, Shakespeare is perfect: "Dead shepherd, now I find thy saw of might, / Who ever lov'd that lov'd not at first sight?" (III. v. 80-81). By quoting from Hero and Leander, Shakespeare glances at Christopher Marlowe. This is a brilliant device, for Marlowe as pastoral poet lived in Arcadia, but Marlowe as murdered poet died in the real world; the playwright from Canterbury ties together all the themes of melancholy in the play. As Marlowe, Shakespeare's "dead shepherd" reminds us that shepherds, poets, and playwrights "all must, / As chimney-sweepers, come to dust." As pastoral poet he reminds us that all golden lads and girls, all famous lovers, rich in youth and beauty, will have only the briefest span of life.

It may still be difficult for some to accept the et-in-Arcadia-ego theme because of the failure of the formula to appear early enough in art, in letters, or on tombstones to provide a source for Shakespeare. But in at least two separate pictorial traditions material in plenty demonstrates the presence of a memento-mori aspect in the Arcadian dirge prior to Shakespeare. As early as 1490-1500 may be found a distinct variation of memento-mori iconography that Horst Janson has called "The Putto with the Death's Head."21 Shown to be in wide imitation throughout the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the Putto with the Death's Head may be described broadly as a pictorial representation that has as its minimum components a childlike figure (the Putto, more often depicted without wings than with them, suggesting a human child rather than a cherub), a memento-mori skull, and an hourglass. Frequently an inscription of horrifying import is present, drawing the viewer into an awareness of the brevity of life and of his own imminent decay. A German woodcut dated guardedly by Janson at about 1520-1530 includes a sarcophagus which might prove intermediary in the development of the Guercino-Poussin scene, for the background of the Putto in this print from Saxony is quite bucolic or Arcadian, and the Putto is presented as unnaturally deep in contemplation just as are the shepherds of the death-in-Arcadia canvases.22

The significance of these materials for As You Like It may be discerned readily in the speeches of Jaques and Touchstone that are central to this essay. In the seven-ages-of-man declension we go from the Putto itself—rendered in Shakespeare's "infant, / . . . in the nurse's arms"—to the skull, Shakespeare's "mere oblivion." From Touchstone's dial we get the all-important infusion of time, dial being Shakespeare's substitution for hourglass. And from the fool's formulaic pronouncement—"from hour to hour, we rot"—we get a variation on all the inscriptions in the pictorial tradition which range from "L 'hora Passa " in the earliest woodcut adduced by Janson through Latin and German inscriptions ("Hodie mihi eras tibi," "Heite mir morgen dir") to relatively complex memento-mori statements such as a 1570 version in an Antwerp print: "Vigilate quia nescitis diem neque horam."23

An interesting addition to the conventional theme is the appearance in some versions of a young man about which Janson says, "Obviously suggested to the Northern mind by the figures of putto, youth and skull was the idea of the Three Ages of Man, childhood, adult age, and death, just as they had been represented since the late fifteenth century."24 Shakespeare's expansion to seven ages ends nevertheless with death, for be it the third age or seventh, the last stage was never construed merely as old age or any part of mortal existence, but rather as that condition of man after death and always represented by the memento-mori skull.

A second pictorial tradition eminently available to Shakespeare was the emblem book. Again, if we cannot accept in As You Like It the full-fledged Arcadian death as it is ultimately manifested in Poussin, we must recognize the minimal memento-mori tradition symbolized by the skull alone. The final print in Geffrey Whitney's A Choice of Emblèmes (1586) displays the skull underpropped by a single large bone. The emblematic tag that surmounts the block—Ex maximo minimum—is Whitney's variation for all the inscriptions that take man through a time sequence all the way to decay. But more to our aid are the verses appended:

Where liuely once, Gods image was expreste,
Wherin, sometime was sacred reason plac'de,
The head, I meane, that is so ritchly bleste,
With sighte, with smell, with hearinge, and with taste.
Lo, no we a skull, both rotten, bare, and drye,
A relike meete in charnell house to lye.


The similarity between Shakespeare's lost teeth, eyes, taste, and everything and Whitney's lost sight, smell, hearing, and taste is clearly that closeness to be found , in two writers in the same tradition, the second of whom engages in those variations that keep him from being a mere copyist. But we should note Whitney's series, each item prefaced by the English preposition with, which is altered in Shakespeare's to the French without.

With the reminders before them all, not only Jaques at play's end but all characters, actors, theatergoers, and readers should think upon last will and testament. "All lovers young, all lovers must / Consign to [death] and come to dust."


