As You Like It
Dr. Michael Delahoyde
Washington State University
AS YOU LIKE IT
Touchstone is still promising marriage to Audrey when the subject of another suitor arises: “Audrey, there is a youth here in the forest lays claim to you” (V.i.6-7). Audrey protests: “Ay, I know who ’tis; he hath no interest in me in the world” (V.i.8-9). William, the low-born suitor of Audrey’s, arrives on the scene, and Touchstone prepares to exercise his wit on the 25-year-old. Touchstone dizzies him with insulting interchanges, calling him foolish and boorish, and of course addressing him with the condescending “thou.” Asked if he is wise, William replies, “Ay, sir, I have a pretty wit” (V.i.29), to which Touchstone remarks, “I do now remember a saying, ‘The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool” (V.i.30-32). Acknowledging that he is not learned (V.i.38-39), William is told:
Then learn this of me: to have is to have. For it is a figure in rhetoric that drink, being pour’d out of a cup into a glass, by filling the one doth empty the other. For all your writers do consent that ipse is he: now, you are not ipse, for I am he. (V.i.40-44)
Although William seems an appropriate match for Audrey, albeit a dim-witted one, Touchstone threatens to kill him “a hundred and fifty ways” (V.i.56-57) and trots off with Audrey as Corin reports that they are summoned.
The consensus on this scene is that Touchstone, “Having demonstrated to the hilt that his wit instead of sharpening has dulled his wits, he proceeds to show that his wit has also withered his heart” (Goddard, I 288). “Touchstone is ‘wit’ without love. And Rosalind is wit with love, which is humor” (Goddard, I 291). The suggestion that Shakespeare named his most inarticulate male character after himself, William, is appropriately Chaucerian.
But this scene has been seen in a more disturbing light by Oxfordians such as Dorothy and Charleton Ogburn, Charles Boyle, and Alex McNeil [“As You Like It: Is Touchstone vs. William the First Authorship Story?” Shakespeare Matters 2.3 (Spring 2003): 1, 14-22], in which “Audrey … is not merely a country wench, but represents the author’s dramatic works” (McNeil 17). This allegory would make sense of Touchstone wishing her “poetical,” the concern about having one’s verses understood, wanting to marry her to himself (whereby she would be taking his name), and the disgust at “William” in what serves as a bit of literary vengeance against the unlearned dolt who was to get credit for the plays, Will Shakspere — he who is not ipse, the man himself, the emphatic “he” (McNeil 19).
Orlando speaks for us in questioning the suddenness of Oliver and “Aliena” being in love. But it’s true and Oliver intends to give the entire family estate to Orlando and live as a shepherd. “You have my consent,” Orlando responds (V.ii.19).
Rosalind enters, still spreading the fake fainting story and praising the Oliver/”Aliena” connection. They’ll marry tomorrow, and Orlando has grown impatient as a result: “I can no longer live by thinking” (V.ii.50), he protests, so playing the woo game with “Ganymede” is no longer fun. Rosalind validates Orlando’s honor: “Know of me then (for now I speak to some purpose) that I know you are a gentleman of good conceit” (V.ii.52-54). So she enigmatically promises big, magical things tomorrow for him.
Silvius and Phebe arrive. After Rosalind tries to turn Phebe’s affections towards Silvius and some other comic business transpires, Rosalind prepares us for the play’s climax:
Pray you no more of this, ’tis like the howling of Irish wolves against the moon. [To Silvius.] I will help you if I can. [To Phebe.] I would love you if I could.–To-morrow meet me all together. [To Phebe.] I will marry you, if ever I marry woman, and I’ll be married to-morrow. [To Orlando.] I will satisfy you, if ever I satisfied man, and you shall be married to-morrow. [To Silvius.] I will content you, if what pleases you contents you, and you shall be married to-morrow. [To Orlando.] As you love Rosalind, meet. [To Silvius.] As you love Phebe, meet. And as I love no woman, I’ll meet. So fare you well; I have left you commands. (V.ii.109-121)
Touchstone and Audrey will also be married tomorrow, and Audrey looks forward to being “a woman of the world” (V.iii.4-5) — “known publicly for having taken the author’s name” (McNeil 20)? Two pageboys sing, hey ding a ding, ding, about the beauty of young “springtime” love: “It Was a Lover and his Lass.” (Willy Wonka renders a bit of this song on a stationary bicycle in the 1971 movie.) Touchstone insults their voices and the song itself as a waste of time.
The first lines concerning Orlando’s confusion may topically reflect “Alençon’s chronic suspense regarding Elizabeth’s true intentions” (Ogburn and Ogburn 464).
