Podcast 80: As You Like It… Plot and Sources

This week’s podcast includes an introduction to As You Like It, with a plot synopsis and a discussion of sources.
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Act Four: Play Acting and Changes for Real (part one)

Act Four of As You Like It begins with Jaques conversing with Ganymede and Aliena (Rosalind and Celia). Again, Ganymede is a “pretty youth” (IV.i.1) and “he” and Jaques discuss the older man’s melancholy, which is like no other man’s:
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Act Three: Of Pursuers, Pursuees, Poems and Play-Acting

Act Three of As You Like It takes us back to where “we hates it”: the court of Duke Frederick. And he’s unhappy to say the least. He tells Oliver that he has one year to bring Orlando “dead or living” (III.i.6) to Frederick. And if he doesn’t? Well, then the duke will exile him and his “lands, and all things (he) dost call (his) // Worthy seizure, do we seize” (III.i.9-10). When Oliver tries to curry favor by saying he “never loved (his) brother in (his) life” (III.i.14), Frederick’s response is interesting:
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Act Two: Into the Woods

The second act of As You Like It takes us to where Rosalind and Celia are heading: the Forest of Arden.

And who do we find? Rosalind’s pops, of course: Duke Senior, and he’s holding court (sort of) with his “co-mates and brothers in exile” (II.i.1). He expounds on the idyllic nature of their current state, a wonderful statement of optimism (though bordering on Pollyanna-ism). And there’s even a bit of foreshadowing here, when he speaks of “find(ing) tongues in trees” (II.i.16), as we will when Orlando comes to hanging his love poems on the trees of the forest.

He calls for a deer hunt, and almost immediately finds regret in the death of the wood’s native inhabitants. Of course, his reservation is nothing compared the that of “the melancholy Jaques” (II.i.26), an absent member of the duke’s party, who is so brokenhearted over the killing of a stag that he “stood on th’ extremest verge of the swift brook, // Augmenting it with his tears” (II.i.42-3), going as far as to accuse (like in a campaign for PETA) the duke and his followers of being “mere usurpers, tyrants…to fright the animals and kill them” (II.i.61-2).
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Act One: Brothers and Cousins

For a play that is almost universally seen as “Rosalind”’s play (after all, the source of Shakespeare’s play is one called Rosalyne: Euphues Golden Legacie), As You Like It begins with Orlando and Adam, an “old servant” (Names of the Actors) to Orlando’s late father Sir Rowland de Boys. Orlando expresses his “sadness” (I.i.4) that despite being remembered by his father in his will, the executor of that will, his older brother Oliver, has been less than forthcoming with either the inheritance or the promise of education:

My brother Jaques (Oliver) keeps at school, and report speaks goldenly of his profit: for my part, he keeps me rustically at home, or, to speak more properly, stays me here at home unkept; for call you that keeping for a gentleman of my birth, that differs not from the stalling of an ox? His horses are bred better; for, besides that they are fair with their feeding, they are taught their manage, and to that end riders dearly hired: but I, his brother, gain nothing under him but growth; for the which his animals on his dunghills are as much bound to him as I. Besides this nothing that he so plentifully gives me, the something that nature gave me his countenance seems to take from me: he lets me feed with his hinds, bars me the place of a brother, and, as much as in him lies, mines my gentility with my education.
  • I.i.5-19

For some reason, his older brother is treating Orlando like less than a brother, and Orlando has “the spirit of (his) father … within (him), begin(ning) to mutiny” (I.i.20-21). He wants to do something, but he “know(s) no wise remedy” (I.i.24).
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As You Like the Sources

According to most critics, the primary source for Shakespeare in the composing of As You Like It, is a novel Rosalyne: Euphues Golden Legacie by Thomas Lodge. As it was published in 1590, the timeline works, as does the fact that in the book’s introduction–entitled “To The Gentlemen Readers”–Lodge uses the phrase, “If you like it, so”… and some have made the logical leap to link this to the title of Shakespeare’s play.
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