1 Note especially Harold Jenkins, "As You Like It, " ShS, 8 (1955), 40-51; and Helen Gardner, "As You Like It, " in More Talking of Shakespeare, ed. John Garrett (London: Longmans, 1959), pp. 17-32.

2 Jenkins, p. 45.

3 Jenkins, p. 49.

4 "As has often been observed . . . the seven ages speech ends with a description of man's final decrepitude—'sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything'" (Jenkins, p. 49). But in using this quotation to illustrate decrepitude Jenkins errs.

5The Poems of Sir Walter Ralegh, ed. Agnes Latham (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1951), pp. 16-17.

6 Jenkins, p. 49.

7 My text for all Shakespeare quotations is the Kittredge/Ribner Complete Works (Waltham, Mass.: Ginn and Co., 1971).

8 Erwin Panofsky, "Et in Arcadia Ego," in Philosophy and History, ed. R. Klibansky and H. J. Paton (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1936), p. 233.

9 See Panofsky, pp. 224, 233, and 236 for the dates of the three canvases under discussion.

10 There are two canvases by Poussin: one is in the Louvre, the other is in the collection of the Duke of Devonshire. Only the Devonshire painting exhibits the skull. The Guercino is in the Corsini Gallery, Rome. For easy reference the three paintings have been reproduced by Panofsky, facing pages 224, 232, and 233.

11 Panofsky, p. 233. See also John Doebler, "The Play Within the Play: the Muscipula Diaboli in Hamlet," SQ, 23 (1972), 166 n.

12 Panofsky, pp. 233-34.

13 See Panofsky, pp. 228-29.

14 These figures come from the Oxford Shakespeare Concordances: As You Like It (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1969).

15 See note 4 above.

16The Poetical Works of John Skelton, ed. Alexander Dyce (London, 1843), I, 18.

17The Poems of Robert Southwell, S. J., ed. J. H. McDonald and Nancy P. Brown (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1967), p. 73. The editors maintain that Southwell is not the author of the poem. See pp. lxxxi-xxxii.

18 Harry Morris, "Hamlet as a memento mori Poem," PMLA, 85 (1970), 1035-40.

19 Morris, p. 1037 and passim.

20 Southwell, p. 74.

21 Horst Janson, "The Putto with the Death's Head," The Art Bulletin, 19 (1937), 423-49.

22 Janson, pp. 434, 438.

23 Janson, pp. 433-45.

24 Janson, p. 443.

25 Geffrey Whitney, A Choice of Emblemes (Leyden, 1586); facsimile edition (Amsterdam: Da Capo Press, 1969), p. 229. Subsequent to the submission of this essay, Anne Barton has called attention to the Poussin paintings in "As You Like It and Twelfth Night: Shakespeare's Sense of an Ending," in Stratford-upon-Avon Studies 14; Shakespearian Comedy (1972), pp. 164-65.

Rawdon Wilson (essay date 1975)

SOURCE: "The Way to Arden: Attitudes Toward Time in As You Like It," in Shakespeare Quarterly, Vol. XXVI, No. 1, Winter, 1975, pp. 16-24.

[In the following essay, Wilson argues that the journey from Duke Frederick's court to the Forest of Arden, represented by a the shift from objective to subjective time, signifies a "shift in attitudes toward change" as well as the characters' abilities to adjust to the pastoral way of life.]

In an essay on As You Like It published in 1940, James Smith argued that Celia's remark at the end of the first act, that Touchstone would "go along o'er the wide world" with her,1 might have had "importance in an earlier version, but in that which has survived Shakespeare is no more concerned with how the characters arrive in Arden—whether under Touchstone's convoy or not—than how they are extricated from it."2 More recently, J. L. Halio has clarified the distinction between "the timelessness of the forest world" and the "time-ridden preoccupations of court and city life" in order to stress the absolute distinction between the two localities.3 Each of these studies, employing markedly different critical methods, lays an obsessive emphasis upon an obvious half-truth: As You Like It contains no mention of the journey from Duke Frederick's court to the Forest of Arden. Each exemplifies a common critical assumption that in As You Like It Shakespeare created a structure of contrast and juxtaposition in which a bare minimum of causal and sequential development is present. The most lucid presentation of this assumption is that advanced by Harold Jenkins in his analysis of the play, but it is implicit in most other studies.4 Thus Harold Toliver's recent discussion of time in Shakespeare's plays, though disagreeing with Halio with respect to the nature of the time associated with Arden, takes for granted that this nonsequential contrast exists.5

