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.
I prefer the tragedies as well (except for Midsummer whose face I heart) although this is at least one of the better comedies.ReplyDelete
Even more than the other plays I think the comedies need to be watched to be appreciated. Of course, it has to be a good production. I went to a free outdoor performance of this and I made it all the way to intermission before giving up and leaving. Someone should make a new movie version of As You Like It...
Ah, Midsummer- tis awesome! I also quite heart Twelfth Night, I think only because I've studied it twice, so I properly properly know what it's going on about. This was pretty good though!Delete
Oh dear... bad outdoor production. Have you ever been to Shakespeare in the Park in Central Park? Because I SO badly want to do that. Actually, I've only ever seen school productions of Shakespeare, so I really want to see ANY Shakespeare play by any performers really!
I really wanted to go to Shakespeare in the Park last summer. They were doing Merchant. BUT you have to get tickets and line up hours in advance.Delete
When I was in Boston I always went to Shakespeare on the Commons (same as the NYC thing) except no tickets needed. It was awesome. We'd grab food on the way, bring a couple beach chairs, have a little picnic and watch the show. I was also lucky cos I grew up near Drew University in NJ and they do a big Shakespeare festival in the summer, so I've seen stuff there too.
Duuuude! So awesome. Yeah, I know Shakespeare in the Park is hard to get into though- I can't remember what they were doing the last time I was there, but I was all like 'I want to go!' and then we saw the queue and were just like 'actually... Nah.' Clearly I need to go to Boston and watch Shakespeare and have a picnic! (Such dreams I have!)ReplyDelete
Also, was it last summer that Pacino was in Merchant? Because MAN I would have loved to have seen that!
Gah, if he was I'm extra bummed I missed it. Although that would explain the lines and whatnot. In Boston is a local community theater type thing so it doesn't quite draw in those crowds.Delete
Also, HEY, this years Shakespeare in the Park is As You Like It! Off you go :)Delete
Oh definitely going! I'm sure Boyfriend will be so excited :)Delete
I *think* he was, only because I remember reading that he was in it and I was like 'WHY DO I NOT LIVE IN NEW YORK *slits wrists*' BUT that may have just been a general theatre performance thing. (Just checked- he totally was in it. Sorry!) The one in Boston still sounds cool though. And it sounds like you could totally get people to go with you because they can just hang out in a park, while you're going 'OH WOW!' etc :)ReplyDelete
Yeah you can totally trick people into going to the Boston one. Cos you're like "oh let's have a picnic in the commons...what's this? A stage? Well there seems to be some sort of performance or whatnot afoot. Let's stay for this." You should totally go to Boston in the summer and go for that. There are a bunch of dates for it, which probably helps keep it from getting too crowded.Delete
Just got an email from the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company, speak of the devil. They've yet to announce which play they're doing, but they are asking for money so that's fun.
Ah, asking for money. Fun. DAMN I want to see some (any) Shakespeare production right now! I need to start giving money to the RSC, clearly, because then they will give me free tickets or something...Delete
I'm totally on the gay train with Rosalind/Celia. That being said, I like the movie version of this, but the Chicago Shakespeare Theater production sucked it. You can't do this play uncut. You can't. It's too long and has too many stupid monologues.ReplyDelete
Ohhhh yes, I definitely had a few 'hmmm... Celia do you... and Rosalind, are you a bit...' but in the end I decided that they like their dudes, and also they're cousins so that would be a bit wrong. Oh dear at the bad productions though! Bad!Delete
On a slightly awesome note- I read your comment and then started singing songs from Chicago, just because you mentioned Chicago and theatre in the same sentence... I am officially awesome.
*puts on conductor cap*Delete
I mean, of COURSE Shakespeare had to write them as being into their dudes. I guess the production matters, too. Also, if you haven't, for serious see the movie. Romola Garai is hilarious.
HOWEVER, the Broadway version of Chicago is, of course, way better than the film.
I have not seen the movie! I probably should. I'm pretty sure the only Shakespeare movie I've seen is Romeo+Juliet, so I should probably broaden my horizons there!Delete
I'm sure the Broadway version of Chicago is better than the film, but sadly I can't really afford to go to New York and see a show just now- The film really is pretty bloody good though, no?
I have no idea what this play was about. Shakespere goes from one extreme to the other though doesnt he?ReplyDelete
From tragedy to comedy? That's for sure!Delete