By Charles Matthews

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

6. As You Like It, by William Shakespeare, pp. 112-131

As You Like It (The Arden Shakespeare)Act V

Scene I 

Touchstone discovers that he has a rival for Audrey's hand: a young man named William. But he is easily dispatched by a barrage of bluster before Corin arrives to summon Touchstone to meet with Rosalind and Celia. Orlando and Oliver take their place on the stage, discussing Oliver's sudden resolution to marry Aliena/Celia and his decision to stay in the forest: "for my father's house and all the revenue that was old Sir Rowland's will I estate upon you, and here live and die a shepherd." Orlando accepts, and then observes, "here comes my Rosalind." The departing Oliver greets her as "fair sister." (The reading of these lines will depend, naturally, on how much Oliver and Orlando have seen through the Ganymede deception. Here, as at the end of Act IV, where he calls her Rosalind, Oliver has either seen through the disguise or is simply going along with his brother's pretense that Ganymede is Rosalind. Those who think that both Oliver and Orlando are still deceived can point to the fact that Oliver refers to Celia as Aliena, and that he would not have so eagerly given up his estate to become a shepherd unless he really believed that Aliena was a shepherdess with a brother named Ganymede. But either interpretation can be made plausible on the stage.)

Rosalind notes that Orlando has his arm in a sling, and asks if Oliver told him "how I counterfeited to swoon, when he showed me your handkerchief?" Orlando replies, "Ay, and greater wonders than that" -- i.e., that he intends to marry Aliena, but perhaps also that he has seen through Rosalind's disguise. He expresses his pain that he can't be married alongside his brother, and Rosalind assures him, "Believe then, if you please, that 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." (Marlowe's presence seems to haunt this play, and some see this as an allusion to Doctor Faustus.)  "If you do love Rosalind so near the heart as your gesture cries it out, when you brother marries Aliena, shall you marry her."

They are interrupted by Silvius and Phebe, the latter in a fury because Rosalind has shown Silvius her letter. The four of them now go into a ritual declaration of their loves: Silvius for Phebe, Phebe for Ganymede, Orlando for Rosalind, and Rosalind/Ganymede "for no woman," a litany uttered three times. Rosalind promises them all that she will make everything right tomorrow.

As for tomorrow, it's also to be Touchstone and Audrey's wedding day, and they find themselves in an impromptu serenade by two of the duke's pages, a musical interlude that Touchstone receives ungraciously. The scene and the song, "It was a lover and his lass," seems to be there only to set the mood for the scene that follows, in which everyone gathers to see whether Rosalind/Ganymede can perform his "magic." Ganymede asks the duke if he will give his blessing for Rosalind to marry Orlando if "he" can make her appear, and makes Phebe promise that she'll marry Silvius if she refuses to marry Ganymede. Then she and Celia exit to prepare the great revelation.

The duke observes that "this shepherd boy" looks an awful lot like his daughter, and Orlando admits that he saw the likeness "the first time that I ever saw him," but he assures the duke that "this boy is forest-born." Again, this can be played either straight or tongue-in-cheek. Jaques observes, "There is sure another flood toward, and these couples are coming to the ark," for Touchstone shows up now with Audrey. Jaques asks the duke to welcome Touchstone because he has been a courtier, which Touchstone affirms by citing his courtly achievements: dancing, flattering, playing court politics, making demand on his tailors, and quarreling. His last quarrel, he claims, almost ended in a duel, but they "found the quarrel was upon the seventh cause." This so impresses Jaques that he urges the duke, "Good my lord, like this fellow." The duke says he does, which pleases Touchstone, who announces that he and Audrey -- "an ill-favoured thing sir, but mine own" -- are there to join "the rest of the country copulatives" and get married.

Jaques, however, is eager to hear about the quarrel that foundered because of the "seventh cause," which leads into Touchstone's great lampoon of the etiquette of dueling. It's not as funny for modern audiences as it probably was for Elizabethan and Jacobean ones, but a skilled actor can make it work, and it still has some relevance, particularly when Touchstone observes the crucial importance of "an If."
I knew when seven justices could not take up a quarrel, but when the parties were met themselves, one of them thought but of an if, as, "If you said so, then I said so." And the shook hands and swore bothers. Your If is the only peacemaker: much virtue in If.
It's a peacemaker still used by politicians and celebrities caught making racist, sexist or homophobic statements, necessitating the unapologetic apology that shifts the burden from the offender to the offended: "If I offended anyone, I'm sorry."

Touchstone's disquisition on quarreling also serves a theatrical purpose: It gives Rosalind and Celia time to change into their wedding finery and then to enter with Hymen. This wedding masque can come off a bit stilted, and in the modern theater it's probably best to have Hymen played by someone identifiable as a member of the duke's retinue: Amiens is a good candidate for the job, since there is a song to be sung. There is no time for the duke or Orlando to be astonished at Rosalind's appearance (and Ganymede's absence), which to my mind argues for an earlier recognition of the disguise.

No sooner are things sorted out, including Phebe's acceptance of Silvius, than Jaques de Boys enters to tell them that Duke Frederick has abdicated, having got religion from an old man he met on the edge of the forest as he was about to invade and kill his brother. Everything is restored to the status quo ante the usurpation, so they can all go home again. Everyone is happy to hear this, but Jaques is more interested in going to talk to the reformed duke. "Out of these convertites, / There is much matter to be heard and learn'd." So he makes his exit and everybody dances, after which Rosalind comes forth "to speak the Epilogue," revealing that she's a boy who played a woman who played a boy who sometimes played a woman.
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; Jaques de Boys: Christopher Gibson

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; Audrey: Marilyn Le Conte; William: Jeffrey Holland; Oliver: Clive Francis; Silvius: Maynard Williams; Phebe: Victoria Plucknett; Duke Senior: Tony Church; Hymen: John Moulder-Brown; Jaques de Boys: Paul Bentall.

From Kenneth Branagh's 2006 film: Jaques: Kevin Kline; Duke Senior/Duke Frederick: Brian Blessed; Rosalind: Bryce Dallas Howard; Celia: Romola Garai; Oliver: Adrian Lester; Orlando: David Oyelowo; Touchstone: Alfred Molina; Audrey: Janet McTeer; Silvius: Alex Wyndham; Phebe: Jade Jeffries; Jaques de Boys: Jotham Annan; Adam: Richard Briers; William: Paul Chan.

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