Lois Potter (review date spring 1999)

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SOURCE: Potter, Lois. Review of As You Like It. Shakespeare Quarterly 50, no. 1 (spring 1999): 76-7.

[In the following review of the 1999 Globe Theatre staging of As You Like It directed by Lucy Bailey, Potter praises Anastasia Hille's unconventional Rosalind, but contends that the production as a whole took few interpretive risks.]

Given the focus on prostitution in Dekker and Middleton's The Honest Whore and Middleton's A Mad World, My Masters, the obvious Shakespearean companion piece for Merchant would have been Measure for Measure. As You Like It was probably selected for box-office reasons. Though it offered fewer ideological risks than Merchant, it was even riskier for the audience, because director Lucy Bailey opted for a promenade-type performance with actors in the yard as well as on the stage. Spectators needed streetwise survival skills to leap backward on a surface littered with discarded soda cans, as the wicked Duke's followers strong-armed them out of the way to make room for the wrestling match at ground level. But this was a friendly and satisfying production. The opening, in which a ballad singer supplied much of the background material found in Lodge's Rosalynde while the characters mimed Old Sir Rowland and his three sons, established the atmosphere of a lighthearted adventure story (the play opened shortly before the release in London cinemas of a restored print of Errol Flynn's Adventures of Robin Hood). The characters lived up to this prologue: Jonathan Cole's Oliver was vulnerable and bewildered in his first-act soliloquy, obviously ripe for conversion; so was the wicked duke, who was neither fascist nor sadist; the dignified Duke Senior had the respect of his followers. Both dukes were played by David Rintoul, whose attendants also doubled, and the rapidity with which one group followed another onto the stage focused attention on their quick-change virtuosity rather than, say, the totalitarian nature of the court. Jaques (John McEnery) looked sour but could laugh drily at jokes about himself and needed no explanation of Orlando's suggestion that he should look in the brook to see the drowned fool. David Fielder's Touchstone had a more genial relationship with the groundlings than Magni's Launcelot; Audrey (Sonia Ritter) was sweet-natured if randy. Both seemed concerned for the audience's comfort and even at the curtain call were checking on the well-being of a small boy who nearly got hurt by a piece of debris from the stage.

The one scary element in Arden was, oddly enough, Rosalind herself, in an unusual and fascinating performance by Anastasia Hille, who apparently wanted to turn the play into something more complex, more female-oriented, than its source, or the ballad would allow. When she started to pull down her trousers, on “What shall I do with my doublet and hose?” she seemed anxious to leave no doubt that this was no boy-actor. From then on, the relationship between Orlando and Ganymede was a war between an excitable Rosalind fully aware of the sexual ambiguity of the situation and an Orlando (Paul Hilton) too conventional and unsophisticated not to react with a “yuck” after he and his new pal let themselves get carried away at the end of the mock marriage. Tonia Chauvet, an almost alarmingly forceful Celia, also showed that she had views of her own on the wooing game. Taking her cue from the character's annoyed line “You have simply misused our sex in your love prate,” she let out a whoop of malicious delight when Phebe began her pursuit of Rosalind, obviously seeing it as a well-deserved punishment for the assumed misogyny that had attracted Phebe in the first place. It was surprising when Rosalind, Celia, and even old Adam in the role of Hymen made their final entrance dressed in damp, clinging shifts, and still more surprising when the other actors behaved just as if they had turned up in the usual elegant wedding clothes. The point may have been that the men saw the women only as they wished to see them. But this reading (assuming that I'm right about it) was only a tantalizing possibility in a production that otherwise took the title of the play as a key to its interpretation.

Thomas Kelly (essay date winter 1973)

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SOURCE: Kelly, Thomas. “Shakespeare's Romantic Heroes: Orlando Reconsidered.” Shakespeare Quarterly 24, no. 1 (winter 1973): 12-24.

[In the following essay, Kelly argues that unlike most of Shakespeare's romantic heroes, As You Like It's Orlando possesses considerable self-control and self-awareness.]

The romantic heroes of Shakespeare's comedies have always enjoyed a questionable importance within their own plays. The heroines easily eclipse them and even the fools—Dogberry, Feste, and Bottom—have commonly commanded more attention than the generally innocuous young men. A further irony is that when we do notice one of Shakespeare's romantic heroes it is often for an unheroic trait. Lingering about most of them is a hint of something disagreeable. Several, for example, are at best fickle. Lysander, Bassanio, and Claudio have the excuse of varying degrees of duress, and in their cases the effect is sometimes comic. But what of Demetrius, Proteus, and Bertram? Their cavalier disregard of their vows is generously countenanced by the heroine, but it rarely commends them to their critics.

Furthermore, should the romantic hero remain faithful, he frequently seems adolescent in savoring a sentimental melancholy when his suit is temporarily thwarted. Thus, without denying the manifest differences between the early Valentine and the late Orsino, one can see their essential kinship. When Valentine (in Two Gentlemen of Verona) is informed of his banishment from Milan and Silvia, he responds in high “romantic” fashion:

O, I have fed upon this woe already,
And now excess of it will make me surfeit


and anticipates Orsino's maudlin first speech in Twelfth Night:

If music be the food of love, play on,
Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.


If, on the other hand, the romantic hero is both faithful and mature, his stature may be undercut by a circumstance beyond his control. Catching her first sight of Ferdinand, Miranda is instantly enraptured and declares that she “might call him a thing divine.” But we should measure her exultation and, hence, Ferdinand's attraction by the fact that Miranda's previous experience of young men has been limited to the unlovely Caliban.

The search for more penetrating critical generalizations about this anomalous characterization must focus, however, on two other recurrent features, two failures Shakespeare's romantic heroes commonly exhibit. The first is a failure of control. For reasons about which we can only speculate, Shakespeare chooses in the comedies to let the heroine rule the play.2The Merchant of Venice is typical in the direction Portia gives to each of the story lines. She coaches Bassanio to choose the leaden casket, she provides a refuge at Belmont for Lorenzo and Jessica, she delivers Antonio from the snare set by Shylock, and she engineers the charade of the ring exchange. “Who dares do more,” as Macbeth says in a somewhat different context, “is none.”

A second frequent failure of the romantic hero is one of awareness. Orsino's delicious melancholy springs in large part from a myopic vision, a near-sightedness which prevents his seeing beyond his own desires. The speech with which he answers Viola's veiled profession of love is characteristic:

There is no woman's sides
Can bide the beating of so strong a passion
As love doth give my heart; no woman's heart
So big to hold so much; they lack retention.
Alas, their love may be call'd appetite—
No motion of the liver, but the palate—
That suffer surfeit, cloyment, and revolt.


That we hear the echo of his opening lines and sense the contradiction implicit in his present sentiment is, of course, part of his blindness and half the joke.

The hero's limited awareness is given dramatic form, too, in a number of the comedies. One purpose of the disguises of Julia, Portia, Viola, and Helena (in All's Well That Ends Well) is to dramatize the rigidly circumscribed perception of the young men with whom they are paired. How much a character sees is often a symbol for how much he knows, a fact which goes far to explain why Oberon directs Puck to anoint the eyes of the Athenian youth who has deserted his first love.

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

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

This is patently not the case in As You Like It. Since the play is closer to the design of the earlier comedies, its primary interest is naturally the romance between Orlando and Rosalind. The values of the older generation are important, but they are subsumed under the various attributes of the two lovers. Consequently, to overlook Orlando or to see in him another Valentine, Bassanio, or Claudio is, in a sense, to appreciate only half the play. To characterize him as the least conscious of Shakespeare's unconscious heroes, as one critic has done, is certainly to misread the play.3 But even to patronize him, as is more often the case,4 is to obscure the fact that As You Like It, with its more “serious” and competent hero, is a nexus between the early and the late comedies—and perhaps between the early comedies and the tragedies as well.5 Orlando, in short, is a breed apart. Helen Gardner's observation that “Orlando has to prove that he truly is, as he seems at first sight, the right husband for Rosalind and show himself gentle, courteous, generous and brave, and a match for her in wit” is exceptionally perceptive.6 Another way of putting it is that in Orlando, the romantic hero overcomes his earlier failings: he is, for the first time, a match for the heroine not only in wit but also in awareness and control.

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

In the broadest thematic terms, it is a graphic metaphor for the discord announced by the first lines of the play. “The spirit of my father, which I think is within me, begins to mutiny against this servitude,” Orlando tells Adam (I.i.20), and when Oliver enters Orlando is shortly at his throat. Discord at a higher level, in the state itself, is next disclosed by Charles, the professional wrestler. His reply to Oliver's request for news tells us of the overthrow of the old Duke and of his banishment. For the unruly, not to say chaotic, condition of public and private life in the world of the play, the wrestling match becomes a fitting visual symbol. Viewed from a distance, the movement of the play thus turns from the hurly-burly of the wrestling to the forester's informal march with the carcass of the slain deer, to the ritual harmony of the “dancing measures” with which the play ends.

Yet this only begins to disentangle the meanings worked into the “breaking of ribs” interlude. Because the match between Orlando and Charles occurs late in the act, they are each able to represent various aspects of the play's several themes when they finally meet. For example, by accepting Oliver's false report of Orlando's treachery, Charles becomes an agent, if not a surrogate, for Oliver. “This wrestler,” Oliver says, “shall clear all,” (I.i.154).

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

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

(I.i.114 ff.)

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

(I.ii.14 ff.)

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

Rosalind's other remarks at the wrestling also deserve attention. As surely as Charles is leagued with Oliver, Rosalind leagues herself with Orlando. “The little strength I have, I would it were with you” (I.ii.171), she says. But Oliver and Rosalind are clearly passive participants. For the moment, the stage is the wrestlers' and, after Charles is borne away speechless, Orlando's alone. Later, in a thinly disguised rehearsal for the wedding to come, Rosalind claims her share of the victory by placing a lightly ironic chain around Orlando's neck. “Wear this for me, one out of suits with Fortune,” are her words as she links Nature with Nature's own. How Shakespeare could have done more in one act to give Orlando a place equal in every respect to Rosalind's I find hard to imagine.

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

A more reasonable criterion of Orlando's perception therefore is whether he sees as much or as deeply as the best of the others. His understanding, to be estimable, must rival Rosalind's, not ours. Consequently, it is worth noting several passages which show that his perceptions and hers are admirably alike. Consider, for example, their initial responses to the “green world” of the Forest of Arden. Despite Duke Frederick's imperious threats, the departure of Celia and Rosalind for Arden retains the character of a prank. One is reminded most perhaps of The Merchant of Venice. The distinction between a daughter's manners and her father's,7 the gathering of jewels, and the masquerade all echo the elopement of Lorenzo and Jessica. But Arden, like Prospero's island, is a more subjective paradise than Belmont, a lesson that both Rosalind and Orlando quickly learn from appropriate “counselors.”

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

O Jupiter, how weary are my spirits!
.....I could find it in my heart to disgrace my man's apparel
and to cry like a woman.
.....Well, this is the Forest of Arden.


To quicken her spirits she has to observe and to talk to Corin, the old shepherd who has so thoroughly assimilated Nature's lessons that he cannot utter an unsound word or do an ungenerous deed. His advice to Silvius is compassionate, humble, and wise. Within Rosalind's hearing Corin admits to having been drawn by his fancy into a thousand actions “most ridiculous.” (One thinks, without disapproving, of Orlando's dashing from tree to tree, carving Rosalind's name.)8 Moreover, when Rosalind asks help for the fainting Celia, Corin's instinctive response pointedly affirms the true and permanent value of the pastoral ideal:

Fair sir, I pity her
And wish, for her sake more than for mine own,
My fortunes were more able to relieve her;
But I am shepherd to another man
And do not shear the fleeces that I graze.
My master is of churlish disposition
And little recks to find the way to heaven
By doing deeds of hospitality.


By reason of his absence, there is nothing
That you will feed on; but what is, come see,
And in my voice most welcome shall you be.


Were Touchstone allowed to intrude, he would doubtless observe that one can make but a poor meal of words. It is Celia, however, surely speaking for Rosalind as well as herself, who responds “I like this place and willingly could waste my time in it” (II.iv.86-87).

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

DUKE Senior:
What would you have? Your gentleness shall force
More than your force move us to gentleness.


Sit down and feed, and welcome to our table.


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

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


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

Then but forebear your food a little while,
Whiles, like a doe, I go to find my fawn
And give it food.


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

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

Sir, I am a true labourer; I earn that I eat, get that I wear; owe no man hate, envy no man's happiness; glad of other men's good, content with my harm; and the greatest of my pride is to see my ewes graze and my lambs suck.
That is another simple sin in you: to bring the ewes and the rams together and to offer to get your living by the copulation of cattle; to be bawd to a bell-wether, and to betray a she-lamb of a twelve month [Audrey] to a crooked-pated old cuckoldy ram [himself] out of all reasonable match.

(III.ii.67 ff.) [Italics mine]

The relative awareness of Orlando, Rosalind, Touchstone, and Jaques can also be plotted by analyzing their respective perceptions of another of Arden's defining parameters—time.9 Touchstone's attitude toward time has been accurately understood when we see him as Fortune's timepiece. He does not, however, hold that office alone. Because his famous “And so from hour to hour we ripe and ripe and then from hour to hour we rot and rot” (II.vii.27), is related with approval by Jaques, and because he (Jaques) has his own set speech on time, the moribund Seven Ages, the honor should be shared between them. Touchstone's time, moreover, strongly resembles the Court's time. Like Touchstone, Duke Frederick rules, in a sense, by the clock. When he exiles Rosalind, for example, he leans heavily on temporal terms for force:

DUKE Frederick.
Mistress, dispatch you with your safest haste
And get you from our court!
Me, uncle?
DUKE Frederick.
You, cousin.
Within these ten days if that thou beest found
So near our public court as twenty miles,
Thou diest for it.

(I. iii. 36-40)

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

Within this twelvemonth, or turn thou no more
To seek a living in our territory.

(III. i. 7-8)

Time therefore is inflexible and threatening for the Court, as for the realist and the cynic. Like Fortune's wheel, its movement is inexorable and destructive. It is a primary source of limitation. In another context, it would be tragic:10 it leads forth death.

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

Second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything

(II. vii. 164-165)

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

Alas the day! what shall I do with my doublet and hose? What did he when thou saw'st him? What said he? How looked he? Wherein went he? What makes he here? Did he ask for me? Where remains he? How parted he with the? and when shalt thou see him again? Answer me in one word.

(III. ii. 208 ff.)

Orlando's entrance a moment later unquestionably increases her girlish excitement. His parody of courtly manners as he takes his leave of Jaques (“I do desire we may be better strangers”) and his defense of Rosalind (“There was no thought of pleasing you when she was christened”) prompt even the cynic to grant Orlando's “nimble wit.” And when Jaques invites him to join in railing against the world, Orlando answers, “I will chide no breather in the world but myself, against whom I know most faults” (III. ii. 267). It is an answer steeped in the humility of self-knowledge. If it is also obtruded somewhat heavy-handedly into a satiric scene, it is nonetheless irrefutable evidence that Orlando is, indeed, an exceptional romantic hero.

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

The worst fault you have is to be in love.
'Tis a fault I will not change for your best virtue.

(III. ii. 269-70)

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

Because so much more than a statement of Arden's comic time is accomplished in the second encounter between Orlando and “Ganymede,” it would perhaps be wise to approach the scene more broadly, noting Orlando's superiority within the context of his and Rosalind's total achievement. That achievement, one might begin by noticing, is partly the product of the action which surrounds it. The first encounter takes place at the end of the longest scene in the play and gains, as I have intimated, from what precedes it. Following it is a scene between Audrey and Touchstone. The scene between Silvius and Phoebe, which follows next, precedes in turn the second and principal encounter between Rosalind and Orlando. The principle of juxtaposition is important, of course, throughout As You Like It.11 Once the action has moved to the Forest of Arden, however, the ideas which are juxtaposed are not always the narrow dichotomies of Court versus country, Fortune versus Nature. The hierarchy represented by the three pairs of lovers, for example, can hardly continue the contrast between Court and country since only one of the number, Touchstone, can be taken in any sense as a courtier.

Yet there is a thematic element common to them all. One ambitious suggestion is that the second and deeper theme is “the relation of love and wisdom.”12 A less abstract, and perhaps mort defensible, way of putting it might be that the second theme is the definition of wisdom as comic flexibility. Rigidity, like limitation and Fate, denies life. In Arden, where perception is the index of character, the ability to recognize multiple levels of experience is salutary. It is superseded, in fact, only by the ability to move at will between various levels, to realize in practice several modes of experience without being locked in the iron embrace of any one. This, I submit, is the profound truth which determines our preference for Rosalind and Orlando. The fleshbound life of a Touchstone and Audrey, we see, is as much a dead end as the fossilized conventional ideal of a Silvius and Phoebe. By achieving a fluid synthesis between these frozen poles, Orlando and Rosalind infuse life with a comic warmth in which we can bask with profit.

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

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

I would not have my right Rosalind of this mind, for I protest her frown might kill me

(IV. i. 93)

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

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

(IV. i. 127 ff.)

The body of external evidence which supports the feeling that while Ganymede is playing “Rosalind” Orlando is playing “Orlando,” is not inconsiderable. Perhaps the clearest sign of the distance which separates the two Orlando's is his pointed failure to dress as becomes his assumed part. The marks of the conventional prisoner of love are “a lean cheek … a beard neglected … sleeve unbottoned … shoe untied, and everything … demonstrating a careless desolation.” But, says Rosalind to Orlando, “You are no such man: you are rather point-device in your accoustrements, as loving yourself, than seeming the lover of any other” (III. ii. 357 ff.).

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

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

… if you break one jot of your promise or come one minute behind your hour, I will think you the most pathetical break-promise, and the most hollow lover. … Therefore beware my censure and keep your promise.

(IV.i.164 ff.)

Orlando's rejoinder, “With no less religion than if thou wert indeed my Rosalind,” is as steeped in irony as any line spoken by Rosalind. On the level of the private play in which Orlando and Rosalind have been engaged, the vow is securely within the courtly convention. (We may remember Silvius protesting, “So holy and so perfect is my love, and I in such a poverty of grace. …”) The ironic coloring—the strength of the vow depends on a fact which Orlando does not know to be true—complicates, but does not subvert, the convention. If, on the other hand, the speaker is the Orlando who overthrew Charles and who fed Adam, the vow is a useful means of demonstrating where Orlando's values lie. Since, in effect, Orlando fails to keep his hour when he elects to save Oliver from the “sucked and hungry lioness,”13 we must either applaud his breach of romantic faith or, much better, see that conventional romanticism as a momentary role.

A final sign that Orlando has consciously adopted a momentary role deserves special attention. The decision to bring down the curtain on the masquerade within Arden is, not without reason, given to Orlando. His “I can live no longer by thinking” (V.ii.48) is the cue for Ganymede's metamorphosis, but it is also a reminder of Orlando's initiative. Moreover, it shows that Orlando knows what Shakespeare never forgets, namely, that Arden, like the theater itself, is only a means to an end. It is misleading, therefore, to think of As You Like It as a test of Orlando. From the moment he triumphs over Charles, Orlando establishes himself as a romantic hero of a new stamp. The succeeding scenes may fill in the outline and deepen the colors, but there should never be the least doubt of Orlando's unique stature. Unlike his peers among Shakespeare's romantic heroes, Orlando is self-possessed and possessed of exceptional self-knowledge.


  1. The Complete Works of Shakespeare, ed. Irving Ribner and George Lyman Kittredge (Waltham, Mass., 1971). All quotations from the plays follow this edition.

  2. One suggestion that seems reasonable is Northrop Frye's (The Anatomy of Criticism [Princeton, 1957], p. 183): “In the rituals and myths the earth that produces the rebirth is generally a female figure, and the death and revival, or disappearance and withdrawal, of human figures in romantic comedy generally involves the heroine.” Another is Bernard Shaw's in the letter to A. B. Walkley which commonly stands as the preface to Man and Superman: “The Don Juan play, however, is to deal with sexual attraction … and to deal with it in a society in which the serious business of sex is left by men to women. … That the men, to protect themselves against a too aggressive prosecution of the women's business, have set up a feeble romantic convention that the initiative in sex business must always come from the man is true; but the pretense is so shallow that even in the theatre, that last sanctuary of unreality, it imposes only on the inexperienced. In Shakespeare's plays the woman always takes the initiative” (Bernard Shaw: Complete Plays with Prefaces [New York, 1963], III, 495-96). The parallel between Ann Whitefield's cry, “A father, a father for the Superman” and Rosalind's immediate perception of Orlando as her “child's father” is particularly striking in this regard, and either explains or makes ironic Shaw's disdain for AYL.

  3. Bertrand Evans, Shakespeare's Comedies (Oxford, 1960), p. 92.

  4. For example, Harold C. Goddard, The Meaning of Shakespeare, I (Chicago, 1951), 283: “Orlando at his best is thoroughly worthy of the woman he loves, but by and large she sets him in the shade.”

  5. The relation of the comedies in general and AYL in particular to the tragedies is the poorly worked-up theme of James Smith's article on AYL in Scrutiny, IX (June 1940), 9-32. The relation of AYL to the histories is pertinent to John Russell Brown's discussion of the play in Shakespeare and His Comedies (London, 1957), pp. 141-59.

  6. Helen Gardner, “As You Like It,” reprinted in Discussions of Shakespeare's Romantic Comedy, ed. Herbert Weil, Jr. (Boston, 1966), p. 63.

  7. Compare Le Beau's “Neither his daughter, if we judge by manners” (AYL, I.ii.261) and Jessica's “But though I am a daughter to his blood, I am not to his manners” (Merch. II. iii. 18).

  8. For an atypically generous assessment of Orlando's verse making, see G. K. Hunter, Shakespeare: The Late Comedies (London, 1962), p. 37.

  9. See also Jay L. Halio, “‘No Clock in the Forest’: Time in As You Like It,Studies in English Literature: 1500-1900, II (Spring 1962), 197-207.

  10. For example, Macbeth, where unnatural haste is continually contrasted with natural growth.

  11. See Harold Jenkins, “As You Like It,Shakespeare Survey 8 (Cambridge, 1955), pp. 40-51, for the standard treatment of this notion.

  12. Goddard, p. 282.

  13. Thematically, as John Shaw (“Fortune and Nature in As You Like It,SQ, [Shakespeare Quarterly] VI (1955), 45-50) points out, it is not a question of election. Since Orlando is a figure for Nature, he must aid Oliver: “But kindness … and nature made him give battle to the lioness.”


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As You Like It

As You Like It, a Shakespearean comedy largely adapted from Thomas Lodge's pastoral romance Rosalynde (1590), is generally thought to have been written and first performed sometime between 1598 and 1600. Essentially a light-hearted piece with elements of satire and social criticism derived from its juxtaposition of urban and rural settings, As You Like It remains one of Shakespeare's most frequently performed plays. Its plot centers on Orlando de Boys and his beloved Rosalind, both of whom are separately banished from the corrupt court of Duke Frederick to the idyllic Forest of Arden. In the forest, lovesick Orlando encounters Rosalind while she is disguised as the male page Ganymede. Offering the credulous young nobleman advice on ways to woo his seemingly unattainable love, Rosalind commands the remainder of the play with her charm and wit. As the story progresses, the audience is introduced to the requisite misunderstandings, farcical happenings, and clownish figures, including the melancholy Jaques, foolish Touchstone, and a handful of rustics. The play ends in multiple marriages cleverly orchestrated by Rosalind and the peaceful restoration of the usurped Duke Senior to power.

Critics have traditionally focused on the drama's central figures: Rosalind, who is viewed as one of Shakespeare's most convincing and charismatic female roles, and Orlando. Edward I. Berry (1980) compares the drama's principal character with her source, the title figure in Thomas Lodge's Rosalynde. Contrasting Lodge's completely conventional heroine with Shakespeare's version, Berry observes that Shakespeare crafted his Rosalind into the true protagonist of the work and instilled her with psychological depth, linguistic brilliance, and compelling virtue. Thomas Kelly (1973) concentrates on Orlando, the male lead in As You Like It. After surveying some of the common characteristics of Shakespeare's romantic heroes, noting such qualities as adolescent melancholy and limited self-awareness, Kelly explores the ways in which the developing Orlando supersedes these tropes. Responding to the consensus opinion that Orlando is somewhat of a disappointing match for the inspired Rosalind, Kelly maintains that the young nobleman is possessed of a wit and verve that suitably and fully equal those of his beloved. The play's minor characters have also attracted the attention of contemporary scholars. Agnes Latham (see Further Reading) surveys the drama's comic characters: Jaques, Touchstone, and the pastoral clowns. In Latham's view, Jaques caricatures the sixteenth-century view of human temperaments based on bodily humors, in this case depicting the melancholic man—a hypersensitive but nevertheless insightful individual whom Shakespeare may have drawn from life. Latham argues that Shakespeare developed Touchstone to a lesser degree than Jaques, rendering him as a type—the stage fool—rather than as a fully drawn character. For Latham, Touchstone was likely a dramatic convenience well suited to the skilled comic actors of the late Elizabethan period, and suffers in comparison with Shakespeare's other fools in such works as King Lear and Twelfth Night. Lastly, Latham views the country clowns William, Audrey, and Corin as essentially prop characters who speak rough dialects and perform stereotypical actions that Shakespeare's audiences would have immediately recognized as comical.

In modern performance, As You Like It has enjoyed a reputation as one of Shakespeare's most frequently staged dramas. Featuring a charming central character, a delightful setting, and numerous opportunities to enchant audiences, its theatrical history has been one of considerable success, a trend that has largely continued into the twenty-first century. Reviewing director Lucy Bailey's 1999 production of As You Like It at the Globe Theatre, Lois Potter highlights Anastasia Hille's unconventional Rosalind, admiring her ability to make the most out of the sexual ambiguity of this feminine role that largely takes to the stage in male disguise. Overall, Potter finds the production satisfying, but is disappointed that some of the interpretive risks taken by Hille were not reflected in adjoining performances or in Bailey's relatively traditional direction. Reviewer Ben Brantley attended a 1999 Williamstown Theater Festival staging of As You Like It that featured noted screen star Gwyneth Paltrow as Rosalind. After complimenting an excellent performance by Paltrow, Brantley laments that the remainder of director Barry Edelstein's staging demonstrated more artificiality than imagination. Considering the same production, Charles Isherwood is less impressed with Paltrow's insouciant Rosalind, and suggests that her performance failed to live up to the actress's potential. Isherwood likewise deems Edelstein's interpretation of As You Like It adequate in its comic payoff, but only superficial in plumbing the emotional depths of the drama. D. J. R. Bruckner reviews another 1999 staging of the play, directed by Ray Virta with the Kings County Shakespeare Company, which he finds both visually and emotionally agreeable. According to the critic, strong performances from the leads and ensemble cast, including Jon Fordham's inspired, philosophical Jaques, made for a highly gratifying production. Bruckner attended director Erica Schmidt's 2000 production of As You Like It the following year, and views the comedic and acrobatic staging—with only a six-member cast and numerous textual abridgments—as “a good-humored tribute to Shakespeare.” Joel Henning attended a winning As You Like It directed by David H. Bell in late 2001. A visual delight in Henning's estimation, the staging evoked an imperial Russian court and featured a consistent series of fine individual performances and thoughtful directorial additions.

Critics acknowledge that on its surface As You Like It is thematically concerned with a comic representation of romantic love and with a depiction of corrupted court society set in opposition to pastoral virtue and tranquility. But, as Thomas McFarland (1972) suggests, such easy generic and thematic estimations of the play fail to fully address some of its underlying tensions. For McFarland, the work oscillates between comedy and tragedy. Ostensibly comic, it nevertheless features darker tones, allowing its celebration of pastoral purity, the potential of social renewal, and the wonders of passionate love to be undercut by ironic voices—most notably that of the cynical, melancholic Jaques. Taking an anthropological approach to As You Like It, Susan Baker (1989) offers an interpretation of the work as ritual, suggesting the play's shape is analogous to a rite of passage. In Baker's assessment, the play depicts a process of psychological and symbolic transformation that occurs as its characters move through the liminal space of Arden. Themes of identity and self-knowledge predominate in John R. Ford's 1998 study of As You Like It. According to Ford, Arden is a place of creation and destruction, disguise and dissolution. Ford contends that by entering the forest as exiles, the drama's major characters embark on a period of estrangement that conditions their eventual metamorphosis and return. A. Stuart Daley (1994) emphasizes political issues in the play, analyzing its dramatization of Tudor commonwealth ideology, in which the virtues of reason and temperance combine to regenerate a society corrupted by fraternal strife. Martha Ronk (2001) considers the relationship between the verbal and visual in As You Like It, evaluating the thematic and structural significance of visual metaphor, emblem, and theatricality in the drama. Ronk asserts that the play, which calls attention to its own theatricality, artificiality, and allegorical nature, “is more than an isolated play about lovers in the forest; it embodies a theory of theatrical production.”

Susan Baker (essay date 1989)

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SOURCE: Baker, Susan. “Shakespeare and Ritual: The Example of As You Like It.Upstart Crow 9 (1989): 9-23.

[In the following essay, Baker examines the relationship between ritual and drama in As You Like It, and observes that Shakespeare's depiction of the characters' psychological and symbolic transformation resembles “a generic rite of passage.”]

Old theories die hard. Old evolutionary theories seem not to die at all, at least in the case of those propounded by the Cambridge classicists more than a half-century ago. The emergence of drama from ritual makes a good story, whether one of civilization's triumphing over primitive irrationality or one of drama's energies arising from its origins in primitive vitality. Perhaps sheer narrative charm keeps such notions alive for critics long after most scholars have discarded them for lack of supporting evidence. A recent essay by Richard F. Hardin summarizes the persistence of evolutionary theories and other problems with uses of the term ritual in literary criticism over the past few decades.1 In turn, he commends and recommends attention to the work of more up-to-date anthropologists, particularly Victor Turner. And indeed several important Shakespearean studies draw upon Turner's descriptions of rites of passage.2 Yet I believe we need to rethink altogether the relationships between ritual and drama, particularly Shakespearean drama.

Even the best instances of literary criticism's borrowings from anthropological theories of ritual continue to risk being burdened by the covert premise that as drama imitates life, critics can explain its representations by reference to studies of “real life” phenomena. The assumption persists that drama is somehow validated by our discoveries that it replicates patterns social scientists have identified empirically. Dramatic criticism is in this way doubly distanced: drama itself is predicated, if you will, on life-as-it-is-lived, and criticism of the drama is thus validated by references to studies of “real life,” as if anthropologists were engaged in an endeavor closer to reality than our own. We are still uncomfortable with our painted chairs.

Now that resemblances between ritual and Shakespearean drama are well-documented, it is time to consider possible explanations for these resemblances. Indeed, it is vital to do so, since any explanatory system invites reification and oversimplification. Only by careful attention to the assumptions implicit in comparing drama with ritual can critics avoid making one subservient, making one a pale imitation of the other. Of course, the evolutionary theories prevalent earlier in this century accounted for resemblances by ascribing origins; let us dispose quickly of the genetic argument.

Ritual and drama are related activities. Both manifest the human ability and need to construct symbolic configurations for ordering and organizing experience. More specifically, both present performed symbol systems: public, communal, enacted. The temptation to derive one from the other is nearly irresistible. But logically and temporally, drama would have to be prior to ritual. Certainly, the first performance of any ritual-to-be must be drama rather than ritual because it cannot be repeating anything, a necessary condition for an activity to be called ritual in any rigorous sense of the term. (It cannot simply be called life or random event either, because a clearly demarcated realm of the non-ordinary, non-workingday, is another necessary condition for ritual.) Only on a second performance does a proto-ritual begin to qualify as ritual. So every ritual turns out to be a repetition of an originating drama. This is to say that the existence of any ritual demonstrates the prior existence of drama as a human possibility. If a ritual imitates an originating drama, it must be less “real” than that drama, a step further removed from whatever reality may be. (Turner, in fact, draws upon his understanding of drama to develop his theories of ritual.) In practice, of course, we can simply acknowledge that ritual and drama often tell the same stories, orchestrate the same sorts of experiences. As analogues, then, ritual and drama are mutually illuminating, aside from any assumptions about origins or priorities. To treat ritual and drama as analogues, however, still assumes some justifying connection between them, and I propose the following relationship.

Victor Turner has continued the work begun by Arnold Van Gennep in demonstrating that rituals, like plays, are complex symbolic structures that can be analyzed as such, and that, again like plays, apparently diverse rituals can be shown to share a generic structure.3 Indeed, certain symbols and symbolic manipulations cluster together in widespread rituals with related purposes, much as certain kinds of symbolic configurations insistently recur in various articulations of any given literary genre. Evidently, particular patterns are logically appropriate to particular purposes or concerns—whether those of ritual or art. Given this inevitable connection between pattern and purpose, the striking correspondences between Shakespeare's characters in Arden and neophytes undergoing a rite of passage suggest that a play such as As You Like It shares an underlying motive (in Kenneth Burke's sense) with initiatory rituals.4 Change—in individuals, in their cultures, in their institutions—is a fact of human life. That such change be significant (rather than random) and beneficent (rather than destructive) is surely a deep human desire. Both the fact and the desire are reflected in the symbolic clusters which human beings have developed to commemorate and to facilitate important changes. I suggest that we can posit a “transformative mode” that informs many human activities, including at least some rituals and some works of art—wherever the motive of transformation is central.

I hope to demonstrate that this motive adequately accounts for the remarkable parallels between As You Like It and ritual without resorting to attenuated assumptions about Shakespeare's relation to particular rites and without claiming any necessary historical or genetic relationships between drama and ritual. Moreover, I shall argue that the play itself is transforming, that—like a rite of passage—it engenders as well as imitates transformation. Rites of passage exist primarily for their immediate participants; the central enactors of a ritual are those transformed by it. But plays are performed by actors for audiences. To the extent that a ritual and a play incarnate homologous structures, the role or function played singly by a neophyte, say, is divided between the characters in and the audience of a play. One can therefore expect the audience of As You Like It to be transformed by their experience of the play.5 My purpose here is to define the precise nature of this “transformation” and the artistic strategies that engender it.

As I have suggested, the broadest term for the motive shared by rites of passage and Shakespeare's green-world comedies is transformation. The ritual and artistic assumption seems to be that when something is transformed into something else, there exists a moment betwixt and between, a moment of formlessness, a brief return to undifferentiated—uncategorized—primordial matter. Liminality and the sojourn in the green world, then, symbolically represent and elaborate this moment, largely through the suspension or blurring of customary boundaries. At a lower level of abstraction, preparation for a new role involves shedding qualities and attitudes appropriate to the old and growing those appropriate to the new, with a moment of spiritual and psychological nakedness in between. In practice, whether ritual or dramatic, this shedding is less than total. One temporarily discards old habits of categorical perception in order to reclaim them, sheared of inappropriate accretions, with a refreshed sense of their validity and significance. The process is one of regeneration rather than replacement.

