As You Like It

By William Shakespeare
June 1 1995
directed by Rita Giomi

Born of French nobility, Orlando, the youngest son of Sir Rowland de Boys, has been denied his father's inheritance and a proper education by his oldest brother Oliver. When the two quarrel, Oliver encourages the court wrestler, Charles, to show no mercy to Orlando who has challenged him to fight. The wrestling match, held at Duke Frederick's court, is viewed by his daughter, Celia, and niece, Rosalind. Rosalind's father is Duke Senior, the rightful ruler, yet his younger brother Frederick has usurped his position and banished him and his attending lords to the Forest of Arden. Surprisingly, Orlando wins the match and is rewarded with a chain by Rosalind. Although now in love, Orlando is forced to flee to Arden with his brother's servant Adam. Rosalind is also forced to flee when she is banished by Frederick. Disguised as a boy, Rosalind takes on the name Ganymede and escapes with Celia (now called Aliena) and the court fool, Touchstone. Together they enter the Forest of Arden. In Arden, Duke Senior and his men have established a gentle, pastoral "court." Among their company is the comically misanthropic Jaques. Into their midst arrives Orlando ready to fight for food. He tells them his story and is openly accepted into the Duke's company. Touchstone, Rosalind and Celia (masquerading as brother and sister) have also arrived in Arden and overhear Silvius, a young shepherd, declare to Corin, an older shepherd, his love for the disdainful Phebe. Empathizing with Silvius' unrequited love, Rosalind and party join up with these comic rustics. Meanwhile, back at court, an angry Duke Frederick sends Oliver de Boys into the forest to find his daughter and capture Orlando. The freedoms of the forest engender amorous affections all around. Orlando is caught posting love poems to Rosalind on the trees of Arden. Posing as Ganymede, Rosalind promises to cure Orlando of his lovesickness; he is to woo the young "boy" as if he were Rosalind. Meanwhile, Touchstone falls in love with Audrey, a country wench. To make matters more complicated, Phebe falls in love with Ganymede. As love weaves a web of increasing complexity, Oliver enters the forest only to be saved from the hungry jaws of a lioness by his brother Orlando. When Oliver relates this story to Ganymede and company, revealing to them a napkin stained with Orlando's blood, the young "boy" faints. In the wake of this turn of events, Oliver falls in love with and proposes to the disguised Celia. Together they plan to live in Arden as shepherds. Ganymede promises that, at the same time, Orlando shall marry Rosalind, and Silvius and Phebe will be satisfied. On the marriage day, Rosalind reveals herself, taking Orlando in marriage and persuading Phebe to accept Silvius. Touchstone marries Audrey. Venturing into the forest to confront his brother, Duke Frederick encounters a religious hermit. As the story concludes, Frederick renounces his throne, restores his banished brother and, with Jaques, spiritually retires from the world.

Date Time
Thursday June 1 12:00 am
Closed

A comedic tale of love and mistaken identity in the Forest of Arden. This enchanting favorite argues the difference between life in the country and life at court. As You Like It is one of Shakespeare’s best loved comedies.

Born of French nobility, Orlando, the youngest son of Sir Rowland de Boys, has been denied his father's inheritance and a proper education by his oldest brother Oliver. When the two quarrel, Oliver encourages the court wrestler, Charles, to show no mercy to Orlando who has challenged him to fight. The wrestling match, held at Duke Frederick's court, is viewed by his daughter, Celia, and niece, Rosalind. Rosalind's father is Duke Senior, the rightful ruler, yet his younger brother Frederick has usurped his position and banished him and his attending lords to the Forest of Arden. Surprisingly, Orlando wins the match and is rewarded with a chain by Rosalind. Although now in love, Orlando is forced to flee to Arden with his brother's servant Adam. Rosalind is also forced to flee when she is banished by Frederick. Disguised as a boy, Rosalind takes on the name Ganymede and escapes with Celia (now called Aliena) and the court fool, Touchstone. Together they enter the Forest of Arden. In Arden, Duke Senior and his men have established a gentle, pastoral "court." Among their company is the comically misanthropic Jaques. Into their midst arrives Orlando ready to fight for food. He tells them his story and is openly accepted into the Duke's company. Touchstone, Rosalind and Celia (masquerading as brother and sister) have also arrived in Arden and overhear Silvius, a young shepherd, declare to Corin, an older shepherd, his love for the disdainful Phebe. Empathizing with Silvius' unrequited love, Rosalind and party join up with these comic rustics. Meanwhile, back at court, an angry Duke Frederick sends Oliver de Boys into the forest to find his daughter and capture Orlando. The freedoms of the forest engender amorous affections all around. Orlando is caught posting love poems to Rosalind on the trees of Arden. Posing as Ganymede, Rosalind promises to cure Orlando of his lovesickness; he is to woo the young "boy" as if he were Rosalind. Meanwhile, Touchstone falls in love with Audrey, a country wench. To make matters more complicated, Phebe falls in love with Ganymede. As love weaves a web of increasing complexity, Oliver enters the forest only to be saved from the hungry jaws of a lioness by his brother Orlando. When Oliver relates this story to Ganymede and company, revealing to them a napkin stained with Orlando's blood, the young "boy" faints. In the wake of this turn of events, Oliver falls in love with and proposes to the disguised Celia. Together they plan to live in Arden as shepherds. Ganymede promises that, at the same time, Orlando shall marry Rosalind, and Silvius and Phebe will be satisfied. On the marriage day, Rosalind reveals herself, taking Orlando in marriage and persuading Phebe to accept Silvius. Touchstone marries Audrey. Venturing into the forest to confront his brother, Duke Frederick encounters a religious hermit. As the story concludes, Frederick renounces his throne, restores his banished brother and, with Jaques, spiritually retires from the world.

