Monday, May 23, 2016

The Merchant Of Venice (1973) DVD Review

Laurence Olivier is known for his earlier Shakespeare films – Hamlet, Richard III, Henry V – but it was his King Lear that first really impressed me, much more than his earlier work.  He gave an incredible performance as Lear. A decade before his King Lear, he took on the role of Shylock in Jonathan Miller’s production of The Merchant Of Venice, and now that production is available on DVD, thanks to Shout! Factory. And again, Olivier is incredibly impressive. Joining Laurence Olivier are Joan Plowright as Portia, Jeremy Brett as Bassanio, Michael Jayston as Gratiano, Anthony Nicholls as Antonio and Anna Carteret as Nerissa. The production seems to be set in the early 1900s.

Act I

The first scene takes place in a restaurant. Antonio is an older man, which gives more humor to his “O, fie” in response to the suggestion that he’s in love. Bassanio wears a somewhat loud suit jacket, and interestingly when he and Antonio first begin to speak privately, Antonio leans toward Bassanio, and Bassanio actually leans away – a wonderful little hint at how they both feel. It isn’t until Bassanio begins talking about his debts that he leans toward Antonio. Bassanio stands when he begins to talk of Portia, then sits closer to camera, so his speech is almost more to us (or to himself) than to Antonio, who in the background is more in darkness and looks downward. It isn’t until “O Antonio” that Antonio looks again toward Bassanio. It is an interesting way of presenting this dialogue.

Joan Plowright seems too old for Portia, but she delivers a good performance anyway, of course. Anna Carteret is also quite good as Nerissa, full of wit and playfulness. Because of this production’s more modern setting, Nerissa is able to show photographs of the suitors to Portia, and about these photographs they share a laugh. It’s a wonderful moment, and a delightful scene. I particularly like Joan Plowright’s delivery of the line when she first recalls Bassanio too fondly, then catches herself.

Laurence Olivier is, as I had hoped, excellent in the role of Shylock. Even the way he plays with the word “well” after “Antonio is to become bound” is wonderful. And his delivery of “I will be assured I may” is pointedly full of meaning. Having an older Antonio creates a wonderful connection between him and Shylock, two men of an age, and when we first see the two together, they are dressed in similar fashion, both with black top hats (Shylock’s over his yarmulke). It creates an intriguing image of similarities between the men.

Act II

Interestingly, as Antonio and Bassanio leave Skylock, Gratiano enters, calling “Signor Bassanio,” and the two engage in dialogue from the end of the second scene of Act II. (The rest of that scene is cut.) The film then continues to Act II Scene iii, with Jessica and Launcelot. Launcelot (played by Denis Lawson, who four years later would play Wedge in Star Wars) wears a bowler and a handlebar moustache, and speaks with a lower class accent.

Lorenzo (Malcolm Reid) is delightfully excited to receive the letter from Jessica.

Launcelot is funny when he echoes Shylock’s call to Jessica. When Jessica enters, she glances at Launcelot, but delivers her “Call you?” to Shylock, thus missing a comedic opportunity. But after Launcelot lets slip about the “masque,” he delivers the rest of the speech quickly, as if hoping to cover up that slip, which is a nice, funny moment. And Shylock’s reaction is great.

The film then goes back to the first scene of Act II, for Portia’s meeting with the first suitor, and it leads directly to Scene vii, when he chooses from among the caskets (so we lose Scene vi entirely). The caskets are on a turning platform, so that the Prince of Morocco is able to stand still, while Nerissa turns the platform so that he can look at each casket. An interesting choice. Morocco turns in a humorous and appropriately goofy performance. I particularly love the moment when he approaches Portia, asking what would happen if he stopped and chose the silver one, like he’s hoping for some hint from her. I’m glad to see the comedic moments early on in this production, because without them, the fifth act can’t work at all.

Scene viii is cut, and the film goes right to Scene ix, with the second suitor, the Prince of Arragon. In this production, he is an elderly man, which amuses Nerissa. There’s a funny moment when he delivers a speech, and Portia and Nerissa sip tea in the deep background, clearly not caring to give ear to any speech this old man might give. He does ask Portia to read the inscription on the silver casket, unlike in the play, where he reads it himself. There is some funny, playful business with sugar cubes. And because he’s old, he nearly inserts the key in the lead casket rather than his chosen silver, but for Nerissa quickly turning the platform. This entire scene is wonderful, and you actually feel for the old guy at the end when he asks honestly, even a bit sadly, “Did I deserve no more than a fool’s head?”


At the beginning of Act III, Salarino is reading a newspaper, which prompts Salanio’s first line, “Now, what news on the Rialto?” But he holds a letter, and so perhaps has more news than Salarino. Salarino then hands Salanio the paper on “my gossip report.” You really feel for Shylock when he enters, upset about Jessica’s flight, particularly because of the way Salarino and Salanio speak to him, without a trace of pity or kindness. It makes his anger much more understandable. And it is only then that Shylock decides to call in the forfeit of Antonio’s bond, an excellent moment. We can see it all on Laurence Olivier’s face, as he turns his pain and anger toward Antonio. What a great performance. And that’s before he delivers that famous speech (“Hath not a Jew eyes…”). His scene with Tubal is likewise excellent.