Turner's work on ritual has been so influential that it will be useful here to foreground those aspects that are pertinent to this essay. As noted earlier, Turner, drawing on Van Gennep, describes a generic structure for rites of passage. Such rites include three movements: separation, margin (limen or threshold), aggregation. Turner has concentrated on the liminal phase—an instance, by the way, where the “marginal” is “central.” According to Turner, liminality is constituted as an anti-structural interlude within a necessarily structured social order, this interval of anti-structure can create a sense of communitas (or flow) and allows for a return to a regenerated society (societas).6 His studies provide subtly elaborate descriptions and analyses of both liminality itself and its transforming role in society. One might call Turner the structuralist of anti-structure. For this paper, I will rely on his characterization of liminality as a ritually circumscribed time and place in which a society's customary categories for perceiving and ordering experience are temporarily suspended. Among the boundaries liminality typically denies are those between highborn/lowborn, male/female, human/animal, living/dead.

As numerous critics have noted, the tripartite structure of Shakespeare's green-world plays resembles the generic pattern of rites of passage. The portrayed green world corresponds structurally to ritual's marginal phase, and, indeed, it abounds with instances of blurred distinctions. Both its place and displacing parallel those of liminality. Status reversal, dissolution of hierarchies, (boys playing) girls playing boys (playing girls), mergers of man and beast (most literally in the figure of Bottom), distortions of temporality, even characters who straddle the border between life and death—all are among Shakespeare's favorite images and plot devices. (It is too seldom noted that these and similar categorical disruptions pervade all the plays, not just those with explicit green worlds.) Clearly, liminality—or something very like it—often appears in the plays. I will argue, however, that typically Shakespearean artistic strategies can be called liminal as well; that is, they operate to disrupt the customary categories we bring to the plays and thus create liminal responses in us.

Let us look at As You Like It, a play whose characters obviously undergo liminal experiences. Neophytes undergoing an initiation rite transcend their society's categories, such as those of sex and class. Sex distinctions are blurred so that one may be “treated or symbolically represented as neither or both male and female” (Symbols, p. 98). Consider Rosalind playing Ganymede playing Rosalind. Liminality negates variations in rank and degree; within a group of neophytes, all are equal. In the forest, Duke Senior calls his men “co-mates and brothers in exile” (II. i. 1), and Rosalind—disguised as the shepherd Ganymede—can flippantly tell him that her parentage is as good as his (III. iv. 32-33). (The confusion in I. i., about which girl is the current princess, and about how many princesses there are, may be accidental, but it also foreshadows the casteless society of Arden.) The best emblem of this equality is the litany in Act V:

It is to be all made of sighs and tears; And so am I for Phebe.
And I for Ganymede.
And I for Rosalind.
And I for no woman.


And so on. Here the individuality of the characters is masked by the similarity of their speeches. Moreover, liminality also denies the boundaries of life and death; neophytes are symbolically represented as neither living nor dead, or both living and dead. Even this most extreme blurring of categories is echoed in As You Like It: several of the characters exist, as it were, on the border between life and death, since they are under sentence of death should they return to the court. Moreover, Rosalind tells Orlando to “die by attorney” (IV.i.85), which would be both to die and not to die.

Turner points out that “people can ‘be themselves,’ it is often said, when they are not acting institutionalized roles” (Symbols, p. 107). So, too, the merging and blurring of categories in Arden, the suspension of society's fixed and rigid roles, can be seen as propaedeutic to the self-discovery that takes place there, especially for Rosalind. But, at least in some primitive societies that perform elaborate initiation rites, the “arcane knowledge or gnosis obtained in the liminal period is felt to change the inmost nature of the neophyte. … It is not a mere acquisition of knowledge, but a change in being” (Symbols, p. 102). Such a profound change occurs in both Duke Frederick and Oliver when they come into the green world, and Oliver can say of the man rescued by Orlando, “'Twas I; but 'tis not I” (IV.iii.136). The sojourn in Arden does function as an initiation for the courtly characters. When they leave Arden, their lives in “this working-day world” will begin again, but their social roles will be new ones. So it is not surprising to find the playwright creating patterns similar to those which otherwise diverse cultures use in their rites of passage. The play, after all, culminates in multiple marriages: Rosalind and Orlando's chances for a sane and joyful married life have been enhanced by what they have experienced in the Forest; Oliver's conversion has made him worthy of Celia; Touchstone has chosen a sacramentally sanctioned wedding with Audrey, who will change her social as well as her marital status (though one may wonder whether she has been adequately prepared for her new role). Duke Senior resumes rather than assumes the role of ruler, and in the final scene he steps out from the crowd of spectators to certify the other characters' futures and authorize the beginning of the marriage ceremony. Although there is no reason to doubt that he (unlike Prospero) was a good ruler before his exile, there exists a suggestion that his stay with his “co-mates” in Arden, with its “sermons in stone,” has taught him something of what Lear learns in anguish on the storm-beaten heath.

As a mythic and metaphoric rendering of a psychological process, the green world is a realm isolated from a surrounding “working-day world,” in which a person may sojourn for a limited time, freed from many constraints of his usual environment. The green world has its own trials (more often tests than hardships), but they function to provide an examination, a clarification, and sometimes an alteration of qualities so as to prepare one for return to the everyday world. The psychological matrix of the green world can be called liminal, partly because of its marginal and transitional status, but more importantly because it operates through dislocation, disorientation, and disruption of customary structures to create refreshed, revitalized, and regenerated perceptions of reality.

As manifestations of the human propensity for symbolic activity, ritual and drama share motives and symbols appropriate to those motives. But ritual and drama differ in their primary targets. The neophyte is the object of a rite of passage, the one whose transformation is its immediate purpose.7 Although As You Like It portrays characters undergoing a ritually educational transformation, the play exists not for them but for the audience. I have outlined the ways As You Like It presents characters whose experience resembles ritual in structure; I would now like to turn to the related issue of how the play's strategies create a similar experience for its audience.

In As You Like It, Shakespeare both presents and represents liminal experience. We are separated from our everyday lives when we enter the theater (whether the actual one of performance or the imaginative one of reading a play), and we return to those lives when the play is finished. For the audience, then, the entire play can be a liminal occasion. Responding to As You Like It, we share vicariously the characters' experiences; their liminality becomes ours. Equally important, however, the play's strategies—including its details of language, its treatment of metaphoric conventions, and its attitude toward its own genre—work to interrupt the audience's unconsidered categorical habits. In this sense, one can appropriately call Shakespeare's strategies and the play's effects liminal.

The minimal signifying unit of a Shakespearean script is the single word, so it is logical enough to begin this discussion of categorical disruption by examining Shakespeare's treatment of specific words. Words, of course, designate categories of phenomena, and thus to disrupt connection between signifier and signified is to suspend a word's categorical force, to frustrate its referentiality. As Sigurd Burckhardt argues, “the nature and primary function of the most important poetic devices—especially rhyme, meter, and metaphor—is the release of words in some measure from their bondage to meaning.”8 This divestive process can be seen as a movement away from a conceptual, intellectual response and toward a more physiological perception of sound as sonic, recurrent and rhythmic. For example, a single word repeated again and again—keep, keep, keep, keep, keep, keep, keep, keep—loses its referential meaning, and becomes only a collection of phonemes. (Psychologists have called this referential stripping by repetition the “banana effect.”) This estrangement of words from their ordinary, prosaic signifying function leads us to surrender—temporarily—our customary attachments to thematically foregrounded words. Brief examples from As You Like It should suffice to confirm Shakespeare's divestive or liminal use of poetic techniques.

In the opening scene, Orlando continually plays on words, yet this wordplay is not very funny. Rather, his punning responses reveal his obsession:

My brother Jaques he keeps at school, and report speaks goldenly of his profit. For my part, he keeps me rustically at home or, to speak more properly, stays me here at home unkept: for call you that keeping for a gentleman of my birth that differs not from the stalling of an ox?9

(I. i. 4-9)

Each additional inflection of the word keep moves toward increasingly precise definition; but at the same time, the forms of keep begin to lose their particular meanings as they become primarily vehicles for Orlando's anger and frustration. The obverse of this process can be seen when Oliver asks Orlando, “Now, sir, what make you here?” (a sentence in which the individual words carry about as much content as those in our “How do you do?”). Orlando replies, “Nothing. I am not taught to make anything” (I. i. 26-27). Here, Orlando jolts the formulaic make into a concrete meaning relevant to his unhappy situation. Although these two strategies of punning might seem to work in opposite directions—one divesting meaning, the other investing it—both serve to increase our awareness of words qua words, to remind us how fragile the link between signifier and signified can be. No longer secure in categorical referentiality, we must attend to the categorizing medium itself.10

If punning is the characteristic dissociative device of the first scene, repetition predominates in the second. For example:

Nay, now thou goest from Fortune's office to Nature's. Fortune reigns in gifts of the world, not in the lineaments of Nature.
Enter [Touchstone] the Clown.
No; when Nature hath made a fair creature, may she not by Fortune fall into the fire? Though Nature hath given us wit to flout at Fortune, hath not Fortune sent in this fool to cut off the argument?
Indeed, there is Fortune too hard for Nature when Fortune makes Nature's natural the cutter-off of Nature's wit.
Peradventure this is not Fortune's work neither, but Nature's, who perceiveth our natural wits too dull to reason of such goddesses and hath sent this natural for our whetstone of the wits.

(I. ii. 38-52; italics mine)

This dizzying repartee, as it rings a series of changes on Fortune and Nature, is a sophisticated version of the banana effect; by the time Touchstone interrupts, we have become (not quite consciously) detached from our immediate associations with these two key words. This temporary stripping of meaning from Fortune and Nature would seem to free us to absorb the delicate calibrations these terms undergo through the play. They will not remain referentially empty for long, but as the phonemes again attract significance in our minds, we are likely to be alert to the intractable complexity of the conceptual bundles they strive to subsume under two categorical names.

While pertinent to the play's themes, many of the memorable scenes in As You Like It are irrelevant to the plot. The recurrent pattern is to show the characters confronting incongruities in customary modes of structuring and categorizing experience. (Much of the play's lighthearted humor derives from the audience's being alerted to these incongruities, but the cumulative effect may be called liminal.) Sometimes the inadequacies of conventional categories or structures are addressed directly, as in Touchstone's and Corin's exchange on the relative merits of court and country (III. ii. 11-81) or in Rosalind's disquisition on the relativity of perceptions of time (III. ii. 293-316). Sometimes a customary structure is persuasively outlined, only to be undercut; numerous critics have noted this technique when Jaques' speech cataloging the seven ages of man is followed by the entrance of Orlando bearing Adam on his back. And sometimes sheer exaggeration points up a confusion in categories: when Jaques anthropomorphizes imaginary deer or Touchstone accuses Corin of playing bawd to his sheep, they blur our habitual boundary between animal and human as categories of being.

While these and similar incidents participate in the play's determined juggling of customary categories, more central are the episodes in which the characters confront and expose conventional modes of thinking and talking about romantic love—the sojourn in Arden is, after all, a prelude to the several marriages. Not surprisingly in this consciously artful play, the scrutinized attitudes toward romantic love are those represented by literary metaphors, and Shakespeare makes us consider the nature of those metaphors.

The ability to think metaphorically is humanly useful as well as pleasurable. To reify metaphors, however, to invest them with an independent ontological status, is always limiting, and sometimes dangerously stultifying. As Rosalie Colie has shown, artists can reawaken us to the metaphorical nature of a given figure or convention by creating personae who treat it literally. This technique, which Colie calls unmetaphoring, “makes us reconsider the function of figurative language, of the idioms developed to answer to needs of communication, of attempts to contain and to transcend different categories of experience.”11 Clearly, the process of unmetaphoring in art resembles that of disrupting categories in liminality. Both categories and metaphors link entities that share one or more qualities but differ in others. Both mental constructs emphasize similarities, but processes like unmetaphoring in art and categorical disruption in liminality create an awareness of difference, of those points where correspondence ceases. Thus, when we reaffirm likenesses in a return to metaphor and category—we cannot live sanely without them—it is with a refreshed sense of resemblances. (Sometimes, of course, such significant dissimilarities are exposed that a customary association must be discarded or redefined.) Both these processes potentially modify, clarify, and regenerate modes of thinking.

A typical unmetaphoring occurs when Rosalind deliberately misinterprets Phebe's painfully conventional letter to Ganymede, taking it literally and thus exposing the folly of treating the highly stylized Petrarchan idiom as if it were a literal model for lovers rather than a very elaborate, very conventional sequence of metaphors. Similarly, Rosalind treats Petrarchan conventions quite literally when she pretends to disbelieve Orlando. She claims he bears none of the marks which distinguish one in love:

Then your hose should be ungartered, your bonnet unbanded, your sleeve unbuttoned, your shoe untied, and everything about you demonstrating a careless desolation. But you are no such man; you are rather point-device in your accouterments, as loving yourself than seeming the lover of any other.

(III. ii. 357-62)

Rosalind's playful exercise in measuring Orlando's love according to traditional attributes leads her to assert that he is not in love. Since we (and Rosalind) know that Orlando does indeed love her, the conventions which lead to a denial that his love exists are called into question. Even by Ganymede's standards, however, Rosalind's feigned disbelief is unfair to Orlando. He may not look like a Petrarchan lover, but he does his best to act like one. In fact, we believe that Orlando is in love largely because Shakespeare has him behave in ways conventional to the category of literary or stage lover: Orlando is tongue-tied around Rosalind, but talks obsessively about her with Ganymede; he writes inept sentimental poems and hangs them on trees; in his own way he pines for Rosalind, feeling bittersweet about his reformed brother's happiness in love because it intensifies his own disappointment. The playwright on one hand is using the artistic shorthand of conventions to denote Orlando's love to the audience, while on the other he is forcing us to question and reconsider a whole set of these same conventions. This complex mingling of perspectives finally encourages us not to reject the traditional languages of love, but rather to perceive their status as metaphors. In this quite typical instance, the attempt to define one-who-loves according to appearance fails, but in recognizing this inadequacy we are reawakened to the metaphoric process by which disorder in dress comes to represent the unsettling, disorienting, disordering effects of love. The worn-out metaphor is only temporarily disclaimed so that it can take on a new vitality. It is not so much Petrarchism that is subverted here, but rather our thoughtless response to it.

Petrarchism represents only one set of conventional poses challenged in As You Like It. Rosalind's “die by attorney” speech depends upon Ganymede's treatment of myths—metaphoric embodiments of psychological states—as if they provided naturalistic tales of “real” people. The effect of “Men have died from time to time and worms have eaten them, but not for love” (IV. i. 96-98) is much less cynical in context than one might expect. Ganymede responds from a realistic point of view to the stories of Troilus and Leander, but the literal-minded insistence that men do not die for love surely reminds us that these old stories are mythic and metaphoric. Only a powerful force demands so extravagant a metaphor as this.

Touchstone, too, sounds cynical, and indeed his reminiscences of Jane Smile effectively deflate Silvius' overblown love rhetoric (II. iv. 20-51). But the clown's condescension toward Audrey is as exaggerated as the hero's idolizing of Rosalind; a deliberate degrading of one's love and one's beloved involves as conventional a pose as the exaltation of them. Touchstone's repeated equations of men and beasts evoke thoroughly traditional metaphors for the physical side of love. Moreover, his statements about love and marriage are belied by his actions—he enters a binding marriage with Audrey even though she apparently would settle for a few words from the hedge priest. Clearly, this fact undercuts the attitudes the clown expresses. Touchstone's metaphors are no more, and no less, valid than Orlando's. And both are subject to liminal suspension.

Given all that I have said so far, it should not be surprising that the sharpest challenge in the play is to its own generic base. The outlines of As You Like It's interrogation of pastoral are too well-known to need reiteration here, but a brief sketch of the play's self-reflexive pastoralism will be useful in considering what happens when the audience is urged to attend consciously to this complex of conventions.12 As the play unmetaphors pastoral and blurs the boundaries between orders of experience, the effect on the audience is liminal.

First of all, the opening scene of the play immediately prepares the audience for a fairy tale; Shakespeare certifies and reinforces this reaction by having Celia echo the audience's feelings: “I could match this beginning with an old tale” (I. ii. 107). We know at once that this play will present a second world that will not even pretend to be a naturalistic imitation. The dramatist can begin to call our attention to the metaphoric nature of poetic traditions simply by placing before us characters who, played by flesh and blood actors, become literal embodiments of conventional figures carrying out conventional roles. (Think of Silvius and Phebe, for example.) By presenting an enacted world of the court juxtaposed against an enacted world of the forest, the dramatist can “set the stage” for challenging pastoral conventions. Moreover, editors since the eighteenth century, cued by the play's words, have set the first scene of As You Like It in an orchard or garden and the second outdoors on the palace grounds. The entire second world that is this play can be seen as a green world; here, what Frye would call the “red and white world of history” is itself set within a fairy-tale green world.

Within the play's second world (i.e., Arden) Shakespeare juxtaposes several kinds of rustics. The courtly figures are visitors in the Forest of Arden; their actions and reactions call various pastoral assumptions into question. For example, the Duke's awareness that he and his men are essentially intruders who kill the native deer points up the anthropocentric obsession of most pastoral inflections, as does Touchstone's foolery about Corin's playing bawd to his sheep. Jaques' anthropomorphizing of the weeping deer is especially amusing if we recall the tradition of the pastoral elegy. When Corin asks Touchstone how he likes a shepherd's life, the clown's answer specifically encourages the audience to question the usual valuations assigned court and country in pastoral:

In respect that it is solitary, I like it very well; but in respect that it is private, it is a very vile life. Now in respect it is in the fields, it pleaseth me well; but in respect it is not in the court, it is tedious. As it is a spare life, look you, it fits my humor well; but as there is no more plenty in it, it goes much against my stomach.

(III. ii. 11-20)

This passage humorously points to the double-edged nature of the idealized pastoral sojourn. And the play forestalls any easy conclusions about the pastoral world by presenting multiple kinds of shepherds: Rosalind and Celia, who pretend to be a shepherd and his sister; Silvius and Phebe, who are entirely artificial, literary pastoral lovers; Corin, who has been described as “the only shepherd who knows anything about sheep”13 and as the traditional wise shepherd of the moral eclogue.14 Corin does seem a “realistic” counterpoint to Silvius—but only until we see William. Poor dull William must be the most “realistic” character in the play; his answers to Touchstone are roughly as interesting as most everyday conversations would be if reproduced on stage. And they reveal Corin for what he is—a convincing dramatic representation of a shepherd. Indeed, the juxtaposition of Corin and William enlivens our perceptions of the moral eclogue's conventional nature much as Silvius and Phebe alert us to the metaphorical status of the love eclogue.

While I have sketched only a brief outline of the devices by which Shakespeare sharpens his audience's perceptions of pastoral conventions, it should be sufficient to indicate the degree to which the play calls attention to its fictive status and disrupts our conventional perceptions of its conventions. All of Shakespeare's plays contain self-reflexive moments, but in experiencing As You Like It (and other green world plays), we are continually moved not just between fictive and actual worlds, but among multiple fictive worlds as well. The effect of this giddy disorienting is essentially liminal in that it disrupts our customary perceptions of the boundaries between categories of existence, encourages us to reconsider these perceptions, boundaries, and categories, and finally reaffirms them in Rosalind's epilogue which expels us from the green world and situates us firmly as theatergoers. We return to the working-day world, taking with us a refreshed sense of the reality of art.

My argument, then, is that As You Like It resembles a generic rite of passage because both are informed by the motive of transformation. The play's shape is analogous to that of all rites of passage, moving its characters into and out of a liminal-like green world. Moreover, the play becomes such a green world for its audience, which shares the experiences of the characters and undergoes distinct but analogous experiences of its own.

While the play's strategies are illuminated by this comparison with rites of passage, it is vital to remember that As You Like It is drama; it is neither ritual nor derived from ritual. So it seems appropriate to conclude by identifying some crucial differences between ritual and dramatic articulations of the transformative mode. During the liminal phase of a rite of passage, the neophyte's customary categories for perceiving reality are disrupted, clarified, and reclaimed. Shakespeare's characters undergo an analogous process in Arden, and indeed their conventional perceptions of romantic love are challenged and reaffirmed. Shakespeare's audience, however, while experiencing vicariously the transformation of the characters, experiences in addition a disruption and ultimate sharpening of its perceptions about the nature of art's metaphoric relationship to experience. Moreover, for neophytes the most important rituals are obligatory, one-time occurrences; they need not understand a ritual's significance for it to effect its primary purpose of marking transition. So too with Shakespeare's characters in As You Like It: they learn by going where they have to go; the transformed characters must leave Arden; Audrey will be as officially married as Rosalind. Shakespeare's audience, however, must choose to experience the play, may choose to return to it time and again, and will discover with each increase in understanding a corresponding increase in enjoyment. Unlike a tribal neophyte or a fictive character, we can invoke this green world at will; its power to transform us is never exhausted, but rather is enhanced each time that we surrender to it.


  1. PMLA, 98 (1983), 846-62.

  2. C. L. Barber suggests that “Shakespeare's mature plays show people in passage from one stage of life to another, succeeding in comedies, failing in tragedies.” “The Family in Shakespeare's Development,” in Representing Shakespeare: New Psychoanalytic Essays, Murray M. Schwartz and Coppelia Kahn, eds., (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1980), p. 197. Three major studies draw directly on Turner. In Coming of Age in Shakespeare (London and New York: Methuen, 1981), Marjorie Garber details the presentation of characters at moments of passage. Edward Berry relates the prevalence of such moments in Shakespeare's plays to family practices in Renaissance England, Shakespeare's Comic Rites (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1984). And David Bevington stresses the disruption of hierarchy during liminality, Action is Eloquence: Shakespeare's Language of Gesture (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press, 1984).

  3. The Forest of Symbols: Aspects of Ndembu Ritual (Ithaca and London: Cornell Univ. Press, 1967); hereafter, citations will be given in the text. I find Turner's early work on the symbology of ritual more directly relevant to literature than his later work which emphasizes effects of ritual on the community. That is, I am more interested in the parallel ways ritual and drama manipulate symbols than in the ways drama can imitate ritual-like experience.

  4. I am using motive in Burke's sense, where it implies a complete symbolic situation (act, scene, agent, agency, purpose) assumed to be recognizable in a literary work, although not necessarily consciously active in the artist's creation of that work. See the introduction to Burke's A Grammar of Motives (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1969), pp. xv-xxiii, and his “Poetics in Particular, Language in General,” in Language as Symbolic Action: Essays on Life, Literature, and Method (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1968), pp. 25-43.

  5. For a discussion of literature as therapeutic, as literally altering personality, see Marshall W. Alcorn, Jr., and Mark Bracher, “Literature, Psychoanalysis, and the Re-Formation of the Self: A New Direction for Reader-Response Theory,” PMLA, 100 (1985) 342-54.

  6. See for example, The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure (Chicago: Aldine Publishing Co., 1969).

  7. This assertion perhaps oversimplifies an audience's role in ritual. Certainly, an initiation rite demands participants other than the neophyte, and they can be perceived as altered by the ritual—at the very least in their relationship to the neophyte. But in no sense does a play exist for the sake of its characters, so the distinction made here is necessary.

  8. “The Poet as Fool and Priest,” ELH, 23 (1956), 380.

  9. References are to As You Like It, Ralph M. Sargent, ed., in the Pelican edition, Alfred Harbage, general ed., William Shakespeare: The Complete Works, rev. ed. (Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1969). Hereafter, citations will be given in the text.

  10. Adena Rosmarin draws upon E. H. Gombrich to make a similar point, “Hermeneutics versus Erotics: Shakespeare's Sonnets and Interpretive History,” PMLA, 100 (1985), 29-30.

  11. My Echoing Song”: Andrew Marvell's Poetry of Criticism (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1970), p. 173. Clearly, “unmetaphoring” resembles that effect of art the Russian Formalists call “defamiliarization,” or, as it is more elegantly translated, “estrangement.” As I understand the terms, however, “defamiliarization” generally relates directly to reality, “unmetaphoring” to metaphoric representations of reality.

  12. Some of the most interesting work on As You Like It emphasizes this self-reflexive quality of the play. See for example, Albert R. Cirillo, “As You Like It: Pastoralism Gone Awry,” ELH, 90 (1975), 885-93. In an effort to minimize duplication, I have sketched only the outline of Shakespeare's treatment of pastoral necessary to my central concern.

  13. Harold Jenkins, “As You Like It,Shakespeare Survey, 8 (1955), 47.

  14. Helen Gardener, “As You Like It,” in More Talking of Shakespeare, John Garrett, ed. (London: Longmans, Green and Company, Ltd., 1959), p. 17.

Ben Brantley (review date 9 August 1999)

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SOURCE: Brantley, Ben. Review of As You Like It. New York Times (9 August 1999): E1, E3.

[In the following review of director Barry Edelstein's 1999 production of As You Like It at the Williamstown Theater Festival, Brantley highlights the centrality of film star Gwyneth Paltrow's excellent performance as Rosalind in this otherwise “burlesque” staging of the drama.]

For a moment it looks like Oscar night all over again. There she is in a Grace Kelly ball gown, as pale and luminous as a moonbeam. Yes, it's unmistakably the same swan-necked Gwyneth Paltrow who accepted the Academy Award for best actress for Shakespeare in Love earlier this year. Yet there's something not quite right about the picture.

That dress for example: it fits perfectly, but it seems to be wearing her, as the saying goes, rather than vice versa. Ms. Paltrow curiously appears less at home in such attire than the person with whom she is sharing the stage at the moment, another ice-blonde actress named Megan Dodds. What is it that's making Ms. Paltrow so self-conscious? Just opening-night jitters?

Actually, the awkwardness is as deliberate a choice as her tightly pulled-back hair. Portraying Rosalind in the Williamstown Theater Festival's jaunty and bumpy new production of As You Like It, directed by Barry Edelstein, Ms. Paltrow turns her entrance into a witty comment on her image as an elegant clothes hanger, while reminding us that there is a sharp and playful intelligence beneath the gloss.

The Rosalind who climbs onto the stage through a trap door, revealing plenty of the well-turned leg beneath her long skirt, is both spirited and uncertain, a colt still waiting to grow out of awkwardness. But just watch how her confidence blossoms once she changes into something more comfortable. In this case it clearly takes some time in men's clothing to make a woman out of a girl.

Let's all heave a sigh of relief. Returning to the theater where she cut her teeth as a performer and where her mother, Blythe Danner, has long reigned as a favorite actress, Ms. Paltrow winningly claims for herself a role stamped by interpreters from Lillie Langtry to Vanessa Redgrave. Granted, she has already proved she is quite capable of bringing flair to Elizabethan-style speech and courtship by cross-dressing in Shakespeare in Love.

But Ms. Paltrow isn't recycling cinematic tricks. Her take on Rosalind has a boldness and broadness, a way of suggesting spontaneity in stylized terms, that could work only in the theater. If there is occasionally a curl of affectation in her line readings, you never doubt that Ms. Paltrow knows exactly what she is saying and why she is saying it. It is a thought-through performance that refuses to coast on charm and is poised between delicate moments of insight and comic exaggeration.

The same cannot always be said of Mr. Edelstein's production, which deliberately emphasizes the artificial nature of Shakespeare's great pastoral comedy. The evening's themes and its blend of merriment and melancholy are established with precision and inventiveness in its opening scenes.

But as the production continues, its controlled balance is tipped toward a looser, anything-goes burlesque, typical of summertime Shakespeare but less than worthy of the higher ambitions in evidence here.

The show doesn't drag. But it needs to whittle down its farcical elements to set off properly not only Ms. Paltrow's fully integrated performance, but also that of Mark Linn-Baker, as the play's verbally dextrous clown, and of Michael Cumpsty, who gives an intriguing new edge to the sardonic and brooding Jaques.

Mr. Edelstein's central conceit is a good one. The production—which makes prominent use of original music by Mark Bennett, suavely rendered by a four-piece band and the singer-actor Keith Byron Kirk—uses jazz to reflect the play's sense of creative improvisation in life. All the characters in As You Like It are, in a sense, trying to figure out just what they do like, what tones and rhythms suit their specific selves. The final sorting out of lovers, orchestrated by Rosalind and providence, is a progression into sweet harmony after a series of experimental riffs.

Accordingly, when we first meet Rosalind and Celia (Ms. Dodds), her cousin and the daughter of the Duke who ousted Rosalind's father (Byron Jennings takes on both roles with gusto), they are playing dress-up, trying on different attitudes with props pulled from a trunk. It is Celia, played with appealing, waspish wryness by Ms. Dodds, who takes the initiative and shows the greater elan here.

Ms. Paltrow's Rosalind, more than any I've seen, is all too aware of her position as a barely tolerated outsider in her uncle's court, and this insecurity heightens her callowness. When she first spots Orlando (Alessandro Nivola), who comes to challenge the usurping duke's favorite wrestler (an amusingly gangsterish Mark K. Smaltz), her response is as goony as that of a lovesick teen-ager.

Only when the game of dress-up begins in earnest, when Rosalind flees from her uncle's court to the forest of Arden disguised as a boy, does she begin seriously to sort out who she is. Arden is where her exiled father dwells; it is also where Orlando, dispossessed by his vengeful brother (Stephen Barker Turner), seeks asylum.

In the celebrated scenes in which Rosalind, as the boy Ganymede, tutors the unwitting Orlando in the aspects of love, Ms. Paltrow makes it clear that she is giving herself an education as well. The deception forces this Rosalind to temper and channel the rushing current of previously unknown passions, and Ms. Paltrow does some lovely things with tempo and inflection to chart her character's evolution.

One wishes that the Orlando here were more up to the challenge his Rosalind presents. Mr. Nivola, an actor of chiseled handsomeness and willowy build, is delightful when he is simply reacting, whether in wonder, bewilderment or enthusiasm. But he is less at home with the language than Ms. Paltrow is.

As the mock-classical, rustic lovers of pastoral idylls, Silvius and Phoebe, John Ellison Conlee and Angelina Phillips are straight out of Dogpatch, as is the lusty goatherd, Audrey, as embodied by the ever vivid Lea DeLaria. They are all funny at moments, but often in pandering ways that need to be reined in.

As Audrey's suitor and the resident philosopher-clown, Touchstone, Mr. Linn-Baker, best known for the television series Perfect Strangers, has an assured, ebullient delivery that does indeed become the touchstone of the play's love of language. And Mr. Cumpsty is a fascinating Jaques, a reformed libertine who has still to come to terms with his own erotic impulses.

Mr. Cumpsty sounds the evening's most insistent notes of darkness with style and wit, and it's a shame that by the production's end it has no place for the subtleties of his performance. Even Narelle Sissons's setting, which begins as an elegant study in surrealism and makes droll use of blatantly fake livestock, seems to become garish and overblown.

So does the music, which turns Hymen's ode to marriage into the schmaltzy standard “What a Wonderful World,” sung (nicely enough) by Larry Marshall as Orlando's trusty old retainer, here bizarrely transformed into a Cab Calloway figure.

None of this, however, eclipses the genuine grace of Ms. Paltrow's final metamorphosis, when Rosalind returns undisguised for the wedding scene. In a simple, fluid white dress (the good-looking costumes are by Anita Yavich) that is eons away from the stiff ball gown of her opening scene, this Rosalind has a new composure combined with the vulnerable air of someone who has emerged from protective disguise to face the world as herself.

Ms. Paltrow, too, has undergone transformations since she last appeared in Williamstown, as Nina in The Seagull five years ago. At that time she had the shimmering presence that would translate so beguilingly to film but little of the necessary assurance for a complicated part. This actress's growth into maturity becomes an enchanted mirror in As You Like It for that of the character she plays.

Edward I. Berry (essay date spring 1980)

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SOURCE: Berry, Edward I. “Rosalynde and Rosalind.” Shakespeare Quarterly 31, no. 1 (spring 1980): 42-52.

[In the following essay, Berry compares Shakespeare's Rosalind in As You Like It with the title figure of Thomas Lodge's Rosalynde, observing that Shakespeare instilled his Rosalind with psychological depth, linguistic brilliance, and compelling virtue.]

Thomas Lodge's Rosalynde, the narrative source of As You Like It, provides a particularly instructive guide to Shakespeare's play. As a coherent, engaging, yet thoroughly conventional work, Rosalynde enables us to define with unusual precision some of the differences between skill and genius. Critics have drawn upon it to highlight many distinctive features of As You Like It: its structural integrity, its thematic and linguistic richness, its moral seriousness, its complex development of romantic and pastoral conventions.1 A reading of Lodge, I believe, also illuminates Shakespeare's conception of his main character, Rosalind. A comparison of the two heroines allows us to observe the means by which a successful narrative role is transformed into a great dramatic one, to appreciate aspects of Rosalind's characterization that critics have generally ignored, and to discover, in Rosalind's experience, a dynamic that shapes the play as a whole.

In a broad sense Shakespeare seems to have found in Lodge's Rosalynde everything he needed for his own. He alters little in the narrative that directly affects his heroine. In both versions Rosalind falls in love at first sight, is banished into Arden, discovers her beloved in the forest, and engages, while disguised, in a game of courtship with him; in both Rosalind reveals herself to her father and lover in a climactic scene before returning to a renewed court to be married. The characterization of Lodge's Rosalynde is also remarkably similar to Shakespeare's. The vivacity, wit, romantic yearning, and delight in disguise are all present, at least embryonically, in Lodge. Shakespeare's obvious dependence upon Lodge for so many details makes his departures from the source all the more striking and significant. He changes little but with great effect.


To begin with the obvious, Shakespeare makes Rosalind the protagonist. She stands so firmly at the center of the play that the history of its criticism seems in large part an attempt to explain from different critical perspectives the preeminence of her role. For John Dover Wilson, who tempers somewhat a long tradition of Victorian effusions, she is simply Shakespeare's “ideal woman.”2 For Peter G. Phialas she synthesizes the play's “different and even conflicting attitudes to love” and thereby expresses “Shakespeare's comic approach or attitude to the human situation.”3 For C. L. Barber she maintains an “inclusive poise” of the kind achieved by the whole play.4 For David Young she “comes to embody the ideals of love and the values of pastoral.”5 For Margaret Boerner Beckman, she “is a seemingly impossible reconciliation of opposites.”6 Whatever the individual merits of these varied perspectives—and we will observe later a collective limitation—they all testify to the centrality of Rosalind's role, and they could not apply to her source. Despite his work's title, Lodge gives his Rosalynde no such importance; she is nearly indistinguishable from Alinda (Celia), whose courtship is given almost equal attention. A comparison with Lodge thus underlines a distinctive feature of the mature comedies and histories—the presence of a central character whose consciousness takes in the central problems of his or her play. Studies of Prince Hal as a character who reconciles oppositions and mediates between extremes often sound like descriptions of Rosalind.

Shakespeare increases not only the stature of Rosalind but her scope. The addition of Touchstone and Jaques to Lodge's story extends the role of the heroine considerably. When Rosalind jests with Touchstone or, better, endures his jests at her and her lover's expense, as in his parody of Orlando's verses, the effect is not only to complicate the comedy of the play but to extend the range of her character. The same is true of her brief encounter with Jaques: “And your experience makes you sad. I had rather have a fool to make me merry than experience to make me sad—and to travel for it too!” (IV. i. 27-29).7 Touchstone and Jaques serve as foils to Rosalind, setting off her distinctive qualities. But their presence also adds more subtly to our impression of her psychological richness and poise. In drama as in life, it seems, our appreciation of complexity in character increases with the variety of relationships against which it is defined. The two Rosalinds may share a propensity to playfulness and wit, but the diverse sounding boards provided by Shakespeare create resonances that lie outside Lodge's range.

