As You Like It–Act V and Final Wrap-up

My apologies for not updating Friday. After the horrific tragedy in Newton, CT, I had no ability to focus on anything but prayers for those dear families. This entry will be quick, because I have not spent the mental energies necessary to do the play justice. But I believe that mental energies and thoughts are due to the Sandy Hook community at this time, rather than Shakespeare.

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The main point that I want to bring to light from Act V is the nature of the conversion of both Oliver and Duke Freddy. As it turns out, Oliver was sincere in his reuniting with his brother Orlando, and to make matters even better, falls deeply in love with Celia, cementing his change of heart. Duke Freddy’s story is strange, almost a “Deus ex Machina” kind of turn around. Upon meeting a holy man, he drops his life and joins a religious order. I’m reading this thinking “Whaaaaaa?”

However, both share one really critical thing in common: they take place off-stage. We only hear about them through either Oliver himself or through De Boys. I was trying to think which would be more successful–If we were able to see these conversions of heart take place (we don’t even see Oliver wooing Celia) or if it actually is better left to our imaginations. Part of me wants to stretch the idea of second hand versus first hand experience to this point, since the audience only knows about this integral part of the action’s reconciliation through second hand information.

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My apologies that this isn’t a true-blue “wrap-up,” but if I don’t end it with As You Like It here, I’ll never get started on tomorrow’s adventure–Richard III!

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As You Like It–Act IV

As You Like It

Rosalind’s interaction with Jaques struck me as one of the most pertinent in relation to “what the whole play” means. Or what plays mean in general. Shakespeare comments on what plays are within his plays often. This opening scene, I believe, is one of them.

To begin with, we learn a little more about Jaques. His melancholy, so he claims, comes from his life as a traveler–meaning, he has no sense of “place” and an overabundance of experience (the virtues of the college lifestyle). Rosalind’s responds, “I had rather have a fool to make me merry than experience to make me sad” (IV.i.26-27). I’m curious about her response–mainly because I instantly liked it–and the truth that it seems to imply deal with the nature of court versus travel. Second hand related experience versus personal experience. Which is better? Let’s look at Rosalind and Orlando.

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NB: I love to see what Shakespeare is saying when his characters are deceiving each other. You’ve been warned.

So, Rosalind is pretending to be a boy, pretending to be herself. In pretending to be what she’s pretending to be, she is herself. I love it. Every reference where she refers to her male-self as false, she’s being true. She is one step removed from actually being courted by Orlando. That one step being that she is a he pretending to be she. Through this one “step back” from being herself, she can actually see the truth of Orlando’s love. Score one for second hand experience. That’s also a bit first hand.

Does this look like a court? No.

But, also, look at the characters we’re all looking at. They are all outside of their home, their court, their sense of place, running around in the woods where, frankly, they don’t belong. The sense of place has been removed, and what happens? Look at scene three. Everyone’s falling in love, lust, what have you. But I don’t want to go too far in this direction. Just want to remark that it is happening and how it relates with first-hand, second-hand experience. Because we must consider, we’re all second hand in relation to this play.

Lastly, Oliver. Is he lying? Is he honest? What is at stake if this conversion is true–Duke Freddy will destroy the entire estate if Oliver doesn’t hand him Orlando’s head on a platter. I can’t see the last Act boding well, and I think I’ll be mildly let down if he is honest. I can’t see it in his character to love Orlando. This act won’t make sense to me until I read the last.

Until tomorrow.

As You Like It–Act III

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I don’t think I’d be terribly off if I dubbed this, “The act of the lovers.”

While the act opens with Duke Freddy and Oliver plotting to find Orlando, Rosalind and Celia, the drama of their involvement isn’t touched in the rest of the act. In Act II, we’re taken into the woods, making it home, and now, the lovey-dovey stuff kicks up. Orlando’s gone buck-wild with writing poetry, Rosalind is now turning her melancholy sighs toward Orlando, we see Touchstone trying to get wrongly married to bed down with Audrey, and Silvius trying with no avail to woo the lead-struck Phebe–who then falls for Rosalind dressed as a man. Rubbing these couples against each other, I’m trying to figure out what exactly the message of love Shakespeare is trying to translate to his audience. I’m figuring that at least Rosalind and Orlando wind up together in the end, since they like each other, and I as an audience member like both of them.