The third scene begins with Portia and Bassanio having just returned from a pleasant horseback ride, showing that she has already kept him from making his choice of caskets for a while. They move inside then for him to choose. Interestingly, Portia exits after she says “thou that mak’st the fray,” and two women enter to sing the song. This is played for humor, as they get quite close to Bassanio and then sing rather loudly. Not only does the song give away the correct choice through its rhyme, but the women singing it position themselves next to the lead casket. This production makes it quite clear that Portia is cheating.

Scene iv takes place outside. When Portia says she and Nerissa will abide in a monastery until their husbands return, Nerissa reacts negatively, showing clearly she’s not yet been made privy to Portia’s plan – a nice touch.

Scene v is cut.

Act IV

Antonio and his friends enter the empty, and somewhat dark, courtroom before the Duke enters. Then when Shylock enters, Shylock and Antonio sit opposite each other at a table. I love Laurence Olivier’s delivery of “No, none that thou hast wit enough to make.” Both Nerissa and Portia do a good job disguised as men. Gratiano is behind Nerissa and Portia when he says, about Nerissa, “I would she were in heaven, so she could/Entreat some power to change this currish Jew.” So when Nerissa says “’Tis well you offer it behind her back,” he is literally behind her back. This scene is done so well, and a moment is allowed after Shylock’s exit, where we see other characters’ reactions. Particularly intriguing is Portia’s, as she seems to have sympathy and perhaps even a bit of regret. And then I love that Portia slaps Bassanio on the shoulder when she says, “I pray you, know me when we meet again.” Is she upset that he didn’t recognize her? Interesting.

Act V

The beginning of the fifth act, with Lorenzo and Jessica, is also done really well. It is a sweet, touching and meaningful scene. I love how Lorenzo reacts when Jessica doesn’t immediately follow his wish to go inside. The affection and concern he feels for her is apparent. Though Portia and Nerissa left home via a coach, they oddly return on foot, with Nerissa carrying all the bags. That’s one bit of humor that falls flat. Interestingly, after the final line of the play, Jessica remains, studying the paper whereby her father leaves his possessions to her and Lorenzo. This is a surprising and touching moment.

This production of The Merchant Of Venice was directed for television by John Sichel. It is 128 minutes. The DVD contains no special features.

William Shakespeare’s The Phantom Of Menace: Star Wars Part The First by Ian Doescher (2015) Book Review

I’m still trying to get that bad taste out of my mouth left from being subjected to The Force Awakens. So it’s time to go back – way back – all the way back to William Shakespeare’s The Phantom Of Menace: Star Wars Part The First. As with Ian Doescher’s versions of the original trilogy’s films, The Phantom Of Menace is divided into five acts, is presented in iambic pentameter, and is illustrated. A list of characters is provided at the beginning, and Jar Jar Binks is identified as “a Gungan clown.” That sort of makes him more palatable, don’t you think?

The Chorus opens the play with a sonnet, which ends with the couplet, “In time so long ago begins our play,/In troubl’d galaxy far, far away” (p. 7). Throughout the book are references to specific Shakespeare plays. For example, when Rune Haako expresses anxiety over their course of action with the blockade, Nute Gunray says, “What’s done can’t be undone.” That is a reference to Lady Macbeth’s line, “What’s done cannot be undone.” And when Anakin meets Padme, he says, of her, “O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright” (p. 53), a line straight out of Romeo And Juliet, when Romeo first meets Juliet. Before the podrace, Anakin says, “How all occasions do inform toward me/To spur my action here!” (p. 80), a play on Hamlet’s “How all occasions do inform against me,/And spur my dull revenge.” Oddly, that reference is followed by a reference to Casablanca: “Of all the junk shops in all towns in all/Of Tatooine, he walketh into mine” (p. 80). (The line from Casablanca is, of course, “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.”) Panaka plays on the famous speech from Henry The Fifth when he says, “We few, we happy few, are but too few” (p. 135). After Darth Maul stabs Qui-Gon with his lightsaber, Qui-Gon quotes Julius Caesar, saying “Et tu, Sith? Then fall, Qui-Gon Jinn!” (p. 160). This is not really appropriate, as Julius Caesar is surprised by what he sees as Brutus’ betrayal, whereas Qui-Gon knows in advance that Darth Maul is trying to kill him.