If Shakespeare enriches Rosalind's character by complicating her social environment, he also enlarges the role symbolically. As the director and “busy actor” (III. iv. 60) in her own “play,” and the Epilogue in Shakespeare's, Rosalind becomes in a sense a figure for the playwright himself, a character whose consciousness extends in subtle ways beyond the boundaries of the drama. As a magician, moreover (and Shakespeare alone gives her magical powers),8 she has a capacity that exceeds even Prospero's: an ability to surprise her audience. When as Ganymed she calls the lovers into her magic circle and promises them fulfillment in love, we rest secure in comic anticipation; all that remains is for her to appear, as she does in Lodge, in her proper attire. When she next enters, however, it is with still music and the god Hymen. Even more mysteriously than Prospero, she can bring down a god to sanction her festivities. Efforts to explain away the appearance of Hymen, as if he were merely Adam or some forester decked out by Rosalind, seem wide of the mark, since the mystery seems integral to the play and adds so effectively to the audience's sense of wonder. At its climax the play becomes a masque-ritual, and Rosalind, the poet-magician, its high priestess. The alias Ganymed, which Lodge includes but only Shakespeare exploits, complements this symbolic extension of the role; for as Rosalind says, Ganymed is “Jove's own page” (I. iii. 124). In the history plays, which develop the mystique of kingship, these hints of transcendental power in the protagonist seem almost inevitable. In the romantic comedies, as the contrast between the two Rosalinds suggests, the symbolic extension seems to be Shakespeare's distinctive variation on the theme of Petrarchan idealization.

The actresses who have made the role peculiarly their own, however, have attended less to its hints of the supernatural than to its richly human emotional range. Audrey Williamson, who found Edith Evans' Rosalind “the loveliest Shakespearean performance by an actress in approaching twenty years of playgoing,” was most impressed by the variety and volatility of her emotions: “She was wayward and gay, grave and loving, in an instant; as changing in moods as an April day, yet with a glow at the heart as bright as Juliet's own.”9 We can recognize in much of this description not only Shakespeare's Rosalind but Lodge's; the essential difference lies in the phrase “in an instant.” For what impresses us about Shakespeare's heroine, and differentiates her from Lodge's, is a compression of thought and feeling that makes her every exchange a rich psychological event. The distinction is a subtle one, but perhaps a close look at a single episode, that in which Rosalind falls in love (I. ii), will help to make it clear.


In both versions Rosalind falls in love at the Duke's wrestling match. In Lodge's narrative Rosalynde and Rosader (Orlando) fall in love without even exchanging words; Rosalynde's amorous glances alone give Rosader enough strength to defeat the Norman wrestler. As a token of her love, Rosalynde takes a jewel from her neck and sends it after Rosader, who replies in kind with a sonnet. In As You Like It the characters converse, however haltingly, and the jewel becomes a chain given in person. The differences are significant in several ways. Shakespeare's version is obviously more dramatic, but it is also more symbolic, since the golden chain becomes by the end of the play a bond of love that unites not only Rosalind and Orlando but, in Hymen's song, earth and heaven. More important from the point of view of psychology is the fact that in giving the chain Shakespeare's Rosalind has far more on her mind than Lodge's. Shakespeare creates this psychological density not so much by what the character says, though that is part of it, but by complicating the situation to which she must respond and thus generating pressures beneath the words.

In Lodge's account there is little preparation for Rosalynde's declaration of love. When she sends her jewel to Rosader, we know only that she is remarkably beautiful (Lodge describes her in a set piece), that her father has been banished, and that she has been trading amorous glances with Rosader at the wrestling match. The state of mind in which she sends the jewel typifies Lodge's conventionality: “she accounted love a toye, and fancie a momentarie passion, that as it was taken in with a gaze, might bee shaken off with a winck; and therefore feared not to dallie in the flame” (p. 172). Although Rosalynde is genuinely “touched” by Rosader's “beautie and valour” (p. 172), her gift expresses only a naive flirtatiousness. The psychology is conventional, but not unnatural.

In As You Like It Shakespeare prepares for the meeting of the lovers by introducing Rosalind and Celia briefly prior to the wrestling match. The episode serves the usual expository purposes, but it also sets in motion psychological currents that complicate and intensify Rosalind's eventual response to Orlando. Rosalind enters the play melancholy for her banished father. “I pray thee Rosalind, sweet my coz, be merry” (I. ii. 1-2) are Celia's opening words. Shakespeare's first gesture, then, is to open up areas of feeling that Lodge never explores.10 When Celia tries to snap her out of her melancholy, the game Rosalind proposes is that of “falling in love” (l. 25). That she considers love a sport reminds us of Lodge's Rosalynde, who “dallies” with its flame, but that the sport serves as a psychological defense against melancholy shows how far Shakespeare goes beyond the conventional psychology of Lodge.

When Rosalind actually falls in love, moreover, the reality, like the game, is intertwined with her love for her father. The bond between Duke Senior and the dead Sir Rowland ties Rosalind immediately to Orlando:

My father lov'd Sir Rowland as his soul,
And all the world was of my father's mind.
Had I before known this young man his son,
I should have given him tears unto entreaties,
Ere he should thus have ventur'd.

(ll. 235-39)

What we witness in this episode, then, is not a sudden, inexplicable passion, but a subtle psychological modulation from one kind of love, one kind of yearning, to another. And Rosalind's love for Orlando, like that for her father, is complicated by melancholy. For because Duke Frederick and Sir Rowland are enemies—as they are not in Lodge—Rosalind gives her chain to Orlando with little hope of fulfillment: “Wear this for me: one out of suits with Fortune, / That could give more but that her hand lacks means” (ll. 246-47). In Lodge, by contrast, nothing stands between the lovers until Rosalind's banishment.

By altering a few details, then, Shakespeare creates in Rosalind's falling in love a dramatic moment of considerable psychological and emotional complexity. Though not without playfulness, Shakespeare's Rosalind is hardly “dallying” with love. With a subtle emotional logic, her yearning for a banished father is transformed into a passion for the son of her father's friend, who is himself beyond her reach. The modulation not only intensifies and enriches the emotion of the scene, providing several kinds of feeling in an instant, but helps to make it psychologically credible. If Shakespeare is conventional in giving us love at first sight, he is exceptional in providing a convincing psychology behind the convention.

Having introduced the motif of parental love, Shakespeare does not let it drop. In the brief exchange between Rosalind and Celia immediately after Rosalind has fallen in love—a scene that has no counterpart in Lodge—Celia's opening brings us back to Rosalind's melancholy: “Why, cousin, why, Rosalind! Cupid have mercy, not a word?” (I. iii. 1-2). This time, as Celia's needling makes clear, Rosalind's melancholy derives from a different source: “But is all this for your father?” (l. 10). Rosalind's witty reply—“No, some of it is for my child's father” (l. 11)—casts her relationship to fatherhood in an entirely new light. That she goes on, half-humorously, to rationalize her new love in terms of the old—“The Duke my father lov'd his father dearly” (ll. 29-30)—is hardly logical, as Celia wrily demonstrates: “By this kind of chase, I should hate him, for my father hated his father dearly …” (ll. 32-33). But behind the specious logic lies an emotional truth. What Rosalind's love forces upon her—and what love demands from all of Shakespeare's comic heroines—is a reorientation of feelings toward those for whom she already has strong emotional ties. We are reminded of Hermia and Egeus, or Viola and Sebastian, or Portia and her father's “will.” As we shall see, the experience in Arden resolves the apparent tension between two loves and enables Rosalind to give herself fully to both. Though unmotivated once she is in Arden, the period of separation from her father seems as necessary to Rosalind's development as her role-playing with Orlando.


Much of the psychological complexity that Shakespeare achieves in Rosalind's role hinges upon his ability to transform Lodge's mannered prose into an expressive instrument. It is difficult to find in the two works passages close enough for meaningful comparison, but perhaps a few lines that Shakespeare steals from Lodge's Alinda (Celia) will serve to illustrate differences that are pervasive. The passages occur on different occasions, but both refer to Rosalind's witty slander against her own sex:

And I pray you (quoth Aliena) if your roabes were off, what metall are you made of that you are so satyricall against women? Is it not a foule bird defiles the owne nest?

(Lodge, p. 181)

You have simply misus'd our sex in your love-prate. We must have your doublet and hose pluck'd over your head, and show the world what the bird hath done to her own nest.

(Shakespeare, IV. i. 201-4)

Although Lodge's version is by no means excessively artificial—Lodge is far more euphuistic elsewhere—Shakespeare's is both more natural and more vital. He avoids Lodge's alliteration and balanced questions, adds raciness to the diction (in “love-prate” and “pluck'd,” in particular), compresses the ideas, and transforms an illustrative proverb into an expressive metaphor. Through these changes Shakespeare achieves an impression of rapid, vivid, and spontaneous thought. His Celia actually perceives the doublet and hose being plucked over the head—so graphically and immediately, in fact, that the proverb that leaps into her mind becomes concretely visual and humorously obscene. Conversation in Rosalynde is little more than relaxed oratory; in As You Like It, though often based on euphuistic patterns, conversation is thought in action. Celia discovers the full reach of her jest only a step before the audience does.

Rosalind's jesting reaches even farther than Celia's and plays a more complicated role in her personality. Rosalind's wit is, of course, a mark of that “inclusive poise” that holds her at the center of the play, but it also fulfills a subtle psychological function. Like the disguise of Ganymed that she takes on in Arden, her wit offers a protective shield behind which Rosalind can explore and test her identity. A simple phrase like “No, some of it is for my child's father” not only expresses her emotional entanglement in her potential roles—as daughter, wife, mother, sexual partner—but enables her to detach herself from them momentarily and turn them around in the freedom of imaginative play. To see her wit as merely a static attribute of character, as is implied in most discussions of the role, is to ignore its creative function. Shakespeare's fondness for witty heroes and heroines in the mature histories and comedies, one suspects, owes something to the fact that they tend to be engaged in defining their identities in play before assuming adult roles—as married women, or, in Hal's case, as king.


The fact that Rosalind links her new melancholy for Orlando with that for her father, as we have seen, suggests another dimension that Shakespeare adds to the role, that of psychological development. If we sometimes respond to Shakespearean characters as if they inhabited the real world, wondering how many children Lady Macbeth might have had, we do so in part because the roles develop with an internal consistency that we associate with living people. The point may seem obvious, but Lodge, like many Elizabethan writers—Marlowe, say—seems relatively unconcerned with this aspect of character. Perhaps because his interest lies more in convention than in characterization, Lodge tends to think in individual scenes alone. His Rosalynde, though consistent, is not developed with the continuity that seems central to our conception of “personality.” On the other hand, despite his dependence upon the scenic unit and his fascination with the interplay of conventions (nowhere more evident than in As You Like It) Shakespeare portrays in his heroine a continuous psychological development.

Rosalind's relations with Silvius and Phebe provide a case in point. Lodge treats the Silvius-Phebe plot more seriously than Shakespeare—plays it “straight,” as it were, as a paradigm of unrequited love—and develops it with the same conventionality he lavishes upon the other pairs of lovers. By heightening the artificiality of the Silvius-Phebe episodes, Shakespeare indirectly increases our acceptance of the love between Rosalind and Orlando; the conventionality of the Silvius-Phebe affair serves as a lightning rod to draw off the laughter of disbelief. The most important difference for our purposes, however, is that only Shakespeare integrates the Silvius-Phebe plot into Rosalind's psychological development.

The scene in which Phebe falls in love with Rosalind disguised as Ganymed (III. v) appears in both Lodge and Shakespeare and exploits similar comic effects. In both versions Rosalind reproaches Phebe for her cruelty and pride, only to precipitate her love. The most significant difference between the two episodes is that Shakespeare's Rosalind interrupts the wooing, as Ralph Berry puts it, with “quite astonishing warmth—and rudeness.”11 Amazed at the effect of her words, Rosalind admits to being out of temper: “she'll fall in love with my anger” (l. 67). Berry's question—“Why so much heat?” (p. 183)—is perceptive, for it directs us to the psychological dynamics of the scene, which is generally viewed merely as comic commentary on Silvius and Phebe's allegiance to the artificial conventions of pastoral love.12 Rosalind plays the role of satirist here, of course; but she is neither detached nor objective. Her satire, like that of Jaques, is fueled by private motives. Berry suggests that Rosalind's harshness springs from a nature “motivated above all by a will to dominate” (p. 184). But this explanation strikes me as unnecessarily cynical. More to the point, it is based upon the mistaken assumption that Rosalind's character is static.

To explain Rosalind's passion, we need only return to the conversation with Celia that immediately precedes the scene in question. This exchange, which occurs only in Shakespeare, focuses on Rosalind's anxiety at Orlando's failure to keep his appointment: “But why did he swear he would come this morning and comes not?” (III. iv. 18-19). Celia's wry humor does little to put Rosalind at ease: “Yes, I think he is not a pick-purse nor a horse-stealer, but for his verity in love, I do think him as concave as a cover'd goblet or a worm-eaten nut” (ll. 22-25). In his wooing of Phebe, then, Silvius becomes a reflector for Rosalind's own predicament, as he was, indeed, at their first encounter: “Jove, Jove! this shepherd's passion / Is much upon my fashion” (II. iv. 60-61). Rosalind sees in Phebe's indifference to love a counterpart to Orlando's, and in Silvius' frustration a mirror of her own. Her ire is thus directed more at the absent Orlando than at poor Phebe. As if to accentuate her comic anxiety, Shakespeare splices between Orlando's earlier promise to return and this episode the scene in which Touchstone betrays his doubtful motives in wooing Audrey, calling into question the truth of all lovers' verses: “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” (III. iii. 19-22).

When Silvius presents Rosalind with Phebe's letter, he himself bears the burden of her frustration. Rosalind is again on edge from waiting: “How say you now? Is it not past two a'clock? And here much Orlando!” (IV. iii. 1-2). She therefore plays a brutal game with Silvius as he reads the letter, leading him on only to reveal its devastating contents, and prompting even Celia to sympathy: “Alas, poor shepherd!” (l. 65). The phrase echoes Rosalind's sentiment upon her first meeting with Silvius: “Alas, poor shepherd, searching of [thy wound], / I have by hard adventure found mine own” (II. iv. 44-45). Now, however, Rosalind is utterly without compassion: “Do you pity him? No, he deserves no pity. Wilt thou love such a woman? What, to make thee an instrument, and play false strains upon thee? not to be endur'd!” (IV. iii. 66-69). Read “man” for “woman” in this outburst and its motive becomes clear. Rosalind sees herself reflected yet again in Silvius' lamentable mirror; she sees herself as an instrument played upon by a lover so indifferent that he will not even keep time. And this time her anger turns inward, against her own folly at loving such a man.

To see Rosalind as merely a detached satirist in these episodes is to oversimplify the emotions they evoke and to ignore their significance in the development of her love. Rosalind certainly makes sport of Silvius and Phebe, but the game she plays is psychologically significant.


Rosalind's comic anxiety about Orlando's love also underlies the scenes of their mock-courtship. Lodge's version serves as the basis for Shakespeare's, for in Lodge Rosalynde's disguise enables her to test her lover, pitting her suspicions of man's inconstancy against his protestations of faithful love. In Rosalynde, however, the game is played in verse, not in prose. After listening to one of Rosader's sonnets, Rosalynde proposes that he pretend she is indeed Rosalynde and woo her in an amorous eclogue. He does so, only to be answered by a skeptical sonnet of her own, which he then parries with a romantic reply. So it goes until Rosalynde, convinced of his love, finally yields, completing his rhyme, and Alinda plays the priest for their mock-marriage. As Lodge observes, it is a “jesting match, that after proovde to a marriage in earnest” (p. 214).

Aside from the shift from verse to prose, Shakespeare makes two other changes that are important for the characterization of his Rosalind: he complicates her skepticism by injecting a strong dose of antifeminism—Lodge's Rosalynde is concerned only with man's inconstancy, not woman's13—and, as we have seen, he adds Rosalind's obsession with keeping time. Both of these elements are crucial to Rosalind's plan to “cure” Orlando of his love-sickness (and the medical motif is itself Shakespeare's invention). In Shakespeare, however, the scheme is motivated, not by a conventional feminine skepticism, as is the testing in Lodge, but by specific insights into Orlando's behavior as a lover. For Shakespeare invents two episodes in Act III, scene ii that afford Rosalind some disconcerting discoveries: the episode in which Orlando's verses are found and mocked by Celia, Touchstone, and Rosalind herself, and the episode in which Orlando and Jaques, as Signior Love and Monsieur Melancholy, exchange barbed compliments. Rosalind's impulsive decision to speak to Orlando “like a saucy lackey, and under that habit play the knave with him” (ll. 295-97) is playful, of course, but again the sport is psychologically significant: the conventional behavior that threatens to turn Orlando into an allegory (Signior Love) must be made to yield its true meaning. If merely a role, it may be false; if truly felt, it may be dangerously naive. The “cure” that Rosalind proposes thus enables her to play out two kinds of doubts. Is his love true?—“men are April when they woo, December when they wed” (IV. i. 147-148). Is his idealism, his “deifying” of Rosalind, strong enough to sustain contact with her human fallibility?—“maids are May when they are maids, but the sky changes when they are wives” (IV. i. 148-49).

In attacking women, then, Rosalind works toward (but hopes against) Orlando's disillusionment. By being exposed to woman's “real” nature—her capriciousness, her shrewishness, her faithlessness—Orlando will be driven, like Ganymed's earlier “patient,” to “forswear the full stream of the world, and to live in a nook merely monastic” (III. ii. 419-21).14 To such a “nook” the play's true cynic, Jaques, finally retires. Ganymed's “physic” is thus of the kind that Don John administers in a heavier dose to Claudio in Much Ado About Nothing. When Claudio “discovers” Hero playing the role of Ganymed's portrait of Rosalind, he betrays the emptiness of his conventional romanticism by losing faith and turning cynic:

For thee I'll lock up all the gates of love,
And on my eyelids shall conjecture hang,
To turn all beauty into thoughts of harm,
And never shall it more be gracious.

(IV. i. 105-8)

Unlike Claudio, whose test is admittedly more severe, Orlando refuses to be shaken. He perseveres despite Ganymed's many variations upon the theme of woman's frailty: “Virtue is no horn-maker; and my Rosalind is virtuous” (IV. i. 63-64). In a forest with horns behind every tree and a Touchstone behind every verse, Orlando remains true to his own image of Rosalind. His idealism is not shattered by his exposure to what Touchstone would call, if he traded in clichés, “real life.”

Rosalind asks more from Orlando than resistance to Ganymed's antifeminism, however; she demands that he prove his own faith. And since a lover's words are ambiguous, as Touchstone's example confirms, she demands proof in action: Orlando must keep time. While Lodge's version of the mock-wooing culminates in Rosalynde's yielding in reality, Shakespeare's ends with her demanding, despite her passionate impatience, another interview, to be kept on time. As she herself observes at the end of the scene, “Time is the old justice that examines all such offenders, and let Time try” (IV. i. 199-200). This insistence upon deeds as well as words serves in many ways as a paradigm of the difference between Lodge's art and Shakespeare's. Lodge's Rosalynde is wooed and won in verse; she voices her skepticism in poetry and yields in poetry. Her agreement to participate in the wooing eclogue seems symbolic of Lodge's attitude toward his art: she moves into the realm of fiction and accepts it as truth. By contrast, the attitude of Shakespeare's heroine mirrors his double allegiance, to both art and life. Rosalind's acceptance of Orlando depends ultimately upon deeds rather than words; she will yield only if he can treat their fiction as if it were reality, keeping time for Ganymed as if he were Orlando's “very” Rosalind. Orlando's faith is true only if he lives by it. Rosalind's delightful obsession with punctuality therefore expresses much more than her conventional impatience as a lover.

Because of this concern with time, the wooing in As You Like It is not resolved until Rosalind, hearing Oliver's explanation for Orlando's second instance of tardiness, swoons. Fainting at the sight of blood betrays Rosalind's femininity, of course, and much of the comedy of the scene hinges upon her inability to keep her masculine disguise under control. But in a way that even Celia does not quite see, “There is more in it” (IV. iii. 159). It is not merely the sight of Orlando's blood that makes Rosalind swoon, but what it signifies. For in listening to Oliver's story Rosalind makes two crucial discoveries: that Orlando has kept time to the best of his ability (the bloody napkin is an emblem of his faith), and that he has saved his “unnatural” brother. Rosalind's anxious question underlines the importance to her of this latter act: “But to Orlando: did he leave him there, / Food to the suck'd and hungry lioness?” (ll. 125-26). For Orlando's deed, which is described emblematically and invested with Herculean overtones,15 brings both Rosalind and the audience to the recognition of a paradox: by breaking his oath, Orlando has kept his faith. By proving himself his brother's keeper, by acting out of charity rather than revenge, Orlando has proven his love for Rosalind. A similar paradox is employed, although sophistically, by Berowne in Love's Labor's Lost:

It is religion to be thus forsworn:
For charity itself fulfills the law,
And who can sever love from charity?

(IV. iii. 360-62)16

In a way that Berowne is too immature to take seriously, Orlando has “forsworn” himself religiously and joined romantic love with religious charity. The religious vocabulary that Orlando repeatedly employs as lover—he vows to keep time, for example, “With no less religion than if thou wert indeed my Rosalind” (IV. i. 197-98)—thus proves to be no mere Petrarchan convention. Orlando keeps time, not according to the dictates of the court or of conventional courtship, but according to the forest of Arden, in which there are no clocks, and in which to “fleet the time carelessly” (I. i. 118) may be a way of redeeming it.17

The relationship between faith and charity developed in Orlando's action places his love against a familiar theological background. As the official homily “Of Faith” makes abundantly clear, the Anglican church stressed that the proof of faith is always charity: “true fayth doeth euer bring foorth good workes, as S. James sayth: Shew me thy fayth by thy deeds.”18 Religious faith is not at issue in As You Like It, of course, but romantic faith is at the center of the play. Orlando swears “by the faith of my love” (III. ii. 428) to woo Ganymed as if he were Rosalind and earns, finally, even Jaques' blessing: “You to a love, that your true faith doth merit …” (V. iv. 188). In the case of Silvius, romantic faith is played out in terms of Petrarchan convention; his truth to Phebe, despite her cruelty, is rewarded in marriage. In the case of Orlando, the ultimate test of romantic faith is brotherly love.

The play climaxes, then, not merely in a celebration of romantic love. The act that breaks through Rosalind's disguise and allows her finally to abandon it is an act that joins love and charity. This redefinition of love is dramatized in the masque with which the play concludes, for Hymen presents marriage as a force that binds not only individuals but the universe as a whole:

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

(V. iv. 108-10)

It is this expansion of love's meaning that enables Rosalind to give herself equally to her father and her husband, and in precisely the same words: “To you [Duke Senior] I give myself, for I am yours. / To you [Orlando] I give myself, for I am yours” (ll. 116-17).


In his article “Thematic Unity and the Homogenization of Character,” Richard Levin has objected to a tendency in modern criticism to subordinate character to theme, as if a play owed its life to the dramatization of an idea rather than “a particular moving human experience.”19 While the best criticism of As You Like It has managed to explore the play's themes and conventions without losing touch with its “human experience,” it has not entirely avoided oversimplifying Rosalind's role, even when most insisting upon its complexity. To see Rosalind as an “ideal woman,” or as a synthesis of “conflicting attitudes towards love,” or as a representative of “the ideals of love and the values of the pastoral” is to conceive of this engaging character as the static embodiment of an idea.20 To counter this tendency, a reading of Lodge proves particularly helpful. For a comparison of the two central roles enables us not only to appreciate the depth, subtlety, and complexity of Shakespeare's character but, above all, to appreciate its dynamic quality. If Shakespeare inherited from Lyly a comic drama of dialectics, in which characters define themselves along a spectrum of ideas, he welded to it a developmental conception of character. Rosalind is not merely a reconciler of oppositions, but a figure who, through the experience of “playing” at love, discovers more fully who she is.


  1. Among the many source studies are Geoffrey Bullough, ed., Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare, II (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1958), 143-57; Agnes Latham, ed., As You Like It, The Arden Shakespeare (London: Methuen, 1975), pp. xxxv-xlvi; Marco Mincoff, “What Shakespeare Did to Rosalynde,Shakespeare Jahrbuch, 96 (1960), 78-89 (rpt. in Jay L. Halio, ed., Twentieth Century Interpretations of “As You Like It” [Englewood Cliffs, N. J.: Prentice-Hall, 1968], pp. 98-106); Kenneth Muir, Shakespeare's Sources, I (London: Methuen, 1957), 55-66; Robert B. Pierce, “The Moral Languages of Rosalynde and As You Like It,Studies in Philology, 68 (1971), 167-76; Albert H. Tolman, “Shakespeare's Manipulation of His Sources in As You Like It,Modern Language Notes, 37 (1922), 65-76. As will become apparent, I disagree with Mincoff's assertion that Shakespeare's Rosalind “is less complex and less true to nature than Lodge's” (Halio, p. 106).

  2. Shakespeare's Happy Comedies (London: Faber and Faber, 1962), p. 162.

  3. Shakespeare's Romantic Comedies; The Development of Their Form and Meaning (Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1966), pp. 243, 242.

  4. Shakespeare's Festive Comedy: A Study of Dramatic Form and its Relation to Social Custom (1959; rpt. Cleveland: World Publishing, 1963), p. 238.

  5. The Heart's Forest: A Study of Shakespeare's Pastoral Plays (New Haven and London: Yale Univ. Press, 1972), p. 68.

  6. “The Figure of Rosalind in As You Like It,Shakespeare Quarterly, 29 (1978), 44.

  7. The Riverside Shakespeare, gen. ed. G. Blakemore Evans (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1974). All Shakespeare quotations are from this edition.

  8. In Lodge's version Rosalynde tells Rosader that she has a friend experienced in magic who can bring Rosalynde to him; see Bullough, II, 246. All further references to Lodge's Rosalynde. Euphues golden legacie (London, 1590) will be taken from Bullough, II, 158-256.

  9. Old Vic Drama (London: Rockliff, 1948), p. 63.

  10. Lodge refers to Rosalynde's sorrow for her father's plight only once, briefly, when she discovers him in the forest (pp. 247-48).

  11. Shakespeare's Comedies: Explorations in Form (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1972), p. 183.

  12. See, for example, Phialas, pp. 250-52.

  13. The passage in which Alinda accuses Rosalynde of slandering women, quoted above, is the only one that touches upon this theme, and it is unconnected with the mock-courtship.

  14. It may be worth noting that in his Anatomy of Melancholy (London, 1621), Robert Burton proposes a remarkably similar remedy for love-melancholy; see Floyd Dell and Paul Jordan-Smith, eds., The Anatomy of Melancholy (New York: Tudor, 1938), pp. 777-96.

  15. For an illuminating study of the symbolic dimensions of Orlando's role, see Richard Knowles, “Myth and Type in As You Like It,ELH, 33 (1966), 1-22.

  16. In “Love Versus Charity in Love's Labor's Lost” (Shakespeare Studies, 10 [1977], 17-41), R. Chris Hassel, Jr. develops the theological controversies that may lie behind these lines.

  17. I draw here upon two studies of the theme of time in the play which, although insightful in many regards, have little to say about Rosalind's insistence upon punctuality: Jay L. Halio, “‘No Clock in the Forest’: Time in As You Like It,Studies in English Literature, 2 (1962), 197-207 (rpt. in Halio, pp. 88-97); Rawdon Wilson, “The Way to Arden: Attitudes Toward Time in As You Like It,SQ [Shakespeare Quarterly], 26 (1975), 16-24.

  18. Mary Ellen Rickey and Thomas B. Stroup, eds., Certaine Sermons or Homilies: A Facsimile Reproduction of the Edition of 1623 (Gainesville, Fla.: Scholar's Facsimiles & Reprints, 1968), p. 29.

  19. Modern Language Quarterly, 33 (1972), 29.

  20. A rare exception to this tendency is William J. Martz's treatment of Rosalind in Shakespeare's Universe of Comedy (New York: David Lewis, 1971), pp. 84-99. Although we define Rosalind's development in different terms, our interpretations are generally complementary. There are also some illuminating remarks on Rosalind's mock-courtship as a lesson in awareness preparatory to marriage in D. J. Palmer, “‘As You Like It’ and the Idea of Play,” Critical Quarterly, 13 (1971), 240-43, and Helen Gardner, “As You Like It” (Halio, pp. 55-69). Gardner's essay originally appeared in More Talking of Shakespeare, ed. John Garrett (New York: Theatre Arts Books, 1959), pp. 17-32.

Criticism: Overviews And General Studies

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SOURCE: McFarland, Thomas. “For Other Than for Dancing Measures: The Complications of As You Like It.” In Modern Critical Interpretations: William Shakespeare's As You Like It, edited by Harold Bloom, pp. 23-45. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1988.

[In the following essay, originally published in 1972, McFarland examines the tragic, cynical, and unpastoral elements in the otherwise comic As You Like It.]

To approach As You Like It immediately after Love's Labour's Lost and A Midsummer Night's Dream is to encounter a darkening of action and tone. The pastoral realm into which it enters has, in marked contrast to the moonlit forest outside Athens, genuine problems to ameliorate. The moment of pure pastoral celebration in Shakespeare's art is now forever gone. The motif of criminal action, which had been tentatively put forward in The Two Gentlemen of Verona, only to be banished from the golden confines of Navarre's park and Oberon's forest, now reasserts itself. As You Like It is a play that labors to keep its comic balance, and for this reason the comic reclamation in the Forest of Arden involves complicated character interactions and severe criticisms of behavior. The play exhibits more humor, but much less happiness, than its two great pastoral predecessors.

The situation at the start of As You Like It could, indeed, as well serve for a tragedy as for a comedy. The index to the state of moral well-being in Shakespeare's comedies is usually provided by the character and circumstances of the ruler. The mysterious illness of the King in All's Well casts that whole play into deviation from an ideal state; the lovesickness of Orsino at the beginning of Twelfth Night forebodes maladjustments throughout the Illyrian society. Conversely, the youth and magnanimity of Navarre, the puissance and benignity of Theseus, authenticate a pervasive well-being in their two realms. It is significant, therefore, that the world of As You Like It is presented at the outset as a severely disfigured, for its ruler has been banished and his power usurped.

Grave though usurpation is, it is rendered still more grave by the fact that the usurper, as in The Tempest, is the brother of the true ruler, and the action of usurpation therefore reverberates with the archetypal crime of Cain. When Claudius faces his own offense, he says; “O my offence is rank, it smells to heaven; / It hath the primal eldest curse upon't, / A brother's murder” (Hamlet, 3.3.36-38). Neither in As You Like It nor in The Tempest does the crime of brother against brother proceed to murder; for such an outcome would put the actions of the two plays irrevocably beyond the power of comedy to heal. But usurpation and banishment represent the most serious kind of transgression. We recall the word that, in opening the somber action of The White Devil, casts all within that play into a nightmare of alienation: “Banished?” Or we recall Romeo's agony:

They are free men, but I am banished.
Hadst thou no poison mix'd, no sharp-ground knife,
No sudden mean of death, though ne'er so mean,
But “banished” to kill me?—“banished”?
O friar, the damned use that word in hell;
Howling attends it.

(Romeo and Juliet, 3.3.42-48)

When, therefore, we learn that “the old Duke is banished by his younger brother the new Duke” (1.1.91-92), a mood of intense alienation settles over As You Like It. The mood is deepened by its foreshadowing in the relationship of Orlando and Oliver. “He lets me feed with his hinds, bars me the place of a brother,” says Orlando (1.1.17-18). Indeed, it is bitter irony that in this play the comic motif of repetition doubles the Cain-and-Abel motif by extending it from Oliver and Orlando to the young Duke and the old Duke. In the supporting trope of Orlando and Oliver, moreover, the trouble between the brothers specifically involves, as does that of Cain and Abel, the relationship between father and son:

My father charg'd you in his will to give me good education: you have train'd me like a peasant, obscuring and hiding from me all gentleman-like qualities. The spirit of my father grows strong in me, and I will no longer endure it.


Their father being dead, the old servant Adam fills his place in the psychodramatic struggle, his name reinforcing the motif of “primal eldest curse.” It can hardly be without significance that Shakespeare here slightly alters his source, for in Lodge's Rosalynde the retainer is called “Adam Spencer, the olde servaunt of Sir John of Bordeaux,” and is almost always referred to by both given and surname. In changing “Adam Spencer” to simple “Adam” in the struggle of brother against brother, As You Like It conveys the sense of old woe ever renewed.

Beset from its beginning by such clouds of gloom and disharmony, the play must stake its claim to comic redemption very early. In the same conversation in which Oliver, fresh from his mistreatment of his brother and old Adam, learns from the wrestler Charles the “old news” of the old Duke's banishment (1.1.90), he, and the cosmos of the play, also learn of the existence of the land of pastoral wonder:

Where will the old Duke live?
They say he is already in the Forest of Arden … many young gentlemen flock to him every day, and fleet the time carelessly, as they did in the golden world.


It is interesting that the play here invokes, instead of the Theocritan iconology of formal pastoral, the separate but intertwined tradition of the Golden Age; for the latter, by being more explicitly paradisal, more explicitly repels tragic possibility. Rapin urges in 1659, in his “Dissertatio de carmine pastorali,” that pastoral poetry “is a product of the Golden Age.” To Rapin, pastoral itself is “a perfect image of the state of Innocence, of that golden Age, that blessed time, when Sincerity and Innocence, Peace, Ease, and Plenty inhabited the Plains.” So, to bring in the golden world so early, and entrust the message to such an unexpected source as Charles, is to go—not historically but semiotically—to the very fountainhead of the pastoral myth and thereby to concede the dire need for alleviation of the alienated mood.

Secure, then, in the promise of Arden's redemption, the play indulges in a still closer approach to tragic irrevocability. “I had as lief thou didst break his neck as his finger,” says Oliver to Charles, perverting the latter's honorable intentions in the proposed wrestling match against Orlando (1.1.132). Oliver adorns the malignant proposal by language of studied villainy:

And thou wert best to 't; for if thou dost him any slight disgrace, or if he do not mightily grace himself on thee, he will practise against thee by poison, entrap thee by some treacherous device, and never leave thee till he hath ta'en thy life by some indirect means or other; for, I assure thee, and almost with tears I speak it, there is not one so young and so villainous this day living. I speak but brotherly of him; but should I anatomize him to thee as he is, I must blush and weep, and thou must look pale and wonder.


Such brotherly betrayal prefigures the relationship of Edmund and Edgar. And when Charles departs, Oliver's musing to himself suggests also the selfless dedication of Iago's hatred:

I hope I shall see an end of him; for my soul, yet I know not why, hates nothing more than he.


This play, then, involves the first massive assault of the forces of bitterness and alienation upon the pastoral vision of Shakespeare, and its action glances off the dark borders of tragedy. Indeed, the motif of repeated abandonment of the court, first by Orlando and Adam, then by Rosalind, Celia, and Touchstone, is prophetic of the departings and rejections of Cordelia, Kent, and Edgar at the beginning of King Lear's quest for essential being.

