Shakespeare's Staging
As You Like It
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Friday, 22 April 2005 06:05

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As You Like It: Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, 1998. Rosalind: Anastasia Hille; Celia: Tonia Chauvet; Touchstone: David Fielder; Director: Bailie; Designer: Christie; Photographer: Donald Cooper. Courtesy AHDS.

STAGING AS YOU LIKE IT

This play has been judged one of the lightest and most elegant of Shakespeare's comedies, befitting its artificial mode as a pastoral set in a mock rural landscape of the Forest of Arden, with both realistic and feigned shepherds and shepherdesses. It involves a typical multiple permutation of characters and situations: four pairs of lovers, two sets of adversary brothers, two ducal courts, two heiresses, and two clowns. One of this last pair, Touchstone, is exceptionally subtle, and may reflect the character of Robert Armin who replaced Will Kempe, with his the broader humor. It ends with four marriages. All these revolve round the cathartic ambiguity of the play's central character of Rosalind, who flees the court of her usurping uncle disguised as boy, but affects a female attitude in soliciting courtship when she finds her admirer Orlando in the Forest. Thus we have a uniquely complex role for the original Elizabethan boy actor: at some points he is a boy actor playing a princess who is disguised as a boy pretending to be a girl with her fiancé. One wonders at the mental agility and performance skills which this complexity required of the role's first boy actor (consider this effect in modern terms in 6.1.5). It is almost equally testing of a modern actress, who may lose the emotional poise required (6.1.4). Modern set designers have a great deal of fun deciding which season of the Forest is appropriate, often favoring Winter, but evolving to Spring. © HMR

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bowe, John. "Orlando in As You Like It." In Players of Shakespeare: Essays in Shakespearean Performance by Twelve Players with the Royal Shakespeare Company, edited by Philip Brockbank, 67-76. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985.

Brissenden, Alan, ed. As You Like It. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993.

Chicago Shakespeare Theater - As You Like It - Performance History

Clarke, Kate, and Lizbeth Goodman. "Reading As You Like It." In Shakespeare, Aphra Behn, and the Canon, edited by W. R. Owens and Lizbeth Goodman, 193-250. London: Routledge and Open University, 1996.

Derrick, Patty S. "Rosalind and the Nineteenth-Century Woman: Four Stage Interpretations." Theatre Survey 26 (1985): 143-62.

Dessen, Alan C. "Problems and Options in As You Like It." Shakespeare Bulletin 8 (1990): 18-21.

Dusinberre, Juliet. "Pancakes and a Date for As You Like It." Shakespeare Quarterly 54 (2003): 371-405.

Halio, Jay L. and Barbara C. Millard. As You Like It: An Annotated Bibliography, 1940-1980. New York; London: Garland, 1985.

Holding, Edith. "As You Like It Adapted: Charles Johnson's Love in a Forest." Shakespeare Survey 32 (1979): 37-48.

Lennox, Patricia. "A Girl's Got to Eat: Christine Edzard's Film of As You Like It." In Transforming Shakespeare: Contemporary Women's Re-visions in Literature and Performance, edited by Marianne Novy, 51-65. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1999.

Marriette, Amelia. "Urban Dystopias: Reapproaching Christine Edzard's As You Like It." In Shakespeare, Film, Fin de Siècle, edited by Mark Thornton Burnett and Ramona Wray, 73-88. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2000.

Marshall, Cynthia, ed. As You Like It. Shakespeare in Production. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

Nadon, Daniel. "About As You Like It." On-Stage Studies 14 (1991): 43-46.

Ricks, Katy. "Staging As You Like It." English Review 6, no. 3 (1996): 20-24.

Ronk, Martha. "Locating the Visual in As You Like It." Shakespeare Quarterly 52 (2001): 255-76.

Shaw, Fiona and Juliet Stevenson. "Celia and Rosalind in As You Like It." In Players of Shakespeare 2: Further Essays in Shakespearean Performance by Players with the Royal Shakespeare Company, edited by Russell Jackson and Robert Smallwood, 55-71. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988.

Smallwood, R. L. As You Like It. Shakespeare at Stratford. London: Arden Shakespeare, 2003.

Staub, August W. "Pointed Nonsense in As You Like It." On-Stage Studies 11 (1988): 21-26.

Tomarken, Edward, ed. "As You Like It" from 1600 to the Present: Critical Essays. New York; London: Garland, 1997.

AUDIENCES AND MULTIPLE PERSONALITY IN AS YOU LIKE IT

Dramatic irony reaches a unique extreme in As You Like It, a play confirming Bertrand Evans' hypothesis in Shakespeare's Comedies that audiences are pleased when they share knowledge with an attractive character on stage that is not accessible to other characters. Rosalind's disguise as a boy conceals her identity in a variety of intense relationships: with her father Duke Senior, her boyfriend Orlando, and her would-be lover Phoebe. The resulting multilevel interactions mesh smoothly with a remarkable series of parallel love affairs: Rosalind and Orlando, Phoebe and Corin, Audrey and Touchstone, Celia and Oliver. Like many of Shakespeare's comedies these complexities evolve in a transcendent Green World, here the Forest of Arden (an amusing Warwickshire permutation of the plot's original setting in the French Ardennes), where routine reality is delightfully suspended. Perhaps the open-air character of the Globe Theatre may have helped the text's skillful evocation of harsh outdoor reality by songs and references to winter, but the play does require great dexterity and poise in its principal actors, above all Rosalind, Celia, Touchstone and Jaques. All too often modern actresses lose the emotional detachment which the original boy-actor necessarily brought to the role of Rosalind: a boy playing a princess pretending to be a boy playing a girl. Modern actresses necessarily lose one layer of this multiple personality, and too often sink to merely acting as a girl unselfconsciously in love, a very un-Shakespearean state of mind, if we think of Sonnet 138. Lope de Vega stresses that his heroines, like Rosalind, always outsmart their lovers, who mostly behave as obtusely (not to say suicidally) as Orlando at first. © HMR

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