As You Like It
Adelman, Janet. “Male Bonding in Shakespeare’s Comedies.” In Shakespeare’s “Rough Magic”: Renaissance Essays in Honor of C. L. Barber, edited by Peter Erickson and Coppélia Kahn, pp. 73–103, esp. pp. 81–87. Newark: University of Delaware Press; Toronto and London: Associated University Presses, 1985.
Adelman examines fantasies of male bonds and the threat posed to them by women. Through strategies of isolation (male and heterosexual relations operate in total separation from one another in the plot) and camouflage (Rosalind’s disguise as Ganymede permits Orlando’s wooing to be experienced as “simultaneously homosexual and heterosexual”), As You Like It provides “a suggestive model” for managing the conflict between male friendship and heterosexual love, thereby avoiding the magical solution to the problem favored in the early comedies and the disastrous consequences explored in the tragedies and romances. Because marriage functions as “the means by which Orlando is restored to his rightful place in the male order of things,” the married state is ultimately experienced not as “problematically related to male identity” but as “joyous resolution.”
Barton, Anne. “As You Like It and Twelfth Night: Shakespeare’s Sense of an Ending.” In Shakespearian Comedy, edited by Malcolm Bradbury and D. J. Palmer, pp. 160–80. Stratford-upon-Avon Studies 14. London: Edward Arnold; New York: Crane, Russak, 1972.
As You Like It, which unfolds through a network of parallels and contrasts that constantly test a variety of love relationships and attitudes toward life, represents for Barton the culmination of Shakespearean form. Shakespeare “mitigate[s]” the violence in the original story (Thomas Lodge’s Rosalynde) to create a play distinguished by poise, balance, and classical stability. The “fullest and most stable realization” of this harmony emerges in the final moments, where Shakespeare achieves a masterful balance of romance and realism.
Belsey, Catherine. “Disrupting Sexual Difference: Meaning and Gender in the Comedies.” In Alternative Shakespeares, edited by John Drakakis, pp. 166–90, esp. pp. 180–85. New York: Methuen, 1985.
Belsey includes As You Like It in her discussion of how Shakespeare’s comedies radically challenge patriarchal values by disrupting the stereotypical differences between masculine and feminine. In its use of the transvestite boy heroine who speaks from a position that “is not that of a full, unified gendered subject,” As You Like It can be read as raising at certain moments the basic question, “Who is speaking?”—Rosalind or Ganymede? With the added dimension of a male actor playing the part of a female, as was the case in Shakespeare’s theater, it becomes possible “to attribute a certain autonomy” to the voice of Ganymede, especially where the voice is not “so palpably feminine” (e.g., the passages where Rosalind as Ganymede mocks women). The comedy of the Epilogue owes its “resonance” to the fact that “a male actor and a female character is speaking.” Heroines like Rosalind may “dwindle” into wives but “only after they have been shown to be something altogether more singular—because more plural.”
Berry, Edward I. “Rosalynde and Rosalind.” Shakespeare Quarterly 31 (1980): 42–52.
Berry focuses his comparative study of As You Like It and its narrative source, Thomas Lodge’s Rosalynde, on the alterations Shakespeare introduced into his heroine: greater scope of activity, magical power, a “strong dose” of antifeminism, an obsession with time, and a link between parental and romantic love. The invention of “diverse sounding boards” in Touchstone and Jaques, foils to Rosalind, creates further “resonances” not found in Lodge. With her pervasive consciousness and control, Shakespeare’s Rosalind emerges as “a figure of the playwright himself.” A close examination of 1.2 reveals her capacity for compressing thought and feeling, thus making “her every exchange a rich psychological event.”
DiGangi, Mario. “Queering the Shakespearean Family.” Shakespeare Quarterly 47 (1996): 269–90.