It is, accordingly, both fitting and necessary that the second act of As You Like It opens with an equally massive attempt to restore comic benignity and to check the tragic tendency. For the rightful ruler, Duke Senior, without preliminary of action, invokes the pastoral vision and the idea of a new society in extraordinarily specific terms. In fact, the social assurance of comedy, the environmental assurance of pastoral, and the religious implication of both, are all established by the Duke's speech:

Now, my co-mates and brothers in exile,
Hath not old custom made this life more sweet
Than that of painted pomp? Are not these woods
More free from peril than the envious court?
Here feel we not the penalty of Adam,
The seasons' difference; as the icy fang
And churlish chiding of the winter's wind,
Which when it bites and blows upon my body,
Even till I shrink with cold, I smile and say,
“This is no flattery; these are counsellors
That feelingly persuade me what I am.”
Sweet are the uses of adversity;
Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous,
Wears yet a precious jewel in his head;
And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stone, and good in everything.


But “good,” despite the Duke's statement, is not “in everything” as it is in Love's Labour's Lost and A Midsummer Night's Dream; and the early promise of a “golden world” is not entirely fulfilled. The Forest of Arden, though a paradise, is not an unequivocal paradise; the “churlish chiding of the winter's wind,” even if not painfully felt, is present. “Arden,” as Helen Gardner notes in her well-known essay on As You Like It, “is not a place where the laws of nature are abrogated and roses are without their thorns.” The gall of the court, before it is flushed away by the Arethusan waters, mingles and dissolves itself into the pastoral limpidity. Hence the existence of natural danger in the forest makes it a place halfway between reality and paradise. As Oliver says of his encounter with Orlando there:

A wretched ragged man, o'ergrown with hair,
Lay sleeping on his back. About his neck
A green and gilded snake had wreath'd itself,
Who with her head nimble in threats approach'd
The opening of his mouth; but suddenly,
Seeing Orlando, it unlink'd itself,
And with indented glides did slip away
Into a bush.


The presence of the serpent, potentially dangerous, indicates a certain admixture of harsh reality in this version of a golden world, for of that world Virgil stipulates that “occidet et serpens, et fallax herba veneni occidet”—both the serpent and the false poison plant shall die (Eclogues, 4.24-25). And in the Forest of Arden, an unpastoral danger is brought still closer by the lioness that almost kills Oliver:

A lioness, with udders all drawn dry,
Lay crouching, head on ground, with catlike watch,
When that the sleeping man should stir.
.....This seen, Orlando did approach the man,
And found it was his brother, his elder brother.
.....kindness, nobler ever than revenge,
And nature, stronger than his just occasion,
Made him give battle to the lioness,
Who quickly fell before him.
.....In brief, he led me to the gentle Duke,
Who gave me fresh array and entertainment,
Committing me unto my brother's love;
Who led me instantly into his cave,
There stripp'd himself, and here upon his arm
The lioness had torn some flesh away,
Which all this while had bled.


The function of the serpent and the lioness are clearly revealed in these lines: as figures of venom and fury, they symbolically accept the burden of the venom and fury generated by the Cain and Abel contest of Oliver and Orlando. The two brothers, their rage displaced into the iconic beasts, are ready for reconciliation:

Are you his brother?
                                                                                          Was't you he rescu'd?
Was't you that did so oft contrive to kill him?
'Twas I; but 'tis not I. I do not shame
To tell you what I was, since my conversion
So sweetly tastes, being the thing I am. …
When from the first to last, betwixt us two,
Tears our recountments had most kindly bath'd,
As how I came into that desert place—
In brief, he led me to the gentle Duke.


Thus the Cain-against-Abel tragic disharmony gives way to the legendary Roland-for-an-Oliver togetherness implied by the brothers' names.

The seriousness of the deviances to be reclaimed is to be found not only in a slight deterioration in the pastoral environment, but also in the introduction of Jaques, a pastorally untypical character. Jaques is a humor figure representing the type of the malcontent; he is a member of the tribe not only of Marston's Malevole but, in a sense, of Hamlet himself. Like Hamlet, he calls into question all aspects of life that fall below an exalted ideal of human conduct. It is significant that the first mention of his name refers to his awareness of this less-than-ideal pastoral environment. The old Duke says:

Come, shall we go and kill us venison?
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.
                                                                                                    Indeed, my lord,
The melancholy Jaques grieves at that;
And, in that kind, swears you do more usurp
Than doth your brother that hath banish'd you.


It is emphasized that the Forest of Arden is a version of pastoral like Robin Hood's Sherwood Forest (Charles had said at the outset that “in the forest of Arden” the Duke and his retainers “live like the old Robin Hood of England” [1.1.105-9]). The specification not only prefigures Jonson's pastoral variant, whose “scene is Sherwood” (The Sad Shepherd, Prologue), but it also indicates a world somewhat less perfect than Ovid's golden age. Indeed, as Elizabeth Armstrong points out, “Peace between man and the animal creation” was “a traditional feature of the Age of Gold”; and the “existence of this tradition” may have deterred Ronsard “from allowing his Age of Gold people to slay animals for food or sport” (Ronsard and the Age of Gold). The continuation of the First Lord's report suggests, in direct ratio to its length, the deficiencies of this only partly golden world:

To-day my Lord of Amiens and myself
Did steal behind him as he lay along
Under an oak whose antique root peeps out
Upon the brook that brawls along this wood!
To the which place a poor sequest'red stag,
That from the hunter's aim had ta'en a hurt,
Did come to languish; and indeed, my lord,
The wretched animal heav'd forth such groans
That their discharge did stretch his leathern coat
Almost to bursting; and the big round tears
Cours'd one another down his innocent nose
In piteous chase; and thus the hairy fool.


Stood on th' extremest verge of the swift brook,
Augmenting it with tears.
DUKE Senior:
                                                                                                    But what said Jaques?
Did he not moralize this spectacle?
O, yes, into a thousand similes.


                                                                                swearing that we
Are mere usurpers, tyrants, and what's worse,
To fright the animals and to kill them up
In their assign'd and native dwelling-place.
DUKE Senior:
And did you leave him in this contemplation?
We did, my lord, weeping and commenting
Upon the sobbing deer.


The import of the passage can hardly be mistaken: the deer, with its human coordinates of feeling (“The wretched animal … the big round tears … his innocent nose …”), brings the reality of human pain into the forest; and Jaques's moral criticism, by linking the killing of the deer with usurpation and tyranny, indicates that the forest is not completely divorced from the reality of the urban spectacle. Jaques, indeed, links city, court, and pastoral forest together by his criticism.

Although a pastorally atypical figure in the play, Jaques is nevertheless in a sense its central figure, or at least the figure who does most to define the idiosyncratic strain of malaise. But the type of the malcontent can imply not only Hamlet's idealism but Bosola's cynicism, and Jaques's presence threatens as well as criticizes the pastoral environment. It is therefore necessary to provide him a counterweight, so that the unchecked burden of malcontentment may not become so heavy as to break up entirely the fragilities of the pastoral vision. That counterweight the play summons up in the character of Touchstone, the fool. Replacing the “hairy fool / Much marked of the melancholy Jaques” (that is, the deer whose travail brings out Jaques's role as in part the emissary of a realm of more beatific feeling), Touchstone reminds us, perhaps subliminally, of Jaques's compassion and at the same time dissolves the accompanying melancholy into a language of ridicule and jest more fitting to comic aims. The function of the fool is to redeem Jaques from the melancholy that is so dangerous to the comic-pastoral aspiration:

DUKE Senior:
What, you look merrily!
A fool, a fool! I met a fool i' th' forest,
A motley fool. A miserable world!
As I do live by food, I met a fool,
Who laid him down and bask'd him in the sun,
And rail'd on Lady Fortune in good terms,
In good set terms—and yet a motley fool.
“Good morrow, fool,” quoth I. “No, sir,” quoth he,
“Call me not fool till heaven hath sent me fortune.”
And then he drew a dial from his poke,
And, looking on it with lack-lustre eye,
Says very wisely, “It is ten o'clock;
Thus we may see,” quoth he, “how the world wags;
'Tis but an hour ago since it was nine;
And after one hour more 'twill be eleven;
And so, from hour to hour, we ripe and ripe,
And then, from hour to hour, we rot and rot;
And thereby hangs a tale.” When I did hear
The motley fool thus moral on the time,
My lungs began to crow like chanticleer,
That fools should be so deep contemplative;
And I did laugh sans intermission
An hour by his dial. O noble fool!
A worthy fool! Motley's the only wear.


Thus, whilst Jaques criticizes the world, Touchstone gently and unintentionally mocks that criticism. Touchstone's own railing “on Lady Fortune in good set terms” reveals to Jaques the dimension of the absurd in all human seriousness. To hear a “motley fool thus moral on the time” is to suggest that to moral on the time is to be a motley fool. If a fool is “deep contemplative,” then perhaps the “deep contemplative” is the foolish. Touchstone is a mirror that not only reflects, but lightens, the malcontentment of Jaques. Indeed, garbed in fool's motley, such criticisms as those of Jaques can safely be allowed in the pastoral realm. “Invest me in my motley,” says Jaques:

                                                                                                                        give me leave
To speak my mind, and I will through and through
Cleanse the foul body of th' infected world.


But only if he accepts the dimension of the ludicrous as supplied by the fool can Jaques fit into the comic scheme:

Yes, I have gain'd my experience.
And your experience makes you sad. I had rather have a fool to make me merry than experience to make me sad.


Touchstone himself serves the same large function as his counterpart in King Lear, although his role is less wonderfully developed. The fool, in either comedy or tragedy, tends to criticize arrogance and pretense on the part of the other characters (he can make no claim to wisdom, but he is, notwithstanding, no less wise than the others). In comedy, moreover, his benign good nature provides an added depth of social criticism of the individual: the fool, who is isolated by his motley garb and supposed mental limitations, refuses to be alienated. Whereas Jaques, the malcontent, endlessly finds the world a woeful place, Touchstone accepts existence as he finds it. And most importantly, either here or in King Lear, the fool constantly urges the paradox of St. Paul: “If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise” (1 Cor. 3:18).

Thus, as Jaques says, “The wise man's folly is anatomiz'd / Even by the squand'ring glances of the fool” (2.7.56-57). “The more pity,” says Touchstone,

that fools may not speak wisely what wise men do foolishly.
By my troth, thou sayest true; for since the little wit that fools have was silenced, the little foolery that wise men have makes a great show.


And as Touchstone emphasizes, “‘The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool’” (5.1.29-30). By thus paradoxically collapsing the original juxtaposition of wisdom and folly into a playful equation where they are interchangeable, the fool reinforces those attitudes of Plotinus and Plato, mentioned [previously], by which we are urged to realize that human life, when all is done, is not a very serious matter.

This implication of the fool's influence is made explicit in the famous speech of Jaques, uttered after he has met Touchstone and expressed the desire “that I were a fool! / I am ambitious for a motley coat” (2.7.42-43); for the speech constitutes a change from Jaques's customary black melancholy:

                                                                                          All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms,
Then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lin'd,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
His youthful hose, well sav'd, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion;
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans every thing.


The lines achieve simultaneously a vision of life and a wry, rather than melancholy or despairing, perspective on its mystery. The tears of Jaques's contemplation of the wounded stag, mingled with the merry wonder of Touchstone's motley, become now an equivocal smile. Jaques's attitude, accordingly, is reclaimed from tragedy; and as a mark of this reclamation it sees the vanity of human life in terms of social roles—schoolboy, lover, soldier, justice—rather than in terms of individual agonies.

Jaques's moralizing, however, is here, as in the instance of the sobbing deer, somewhat blunted by a certain misunderstanding of reality. In the earlier instance, he did not consider that the hunters were killing out of necessity and not for sport; now the generalities of his cynical seven ages speech do not relate to the actuality around him. For Adam, who by Jaques's speech should be in “second childishness and mere oblivion … sans every thing,” is instead—and the point is made by Orlando just before Jaques begins to speak—an “old poor man, / Who after me hath many a weary step / Limp'd in pure love.” Adam is not “sans every thing,” but full of “pure love.” Jaques's speech, in short, does not recognize the facts of human community and mutual concern, and flies in the face of the reality before him:

I almost die for food, and let me have it.
DUKE Senior:
Sit down and feed, and welcome to our table.
Speak you so gently? Pardon me, I pray you; I thought that all things had been savage here.


The Duke's answer serves both as a repudiation of Jaques's antisocial cynicism and as a sacramental affirmation of human community:

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 engend'red;
And therefore sit you down in gentleness,
And take upon command what help we have
That to your wanting may be minist'red.


Then, immediately after Jaques's interruption, the Duke reaffirms the holy sense of mutual concern: he pointedly includes the aged Adam in the communal meal:

Welcome. Set down your venerable burden.
And let him feed.


In the midst of gentleness, welcoming, help, and veneration Jaques has revealed himself as deficient in the sympathies shared by “co-mates and brothers,” and is therefore finally excluded from the community achieved by comic resolution. He is not only counterbalanced, but humanized, by Touchstone; yet in a sense he is and remains more a fool than does the man in motley.

Although not so profound a creation as Lear's fool, Touchstone is clearly closely related:

Well, this is the forest of Arden.
Ay, now am I in Arden; the more fool I; when I was at home, I was in a better place; but travellers must be content.


The combination of childlike apprehension and childlike acceptance marks Lear's fool too. Moreover, in this play the fool's apprehension and acceptance upon entering the Forest of Arden are still another way of suggesting that here is a golden world manqué. Like his counterpart in King Lear, Touchstone speaks truer than supposedly more intelligent figures: “Thou speak'st wiser than thou art ware of,” says Rosalind (2.4.53). So when he anatomizes the “seven causes” of dueling, the old Duke finds it appropriate to say, “He uses his folly like a stalking-horse, and under the presentation of that he shoots his wit” (5.4.100-101). The attack on the folly and pretense of dueling, however, is not mere random wit; dueling is a social abuse, and by making it ridiculous, at the end of the fifth act (compare The Alchemist, 4.2.67-68), Touchstone symbolically makes ridiculous all the verbal duelings and disharmonies that have occupied the inhabitants of the pastoral forest.

These duelings interweave themselves into the encounters of almost all the characters. Orlando, for instance, escapes the deadly duel with Oliver, which is made concrete by his wrestling duel with Charles, only to engage in a duel of wits with Rosalind-Ganymede, and another with Jaques. Indeed, as a recent critic has emphasized, meetings or encounters (of which such duelings are a version) substitute for conventional plot in the play's middle portion and thereby invest the action with a special lightness of tone: “such is the ease and rapidity with which pairs and groups break up, re-form, and succeed one another on the stage that there is a sense of fluid movement. All is done with the utmost lightness and gaiety, but as the lovers move through the forest, part and meet again, or mingle with the other characters in their constantly changing pairs and groups, every view of life seems, sooner or later, to find its opposite.”

Such an opposition, playfully cast into dueling's artifice of thrust and riposte, is the encounter between Jaques and Orlando:

I thank you for your company; but, good faith, I had as lief have been myself alone.
And so had I; but yet, for fashion sake, I thank you too for your society.
God buy you; let's meet as little as we can.
I do desire we may be better strangers.
I pray you, mar no more trees with writing love songs in their barks.
I pray you, mar no more of my verses with reading them ill-favouredly.
Rosalind is your love's name?
Yes, just.
I do not like her name.
There was no thought of pleasing you when she was christen'd.
You have a nimble wit; I think 'twas made of Atalanta's heels. Will you sit down with me? and we two will rail against our mistress the world, and all our misery.
I will chide no breather in the world but myself, against whom I know most faults.
The worst fault you have is to be in love.
'Tis a fault I will not change for your best virtue. I am weary of you.
By my troth, I was seeking for a fool when I found you.
He is drown'd in the brook; look but in, and you shall see him.
There I shall see mine own figure.
Which I take to be either a fool or a cipher.
I'll tarry no longer with you; farewell, good Signior Love.
I am glad of your departure; adieu, good Monsieur Melancholy.


In such a staccato combat, the elegance of which depends on the tension between the content of antagonism and the form of social courtesy, both participants are rebuked for social deviance: Orlando for his lovesickness, Jaques for his misanthropic melancholy; and each, kept within social bounds by the form of courtesy, serves as a comic nullifier of the other's deviance.

Neither, however, is wholly reclaimed. Jaques is never entirely redeemed by the play's action, and Orlando is reclaimed only after complicated and lengthy criticism by Rosalind-Ganymede. Indeed, this comedy, even more than Twelfth Night, rejects romantic love as social sickness. In the Forest of Arden romantic love replaces, and thereby almost seems to participate in the antisocial nature of, the darker motif of Cain against Abel that had characterized the action at court.

Orlando indicates his lovesickness by carving his emotion into the bark of forest trees:

O Rosalind! these trees shall be my books
And in their barks my thoughts I'll character;
.....Run, run, Orlando; carve on every tree
The fair, the chaste, and unexpressive she.


Such a proposal echoes a motif from Virgil's pastorals:

certum est in silvis, inter spelaea ferarum malle pati tenerisque meos incidere amores arboribus: crescent illae, crescetis, amores.

it is certain that in the forest, among the caves of the wild beasts, it is better to suffer and carve my love on the young trees; when they grow, you will grow, my love.

The lines are from the tenth eclogue, which is where the pain of romantic love is most specifically recognized. In As You Like It, however, it is not the case that “vincit omnia Amor”; for the comic society rebukes the pain and despair of a pastoral Gallus-like lover.

A second significance of the love-carving is that it reinforces still further the sense of Arden as something less than the pastoral ideal. Thomas Rosenmeyer, in his The Green Cabinet: Theocritus and the European Pastoral Lyric, points out that this “pretty vulgarism”—the “self-defeating attack upon the surface of trees”—which had its inception in Callimachus rather than in Theocritus, actually damages rather than honors the sacred environment of pure pastoral. The play makes clear, nonetheless, that the change from the motif of social sickness as brother-against-brother to the motif of social sickness as romantic love corresponds to a change from a courtly to a pastoral environment. It is, accordingly, noteworthy that Orlando's proposal to carve on the trees is directly followed by a change in the tone of Arden: it promptly becomes less an English Sherwood Forest and more a Latinate shepherd's world. As though a signal has been given, Orlando's proposal is followed by the entrance of Touchstone and of Corin, a shepherd. They duel:

And how like you this shepherd's life, Master 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 it is in the fields, it pleaseth me well; but in respect it is not in the court, it is tedious. … Hast any philosophy in thee, shepherd?
No more but that I know the more one sickens the worse at ease he is; … that good pasture makes fat sheep; and that a great cause of the night is lack of the sun; …
Such a one is a natural philosopher. Wast ever in court, shepherd?
No, truly. …
Why, if thou never wast at court, thou never saw'st good manners. … Thou art in a parlous state, shepherd.
Not a whit, Touchstone. Those that are good manners at the court are as ridiculous in the country as the behaviour of the country is most mockable at court.


Such extended badinage both confirms the equivocal nature of the pastoral realm in As You Like It, and establishes that realm as in fact pastoral. The shepherd's world is somewhat criticized as against the court; the court is somewhat criticized as against the shepherd's world.

In the shepherd's world, Orlando's love is attacked from many quarters. It is, first of all, divested of its claim to uniqueness by being ironically echoed in the pastoral lovesickness of Silvius for Phebe. It is lowered in its claim to dignity by being distortedly reflected in the bumpkin love of Touchstone for Audrey. And it is shown as a diminution, rather than a heightening, of awareness by the fact that Orlando does not know that Ganymede, to whom he laments the absence of Rosalind, is actually that Rosalind whom he so extravagantly loves. His emotion, furthermore, is made to appear moist and ludicrous by the dry criticism of Rosalind. “Then in mine own person I die,” sighs Orlando. Rosalind replies:

No, faith, die by attorney. The poor world is almost six thousand years old, and in all this time there was not any man died in his own person, videlicet, in a love-cause. Troilus had his brains 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.


The last justly famous sentence establishes the absolute norm of comedy's rebuke to romantic love. And the invocation of Hero and Leander directs attention to Marlowe's poem. Indeed, Marlowe's antisocial life, as well as the unacceptability of romantic love's exclusiveness, are focused by reference to Marlowe's death and by direct quotation of a line from Hero and Leander: “Dead shepherd, now I find thy saw of might, / ‘Who ever lov'd that lov'd not at first sight?’” (3.5.80-81; Hero and Leander, 1.176). The question is asked, however, by the pastoral Phebe as she embarks upon a course of patent folly: blind love for Ganymede, who, in reality a woman, represents a social impossibility for the shepherdess.

Phebe's folly is underscored by her “love at first sight” infatuation; her pastoral lover, Silvius, is equally foolish, for love makes him less than a man:

Sweet Phebe, do not scorn me; do not, Phebe.
Say that you love me not; but say not so
In bitterness.


Both Phebe and Silvius are accordingly dry-beaten with Rosalind's scoff, which is the curative of such extravagant and socially unsettling emotion. To Phebe she says:

I see no more in you than in the ordinary
Of nature's sale-work. 'Od's my little life,
I think she means to tangle my eyes too!
No, faith, proud mistress, hope not after it;
'Tis not your inky brows, your black silk hair,
Your bugle eyeballs, nor your cheeks of cream,
That can entame my spirits to your worship.


Having demolished Phebe's pretensions to uniqueness, she then turns her scorn on Silvius:

You foolish shepherd, wherefore do you follow her,
Like foggy south, puffing with wind and rain?
You are a thousand times a properer man
Than she a woman. 'Tis such fools as you
That makes the world full of ill-favour'd children.


Even more explicit, and much more prolonged, are the rebukes administered to Orlando. His romantic extravagance is repeatedly denigrated by being referred to in the language of sickness, and his dramatically pastoral emotion is withered by Rosalind's scorn:

There is a man haunts the forest that abuses our young plants with carving “Rosalind” on their barks; hangs odes upon hawthorns and elegies on brambles; all, forsooth, deifying the name of Rosalind. If I could meet that fancy-monger, I would give him some good counsel, for he seems to have the quotidian of love upon him.
I am he that is so love-shak'd; I pray you tell me your remedy.
There is none of my uncle's marks upon you; he taught me how to know a man in love; in which cage of rushes I am sure you are not prisoner.
What were his marks?
A lean cheek, which you have not; a blue eye and sunken, which you have not; an unquestionable spirit, which you have not; a beard neglected, which you have not. … Then your hose should be ungarter'd, your bonnet unbanded, your sleeve unbutton'd, your shoe untied, and every thing about you demonstrating a careless desolation. …
Fair youth, I would I could make thee believe I love. …
But are you so much in love as your rhymes speak?
Neither rhyme nor reason can express how much.
Love is merely a madness. …
I would not be cured, youth.
I would cure you, if you would but call me Rosalind, and come every day to my cote and woo me.


The artifice of Rosalind pretending to be Ganymede, and Ganymede pretending to be Rosalind again, grants the audience an insight immensely superior to that of Orlando, while equating his exaggerated love with his ignorance; and it also satisfies dramatically the idea that love is a mistaking of reality. Once love comes under the control supplied by Rosalind's criticism, however, the play begins to frolic in the dance-like patterns of Love's Labour's Lost. The Cain-against-Abel situation of the two dukes, like that of Orlando and Oliver, had from the first involved the play in doublings; and these, together with the doubling of Rosalind by Celia, and the Ganymede disguise by the Aliena disguise, become, as the action of the play lightens, the symmetrical doublings and repetitions of comedy's artifice. Indeed, perhaps no single place in Shakespeare's comedy achieves a more perfect coordination of symmetry, repetition, and comic inevitability than the merry-go-round of the love doctor's final social disposition of the disease of romantic love. Rosalind says to Orlando:

Therefore, put you in your best array, bid your friends; for if you will be married tomorrow, you shall; and to Rosalind, if you will.

At this point Silvius and Phebe enter:

Youth, you have done me much ungentleness.


I care not if I have.


You are there follow'd by a faithful shepherd;
Look upon him, love him; he worships you.
Good shepherd, tell this youth what 'tis to love.
It is to be all made of sighs and tears;
And so am I for Phebe.
And I for Ganymede.
And I for Rosalind.
And I for no woman.
It is to be all made of faith and service;
And so am I for Phebe.
And I for Ganymede.
And I for Rosalind.
And I for no woman.
It is to be all made of fantasy.
All made of passion, and all made of wishes;
All adoration, duty, and observance,
All humbleness, all patience, and impatience,
All purity, all trial, all obedience;
And so am I for Phebe.
And so am I for Ganymede.
And so am I for Rosalind.
And so I for no woman.
If this be so, why blame you me to love you?
If this be so, why blame you me to love you?
If this be so, why blame you me to love you?


Pray you, no more of this; 'tis like the howling of Irish wolves against the moon. [To Silvius] I will help you, if I can. [To Phebe] I would love you, if I could.—To-morrow meet me all together. [To Phebe] I will marry you if ever I marry woman, and I'll be married to-morrow. [To Orlando] I will satisfy you if ever I satisfied man, and you shall be married to-morrow. [To Silvius] I will content you if what pleases you contents you, and you shall be married to-morrow.


And thus the play dances to its final resolution. Hymen announces that “Then is there mirth in heaven, / When earthly things made even / Atone together” (5.4.102-4), and his beautiful song pours comic benignity lavishly over the concluding action:

Wedding is great Juno's crown
          O blessed bond of board and bed!
'Tis Hymen peoples every town;
          High wedlock then be honoured.
Honour, high honour, and renown,
To Hymen, god of every town!


The song provides one of literature's most elevated and explicit salutations to the aim and justification of comedy. Under its assurance, the old Duke commands his society to

                                                            fall into our rustic revelry.
Play, music; and you brides and bridegrooms all,
With measure heap'd in joy, to th' measures fall.


And yet even this comic happiness cannot totally sweeten the trace of the bitter root in As You Like It. Both the usurping Duke and the melancholy Jaques are ejected from, rather than reconciled to, the new society. As Jaques de Boys—the new Jaques—says:

Duke Frederick, hearing how that every day
Men of great worth resorted to this forest,
Address'd a mighty power; which were on foot,
In his own conduct, purposely to take
His brother here, and put him to the sword;
And to the skirts of this wild wood he came,
Where, meeting with an old religious man,
After some question with him, was converted
Both from his enterprise and from the world;
His crown bequeathing to his banish'd brother,
And all their lands restor'd to them again
That were with him exil'd.


And Jaques, the malcontent, is, like Molière's Alceste, equally irredeemable by the comic therapy:

Sir, by your patience. If I heard you rightly,
The Duke hath put on a religious life
And thrown into neglect the pompous court.
He hath.
To him will I. Out of these convertites
There is much matter to be heard and learn'd.


So to your pleasures;
I am for other than for dancing measures.


Jaques, indeed, though necessary to the process of comic catharsis in the play, has always exerted counterpressure against the pastoral ideal. When Amiens sings the lovely song that declares Arden's version of pastoral carefreeness, Jaques immediately seeks to cloud its limpidity:

Under the greenwood tree
Who loves to lie with me,
And turn his merry note
Unto the sweet bird's throat,
Come hither, come hither, come hither.
                    Here shall he see
                    No enemy
                    But winter and rough weather.
More, more, I prithee more.
It will make you melancholy, Monsieur Jaques.
I thank it. More, I prithee, more. I can suck melancholy out of a song, as a weasel sucks eggs.


And then Jaques produces his own song, which, in its cynicism, superimposes itself like a blotter on that of Amiens:

If it do come to pass
That any man turn ass,
Leaving his wealth and ease
          A stubborn will to please,
Ducdame, ducdame, ducdame;
          Here shall he see
          Gross fools as he,
An if he will come to me.
What's that “ducdame”?
'Tis a Greek invocation, to call fools into a circle.


If the coming together of individuals into social happiness is for Jaques a calling of “fools into a circle,” it is clear that his own deviation is as impervious to comic reclamation as that of the wicked younger duke.

Thus Duke Frederick and Jaques are “for other than for dancing measures,” and by that fact they show that certain persisting threads of action and tone in this play are alien to the comic vision. By leaving Frederick and Jaques out of the social resolution, As You Like It intensifies the strain on comic limits that the villainous Don John had exerted in Much Ado about Nothing. That play, like this one, concludes equivocally. Benedick recites the comic benediction: “Come, come, we are friends. Let's have a dance ere we are married” (Much Ado, 5.4.113-14); but Don John is a loose end:

My lord, your brother John is ta'en in flight, And brought with armed men back to Messina.
Think not on him till to-morrow. I'll devise thee brave punishments for him. Strike up, pipers.

(Much Ado, 5.4.120-24)

In As You Like It, Hymen's song provides a more radiant measure of comic well-being than any statements at the end of Much Ado, but even so the complications have moved nearer to tragedy, and Hymen cannot eradicate all the signs of strain. And after As You Like It, Shakespeare not only forgoes pastoral therapy for a while, but his comic vessels, leaving behind the clear waters sailed by Twelfth Night and The Merry Wives of Windsor, begin increasingly to labor in heavy seas of bitterness. The idea of the joyous society tends henceforth to be more difficult to achieve or maintain. In The Winter's Tale, great cracks run through the artifice of happiness, and are caulked only with difficulty. Not until The Tempest does Shakespeare's art, having traversed the bitter complications of the middle and late comedies, find quiet harbor in a renewed paradisal hope. There at last, in the enchanted island's golden world, the storm of cynicism and tragic disharmony, with a final rage, blows itself out.

A. Stuart Daley (essay date 1994)

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SOURCE: Daley, A. Stuart. “Calling and Commonwealth in As You Like It: A Late Elizabethan Political Play.” Upstart Crow 14 (1994): 28-46.

[In the following essay, Daley emphasizes political issues in As You Like It, analyzing its dramatization of Tudor commonwealth ideology, in which the virtues of reason and temperance combine to regenerate a society corrupted by fraternal strife.]

This paper proposes that in As You Like It Shakespeare designed a comedy about politics in the contemporary sense of pertaining to the art of governance and the state of the commonwealth. His subject is the problem of redeeming a sovereign dukedom from the tyranny of a usurper and, on the parallel level of an eminent family, the freeing of an orphan youngest brother from the oppression of his elder brother, now in loco parentis. Accordingly, the expository first act details the infection of the body politic by the vices typical of tyrants, whether public or domestic, namely ambitious pride, the sin against God, and anger, envy, and avarice, the sins against kinsmen and neighbors. According to another venerable model, the usurping younger brother personifies Force, and the fratricidal eldest brother personifies Fraud; both are guilty of treachery against country and kindred.1

It might seem puzzling that a political reading of As You Like It has not been ventured hitherto. Two reasons suggest themselves. First the long dominance of the views of what might be called the Bonny Prizer school because its criticism has been inspired by the Wrestler's chatty hearsay (I. i. 98, 99, “news,” “news”; 114, 117, “they say,” “they say”)2 about the court-in-exile. These critics have generally concurred in representing the exiles as camping in a pastoral locus amoenus, enjoying an idyllic (idle?) holiday of hunting, impromptu discussions, and wooing. Second, having been led down the pastoral path by these interpretations, we have either overlooked or not taken seriously first-act exposition of the issues at stake and the opposing parties.

A simple lack of attention, therefore, may explain why the opening discourse on the denial of Orlando's education and, consequently, the whole first act have been either neglected or misconstrued, a deficiency of which Louis Adrian Montrose very usefully reminds us.

The compact early scenes expose hostilities on the manor and in the court that threaten to destroy both the family and the state. Although modern productions have shown that these scenes can be powerful and effective in the theatre, modern criticism has repeatedly downplayed their seriousness and significance. They are often treated merely as Shakespeare's mechanism for propelling his characters—and us—into the forest as quickly and efficiently as possible. Thus Harold Jenkins, in his influential essay on the play, writes of ‘the inconsequential nature of the action’ and ‘Shakespeare's haste to get ahead’: for him, the plot's interest consists in Shakespeare's ability to get most of it over in the first act.3

In order to rectify what he acutely perceives to be ill-grounded and unenlightening criticism, Montrose undertakes a fresh approach to the play through a new reading of the first seventy-three lines taken in their historical context. Montrose concludes that, “In As You Like It, the initial conflict arises from the circumstances of inheritance by primogeniture.”4 Montrose quotes protests against the inequities of primogeniture, and infers that

Shakespeare's opening strategy is to plunge his characters and his audience into the controversy about a structural principle of Elizabethan personal, family, and social life. … In the course of As You Like It, Orlando's gentility is preserved and his material well-being is enhanced. Shakespeare uses the machinery of pastoral romance to remedy the lack of fit between deserving and having, between Nature and Fortune.5

An important value of Montrose's essay rests in its demonstration of direct connections between As You Like It and the real world of its day in its rebuttal of the romantic insistence that the play presents a patchwork pastoral with nothing more profound to offer than the “perfect happiness of the simple life, an illusion, much mocked at, but still cherished.”6 On the other hand, Montrose's thesis that “the expression and resolution of sibling conflict and its social implications are integral to the play's form and function,”7 important as it is, poses in turn difficult questions and inconsistencies.

While sibling conflict consequent on inheritance by primogeniture may be the immediate cause or condition of Orlando's deprivations, it never in itself becomes an issue, nor can it account for the play's conflicts in general. Instead, on the positive side, primogeniture determines both the legal rights and status in the hierarchy of the two dukes and their daughters as well as the de Boys brothers. Thus we know that the “old” duke is unquestionably the legitimate, that is, hereditary sovereign, and that while Celia ranks as a royal princess, her cousin Rosalind is the de jure heir apparent to the throne. Furthermore, the ultimate restoration of the lands, revenues, and dignities of the exiles (cf. I. i. 102-03; V. iv. 163-64, 174, and 186) unarguably endorses the rightfulness of their inheritance. Above all, the proposed thesis cannot explain why Oliver discriminates so harshly against Orlando, yet not against his next younger brother, a glaring inconsistency announced (therefore) at the very outset when Orlando says, “My brother Jaques he keeps at school, and report speaks goldenly of his profit” (I. i. 5-6). Oliver's selective animosity alerts us to deeper, more private motivations. I propose instead that the issue introduced in lines 1-73 springs from the denial, for whatever reasons, of the education appropriate for a youth whose gentle condition of birth coupled with his exceptional personal gifts mark him fit to govern in the realm. By denying Orlando's vocation, Oliver defies a paramount public and patriotic interest, the training of future servants of the Crown.

Orlando pointedly insists on his status as a gentleman and, moreover, on his status as the son of a distinguished minister of the Crown because it defines his brother's duty to him. When he tells the hostile duke that he is proud to be Sir Rowland's son and “would not change that calling” (I. i. 233), he probably uses “calling” in the two senses of the patronymic and the office. Aptly enough, in Shakespeare's story source the duty of one of his calling is summed up by Sir John of Bordeaux for the guidance of his sons:

Let your Countries care be your hearts content, and thinke that you are not borne for your selues, but to leuell your thoughts to be loyall to your Prince, careful for the Common weale, and faithfull to your friends; so shall France say, these men are as excellent in vertues as they be exquisite in features.8

These criteria for the ruling class set a standard for its representatives in the play.