Jar Jar, by the way, speaks eloquently in soliloquies and asides, then deliberately takes on the simple speech of a clown, as a sort of disguise, to talk with others. “Put on thy simple wits now, Jar Jar Binks:/Thus play the role of clown to stroke his pride” (p. 25). In Jar Jar’s second soliloquy, he echoes some of Polonius’ advice to Laertes: “To thine own kind be true, so say I e’er./Give ev’ry man thine ear, but few thy voice – /At least the voice that speaketh with wise words./Let them hear only speech of ruffian” (pages 27-28). In Hamlet, Polonius tells Laertes, “Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice.” And then later in the same speech, he says, “This above all: to thine own self be true.” Jar Jar also plays on A Midsummer Night’s Dream when, in another soliloquy he says, “The course of justice never did run smooth.”

As with the other adaptations, in this book even minor characters are given speeches. Even characters that did not speak at all in the movie. For example, in this book the Opee (the fish that attacks the Gungan submarine) gets a speech, saying he was sent to kill the Jedi by Darth Sidious. And the larger creature, the Sando Aqua Monster, tells us in his own speech that he was sent by the Jedi council.

This book isn’t quite as good as the first three. But then again, The Phantom Menace wasn’t as good as the films of the original trilogy. William Shakespeare’s The Phantom Of Menace: Star Wars Part The First was published in 2015. By the way, at the very end of the book there is a sonnet urging readers to go online for more information.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Blackmailed School Teacher by Lee de Pepys (1983) Book Review

Blackmailed School Teacher, by acclaimed and respected sociologist Lee de Pepys, is a serious look at some of the humiliating activities people are willing to undergo in their pursuit of tenure at our institutions for higher learning. As is made clear by the introduction, which quotes Gloria Steinem, this tale is told from a feminist perspective. The teacher of the title, Lucretia Slade (or Lucy), is the story’s hero, a bisexual college professor trying to attain tenure. Opposing her is Horatio Wedge, professor and amateur rose thief.

Lucy also has relationship issues to deal with. Her lover, Samantha, a serious player in the feminist movement, reacts strongly to Lucy’s desire to have sex with a man. Even after Lucy explains that she’ll choose a young man, Samantha is not convinced that it’s a good idea. Horatio overhears their conversation, and tries to get a male student named Llewlyn (or Lew) interested in Lucy, telling him, “Well, you really ought to see her with her hair down” (p. 17). When Lew seems disinterested in Lucy, Horatio instead talks him into a threesome with his wife, Ellen. Obviously, Horatio is interested in his student and is eager to see him in bed with someone. And as Ellen gets hold of both men’s penises, she turns poetic, saying, “It’s like holding two very delicate birds newly hatched” (p. 25). Later, when Ellen asks, “What if you got me accustomed to this? What if I had to have two cocks to get turned on? What would you do then?” (p. 34), Horatio answers, “I guess Lew would have to move in with us” (p. 34). Whether he is willing to admit it or not, Horatio is clearly interested in his student, and his goal seems to be some sort of extremely close relationship with him. But he is also still interested in Lew getting it on with Lucy, and he tells Lew he owes him a favor after letting him have sexual relations with his wife. Horatio is a teacher with a lot of time on his hands.

At a party soon thereafter, Lew is doing all right with Lucy, until he tries to stick his fingers inside her. “Stop it! Get out of there!” she yells at him (p. 60). And she adds, “you should know better than to attack a woman, especially a feminist” (p. 61). But apparently all a feminist needs is a few compliments, for soon Lew is having his way with Lucy. Afterward, she is eager to see him again, and they make plans for the following night, neither of them aware that Horatio was photographing their lovemaking session.

The next night it is Horatio, not Lew, that shows up at Lucy’s door, eager to have a go at her himself. He shows her the photographs, reminding her that faculty members are not supposed to have sex with students, particularly faculty seeking tenure. Of course, the student in question is twenty-three (though pretending to be nineteen), so it’s completely harmless. But rather than throw him out or call the police, Lucy uses sarcasm to dissuade Horatio from having his way with her. Shockingly, this doesn’t work. After buggering her, he demands that she perform oral sex on him three mornings a week until the tenure meeting, and also to give herself willingly to anyone who makes a secret sign to her. Horatio is obviously a brute, but he seems to honestly believe he’s helping her understand her true nature, and pulling her away from lesbianism and feminism. To help do this, he sends three sailors to her house. At first, this only functions to strengthen her feminist resolve. “She had the answer; she knew what she’d unswervingly espouse in the future: castrate all men! Women, begin by gelding your own sons!” (p. 115). But then she begins to enjoy her torment, in spite of herself. “She blotted from mind her basic hatred of these men and all like them: she wanted their gism!” (p. 117). Is this some defense mechanism, or is Lee de Pepys saying that the physical drives of our bodies have more force in our lives than our ideals and philosophies?

Blackmailed School Teacher was published in 1983 by American Art Enterprises, as part of the Jaded Journals series. It seems this book has also been published under the title Make Her Beg.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Shakespeare References in Edward: Dancing On The Edge Of Infinity

Bruce Taylor’s odd novel, Edward: Dancing On The Edge Of Infinity, contains several Shakespeare references. Shakespeare is even mentioned in the dedications at the beginning of the book: “Here, world, remember the words of Shakespeare, ‘The world dances in laughter and tears’” (p. 4). I don’t think that’s actually a quote from any of Shakespeare’s works. There is a line from the poet Kabir that reads, “The world of man dances in laughter and tears.”