In the choice of the name Ganymede for Rosalind’s male disguise, DiGangi finds the key to a homoerotic interpretation of As You Like It. Focusing on the Jupiter-Juno-Hebe-Ganymede myth (in which the boy Ganymede supplants the daughter Hebe as Jupiter’s cup-bearer), the author contends that “anxieties about homoeroticism [in AYL] are manifested and managed through the asymmetrical, shifting erotic roles taken by or imposed on characters.” In Arden, Rosalind will play both Ganymede and Jupiter: Ganymede to Orlando’s Jupiter, and Jupiter to Celia’s Hebe/Juno. What Rosalind hopes to ensure through her male disguise is that, by playing Ganymede in the wooing process, she will not assume the role of Juno (the rejected wife) when she marries. The female homoeroticism of Celia in relation to Rosalind is eventually transferred onto Phoebe. The marriages that conclude the play “succeed to the extent that premarital female homoerotic desire and postmarital male homoerotic desire have been successfully banished.” The Epilogue reveals “the homoeroticism of the theater [and] establishes the theatricality of homoeroticism.”
Erickson, Peter. “Sexual Politics and Social Structure in As You Like It.” In Patriarchal Structures in Shakespeare’s Drama, pp. 15–38. Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University of California Press, 1985.
Erickson claims that, contrary to celebrating female liberty, As You Like It is “primarily a defensive action against female power.” It is the men—the banished courtiers who depict an “idealized male enclave” in 2.7 and Orlando in his rescue of Oliver from the lioness—who are the real beneficiaries of androgyny, manifesting maternal nurturing, gentleness, and compassion. Rosalind’s disguise does not provide “sex-role fluidity” because she remains essentially female throughout. The happy ending is made possible only by her abandonment of the male masquerade and her reinscription within the patriarchal structure as daughter and wife. The revelation in the epilogue that she is really male marks the complete “phasing out” of Rosalind, the message being that “not only are women to be subordinate; they can, if necessary, be imagined as nonexistent.”
Garber, Marjorie. “The Education of Orlando.” In Comedy from Shakespeare to Sheridan: Change and Continuity in the English and European Dramatic Tradition: Essays in Honor of Eugene M. Waith, edited by A. R. Braunmuller and James C. Bulman, pp. 102–12. Newark: University of Delaware Press; London and Toronto: Associated University Presses, 1986.
Observing that disguise is not central to the plot of As You Like It, Garber asks why Rosalind holds onto her male masquerade for so long, especially since no compelling reason remains once she has safely arrived in Arden. The answer lies not in the liberation that the male disguise affords the heroine but in Orlando’s need to be educated about himself, his beloved, and the substance of love. Depicting the three stages he goes through—tongue-tied youth; self-absorbed, Petrarchan wooer; and “articulate and (relatively) self-knowledgeable husband”—the play could be subtitled “The Education of Orlando.”
Gardner, (Dame) Helen. “As You Like It.” In More Talking of Shakespeare, edited by John Garrett (London: Longmans, Green & Co., Ltd.; and New York: Theatre Arts Books, 1959), pp. 17–32. [Reprinted in Twentieth Century Interpretations of As You Like It: A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by Jay L. Halio, pp. 55–69. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1968.]
In its elegance and refinement, As You Like It is Shakespeare’s “most Mozartian comedy.” Gardner attributes the play’s universal appeal (as indicated by the title) to its eclectic mix of romance, débat, pastoral, burlesque, song, and spectacle. What plot there is consists in the juxtaposition of various perceptions so as to provide a balance of “sweet against sour, of the cynical against the idealistic.” While Arden is juxtaposed to the corruption of the Court, it is not Elysium, but a place of self-discovery where both positive and bitter lessons can be learned.
Hodges, Devon L. “Anatomy as Comedy.” In Renaissance Fictions of Anatomy, pp. 50–67. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1985.