The betrayal of such duties by the illegitimate new duke and the unnatural (IV. iii. 123, 124) eldest brother has brought on the malignancy afflicting the realm. The duty to take care for the common weal, the public good, governs everyone in the play because the dukedom mirrors a commonwealth of people, in analogical parlance a “body politic,” associated structurally in a pyramidal hierarchy of estates or classes, the aristocracy forming the apex just below the prince, and the large mass of rural and unskilled laborers forming the base that supports the intermediate and higher degrees of people. For centuries, a national society had been conceived of as organological in nature, each class or member cooperating with the others to maintain a harmony of effort conducive to the common profit.9

The solution to be worked out by the drama, if a catastrophic ending is to be averted, is the restoration of the common weal within the constraints of the Tudor prohibition of active resistance to authority, however illegitimate and tyrannical it might be, and in accordance with the Tudor doctrine that its social cohesion and general welfare depend upon the dedication of its individual members to leading a life governed by reason and (therefore) moderation, each one contentedly accepting his divinely allotted status in the hierarchy, rendering obedience to those set over him in degree and authority, and discharging as ably as possible the public and private duties of his calling.10 Of these means, the theoretical cornerstone of a well regulated commonwealth was the general observance of the doctrine of calling or vocation. Today these words mean little more than one's trade or profession, or a sense of fitness for a particular employment, but for the Tudor age and much of the seventeenth century, too, the socio-economic theory of calling is said to have been nothing less than “the central organizing concept in Reformed social ethics.”11 The concept is rooted in biblical injunction; the Geneva Bible gloss on 2 Thessalonians 3:10 sums it up: “Then by the worde of God none oght to liue idelly, but oght to giue him self to some vocation, to get his liuing by, and to do good to others.”12 Orlando makes the essential point at the outset when he objects that idleness “mar[s] that which God made” (I. i. 32-33).

Vocation was a recurrent topic in Tudor sermons and books, but two specific treatises of interest appeared during Elizabeth's reign, Aegremont Ratcliffe's translation of Pierre de la Place's Politique discourses, treating of the differences and inequalities of vocations (London, 1578; STC 15230.5), and the ultimate exposition of 1 Corinthians 7:20: “Let euery man abide in that calling wherein he was called,” in A Treatise of the Vocations, or Callings of Men, with the sorts and kinds of them, and the right vse thereof, by the prestigious Puritan preacher and theologian of Cambridge, William Perkins (d. 1602).13 For Elizabethans, two frequent reminders of this duty were the joining of degree and vocation in the homily on good order and obedience (1547) and the pledge made by every child at confirmation to “learn and labor truly to get mine own living, and to do my duty in that state of life, under which it shall please God to call me.”14

In brief, as Ratcliffe asserts in his dedication to Secretary Walsingham, “There is not one, who … is not secretly by the unspeakable providence of God, called to some vocation: that is to say, to one manner of living, or other.” This “manner of living” comprehended not merely one's office or work, but also one's obligations to one's family, class, community, and church. The corollary followed that “no one may or can leave his owne, to take to him his felowes office or charge” on which Stephen L. Collins comments, “This is the ethical imperative of Tudor order theory.”15 The imperative perpetuated the medieval ideal of an organological community sanctioned by “a certain bond to linke men together, which Saint Paul calleth the bond of peace and the bond of perfection, namely, loue” (Perkins 732). In a social order bonded by love, of course, there ought not to be a stranger, an Aliena: “No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.”

This long standing concept of mutual need and symbiotic obligation explains, relates, and unifies the diverse elements of the play, some of which have appeared improvised, impromptu, even implausible to our ego-centered culture. Just as the conflicts essentially issue from the egoistic repudiation of the duties of vocation and degree, so the solutions follow from the constancy of the protagonists to their callings, as I hope to show. To a ruling-class audience, it is the key to the problem set by the first act, the restoration of Le Beau's “better world than this” (I. ii. 284). It is a perennial problem already dramatized by Shakespeare's English history plays, and about to be examined in The Tragedy of Julius Caesar. For comedy, such an academic subject might seem impossibly undramatic, and certainly As You Like It has long been faulted for lack of plotting and action, but in fact it offered exploitable theatrical analogues.

To begin with, the playwright arranged a cast of characters that brings on stage a cross-section of Elizabethan society that, although limited in number, is diversified enough in rank and circumstance to replicate very closely—as it happens—the hierarchy of degrees and vocations enumerated in one of the sermons appointed to be read during the year:

Every degre of people, in their vocacion, callyng and office, hath appoynted to them their duetie and ordre. Some are in high degre, some in lowe, some kynges and princes, some inferiors and subjectes, priestes and laimen, masters and servauntes, fathers and chyldren, husbandes and wifes, riche and poore, and every one have nede of other: so that in all thynges is to be lauded and praysed the goodly ordre of God, without the whiche, no house, no citie, no common wealth can continue and endure.16

These degrees are represented, and in the course of the play every one from duke to rustic comes to “have nede of other.” Indeed, by the manipulation of a plot conducive to repeated exercise of pity and mercy, As You Like It dramatizes the need of each for other to an extent unsurpassed in the canon save for King Lear, its counterpart in the tragic mode.

The figures most implicated in the political issues of the play Shakespeare took over from Lodge's Rosalynde, drastically altering them to suit his purposes. Thus all are purged of incompatible pastoralism save Silvius and Phebe, who will be purged in the play. Two far-reaching changes in personal relationships are, first, the substitution of primogeniture for Lodge's partible or gavelkind inheritance, and, second, turning the dukes into brothers, the elder becoming a philosophical prince seemingly as well-read as Queen Elizabeth. Lodge's “Norman” wrestler gets a name and a share of the unscrupulousness of the two tyrants, while Alinda is renamed Celia in token of the qualities she exercises. Shakespeare transmutes the stereotype pastoral shepherd Coridon into Corin, an idealistic yet practical farm laborer, and refines Lodge's pugnacious Adam—handy with a poleax—into a patient servitor who is the model of his calling.

Aside from bit parts, Shakespeare rounded out his model by adding five familiar types. Two neatly balance each other: a court clown and Jaques, a type of melancholy gentleman crossed here with the libertine Italianate traveler. The other three represent rustic types, namely Audrey, a goat girl ambitious to rise above her station, William, a droll example of the prospering peasantry of the Forest of Arden, and the vicar of a chapel.

Finally, mention of other pursuits and social types imaginatively evokes the larger world of the dukedom—that is, England. A few, like the extravagant city woman or the lawyer sleeping between terms, were staples of estates satire and sermons, while others serve to elucidate or color a situation. Thus the de Boys' hinds and horse trainers betoken a magnate's county seat, and Corin's churlish master who rejects the Christian duty of hospitality records the new kind of strictly profit-motivated farmer who ignored the social code that charged the squire with care for the welfare of his laborers and the neighboring poor.17 (Plotwise, his passing notice adroitly sets up the duty and occasion for subsequent acts of “sacred pity” [II. iv and vii].) Ultimately, calling alone sufficiently accounts for the deus ex machina in the guise of “an old religious man” that providentially prevents a catastrophic ending at the critical moment.

The stage resources for revealing the status and calling of a character were rich and conventional. As You Like It makes full use of nomenclature and titles, class-revealing speech, dress, and behavior, occupational garb and gear, the physical marks of daily activities, and mental traits popularly associated with a particular vocation. Of the latter, surely the mockery of Jaques' list (IV. i. 10-14) of the humors peculiar to each of five professions and the fashionable lady was due to its aptness to the composition of his first-night audience.

Some characters are addressed simply by the nomenclature of their callings. At his first entry, Corin is greeted by name, but thereafter only as shepherd. The vicar's punning appellation, Martext—a spoiler or botcher of the text—identifies Sir Oliver with the notorious “dumb dogs” or “lack-latin” priests (cf. III. ii. 319) who were a scandal of the Elizabethan church.18 It should be noted here that for the play's auditors the vicar is the only Oliver. Orlando's eldest brother is spoken of or to throughout the play only in terms of his calling in the de Boys family as a brother and the head (“your worship”) of the house.

Two attributes of class and calling, one symbolic, one factual, rest on contrasting physical features. Rosalind's light and fair complexion symbolically distances her from the dark and foul (III. iii. 39-41; III. v. 62, 66) Audrey and Phebe. In five other instances, Shakespeare relates hands to status with painterly detail; these are Rosalind's white hand, the courtier's perfumed hands, the dairy maid's chapped, the shepherd's hard and greasy with suint and tar, and the rural housewife's hands that look like old gloves.

At the end of the troubled nineties, in the dogwatch of the reign, the play does not ignore its audience's awareness of skepticism about the regenerative efficacy of traditional hierarchical and altruistic ideals. In fact, the century had experienced such social instability from the self-interested pursuit of personal profit and prestige that by 1555 social climbers were being called “Vpstartes, a term lately inuented,” and “crowish start ups … from the dunghill,” and the like.19 Accordingly, Shakespeare provided a spokesman for the empirical thinking that, appealing to “experience” (IV. i. 26), accepted the natural primacy of the ego and its disregard for others, that is, the cynical libertine and railing melancholic Jaques. A footloose commentator who shirks the liabilities of commitment, Jaques represents the dissenter from the Elizabethan orthodoxy of Duke Senior. Their philosophies are presented by principle and symbol in the thematically crucial opening scene of act two, and so diverse are their convictions that the play's resolution for good or ill depends upon whose shall finally prevail.

The banished duke's christian consolatio accepts adversity with content because there is “good in everything,” as is evident from hieroglyphs in the forest's book of creatures such as trees, brooks, and stones—and toad. The duke is “happy” because he exemplifies a princely patience (cf. V. iv. 187).20 First Lord then reports the moralizing of “the melancholy Jaques” on the spectacle of a wounded stag abandoned by his “velvet friends,” the careless herd. The deer, too, offer hieroglyphic meanings, spiritual and, as a herd, political. For Jaques the deer mirror the velvet courtiers and the “fat and greasy citizens” of London. But he draws therefrom conclusions repugnant to the duke's Christian-humanistic “translation.”

Jaques translates the spectacle to mean, if anything, that Nature teaches frigid self-interest, certainly not benevolence towards an unfortunate friend, and indeed the saying was “Everyman for himself and God for us all,” a selfishness condemned by the orthodox like Perkins, who writes, “And that common saying, Euery man for himselfe, and God for vs all, is wicked, and is directed against the end of euery calling, or honest kind of life” (728. 2). Jaques pessimistically concludes that, “'Tis right, … thus misery doth part / The flux of company” (II. i. 51-52). Nowadays, “'Tis just the fashion” to spurn the unfortunate. In fact, both pagan and Christian authorities censured such antisocial behavior. Thus Cicero rules that, “we are certainly forbidden by Nature's law to wrong our neighbor,” adding that the rejection of common ties and social obligations “demolishes the whole structure of civil society.”21 Perkins identifies the benevolent design of Nature in terms of the proper fulfillment of one's vocation: “the workes of our callings [must] be profitable, not onely to the doers but to the commonwealth. This the law of nature teacheth” (741. 2). On the authority of experience, however, Jaques proposes or accedes to such a rejection of the bond of love as being both natural and socially acceptable.

At this point, in the political vein, Jaques introduces the first of three analogues for the commonwealth that permeated Tudor political discourse. Having invoked a gregarious-animal similitude, the deer herd, to image ruthless self-interest, he extends his strictures to the ubiquitous idea of the body politic: “Thus most invectively he pierceth through / The body of [the] country, city, court” (II. i. 58-59). Here, “body” denotes its common political sense, as in the opening of Sir Thomas Elyot's The Book Named the Governor: “A public weal is a body living, compact or made of sundry estates and degrees of men, which is disposed by the order of equity and governed by the rule and moderation of reason.” William Perkins gives a typical explanation of the analogy between the commonwealth and nature's masterpiece of unity in diversity, the human body.

In mans bodie, there be sundrie parts and members, and euery one hath his seuerall vse and office, which it performeth not for it selfe, but for the good of the whole bodie; as the office of the eye, is to see, the eare to heare, and the foot to go. Now all societies of men, are bodies; a family is a body, and so is euery particular Church a bodie, and the common-wealth also: and in these bodies there be seuerall members, which are men walking in seuerall callings and offices, the execution whereof must tend to the happy and good estate of the rest; yea of all men euery where, as much as possible is.

(728. 1)

When a Tudor writer or speaker touched upon the relations of the individual member with the corporate body of society, one or more of these analogues usually came into play.22

When Jaques returns to the analogue, he likens the world to a sick human being, boasting that he will, “Cleanse the foul body of th'infected world, / If they will patiently receive my medicine” (II. vii. 60-61). The “health” of the state was implicit in the organological comparison, and connects several strands of our play's thought and imagery. The sick state image abounds in Shakespeare's history plays, where, Caroline Spurgeon says, “the picture of the ‘infection of the time’ … is constant,” to which observation Leonard Barkan has added, “Outside of Coriolanus perhaps the most continuous use of the analogy between body and commonwealth is to be found in the Lancastrian tetralogy.”23 A political reading of As You Like It seems, therefore, decidedly recommended by the fact that this comedy surpasses these plays, even 2 Henry IV, in talk and acting of maladies, infirmities, remedies, and cures. In fact, the imagery in Jaques' speech echoes 2 Henry IV, III. i. 38-43:

Then you perceive the body of our kingdom
How foul it is, what rank diseases grow,
And with what danger, near the heart of it.
It is but as a body yet distempered,
Which to his former strength may be restored
With good advice and little medicine.

Warwick's diagnosis of the kingdom's symptoms fits the distempered dukedom in As You Like It. Its people's (and world's) consistently sound moral judgments and the daily defection to the good duke of young and old of worth show it to be a body “Which to his former strength may be restored / With good advice and little medicine.” The medicine, however, is no jester's therapy to be effected by a physician who cannot cure himself.

The last popular political analogue to be noticed is the enduring theatrum mundi topos, one that is truly apposite to a play replete with theatrical terms, playlets, entertainments, and actors self-consciously adopting roles. Therefore, when Duke Senior plausibly likens the misfortunes just seen in II. vii. to “woeful pageants” in “this wide and universal theater” of human life, he gives Jaques his cue. He begins with an admirable statement of the topos, then adapts it to a man's life seen in seven acts (II. vii. 139-43). Rather regrettably, the focus of this famous speech on the gentry class and its callings has been ignored in favor of the hitherto unquestioned assumption that “it is a good summary of life lived on the average.” However, by 1385, John Gower had summed that up in an aphorism, “Crying torments the baby, school the boy, lust the adult, ambition the man, and covetous desire the old man.”24 Jaques uses Gower's tormentors, but shows no interest whatever in everyman. His only specimen of vulgus vulgaris is the besmattered nursemaid. Instead, with unmistakable detail, Jaques places his specimen in a privileged and exclusive class: the differentiae prove him to be a member of the Elizabethan squirearchy caught in revealing glimpses of their way of life, such as their nurture, their traditional pursuits, and above-average longevity. It is instructive to compare the seven-ages speech with a pictorial counterpart, the resume of the life of Sir Henry Unton in a panoramic montage picturing him, inter alia, as an infant in his mother's arms, an Oxford student, soldier, and diplomat. Both the memorial painting and the thematic speech focus on the historic callings of the class: “To judge men and to fight.”25

Predictably, Jaques caricatures the two gentle callings, but in doing so he contributes to the play's current-time mode not only role details like the occupational cut of beards then in vogue, but also the growing criticism of justices of the peace for compromising their vocation by extorting bribes. “The justice in fair round belly with good capon lin'd” (II. vii. 154) was distinctly topical. Exacting capons for bribes had become a byword for their malfeasance which had been censured in the last Parliament and would spark debate again in 1601 when a Member sneered that, “A Justice of the Peace is a living creature that for half-a-dozen of chickens will dispense with a whole dozen of penal statutes. … These be the Basket-Justices,” and more.26

We have surveyed the rich texture of commonwealth ideology variously dramatized in players' parts, discourse plain and figurative, and action. In that context, roles played by the two princesses and, by contrast, two of the “meaner sort,” Adam and Corin, can be examined to illustrate how devotion to their predestined offices serves to baffle the schemes of their oppressors and otherwise further the recovery of the good old order. Of the princesses, Celia embodies certain royal virtues and obligations, primarily prudence and justice, together with love as friendship. When able, she will “in affection” and by her honor (I. ii. 20-21) restore Rosalind's birthrights. Here Celia anticipates her fervent speech, kindled by her father's pitiless banishment of Rosalind, when she volunteers to go with her for “the love / Which teacheth thee that thou and I am one” (I. iii. 96-97). These words epitomize the aristocratic ideal of selfless friendship that binds those who share the same virtues and ideals to the extent of having, in effect, “one soul in bodies two,” thus, as Sir Thomas Elyot puts it, “making of two persons one in having and suffering.” More broadly, in the Ethics (Bk. 8, 1155a), Aristotle suggests that friendship bonds social communities by promoting unanimity and justice.27

Celia's is but one instance of this antidote for injustice. We have already heard of the “three or four loving lords [who] have put themselves into voluntary exile” with their legitimate duke, and how Duke Senior had loved his good counselor, Sir Rowland de Boys, “as his soul” (I. ii. 235)—just as Jonathan had loved David (l Sam. 18:1, 4; 20:17). Likewise, Orlando's manifest virtues had moved a decent courtier, Le Beau, to declare despite the risk, “I do in friendship counsel you” (I. ii. 261).

Rosalind's multifarious character dominates the play; she speaks a quarter of the lines. (The next most essential character, Orlando, gets fifteen per cent.) Her part is magnified by her central role as the magisterial counselor on issues of conduct. In addition, she claims (III. ii. 404-405; V. ii. 71, and passim) skill in healing and magic, powers traditionally attributed to the mana of royal blood and instrumental to the reconciliations and accords. Her make-believe marriage to Orlando suggests an effective use of imitative magic.28 But fundamentally Rosalind discharges the accepted ideal, subscribed to by both Elizabeth and her successor, that great ones owe to their inferiors a model of ethical conduct. More generally, every one is obligated to instruct and correct his erring fellows. Even such a popular manual on farming as The Book of Husbandry devotes several pages to alms deeds; it is the husbandman and his wife's duty “to correcte them that do amysse and to brynge them into the way of ryghte.” Failure to do so is immoral because, “He that maye correcte and dothe not, he taketh the offence to hym-selfe of the dede.”29

Royal Rosalind's sphere of accountability is primarily for the spiritual rather than the physical works of mercy. Her complementary traits of reason and temperance qualify her to teach the ignorant and admonish the erring. Moreover, she has lost her own pride with her fortunes (I. ii. 252) and learned to bear wrongs patiently (I. iii. 78-79).30 Above all, she is “heavenly” in character precisely as the astute Orlando intuited at their first meeting (I. ii. 289), and as Hymen eventually proclaims. Her personification of the Jovial attributes of reason and temperance is further evinced by her choice for an alias of “no worse a name than Jove's own page … Ganymed,” because contemporary iconography had glossed the name as meaning a joyous bringer of counsel “which is born of the pure mind; therefore, Jupiter takes it to himself.” Thus Ganymede signifies one “knowing wise counsels in his mind.”31

Since reason and temperance abhor excess, the logic of the play requires confrontations between Rosalind-Ganymede and the usurper duke, Phebe, Silvius, and Jaques. Both decorum and circumspection counsel a moderated rejoinder to the malice and wrath of the duke, and Rosalind opts for an unassailable appeal to English juridical defenses against lawless rule—in essence, the right of due process—that forces Frederick's evasion into calumny and a capricious judgment. Regarding the other three exceeders of due measure, the “shepherd boy” can be forthright, and, in the purport of the play, her counsel is not idle conversation, but authoritative prescription for the cure of socially dysfunctional behavior.

As a type of “proud disdainful shepherdess,” Phebe lacks even the excuse of natural beauty; in taking her over, Shakespeare drastically transformed her from Lodge's lovely blonde into a sunburnt adolescent with black hair, “bugle eye balls,” “cheek of cream,” and a “leathern hand” (IV. iii. 24), a “huswife's hand” stained by routine drudgery. These changes symbolically contrast her to Rosalind as darkness contrasts to light. Phebe's excessive vanity has deluded her into disregarding the realities both of her estate and the fact she herself represents “the ordinary / Of nature's sale-work.” Her case calls for unsparing diagnosis, some of her own medicine in fact: “For I must tell you,” Rosalind declares, “friendly in your ear, / Sell when you can, you are not for all markets” (III. v. 59-60). Thus Rosalind holds up to her in place of the flattering glass of Silvius's adulation, the corrective mirror of truth.

Not randomly, then, in this well-orchestrated play, Jaques, too, comes in for a royal castigation because “extremity of love” (IV. iii. 23) includes his narcissism (note Orlando's allusive, “[The fool] is drown'd in the brook; look but in and you shall see him” (III. ii. 287) together with his self-indulgent “extremity” in sadness (IV. i. 5), foreign travel, and financial improvidence. Furthermore, these excesses in an old English gentleman (V. i. 4) amount to flagrant derelictions of calling which Rosalind scores off with trenchant ridicule.

Two humble callings are used for their fitness to demonstrate dramatically that “every one have nede of other.” Old Adam and Corin represent them as ideal members of the body politic who fully acquiesce with their allotted stations and vocations, and labor conscientiously not only for livelihood but also for the common good. Adam plays the model servant of the aristocracy who obeys “to the last gasp” the “antique” (feudal) code of truth and loyalty (II. iii. 69-70), one of a sterling breed, “when service sweat for duty, not for meed,” then thought to be disappearing along with noble housekeeping and hospitality. “Thou art not,” laments Orlando, “for the fashion of these times” (cf. 56-59), such being the ruthless self-serving that Jaques had declared to be now “just the fashion.”

Old Adam's congener, Corin, a servant of husbandry, notably represents what William Harrison proclaims “the fourth and last sort of people in England … [those] who have neither voice nor authoritie in the common wealth, but are to be ruled.”32 As a shepherd who does not “shear the fleeces that I graze,” old Corin makes a precarious living on wages, as Celia realizes (II. iv. 94). Any one more wretched than he must be wretched indeed (II. iv. 68). It is, then, one of the least and last sort of people who rescues the fugitive royal princesses in the Forest of Arden, and Shakespeare further honors him as the ideal of the true laborer. Once we grasp the philosophy that informs As You Like It, we realize that Corin's speech beginning “Sir, I am a true laborer” (III. ii. 73-77) no more celebrates the joys of country life than does Chaucer's similar portrait of “A trewe swinkere,” the Plowman, one of Corin's precursors and, therefore, also a perfect Christian “Living in pees and parfit charitee.” Like the portrait, the speech recites tenets of a vocational creed inspired in part by the Sermon on the Mount. Shakespeare gives both old men Scriptural allusions pertinent to their codes.33 Between them, Adam and Corin set before the audience a pattern of self-subordination to the interest of the common good to which their advanced years witness their persevering dedication.

Shakespeare's audience, of course, believed that self-sacrificing philanthropy conflicts with the human appetite for acquisition. Corin's profession of being “glad of other men's good, [and] content with my harm” could be regarded as morally heroic. “For there is nothing harder and more greeuous to mans cares, inclined naturally to his owne profite,” Politique Discourse asserts, “then to heare that he must renounce the loue and good will he beareth to him selfe, wholy to abandon him selfe, to procure an other mans profite: yea, to quite his owne right to leave the same to his neighbour.”34 What could account then for such altruism as we see here and elsewhere in As You Like It? William Perkins provides an orthodox explanation in his A Treatise. In essence, he ascribes “continuance” in one's calling to personal holiness and constancy. Holiness requires what Adam and Corin (and others) so well illustrate, first the eschewing of vices, especially covetousness and injustice (743, 744), and second, the practicing of two key virtues. “The vertues which the word of God requireth of vs in the practice of our callings, are many, but two especially: Faith, and Loue” (749). The second major need is constancy, the quality which enables a person “to abide in his calling, without change or alteration” avoiding “ambition, envy, and impatience” (750).

The protagonists of As You Like It exhibit these virtues in the pursuit of their callings. Even Jaques, in his valedictory, must credit Duke Senior with “patience and virtue” and cite Orlando for his “true faith.” An observation by James Nohrnberg on the similar concern with constancy in The Faerie Queene seems apposite here because it suggests the broader literary context of the topic. Nohrnberg remarks that, “All the heroes [in The Faerie Queene] are heroic insofar as they are faithful to their ‘troth’ or calling, all must exhibit steadfastness, loyalty, courage, and perseverance. The underlying prerequisite is most nearly constancy, literally ‘standing with.’”35 Certainly the heroes and heroines of As You Like It exhibit constancy; they have endured (V. iv. 173) the course.

As You Like It can be construed as the dramatization of the regeneration of a state imagined on the model of the organological commonwealth defined in Tudor political thinking. Under his master subject, Shakespeare integrates subordinate themes such as the varieties of love and their place in society, or the personal contentment attained by means of the self-disciplining virtues of temperance and reason. Therefore, the characters are essentially abstractions, or embodiments, of degrees and callings and their particular virtues and derelictions. Taken as a group, they represent a dramatic cross section of the Elizabethan hierarchical world.

According to received doctrine, explicit in the play, the remedy for “the foul body of th'infected world” depends on two premises. First, a good society is the product of the goodness of its members, and especially its leaders. Hence, the stress on personal values and the need to know oneself. Orlando admirably states this thesis: when Jaques invites him to sit down and cursorily “rail against our mistress the world, and all our misery,” Orlando retorts, “I will chide no breather in the world but myself, against whom I know most faults” (III. ii. 277-81). The second premise, implicit in the body politic analogy, postulates that (as expressed by the Homily), “every one hath nede of other.” Working through the doctine of calling, these ideals determine the resolution of the comedy.

Finally, a comment should be made on the congruity of the Masque of Hymen with the general tenor of As You Like It, since it has been rejected as an irrelevant interpolation. After a first act where, to use the apt words of a Whitney Embleme, “Three furies fell, which turne the worlde to ruthe, / Both Enuie, Strife, and Slaunder, heare appeare,”36 the Masque symbolically crowns the drama when the numerically meaningful eight “take hands to join in Hymen's bands,” and all atone together. As You Like It seems to have been composed for the nuptials of members of two gentry families who enjoyed ties with the court and the Inns of Court circle. Such an occasion and audience would invite the recurrent witty and urbane perspectives on aspects of love and the role of marriage that feature this sort of comedy. Furthermore, and especially for an establishment audience, love and marriage, social issues, and political theory could be perfectly compatible subjects as Kevin Sharpe explains: “Love and marriage were normative analogues and vocabularies in early modern England and so came naturally in political discourse to men for whom the ideal of government was a replication of God's divine order founded on love. Love expressed harmony and balance; in loving relationships authority and subjection were as one, not in contention; love unified the community.”37 The Masque of Hymen embraces all the communal imagery of As You Like It within the epithalamic symbolism of wedlock, great Juno's bond.38 Thus comes the auspicious juncture for the intervention of Providence, whose unworldly agent, “an old religious man,” overthrows the usurper and his mighty power. Those who have endured can now quit their desert place of exile and return to restore a better world to their commonwealth.


  1. For Frederick as a traditional tyrant and the moral resources of his victims, see A. Stuart Daley, “The Tyrant Duke of As You Like It: Envious Malice Confronts Honor, Pity, Friendship,” Cahiers Élisabéthains, 34 (1988), 39-51.

  2. Shakespeare quotations are from The Riverside Shakespeare, gen. ed. G. Blakemore Evans (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1974).

  3. Louis Adrian Montrose, “‘The Place of Brother’ in As You Like It: Social Process and Comic Form,” Shakespeare Quarterly, 32 (1981), p. 29. The Jenkins article is “As You Like It,Shakespeare Survey, 8 (1955), 40-51.

  4. Montrose, p. 30.

  5. Montrose, p. 33.

  6. Jenkins, p. 50.

  7. Montrose, p. 33.

  8. Thomas Lodge, Rosalynde. Euphues golden legacie (1590), in Richard Knowles, ed., As You Like It: A New Variorum Edition (New York: MLA, 1977), p. 387.

  9. On the Tudor concept of the commonwealth, see Whitney R. D. Jones, The Tudor Commonwealth 1529-1559 (London: Athlone Press, Univ. of London, 1970). A valuable introduction to socio-political ideas appealed to here is “A commonwealth of meanings: languages, analogues, ideas and politics,” Kevin Sharpe, Politics and Ideas in Early Stuart England (London and New York: Pinter, 1989), pp. 3-71. Especially useful on the role of the individual is Stephen L. Collins, From Divine Cosmos to Sovereign State (New York and Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1989), pp. 14-28, outlining the Tudor idea of order. Cf. the salutary reminder of Stephen Greenblatt, Renaissance Self-Fashioning (Chicago and London: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1980), p. 277, n. 5: “Apart from the Judeo-Christian West, we should recall, most of the great civilizations of the world have placed overwhelming emphasis not on the isolated member but on the conformity of every element to its role in the society; the dominant ideology of Hinduism, for example, begins from the standpoint of the total hierarchical structure and then moves to the particular, constituent parts.” R. E. Owst, Literature and Pulpit in Medieval England (1933; Oxford; rptd. Basil Blackwell, 1961) ch. 9, quotes generously from preachers and writers on the precepts of the corporate society.

  10. Regarding aspects of calling or vocation in early modern England, see Jones pp. 82-83, 96-100, and passim; Jean Simon, Education and Society in Tudor England (Cambridge: Univ. Press, 1966), ch. 14; Walter E. Houghton, Jr., The Formation of Fuller's Holy and Profane States, Harvard Studies in English, 19 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press, 1938), pp. 44-73, 89-92; Helen C. White, Social Criticism in Popular Religious Literature of the Sixteenth Century (New York: Macmillan, 1944) discusses calling and the necessity of contentment with one's place.

  11. Debora Kuller Shuger, Habits of Thought in the English Renaissance (Berkeley, Los Angeles and Oxford: Univ. of California Press, 1990), p. 87.

  12. Bible texts in English are quoted from The Geneva Bible, A Facsimile of the 1560 Edition, intro. Lloyd E. Berry (Madison, Wisc.: Univ. of Wisconsin Press, 1969).

  13. STC 19751.5 notes an octavo edition of A Treatise in 1603. I cite (parenthetically) the edition issued at Cambridge by John Legate, Printer to the University, 1608, in Works of William Perkins, Cambridge, 1609, a folio with two columns to the page. For the substance of A Treatise and the importance of Perkins, see Louis B. Wright, Middle-Class Culture in Elizabethan England (1935; Ithaca, NY: Cornell Univ. Press, 1958) ch. 6 and passim.

  14. The Book of Common Prayer 1559, ed. John E. Booty (Charlottsville: Univ. Press of Virginia, 1976), p. 286; also pp. viii, 315, and 320.

  15. Collins, pp. 21 and 27, also p. 19. Collins, p. 17 reports that, “Most agreed that civil order and politic rule were necessary, and that by following one's duty, whatever one's degree, such order could be maintained. Throughout the century this theme was commonly sounded.”

  16. “An Exhortacion Concernying Good Ordre and Obedience to Rulers and Magistrates,” Certain Sermons or Homilies (1547) and A Homily against Disobedience and Wilful Rebellion (1570), ed. Ronald B. Bond, A Critical Edition (Toronto: Univ. of Toronto Press, 1987), p. 161.

  17. For these effects, see Alan Everitt, “Farm Labourers 1500-1640,” Chapters from the Agrarian History of England and Wales 1500-1750, ed. Joan Thirsk, vol. 2, Rural Society … 1500-1750, ed. Christopher Clay (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1990), pp. 204-05, 226 and passim. Hence Celia will mend Corin's wages (II. iv. 94).

  18. For the state of the Warwickshire clergy see their answers to the inquiry of 1585 transcribed and ed. D. M. Barratt, in two vols. of the Dugdale Society Publications XXII (Parishes A to Li) and XXVII (Lo to W), Ecclesiastical Terriers of Warwickshire Parishes (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1955 and 1971). In her introduction to the play, The Riverside Shakespeare, p. 368, Anne Barton says, “With the exception of Rosalind, most of the characters resolve themselves when looked at closely into familiar Elizabethan types.” Martext is no exception.

  19. OED, citing The Institucion of a gentleman (London, 1555); Jones, p. 98, and on the general topic, pp. 88-90 and passim.

  20. Personal adversity was to be accepted patiently and endured as God's will. It was seen as the school of wisdom and virtue and the test of friendship. In Meditation XVII, John Donne states the truism that, “affliction is a treasure, and scarce any man hath enough of it. No man hath affliction enough that is not matured and ripened by it and made fit for God by that affliction.” A comprehensive study of the subject is The Triumph of Patience: Medieval and Renaissance Studies, ed. Gerald J. Schiffhorst (Orlando: Univ. Presses of Florida, 1978). As You Like It accepts human tribulations as inevitable and stresses the countering virtues of fortitude and patience; see my “The Triumph of Patience in As You Like It,The Aligarh Journal of English Studies, 13 (1988), 45-66.

  21. Cicero, De officiis, trans. Walter Miller (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press, 1913), 294/295, bk. 3. 6; he cites (22/23, bk. 1. 7) Plato: “we are not born for ourselves alone.” Touching on the theme of social corruption in Tudor morality plays, F. P. Wilson asserts that “Dramatists and preachers and pamphleteers are moralists to a man, and the difference between the approach of a Langland and a Jonson, or a Nashe or a Dekker, between a medieval friar and a Lever or a Perkins is almost imperceptible. The saying, ‘Every man for himself and God for us all’ was abhorrent to them.” (The English Drama, 1485-1585, ed. G. K. Hunter [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1969], p. 56.) I would further note that principles of John Gower's social philosophy resonate in As You Like It.

  22. Elyot quoted from S. E. Lehmberg, ed. (London: Dent, 1962), p. 1. John of Salisbury had elaborated the body-state analogy in Policraticus (1159), bks. 5, 6. The country-city-court formula expresses the conventional tripartite division, but Richard Levin, The Multiple Plot in English Renaissance Drama (Chicago: The Univ. of Chicago Press, 1971), p. 58, maintains that “when [the dramatists] wished to present a systematic cross section of their nation, it was more likely to emerge as a survey, not of classes, but of various vocations or ‘estates’”—in effect, what is demonstrated in this paper. Two histories of the body-state metaphor are David George Hale, The Body Politic (The Hague and Paris: Mouton, 1971) and Leonard Barkan, Nature's Work of Art: The Human Body as Image of the World (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1975). Sharpe finds that “The phrase ‘body politic’ … stood as the most familiar of all the analogues for the commonwealth” (61), an analogy completely medieval, as Jones observes (p. 13).

  23. Spurgeon, Shakespeare's Imagery (1935; Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1965), p. 160 and chart 7. Barkan, p. 109. On the convention, see Jones p. 16, also pp. 17-18, 127-28. One of the king's personae was that of physician for his people.