The book contains a lot of footnotes, and some of the Shakespeare references appear in these footnotes. For example, one footnote reads, in part, “It’s one of those days in Seattle: a nice April day that started off looking like the opening scene in Macbeth, but which has cleared magically as the day has gone on” (p. 70). Another footnote makes a reference to Hamlet: “Alas, Poor Edward!” (p. 80). And actually that footnote contains another footnote, which has a Shakespeare reference: “Who do you think you are? Shakespeare?” (p. 80). Another footnote within a footnote contains references to Shakespeare and specifically to Macbeth. It reads: “I suppose it might be wise to elaborate on this further; Edward did not realize until years (and I do mean years) later, how right Shakespeare was: here today, gone tomorrow. Boo! thought Edward when he realized this. Boo! Hiss! What a bummer! I want my ticket back. Hang the author of this fatalistic play! All this sound and fury signifying nothing? We’re all cosmic cookies that crumble, crumb by crumb with the passage of time? Out, out, brief chocolate chip! But then, Edward thought, once he got past the shock, even if this life is a cookie, made by an idiot, full of ingredients signifying nothing – oh, hell. It’s still edible. And Edward then sat back, metaphysically munched life’s cookie and looked about” (p. 90). Another footnote reads, in part, “A Shakespearean character looking at the sky for the pale threads of fate weaving through the stars!” (p. 125).

But yet, some Shakespeare references are in the main body of the book. For example, Shakespeare appears in one of the many dream sequences in the book. Taylor writes, “William Shakespeare sat on a bench nearby” (p. 96). And then he continues, “He changed again and Edward saw a strange scene: a double sun over a landscape of rock spires set against a maroon sky; and that changed to a strange creature of scaly skin and large blue eyes; and that changed to a moon, and back to Shakespeare again, who looked about, smiled and promptly changed into a cherry tree in bloom” (p. 96). This sequence continues: “Flesrenni pointed to Shakespeare who, by now, was dropping his cherries; as each one dropped, the cherry split open and a miniature Shakespeare, or elephant, or lion, or whatever, emerged. Edward looked back to ask Flesrenni a question. Flesrenni was gone. Edward looked back to Shakespeare; in place of the tree was a candle” (p. 98). And then: “Edward stared into the flame: he saw the world, Shakespeare, animals that had existed before, that existed now, that would exist” (p. 98). That is followed by a reference to Macbeth: “He then saw himself and he heard Flesrenni say, ‘Dance, dance, dance; from sunrise to sunset, this day is yours, even though someday it must fade, yes, yes, out, out brief candle, yes; perhaps it is a tale told by an idiot, but whatever it is, for now it is yours, make of it as you will, let there be magic and dance, dance, dance” (p. 98).

Also in the main body of the story, Taylor writes, “oh, wasn’t Shakespeare right when he said, ‘Cowards die a thousand deaths’” (p. 120). The line is from Julius Caesar, and reads, “Cowards die many times before their deaths.” And then he writes, “His eyes said, ‘Clothes make the man’” (p. 127), a reference to Polonius’ line in Hamlet, “For the apparel oft proclaims the man.” And then Taylor refers to both Julius Caesar and Hamlet when he writes: “‘I come to oppose my opponent, not to praise him. Whether it is better to withstand his slings and arrows of outrageous charges, I cannot to say. But to withstand or not to withstand, that is not the question” (p. 129). The first line refers to Antony’s line from Julius Caesar, “I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.” The rest, of course, refers to lines from Hamlet’s most famous speech.

Edward: Dancing On The Edge Of Infinity was published in 2007.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Shakespeare Study: As You Like It (revisited)

Initially, my Shakespeare study was a three-year project (well, three and a half years), in which I read one play each month (and then the poems and sonnets and apocrypha), and watched as many film versions as I could find. But of course I keep acquiring new DVDs and books, and so I revisit each of the plays. This time it’s As You Like It.

