As you like it or Rosalind as a role model

Pastoral play: a literary work dealing with shepherds or rural life in a usually artificial manner and typically drawing a contrast between the innocence and serenity of the simple life and the misery and corruption of city and especially court life.

As You Like It

Category: Comedy

Time of events: Late Middle Ages

Location: The Forest of Arden, France

First Performed: 1599-1600

Source material: Thomas Lodge’s Rosalynde, Euphues Golden Legacie, written 1586-7 and first published in 1590

Most notable mentions: The famous “seven ages of man” speech. Some of Shakespeare’s best verse speech writing.


The plot

Some years ago, Duke Senior was banished and usurped by his brother, Duke Frederick, and now lives in the Forest of Arden, with his noblemen. Senior’s daughter Rosalind has been allowed to remain at court with Frederick’s daughter Celia, but she incurs Frederick’s displeasure, (she is becoming more popular than he) and is banished. Celia decides to run away with her, and they leave for Arden with Rosalind disguised as a man, and accompanied by Touchstone, a clown. Rosalind changes her name to Ganymede, and Celia to Aliena (Ganymede is a youth thought to be so lovely by the gods that they allowed him to live in Olympus as their cup bearer. Aliena in Latin means foreign; to be from somewhere else).

Before they leave, Rosalind falls in love with one of the sons of Rowland De Boys—Orlando, who is ruled and hated by his elder brother, Oliver. Orlando foils Oliver’s plan to have him killed in a match against the Duke’s chief wrestler, Charles, by soundly defeating the champion.

Orlando is then advised by his servant Adam that he must leave the court and escape from his brother’s wrath so the two flee to Arden. They are starving when they encounter Duke Senior, who takes them in, delighted to discover that Orlando is the son of his old friend Sir Rowland.

Rosalind and Celia observe two shepherds, Corin and Silvius, talking, and learn of Silvius’s love for Phebe, a shepherdess. They buy pastures and herd from them, and decide to live as shepherds. Touchstone spends much time in the company of Audrey, eventually wooing her (though not by honest means). Jaques, a melancholy nobleman of Duke Senior’s company, becomes fascinated by Touchstone, and spends much time talking to him. Later in the play, Phebe falls for “Ganymede” which causes confusion between “Ganymede” and Silvius, until Rosalind reveals herself to everyone.

Orlando leaves love messages for Rosalind all over the forest, and for all to find. Both Roslind and Celia find the badly written poems, and though Roslind is madly in love with Orlando, she is able find humor in his writing. When the two girls meet Orlando again, ‘Ganymede’ persuades Orlando to treat ‘him’ as his Rosalind, so that he may practice wooing.

Frederick, believing Celia and Rosalind to have fled with Orlando, sends Oliver after his brother, threatening to take the De Boys’ lands if Oliver returns without him.

Oliver is saved from a lion, and a snake by Orlando, and the two brothers are reconciled. Oliver relates the story to the two girls, and having repented finds that Celia has fallen for him, and he for her.

As events push Rosalind to a point that she must reveal herself, she gathers everyone together so that as one they learn the truth. There is much confusion at first but like all good comedies, everyone is satisfied. Phebe agrees to marry Silvius. Rosalind is reunited with her father, and marries Orlando. Oliver marries Celia. Touchstone marries Audrey.

The third son of Sir Rowland, Jaques (yes there is a second character named Jaques), arrives to announce that Frederick had intended to invade the forest with an army, but on his way he met a religious man who converted him from his harsh ways, and he has now begun a religious life. Duke Senior is given his land and title back, allowing the characters to return to “civilization”.

You would be forgiven if the theme of court vs. country life reminds you of A Midsummer’s Night dream. Yes, Shakespeare repeats the contrasts between civilization and those who live beyond the court. As with AMSND, the actions in the forest depict a dream like quality, where people are not necessarily as they seem, and love is shown in its many forms. There is the passionate love between Orlando and Rosalind, both of whom at one time swear they will die without the other. Then there is the unrequited love Silvius has for Phebe; the lustful “love” Touchstone has for Audrey; the mature love between Oliver and Celia, and the love between family members.

This play is considered to be a pastoral comedy because Shakespeare employs the conventions of pastoral literature. The pastoral, the lost world, or forest, is set in a simple, rural environment, which becomes the idea image of all things desirable to honest people. To Touchstone, the one character that is dishonest in love, finds the setting “tolerable”. But Duke Senior, who fled a corrupt court, finds solace in the forest and agrees to return to the court knowing he can take what he learned in the forest back home. This is not unlike what happens today when we return from a life changing vacation. In fact we can look at this play as a type of vacation from everyday life. The forest gives the characters an opportunity to revaluate what and who is important to them, thus allowing them to return to court life with a fresh understanding of themselves and those around them. Yet they cannot return to the court until the corruption has been removed.

If the court is corrupt, the forest represents openness, tolerance, simplicity, and freedom. The traits of the court vs. the forest are found in the traits of those who live in the opposing settings. The court is the natural setting of Oliver and Fredrick, while the forest is the natural setting for the lovers who find themselves able to do and say that which they might never in the court. Which brings us to Rosalind and Celia; the women find not only love, but also their voices.

Much has been written about Rosalind. She is a favorite among audience and critics alike. Most “women of Shakespeare” lists find her at the top (although Beatrice is my favorite) because of her wit, self-awareness, and ability to subvert the limitations that society imposes on her as a woman. Without hesitation she disguises herself as a young man in order escape with Celia without fear of assault. She can only buy a piece of land for the cousins as a man, and as a man she tutors Orlando on the ways of love. There is great comic appeal to Rosalind appearing as a man, yet some modern female audiences members pose this question after seeing the play for the first time; “Why does Rosalind keep up the counterfeit for so long?”