  24. John Gower, Vox Clamantis, bk. 2, ch. 1, trans. Eric W. Stockton, The Major Latin Works of John Gower (Seattle, Wash.: Univ. of Washington Press, 1962), p. 98. Jaques echoes the conventional “covetous desire” of old men with “His youthful hose, well sav'd, a world too wide” (II. vii. 160). Both Gower and Jaques repeat bromides from the stock that includes King Lear's “When we are born, we cry.” It is worth recalling apropos of an imagined universal application that Gower's fourteenth century schoolboy came mostly from about the upper five per cent of the population and that almost all literate Elizabethan males apart from the clergy belonged to the small social and vocational classes that needed to read and write. In respect to which Phebe may be that rare bird, a literate woman of the yeomanry or minor gentry! See David Cressy, Literacy and the Social Order: Reading & Writing in Tudor & Stuart England (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1980) ch. 6, and regarding “massively illiterate” women, pp. 106, 119-21, 145-49 and passim.

  25. Sir Roy Strong devotes ch. 10 to the “story picture” of Sir Henry Unton in The Cult of Elizabeth (1977; Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1985), pp. 84-110. Color plate 4, The Riverside Shakespeare, reproduces the painting from the original in the National Portrait Gallery, London. On the historic callings, see Maurice Keen, Chivalry (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1984), p. 152.

  26. J. E. Neale, Elizabeth I and Her Parliaments 1584-1603 (London: Jonathan Cape, 1957), pp. 366, 399, citing The Journal of Sir Roger Wilbraham for the Years 1593-1616, ed. Harold Spencer Scott, in The Camden Miscellany, vol. 10 (London: The Royal Historical Society, 1902). Actually, the diarist further states that at the end of the 1597-1598 session the Queen intended Lord Keeper Egerton to charge “that manie Justices of peace were baskett Justices, to gather hens & capons colore officii, but not to distribute justice to the releaf of the subjects” (pp. 12-13). I. H., A Health to the Gentlemanly Profession of Serving-Men 1598, intro. A. V. Judges, Shakespeare Association Facsimile, 3 (1598; London: Humphrey Milford, Oxford Univ. Press, 1931) C4r tells how a concerned farmer offers the local magistrate “a coople of fat capons” and other inducements to exempt his son from conscription.

  27. Elyot, p. 134. See Laurens J. Mills, One Soul in Bodies Twain: Friendship in Tudor Literature and Stuart Drama (1937; Ann Arbor, Mich.: Univ. Microfilms International, 1980). The cultural origins of the ideal are surveyed by Gervase Mathew, “Ideals of Friendship,” in John Lawler, ed. Patterns of Love and Courtesy (London: Edward Arnold, 1966), pp. 45-53.

  28. Thomas M. Greene, “Magic and Festivity at the Renaissance Court,” Renaissance Quarterly, 40(1987), 636-59 is a valuable account of the expressions of royal magic in, especially, court entertainments. Greene's elucidations of the symbolism and purposes of the marriage masque, representations of heavenly descent, and closing dances can clarify their use in As You Like It.

  29. Master [Sir Anthony] Fitzherbert, The Book of Husbandry, ed. Walter W. Skeat, English Dialect Society (1882; Vaduz, Liechtenstein: Kraus Reprint, 1965), pp. 119, 121-22. This popular book was reissued in 1598.

  30. Joseph F. Delany, “Mercy, Corporal and Spiritual Works of,” The Catholic Encyclopedia, ed. Charles G. Hubermann, et al. (New York: Robert Appleton, 1911), vol. 10, p. 199, observes that one needs suitable qualifications to perform spiritual works of mercy.

  31. Don Cameron Allen, Mysteriously Meant (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1970), p. 159; E. H. Gombrich, Symbolic Images (1972; London: Phaidon Press, 1975), pp. 10, 25. See James M. Saslow, Ganymede in the Renaissance: Homosexuality in Art and Society (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1986), pp. 6, 22-25 for spiritualized allegory.

  32. William Harrison, The Description of England in Raphael Holinshed's Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland, 6 vols. (1807; rptd. New York: AMS Press, 1965) vol. 1, p. 275. Also, David Cressy, “Describing the Social Order of Elizabethan and Stuart England,” Literature and History, 3 (1976), pp. 29-44. The Parliament of 1597-1598 had been much concerned with the depressed state of agriculture and the hunger and unemployment among workers on the land.

  33. Brief though Corin's statement is, its explication would exceed available space. See my preliminary study, “Shakespeare's Corin, Almsgiver and Faithful Feeder,” English Language Notes, 27(1990), pp. 4-21. On the Plowman's typifying the ideal Christian layman, see Joseph Horrell, “Chaucer's Symbolic Plowman,” Speculum, 14 (1939), pp. 82-92.

  34. I quote 81r, The Huntington Library copy of STC 15230.5.

  35. James Nohrnberg, The Analogy of The Faerie Queene (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1976), p. 72. Cf. Elyot, “Of constancy or stability,” pp. 205-208.

  36. Geffrey Whitney, A Choice of Emblemes (Leyden, 1586), 4 “Veritas tempus filia,” lines 1-2, in Peter M. Daly, The English Emblem Tradition, Index Emblematicus 1 (Toronto: Univ. of Toronto Press, 1988), p. 93.

  37. Sharpe, p. 60. See also entries under family as a metaphor and marriage. Although Sharpe focuses on the early Stuarts, the Tudor modes, as he explains, continued to influence “a discourse of politics in terms (often derived from Aristotle) of the family, of love and marriage, of the body” (p. 64), granting of course that, “A shared sense of what ought to be did not prevent conflict about how to restore an earlier (idealized) harmony and unity.”

  38. Cf. Alastair Fowler, Triumphal Forms (Cambridge: Univ. Press, 1970), p. 153, “The association of 8 with Juno patroness of marriage had earlier [that is, before Jonson's masque, Hymenaei] been introduced in the wedding masque with which As You Like It harmoniously ends … ‘here's eight that must take hands.’ No doubt the number symbolism here implies ideas of harmony (the octave) and of justice.” To Fowler's implications of eight, I would add that the number two in “Thy loving voyage / Is but for two months victualled” should be understood in its bad sense of discord and division, the predictable prospect for the comedy's example of marrying for the wrong reasons.

John R. Ford (essay date 1998)

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SOURCE: Ford, John R. “The Condition of My Estate: Conjuring Identity and Estrangement in As You Like It.Upstart Crow 18 (1998): 56-66.

[In the following essay, Ford examines themes of estrangement and doubling as part of the process of attaining self-knowledge and personal metamorphosis in As You Like It.]

The forest of Arden in As You Like It destroys as playfully as it creates. In addition to its celebrated powers of defining and restoring relationships, Arden also has a magician's talent for making individual characters appear, disappear, re-appear—metamorphosed, it almost seems, before our very eyes. Some characters, like Adam, simply vanish into thin air at the very moment we are most absorbed by the condition of their estate. When Adam appears at the Duke Senior's camp, he provides a living refutation of Jaques' confident abstraction of the seventh age. We've just heard Jaques' “wise saws and modern instances” (II. vii. 156).1 Here, the play seems to show us, is the thing itself. And then he's gone. Others, like Oliver and Duke Frederick, rush into the forest in their own person, only to vanish and then re-appear “converted” (the same term is used for both) into figures completely alien from their former selves:2

'Twas I. But 'tis not I. I do not shame
To tell you what I was, since my conversion
So sweetly tastes, being the thing I am.

(IV. iii. 135-37)

Duke Frederick, who invaded the forest “in his own conduct,” is similarly “converted” in the “wild wood.” Throughout the play, lesser characters are “conjured” in and out of existence by Arden: Sir Oliver Martext wanders in, then out, of being, as do William and a modest society of “old religious men,” magicians, and uncles.

In the last scene of the play, hardly the time or the place to introduce new characters, Arden conjures up two more. First, just as the characters are beginning to recognize one another through the filter of the various disguises, rhetorical poses, and opaque dispositions that have so beguiled them throughout the play, in walks a mythological god, Hymen, to clarify truth in sight. And there follows an apparition even more startling. Just as we are accommodating ourselves to Hymen, even made strangely comforted by his assurance “[t]hat reason wonder may diminish” (V. iv. 138), enter Jaques de Boys, “the second son of Old Sir Rowland,” who earnestly asks “audience for a word or two” (V. iv. 150-51). The sudden construction of Jaques' character is especially intriguing. He is mentioned by name as early as the second sentence of the play. But then this wisp of a character disappears, exiled from the play, forever it would seem, like Hisperia, the princess' gentlewoman, only to re-appear unannounced, uninvited, indecorously, at the play's formal resolution.3 Who might be his mother?

Why does this play take such self-conscious delight in the sudden, arbitrary creation and dissolution of so many characters? And why do so many of them share the same name, or near echo of that name: two Jaques, two Olivers, two Dukes? Does this play suggest a relationship between exile and identity? Between identity and mirrored social relation?4

Certainly, the exiles that wander through Arden at the beginning of the play represent a wide range of estrangements as almost every kind of social and familial chord is strained or broken: bonds of service, friendship, brotherhood, political loyalty. But these separations are particularly violent and unnatural, in that they hint that the violations of bonds that estrange one from another are also self-estranging. The near echo of Orlando and Oliver's names gives to their opening struggle a hint of psychomachia. The two Dukes are similarly “twinned.” The “good” Duke is not even named, but distinguished from Frederick only by his seniority and his moral status. This doubling, as several critics have pointed out, is reinforced not only by the mirroring of similarly structured scenes featuring the two dukes but also by the tendency in performance to double the two roles.5

Mirrored blocking and lighting can create another kind of uneasy “doubling.” In The Acting Company's 1997 production of As You Like It,6 precisely this technique was used to create the disturbing visual effect of a “natural perspective,” allowing the audience to fuse, just for a moment, Rosalind and Jaques, perhaps the two most “distinct” characters in the play. When we first see Rosalind, she stands alone, upstage center, her back half-turned to the audience. The lighting emphasizes her isolation, creating a silhouette in exile. When we first see Jaques, we see him also alone, upstage center, half-turned, recreating Rosalind's silhouette, the soft sweep of Rosalind's dress now becoming the outline of Jaques' long, full coat. How do we respond to such an ambiguous, resonating image?7 How do we like it? Truly, in respect that it is Rosalind, it is a figure who magically presides over both the comic community and the music of this play. But in respect that it is Jaques, it is a figure whom the play must expel, unfit for Arden's dancing measures.

This curious triangulation, one that associates doubling with both estrangement and identity, is reflected in some of the play's central images as well as in the metamorphic design of many of its scenes. In fact, in As You Like It, the most powerful representations of both estrangement and consort, both alienation and relation, find verbal and visual expression in the same image of physical conflict. The wrestling scene, for example (I. ii), is central to As You Like It. The scene itself, indeed the several references to wrestling and falls, to better parts thrown down, to tripping up heels and hearts, define and relate the many currents of thought and feeling in this play, with delightful economy, into the “full stream of the world” of As You Like It. Oliver's unkind and uncivil assault on his brother breaks into open wrestling in the play's first scene.

Throughout the play the image will not only recur, but will transform itself wonderfully into the multiple shapes of human entanglement the play reflects. It will define the affectionate energies of two cousins who would challenge one another into merriment: “come, lame me with reasons” (I. iii. 5-6). The erotic play in the image hints not only at the antagonisms and violence that may shadow sexual desire, but at the strange power of love to transform violence into concord, to “take the part” of a better wrestler.8 Similarly, the religious and civic undertones of reverberant terms like “fall” and “overthrow” help establish how alien “the fashion of these times” is to some lost antique world (II. iii. 59). And yet the human features that most redeem us, kindred compassion, love, and foolery, all involve wrestling with affections: whether the internal and external battles Orlando must undergo before rescuing his brother; or his being “overthrown” by “something weaker” than Charles, whom Orlando has just subdued; or Duke Senior's good natured inclination to “cope” with Jaques in his more “sullen fits” (II. i. 67); or, indeed, the gamut of erotic consort provided by these “country copulatives.” We may have lost the Golden World, but these are happy falls. Even the free, natural elements of the forest, the season's difference, define the playful ardor of Arden. The winter's wind has a healthy churlishness that “feelingly persuades” as it chides. And even the brooks engage in pleasing combat, as they “brawl along this wood” (II. i. 32).

In other words, in As You Like It words, no less than the actors who speak them, are required to “double” their parts, provoking in the audience the very dialectical conditions of imaginative judgment that this play celebrates. Such verbal doubling teases us with the intriguing possibility that the conditions of “blessed bond of board and bed” that Hymen celebrates may themselves exist in relation with, may even be defined by, the unblessed conditions of separation and aggression (V. iv. 142). It is in performance, of course, that the wrestling scene becomes most suggestive as it articulates and unifies these contesting ideas.9 In Terry Hands' 1980 RSC production, according to John Bowe, the actor who played Orlando, the wrestling scene took on the magical and reconciling ambiguity of fairy tales: “In keeping with the fairy tale idea we had a fight that was reminiscent of professional wrestling at the local town hall between opponents grossly mismatched. It had moments of hilarity mixed with moments of alarming brutality.”10

The 1996 Shenandoah Shakespeare Express performance also combined the mixed tones of fairy tales and professional wrestling.11 Charles' proud declaration that he wrestles for his credit and his warning of the risks that might befall Orlando took on something of the comic bluster of a pre-fight interview, especially given the actor's use of a Philadelphia accent not unlike Rocky Balboa's. But this production went even further in exploiting the transforming and cathartic power of fairy tales, where worlds can be renewed by the virtue of “ifs.” There was a comic, even cartoon-like, manner of representation of character and event. The actors had transformed themselves into the inanimate furniture of the wrestling ring. Four of them become the four posts that supported the ropes of the ring. But these were no ordinary posts. Indeed, they seemed almost human. Like the trees and running brooks and stones the Duke Senior finds in Arden, these posts were charged with human feeling (a metamorphosis that reverses, with comic precision, Jaques' later desire “to be sad and say nothing,” to be, as Rosalind would translate it, “a post”). They deftly and literally sidestepped Charles' attempts to use them to bash Orlando's head. But later in the match, when the tables turn and Orlando, aroused and enlivened by Rosalind's encouragements, attempts the same battering tactic on Charles, these posts stiffened with a sympathetic pride and moral resolve reminiscent of a Mrs. Potts or Gaston the Candlestick in Disney's Beauty and the Beast. There were “sermons in stones and good in everything.”

An even more radical metamorphosis was implicit in the 1998 production at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre.12 Such a theatre space, of course, renders all discrete boundaries between the conjured world of dramatic illusion and the concrete world of theatregoers deeply problematical. But this production blurred the lines even more, as the action of the wrestling spilled from the stage into the “space” of the audience. Wrestlers jockeyed for advantage in the yard with the rest of us groundlings, who were ourselves wrestling for our credit, constantly shifting our ground both in order to get a clearer view and to keep out of harm's way. In the midst of the confusion, one member of the audience scampered up the temporary wooden steps leading to the stage where, at last, she might gain an unobstructed vantage point. It was Rosalind! If this were played upon most stages now, I could condemn it as an improbable fiction.

A similar sense of metamorphosis often governs the movement within individual scenes. Every scene but one in the play begins by defining a social group. Sometimes the group constitutes a microcosmic community, such as “Duke Senior, Amiens, and two or three lords like foresters” (II. i); or “Duke [Frederick], lords, and Oliver” (III. i). Usually a pair of characters will enter, defining one of the several individual relationships the play will explore: Orlando and Adam; Rosalind and Celia; Orlando and Oliver; Touchstone and Audrey. Some of these pairs open more than one scene. Of these, Rosalind and Celia and Orlando and Adam are the two pairs most likely to initiate, and thus to help define, the shape and tone of a scene. Curiously, not a single scene is initiated by Rosalind and Orlando, even though, of all the civil couples heading towards this ark, this pair clearly occupies the center of the play's and the audience's interest. It is almost as if their relationship, saws of dead shepherds notwithstanding, requires others to define it. After all, neither Rosalind nor Orlando enters the forest in search of each other.13 In fact, each goes into Arden to share life with someone quite different. As Orlando and Adam resolve to seek their fortunes together, their language plights a troth:

We'll go along together,
And ere we have thy youthful wages spent,
We'll light upon some settled low content.
Master go on, and I will follow thee
To the last gasp with truth and loyalty.(14)

(II. iii. 66-70)

Celia and Rosalind seek a new life and a new home with a kindly and hospitable uncle: “Now go we in content / To liberty, and not to banishment” (I. iii. 134-35).

Both couples seek “content” in terms that revalidate the very human and social qualities we have earlier seen violated: the bonds of service, kinship, love, freedom. “Content,” of course, is a charged word in this play, one that invokes the powers, both learned and natural, of our sympathetic imaginations to “translate the stubbornness of fortune” into a world in which we might “willingly waste [our] time,” as we like it.15 Rosalind and Celia will find their content, but not with whom they seek. Indeed, it is a special quality of Arden, as Duke Frederick and Oliver might tell you, that no one who enters this forest succeeds in finding whom he seeks.16 Travelers must be content, pleased with what they get.

It may be no accident that, as Orlando and Rosalind discover the ties of their relationship, the play begins to lose interest in the bond between Orlando and Adam. In fact, Adam completely disappears from the play after Act II, scene vii. Or are the ties that bind Orlando and Adam merely absorbed into other dimensions of the play, notably into the energies and mutual affection growing between Orlando and Rosalind, much as in a later play, set in a much harsher exile, where the acerbic and corrective wit of a Fool will be absorbed into his master? Has Adam been, as Amiens (and perhaps Peter Quince) might put it, “translated”?17

Celia's case is much more difficult since she remains a powerful, if increasingly silent, center of the play's interest until she discovers love at first sight with Oliver. But her invitation to Oliver—“Good sir, go with us” (IV. iii. 178)—marks the beginning of a curious estrangement from Rosalind. The two will never speak to one another again for the remaining life of the play. Indeed, these are Celia's final words in the play.18 And yet the two have grown strangely even more intimate. They will enter together in the play's final scene, exit together in mid-scene, and re-enter together as Ganymede undergoes yet another transformation, back to Rosalind. It is as if the two had become in “fact” what Celia had always claimed to be true in rhetoric. To her father, Celia had insisted:

                                                                                          … If she be a traitor
Why so am I. 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.

(I. iii. 68-72)

A few lines later Celia gently admonishes Rosalind:

I charge thee be not thou more griev'd than I am.
I have more cause.
                                                                                          Thou hast not, cousin.
… Rosalind lacks then the love
Which teacheth thee that thou and I are one.

(I. iii. 88-89, 91-92)

That the same imagery of doubling could suggest both conflict and consort, that characters could gain or lose or change their fictional definitions with such surreal ease—all of this points to two essential qualities of As You Like It. In one sense, the play is using whatever theatrical wizardry it can to hold the mirror up to the relativity of human happiness, perception, even identity.19

Time travels at diverse paces with diverse persons. A well-disposed mind can translate the stubbornness of fortune, just as an ill-disposed one can suck melancholy out of any song as a weasel sucks eggs. For the magical powers of Arden reflect not so much the objective power of nature but the subjective power—and the subjective limits—of a mind athletically engaged:20 of an actor who can conjure a Rosalind or a Ganymede or, for that matter, his very self, in his own person; or a true poet most given to feigning; or a lover whose “affection hath an unknown bottom, like the Bay of Portugal” (IV. i. 197-98); or a skeptic who knows that “men are April when they woo, December when they wed” (IV. i. 139-40); or a clown who could swear all this true by his honor, if he had any. There is, indeed, much virtue in if—and much need. It is only appropriate that at the very end of this play, when discoveries about self and others become more and more certain, the language expressing those discoveries becomes increasingly conditional:

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

(V. iv. 118)


If I were a woman, I would kiss as many of you as had beards that pleased me, complexions that liked me, and breaths that I defied not; and I am sure, as many as have good beards, or good faces, or sweet breaths, will, for my kind offer, when I make curtsy, bid me farewell.

(V. iv. 214-20)

And then there is Touchstone's encomium. The 1997 Shakespeare Theatre performance of As You Like It in Washington, D. C., while in many ways an uneven production, nonetheless offered a wonderfully suggestive enactment of Touchstone's set speech on the manners of quarreling, a reading that brought out all the anxious and redemptive elements that commingle in an “if.”21 As Touchstone (Robert Sicular) “nominate[s] in order … the degrees of the lie,” he draws about him an audience, a community made of exiles who nonetheless share a delight in the play and wit of Touchstone's folly. But at the very moment of the fable's happy ending (“And they shook hands and swore brothers”), the new bonds—and the performance that conjured them—are threatened as the Duke Senior (Ted van Griethuysen), suddenly breaking away from the circle of listeners, thinks of his “real” enmity with his “real” brother. Pursuing the Duke, Touchstone woos him with the conclusion of his fable: “Your If is the only peacemaker: much virtue in If” (V. iv. 87, 101-02). Touchstone's words are consoling and restorative here, all the more powerful for their open acknowledgment of the conditions that define their limits. In this performance Touchstone's conditional “degrees of the lie” work as an especially sharp yet playful corrective to Jaques' essentialist nomination of the “seven ages of man.”

But the conjuring suggests something else as well. Even for those characters who see themselves most clearly, there are elements of self-estrangement. In the mirroring and the doubling, as well as in the wrestling, there are intimations of strains that will be more fully explored in another comedy, Twelfth Night, the last of its kind.22 These are natural perspectives, that are and are not. Similarly, the transformation from conflict to atonement involves a precipitate of estrangement from someone. The loyalty and generosity Orlando acquires from Adam are essential to the intimacy and reciprocal trust he finally achieves with Rosalind. But one will require something of the other. Similarly, Rosalind's relationship with Celia, her other self, will be a critical part of Rosalind's multiple sense of self: as critic, as mimic, as provocateur, as actor, as lover.23 Yet the last we see of these friends suggests an ambiguous intimacy. They enter and exit as one, like Juno's swans. Still, their silence haunts our memory of their voluble affability.

When we first meet Rosalind and Celia, Celia is attempting to coax Rosalind into her own proper spirits by “teaching” her “to forget a banished father” in dizzy, mirrored language that allows uncles and fathers to tumble together: “If my uncle thy banished father, had banished thy uncle, the Duke my father, so thou hadst still been with me, I could have taught my love to take thy father for mine” (I. ii. 4, 8-11). Rosalind's answer picks up the spirit of the game: resignation, even a hint of reproach, enlivened by the promise of imaginative play: “Well, I will forget the condition of my estate, to rejoice in yours” (I. ii. 14-15). Later, when choosing her own new identity in Arden, Celia selects “[s]omething that hath a reference to my state: / No longer Celia, but Aliena” (I. iii. 123-24). Her words are deeply suggestive. The near anagrammatic doubling of the two names suggests, not so much a new, as an ambiguous, resonating self. It also suggests another quirky truth this play celebrates: that it is only under the hard conditions of alienation that we ever discover the conditional liberty to name ourselves.


  1. William Shakespeare, As You Like It, The Arden Edition, ed. Agnes Latham (London: Routledge, 1975). All quotations are from this edition and cited parenthetically in the text.

  2. The exception, of course, is Jaques. According to Alan Rickman, who played the character in the RSC's 1985 season, Jaques “doesn't change. He starts the play offstage under a tree by a stream, and ends it offstage sitting in a cave” (“Jaques in As You Like It,” in Players of Shakespeare 2: Further Essays in Shakespearean Performance by Players with the Royal Shakespeare Company, eds. Russell Jackson and Robert Smallwood (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1988), p. 78. But even Jaques' self-sufficiency has a hint of volatility. Deeply resistant to Arden's charms, he must share the stage with a namesake who modestly helps to fulfill them. Harold Jenkins (“As You Like It,Shakespeare Survey, 8 [1955], 40-51; rpt. in Shakespeare: Modern Essays in Criticism, ed. Leonard F. Dean, [rev. ed. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1967], 114-33) is convinced that “these two men—with the same name—were originally meant to be one” (p. 118).

  3. Cynthia Marshall, in an unpublished paper, “The Doubled Jaques and Melancholic Traces in As You Like It,” presented at the 1997 meeting of the Shakespeare Association of America, also examines the play's conjurings, its creations and dissolutions of identity and relation but from a Lacanian perspective.

  4. A great deal of recent critical discussion has centered on the strategies—usually the failed strategies—of As You Like It to reconcile an individual exploration of self with the mutual discovery of romantic love, both of which are sharply influenced and limited by a third pattern, the process of discovering one's “place” in the patriarchal social structures this play constructs. Louis Adrian Montrose in “‘The Place of a Brother’ in As You Like It: Social Process and Comic Form” (in Materialist Shakespeare: A History, ed. Ivo Kamps [London: Verso, 1995], 39-70) writes of how Shakespeare's plays, especially this one, “explore the difficulty or impossibility of establishing or authenticating a self in a rigorously hierarchical and patriarchal society” (p. 47). See also, among others Barbara J. Bono, “Mixed Gender, Mixed Genre in Shakespeare's As You Like It,Renaissance Genres: Essays on Theory, History, and Interpretation, ed. Barbara Kiefer Lewalski, Harvard English Studies, 14 (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1986), 189-212; Peter.B. Erickson, “Sexual Politics and the Social Structure in As You Like It,Patriarchal Structure in Shakespearean Drama (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1985), 22-37, reprinted in Shakespeare's Comedies, ed. Gary Waller (London: Longman, 1991), 156-67; Cynthia Marshall's “The Doubled Jaques” and “Wrestling as Play and Game in As You Like It,Studies in English Literature, 33 (1993), 265-87. Camille Wells Slights in Shakespeare's Comic Commonwealths (Toronto: Univ. of Toronto Press, 1993) is somewhat more sanguine. She argues that As You Like It, particularly in the “ritualistic language” of its conclusion, “which subsumes individual voices within the expression of communal solidarity, simultaneously emphasizes individual differences” (p. 212). My argument shares several of Slights' paradoxical premises.

  5. See, for example, Sylvan Barnet, “As You Like It on the Stage,” in As You Like It, ed. Albert Gilman (New York: Signet, 1987), 238-50; and James E. Hirsh, The Structure of Shakespearean Scenes (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1981), pp. 114-15. Hirsh also describes a “shared prominence” between Duke Senior and Jaques, two characters often presented as antithetical.

  6. Directed by Liviu Ciulei and performed on tour at The Germantown (Tennessee) Performing Arts Center, 29 January 1997.

  7. The warrant for such “doubling” of the witty Rosalind and the melancholy Jaques can be seen in Cynthia Marshall's “The Doubled Jaques.” Marshall sees in Rosalind's disguise a simultaneous gain and loss of “self”: “The disguised Rosalind is, or becomes, the real Rosalind. … Melancholy has displaced Rosalind from herself. By means of her banishment and subsequent disguise she recovers her spirits. … Displacement is shown to be the key to characterological recognition” (p. 4). Sophie Thompson, who played Rosalind in the RSC's 1989 production, remembers that “[as] Rosalind I was very interested in Jaques. … I felt Rosalind had a strong sense of melancholy in her, which is why she clued into all those things she hadn't experienced but knew instinctively. This is why Jaques intrigues her …” (“Rosalind [and Celia] in As You Like It,Players of Shakespeare 3: Further Essays in Shakespearian Performance by Players with the Royal Shakespeare Company, eds. Russell Jackson and Robert Smallwood [Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1993], p. 83).

  8. See D. J. Palmer's “As You Like It and the Idea of Play” in Shakespeare's Wide and Universal Stage, eds. C. B. Cox and D. J. Palmer (Manchester: Manchester Univ. Press, 1984), 74-85, on sport's transformations.

  9. For alternative readings of the wrestling scene, see Marshall's “Wrestling as Play and Game” and Montrose.

  10. John Bowe, “Orlando in As You Like It,” in Players of Shakespeare 1: Essays in Shakespearean Performance by Twelve Players with the Royal Shakespeare Company, ed. Philip Brockbank (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1989), p. 70. D. J. Palmer also discusses how “[w]restling makes sport out of conflict” (p. 75).

  11. Directed by Ralph Alan Cohen and on tour at Jobe Hall Auditorium, Delta State University, Cleveland, Mississippi, 18 April 1996.

  12. Directed by Lucy Bailey. The performance I saw was on 8 August 1998.

  13. Peter Erickson argues differently that “Rosalind and Orlando approach the forest in strikingly different ways. Rosalind's mission is love. … Orlando, for his part, does not go forward in pursuit of love until after he has become friends with Duke Senior” (p. 226). But while Rosalind may feel something of the contagion of Sylvius's laments—“This shepherd's passion / Is much upon my fashion” (II. iv. 58-59)—Orlando is the last person Rosalind expected to find in Arden, or else she might have packed more than a doublet and hose.

  14. John Bowe describes Adam as “a main character and influence in the story of Orlando. … He is the one who is closest to Orlando throughout the first half of the play” (p. 71).

  15. John Russell Brown discusses further implications of this term in his 1957 essay “Love's Order and the Judgment of As You Like It,” reprinted in Twentieth Century Interpretations ofAs You Like It,” ed. Jay L. Halio (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1968), p. 80.

  16. Sophie Thompson writes that “I found it was important when I played Rosalind to remember that she doesn't go into the forest in order to meet Orlando” (p. 81).

  17. See Slights on the influence of Celia and Adam in allowing Rosalind and Orlando “to form recognizable social identities” (p. 204).

  18. Fiona Shaw and Juliet Stevenson in “Celia and Rosalind in As You Like It” in Players of Shakespeare 2: Further Essays in Shakespearean Performance by Players with the Royal Shakespeare Company, eds. Russell Jackson and Robert Smallwood (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1988) interpret this silence not so much in terms of “separation” but as a signal for a metamorphosis the play itself undergoes: “the play becomes another beast, a creature of new dimensions into which each character's separate through line or private experience is absorbed” (p. 70).

  19. See especially John Russell Brown; Helen Gardner's 1959 essay “As You Like It,” reprinted in As You Like It, ed. Albert Gilman (New York: Signet, 1987), 212-30; and Alexander Leggatt, Shakespeare's Comedy of Love (New York: Methuen, 1974), 185-219.

  20. See Harold Jenkins. Susan Snyder's “As You Like It: A Modern Perspective” in As You Like It, eds. Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine, The New Folger Shakespeare Library (New York: Washington Square, 1997), 231-42, argues that “the landscape created by the play's dialogue is a kind of composite literary wilderness … a construction of the mind” that provides the freedom of a “time-out” (p. 232-33). For a more skeptical view of Arden's transformative powers, see Erickson: “We are apt to assume that the green world is more free than it actually is” (p. 158).

  21. Directed by Lawrence Boswell at the Landsburgh Theatre, Washington, D.C., 27 March 1997. See, for examples the reviews of Lloyd Rose, “As You Like It: A Romp in the Woods,” Washington Post, 18 Feb. 1997, D1+; and Bob Mondello “So That's the Way You Like It,” City Paper, 20 Feb. 1997, n. pag.

  22. See Anne Barton's “As You Like It and Twelfth Night: Shakespeare's Sense of an Ending” in Shakespearian Comedy, Stratford-Upon-Avon Studies 14 (New York: Crane, 1972), 160-80, for an extended discussion of the differences in the manner in which As You Like It and Twelfth Night create dramatic forms that contain within their own designs elements of fragmentation.

  23. Many critics, especially in recent years, have argued that whatever discoveries we finally make about the rich resourcefulness of Rosalind's subjectivity, particularly as she defines her gendered self, are seriously undermined by the fact that Shakespeare wrote the part of Rosalind for a male actor. See, for example, Jean E. Howard's The Stage and Social Struggle in Early Modern England (London: Routledge, 1994), 118-20. But that “fact” only makes the implications of the epilogue all the more slyly consonant with the spirit of this play. For the actor's own “self” here is a role he has constructed, composed of many simples, for the purpose of the epilogue. The boy actor, as he speaks these lines, is performing. He is at play, in every sense of the word.

Charles Isherwood (review date 16-22 August 1999)

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SOURCE: Isherwood, Charles. Review of As You Like It. Variety 375, no. 13 (16-22 August 1999): 36.

[In the following review of the 1999 staging of As You Like It at the Williamstown Theater Festival, Isherwood finds director Barry Edelstein's “self-consciously artificial” interpretation destructive to the emotional balance of the play. The critic praises many members of its supporting cast, but suggests that Gwyneth Paltrow's Rosalind failed to live up to the actress's potential.]

Shakespearean drag proved exceptionally rewarding for Gwyneth Paltrow in Shakespeare in Love, so it's entirely fitting that the bright young star should return to the stage in “doublet and hose,” as Rosalind in the Williamstown Theater Festival's As You Like It. Playing a role that her Oscar-winning turn wittily commented on, Paltrow gives an ardent and appealing performance, full of larking high spirits and smiling charm. Alas, she doesn't succeed in communicating—granted, after only three weeks of rehearsal—the wisdom and emotional maturity that are so central to this extraordinarily rich character. In that respect, her performance is of a piece with Barry Edelstein's production, a consistently funny if superficial romp through what is perhaps the Bard's most refined and sophisticated comedy.

As You Like It is famously short on plot. By the end of the first act, its onstage action is more or less at an end. The good Duke Senior has been exiled from the court by his usurping brother Frederick; likewise the good Orlando (Alessandro Nivola) is chased from town by his envious brother Oliver. Duke Senior's daughter Rosalind, too, is unjustly banished by Duke Frederick and is followed by her loyal friend Celia (Megan Dodds), Frederick's daughter.

They are all victims of strangely arbitrary emotion, and through a series of ruminative or jesting conversations between the court exiles and the rustics of the forest, the play traces a gentle progress toward righting these and other emotional wrongs, re-establishing the proper emotional and social equilibrium through a many-sided examination of the meanings and manners of another seemingly arbitrary feeling—love. Injured by unjust hate, Rosalind must test the truth of the feeling that so suddenly blossoms in her heart and that of her beloved Orlando.

Edelstein's 20th-century Arden is a self-consciously artificial one. Narelle Sissons' set designs suggest a chic abstraction of nature: A few specimens of flora and fauna, carefully mounted in elegant wooden display boxes, are arrayed around the stage. As act two opens, a tiny, nearly bare sprig is ceremoniously placed at the front of the stage, evoking laughter. Shakespeare, of course, was himself mocking the idealizing conventions of pastoral comedy, but Edelstein's production adds another distancing layer: the Duke's act two opening speech, for example (“Sweet are the uses of adversity …”), is delivered by a generally stiff Byron Jennings with boisterous sarcasm, to the amused guffaws of his compatriots. When Amiens comments on his “quiet and sweet” style, it's nonsensical.

Indeed there is not a lot of quietness and sweetness to be found in this Arden. Most of the minimal emotional texture is supplied by a smooth jazz quartet, Keith Byron Kirk's silken vocals and the lovely music of Mark Bennett. It's somehow fitting that this Arden should feature only a few green leaves, for while Edelstein's production delivers many of the play's exchanges with ample pungency, its core is emotionally a little barren.

Many of the supporting comic characters are nicely rendered. The Touchstone of Mark Linn-Baker is fizzy and fine, and his exchanges with Michael Cumpsty's excellent Jaques are highly diverting. (Cumpsty is also among the few actors who delivers the verse with sufficient elegance and clarity.) Dodds' Celia nicely matches Paltrow's Rosalind; they seem like sisters in body and spirit. John Ellison Conlee's cherubic Silvius is goofy and endearing, while Angelina Phillips' Phebe is too silly and coarse, and Lea DeLaria's Audrey unnecessarily vulgar and overbearing.

