By Charles Matthews

Saturday, March 19, 2011

2. As You Like It, by William Shakespeare, pp. 3-28

As You Like It (The Arden Shakespeare)Act I

Scene I

Orlando enters with Adam, an old retainer to the family of Sir Rowland de Boys, complaining that his brother Oliver has not only withheld from him the thousand crowns Sir Rowland bequeathed him, but has deprived him of the education given to their brother, Jaques, and treated him like a servant. And if Adam doesn't believe it, here comes Oliver now, so Adam should withdraw and listen to what happens.

Oliver does in fact address his brother arrogantly as "sir," and takes offense at Orlando's complaints that although the "courtesy of nations" gives the eldest brother precedence it doesn't give Oliver the right to mistreat him. They get into a fight, and Orlando gets the upper hand. Adam tries to break up the fight, but Orlando is not willing to let go of the hold he has on his brother until Oliver hears his demand to give him the money his father left and let him go seek his fortune. Oliver agrees that Orlando can have "some part" of the money and sends him away, telling Adam, "Get you with him, you old dog." Adam bitterly replies that Sir Rowland would not have called him that.

When Orlando and Adam have left, Oliver vows that he'll get even, and that he certainly won't give Orlando the money, then calls for another servant, Dennis, to fetch the wrestler Charles. Charles has apparently come from the court, because Oliver asks him for news of it, but all Charles knows is that there has also been trouble between brothers there: The younger duke has usurped his older brother, who has gone into exile with three or four of the lords who supported him. Oliver asks if the banished duke's daughter, Rosalind, went into exile with her father, but Charles says that she has stayed behind with her cousin. The exiles, Charles reports, have gone to the Forest of Arden, "and there they live like the old Robin Hood of England. They say many young gentlemen flock to him every day, and fleet the time carelessly as they did in the golden world."

Oliver asks Charles if he is going to "wrestle tomorrow before the new Duke," and Charles not only says yes but tells Oliver that he has heard Orlando plans to challenge him in disguise. He's worried that he'll harm Orlando, and asks if Oliver can either discourage his brother or else give him leave to win the match fairly and squarely. Oliver replies that not only was he aware of Orlando's plan, "I had as lief thou didst break his neck as his finger." He claims that Orlando is "a secret and villainous contriver against me his natural brother," and that he's so wicked that if Charles does "him any slight disgrace, or if he do not mightily grace himself on thee," Orlando will poison him or "never leave thee till he hath ta'en thy life by some indirect means or other." Charles thanks him for the warning and assures him that if Orlando is able to walk after their match, "I'll never wrestle for prize more."

When Charles leaves, Oliver soliloquizes that he doesn't know why he hates his brother so much, except that Orlando is "so much in the heart of the world, and especially of my people, who best know him, that I am altogether misprised." In other words, he's jealous -- a common motive for villainy in Shakespeare.

Scene II

We are now at the court of the usurping duke, for his daughter, Celia, enters, trying to cheer up her cousin Rosalind. The latter says she's doing her best to be cheerful, but it's hard to forget that her father has been banished. Celia protests that Rosalind doesn't love her as much as she loves Rosalind, and claims that if Rosalind's father had banished Celia's, instead of the other way around, she would have learned to love Rosalind's father as her own. Rosalind says she'll try, and Celia promises that by her "affection" to Rosalind she'll make up for whatever her father has taken away from Rosalind's.

Rosalind makes the effort to cheer up and proposes that they "devise sports. Let me see, what think you of falling in love?" Celia says go right ahead, but don't fall so far in love that it threatens your chastity. She suggests that they make fun of Fortune for not distributing her gifts equally. Rosalind agrees that Fortune's "benefits are mightily misplaced," especially when it comes to women. "'Tis true," Celia says, "for those that she makes fair, she scarce makes honest; and those that she makes honest, she makes very ill-favouredly." Rosalind had something else in mind -- she was thinking of women's place in the scheme of things -- and says that Celia has mistaken Nature's gifts for Fortune's. Celia retorts that that's a distinction without a difference: "When Nature hath made a fair creature, may she not by Fortune fall into the fire?" And Nature has given them the gift of wit for such an amusing conversation, and now Fortune sends a fool to interrupt it.