I should like to argue that, to the contrary, there is an explicit development in the play from the urban polity of Duke Frederick's court and Oliver's household to the pastoral way of life in the forest of Arden, and that this development is marked by determinable transitional states. It is not, as Smith made clear, a geographical progress, but rather a shift in attitudes toward the characteristics of the public world. The public world may, I think, be equated with the polity, while the world of Arden, if not precisely private, is the condition of several private worlds which, freed from containment, find fulfillment there. Halio demonstrated that the characteristics of the public world are predominantly temporal, but he failed to note that the difference in attitude between the polity and the forest was marked by a real shift and not merely a leap. It is a shift, both gradual and sequential, in two respects. First, it is a shift in attitudes toward change. Second, because change is, in the conceptual referent which may be inferred from the play, the inseparable substratum of time, it is ultimately a shift in attitudes toward time. The importance of time in As You Like It can scarcely be overstated, but change is the first fact of the play's being.

There is more than one concept of time present in As You Like It—which, in dramatic terms, means that there is more than one "time-sense"—and they are not as distinctly opposed, nor as mutually exclusive, as critics have assumed. The first act of the play is pervaded by the concept of time as an objective process in which things come into being and cease. Against this there is a concept of "timelessness," to be sure, but the time-sense of Arden is only partially and misleadingly reducible to it. "Timelessness" here functions largely as an element in the borrowed pastoral tradition and makes its presence felt in the play more as an implicit ideal than as an actuality. Distinct from both of these concepts there is the relativity of time which is not a single concept but rather a series of concepts expressing the specific time-sense of individual characters. It is the interior, private time of individuals which is, primarily, opposed to the objective time of the public world. This, however, is a multiple, not a single or absolute, opposition.

The initial concept of time, as it is found in the play's first act, is essentially the Aristotelian one of time as a "kind of number"6—that is, the measurement of objective change. It is, for example, the notion of time which is operative in Book VII of The Faerie Queene. There, the Titanesse, in pleading her case before Jove, argues that "Time on all doth pray," but Jove (in a plain statement of Aristotelian doctrine) responds:

But, who is it (to me tell)
That Time himselfe doth mouse and still compell
To keepe his course? Is not that namely wee
Which poure that vertue from our heauenly cell,
That moues them all, and makes them changed be?


Although it is not possible here to reconstruct the whole of Aristotle's doctrine concerning time, certain points need to be made since they have a direct bearing upon the present discussion. In the Aristotelian system, time is not simply the measurement of motion, but also the "condition of destruction" in which being emerges into existence and passes away.8 Further, it is, as a "kind of number," contingent upon a knowing mind.9 The internal dialectic of Aristotle's position arises from the constant play between the objectivity of time (as the correlative of motion) and its relativity (as the correlative of a knowing mind). This dialectical balance has, I think, a great deal to do with the concept of time in As You Like It. Touchstone's comments upon the passage of time, as reported by Jaques (II. vii. 20-28), are both a statement of the nature of objective time, as it obtains in the world beyond Arden, and, in their quality of pathos and lament, an indication of his inability to adjust to the forest world. If, and when, the time of Arden is reached, it is through losing the concern for (if not the awareness of) change. Thus, Aristotle's argument that "if nothing but soul, or in soul reason, is qualified to count, there would not be time unless there were soul, but only that of which time is an attribute" is of the utmost importance.10 The subjectivity of time, stressed by later philosophers in the Augustinian tradition, has a firm basis in Aristotle's analysis of time. And As You Like It may be looked upon as presenting, through dramatic concretions, both sets of implications in Aristotle's discussion.11

The sense of objective time in As You Like It gives way to the subjective, or interior, time-sense associated with Arden. This interior time is only partially equivalent to the pastoral concept of "timelessness" as exemplified, say, in the perennial May morning of Marlowe's famous lyric.12 Consciousness of the interiority of time, however disconnected from the awareness of objective change, is not at all a sense of non-time. I should, in fact, like to go one step further and assert that the sense of interior time which becomes possible within Arden, precisely because it is not correlative to objective change, mirrors a state of mind. It can exist, as a particular reflection of consciousness, only when objective change loses its importance and is no longer marked—but it is abundantly real, as minds and thoughts are real. The time-sense in Arden works outward from the mind rather than inward from things which change, and, indeed, finds its chief external show in the mutual obligations of lovers who keep appointments as duties imposed on them by love. Between these two concepts there are transitional stages during which the characteristics of the world of the polity begin to lose significance and those of Arden to gain it. Hence I shall postulate a period of adjustment to Arden. But it is an adjustment which some characters, such as Touchstone and Jaques, never achieve, and others, like Orlando, do but slowly.