But the production has few emotional underpinnings. The currents of feeling that should bubble up through it remain hidden, largely because the performers are more capable of getting laughs than getting under the skins of their characters. Even as she mocks at love, for example, Rosalind is in thrall to it, and her mockery thus has a poignant edge. Paltrow never manages to suggest both simultaneously, although she is a delightfully spunky, tomboyish Ganymede, and she has a real flair for Shakespeare's badinage.

It is through Rosalind's agency that all of the love matches in the play are ultimately made—she has an artistic intelligence, some commentators have suggested, that acts as a metaphor for the playwright's—but Paltrow's performance substitutes girlish (and boyish) insouciance for the sublime spiritual grace that should give Rosalind her power. (Perhaps that's why Edelstein substitutes the worldly figure of Larry Marshall, in white tails, crooning the Louis Armstrong standard “It's a Wonderful World,” for Hymen, the goddess Rosalind invokes in the text to unite all the lovers: This Rosalind is too down-to-earth to be trafficking with deities.)

Of course, the depths of Rosalind are daunting to any actress (Shakespeare scholar Harold Bloom ranks her alongside Hamlet and Falstaff as the Bard's greatest creations). Her spirit and wisdom cannot be turned on like tears. Yet if Paltrow does not successfully communicate all of Rosalind's graces, she undeniably has her own. As Orlando, Nivola is rough and somewhat uncouth in the early going, but seems to blossom in Paltrow's presence, improving remarkably as the play progresses. And Paltrow's delivery of the epilogue—when she steps outside the character and communicates directly to the audience—is breathtakingly beguiling. Indeed, if Paltrow could imbue her heroine with the sincere feeling and graciousness that the actress seems to authentically possess, she will one day be a Rosalind to be reckoned with.

D. J. R. Bruckner (review date 26 August 1999)

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SOURCE: Bruckner, D. J. R. Review of As You Like It. New York Times (26 August 1999): E1.

[In the following review of director Ray Virta's 1999 production of As You Like It with the Kings County Shakespeare Company, Bruckner wholeheartedly applauds the ensemble cast and Virta's unequivocally comic interpretation of Shakespeare's play.]

Ray Virta, the director of the Kings County Shakespeare Company's As You Like It, takes a certain risk in making every moment of the play comedy. He lightens the early scenes—with their usurpation, envy, greed and intended fratricide—to such an extent that the love stories of the later acts lose the customary dark background against which they shine. But for him it pays off handsomely; every movement and line of this version is so well thought through that seeing it is as intellectually pleasing as it is emotionally satisfying.

Here the usurping duke who overthrows his older brother and the spiteful brother who drives his younger sibling from home are transparently foolish people whose crimes seem more absurd than threatening, and the young people joining the overthrown duke and his court in the forest of Arden seem not to be fleeing danger but rushing off to freedom. From the beginning the malice of the bad guys is inconsequential amid the capers of the fool and the wrestler at the usurper's court and the wiles of the old servant at the mean brother's house.

The point is tellingly made by Leo Bertelsen, who makes the exiled duke a lovable idler with all the elegance and temperament of an unmade bed and the bad duke a flighty hothead with a mean temper. The transformation is wonderful to watch in nearly back-to-back scenes.

The company usually presents its summer Shakespeare in Prospect Park, but this year a last-minute glitch in renovation to the park's band shell forced a move to the auditorium of St. Francis College, half a block up Remsen Street from Borough Hall in downtown Brooklyn. This play fairly cries for outdoor performance, but the company does very well on a stage not even designed for theater.

The large group of actors play like an ensemble troupe; most of them reveal a deep understanding of the complex jokes and levels of meaning in the lines, and, most important, they get the tempo and inflection of Shakespeare's language right. They even sing the songs in good harmony and so naturally that they seem, as they should, part of the dialogue.

Missy Thomas is a deceptively effective Rosalind, a bit capricious and not altogether likable at the outset. But she is so shaken by her own feelings at the end when, disguised as a boy, she finds she really loves the man she's been teasing with rejection, that one can feel her pain through the laughter. Vincent Barrett as Orlando is the emblem of all of love's fools; pinning the champion wrestler, tacking love poems to trees and standing startled and speechless when the boy becomes Rosalind in a wedding gown, he always seems just over the edge. And the eyes and smiles of Julie Dingman, as Celia, reveal all the ambiguities in the verbal sparring of Orlando and the disguised Rosalind that the audience might not have thought of.

Donald Bledsoe as Touchstone and Katharine Houston as the coarsely wise Audrey provide sharp reminders of why actors tend to think these are the best comic characters in the English language. Robin Post as Phebe, protesting she is not in love with the boy who is really Rosalind, can make your heart ache, and Frank Smith as Silvius, who is pursuing Phebe, really doesn't need words—his face is a perfect composition of longing and of suffering hope. But the best inspiration here is the casting of Jon Fordham as Jaques; he is a formidable presence and he takes the role of the philosopher of melancholy very seriously indeed, making the character exquisitely funny. For once his parting shot—“I am for other than for dancing measures”—sounds like the perfect period to a comedy that still sounds perfect 400 years after its first production.

Some year, if the city ever finishes its lingering renovation of the stage at the Prospect Park band shell, this company should assemble the same cast with the same director and repeat this presentation; it has the warmth and comfort of a summer evening.

Martha Ronk (essay date summer 2001)

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SOURCE: Ronk, Martha. “Locating the Visual in As You Like It.Shakespeare Quarterly 52, no. 2 (summer 2001): 255-76.

[In the following essay, Ronk considers the relationship between the verbal and visual in As You Like It, evaluating the thematic and structural significance of visual metaphor, emblem, and theatricality in the drama.]

The Forest of Arden seems in one's memory to dominate As You Like It. Yet the first picture of Arden is given by Charles the wrestler only as distant hearsay. Although one might expect a pastoral play to be replete with visual staging and visual effects (as in the sheepshearing celebration in The Winter's Tale), in As You Like It whatever “pastoral” might be is hedged round and inadequate from the outset. The most vivid pictures come in words, words already set forth, both by another speaker and by convention. The forest, not visual, is emblem: “They say he is already in the Forest of Arden … They say many young gentlemen flock to him every day, and fleet the time carelessly as they did in the golden world” (1.1.114, 116-19).1

In this essay I focus on the relation between the verbal and visual in As You Like It and how they vie for contested dominance, disrupting presentation of both character and scene. Specifically I focus on Rosalind and on the pastoral world, arguing that Shakespeare purposefully draws attention to the ways in which the one aspect of theater plays against the other such that what is presented is layered and qualified. Shakespeare thus underscores the artificial and unrepresentable nature of what is being represented, emphasizing the impossibility of that which seems theatrically most obvious (what one sees) and the vividness of that which one cannot see. As in the sonnets in which the couplets ask us to embrace the hyperbolic statement that the young man, having been described as ravaged by time, will live forever in these poems, so this play asks that we be both drawn into the reality of the stages world and yet distanced from it, that we embrace both potency and failure. Now you see it, now you don't. As You Like It repeatedly destabilizes what we have seen and forces us to experience theater in the making. Any theatrical production offers a complex collage, many visual sign systems of text, space (off- and onstage/above and below stage), costumes, gestures, and scenery. To some extent here I take for granted the materiality of stage production in order to focus on ways in which what is obviously set forth is simultaneously erased and refigured, and to ask, finally, to what end. What Shakespeare's theater enacts explicitly is how different sets of signs undercut one another and purposely problematize theatrical representation itself.2 As such, As You Like It is more than an isolated play about lovers in the forest; it embodies a theory of theatrical production.

My intention here is to address various aspects of the visual in the play, including both literal seeing and seeing as,3 in order to identify the differences and frictions between the verbal and visual; between ekphrasis (pictures in words) and actual staging; and between sight (falling in love at first sight, for example) and speech (falling in love through extensive dialogue). As we examine the plays, both as texts and visual productions, foreground and background shift and alter. This alteration does not merely reflect critical interests but is built into the plays' structure by means of various self-referential techniques that call attention to its construction and, more audaciously, as I hope to demonstrate, to failure.4

Although we cannot know Shakespeare's intentions and although the arena in which the visual appears cannot always be circumscribed, it is nonetheless crucial to try to grasp some of the ways in which visual insistence creates and addresses disjunction, the disjunction at the center of this play and at the center of Shakespeare's culture. That As You Like It participates in historically cultural questions concerning the visual/verbal matrix is both obvious and complex, and can be explored here only briefly but, I hope, suggestively by referring to the tradition of ekphrasis, a verbal representation of a visual representation, and to Reformation attitudes toward the visual itself.


First, the play participates, as I have argued elsewhere, in a tradition often associated with medieval drama, a tradition that includes the related modes of ekphrasis, tableaux, talking pictures, and allegory, as well as in the psychological aspects of early modern theater in which characters reveal themselves by means of monologue, dialogue, verbal play, and wit.5 This tradition was maintained throughout the period by the popularity of emblems in books and on coins, on clothing, and in masques and processions. Renaissance writers were keenly interested in ekphrasis as a mode that embodied the antimimetic elsewhere. Sidney writes of “speaking pictures” that enable the poet to create a world other than the ordinary, a world more true because farfetched and feigned, opening up a space for the imagined, the missing or unsaid or inconsistent.6 As Murray Krieger argues, “This is why the apophatic visual image helps belie the notion of the natural sign and can move beyond its limitations: playing its fictional role within a complicated code, the apophatic visual image opens out onto the semiotic possibilities of the verbal image … because it does not resemble its object, [it] is therefore free to appeal to the mind's eye rather than the body's eye”7 Puttenham also manifests an interest in visual allegory—in both its potency (the “captaine of all other figures”) and its role as a figure of duplicity, deferral, deceit (to say one thing and mean another or, more subtly, to say one thing and mean something off to the side).8 Ekphrasis stops time and, in the case of Shakespeare, stops the forward movement of the plot in order to allow contemplation, spatial exploration of a specific character or moment. Thus in Twelfth Night, Viola stops in her argument with Orsino to reveal inarticulable aspects of herself (both her love and her mixed gender) by offering the picture of her fictional sister who “sate like Patience on a monument” (2.4.114), an emblem one can locate in emblem collections of the period. Gertrude's set piece, the picture of Ophelia drowning, reveals the confused motivations of a young woman who drowns because in her madness she chooses suicide and because the branch over the water happens to break. In The Winter's Tale, Hermione's appearance as a statue in a memory theater directed by Paulina insists that the past not be forgotten; her very impenetrability as stone suggests the character's interiority and, moreover, an interiority lasting over time, since, as Leontes remarks, the statue shows Hermione's age. These examples may make it seem as if we can clearly distinguish between a character's verbal or her visual aspects and between a picture in words and the visible character onstage.

Yet, to think of this in more general and speculative ways, where the visual is located may not always be clear. It may not appear in an arena that can always be separated off or circumscribed; we might ask, for example, where the picture or icon is located and what difference it makes whether the picture is drawn in words, usually offstage and enacted in “the mind's eye,” or actually staged—the act of wrestling, for example. It might seem obvious which “image” is more potent, since the eye is deemed the site of seductive powers by both early modern and postmodern critics.9 Pictures seem to bring before us a visual presence that a verbal representation cannot evoke and in theater the pictures walk and talk, appearing as actors in physical and embodied form. Theater forces an audience to stare at, gaze at, listen to, want to touch or fend off characters set forth in full view as like or unlike, desirable or repulsive.10 Although I do not want to dismiss out of hand what seems patently obvious, I also do not want to accept the obvious without question. For what we actually see may depend more on what is noticed or attended to than on what passes before our eyes in a flux of myriad impressions.

In fact, it seems that what focuses attention and creates seeing in the plays is language of two sorts, both intensely figurative language (which often approaches the emblematic) and the overtly emblematic language of ekphrasis. As W. J. T. Mitchell suggests, ekphrasis provides an eerie hope/fear of overcoming the impossible by creating a sort of sight, even an especially potent sort: “This is the phase when the impossibility of ekphrasis is overcome in imagination or metaphor, when we discover a ‘sense’ in which language can do what so many writers have wanted it to do: ‘to make us see.’”11 The potency of the imagined visual seems to be everywhere underscored in the plays; as Theseus says in relation to the mechanicals efforts in Midsummer Night's Dream: “The best in this kind are but shadows; and the worst are no worse, if imagination amend them” (5.1.211-12). Moreover, ekphrasis seems often to provide characters with a kind of etched-in depth, enabling us to “see” more fully and completely; it seems to import or project some form of otherness, even subjectivity, to character (if paradoxically) by shifting codes from dramatic to allegorical. In the gap between one representation and another, often in a highly emblematic moment of ekphrasis, an idea of the subject is created, largely because allegory demands contemplation and interpretation. It requires a speculative filling-in.12 Ekphrasis is also central to the study of Shakespeare's theater because it parallels a theatrical act and provides a model for the interaction of the verbal and visual. That is, the tension between the verbal and visual enacts a semiotics of theater: the relation of emblem to word or page to stage. Again, if Shakespeare's theater directly addresses the situation of failure in the theater and in explicitly theatrical terms, ekphrasis performs both impossibility and its overcoming. The clarity of representation in an ekphrastic moment (Patience on a monument or Rosalind as the idealized Helen) often does not stand in the service of that which can be represented.13


Second, the verbal and visual offer contested forms of representation which not only problematize the enterprise of play production but which specifically reproduce significant cultural anxieties concerning the value or danger of the visual.14 Thus the questions I mean to address in connection with As You Like It are intensified by the Reformation concern with whether truth resides in image or in word. As Huston Diehl argues, Elizabethan and Jacobean tragedies articulate the anxieties created by the “reformers' systematic campaigns to rid the churches of all taint of idolatry and superstition.”15 John Foxe, for example, ridicules worshipers who see and adore the bread as body instead of attending to the invisible god.16 The host was, as Jonas Barish comments, “too tangible, too readily turned into a fetish, as in Protestant eyes it had become in the ceremonies of reservation and adoration associated with it. It had been turned into a thing of spectacle, to be gazed upon and marvelled at.”17 Focusing on the handkerchief and on “ocular proof” in Othello (3.3.360), Diehl argues that Shakespeare “examines the truth claims of magic and empiricism, the limits of visual evidence, the basis of faith, and the function of memory and imagination in acts of knowing.”18

At this historical period the eye was understood as a conduit between what one imagined as inside and outside, public and private, and thus between truth and falsehood. The eye was also a political tool for those in positions of authority, who used it to dazzle, to consolidate power, to urge a particular way of being seen; using the iconography of Fame from Cesare Ripas Iconologia, for example, Queen Elizabeth had ears and eyes embroidered on the sleeves of her gown, illustrating her courtly vigilance. The argument between Ben Jonson and Inigo Jones over the precedence of verbal (soul) or visual (body) provides but one famous example of the early modern struggle between these two modes of representation and but one example of the way in which a competition of signs is embodied in the theatrical enterprise.19 Calvin believed that an image could compel the mind to make a fetish of that image; as a result, his fear of imagery was directly related to his sense of its enormous potency: “‘Men's folly cannot restrain itself from falling headlong into superstitious rites.’”20 The general distrust of images—associated with Catholicism, luxury, idolatry, deception, the whore of Babylon—was coupled with a love of splendor and spectacle, a sense that the image could also transport the viewer to truth or reveal aspects of the divine. So divided an attitude impressed itself everywhere: on decisions Queen Elizabeth made about whether or not to hang a crucifix, on the destruction and reinstatement of church statues, and on the decrying of and simultaneous use of images in Reformation literature. Protestants wrestled with the image, at times using it and at times destroying religious paintings and woodcuts, often determining, as did Calvin, that visual images can be too easily misused and lead to delusion and idolatry. “For what are the pictures or statues to which [the papists] append the names of their saints,” Calvin rhetorically asks, “but exhibitions of the most shameless luxury or obscenity?”21 In “A Warning Against The Idolatrie of the last times,” William Perkins cautions his followers against the use of any images in worship and indeed against the use of the imagination to form any image at all: “A thing famed in the mind by imagination, is an idoll.”22 In the midst of such fear monarchs nonetheless employed all manner of visual devices to dazzle the populace. In 1570 Elizabeth appears with the allegorical figures of peace and plenty in a painting entitled “Allegory of the Tudor Protestant Succession” As John N. King writes, “By commissioning this allegory, Elizabeth involved herself in the fashioning of her own image as a peaceful Protestant ruler.”23 In response, illustrating the same potency of imagery, enemies of the queen tried to harm her by stabbing and poisoning her image. Because of the overdetermined cultural attitudes toward visual display and idolatry, the competition between the visual and verbal in Shakespeare takes on a pointedness that one might otherwise simply ascribe to the nature of the theater.


In the spirit of the Reformation, the antitheatrical writers of Shakespeare's day criticized everything popish, spectacular, showy, enticing to the eye. That which was seen was labeled seductive in a double sense, seducing one to lust and, in times of iconoclastic urgency, to break and destroy. Given this context, we might assume that certain visual scenes in Shakespeare's As You Like It might therefore be especially salient, that despite the lack of backdrops or elaborate props, they might be read (as the antitheatrical writers indeed must have done) as magical and powerful. Yet we must also consider that certain visual scenes might not be potent, might simply be taken for granted as part of the natural working out of the play, might pass by almost unremarked; whereas a verbal image, especially an odd or emblematic one, might jump out, as when Rosalind discusses her desires with Celia, referring to male and female genitalia and to vaginal depths and male ejaculation:

You have simply misused our sex in your love-prate. We must have your doublet and hose plucked over your head, and show the world what the bird hath done to her own nest.
O coz, coz, coz, my pretty little coz, that thou didst know how many fathom deep I am in love! But it cannot be sounded. My affection hath an unknown bottom, like the Bay of Portugal.
Or rather bottomless, that as fast as you pour affection in, it runs out.


This dialogue avoids physical display to the physical eye but nonetheless provokes a strong mental image. That an audience doesn't literally see anything doesn't make this speech less visually shocking or revealing. One sees what cannot be staged and what cannot be said more explicitly.

When Rosalind speaks to Orlando, moreover, she asserts that as his wife she will be “more new-fangled than an ape” (1. 144), a speech that underscores both her verbal wit and, by means of the accumulation of animal imagery, a desire that is both male, as in “cock-pigeon,” and female, as in “Diana”:

I will be more jealous of thee than a Barbary cock-pigeon over his hen, more clamorous than a parrot against rain, more new-fangled than an ape, more giddy in my desires than a monkey. I will weep for nothing, like Diana in the fountain, and I will do that when you are disposed to be merry. I will laugh like a hyen, and that when thou art inclined to sleep.

(11. 141-48)

The vivid image of “more new-fangled than an ape,” an image that suggests a range of meanings (newly made, made anew, created in strange fashion, ape-like, akimbo, insistent, superimposed) emphasizes the complexity of a Rosalind who is able to proliferate new images one after the other and who is differently gendered and differently erotic at different moments in the play. All of this takes place in an exclusively linguistic form, that is, in words that evoke not the costume of an ape but a mental image that might overwhelm or at least strongly compete with the figure of the shepherd Ganymede standing on the stage. The superimposition of the ape image draws attention to the layers of costuming already in place; indeed it focuses the eye on what might otherwise be taken for granted, neglected as “conventional”: boy dressed as girl dressed as boy. The images also force an audience to attend to the superimposition of one sort of desire (human and social) on another (animal and asocial) and of one human form on another and its subsequent stripping away. The eroticized violation of her own privacy enacted by Rosalind creates a kind of seeing for all her audiences which is clearly beyond the literal. Our “seeing” here depends ironically on the “ape” and requires a kind of interpretation that displays and embarrasses. Although this language is not, strictly speaking, emblematic, it does move a great distance in that direction by calling up the conventional amalgam of the human and bestial which attracts Shakespeare throughout his career: “mountaineers, / Dew-lappd like bulls” (The Tempest, 3.3.44-45), the “beast with two backs” (Othello, 1.116-17), the “poor, bare, fork'd animal” (King Lear, 3.4.107-8).

Thus, if we return to the question of visual potency, we might be tempted to reframe it: if, as is often the case in Shakespeare's plays, metaphor is made visual and the visual metaphoric, which is to be judged most arresting, possessing most enargeia, a liveliness so potent, as Christopher Braider describes it, as to convey presence: “the power of filling the beholder with an overwhelming sensation of dramatic physical presence”?24 In addressing this question, it is important to notice that the “overwhelming sensation” to which Braider refers seems often to come in moments of ekphrasis in which verbal pictures vie for attention with the stage precisely because the allegorical is unfinished, enigmatic, layered, odd. Paradoxically, the stagy “elsewhere” competes with the stage. While Elizabethan writers such as Sidney frequently fall back on the platitude that painting is mute poetry, poetry a speaking picture, the issue is clearly more complex, unsettled, and unsettling.

The questions of where visual potency is located and how it is most significantly experienced are self-consciously raised also in Midsummer Night's Dream, a play that confronts the issue of representation head on, most obviously by means of the artifice of the play-within-the-play, in which the mechanical's play-business directly interrogates where “seeing” is located, exploring the tension between literal seeing and seeing in an interpretive way: what is lion? It appears as a fearful creature to fright the ladies, a mere emblem from a book, something that disfigures into its absence, “not a lion” (3.1.35), into name (“lion” [5.1.225, “Snug” [1. 223]), into split costume (3.1.36-37), into “no such thing” (3.1.43), into generalized “man as other men are” (1. 44), and into the specific (“Snug the joiner” (5.1.223]).25 Such a vivid and disjunct representation occurs in As You Like It once Rosalind leaves the court for the forest, appearing both as the talkative Ganymede and as a portrait created by Orlando on paper and on the trees: “Hang there my verse, in witness of my love” and “Run, run Orlando, carve on every tree / The fair, the chaste, and unexpressive she” (3.2.1, 9-10). Already the question of how the verse is to capture Rosalind is raised by the word “unexpressive”: unable to be captured in words, without words, lacking expression, a visual sign as female (only a picture, dumb), about to speak as male. It is not “she” but rather Orlando who cannot find the expressions he wants to present the object of his affections.

Rosalind enters reading the portrait on the paper. Rosalind reads herself off the page (as character must be read from script) and yet reads herself as warped into a picture and a poem, both of which are at odds in various ways with the speaker who is their purported source:

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


The female portrait here, so codified and conventional as to be comic, is read aloud by the woman—played by a boy and disguised as a boy—who is being praised in the clicked poetry of the yet-untutored Orlando. The gaps created among the various pictures, to which the poem itself draws attention, are vast: between what Orlando imagines he sees (having fallen in love at first sight) and what this conveys, between the portrait in verse and the figure of Ganymede onstage, between the various pictures words and eyes create, between this picture and “all the pictures fairest lin'd.”

Such confusion is extended in the second poem, in which Orlando compares Rosalind to ideal representations of women such as Cleopatra, Atalanta, and Lucretia. The problematics of representation are unavoidably thrust into view, especially as we are asked to keep the fair Rosalind's face in mind as the doubly cross-dressed boy reads the portrait that can match what an audience sees only by an effort of mind.

Nature presently distill'd
Helen's cheek, but not her heart,
Cleopatra's majesty,
Atalanta's better part,
Sad Lucretia's modesty.
Thus Rosalind of many parts
By heavenly synod was devis'd,
Of many faces, eyes, and hearts,
To have the touches dearest priz'd.

(11. 141-49)

What interests me about this bad poem is that it is bad—a failure at representation because it relies on cliche, uses obvious rhymes, thumps along in regular rhythm. Yet it also highlights the more general problem of how representation fails, and it becomes interesting as Shakespeare's statement on such failure. More specifically, it draws attention to what the audience comes to recognize about Rosalind as the play progresses: that she is a “Rosalind of many parts,” beyond description, “unexpressive”; and that what one sees is determined by potent images such as those of Cleopatra or Helen—that is, one sees according to preestablished patterns. The way we see is affected, most obviously, by what we believe we are seeing and what we name it, a point made over and over again by scholars interested in the homoerotic nature of Shakespeare's theater and critics curious about what members of the audience “saw” when they saw boys playing girls and boys with quite ordinary looks playing girls who were said to “look like” Helen.

One cannot but see by means of emblem and allegory, and, here as elsewhere in Shakespeare, emblem helps to define character. More frequently the emblem of a character provides some new depth. We learn of Viola's love-longing and even know her confused sexuality as she describes the “worm i' th' bud” (Twelfth Night, 2.4.111), that suggests genitals confusedly entangled and refers to the “little thing” (3.4.302) beneath damask skirts which the actor and Cesario possess but which Viola lacks. The actor playing Cleopatra looks like a boy dressed up onstage, but when this character is emblematized in the long ekphrastic monologue by Enobarbus, she is created as a mental image more visually realized, perhaps, than the costumed player could ever be. We see the actor onstage, in part at least, as Enobarbus has memorialized her, and certainly that is the Cleopatra we remember. Rosalind is Cleopatra here only fleetingly, yet the name itself, especially given the popularity of Cleopatra's image in the Renaissance, is more than imaginatively evocative. It is by means of negotiating the difference between literal and interpretive seeing that one is able to “see” Rosalind's complexity. Like the lion's face in A Midsummer Night's Dream, hers is disfigured, created by cosmetics and wigs. The play asks what it might mean to be a Rosalind: a character, a name (“There was no thought of pleasing you when she was christened” [3.2.262-63]), a metaphoric jewel, a face, the witty (cracked/uncracked) voice of a saucy lackey.26 Later, of course, the deceived Phoebe further un-represents Rosalind in her see-saw description of a figure whose words and beauty view for her praise and add up to make—she presumes—“a proper man” (115). The transition from still picture to saucy lackey also implies increasing physical gesture, as if text were to come alive before our eyes. As an interim move, gesture makes us attend to the shift in codes as Rosalind metamorphoses from the stilted, love-lorn, and adored lady to the verbally agile and nimble boy. In this way the play shows again its making and forces the audience to be aware of its artificiality.

Think not I love him, though I ask for him.
'Tis but a peevish boy—yet he talks well—
But what care I for words? Yet words do well
When he that speaks them pleases those that hear.
It is a pretty youth—not very pretty—
But sure he's proud, and yet his pride becomes him.
He'll make a proper man.


Many have discussed the play-within-the-play courtship scenes between Rosalind and Orlando as teaching them of one another, as preparing them for marriage. What interests me here is the simultaneous disjunction between the scenes of courtship and the ending, and between one representation of “Rosalind” and another, given the friction between verbal and visual insisted on by the play-within-the-play and the charged and erotic eeriness that such impossibility creates.27 Rosalind is not only not the picture hanging from the trees and not the figure in the Epilogue, she is also not (or, again, not exactly) the picture she creates of herself within this framed inner world of the play. Although she signals her own complexity and wit when she describes herself as future wife, she will also not, one assumes, despite her claim to the contrary, cuckold Orlando (4.1.154-68). Thus she is and is not both picture and dialogue, is and is not either one or the other, is perhaps the unresolvable conflicts among them.28 Thus one of the important ironies of Orlando's poetry is that it acknowledges these conflicts and failures so explicitly and so well:

But upon the fairest boughs,
Or at every sentence end,
Will I Rosalinda write,
Teaching all that read to know
The quintessence of every sprite
Heaven would in little show.


These artfully bad poems posit a Rosalind who is a heaven in show, a written text, and a sprite to be read-impossibly all of these. Critics are thus brought to argue over the status and coherence of character versus language—it is built into the play. As the poem says, Rosalind's essence is to be read, to be, as she turns out to be, a textbook of language and stories and myths and rhetorical flourishes, and the one who gives language to Orlando, teaching him what to say to woo and have her: “Then you must say, ‘I take thee Rosalind for wife’” (4.1.128). Although their conversations move them toward marriage as Orlando begins to learn wit and blank verse, the play nevertheless holds something back from perfect consonance by insisting on various disruptive images as well, by using the disruptive nature of collage.29

The move in the direction of closure and possible coherence in As You Like It is purportedly effected by means of extreme counterfeiting. Again, to use an analogy to another play, this seems similar to what happens when Hamlet uses counterfeit in order to move away from the “antic disposition” (one kind of counterfeit) to murder. His move to kill the king is effected by his acting, that is, by following the lead of the actors and by adopting an artificial pose in imitation of the overacting Laertes. He acts in order to act. Rosalind faints at the sight of the bloody napkin and calls it “Counterfeit” (4.3.172), but this counterfeit is, as Oliver says, “a passion of earnest” (ll. 170-71). In this moment of counterfeit, Rosalind faints at the sight of blood, an image that suggests menstrual blood, the blood of the virgin on the wedding sheets, the blood of violence, the violence of sex as the hymen is torn. It is a counterfeit that also leads to the final device (“I shall,” Rosalind says, “devise something” [l. 181]) in which Rosalind returns as the duke's daughter and the god Hymen arrives to marry all the couples. Rosalind creates herself as capable of effecting magic. First she promises to “cure” Orlando (3.2.414), having learned tricks from her “religious uncle” (1. 336); at the end she promises concord and seems to call up the god Hymen to “bar confusion” and “make conclusion” (5.4.124, 125). Shakespeare is clearly drawing on moments of religious transformation in which one thing becomes another. Even if she looks the same, she will not be; moreover, girl and wife are not, as the play points out, the same either. Paradoxically, then, only by means of artifice—represented as artifice and named as such, especially in the appearance of the walking emblem of marriage, Hymen—does the play wrap up and stop the endless play of poses, speeches, dresses, redresses, and meanings.


Artifice not only provides the transition out of the play and playing but is in many ways its very center. Especially in plays such as Midsummer Night's Dream and As You Like It, in which the world presented is so patently and conventionally artificial, one is acutely aware of discrepancies and fissures in representation. David Young discusses the contradictory presentation of love and nature, and, although his emphasis is on ultimate coherence, his essay notes the play's insistence on paradox and the ways in which it raises metaquestions about representation both by its artificial and mannered pastoral form and by what characters say about the form in which they are embedded.30 Young refers especially to the characters discussions of pastoral: “Truly shepherd, in respect of itself, it is a good life; but in respect that it is a shepherd's life, it is naught. In respect that it is solitary, I like it very well; but in respect that it is private, it is a very vile life” (3.2.13-17). Pastoral characters are already, one might argue, perfect examples of the tension between the visual and verbal since they appear in shepherd's garb, a defining mark of pastoral, and yet speak with the verbal sophistication of those at court. In the case of Rosalind the fissures and contradictions are multiplied by her crossdressing and cross-talking—posing as a cynical teacher of rhetoric and its civilizing influences—which underscore her duplicitous and encoded nature. In many ways, then, her pose is itself an emblem of theatrical performance, of complex and contradictory representation.31 As Robert Weimann points out:

Theatrical disguise, like any playacting or deliberate counterfeiting, constitutes the rehearsal of what the actor's work is all about: the performer's assimilation of the alien text of otherness itself is turned into a play; it is playfully delivered as an almost self-contained dramatic action itself. In other words, the actor, in performing a character in disguise, presents a playful version of his own metier, a gamesome performance of his own competence in counterfeiting images of both identity and transformation.32

The genre of pastoral itself is designed to deceive and hence is also appropriate to a theater focused on deception, not only the visible deception of—as the Puritans were so fond of pointing out—commoners dressed as nobility or boys as girls but also the theme of deception, beginning in As You Like It with the deception between brothers. As Puttenham argues, pastoral is a literary form especially designed “to insinuate and glaunce at greater matters.”33As You Like It not only acknowledges the deceptive nature of the pastoral but creates a larger deception by barely mounting the pastoral at all, by almost insisting on its failure to do so. Although it is true that the play suggests a pastoral world, it is also true that in Shakespeare's time the stage was but minimally dressed and outfitted, “the empty space.”34 As I remarked at the outset of this essay, the Forest of Arden is “seen” through the emblematic as given in words: Arden as golden world, as Eden, as the lost pastoral of a Merry England, and as outmoded literary form. This vision of the forest, initially presented by Charles, is picked up first by Duke Senior, who says he is glad for freedom from the court, and then by the First Lord, who provides a Hilliard-like portrait of Jaques and the weeping deer:35

The melancholy Jaques grieves at that,
And in that kind swears you do more usurp
Than doth your brother that hath banish'd you.
To-day my Lord of Amiens and myself
Did steal behind him as he lay along
Under an oak, whose antique root peeps out
Upon the brook that brawls along this wood,
To the which place a poor sequester'd stag,
That from the hunter's aim had ta'en a hurt,
Did come to languish. …


Again the scene seems set in some mythic past, by the antique root of an oak tree and a quarreling allegorical brook. As pastoral figure, Jaques is more emblematic and mannered than dramatic, more artificial than sad. This bookish pastoral is elsewhere, ungraspable, ridiculous, failed. Jaques becomes emblematically melancholic, self-consciously languid and isolated, at one with the injured stag suffering from an incurable wound. … He is presented as obviously out of place, even if one could know what place it is. The pastoral deer are emblematic: Orlando describes himself as a doe that must find its fawn, Adam. The picture the First Lord paints of Jaques weeping over a deer is emblematic of all destroyed by hunting and/or social cruelty. In this remembered scene Jaques “moralizes the spectacle” and creates an ekphrastic moment that erases literal pastoral:

 … ‘Ay’, quoth Jaques,
‘Sweep on you fat and greasy citizens,
'Tis just the fashion. Wherefore do you look
Upon that poor and broken bankrupt there?’
Thus most invectively he pierceth through
The body of the country, city, court,
Yea, and of this our life, swearing that we
Are mere usurpers, tyrants, and what's worse,
To fright the animals and to kill them up
In their assign'd and native dwelling-place.


Further, the liberty and festive release that C. L. Barber refers to as an essential part of the pastoral play never quite materializes, although its allegorical possibilities are everywhere. Holiday is in the wrong season: “winter and rough weather” (2.4.8). There is no sheepshearing, as in The Winter's Tale; no fairies or flowers, as in A Midsummer Night's Dream; no nature goddesses, as in The Tempest. Moreover, throughout As You Like It the pastoral picture is represented and denied, especially in Act 2, in which the Forest of Arden is constantly interrupted and even obliterated by long set speeches that conjure up the court. In the context of the pastoral fiction, it is unsettling that so many such speeches usurp the stage and focus attention elsewhere. Especially given a sparsely furnished stage, the speeches about books in books or herds of deer (“fat and greasy citizens”) or time (“And so from hour to hour, we rot, and rot” (2.7.27]) or “All the world's a stage” (1. 139) provide ekphrastic moments that create a different sort of seeing, erasing trees, as well as natural harmony:

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players.
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.


One might argue that in the pastoral plays of green worlds the vision is momentary in the mind and meant to evaporate. Not only do the courtiers return to the court but the world that has been visible onstage—a world of fairies in A Midsummer Night's Dream or of purported harmony among classes or of performative possibilities in terms of gender—evaporates as if it had never been. The underscoring of such evaporation, especially, of course, in Prospero's farewell-to-revels speech (4.1.146-58), but in all the plays as well, adds to the questions about representation in Shakespeare's theater. It is the design of the play to expose the artificial construction of what we have seen and to problematize its representation.