This time around, I read The Arden Edition, which was edited by Agnes Latham. It was originally published in 1975, and was reprinted in 1997. This volume has a 95-page introduction, plus footnotes and appendices. Regarding the only version of the text we have, being that in the Folio, Latham writes: “It preserves very few typical Shakespearian spellings. The punctuation is profuse and rather insensitive. Stage directions are brief imperatives. Speech headings are clear.  Everything seems to point to a transcript by a playhouse scribe. The purpose of this was normally to serve as a prompt book, while the author’s foul papers were kept in reserve, in case of loss or injury” (pages x-xi). Regarding the verse, Latham writes: “The blank verse shows considerable metrical freedom. It has puzzled early editors, who demanded more regularity than they found. Some of the lines can be smoothed by a slight rearrangement but there is no reason to suppose that Shakespeare wanted a high polish” (p. xviii). Also regarding the verse and prose, Latham writes: “Jaques is temperamentally opposed to verse and mocks it, but his natural gravity and his character as courtier, scholar and moralist ensure that he often speaks it. Orlando comforts Adam in prose. When he approaches the Duke’s company with his sword drawn he is tense and wary, all his powers concentrated, and he speaks verse, to which the Duke replies in kind. Silvius and Phebe, as pastoral lovers, are born verse speakers and draw Rosalind, a born prose speaker, into their idiom, so that to Phebe she talks in verse. Left to herself she prefers prose” (p. xix). And, “For the most part the effect of the prose in this play is one of informality, of people talking rather than of actors declaiming” (p. xx). Regarding the songs, Latham writes: “There are more songs in As You Like It than in any other play by Shakespeare. Many of them are provided by Amiens, who is a person in the play and not an anonymous singing-boy brought in for a special occasion” (p. xxiii). And: “Apart from their function in the play, two reasons have been suggested for the frequency with which songs appear. One is that they were an answer to the challenge of the children’s companies, which were naturally well supplied with singing voices, and were released from inhibition in 1599. Another is that Shakespeare, having a good adult singer at his disposal when Robert Armin joined the company, wrote the part of Amiens for him” (p. xxiv). Regarding Touchstone, Latham writes: “Touchstone never fully develops a character and tends to remain a theatrical convenience, through a very delightful one, to whom a skilled actor can give an illusion of life. He puzzles commentators because his occasional shrewdness and his professional skills, which consist largely in putting up a dazzling fa├žade of pseudo-scholarship, seem to contradict his simplicity” (p. li). And: “Until he came to write As You Like It Shakespeare had created fools only dimly aware of their folly, if at all. Dogberry has no idea that he is comical. Touchstone intends to be” (p. lii). As for the rhymes, Latham writes: “The modern stage tends to treat Orlando’s rhymes as a joke, an ungifted amateur’s distortion of normal pronunciation. It is unlikely that they sounded so to an Elizabethan” (pages lxvi-lxvii). Regarding Jaques, Latham writes: “Were Jaques the cheap and selfish cynic he is sometimes said to be, Arden would repudiate him, for it accepts only the good and true. He breathes its air easily and enjoys it. He flowers there. Because its atmosphere is highly permissive he is allowed his idiosyncrasies. After all, they do nobody any harm” (p. lxxvii). And: “Of all the denizens of the forest Jaques is the one who can claim to have made a deliberate choice and therefore to be most faithful to the pastoral ideal. This is what gives him the right to speak the final benisons” (p. lxxvii). Regarding its stage history, Latham writes: “As You Like It appears to have been written for the newly opened Globe Theatre where, in 1599, the first Jaques told the audience that ‘all the world’s a stage’” (p. lxxxvi).

As I mentioned, the notes in this edition are at the bottom of each page (which I find preferable). Regarding Le Beau’s line about Celia being the “taller” of the two women, Latham notes: “The Folio reading here is contradicted by the fact that it is Rosalind who dresses as a boy because she is ‘more than common tall’, I.iii.111, and Celia, as Aliena, is ‘low/And browner than her brother’, IV.iii.87-8. The Elizabethans used ‘lower’, ‘lesser’ and ‘shorter’ of a person’s height, none of them words which could easily be misread as taller. There is no evidence that they used ‘smaller’ except in the very general sense in which a child is smaller than a grown-up. Sisson argues for smaller as a possible rare usage, which if it were initially blotted or torn would inevitably be transmitted as ‘taller’. It is unlikely that the players would go on saying ‘taller’ with the contrary evidence before their eyes, though they were hard-worked people, as was the prompter, who might not have taken the trouble to make so small a correction had he noticed the error… Taller may then go back to Shakespeare, setting down an antonym, as a hurried writer will. For stage purposes, ‘shorter’ seems the best substitute” (p. 22). On the pronunciation of “Aliena,” Latham writes, “generally given an accent on the penultimate syllable, though the line can be scanned with a stress on the second, which produces a truer parallel to Alinda” (p. 28). Regarding Adam’s line about “Hot and rebellious liquors,” Latham notes: “Adam is a very careful study of an old man. He has the old man’s foible of attributing his health and longevity to some favorite form of abstinence, in which he instructs his hearers whether they want to know of it or not” (p. 36). Regarding Jaques’ line “to call fools into a circle,” Latham notes: “a magician invoking dangerous spirits inscribed a circle which they could not invade (or alternatively, to contain them), Jaques may refer to the safe circle of Arden into which the Duke and his followers have retreated. In stage performance the people to whom he is speaking often gather round him, lured by his mysterious and portentous manner, only to break up in some discomfiture as they realize that they have literally been drawn into a circle, and thus, in the manner of a playground joke, proved fools” (p. 45). Regarding Orlando’s “Well said!” in Act II Scene vi, Latham writes, “equivalent to ‘well done’” (p. 47). Regarding Rosalind’s lines near the beginning of Act IV Scene i, Latham notes: “Rosalind’s determination to delay Jaques and appear deep in talk with him is directed at Orlando, because he has arrived late. F does not mark the place at which Jaques leaves the stage. Later folios put it after blank verse, in consequence  of the adieux exchanged then, without observing that Rosalind must have an audience for her anatomy of the returned traveler” (p. 95). Regarding the song in Act V Scene iv, Latham notes: “The purpose of the song is to give the astonished company time to hear each other’s stories without imposing them on the audience, to whom they are not news” (p. 128).