Hodges examines literary, theological, and scientific “anatomies,” a generic “fad” in sixteenth-century England. Maintaining that “the mechanism of release [as articulated by C. L. Barber], of breaking through forms,” is the method of the anatomist, Hodges discusses As You Like It under the heading “the anatomy as comedy.” Love, language, and social order are all anatomized in Arden, “a kind of antiworld . . . where all that is repressed in the ‘working day world’ can be figured forth.” The play’s chief anatomists are Rosalind, Touchstone, and Jaques: the first strips away the conventions of Petrarchanism; the second cuts through the artifice of the pastoral ideal; and the third dissects the body of human life, gradually reducing it to nothing in the “seven ages of man” speech. At the end it is Jaques who “expose[s] the inadequacies of the ‘clarified’ order of comic resolution”: a voluntary exile, he shows that what appears to be a permanant order is really just the beginning of a new journey—the paradox at the heart of all anatomies.
Jackson, Russell, and Robert L. Smallwood, eds. Players of Shakespeare 2: Further Essays in Shakespearean Performance by Players with the Royal Shakespeare Company. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988.
The volume includes essays by Alan Rickman on his performance of Jaques (pp. 73–80) and Fiona Shaw and Juliet Stevenson on their portrayals of Celia and Rosalind (pp. 55–71) in Adrian Noble’s RSC 1985–86 production. In addition to discussing their respective characters, the actors make passing reference to the decision to use modern dress and to the efforts of the stage designers to reject the traditional depiction of Arden “as a kind of theatrical arcadia reminiscent of Suffolk,” since the play “is so clearly not a rural romp.”
Jenkins, Harold. “As You Like It.” Shakespeare Survey 8 (1955): 40–51. [Reprinted in Twentieth Century Interpretations of As You Like It: A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by Jay L. Halio, pp. 28–43. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1968.]
In this seminal study of the play’s structure, Jenkins describes the technique of reconciliation through the juxtaposition of opposites as central to As You Like It’s compositional rhythm. The dialectical pattern in which each judgment/attitude/position is modified by another yields “an all-embracing view” that is far more satisfying than any one perspective. Jenkins insists that the play is more than “some mere May-morning frolic prolonged into a lotos-eating afternoon”; its idyllic quality is only one of many—a point made clear by Corin in his function as the “touchstone with which to test the pastoral.” For Jenkins, As You Like It is the clearest example of Shakespeare’s excellence as a writer of comedy.
Leinwand, Theodore B. “Conservative Fools in James’s Court and Shakespeare’s Plays.” Shakespeare Studies 19 (1987): 219–37, esp. pp. 225–29.
A review of prominent fools associated with the Court and great houses of the English Renaissance reveals that marginality was not the fool’s defining characteristic. Leinwand singles out Touchstone and Lear’s Fool to demonstrate that, like their counterparts outside the theater, Shakespeare’s fools “are less naturals than artificials, less wise than clever, and less spokesmen for topsyturvydom than for conservatism.” As “inbred” as the rest of the courtly visitors to Arden (none of whom recreates himself/herself as a genuine shepherd or shepherdess) and as the only visitor to interact directly with the country folk (see especially his encounter with Corin in 3.2), Touchstone is the one who establishes the “antipastoral gesture of Shakespeare’s pastoral comedy.”
Montrose, Louis Adrian. “ ‘The Place of a Brother’ in As You Like It: Social Process and Comic Form.” Shakespeare Quarterly 32 (1981): 28–54.
Where Gardner (above) reads As You Like It as “untouched” by time, Montrose firmly situates it in early modern family politics, specifically in the fraternal rivalries at the root of primogeniture. The sibling conflicts between Orlando and Oliver and between Duke Senior and Duke Frederick are central to the play. Before he is worthy of marrying Rosalind, Orlando must repair a fractured relationship with his brother and seek a “social” father in Duke Senior. Arden works its miraculous power in restoring the male bonds at the core of the play’s patriarchal order, thus enabling events to unfold and relationships to be transformed “in accordance with a precise comic teleology.” By containing and discharging the tensions that are released through different social relations (brother/brother, father/son, master/servant, male/female), As You Like It is both “a theatrical reflection of social conflict and a theatrical source of social conciliation.”