At this point, in order to draw some broad conclusions about the location of the visual and the differences between literal and interpretive seeing, I turn to one of the most extreme examples of artifice and ekphrasis in As You Like It, the scene in which Oliver produces the bloody napkin that causes Rosalind to “counterfeit”: Oliver's speech describes how Orlando approaches him as he sleeps under an old oak (just as Jaques is described near the outset of the play: bookends). The speech relates a highly emblematic if ineffable scene, calling out for interpretation: something is hidden, something concealed. Oliver's portrait of himself also demands analysis, since he presents himself in the third person as an object and as an object quite other than he has been before: “wretched,” “ragged,” “sleeping on his back,” Orlando

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


This ekphrastic speech contains obvious imagery of a violent primal scene with snakes and mouths (although the phallic power here is associated with the female) which ultimately provides the transition to Oliver's conversion, the reconciliation of the brothers, and the marriages.36 Thus it is an ekphrastic speech, conflating the unconsciously erotic and the spiritual as it gestures toward what cannot be represented except by a pictorial replacement—an especially potent vehicle given cultural suspicion, at least in some quarters, of any sort of picture. Like the play-within-the-play in Hamlet, this episode provides a way of contemplating the meaning of the play as a whole—the problematics of representing the relationships among the characters and especially the sexual anxiety attending both homoerotic and heterosexual couples. This scene provides the transition to marriage, which also includes fear of sexuality, violence, dismemberment, confinement to specific gender role. It does so by means of picture. The scene is also a somewhat perverse transition back to the page: a sign of the written, the emblematic, the still moment that can be contemplated, the dead with an uncanny ability to become alive, the allegorical—an embodiment and creation of anxiety. One knows one is “looking” at something horrific, even if one does not know exactly what to make of it.37

Why does this long speech drop into the play at this moment? Why does the play interrupt the witty dialogue with this static emblem that seems so at odds with what has gone before? Why does it seem both a moment of essential if mysterious truth and a digression?38 Why is the charming and dramatic verbal courtship replaced by this wooden visual description of impending doom, which turns out also to be a screen for the courtship between Oliver and Celia, albeit, and perhaps importantly, hidden from view, played out in pictures without words? Why does this scene so move Rosalind that she dies onstage, imaging the little death to come?

The scene seems overly freighted with meaning but meaning that is also oddly unreadable, the blockage that, as Paul de Man suggests, allegory always provides: “Allegorical narratives tell the story of the failure to read. … Allegories are always allegories of metaphor and, as such, they are always allegories of the impossibility of reading—a sentence in which the genitive of has itself to be ‘read’ as a metaphor.”39 Allegory thus offers both enormous satisfaction, since we seem to have encountered the root of all meaning, and enormous frustration, since that meaning is blocked.40 This objectified picture, a recitation from memory, paradoxically supplies access to something deeply remembered, extremely detailed and extremely elusive, a sort of screen memory perhaps.41 It represents what cannot be represented by giving it an artificial form seemingly at odds with the movement of dramatic plot yet mysteriously capable of moving it forward, not directly, as the scenes between Rosalind and Orlando do, but indirectly and allegorically, as if by magic.42

As You Like It carries a theory of theatrical production within it—as it insistently enacts disruption and the various ways in which any character, scene, or abstract idea might be represented. The impossibility embedded in ekphrasis and in a scene such as this awkward transitional scene suggests that it is impossibility of representation which is being dramatized: in the crossing-over and conflict between the visual and verbal; in the picturing and especially “unpicturing” of pastoral; in the fracturing of character into highly visual and highly verbal aspects. In other words, Shakespeare's plays repeatedly draw attention to failure, to the overcoming of failure, and to failure again—the failure to construct the very thing that the play sets out to construct. Thus each of the familiar techniques by which Shakespeare calls attention to the construction of the plays also reveals how each device, whether linguistic or visual, ultimately fails to represent fully or falls short: the play-within-the-play; the use of scripts within the script (Hamlet's letter to Horatio, Viola's memorized speeches of courtship, Rosalind's lessons taken directly out of rhetoric books); the endless references to roles and costumes; the insertion of ekphrasis, which interrupts the forward movement of plot; and the homology between acting and acting or play (playing around) and the play.43 Moreover, Shakespeare's plays continually emphasize what cannot be said (“I cannot heave / My heart into my mouth” [King Lear, 1.1.91-92]) and what cannot be pictured: no matter how many efforts are made in Hamlet, for example (including but not limited to the dumb show and “The Mousetrap”), the primal scenes of penetration (of intercourse and of Hamlet Senior's murder) remain unseen—elsewhere, represented by other murders.44 The fact that saying and seeing are often in opposition to one another, one undoing the other, contributes not only to the gap between them but to the instability of representation itself. One might turn to Bottom's assertion that although a “ballet” might be made of his dream in A Midsummer Night's Dream, nothing could truly capture it: “The eye of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not seen, man's hand is not able to taste, his tongue to conceive, nor his heart to report what my dream was. I will get Peter Quince to write a ballet of this dream” (4.1.211-14).

To conclude: the allegorical content of ekphrasis argues that the act of acting is itself a type of allegory: that which must be interpreted and which remains nonetheless unreadable. Even as costume itself announces the contingency of character, so it underscores theater's reliance on deception and allegory. In fact, the entire mise-en-scene must be read as worldview, or, to put it another way, the play as a whole must be read even as one reads a single act such as the more obviously emblematic plays-within-the-play. Often it seems obvious that what occurs in small is emblematic—but not so obvious that the entire play might be read in similar fashion, not, as has been argued, as Christian or any other totalizing allegory but rather as decidedly feigned and strange. Puritans opposed to Shakespeare's theater had a clear sense of the dangerous and deceptive nature of the plays, and, indeed, the plays themselves ask for such interpretation.

Each of the plays-within-the-play focuses on a set of lovers, Orlando and Rosalind, Phebe and Silvius, Phebe and Rosalind, Touchstone and Audrey, Oliver and Celia; and each is “counterfeit;” that is, in each, someone is fooled or disguised or misapprehended or rendered artificial in a way implying that all this coincidence adds up to something. Taken together, they seem to suggest that a world (not just the world of the court or of Arden) is being presented which must be interpreted, that something is behind what is seen. Things are not what they seem not only because Rosalind is dressed as Ganymede, but because throughout the play every character and scene is rendered purposefully artificial and“elsewhere”: one sees what is onstage and also bears in mind what is offstage or only in the mind. Perhaps there is no way to mount a play without its evoking the idea of a veil, behind which must be something, something that is always hidden and screened from view. As You Like It, for all its comic ingenuity, also conveys a sense of something erased and missing, some deep aspect of character, some golden world: the Robin Hood days of “yore” (the old order that is represented and destroyed again and again in plays such as Lear), the incarnation of the sacred. Shakespeare's theater can be understood as compensatory in many ways for cultural loss, most obviously the loss of magic ritual as represented in the appearance in this play of the god Hymen, the female potency of Rosalind/Ganymede, the conversions of Oliver and Duke Senior.45 Rosalind articulates her ability to perform magic at the end of the play and thus articulates not Shakespeare's creation of saints or idols (although it was idolatry that the antitheatrical writers opposed) but rather that which must stand in for such: “I can do strange things. I have since I was three year old conversed with a magician, most profound in his art and yet not damnable” (5.2.59-62, emphasis added).46 Rosalind reminds an audience of what is missing. I concur with C. L. Barber's view that the play “reflects the tension involved in the Protestant world's denying itself miracle in a central area of experience. Things that had seemed supernatural events, and were still felt as such in Rheims, were superstition or magic from the standpoint of the new Protestant focus on individual experience.”47 Shakespeare's theater then becomes a variation on memory theater, structurally organized to keep before the eyes of the audience what is missing or about to disappear—hence the focus on and the erasure of the potently visual whether on stage or page. The audience is asked to see with the mind, to call up and remember that which is not literally present, and to accord it complex meaning and weight. Perhaps what we “see” is necessarily elsewhere. Visual moments are as weighty and disturbing as they are because they tend to evoke images missing from the culture, especially images fraught with allegorical and mysterious meaning.


  1. Quotations of As You Like It follow Agnes Latham's edition for the Arden Shakespeare (London: Methuen, 1975); all other Shakespeare quotations follow The Riverside Shakespeare, ed. G. Blakemore Evans, 2nd ed. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997).

  2. See Patrice Pavis, Languages of the Stage: Essays in the Semiology of the Theatre (New York: Performing Arts Journal Publications, 1982): “Semiology is concerned with the discourse of staging, with the way in which the performance is marked out by the sequence of events, by the dialogue and the visual and musical elements. It investigates the organization of the ‘performance text,’ that is, the way in which it is structured and divided” (20).

  3. See Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, trans. G. E. M. Anscombe (New York: Macmillan, 1958), 193-229. For example: “The concept of an aspect is akin to the concept of an image. In other words: the concept ‘I am now seeing it as …’ is akin to ‘I am now having this image’” (213).

  4. See Stephen J. Greenblatt, ed., Allegory and Representation: Selected Papers from the English Institute, 1979-80 (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins UP 1981), vii-viii.

  5. See Martha C. Ronk, “Viola's [lack of] Patience: Twelfth Night,The Centennial Review 37 (1993): 384-99; and Martha C. Ronk, “Representations of Ophelia,” Criticism 36 (1994): 21-43.

  6. Sir Phillip Sidney, “The Defense of Poesy” in The Renaissance in England, Hyder E. Rollins and Hershel Baker, eds. (Boston: D. C. Heath, 1954), 610.

  7. Murray Krieger, Ekphrasis: The Illusion of the Natural Sign (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins UP, 1992), 138-39.

  8. George Puttenham, The Arte of English Poesie. (Kent, OH: Kent State UP, 1970), 196-97.

  9. See, for example, David Freedberg, The Power of Images: Studies in the History and Theory of Response (Chicago and London: U of Chicago P, 1989). According to W. J. T. Mitchell, ‘A verbal representation … may refer to an object, describe it, invoke it, but it can never bring its visual presence before us in the way pictures do” (Picture Theory: Essays on Verbal and Visual Representation [Chicago and London: U of Chicago P, 1994], 152); but compare Krieger: “Once, like the Neo-Platonists, one pursues Plato's quest for ontological objects seen by the mind's eye rather than phenomenal objects seen by the body's eye, then the superiority of interpretable—and hence intelligible—symbols, visual or verbal, over the immediately representational arts, is assured” (21).

  10. “The ambivalence about ekphrasis, then, is grounded in our ambivalence about other people, regarded as subjects and objects in the field of verbal and visual representation. Ekphrastic hope and fear express our anxieties about merging with others” (Mitchell, 163). “The differences between images and language are not merely formal matters: they are, in practice, linked to things like the difference between the (speaking) self and the (seen) other; between telling and showing, between ‘hearsay’ and ‘eyewitness’ testimony; between words (heard, quoted, inscribed) and objects or actions (seen, depicted, described); between sensory channels, traditions of representation, and modes of experience” (5). Mitchell's work informs much of my thinking here.

  11. Mitchell, 152.

  12. See Angus Fletcher, Allegory: The Theory of a Symbolic Mode (Ithaca, NY Cornell UP 1964); and Craig Owens, “The Allegorical Impulse: Toward a History of Postmodernism” October 12 (1980): 67-86. On the rehistorizing of Renaissance ideas concerning interiority, see, for example, Katharine Eisaman Maus, Inwardness and Theater in the English Renaissance (Chicago and London: U of Chicago P 1995).

  13. See Paul de Man, “Pascal's Allegory of Persuasion” in Allegory and Representation, Stephen J. Greenblatt, ed. (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins UP, 1981), 1-25, esp. 1-2.

  14. See Louis Adrian Montrose, “Of Gentlemen and Shepherds: The Politics of Elizabethan Pastoral Form” ELH 50 (1983): 415-59; and Louis Montrose, The Purpose of Playing: Shakespeare and the Cultural Politics of the Elizabethan Theatre (Chicago and London: U of Chicago P, 1996). See also Robert Weimann, “Textual Authority and Performative Agency: The Uses of Disguise in Shakespeare's Theater,” New Literary History 25 (1994): 789-808; and John Dixon Hunt, “Pictura, Scriptura, and Theatrum: Shakespeare and the Emblem” Poetics Today 10 (1989): 155-71.

  15. Huston Diehl, Staging Reform, Reforming the Stage: Protestantism and Popular Theater in Early Modern England (Ithaca, NY, and London: Cornell UP, 1997), 4.

  16. In her discussion of John Foxe, Diehl also examines the reformers profound concern over the devotional gaze: Foxe “ridicules ‘our mass-men’ for ‘gazing, peeling, pixing, boxing, carrying, recarrying, worshipping, stooping, kneeling, knocking.’ … Protestants object to the Mass because it deflects the worshipper's attention away from an invisible God, focusing instead on material objects and man-made images. In an effort to break the habit of ‘seeing and adoring the body in the form of bread’; John Foxe ridicules worshipers who ‘imagine a body were they see no body”’ (100).

  17. Jonas Barish, The Antitheatrical Prejudice (Berkeley: U of California P, 1981), 164.

  18. Diehl, 134.

  19. See D. J. Gordon, “Poet and Architect: The Intellectual Setting of the Quarrel between Ben Jonson and Inigo Jones” in The Renaissance Imagination: Essays and Lectures by D. J. Gordon, Stephen Orgel, ed. (Berkeley: U of California P, 1975), 77-101. On the influence of reformation politics and iconoclasm on the period, see Ernest B. Gilman, Iconoclasm and Poetry in the English Reformation: Down Went Dagon (Chicago and London: U of Chicago P, 1986).

  20. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, quoted here from Ann Kibbey, The Interpretation of Material Shapes in Puritanism: A Study of Rhetoric, Prejudice, and Violence (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1986), 47.

  21. John Calvin, Institutes of The Christian Religion, trans. Henry Beveridge, 2 vols. (London: James Clarke, 1949), 1:96.

  22. William Perkins, The Workes of that Famovs and Worthy Minister of Christ in the Vniuersitie of Cambridge, 3 vols. (London, 1612), 1:669-99, esp. 695.

  23. John N. King, Tudor Royal Iconography: Literature and Art in an Age of Religious Crisis (Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1989), 223 and 226 (Fig. 74).

  24. Christopher Braider, Refiguring the Real: Picture and Modernity in Word and Image, 1400-1700 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1993), 9. Cf. Stephen Orgel: “When Ben Jonson opened The Masque of Beauty with Boreas (the north wind) and January, he gave them the attributes he found in the standard Renaissance Iconology of Cesare Ripa. … Commentators since Burckhardt have assured us that the Renaissance spectator would have recognized these figures at once. Jonson apparently believed otherwise, for however standard the imagery, January begins the masque by explaining it. … One of our chief difficulties in producing Elizabethan plays on modern stages is the ubiquitousness of the dialogue; it does not only explain, it often parallels or duplicates the action. Even in the heat of combat, Renaissance characters regularly pause to describe in words the actions we see taking place” (The Illusion of Power: Political Theater in the English Renaissance [Berkeley: U of California P, 1975], 25-26).

  25. As another pastoral comedy that ends with marriage, Dream also has many parallels to As You Like It. The mechanicals deconstruct (or, to use Peter Quince's language, “disfigure” [3.1.60]) “Pyramus and Thisbe” by their literalness and attention to visual props, to real lions, and to the breaking of illusion, as when Bottom addresses the onstage audience so directly as to stop the play. Thus the mechanicals' rehearsal and performance directly raise the question of where “seeing” is located, of the tension between literal seeing and seeing in an interpretive way. In the rehearsal the question each of the players asks about how to represent is not simply comic stage business; it is the central question concerning dramatic representation: is “moonshine” in language or verbal image; is it in the sky; can it be represented by a bush of thorns and a lantern carried by “the person of Moonshine” (3.1.61)? As Bottom cries: “A calendar, a calendar! Look in the almanac. Find out moonshine, find out moonshine” (ll. 53-54). If one could find out, Bottom seems to suggest, all problems of representation would be solved, but, of course, his very cry indicates the foolishness of the endeavor of grasping moonshine, of locating any authentic, unalterable source of meaning. Shakespeare's plays elude, often in such self-conscious ways as this, finding out. At court, representation is further problematized by Philostrate's initial description of the play and players (“it is nothing, nothing in the world” [5.1.78]), by the mocking interruptions from the audience, and even by Theseus's defense of using the imagination to “amend” the play. Terence Hawkes points out that bad acting, such as we see in “Pyramus and Thisbe,” has considerable value in that “it affords insight into the workings of drama itself” (27). On the notions of “self” presented by Bottom's description of moonshine, see Lloyd Davis, Guise and Disguise: Rhetoric and Characterization in the English Renaissance (Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1993), 13. See also Jean H. Hagstrum, The Sister Arts: The Tradition of Literary Pictorialism and English Poetry from Dryden to Gray (Chicago: U of Chicago P 1958), 57-92.

  26. “The metaphoric displacement of sexually threatening women into jewels, statues and corpses attests that these plays contain rather than affirm female erotic power” (Valerie Traub, “Jewels, Statues, and Corpses: Containment of Female Erotic Power in Shakespeare's Plays” in Shakespeare and Gender: A History, Deborah Barker and Ivo Kamps, eds. [London and New York: Verso, 1995], 120-41, esp. 137). For discussions of Rosalind as saucy boy, see Natalie Zemon Davis,“Women on Top: Symbolic Sexual Inversion and Political Disorder in Early Modern Europe” in The Reversible World: Symbolic Inversion in Art and Society, Barbara A. Babcock, ed. (Ithaca, NY, and London: Cornell UP 1978), 147-90; and Juliet Dusinberre, Shakespeare and the Nature of Women (London: Macmillan, 1975).

  27. For a discussion of the wrestling scene as a play-within-the-play and as accentuating the tension between performance and script, see Cynthia Marshall, “Wrestling as Play and Game in As You Like It,Studies in English Literature 33 (1993): 265-87.

  28. Susanne L. Wofford discusses these threats of cuckoldry as functioning in an apotropaic manner in “‘To You I Give Myself, For I Am Yours’: Erotic Performance and Theatrical Performatives in As You Like It” in Shakespeare Reread: The Texts in New Contexts, Russ McDonald, ed. (Ithaca, NY, and London: Cornell UP 1994), 145-69. Cf. Stanley Cavell, The Claim of Reason: Wittgenstein, Skepticism, Morality, and Tragedy (Oxford: Clarendon Press; New York: Oxford UP, 1979), 326-496.

  29. In an earlier article on the play, I argue that Rosalind teaches Orlando to be worthy of her and of marriage by teaching him language by means of conventional rhetorical techniques (including lying and deceit); see Martha Ronk Lifson, “Learning by Talking: Conversation in As You Like It,Shakespeare Survey 40 (1988): 91-105. I am now less sanguine than I was about the coherence of character or play, more convinced that different techniques often work at cross-purposes.

  30. See David Young, The Heart's Forest: A Study of Shakespeare's Pastoral Plays (New Haven, CT Yale UP, 1972), 38-72.

  31. See James M. Saslow, Ganymede in the Renaissance: Homosexuality in Art and Society (New Haven, CT, and London: Yale UP, 1986), 83.

  32. Weimann, 798-99.

  33. Puttenham, 53.

  34. See Peter Brook, The Empty Space (New York: Atheneum, 1968).

  35. Patricia Fumerton describes Hilliard's Young Man among Roses (c. 1587-88) in a way reminiscent of Jaques: the painting “quintessentially expresses the problematics of representing sincerity through artifice, simplicity through ornament, and secret self through public display” (Cultural Aesthetics: Renaissance Literature and the Practice of Social Ornament [Chicago and London: U of Chicago P, 1991], 81).

  36. Interestingly, the threatened death of Viola/Cesario under Duke Orsino's sword provides a similar transition in Twelfth Night, 5.1. See Joel Fineman, “Fratricide and Cuckoldry: Shakespeare's Doubles” in Representing Shakespeare: New Psychoanalytic Essays, Murray M. Schwartz and Coppelia Kahn, eds. (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins UP, 1980), 70-109, esp. 93; and Valerie Traub, “Desire and the Difference it Makes” in The Matter of Difference: Materialist Feminist Criticism of Shakespeare, Valerie Wayne, ed. (Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 1991), 105.

  37. Mitchell discusses Shelley's “On the Medusa of Leonardo Da Vinci in the Florentine Gallery” in relation to gender confusion with female snakes and vaginal mouths on men; one might also compare Viola's “worm i' th' bud”: “If ekphrasis, as a verbal representation of a visual representation, is an attempt to repress or ‘take domain’ over language's graphic Other, then Shelley's Medusa is the return of that repressed image, teasing us out of thought with a vengeance” (173). The passage in As You Like It seems an announcement of “that which we are not to look upon,” although I am uncertain to what it refers. See also Bryan Wolf, “Confessions of a Closet Ekphrastic: Literature, Painting and Other Unnatural Relations,” Yale Journal of Criticism 3 (1990): 181-203.

  38. Both aspects of ekphrasis—digression and essence—are emphasized in Grant F. Scott, “The Rhetoric of Dilation: Ekphrasis and Ideology,” Word For Image 7 (1991): 301-10.

  39. Paul de Man, Allegories of Reading: Figural Language in Rousseau, Nietzsche, Rilke, and Proust (New Haven, CT, and London: Yale UP, 1979), 205.

  40. As Joel Fineman suggests, there is a formal affinity of allegory with obsessional neurosis (both incompletable), “which, as Freud develops it in the case of the Wolfman, derives precisely from such a search for lost origins, epitomized in the consequences of the primal scene” (“The Structure of Allegorical Desire” in Greenblatt, ed., 26-60, esp. 45).

  41. See Sigmund Freud, The Complete Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis, ed. and trans. James Strachey (New York: W. W. Norton, 1966), 200-201.

  42. Fletcher argues that especially in the chance happenings in pastoral, accidents of fortune seem to be caused by something magical or occult: “Whenever fictional events come about arbitrarily through the workings of chance (‘accidents’) or are brought about by the supernatural intervention of a superior external force (‘miracles’), this accident and this intervention have the same origin, in the eyes of religion and poetic tradition … accidents always are the work of daemons” (187).

  43. According to Keir Elam, “there is a further historical dimension to Shakespeare's verbal self-mirroring, a dimension that is not so much theoretical as cultural and artistic. Formal self-reflection is one of the dominant features of baroque art in all its forms, and there is no question that the poetics of Shakespearean comedy, in its pursuit of structural and rhetorical complexity, is governed by the spirit of the baroque. The pleasures of Shakespeare's eminently self-interrogating dramatic art are in this respect the same pleasures derived from the mirroring games of the visual and other art forms of the period” (Shakespeare's Universe of Discourse: Language-Games in the Comedies [Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1984], 23).

  44. Discussing “The Mousetrap” in Hamlet as Shakespeare's most profound examination of mimesis, Robert Weimann states: “The Mousetrap itself becomes a self-conscious vehicle of the dramas awareness of the functional and thematic heterogeneity of mimesis itself. Such mimeses … provokes differing levels of contradiction, such as that between speaking and acting, or that between theory and practice, which, in their turn, link up with the thematic conflict, associated with the central figure of the play, between discourse and action, conscience and revenge” (“Mimesis in Hamlet” in Shakespeare and the Question of Theory, Patricia Parker and Geoffrey Hartman, eds. (New York and London: Methuen, 1985], 275-91, esp. 279-80).

  45. See Phyllis Rackin, “Androgyny, Mimesis, and the Marriage of the Boy Heroine on the English Renaissance Stage,” PMLA 102 (1987): 29-41.

  46. See Michael O'Connell, “The Idolatrous Eye: Iconoclasm, Anti-Theatricalism, and the Image of the Elizabethan Theater,” ELH 53 (1985): 279-310.

  47. C. L. Barber, Creating Elizabethan Tragedy: The Theater of Marlowe and Kyd, ed. Richard P Wheeler (Chicago and London: U of Chicago P, 1988), 101.

D. J. R. Bruckner (review date 24 October 2000)

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SOURCE: Bruckner, D. J. R. Review of As You Like It. New York Times (24 October 2000): E5.

[In the following review of an abridged, six-person cast production of As You Like It directed by Erica Schmidt in 2000, Bruckner views this comedic and acrobatic staging of the play as “a good-humored tribute to Shakespeare.”]

As You Like It is taken by the Liars Club as an invitation from Shakespeare rather than as a mere title, and the company interprets the invitation pretty broadly. That's not a bad idea: this is a hardy play, and turning it into a circus not only produces unexpected laughter but also reminds us of how infinitely subversive the playwright's imagination was.

This young company, which last year transformed Romeo and Juliet into a street fight spun out of control in the back lot of a Lower East Side car repair shop, has invaded West 42nd Street for a few weeks, and it begins its As You Like It with a whoop. In an empty ground-floor commercial space a few steps west of Sixth Avenue, it has stacked seats on two sides of a performance space outlined by makeshift footlights. Once viewers are seated, the six actors, like a pack of tourists searching for excitement, burst into the place through the street door, one shouting to the others, “An audience!” It never gets quieter than that until the last line rings out little more than an hour and a half later.

The 6 are listed in 13 roles. Actually they take many more, since most of the minor characters are folded here into a few. Drew Cortese has it fairly easy being both dukes, the good and the bad, plus other people, since the dukes have only one common scene; playing the determinedly innocent rustic Sylvius is a tougher assignment, and he handles it very well.

Lorenzo Pisoni as the brothers, Orlando and Oliver, is in a tighter spot several times, and his efforts to get out of it are vastly entertaining, including a heated argument between the two that ends with Mr. Pisoni in hand-to-hand combat with himself until the noble brother decks the scheming one in a pair of spectacular backward somersaults.

Teasing the audience about identity switches is all part of the fun. In his boasting scene Charles the wrestler is a leather mask handed off from actor to actor and speaking in various voices, but when he is in the ring with Orlando, the wrestler is actually a woman, and the struggle becomes a fine spoof of ballet. We always know when Lethia Nall is Celia, daughter of the bad duke, because Celia carries a complete tiny tea set with her everywhere that she unpacks daintily from a tiny wicker picnic case.

None of the actors depend entirely on a mere change of costume to signal a new role; they haven't time for that anyway. But when Rosalind becomes the boy Ganymede, Angela Goethals manages to stuff Rosalind in her silk dress inside the short pants of a schoolboy so quickly that she certainly earns the appreciative gasp of the audience. Ms. Goethals brings much more to this character, however. The exchanges between Rosalind disguised as a boy and Orlando practicing lovemaking have a poignancy that cuts right through all the high jinks of this troupe.

At times identities simply float among the actors, who help one another jump from role to role by snatching off caps, hats or wigs from their nearest neighbors. One wig is essential: the white head of Orlando's old servant, Adam. Molly Ward, who is admirably restrained as both country women, Audrey and Phebe, is triumphant as Adam. It isn't the white hair alone that makes her appear the most bedraggled, beaten down, whimpering old Adam I can recall.

Inevitably this approach to the play now and then goes over the top. Johnny Giacolone's pratfalls, when he is a Touchstone with a few of the play's other yokels folded into him, are fine old-fashioned clowning but noticeably out of place here. And you know for certain that when Ganymede says, “This is the forest of Arden,” some actor will spring in from the sidelines to sprinkle autumn leaves on the floor.

In a version so truncated some things are lost, most notably the songs. But I am not sure I would trade amateur singing of ersatz Elizabethan melodies for the exquisite mockery of the acting tradition realized when Jaques (again Mr. Giacolone) pleads with a whistling stuffed bird for more singing to feed his melancholy. Since in the sheer speed and robustness of this performance a good deal of the languorous personality of Jaques is blown away, I would resent the loss of this intensely funny reminder of who he is in the original play.

As she did with Romeo, Erica Schmidt, the director, stamps such a distinctive shape on this presentation and gives it such sharp rhythm that it feels much more like a good-humored tribute to Shakespeare than an invasion of him, especially since the actors speak with gratifying clarity and precision those lines that haven't been pruned.

Further Reading

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Edgecombe, Rodney Stenning. “Problems Arising from the ‘Great Reckoning in a Little Room’—As You Like It III.iii.” Classical and Modern Literature 20, no. 4 (fall 2000): 91-7.

Explicates a puzzling passage in Act III, scene iii of As You Like It as a lament for the audience's failure to comprehend poetry.

Fitter, Chris. “The Slain Deer and Political Imperium: As You Like It and Andrew Marvell's ‘Nymph Complaining for the Death of Her Fawn.’” JEGP: Journal of English and Germanic Philology 98, no. 2 (April 1999): 193-218.

Suggests an analogical link between political tyranny and the aristocratic pastime of deer hunting in the metaphors of As You Like It and Marvell's poem “The Nymph Complaining for the Death of Her Fawn.”

Gates, Anita. Review of As You Like It. New York Times (29 July 2002): E4.

Generally favorable review of director Jeff Cohen's contemporary, hip-hop interpretation of As You Like It performed at the TriBeCa Playhouse in 2002.

Latham, Agnes. “Satirists, Fools, and Clowns.” In Shakespeare: Much Ado About Nothing and As You Like It: A Casebook, edited by John Russell Brown, pp. 207-17. London: Macmillan, 1979.

Surveys the comic figures in As You Like It—Jaques, Touchstone, William, and Audrey—and probes potential sources for these characters.

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, edited by Edward Tomarken, pp. 475-509. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1997.

Considers As You Like It in relation to Charles Johnson's 1723 theatrical adaptation of the drama entitled Love in a Forest and explores the motif of personal metamorphosis in Shakespeare's play.

Rothwell, Kenneth S. “Shakespeare Goes Digital.” Cineaste 25, no. 3 (June 2000): 50-2.

Includes a brief review of the digitally re-mastered 1936 film adaptation of As You Like It, directed by Paul Czinner and starring Laurence Olivier and Elisabeth Bergner, in which Rothwell admires the performance of Bergner in the role of Rosalind.

Sedinger, Tracey. “‘If sight and shape be true’: The Epistemology of Crossdressing on the London Stage.” Shakespeare Quarterly 48, no. 1 (spring 1997): 63-79.

Explores the relationship between sixteenth-century antitheatricalism and anxieties over sodomy and homoeroticism in regard to As You Like It by focusing on the drama's preoccupation with crossdressing.

Shaw, John. “Fortune and Nature in As You Like It.Shakespeare Quarterly 6, no. 1 (winter 1955): 45-50.

Highlights the Renaissance conception of a conflict between the gifts of Nature—such as virtue, strength, courage, and wisdom—and the more capricious offerings of Fortune as a structural principal in As You Like It.

Strout, Nathaniel. “As You Like It, Rosalynde, and Mutuality.” Studies in English Literature 1500-1900 41, no. 2 (spring 2001): 277-95.

Contrasts the male-centeredness of Shakespeare's source-text, Thomas Lodge's 1590 romance Rosalynde, with the gender mutuality of As You Like It.

Wilson, Richard. “‘Like the Old Robin Hood’: As You Like It and the Enclosure Riots.” Shakespeare Quarterly 43, no. 1 (spring 1992): 1-19.

Topical evaluation of As You Like It that relates the drama to the disruptive social period of 1590s England.

Joel Henning (review date 22 January 2002)

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SOURCE: Henning, Joel. Review of As You Like It. Wall Street Journal (22 January 2002): A18.

[In the following review, Henning praises director David H. Bell's 2001 Chicago Shakespeare Theater staging of As You Like It, particularly its czarist setting and nearly impeccable individual performances.]

Like the last quarter of our annus horribilus 2001, As You Like It (through March 9 at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater) begins darkly. We're in a chaotic world where the natural order of things has gone completely wrong. Duke Senior has been usurped and banished to the Forest of Arden by his brother, Duke Frederick. Orlando is threatened by his brother, Oliver, and after defeating Charles, Duke Frederick's savage wrestler, hightails it to the same wilderness. The evil Duke also gives the bum's rush to Rosalind, best friends with his daughter, Celia. In masculine disguise, Rosalind leaves for the Forest of Arden with Celia, along with Touchstone, the court jester.

Once everybody interesting has been pushed off to Arden, Shakespeare has enormous fun teaching us that pastoral sentiment is as phony as anything the cynical urban court offers. The city folks and the rustics pursue one another through the woods in the Elizabethan equivalent of a terrific road movie. We get dreamy illusions from the old Duke (“Are not these woods more free from peril than the envious court?”), hard-nosed realism from Rosalind (“Men have died from time to time and worms have eaten them, but not for love”), and dyspeptic gloominess from Jaques (“I can suck melancholy out of a song as a weasel sucks eggs”). We learn that city folk are pretty much indistinguishable from shepherds, and that both the city and the country are home to decent women and men who live and love, smile and sing, connect with one another and make their lives together.

The ultimate lesson is that life takes on meaning from the spirit of adventure that we bring to it. Thus, the only loser as the play ends is the detached and sour Jaques. Rosalind chides him for merely observing: “Then to have seen much, and to have nothing, is to have rich eyes and poor hands.” What makes As You Like It a wonderful work of art is that extravagantly different people thrown together in crisis bravely form a new and better community. Much the same lesson that my Brooklynite daughter, after overcoming her post-Sept. 11 anti-urban panic, has taken from her experience of the last few months in New York.

With a play as good as this one, all the director has to do is not screw it up. Rather than try to embrace all of this wonderful stuff in an elaborate production, a timid person will dress proficient actors in black, set them on a bare stage with a couple of trees and chairs for props and get out of the way. Not so with director David H. Bell, who has translated his unique but lucid vision of the play into an elaborate and enormously successful creation. I don't remember getting as much visual and aural pleasure from any other Shakespeare production on stage.

For starters, this As You Like It is set in 19th-century imperial Russia, with snow falling on a frosty Arden (abstractly but engagingly designed by James Leonard Joy and lit dramatically by Howard Werner), and courtiers dressed in stunning gold and brocade tunics and gowns (by Mariann Verheyen). The play is filled with sweet songs, here set to equally agreeable Russian melodies (by composer Henry Marsh) sung by excellent singers backed by a strong male chorus. Mr. Bell intelligently cuts and pastes quite a bit. He makes much of an incidental deer-hunting scene, parading what looked to me like a real carcass across the stage to underline the reality that “the exiled gentlemen are tyrants to the deer even as their usurpers are to them.”

Once we are out of the first scene, where Mark L. Montgomery is no more successful at playing the usurper Oliver, Orlando's evil brother, than Ben Stiller was at playing the cynical brother in The Royal Tenenbaums, the performances are uniformly worthy of this grand production. Timothy Gregory is convincing as the decent, unfairly put-upon Orlando. When he flamboyantly takes off his shirt to wrestle Charles, it's clear that Rosalind loves him for more than his mind. Rosalind, perhaps the best role ever written for a woman, is played by Elizabeth Laidlaw, a fine actress built right for this role, in which she mainly impersonates a man. Tall and lovely as a woman, Ms. Laidlaw is also raw-boned and lanky enough to succeed at her manly masquerade. Kate Fry, as Celia, is more than merely Rosalind's sidekick. Greg Vinkler, a fine Shakespearean actor, provides a nice balance of dark and light touches to Jaques, and Saxon Palmer is consistently fine and funny as Touchstone, the noble fool.

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As You Like It (Vol. 69)


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