Related Books:

As You Like It  edited and with an introduction by Harold Bloom  -  This is a volume of Bloom’s Shakespeare Through The Ages series, collecting thoughts on the play from various critics over the years and centuries. William Hazlitt, in a piece from 1817, writes: “Jaques is the only purely contemplative character in Shakespear. He thinks, and does nothing. His whole occupation is to amuse his mind, and he is totally regardless of his body and his fortunes. He is the prince of philosophical idlers; his only passion is thought; he sets no value upon any thing but as it serves as food for reflection” (p. 48). Also about Jaques, William Maginn writes in 1856: “He is nothing more than an idle gentleman given to musing, and making invectives against the affairs of the world, which are more remarkable for the poetry of their style and expression than the pungency of their satire. His famous description of the seven ages of man is that of a man who has seen but little to complain of in his career through life. The sorrows of his infant are of the slightest kind, and he notes that it is taken care of in a nurse’s lap. The griefs of his schoolboy are confined to the necessity of going to school; and he, too, has had an anxious hand to attend to him” (p. 65). In that same piece, Maginn has this to say about Touchstone: “When Touchstone himself appears, we do not find in his own discourse any touches of such deep contemplation. He is shrewd, sharp, worldly, witty, keen, gibing, observant. It is plain that he has been mocking Jaques; and, as is usual, the mocked thinks himself the mocker” (p. 71). Harold C. Goddard, in 1951, writes: “Even Jaques’ most famous speech, his ‘Seven Ages of Man’ as it has come to be called, which he must have rehearsed more times than the modern schoolboy who declaims it, does not deserve its reputation for wisdom. It sometimes seems as if Shakespeare had invented Adam (that grand reconciliation of servant and man) as Jaques’ perfect opposite and let him enter this scene, pat, at the exact moment when Jaques is done describing the ‘last scene of all,’ as a living refutation of his picture of old age” (pages 124-125). C.L. Barber, in 1959, writes, regarding Rosalind, “Because she remains always aware of love’s illusions while she herself is swept along by its deepest currents, she possesses as an attribute of character the power of combining wholehearted feeling and undistorted judgment which gives the play its value” (p. 155). Louis Adrian Montrose, in 1981, writes, regarding the conflict between Orlando and Oliver: “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. He is not merely using something topical to get his comedy off to a lively start: the expression and resolution of sibling conflict and its social implications are integral to the play’s form and function” (p. 187). In that same piece, Montrose writes: “The Duke, who has no natural son, assumes the role of Orlando’s patron, his social father: ‘Give me your hand/And let me all your fortunes understand’ (II. 202-3). Orlando’s previous paternal benefactor has been supplanted: Adam neither speaks nor is mentioned again” (p. 195). E.A.J. Honigmann, in a piece from 2002, writes: “I think it a mistake, though, to let Orlando know, or even seriously suspect, that Ganymede is Rosalind. The fun of the play depends on our not knowing what he knows (so, too, with Oliver). When Rosalind sees the bloody napkin and swoons (IV.3.155) the girl-boy’s performance trembles on the edge of discovery” (p. 227). This book was published in 2008.

As You Like It  adapted by Vincent Goodwin; illustrated by Rod Espinosa  -  This is a volume in the Graphic Shakespeare series. The book is only 48 pages, and that includes a list of characters, a page about Shakespeare, and a glossary, so obviously a lot is cut from the play. Too much, in fact, is cut, leaving just a poor outline of the play. Touchstone is cut completely, so gone are all the scenes with him and Jaques (poor Jaques never gets to meet a fool in the forest, and so that of course affects his character too). There being a character named Adam, parallels have been drawn with the Garden of Eden story, and this telling shows Orlando picking an apple from a tree in the very first panel. However, Adam is cut from the first scene. Oliver doesn’t speak against Orlando’s character to Charles. When Orlando is unable to speak to Rosalind, in the play he says to himself (or to the audience), “Can I not say, ‘I thank you’?” In this version he says, “I…thank you?” directly to Rosalind, an odd choice. In this version, Le Beau says “The smaller is his daughter.” Cut are Duke Frederick’s lines to Celia about her seeming more virtuous once Rosalind is gone. Duke Senior is shown killing a deer with a bow and arrow, and then rather than have the First Lord recount what Jaques had said about this, this version has Jaques say it right to Duke Senior. All the stuff about Adam being weak and needing food is cut, so Orlando never goes to Duke Senior’s camp.  Jaques’ “Seven Ages of Man” speech is included, but in a much shorter version. Oliver tells Duke Frederick that he never loved his brother in his life, but Duke Frederick’s great response is cut. In this version, Corin pulls Rosalind away from Orlando to introduce her to Phebe and Silvius, which is awkward and weird. Cut is Rosalind’s wonderful line to Phebe about her not being for all markets. The first scene of Act IV is set at night. Cut is Rosalind’s great line about men not dying for love (though Orlando’s line about dying is still included). When Oliver enters, he gives away immediately that he is Orlando’s brother, unlike in the play. Jaques’ lines about going to the newly converted Duke Frederick are cut. Also cut is the epilogue. This book was published in 2011.