This interiority of time in Arden implies that, in comparison with the time-sense of the polity, Arden will appear as timeless and that, within the forest, time will appear as a relative factor, varying from mind to mind. The first judgment is clearly that which the polity makes of Arden, as for example when Charles remarks that the exiled court "fleet the time carelessly" (I. i. 124-25) or when Orlando, bursting peremptorily upon the forest gathering with his mind full of preoccupations belonging to the polity, refers to Duke Senior's court as those who "lose and neglect the creeping hours of time" (IL vii. 112). The apparent relativity of time within Arden has been frequently remarked. Indeed, given Rosalind's observation that "Time travels in divers paces, with divers persons" (III. ii. 226-27), it would be difficult to ignore. H. B. Charlton, for instance, observes that one man's hour "is another man's minute."13 And Toliver has noted how the lovers "all seek different levels and different ways of adjusting to time."14 The shift in attitudes toward time which occurs between the polity and Arden is, then, largely a shift from a public to a private standard of measurement in which the latter becomes possible only through the fading into unimportance of the former.

It is less often noted, at least within the same context, that neither Jaques nor Touchstone perceives time as relative. Touchstone's reported comments upon the passage of time (II. vii. 20-28) and his later statement that he counts it "but time lost" to have heard the song which is, in effect, a description of the nature of interior time in relation to love (V. iii. 17-41) are equally indications of his unbreakable commitment to the public world in which time is the conventional measurement of change. Jaques' reflections on the seven ages of man (II. vii. 139-66) indicate a similar bondage to the world of objective time. The fact that Jaques' speech arises out of Touchstone's and is, actually, the conclusion of the latter's hanging tale underscores the similarity of the bondage which they share. Like Touchstone, Jaques cannot lose his awareness of, and concern for, change. Hence his time-sense quickens only to the public standard of objective measurement. Further, the obsession with objective time is consistent with Jaques' character since, as Smith observed, "time hangs heavy on a sceptic's hands, for whom the world contains nothing that can take it off."15 Jaques is defined, within his dramatic context, solely by his worldly experience—a "nurture" which has cultivated in him a fixed obsession with the sense of public time. Thus, since Jaques is the most articulate spokesman for that sense in Arden, complementing as well as concluding Touchstone's reflections, it is no accident that his speech on time has a complex function in the development of the play's theme.

On one level Jaques' speech is a simple reflection upon the passage of time, since it is within time that the change of growth and degeneration occurs and it is, of course, time which measures this change. Yet, on another level, the distinction between time and change is collapsed and time appears as the source of the objective change (as the Titanesses argues to Jove). Traditionally, the distinction had not been a strictly kept one, but exfoliated into a cluster of associations largely related to the Aristotelian concept of time. Samuel Chew has pointed out the manner in which time was considered, in the Renaissance, to be a source (and not merely a measurement) of change:

George Chapman speaks of the "violent wheels of Time and Fortune" as though they were to be differentiated, as indeed they are, for, properly speaking, Time turns not the Wheel of Fortune upon which kings rise and descend but the Wheel of Life on which revolve the Ages of Man. But the two instruments were easily confused and conflated; and furthermore the Wheel of Life suggests the wheels of a clock.16

Time often appears in Renaissance literature as the agent rather than the yardstick of change, as, for example, in The Shepheardes Calendar or in Shakespeare's sonnets, as well as in As You Like It. This "conflation" of a rigorous philosophical distinction was a part of the Renaissance literary tradition, but it also had its roots in the writings of Aristotle. It is related to the inseparability of a knowing mind from the measurement of motion. Aristotle, at one point, argues that "not only do we measure the movement by time, but also the time by the movement, because they define each other. The time marks the movement, since it is its number, and the movement the time."17 Thus Jaques' speech exemplifies, in a rich and provocative manner, several aspects of the cluster of associations which composed the Renaissance meaning of time.

Jaques' bondage to objective time, like Touchstone's more elementary commitment, is the reason for, as well as the sign of, his failure to adjust to the world of Arden. The central problem, then, would seem to be that of the process through which certain characters do adjust to Arden and substitute an interior time-sense for the sense of public, objective time—the process, that is, which leads to the full significance of such lines as Orlando's that "there's no clock in the forest" (III. ii. 318-19). This is the problem of transitional stages which criticism, allied to the "Jenkinsian" model of a method of contrast and juxtaposition, has neglected.