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Firstly, Orlando. We see him in Act I, after receiving Rosalind’s chain, move his thoughts from his more earthly woes to, “heavenly Rosalind” (I.ii.279). Only in the woods can Orlando let loose the lover in him, once the plight of his home-life is completely shrugged off. Now he’s all heaven, poetry, and Rosalind. Speaking of, in her new lifestyle of pretending to be a man, she has moved her cares from her banished father (who she actually meets while dressed as a man…and, she needs to stay disguised from her equally banished father, why?) to Orlando’s love. She states, “But what talk we of fathers, when there is such a man as Orlando?” (III.iv.35-36). When she was still living with ol’ Freddy, she didn’t want to speak of Orlando, but now, she’s all about him. The power of the wilderness.

Two other comments:

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  1. Touchstone telling Audrey that he wishes she were poetical–because poetry is false. We have a lot of people in this play calling Orlando’s poetry false, Touchstone is wanting to shack up with Audrey, saying she would be more like false poetry. Yet, the biggest falsehood going on in this act is the biggest truth. Which leads us to point…
  2. Rosalind pretending to be a man, pretending to be Rosalind. So, in her pretending and deceiving, she’s telling the truth. Poetry, telling truths through fabrications? Perhaps my Literature major is coming out in me, but I think it’s a valid thought considering the different lovers we have here.

Silvius and Phebe–sounds a little Apollo and Daphne. Jaques listening in and counseling Touchstone and Audrey in marriage, ha, we’ll see how that goes.

Until tomorrow.

As You Like It–Act II

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Yesterday, I was a little too gung ho about the infringement of the ‘estate model,’ and it carried over a little into today’s reading, but not without precedent. Scene three made my political-loving self blush, when Adam tells Orlando his virtues will be his downfall.

Why does this make me blush? Because of what it means when it comes before Orlando’s response to Adam’s loving dedication to him. “O good old man, how well in thee appears/The constant service of the antique world,/When service sweat for duty, not for meed./Thou art not for the fashion of these times, Where none will sweat but for promotion,/And having that, do choke their service up/Even with the having…(II.iii.56-62).”

Doesn’t the tension between self-interest and duty give your twenty-first century, democracy-loving-self chills? Adam’s dedication to his master–and Orlando, it seems, has inherited the good virtues of his father–belongs to that older antique model, in the same way that Orlando’s virtues are his downfall simply because of Oliver’s self-serving disposition. Mmm. Exciting.

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However, in the forest of Arden, who cares about estates? The theme I’ve been noticing seems to leave the play–Shift to the Duke proper and his crew, Ros and Celia, Adam and Orlando–all driven to the woods. Duke Freddy’s only knowledge of where Rosalind and Celia are has to do with an overhearing that is a complete misunderstanding of the ladies actual plans. He thinks they’re with Orlando. Only, the two have bigger matters than Rosalind and Orlando’s flirting to overcome. Smart ladies, not getting side-tracked by attractive men to do what needs to be done. The only other thing I will say about these two, for now, it that I don’t think it’s a coincidence that they met a hospitable shepherd -with an inhospitable master–and ended up attaining the farm.

Now, to the matter of Jaques famous “All the world’s a stage” speech. It is made directly after the Duke makes the comment, “Thou seest, we are not all alone unhappy;/This wide and universal theatre/Presents more woeful pageants than the scene/Wherein we play in” (II.vii.136-139). Jaques drives this home, but he offers a broader, more universal part that man plays. While the Duke sees the players of mere tragedy, Jaques’ players are representative of all mankind. Quick list of the seven stages of man:

  1. Infancy
  2. School
  3. Lover
  4. Soldier
  5. The Justice
  6. “Slippered Pantaloon” (what a great way to phrase that stage right after middle-age and right before super old)
  7. Second childhood

And, what happens after he makes this famous speech? NONE OF THE CHARACTERS CARE A LICK ABOUT IT. I’m reading, thinking “What the flip, kip, is going on?”