The obvious answer would appear to be that in order to keep the comedy and plot going, Rosalind must continue to act the part. Yet, there is more to her disguise than appearance alone.

Shakespeare’s audience would have felt a measure of unease at the sight of a women taking charge, buying property and wooing a man. In Shakespeare’s time, the gender roles were strictly enforced and any woman acting out of her assigned role would be seen as wicked. Shakespeare is mindful of this and uses the disguise to mask her gender while allowing her boldness and intellect to shine through. But Shakespeare doesn’t completely mask her gender as some of her best lines happen when she is alone with Celia, gently reminding the audience that women can be and are witty even as they make fun of themselves.

Here is Celia trying to get Rosalind to stop talking and listen to her encounter with Orlando

Celia: Cry “holla” to thy tongue, I prithee. It curvets unseasonably. He was furnished like a hunter.

Rosalind: Oh, ominous! He comes to kill my heart.

Celia: I would sing my song without a burden. Thou bring’st me out of tune.

Rosalind: Do you not know I am a woman? When I think, I must speak. Sweet, say on.

As much as audiences love Rosalind, it is good to remember that it is Celia who makes the argument that the two must leave the court. Celia, who is not banished by her father, choses her beloved cousin over her father and easy court life. Celia is the voice of reason when Rosalind is unable to think clearly. Together they demonstrate a new kind of woman, one that would be unfamiliar to Shakespeare’s audience. Which is why she continues to play the part until forced to reveal her true identity.

We’d like to believe that this strong self-reliant woman is common in our modern world, that the lengths Rosalind has to go in order to protect herself is foreign to us. But as we know, this is not the case, and why this play, these two characters, are important to us today. They are a good case examples of why we still need Shakespeare.

Many young women today might be shocked that up until the late 70’s women were not offered credit cards, and that banks declined home loans to single women. My own mother once tried to close a store credit card account only to be told that “her husband would have to call to close it”. In the last few months we have witnessed female senators being interrupted, and in one case, told she cannot ask a question of a hearing witness. In February of this year, the Senate voted to silence Elizabeth Warren for quoting Coretta Scott King, yet her male counter-parts quote famous people all the time.

Yes, we have come a very long way from the days of strict gender roles, but the underling attitudes towards bold, decisive women have not. Strong females in the work place are labeled with words like, “bitch, cold, calculating”, while men who hold the same position are labeled “driven, hard-working, and displays strong leaderships skills”. We may not have to dress like men to buy homes or share power in a relationship, but we are painfully aware that we are mere players on a man’s stage. We need Rosalind to remind us of who we can and should be. This beloved character of Shakespeare is a wonderful role model for young women-minus the male attire.

Works Cited
Sparknotes As You Like it Plot summary

Folgers As You Like It, print edition

Happy Towel Day to me!

I think we can all relate right now

“This must be Thursday,’ said Arthur to himself, sinking low over his beer. ‘I never could get the hang of Thursdays.”

For many literary geeks May 25th is a special day. It’s the day Douglas Adams fans show their love by celebrating Towel Day. Why May 25th? Sadly, it’s the day of his death, which happened on this day in 2001. If you’ve never read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy you probably are wondering if you read the first part right. Towel Day? What?? This is because one of the best pieces of advice given in the book concerns every traveler’s basic needs. Of all the things you should always have with you is a towel.

From the book:

A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value — you can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a mini raft down the slow heavy river Moth; wet it for use in hand-tohand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or to avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (a mindboggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you — daft as a bush, but very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

And yes, there have been years when I’ve celebrated the day by wrapping a towel around my neck; but only when I was sure my employer would not call the men in white coats to come get me.

May 25th has always been a special day for me. The nerd in me would like to point out that the first 6 opening days of the Star Wars series always fell on May 25th. It became a tradition in my family to go out and brave the lines in order to see the movies on opening day. You see, not only were we a hardcore Star Wars family, my birthday just happens to fall on, you guessed it, May 25th.

It’s been a hectic few months leading up to my special day. I did not say so before, but I’ve spent the last couple of months getting ready to move house. I did a lot of purging and boxing up only to come to the shocking realization that we have a housing shortage. Google, Apple, and Tesla are either moving in or expanding so more people are moving into the area than there are houses available. I had no idea how bad it was until I started to look for a place to downsize to. Leave it to me to do things backwards. I should have looked for a new house before clearing mine. For now I stay put, minus a lot of big furniture. At least I have my towels!

This is one of many reasons why I haven’t posted in a while. Just when I declared my finger healed, I hurt it again while packing. Once again it became too painful to type.

Between reality setting in that our area seems to be quickly becoming a mini Silicone Valley and my writing taking a hit, you’d think I wouldn’t have much to celebrate, but you’d be wrong. As crazy as 2017 is turning out to be for us all, I am finding that the second half of year may be something to celebrate on a personal level. I’m finding new professional opportunities are opening up for me. I have a wonderful core group of friends who have been by my side even as I freaked out about our housing crisis and will be with me to celebrate my day. I have wonderful friends all around the world who patiently and good-naturedly cheer me on, offer words of support and comforting criticism. Looking at where I am right now, I have no reason to feel down because no matter what happens on this journey called life, I have a strong sturdy metaphorical towel. I have all of you, and in the end really this is all you really need.

My gift to you today is a list of Adams quotes. His wit will never grow old and I for one will never tire of reading his work. I hope you enjoy it to.

The story so far:
In the beginning the Universe was created.
This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.

A learning experience is one of those things that says, “You know that thing you just did? Don’t do that.”

He felt that his whole life was some kind of dream and he sometimes wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it.

I’ve come up with a set of rules that describe our reactions to technologies:
1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
2. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.
3. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.

Happy Towel day my friends!