Well, maybe I can. Because As You Like It is really the anti-Shrew, the best antidote to that big horrible-sexistathon short of a full apology signed by Shakespeare and lost somewhere. And, if I'm honest, I wasn't even thinking of it in this way until I read the introduction to it in my GIANT Complete Works, where it said "Rosalind's lesson is the opposite to that of The Taming of the Shrew: a desirable woman is not a tame one but a 'wayward' one, whose energies (verbal, emotional and sexual) are incorrigible." Well, quite, and may I add that Rosalind is the one who gets to teach the lesson, rather than being 'taught' (tortured) to. Basically, it's a big round of applause to Rosalind, and a big sigh of relief from me!
Anyway, moving on from The Taming of the Shrew comparisons, As You Like It is really a great play on its own. Even though the comedy aspects of it tend to not entirely make me pee my pants (cross dressing and puns don't really do it for me, but that's Shakespearean comedy for you) the love stories contained within it are excellent, and reveal all sorts of love- instantaneous love, pining love, love where the one you love dresses up as a boy and then gets you to say nice things to her pretending that she's the one you love when she is, in fact, the one you love- you know, all the kinds of things normal people have to face every day. And no, obviously it's not realistic, and there are so many contrivances, and people very rarely cross dress because they've been banished from a kingdom, but you know what? It's entertaining to read, and I can see that it would be even more entertaining on the stage- I was acting out in my head all of the significant looks that Rosalind could almost constantly be giving to the audience, and that made me giggle some.
But oh, the love! I'm a real sucker for some love talk, and I think this (which I'm sure I've read/heard before, but definitely not from here) is so wonderful:
"No sooner met but they looked, no sooner looked but they loved, no sooner loved but they sighed, no sooner sighed but they asked one another the reason, no sooner knew the reason but they sought the remedy: and in these degrees have they made a pair of stairs to marriage."'No sooner looked but they loved'... I mean, I know it's wholly unrealistic and everything, but still, the romance of it makes me sigh and feel all good inside. And that's how Celia gets her man, but Rosalind takes a far more roundabout path with Orlando. It's a little perplexing to me why she didn't just admit who she was to begin with and let him woo her in the woods and all, but the fact that she didn't gives me far more respect for her because it allowed her to steer events, which led to the marriage she desired, as well as the marriage of this shepherdman who kind of deserved a better woman than the one he got, but since he was desperately in love with her, all's well that ends well there (oh wait...)
But As You Like It isn't just about the gentle laughs and the lovely love. Oh no. There are issues of usurpment, of a lack of brotherly love, and the realistic limits of love that make it worldly, and thus more real, than wild exclamations of it. Most interesting of these sub-issues, though, is that of Jacques and his melancholy nature. Because Jacques is a traveller, something which I think nowadays we'd associate very greatly with happiness, but Jacques has rather seen too much, and experienced too many bad things that he has been made melancholy by them, and seems unable to escape this state. This prompts Rosalind to say "I'd rather have a fool to make me merry than experience to make me sad, and to travel for it too," a sentiment I would happily echo if only Shakespearean humour wasn't quite so, well, crappy. The fact that we know he's melancholy too puts a new spin on what is surely the most famous speech (i.e. few lines) of the play:
"All the world's a stage,Now that I think about it, it's kind of an unquestionably negative outlook- nobody is genuine, or acting on their general beliefs or feelings, everyone's just playing their part and not stepping out of line, or doing anything really extraordinary. Thanks Jacques, for making me feel all sad about the world!
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts."
Fortunately, the majority of As You Like It is extremely entertaining, fun (but not necessarily funny, at least not anymore), and so female-positive that it makes me want to high-five Shakespeare and take him to some kind of feminist rally. As is probably clear, I definitely prefer Shakespeare's tragedies to his comedies, almost universally, but I still like the comedies I like plenty too. There's enough love to go around you know! Basically, As You Like It was a light, fun end to my month (and a bit) of Shakespeare, and that makes it a good one to go out on, if you ask me.
And, while I'm on the 'end of things' subject, I'd just like to thank Allie for hosting (she's clearly a great host) and to encourage you to go over to A Literary Odyssey to take a look at some other Shakespeare things from this month, because I've found many good things there. AND as an additional thing, the main thing I've discovered this month is that I've basically read fuck all Shakespeare- after this month, just 10 out of the whole 37 (38?) plays, which really isn't that great, SO expect more Shakespearean things here, starting with Julius Ceasar, which I'm going to read for, wait for it, The Ides of March. Because I'm kind of cool and awesome like that. But, until then, farewell, dear Shakespeare. It's been real. For real.