The first act quickly and clearly establishes the mood of the urban polity. It is, to be sure, on all counts the "working-day world" of objective change, but it is especially a commercial world of exchange and transaction only somewhat less marked than that of The Merchant of Venice. Orlando's initial lines (I. i. 1-27) are strewn with references to types of change and exchange; and some of the same terminology is repeated in Celia's protestation of love to Rosalind in the second scene (I. ii. 17-25). Such words as "bequeathed," "will," "profit," "hired," and "gain" are particularly suggestive of this theme. A second thematic strand is indicated by the sequence of such words as "breed," "unkept," "birth," "stalling," "bred," "feeding," and "growth." This sequence contributes to the very significant theme of nature opposed to nurture which runs through the play—as, in fact, it does in all of Shakespeare's comedies from The Comedy of Errors to The Tempest. It is not a simplistic opposition equatable to the opposition between forest and urban polity. Nature is given an embodiment in the character of Orlando, and nurture finds its expression in the character of Jaques (about whom nothing is learned except what pertains to his education and experience). Hence the dramatic conflict between them goes beyond the clash between "Signior Love" and "Monsieur Melancholy" into a contrast of profound thematic import. When, for instance, Orlando appears as still violently under the sway of the urban polity (IL vii. 87-99), his reference to his "nurture" casts into an ironic relief the little of false nurture that, in fact, contaminates him. Similarly, Jaques' reference to his "humorous sadness" (IV. i. 20) sounds with an ironic twist since it follows straight upon his account of the "many simples" of experience which have gone into making him the malcontent that he is; that is, all the evidence of the play, including Jaques' own account, points to a disposition bred by a certain kind of nurture and not the result of a "humor" or nature. I wish, however, to treat this terminology, in both sequences, as part of the thematic distinction between the awareness of change in the polity and its lack in Arden.

The references to change, and especially mercantile exchange, indicate the degree to which Orlando is dominated by the very polity from which he must escape. Significantly, Orlando's first statement of a willingness to withdraw from the world of the polity is couched in approximately the same language of commercial exchange (I. ii. 194-206) as the speech in which he had lamented his state. The cumulative effect of the references to types of change in the first act is to present the mood of the polity in terms of a kind of bondage to the awareness of change, and, through this awareness, to time. The mood is also created, in part, by the various péripéties connected with the characters introduced in the first act. All the characters (except Le Beau) from the Duke Senior to Charles the wrestler undergo, or have undergone, some change in fortune. Chew has analyzed the intricate interpénétration of the concepts of Fortune, Occasion, and Time in the Renaissance,18 and it would appear that this interpenetration is operative in As You Like It, contributing to the thematic distinction between polity and forest. The changes in Fortune—that "good housewife" about whom Celia and Rosalind argue so lengthily (I. ii. 34-57)—occur in time; that is, they are measurable, or numberable, according to the Aristotelian definition. Even more, perhaps, their very occurrence underscores the passage of time, and the sense that time, as Aristotle noted, is that in which things cease to be. Charles's remark to Oliver that the old Duke and his exiled court "fleet the time" (I. i. 124-25) in Arden serves as a point of contrast to the mood of the first act. It foreshadows Orlando's comment in the second act that the exiled court "lose and neglect the creeping hours of time" (II. vii. 112) and points the way out of the polity toward Arden. And it is pertinent, I think, to note that after Charles's comparison of the life of the exiled court to the "golden world," there follow nine references to the "world" in the first act and, except for Le Beau's "better world," they all refer to the "workingday world" of the polity (as, indeed, does Le Beau's expression by implication). Thus Charles is the first counterweight to the world of the polity, and, though less than a full member perhaps, he suffers his reversal of fortune through his involvement in it.