Duke Senior is astounded by Ganymede’s promises. All the forest-dwellers converge and the yet-disguised Rosalind asks the Duke (her father) if he’ll approve of Orlando. She prepares to make good her vague promises of resolution. While she is offstage with Celia preparing, the Duke notes the similarities between Ganymede and his daughter. Orlando seconds this but gives the official story as to Ganymede roots in the forest.
Touchstone, at Jaques’ enthusiastic urging, entertains the assembly, including the “country copulatives” (V.iv.55-56), with his job description as a courtier:
I have trod a measure, I have flatter’d a lady, I have been politic with my friend, smooth with mine enemy, I have undone three tailors, I have had four quarrels, and like to have fought one. (V.iv.44-47)
He delineates the stages and etiquette of escalating hostile court challenges — the Elizabethan equivalent of A Christmas Story‘s “double-dog dare ya.” Touchstone uses the phrase “dulcet diseases” (V.iv.65) to refer to the fool’s job. The Duke remarks, “He uses his folly like a stalking-horse, and under the presentation of that he shoots his wit” (V.iv.106-107). Rosalind returns with Celia, undisguised, and with the marriage god Hymen (or maybe a forester or someone playing the part). Duke Senior is delighted to see his daughter. Since Phebe won’t be marrying Rosalind, the deal makes her submit to Silvius. “An ideal state has been won through the destruction of false ideas about love and life, through a facing-up to reality that includes the recognition of the powers of the imagination and art, and a reliance upon the basic humanity of good people” (Wells 177).
Orlando and Oliver’s other brother-ex-machina (another Jaques) brings news that a murderous Duke Frederick was on his way when he chanced upon a holy man and converted so that all the lands will revert to Duke Senior. Woo! Everyone will go back to court now. But the melancholy Jaques, who sneered at the pastoral life all along, will join Frederick and remain in the wilderness: “To him will I. Out of these convertites / There is much matter to be heard and learn’d” (V.iv.184-185). He goes off, refusing to join in the final dance:
So to your pleasures,
I am for other than for dancing measures.
The Duke calls for a dance as prelude to the rites.
“But of course it is all fiction” (Wells 177), we’re reminded when Rosalind breaks the fourth wall, steps out of character and, after some humility-pose/self-denigration of the play, acknowledges that she is a boy (since women’s roles were so played on the Elizabethan stage). It is suggested that the Epilogue is designed “to ease the transition back to real life. The vision fades; but perhaps, like Orlando’s game, it has done its work” (Wells 177). That seems an astoundingly unsatisfactory explanation.
If not completely mind-blowing with the gender chaos, the Epilogue is at least certainly cheeky. How are we to take the insistence that “If I were a woman I would kiss as many of you as had beards that pleas’d me” (18-19)?! Shakespeare is messing with us.
A tamer, charitable spin is put on the final effect by the statement that the play “insists, like A Midsummer Night’s Dream, that all foolish or transient mortal emotion is part of a larger process, the binding by the cosmic forces of love” (French 116).
Farber detects a psychological splitting pattern, primarily in the Dukes (444).
The standard Oxfordian perspective has this play reflecting the Elizabeth/Alençon relationship (Ogburn and Ogburn 444ff), hence the reference to Hercules (I.ii.208) since the Duc d’Alençon’s name was Hercule-François de Valois (Ogburn and Ogburn 451), and the “little beard” of Orlando, which also matches Alençon. The faux marriage in the forest would then perhaps reflect the public pledge made in 1581 (Clark 525). The late Rowland de Boys would represent Henry II of France, Oliver would be Henry III (antagonistic to Alençon), and the phantom brother Jaques might be their brother-in-law Henry of Navarre (Clark 509).
The Martext bit and the scene with William have long been thought later additions (Clark 526). A 1589 date makes sense regarding the former, but recently a persuasive proposal has Oxford adding the William scene in the last years of his life, after his own “great reckoning in a little room.”
Unimaginative love, whether sentimental or overpassionate, overreaches and defeats itself…. Intentionally or otherwise, it spills over — confesses or gives itself away…. The love of Silvius for Phebe and of Phebe for Ganymede in this play are examples. Imaginative love is wiser. Taking its cue from the arts, of which it is one and perhaps the highest, it creates a hypothetical case in its own image, a kind of celestial trap under cover of which (only the maddest mixture of metaphors can do it justice) it extorts an unconscious confession from the loved one, all the while keeping a line of retreat fully open in case the confession should be unfavorable, in order that no humiliation may ensue…. Thus the love between the two [Rosalind and Orlando] is rehearsed in the kingdom of the imagination, where all true love begins, before any attempt is made to bring it down to the level of everyday life…. Here a metaphorical “play” within the play becomes a celestial trap in which to expose the tender heart of a lover. (Goddard, I 292)
Finally, a note on Oxford as Shakespeare: “Because, through his almost superhuman élan, he was capable of being everything, he could understand everything” (Ogburn and Ogburn 458).