The Colorado Shakespeare Festival's production of As You Like It is definitely a comedy, but it is in no way frivolous. The comic world of the play is predicated upon the inversion of specific gender roles, calling into question the nature of gender, identity and the human process out of which love develops. In As You Like It the evolution of feminine identity within a controlling patriarchal system of power informs both setting and characterization. The first scene of the play is set in an orchard--a controlled forest. The distinctions between the French Court and the Forest of Arden in this staging are few. Duke Frederick's Court is indeed controlling and restrictive, especially if you are a woman; yet the Forest of Arden is not so different. As Jeanne Addison Roberts notes in The Shakespearean Wild: Geography, Genus and Gender: "The urban invaders, both male and female, actually plunder and usurp the forest. Duke Senior and Jaques bemoan the plight of the slaughtered deer while enjoying the benefits of the hunt. And other forest denizens, the snake and the lion (both identified as female), are frightened away or killed. Rosalind and Celia colonize the shepherd's cottage coveted by Silvius,...Touchstone seduces Audrey away from her country prospects, and Jaques assumes the right to the empty cave at the end of the play...(48)." The central architectural image of Duke Frederick's Court in this summer's production is the cool geometry of a glass enclosed arboretum. The Forest of Arden has literally been walled out. But as the play progresses, the glass walls are penetrated and soon the forest, inspired by the polymorphic paintings of Georgia O'Keefe, breaks through. The theatrical space is no longer static and restrictive. In this production space evolves into something active and dynamic--a psychological landscape that creates dramatic action and reflects the inner dynamics of the characters themselves. It is within this dynamic space that both Rosalind and Celia develop into women. In the Court these two are inexperienced girls, yet as the comic action moves forward, they are forced to take on disguises and discover what it means to be a woman. Rosalind derives her power from her masculine disguise, and much of her humor is actually antifeminine. It is Celia who actually makes the first step into adult heterosexual womanhood. Angry over Rosalind's boorish behavior as Ganymede, Celia berates her friend and declares her independence: "You have simply misused our sex in your love- prate. We must have your doublet and hose plucked over your head, and show the world what the bird hath done to her own nest" (IV: i, 191-194). Celia, tired of childish games, dispenses with the farcical charade. Indeed, it is Celia's declaration of love for Oliver which forces Rosalind to dispose of her comic, masculine disguise and choose her role as woman and wife.