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It’s like he never made the speech to the people around him. The audience is like “oh, that was brilliant,” but what about the characters? I know, Orlando re-enters the scene here with Adam, but come on. No snarky comment on Jaques melancholy? No, “Ooo, Jaques, you’re sooooo smart.” Nothing. What do I do with this?

Until tomorrow.

As You Like It–Introduction and Act I

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My experience with this play is through the Kenneth Branagh movie adaptation, which, despite how visually stunning this film is, was not enough to keep my eighteen-credit-hour self awake past the third act. So I chose it for the first play, because I’m familiar with it, but have no idea how the action unfolds.

We open with an enraged Orlando, talking with a servant Adam in an orchard on his deceased father’s estate (now his eldest brother’s) discussing how Orlando was not given the proper education that was left to him in his father’s will.

Here the allusion seeking Literature major rears her ugly head, shouting about the opening of Genesis, the opening of the play in an orchard with an Adam, or two brothers fighting about birthrights, one planning to kill the other…smells familiar….

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Whoa. Let’s not go to far on that point and get back to first impressions.

  1. Orlando isn’t upset because he’s the youngest son and unable to inherit the estate because there are no equity of inheritance laws. He’s angry because his right as the youngest son qua youngest son is to a proper education. Youngest or not, son’s of estate holding families are not–by the political set-up–supposed to be destitute. And given the thousand crowns that was left in his father’s will for his education, he has a good reason to be upset that doesn’t involve a desire to over-ride an entire political system. He just wants his portion, his natural right, not the whole cup.
  2. Duke Freddy, on the other hand, completely defies the whole “first son inherits the estate” model by usurping his older brother’s right. Just to clarify the difference between the feuding brothers.
  3. Shift to scene two and the dialogue between Celia and Rosalind–

Celia: Let us sit and mock the good housewife Fortune from her wheel, that her gifts may henceforth be bestowed equally.
Rosalind: I would we could do so, for her benefits are mightily misplaced, and the bountiful blind woman doth most mistake in her gifts to women.
Celia: ‘Tis true; for those that she makes fair she scarce makes honest, and those that she makes honest she makes very ill-favouredly.
Rosalind: Nay, now thou goest from Fortune’s office to Nature’s: Fortune reigns in gifts of the world, not in the lineaments of Nature.
Enter TOUCHSTONE
Celia: No? when Nature hath made a fair creature, may she not by Fortune fall into the fire? Though Nature hath given us wit to flout at Fortune, hath not Fortune sent in this fool to cut off the argument?
Rosalind: Indeed, there is Fortune too hard for Nature, when Fortune makes Nature’s natural the cutter-off of Nature’s wit.
Celia: Peradventure this is not Fortune’s work neither, but Nature’s; who perceiveth our natural wits too dull to reason of such goddesses and hath sent this natural for our whetstone; for always the dulness of the fool is the whetstone of the wits. How now, wit! whither wander you? (I.i.30-54)

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The essential “theme” that I can glean from the way Shakespeare has opened this play is the tension between fortune and nature, specifically the tension of one’s birthright. Oliver and Duke Freddy are serious transgressors to the foundations of the family, let alone how the estate model is set up. Rubbed up against the feuding brothers is Rosalind and Celia, “whose loves/Are dearer than the natural bond of sisters” (I.ii265-266). Also, Rosalind’s comments to Duke Freddy on her banishment, that one does not inherit being a traitor, ring very well with the underlying notion of nature that’s going on here.

I won’t make any more definitive conclusions from here, or even say that I made any to begin with, but these were the first things I began to pick up on in the first three scenes of the play. They may or may not even be there, but perhaps they are ideas to ruminate on through the rest of the play.