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.