That is, here comes Touchstone, to tell Celia that her father has sent for her. Their banter with Touchstone goes on so long that apparently the duke has had to send another messenger, Le Beau, who tells them that they have missed part of the wrestling, but that the final bouts are going to be performed where they are sitting. In the first bouts, Charles defeated three young men, all of whom are in danger of dying. "Yonder they lie, the poor old man their father making such pitiful dole over them that all the beholders take his part with weeping." It's Touchstone, interestingly, who makes the obvious comment: "It is the first time that ever I heard breaking of ribs was sport for ladies." But Rosalind and Celia agree that they will stay to watch the bout that is going to be held where they are.

The court, led by Duke Frederick, enters, along with Orlando and Charles, the combatants. Apparently some effort has been made to discourage Orlando from wrestling, because the duke says, "Since the youth will not be entreated, his own peril on his forwardness." Rosalind is shocked to see how young Orlando is, but she also thinks he "looks successfully." The duke asks if they want to stay, and Rosalind says they do -- it's immediately clear that she's taken a special interest in Orlando. He warns them that it won't be pretty: The odds are against Orlando, and he admits that he has tried to persuade him not to wrestle. Perhaps, he suggests, the young ladies can be more successful.

Celia asks Le Beau to bring Orlando to them, and she tells him to "embrace your own safety and give over this attempt." Rosalind seconds her, and says he won't lose face in their eyes if he does. Orlando replies that he really has nothing to lose by the attempt, "wherein if I be foiled, there is but one shamed that was never gracious; if killed, but one dead that is willing to be so. I shall do my friends no wrong, for I have none to lament me; the world no injury, for in it I have nothing; only in the world I fill up a place which may be better supplied when I have made it empty." This dude is seriously depressed.

Rosalind and Celia wish him well, although Celia's wish, "Your heart's desires be with you!" is ironically undercut by Charles, who asks, "Come, where is this young gallant that is so desirous to lie with his mother earth?" They cheer him on, and Orlando wins: Charles is borne off unconscious.

The duke congratulates Orlando and asks his name, but is surprised to find that he is the son of an old enemy and departs after saying, "I would thou hadst told me of another father." Celia is shocked, and asks Rosalind, "Were I my father, coz, would I do this?" Orlando proclaims his pride in his parentage, and Rosalind tells him that her father "lov'd Sir Rowland as his soul," and that she would have urged him more strongly -- "given him tears unto entreaties" -- not to wrestle if she had known Orlando was his son. She gives him a token of hers to wear, commenting that she too is "our of suits with fortune" or would "give more but that her hand lacks means."

They begin to depart as Orlando recovers from a bout of speechlessness: "Can I not say, 'I thank you'?" Rosalind thinks -- or wants to believe -- that he has called them back: "Did you call sir? / Sir, you have wrestled well, and overthrown / More than your enemies." Celia, perhaps a little puzzled, asks, "Will you go coz?" And as they leave, Orlando once again berates himself for being tongue-tied: "I cannot speak to her, yet she urg'd conference. / O poor Orlando, thou art overthrown! / Or Charles, or something weaker masters thee." Neither Rosalind nor Orlando is fully aware that they have fallen in love, and the uncertainty shows in their awkwardness.

Le Beau returns to tell Orlando that the duke has decided that the son of his enemy is his enemy too, and that he should make himself scarce. But Orlando is preoccupied with something else: "Which of the two was the daughter of the Duke / That here was at the wrestling?" Le Beau observes that neither of them ought to be considered the duke's daughter if you judge by their manners, which are much better than the duke, but that the "taller" one is his daughter. Or maybe he says the "shorter" one: The Folio says "taller," but this directly contradicts what we hear in the next scene, when Rosalind decides to disguise herself as a pageboy because she is "more than common tall." So editors very often change "taller" here to "shorter" for consistency's sake. In any case, Orlando seems to figure it out. And Le Beau goes on to tell Orlando "that of late this Duke / Hath ta'en displeasure 'gainst his gentle niece, / Grounded upon no other argument / But that the people praise her for her virtues, / And pity her for her good father's sake." So not only is Oliver jealous of Orlando's popularity, Duke Frederick is jealous of Rosalind's. Le Beau bids him farewell, and Orlando yields to his fate, though somewhat sweetened by his new acquaintance:
Thus must I from the smoke into the smother,
From tyrant Duke unto a tyrant brother.
But heavenly Rosalind!