Rackin, Phyllis. “Androgyny, Mimesis, and the Marriage of the Boy Heroine on the English Renaissance Stage.” PMLA 102 (1987): 29–41.
Rackin examines the theatrical convention of the transvestite boy heroine in five plays (Lyly’s Gallathea; Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, As You Like It, and Twelfth Night; and Jonson’s Epicoene) to focus her discussion of changing conceptions of gender and theatrical mimesis in the Renaissance, a moment of cultural transition when gender definitions were still fluid. Gallathea (1587) and Epicoene (1609) represent two poles in the depiction of the transvestite heroine—the former idealizing the androgyne as an image of transcendence over human limitations; the latter seeing only an object of ridicule, an image of monstrous deformity. Shakespeare’s comedies occupy a “middle position” between the celebration of androgyny and homophobic satire, his plays being more “ambivalent” in both celebrating and satirizing romantic love. In As You Like It, the multiple implications of the heroine’s sexual ambiguity—for relations between actor and role, dramatic representation and the reality imitated, play and audience—are most pronounced in the Epilogue.
Wilson, Richard. “ ‘Like the Old Robin Hood’: As You Like It and the Enclosure Riots.” Shakespeare Quarterly 43 (1992): 1–19.
Wilson reads As You Like It in the context of the subsistence riots of the 1590s, arguing that the play’s “violent plot and implausibly romantic ending have their material meaning” in that socio-economic crisis. “No Shakespearean text transmits more urgently the imminence of the social breakdown threatened by the conjuncture of famine and enclosure.” As one of a group of texts in the late 1590s to adapt the legend of Robin Hood to the contemporary agrarian crisis—elevating the outlaw to the rank of gentleman—As You Like It dramatizes “the divided loyalty of the propertied class.” Presenting the entire band of Sherwood outlaws and “parad[ing] all the felonies associated with forest rioters,” the play reveals “how discourses work through social change and are never indeterminate.”
Wofford, Suzanne. “ ‘To You I Give Myself, for I Am Yours’: Erotic Performance and Theatrical Performatives in As You Like It.” In Shakespeare Reread: The Texts in New Contexts, edited by Russ McDonald, pp. 147–69. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1994.
Wofford uses speech act theory (specifically extending the views of J. L. Austin on performative utterances) to demonstrate how As You Like It confirms the patriarchal order. The invocation of the wedding performative in “I take thee Rosalind for wife” and the “potentially subversive representation of a wedding onstage” (which by its nature is fictive) allow As You Like It to participate “in a complex way in a cultural debate about the power of fathers and of the state to control the language that gives such actions a social reality.” Observing the play to be one of proxies—i.e., “of actions enacted in or undertaken by an alternative persona”—Wofford explores the effects of using a proxy “on the performative language necessary to accomplish such deeds as marriage.” The Rosalind/Ganymede erotic performance receives special attention since it carries implications for questions of gender and enjoys an “apotropaic” function in warding off threats to a comic resolution.
Young, David. “Earthly Things Made Even: As You Like It.” In The Heart’s Forest: A Study of Shakespeare’s Pastoral Plays, pp. 38–72. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1972.
By creating a forest that is both subjective and relative—“constant in its imaginary character and changeable in each contact with a separate imagination”—and by favoring the iteration of the hypothetical “if,” Shakespeare creates in As You Like It a play that is self-consciously pastoral, one firmly within the tradition while at the same time providing commentary on the stylistic features, themes, and attitudes associated with it. Instead of isolating the two polarities of pastoral—idealism and satire—Shakespeare engages in a constant interchange of judgment, adjustment, qualification, and reversal of position that allows for the testing of one pole against the other in a journey toward the comic reconciliation of both. According to Young, As You Like It yields not wish-fulfillment or escape but a “prospect on life.”