Once Arden has been presented, with Duke Senior's speech at the beginning of Act II, the case is reversed and the references to the world of change and objective time are always in contrast to the world of Arden. Both Touchstone and Jaques, through their bondage to the world of the polity, contrast to, and force into deep relief, the characters who have adjusted to Arden. Similarly, the return, in Act III, to the polity and the idea of forcible seizure of property (III. i. 16-18) contrasts not only the two dukes but also the two worlds. Further, when Phebe, although a native of Arden, shows that she cannot participate in the forest life through her unwillingness to respond to love, Rosalind, with deliberate irony, applies to her the harsh language of the alien commercial world (II. v. 60). But the most important contrasts between the two worlds are made in terms of Orlando. Unlike Touchstone and Jaques, Orlando does adjust to Arden, but he does not, like Celia, do so immediately. Even Celia's remark, "I like this place, and willingly could / Waste my time in it" (II. iv. 94-95), may only indicate that Celia's adjustment to Arden begins immediately. "Waste" suggests something of the mood of the polity, as well as an implication that Arden presents to her no more than a temporary way-station. In fact, only Rosalind appears to adjust naturally and at once. Her father, of course, expresses his adjustment to Arden in terms of "old custom" (II. i. 2), which clearly implies a period of transition from one world to the other. Orlando, then, contrasts not only to Jaques and Touchstone but also to Rosalind in the manner of his adjustment to Arden. In so doing, Orlando provides a focus for the consideration of the transition which all the characters, except Jaques and Touchstone, implicitly make.

The dialogue between Orlando and Adam in the second act (II. iii) marks one stage in the transition between the two worlds. Adam refers consistently to the transactions of the public world, but his service is grounded in duty—and hence is unspoiled by any merely covetous motive. It is his gold, the product of his "thrifty hire," which is the link between the false gold of the polity and the true gold of Arden. For not merely does Adam's gold allow Orlando to leave the one world for the other, but it shows him the possibility of duty grounded in love. Adam offers the first statement of what is the chief lesson of Arden and, conversely, the chief obstacle to adjustment to that world. This lesson is simply that duty ought to be founded in love, and perhaps nowhere else (certainly not in the legal, political, and economic terrors of the polity) can it have any true basis. When Rosalind chides Orlando for breaking "an hour's promise in love" (IV. i. 44), her point is that love entails obligations, and the failure to keep them must seem proof that the love is only apparent (the offender being still "heartwhole"). The time which Orlando has not kept is scarcely the objective time of the polity, of course, but rather the interior time of the lover's awareness. This interior form of time characterizes the time-sense of Arden.

A further stage in the transition to Arden is reached in Orlando's attack upon the exiled court, which shows both his sense of duty springing from his reciprocated love for Adam and also his almost total domination by the standards of the polity which he has left. When Orlando says, "I thought that all things had been savage here" (II. vii. 107), he shows, as he does in his reiterated use of "desert," that he fails to understand the nature of Arden. Sword drawn, he has charged in among the exiled court very much as Oliver or Duke Frederick might have done; and the gentle answer of the Duke surprises him. Things are neither savage nor desert in Arden; the fact that they are not is, to the polity-ridden newcomer, a cause of wonder. Orlando's expectations, based upon his experience of behavior within the urban polity, are reversed and shattered as, indeed, they must be if he is to acquire the free disposition which is inseparable from the mood of Arden. The lesson of duty based on love which he had learned from Adam had been a step but not the entire course.

The final stage in this transitional development is expressed in Amiens' song at the end of Act II (II. vii. 174-90). This is the stage of pastoral timelessness which Halio, and other critics before him, noted as the chief characteristic of Arden. But it is, as I have argued, misleading to reduce the time-sense of Arden to mere timelessness. The consciousness of time continues but is transferred to the interiority of the mind's apperception. What is lost—precisely that which makes readers think of Arden as timeless—is the concern for change and objective, public time. Duke Senior's remark that in Arden they do not feel the "penalty of Adam" suggests the nature of this loss. It is, at best, a perplexing remark, and the nearly four pages of commentary in the Variorum demonstrate fairly well that it is far from univocal in meaning.19 I think, however, that it can be interpreted, without wrenching the context, as equivalent to feeling the passing of time. The "penalty of Adam" is, presumably, decay within time which, when it is no longer a concern (as it is not in Arden), need not be felt or, in the terms of this essay, perceived. The "seasons' difference" is objective and absolute, but given the attitudes proper to Arden it is not necessary to feel a concern for this change.20 Thus, before Orlando can join the Duke in not feeling the penalty of seasonal change in time, he must lose his commitment to the world of change and time. This is achieved through Rosalind's playful strategem, and the final break in Orlando's weakening subservience to the world of the polity occurs when Rosalind qualifies his observation that "there's no clock in the forest." There is, she points out, a subjective time—the interior time-sense of an aware mind whose only external manifestation is, like all genuine duty (as Adam had shown), an obligation grounded in love. The lover keeps his appointments simply because he is in love, but in this case the external is brought about by the interior compulsion of the mind and not, as in the polity, the other way round. Ultimately, adjustment to Arden means an interior and relative sense of time, but this final stage implies a prior series of steps to be passed through: recognition of love and the duties which it entails, the breaking down of conventional expectations founded upon the experience of everyday court behavior, and a loss of the acute sense of change and public time which characterizes the polity.