Scene III 

Rosalind is, for once, speechless, which surprises Celia. But she soon guesses what is eating at Rosalind: "Is it possible, on such a sudden, you should fall into so strong a liking with old Sir Rowland's youngest son?" Rosalind says that her father loved his, but Celia isn't buying this as a reason: "By this kind of chase, I should hate him, for my father hated his father dearly; yet I hate not Orlando."

Their conversation is interrupted by the duke, "With his eyes full of anger," as Celia observes. He tells Rosalind, "Within these ten days if that thou be'st found / So near our public court as twenty miles, / Thou diest for it." And when she asks why, he says, "Let it suffice thee that I trust thee not." Here Rosalind shows real backbone; she demands, "Yet your mistrust cannot make me a traitor, / Tell me whereon the likelihood depends." And when he can't come up with anything other than "Thou art thy father's daughter," she stands up to him admirably:
So was I when your Highness took his dukedom;
So was I when your Highness banish'd him.
Treason is not inherited, my lord,
Or if we did derive it from our friends,
What's that to me? My father was no traitor.
Then good my liege, mistake me not so much
To think my poverty is treacherous.
And Celia stands up for her friend too: "If she be a traitor, / Why so am I." Although Rosalind is one of the great roles for women, the part needs to be cast with a Celia of equal skill.

The duke, of course, will hear none of it, and he condemns Rosalind with one of those damned-if-she-does, damned-if-she-doesn't statements: "her smoothness, / Her very silence, and her patience / Speak to the people and they pity her." It's a perfect Catch-22: If Rosalind were an outspoken critic of the duke, she'd be a traitor. But since she keeps her peace and exhibits patience, attracting popular admiration, she's also a traitor. As for Celia, he says, "Thou art a fool." And then, several lines later, after she's proclaimed her determination to stand by Rosalind, he repeats it, only more harshly: "You are a fool." The harshness of tone is emphasized by the switch from the familiar "Thou" to the impersonal "You."

The duke and his entourage leave, and Celia expresses the bitterness of the scene: "Wilt thou change fathers? I will give thee mine." She proclaims herself banished with Rosalind, and when Rosalind protests, she once again plays the you-don't-love-me-as-much-as-I-love-you card: "Rosalind lacks then the love / Which teacheth thee that thou and I am one." It is, in fact, Celia's idea that they should seek out Rosalind's father in the Forest of Arden, and when Rosalind protests that it's dangerous, it's Celia who suggests that they disguise themselves as poor women. Finally Rosalind gets into the spirit of the thing, and suggests, "Were it not better, / Because that I am more than common tall, / That I did suit me all points like a man?" She'll be disguised as a pageboy and call herself Ganymede like "Jove's own page." Celia decides to call herself Aliena in reference to her alien state, and Rosalind proposes that they take Touchstone to "be a comfort to our travel." And so they go off to prepare, in Celia's words, "Now go we in content / To liberty, and not to banishment."

As You Like It is so frequently performed that there's no lack of available video. The first here is from a televised performance at the 1982 Stratford Shakespeare Festival. Orlando: Andrew Gillies; Adam: Mervyn Blake; Oliver: Stephen Russell; Dennis: Nicholas Colicos; Charles: Jefferson Mappin; Roberta Maxwell: Rosalind; Rosemary Dunsmore: Celia; Lewis Gordon: Touchstone; Keith Dinicol: Le Beau; Graeme Campbell: Duke Frederick

From the 1978 BBC-TV production. Rosalind: Helen Mirren; Celia: Angharad Rees; Touchstone: James Bolam; Le Beau: John Quentin; Duke Frederick: Richard Easton; Orlando: Brian Stirner; Charles: David Prowse.

From the 1936 film directed by Paul Czinner. Orlando: Laurence Olivier; Le Beau: Austin Trevor.

From a Royal Shakespeare Company production. Rosalind: Katy Stephens; Celia: Mariah Gale; Duke Frederick: Sandy Neilson.

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