January 3 – April 3, 2014

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Stuff that Happens
Stuff that Happens Before the play
  • Duke Frederick overthrows his brother, Duke Senior, who flees to the Forest of Arden with a group of followers, including a courtier named Jaques.
Stuff that happens during the play
  • Orlando complains to his old servant, Adam, that his older brother, Oliver, is depriving him of his rightful education and inheritance.
  • Oliver hears that Orlando plans to wrestle Charles, Duke Frederick’s champion, and incites Charles to kill Orlando in the bout.
  • At the wrestling match, Orlando meets Rosalind, the banished Duke Senior’s daughter.
  • Orlando wins the wrestling match, but Duke Frederick hears that he is the son of Sir Rowland – a friend of the banished Duke. Duke Frederick snubs Orlando instead of rewarding him.
  • Rosalind, however, gives Orlando a token of hers to wear.
  • Duke Frederick banishes his niece Rosalind from court.
  • Duke Frederick’s daughter, Celia, insists on accompanying Rosalind and they hatch a plan to take “the clownish fool” Touchstone to see the banished Duke Senior in the Forest of Arden.
  • Adam warns Orlando that Oliver plans to murder him and the two of them flee into the Forest of Arden.
  • Rosalind (disguised as a boy, Ganymede), Celia (disguised as Ganymede’s sister, Aliena), Touchstone, Orlando, and Adam reach the Forest of Arden, where the banished Duke Senior, Jaques, and other lords as well as the Arden natives Corin, Silvius, Phoebe, and Audrey pursue their pastoral interests.
  • Love lessons, the seven ages of man, and a god-officiated quadruple marriage ensue.
Dr. Ralph's Brief

1. When was the play first peformed?
1599 (ish). 

2. Where was the play first performed?
Probably at the Theatre in Shoreditch, but it may have been one of the first plays staged at the new Globe.

3. How does the play fit into Shakespeare’s career?
Chronologically in the middle. Generically, the play gets categorized as one of the “mature comedies.”

4. How is this play like Shakespeare’s other plays?
Rosalind has theatrical sisters in The Merchant of Venice’s Portia, Twelfth Night’s Viola, The Two Gentlemen of Verona’s Julia, and Cymbeline’s Imogen, all of whom don men’s clothing to solve the mess men make of the world. And, like A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the play goes into the forest to solve its problems.

5. How is this play unlike other Shakespeare plays?
As You Like It is Shakespeare’s “chick flick.” Rosalind is the largest female part he wrote, and the other women – Celia, Phoebe, and Audrey – are wonderful roles. Though the play begins in the world of male competitiveness and conflict, as soon as Rosalind and Celia get out of Dodge, they start over, and what ensues is as happy a world as Shakespeare ever put on stage.

6. What do scholars think about this play?
Critics of the play – like Samuel Johnson and George Bernard Shaw – worry about the play’s lack of seriousness. I worry more about them. I think As You Like It is Shakespeare’s most genial and generous play. The comedy in it is neither farce nor satire, but humor that seems to come organically out of the characters and the situation. I’ve directed it twice and advised on last year’s Mary Baldwin College production (in which I played the central role of Sir Oliver Martext), and Celia sums up my growing admiration for the play: “wonderful, wonderful, and most wonderful wonderful.”

7. Are there any controversies surrounding the work?
Not really.

8. What characters should I especially look out for?
Celia. Rosalind’s sidekick is the audience’s ombudsman in the play. Her responses – silent and otherwise – make the comedy three-dimensional. Also look for (alphabetically): Adam, Audrey, Charles the Wrestler, Duke Frederick, Duke Senior, Corin, Hymen the god of marriage, Jaques, Oliver, Orlando, Phoebe, Silvius, Touchstone. Oh, and the very reverend Martext.

9. What scene should I especially look for?
For the giddiness of love, Act 3.2, where Rosalind finds out Orlando loves her and puts in motion the world record for gender bending in which a boy (in the original production) plays a woman who plays a man who plays a woman.

10. What is the language like?
A good buffet that runs the gamut from plain spoken to intricate.