As You Like It  by William Shakespeare  -  This is a volume in the Pocket Classics series, famous works of literature presented in comic book form. Twelve of Shakespeare’s plays were thus presented, and As You Like It is the first in the series. No author other than Shakespeare is credited, though his words have been changed, which in some cases changes the meaning as well. The illustrator is also not credited.

Act I

In this version Oliver tells Charles that Orlando wants his fortune, not that he might do harm to Charles during the wrestling match. So it’s Charles’ loyalty to Oliver that makes him promise to “take care of him once and for all” (p. 10). Orlando tells Rosalind and Celia: “Still, I hope your good wishes will stay with me. I have no one else who cares” (p. 12). Interestingly, Adam is in the foreground in the lower left corner of the frame, a choice that makes Orlando seem a bit callous. Le Beau (though not identified by name) says, “The smaller one is his daughter” (p. 15).

Act II

Interestingly, the famous line “All the world’s a stage” is not included here, though Duke Senior says, “The world is a great stage” (p. 24), prompting Jaques to begin his famous speech. He says there are seven ages, but then describes only six. It seems the sixth age is missing.


Scene iii is cut; Audrey is cut from this version.

Act IV

In this version, when Rosalind scolds Orlando for being late, she says, “A true lover would not be even a minute late” (p. 38). She is a lot more lenient than in the original play. In the play, even the slightest fraction of a minute late is unforgivable. Then she says, “I would rather be courted by a snail” (p. 38), but does not elaborate on the reason as she does in the play. Rosalind’s wonderful line about men never having died for love is not included here. In this version, it is Orlando who first mentions marriage and who asks Celia to marry them, which is quite different from the play, because he believes Rosalind to be a man. In the play when Rosalind asks Celia to conduct the marriage ceremony, it’s more mischievous in a way, because she knows it is in fact binding.

Act V

Scene i is cut; William is cut from this version. Because Audrey is cut, Touchstone remains unmarried in this version. Hymen is cut. The epilogue is also cut.

As You Like It was published in 1984.

As You Like It  by Jennifer Mulherin; illustrations by George Thompson  -  This is a volume in the Shakespeare For Everyone series, and is a book about the play, not an adaptation. There is a section on country life during Elizabethan times, in which Mulherin writes: “In Warwickshire, where Shakespeare spent his youth, the land was divided into two almost equal parts. To the south of the river Avon, there were fields of crops such as rye, wheat, corn and barley. To the north, in the forest of Arden, the land was used for grazing sheep and cattle. So shepherds like Corin and goatherds like Audrey, who appear in the play, really did exist in the forest that Shakespeare was writing about” (p. 4). Regarding the setting, Mulherin writes, “Books and poems about the imaginary life of shepherds and milkmaids were very fashionable in Shakespeare’s day” (p. 9). And regarding the source material, Mulherin writes: “In Lodge’s romance, the characters are elegant, clever people.  They are more like courtiers than country folk. Shakespeare’s characters are more realistic. Corin, Audrey and William are real country people” (p. 10). About the date the play was written, Mulherin writes: “Scholars also think that Jaques’s famous speech ‘All the world’s a stage’ may have been written to celebrate the opening of the Globe Theatre. Others say the play was privately performed at the wedding of Shakespeare’s patron, the Earl of Southampton, in 1598; this would account for the appearance of the god of marriage at the end of the play” (p. 10). Mulherin addresses the idea that the play was written in a hurry, mentioning the contradicting descriptions of Rosalind’s height. “Shakespeare often made a few mistakes like this, sometimes because he was revising a play for a different audience or for different actors. This did not worry the Elizabethan audiences who were used to different versions of the same play. They were also used to the same play with a different title. ‘As you like it’ could mean ‘call it what you want’” (p. 13). Mulherin also describes the story of the play. She says that Oliver “arranges a wrestling match between the champion, Charles, and his brother” (p. 15), but that isn’t quite accurate. There are also descriptions of many of the characters. This book was published in 1989.

