By Charles Matthews

Monday, March 21, 2011

5. As You Like It, by William Shakespeare, pp. 94-111

As You Like It (The Arden Shakespeare)Act IV

Scene I 

Jaques makes an effort to become "better acquainted with" Ganymede/Rosalind, but she scorns his affectation of melancholy. He explains that "it is a melancholy of mine own, compounded of many simples, extracted from many objects, and indeed the sundry contemplation of my travels." But his traveling also elicits her scorn. When Orlando enters and greets Rosalind in iambic pentameter, Jaques takes his leave: "Nay then God buy you, and you talk in blank verse!" This "meta" bit invariably gets a laugh.

She scolds Orlando for being late and they launch into their game of Rosalind pretending to be Ganymede pretending to be Rosalind, though Celia in what may be an aside comments, "It pleases him to call you so: but he hath a Rosalind of a better leer [glossed as "cheek, complexion, or general appearance"] than you." The charade is beginning to wear thin, and by the end of the act it will have been exposed, but for the time being it remains a charming battle of wits, with Rosalind getting most of the good lines. As Ganymede, she affects to see through all the romantic clichés about lovers dying of rejection: "these are all lies: men have died from time to time and worms have eaten them, but not for love." She also plays the misogynist: "Make the doors upon a woman's wit, and it will out at the casement; shut that, and 'twill out at the keyhole; stop that, 'twill fly with the smoke out at the chimney."

After Orlando takes his leave for two hours to "attend the Duke at dinner," Celia chides Rosalind for slandering their sex, but Rosalind, having dropped her pose as Ganymede, proclaims that she is "fathoms deep" in love with Orlando. "I cannot be out of the sight of Orlando. I'll go find a shadow and sigh till he come." Celia decides to take a nap.

In another part of the forest Jaques encounters some lords, dressed as foresters, who have killed a deer, and he urges them to present the deer's horns to the duke "for a branch of victory" and to sing a song "for this purpose." They sing one that of course plays on the horns as an emblem of cuckoldry. The scene does nothing except indicate the passage of the two hours that Orlando is supposed to be away, for Rosalind and Celia return to the stage, presumably having sighed and napped, to observe that Orlando is late. They are joined by Silvius bringing his message to Ganymede from Phebe.

Rosalind peruses the message and claims that in it Phebe denounces Ganymede: "She says I am not fair, that I lack manners. / She calls me proud, and that she could not love me, / Were man as rare as phoenix." She accuses Silvius of having written it, which he denies. But when she reads the letter, which is in verse, it turns out to be the conventional lover's complaint against the beloved's cruelty and her vow to "study how to die" unless he return her love. "Can such a woman rail thus?" Rosalind asks, puzzling Silvius: "Call you this railing?" Celia pities Silvius in his confusion and love-sickness, but Rosalind sends him off to "say this to her: that if she love me, I charge her to love thee. If she will not, I will never have her, unless thou entreat for her." Silvius trots off dutifully.

Oliver enters. He has been sent to find "A sheep-cote fenc'd about with olive-trees," which Celia tells him is "West of this place, down in the neighbour bottom." (The note feels it necessary to gloss "bottom" as "a low-lying place, a hollow," which amuses me because I grew up in a part of the country where "bottom" is a common word for such a place. It seems to be an Americanism that has grown uncommon in Britain but hangs on in parts of the United States, including Washington, D.C., where Foggy Bottom is the neighborhood that includes the headquarters of the State Department.) In any case, Celia tells him, nobody's home. But Oliver reveals that he has recognized them by the description he was given: "The boy is fair, / Of female favour, and bestows himself / Like a ripe sister." Apparently this last part of the description puzzles some critics, but it doesn't trouble contemporary performers and directors who take it as a cue that Rosalind has let some of her masculine mannerisms slip in her disguise as Ganymede. It can be played for a laugh: Rosalind having assumed a particularly "feminine" pose as Oliver speaks, then suddenly butching it up in embarrassment. The description of Celia -- "low, / And browner than her brother" -- contradicts the earlier assertion that Celia was the taller, but not Rosalind's of herself as "more than common tall" -- but it's a line that may need to be cut if the actress playing Celia is blond or tall.

Oliver then shows them the bloody handkerchief that he has been sent to deliver, and tells how Orlando came across "A wretched ragged man, o'ergrown with hair," sleeping, and with a snake wrapped around his neck. Orlando frightened the snake away, but didn't notice that there was a lioness nearby, waiting for the man to awaken, "for 'tis / The royal disposition of that beast to prey on nothing that doth seem as dead." Oliver says that Orlando discovered the ragged man was his own brother, who had betrayed him, and almost didn't rescue him -- "Twice did he turn his back, and purpos'd so" -- but his better nature took hold and he rescued Oliver when the lioness attacked. When Celia and Rosalind ask, he admits to his identity as the brother who once tried to kill Orlando, but says he is now a changed man.

Rosalind wants to know about the bloody handkerchief, and he tells them that once Orlando got him to the duke's encampment, he discovered that he had been wounded by the lioness, "and now he fainted, / And cried in fainting upon Rosalind." When he recovered, he sent Oliver, "to give this napkin, / Dy'd in his blood, unto the shepherd youth / That he in sport doth call his Rosalind."

Now Rosalind faints. Celia rushes to her, and Oliver observes, "Many will swoon when they do look on blood." Celia replies, "There is more in it. Cousin Ganymede!" Of course, this is a slip: She has been established as Ganymede's brother. And from here on, the actors and the director will have to decide how much Rosalind's secret identity has been discovered. Celia tells Oliver to take Ganymede's arm, which is a good opportunity for Oliver to discover that Ganymede is no man -- he even hints as much in the next line: "You a man! You lack a man's heart." Rosalind, meanwhile, tries to brave it out, and urges Oliver to "tell your brother how well I counterfeited" the faint. He insists, "This was not counterfeit," and when she insists it was he tells her to "counterfeit to be a man." But the key moment comes when Oliver tells her, "I must bear answer back how you excuse my brother, Rosalind." He has clearly seen through the ruse.
From the televised performance at the 1982 Stratford Shakespeare Festival. Orlando: Andrew Gillies; Adam: Mervyn Blake; Oliver: Stephen Russell; Dennis: Nicholas Colicos; Charles: Jefferson Mappin; Rosalind: Roberta Maxwell; Celia: Rosemary Dunsmore; Touchstone: Lewis Gordon; Le Beau: Keith Dinicol; Duke Frederick: Graeme Campbell; Duke Senior: William Needles; Amiens: John Novak; First Forest Lord: Thomas Hauff; Second Forest Lord: Michael Shepherd; First Lord to Duke Frederick: Steve Yorke; Second Lord to Duke Frederick: Peter Zednick; Corin: Deryck Hazel; Silvius: John Jarvis; Jaques: Nicholas Pennell; Audrey: Elizabeth Leigh-Milne; Sir Oliver Martext: Maurice E. Evans; Phebe: Mary Haney

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; Corin: David Lloyd Meredith; Jaques: Richard Pasco.

No comments:

Post a Comment