Shakespeare's Dynamic Contradictions 
by Jeff Turner Shakespeare's As You Like It is a complicated debate on the relationship between love, power and identity. It provokes disparate often controversial arguments and original and inventive productions. At its center is Shakespeare's Rosalind, one of the most engaging women in the entire canon. Two critical interpretations of Rosalind suggest the polemical extremes of Shakespearean scholarship. Comparing her to Hamlet, critic Harold Bloom sees Rosalind as the supreme representation of the possibilities of human personality. He writes, "We rejoice in her because no other figure in Western literature, not even in Shakespeare, is at once so accomplished in wit, and so little interested in the power that great wit can bring if properly exercised" (5). Neo-feminist Camille Paglia disagrees. Exploring what she labels an unnoticed theme in the play, Rosalind's attraction to the macho extremes she ascribes to in her masculine disguise, Paglia writes, "Rosalind as Ganymede pretends to be a rakish lady-killer and, at her assumption of that sexual persona, actually becomes one. A superb language of arrogant command suddenly flows from her...She is all sex and power" (203). Such critical disagreements are not uncommon, for As You Like It is both a gentle, pastoral comedy of love, and a dark and sexually ambiguous comment on gender construction and patriarchal control. Shakespeare himself delighted in contradiction and dialectical opposition of character and theme. In As You Like It he wallows in the conflict of opposites; pitting nature against civilization, masculinity against femininity, idealism against cynicism, youth against age, child against parent, time against timelessness and love against hate. Even the comic structure of his play belies its content. In the end the characters choose to renounce the Forest of Arden and return to the social restraints of the real world, yet this ending does not provide adequate resolution. The conflicts at play are merely assuaged, not fully resolved. Successful productions of the play have sought to enact this complexity on the stage without losing its strong comic core. The first modern production, according to Shakespearean scholar Sylvan Barnet, occurred in 1919 when Nigel Playfair staged his interpretation at Stratford as inspired by the radical aesthetics of the Ballet Russes. This show was bright, lively and musical, infuriating many critics. Following Playfair, however, subsequent stagings began to explore the text's darker edges. Michael Elliott's 1961 production at Stratford explored the seasonal changes within the text, setting the early Arden scenes in a winter atmosphere. Theatre-goers at a 1966 production at the Tyrone Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis found the play to be set in the somber aftermath of the American Civil War. Another similar example was a San Diego production in 1976 set among the displaced North American Indians in colonial French Canada. Barnet writes, "perhaps we can now generalize, and say that from the late 1960s to the early 1980s, As You Like It was sometimes seen not chiefly as a happy pastoral play but as a Chekhovian play, or even something much darker" (244). While productions grew darker and more experimental, As You Like It still managed to attract some of the strongest actresses to ever grace the stage. Dame Edith Evans successfully played Rosalind in Esme Church's 1936 rococo production at the Old Vic in London. At 24 years of age, Vanessa Redgrave leapt onto the Stratford stage barefoot and denim-capped to accolades of the highest caliber. In Michael Elliott's 1961 production, Redgrave was inelegant, brusque, engagingly aggressive and boyish. Her performance opened new doors to young actresses and is still fondly remembered today as one of the greatest Rosalinds of all time. In Adrian Noble's 1985 modern dress production at Stratford, Jungian psychology and contemporary, postmodern theory informed Noble's visual motifs and metaphors. As Rosalind, stage and film actress Juliet Stephenson (Truly, Madly, Deeply) explored the character's contemporary resonance. In an interview she explains the play to be "a vital exploration of gender, the male and female within us all." According to Stephenson, "Rosalind is very released when her masculine aspect is allowed release" (qt. in Gay 76). Finally, two idiosyncratic productions explored the changing nature of contemporary Shakespearean staging. Clifford Williams' 1966 production at the National Theatre and Declan Donellan's 1991 staging (which toured New York City this past fall) were both distinguished by all male casts. Neither production was presented as camp novelty, nor were they a recreation of an Elizabethan convention, using adolescent boys in the female roles. In fact, both productions found their inspiration in contemporary dramatic theory. The motivation for Williams' production was Jan Kott's essay "Shakespeare's Bitter Arcadia" in his Shakespeare Our Contemporary (1964). Writing about As You Like It and the conventions of Shakespeare's Elizabethan theatre, Kott noted a boy actor "disguised as a girl plays a girl disguised as a boy. Everything is real and unreal, false and genuine at the same time. And we cannot tell on which side of the looking glass we have found ourselves. As if everything were mere reflection" (270).This all-male production worked, because at the heart of Williams' vision was the desire to explore more clearly Shakespeare's debate on identity, love and power. By alienating his audience from any kind of heterosexual infatuation, Williams was able to explore an interior truth--the spiritual dialectics of gender and sexuality. Declan Donellan's staging was not as much about sexual ambiguity as it was a comic meditation on the metamorphosis of performance itself. This production celebrated the roles human beings play everyday. Donellan's first images were stark. Michael Gardiner, the actor who played Jaques, spoke the first line of his famous "All the world's a stage" speech and abruptly smeared another actor's cheek with mud. With that gesture, a blank white stage, inhabited by a group of men dressed in black tuxedo pants, was transformed into a pulsing, spontaneous world. Inspired by the metatheatric theories of postmodernism, Donellan created a memorable, stage picture of metamorphosis that defined the elemental magic at the root of all theatre.

Barnet, Sylvan. "'As You Like It' on the Stage." As You Like It. Albert Gilman ed. New York: Signet, 1963. 238-250. Bloom, Harold ed. Major Literary Characters: Rosalind. New York: Chelsea, 1992. Gay, Penny. As She Likes It: Shakespeare's Unruly Women. London: Routledge, 1994. Kott, Jan. Shakespeare Our Contemporary. Trans. Boleslaw Taborski. New York: Norton, 1964. Paglia, Camille. Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson. New York: Vintage, 1990. Roberts, Jeanne Addison. The Shakespearean Wild: Geography, Genus and Gender. Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 1991. Shakespeare, William. The Arden Edition of the Works of William Shakespeare: As You Like It. Agnes Latham ed. London: Routledge, 1975.