There is, then, a way to Arden. It is not, surely, the kind of way which Smith had in mind, marked by dusty highroads, worn boots, and all the common perils of travel. But it is there nonetheless. It is the way of the mind's journey; a mental voyage of discovery which leads to the recognition of self and the importance of feelings. It leads away from property and its appropriate concerns to a new experience of the value of feeling. In some respects it is a process of stripping value from externals, such as property, that might recall the foreshortened voyage of Everyman to the same conclusion. Along the way to Arden, Time becomes not merely the measurement of motion and change, the necessary context of voyaging, but also the symbolic function of each stage of the journey. And, of course, all, save Jaques' return to the world of the polity when occasion allows. No one, I trust, except perhaps a Jan Kott, would find this return from Arcadia ironic. One leaves the play certain that life in the polity will never again be the same—convinced that the lessons of Arden have been real.


1 I. iii. 134, The Complete Works of Shakespeare, ed. Hardin Craig (Glenview, 111.: Scott, Foresman, 1961). All subsequent references will be to this edition and will hereafter be given parenthetically following the citation.

2 James Smith, "As You Like It," Scrutiny, 9 (1940), 19-20.

3 J. L. Halio, "No Clock in The Forest: Time in As You Like It," SEL, 2 (1962), 204.

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

5 Harold Toliver, "Shakespeare And The Abyss of Time," JEGP, 64 (1965), 234-54.

6 Aristotle, Physica, trans. R. P. Hardie and R. K. Gaye, in The Basic Works of Aristotle, ed. Richard McKeon (New York: Random House, 1941), p. 292; hereafter all references will be to Works.

7 VII. vii. 48, in The Poetical Works of Edmund Spenser, ed. H. C. Smith and E. De Sélincourt (London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1950).

8Works, p. 298.

9Works, pp. 298-99.

10Works, p. 299.

11 It should go without saying that I am not suggesting an "Aristotelianism" in Shakespeare. It does seem, however, that, to the degree that it may be inferred, the concept of objective time in As You Like It corresponds to Aristotle's. Probably, the basic notions of Aristotelian physics had as much currency in Renaissance England as they had elsewhere in Europe from the time of Albert the Great—that is, while never incontrovertible, always known. Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Q. 10, art. 4.

12 Halio, p. 197, believes that "timelessness as a con vention of the Pastoral ideal" is the only time-sense attributable to Arden.

13 H. B. Charlton, Shakespearian Comedy (London: Methuen, 1938), p. 294.

14 Toliver, p. 240; cf. Hardin Craig, "Shakespeare and the Here and Now," PMLA, 67 (1952), where an unconvincing claim is made for a general concept of relativity throughout Shakespeare's drama.

15 Smith, p. 14.

16 Samuel Chew, "Time and Fortune," ELH, 6 (1939), 111.

17Works, p. 294.

18 Chew, pp. 103-4.

19 Horace Howard Furness, ed., A New Variorum Edition of Shakespeare: As You Like It (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1918), pp. 61-65.

20 Although Furness sees in the line, "the seasons dif ference," a further proof of his theory of Shakespeare's "two clocks," I think that this does not preclude the possibility that the line also refers to the objective flow of time (Variorum, p. 392). Chew has shown that time was conceived of, by the Renaissance mind, as both continuous—"Time's thievish progress"—and also as pulsating or rhythmical. In the latter case it was associated with the passing of the seasons, the alternation of night and day, the movement of the stars, etc. (Chew, pp. 109-10). Again, Aristotle appears to be the source not only of the relevant distinction but also of its conflation. Thus, Aristotle argues that "as movement can be one and the same again and again, so too can time, e.g., a year or a spring or an autumn" (Works, p. 294) and that "if one and the same motion sometimes recurs, it will be one and the same time, and if not, not" (Works, p. 297). Hence, while not denying the function of the line in the duration of the action or its relation to the "two clocks," I believe that it can be best read as a comment upon the nature of objective time associated with the world beyond Arden.

Further Reading

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Alpers, Paul. "Mode and Genre." In What Is Pastoral? pp. 44-78. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996.