William Shakespeare’s As You Like It edited and with an introduction by Harold Bloom  -  This is a volume in Bloom’s Modern Critical Interpretations series, presenting recent criticism from several writers. C.L. Barber writes, in a piece from 1959: “But neither Jaques, the amateur fool, nor Touchstone, the professional, ever really gets around to doing the satirist’s work of ridiculing life as it is, ‘deeds, and language, such as men do use.’ After all, they are in Arden, not in Jonson’s London: the infected body of the world is far away, out of range. What they make fun of instead is what they can find in Arden – pastoral innocence and romantic love, life as it might be, lived ‘in a holiday humour’” (p. 11). Barber also writes, “Touchstone’s affair with Audrey complements the spectacle of exaggerated sentiment by showing love reduced to its lowest common denominator, without any sentiment at all” (p. 13). Ruth Nevo, in a piece from 1980, writes, “The exposition of As You Like It presents a whole society in need of cure, not a temporary emergency, or lunacy, to be providentially set right” (p. 24). Peter Erickson, in a piece from 1985, writes, “After his initial complaint about being deprived of a ‘good education’ (1.1.67-68), Orlando is educated twice: once by Rosalind’s father and then by Rosalind” (pages 39-40). Later in that same piece, Erickson writes, “Since Frederick’s acts of banishment have now depopulated the court, he himself must enter the forest in order to seek the enemies so necessary to his existence” (p. 52). Marjorie Garber, in a piece from 1986, writes, regarding Rosalind’s continued use of disguise: “Her disguise as Ganymede permits her to educate him about himself, about her, and about the nature of love. It is for Orlando, not for Rosalind, that the masquerade is required” (p. 62). Paul Alpers, in a piece from 1996, writes: “As so often, Touchstone gives his own formulation when he arrives in the Forest: ‘Ay, now am I in Arden, the more fool I. When I was at home, I was in a better place, but travelers must be content’ (2.4.16-18). Commentators usually say that this disputes the ‘conventional’ preference of country to court, but it is a thoroughly pastoral remark – less because it speaks of content (for it does so wryly, as if discontentedly) than because of the comic primness of ‘the more fool I,’ where Touchstone’s self-mockery also contains the main claim for the Forest, that it enables its inhabitants to be themselves” (p. 125). Harold Bloom, in a piece from 1998, writes, regarding the seven agers of man speech: “Himself only in the middle of the journey, at thirty-five, Shakespeare (perhaps intuiting that two-thirds of his life was already over) envisions the silly old Pantalone of commedia dell’arte as a universal fate, preluding the second childhood of all humans who survive long enough ‘sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.’ That last line is Jaques’s triumph, it being a natural reductionism that even Sir John Falstaff could not dispute, and yet Shakespeare does, by entering as old Adam (a part as I’ve noted, he himself performed). Orlando staggers onto the stage, carrying his benign old retainer, who has sacrificed everything for him, and yet who is precisely not ‘sans everything.’ The rebuke to Jaques’s reductionism scarcely could be more persuasive than Adam’s quasi-paternal love or and loyalty to Orlando” (p. 155). This book was published in 2004.

Mr. Macready Produces As You Like It: A Prompt-Book Study by Charles H. Shattuck  -  This book contains a facsimile of Macready’s prompt book from the 1842-1843 season as transcribed by the stage manager George Ellis, with an introduction and notes by Charles H. Shattuck. There are notes about certain cuts and changes to the text, as well as notes on the timing of acts. In this performance Le Beau says, “the shorter is his daughter.” And “some of it for my child’s father” is changed to “father’s child,” greatly changing the meaning. Duke Frederick’s lines to Celia about how she will appear better when Rosalind is gone are cut. Rosalind’s line about being “more than common tall” is cut. Another surprising cut is Touchstone’s line about country life being tedious as it is not in the court. Also cut is Touchstone’s “or we must live in bawdry,” thus destroying the rhyme with “sweet Audrey.” In the epilogue, Rosalind’s line “If I were a woman” is changed to “If I were among you.” This book was published in 1962.

The Curate Shakespeare As You Like It by Don Nigro  -  This is a play about an amateur theater company’s attempt at staging a production of As You Like It. The company is too small, their Rosalind is crazy, and they may not have an audience anyway, but they try not to let this keep them from performing. Audrey gets confused and misquotes different Shakespeare plays: “Oh what a rogue and pheasant slave am I” and “By my maidenhead at twelve years old” (p. 19), but she is persuaded to take over the role of Rosalind. The man playing Jaques can’t seem to recall the play’s most famous speech. So it is decided to cut the speech, which doesn’t sit well with the actor. He says, “I work my fingers to the bone and slave all day over a hot actress” (p. 45). After the lines about the “copulation of cattle,” Rosalind asks, “Is this a dirty play?” (p. 55). And then Rosalind does her best to explain the joke about Pythagoras, and later explains the cuckoldry references. Others occasionally comment on the lines. For example, after Clown says “Come, sweet Audrey. We must be married, or we must live in bawdry,” he adds, “Get it? Audrey-bawdry?” (p. 65). This play was published in 1977, and the edition I read is from 1986.