Classifies pastoral as a literary mode and examines the pastoral characteristics of As You Like It.

Calvo, Clara. "In Defence of Celia: Discourse Analysis and Women's Discourse in As You Like It" In Essays and Studies 47 (1994): 91-115.

Argues that Rosalind's centrality to As You Like It has been overblown and demonstrates Celia's significance in the play through an analysis of her linguistic behavior.

Elam, Keir. "As They Did in the Golden World: Romantic Rapture and Semantic Rupture in As You Like It." In Reading the Renaissance: Culture, Poetics and Drama, edited by Jonathan Hart, pp. 163-176. New York: Garland Publishing, 1996.

Asserts that Shakespeare reinvented the pastoral romance mode in As You Like It.

Emck, Katy. "Female Transvestism and Male Self-Fashioning in As You Like It and La vida es sueño." In Reading the Renaissance: Culture, Poetics and Drama, edited by Jonathan Hart, pp. 75-88. New York: Garland Publishing, 1996.

Recounts the similarities between As You Like It and La vida es sueño, contending that Rosalind and Rosaura, as the cross-dressed heroines in control of their own fates, mirror "the needs of their marginalised male counterparts" Orlando and Segismundo.

Faber, M. D. "On Jaques: Psychoanalytic Remarks." In The University Review XXXVI, No. 2 (December 1969): 89-96.

Analyzes Jaques' sarcasm from a psychological perspective, claiming it demonstrates a form of oral aggression.

——. "On Jaques: Psychoanalytic Remarks II." In The University Review XXXVI, No. 3 (March 1970): 179-82.

Offers a psychological analysis of Jaques' "ambivalence toward the human community," suggesting that it stems from his fears of being castrated by his father and "becoming regressively involved" with his mother.

Fendt, Gene. "Resolution, Catharsis, Culture: As You Like It." In Philosophy and Literature 19, No. 2, (October 1995): 248-260.

Examines the various types of resolutions achieved in As You Like It and the different cathartic effects they produce in both the audience and society as a whole.

Grady, Hugh. "Reification and Utopia in As You Like It: Desire and Textuality in the Green World." In Shakespeare's Universal Wolf: Studies in Early Modern Reification, pp. 181-212, New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Contends that As You Like It serves as an example of a bifurcated society, one in which a seemingly Utopian counter-culture is constructed as a response to the reified power of a public state.

Jefferds, Keith N. "Vidüsaka Versus Fool: A Functional Analysis." In Journal of South Asian Literature XVI, No. 1 (Winter, Spring 1981): 61-73.

Discusses the contrasting functions of the Vidüsaka in Sanskrit theater and Touchstone in As You Like It.

Kawachi, Yoshiko. "Transvestism in English and Japanese Theatre: a Comparative Study." In Shakespeare's Universe: Renaissance Ideas and Conventions: Essays in Hounour of W. R. Elton, pp. 108-120. Aldershot, Hants, England: Scolar Press, 1996.

Compares and contrasts the dynamics of transvestism in the English Renaissance, particularly in Shakespeare's As You Like It, and Japanese Kabuki theater traditions.

Mangan, Michael. "As You Like It," in A Preface to Shakespeare's Comedies: 1594-1603, Longman Group Limited, 1996, 202-28.

Explores ideas and meanings in As You Like It that derive "from the discourses of pastoral, satirical and love poetry, as well as stage conventions themselves."

Maurer, Margaret. "Facing the Music in Arden: "Twas I, but Tis Not I.'" In As You Like It from 1600 to the Present: Critical Essays, pp. 475-509. New York: Garland Publishing, 1997.

Discusses two 1763 renderings of As You Like It—Charles Johnson's adaptation entitled Love in a Forest and Alexander Pope's edition of the text—and their impact on later interpretations of the play.

Orkin, Martin. "Touchstone's Swiftness and Sententiousness." In English Language Notes XXVII, No. 1 (September 1989): 42-47.

Analyzes the linguistic factors that contribute to Touchstone's satiric wit.

Stirm, Jan. "'For solace a twinne-like sister': Teaching Themes of Sisterhood in As You Like It and Beyond." In Shakespeare Quarterly 47, No. 4 (Winter 1996): 374-86.

Examines Shakespeare's representation of sisterhood in As You Like It in order to "help us to use the concept of sisterhood in our own teaching, both to introduce texts by women writers and to better understand texts by men."

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As You Like It (Vol. 34)


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