Unconventional and witty, this play tells the tale of the most playful of romances. It is Shakespeare's ground-breaking comedy
Celia and Rosalind are two of Shakespeare's most appealing female characters. Their banter is infectious, whether Celia is teasing Rosalind about her love, 'I found him under a tree, like a dropped acorn', or Rosalind provoking Orlando 'like a saucy lackey'. This sparkling comedy, written for the new Globe Theatre, included songs, special effects and parts tailor-made for new actors. For example, is presumed that the company had gained a talented young actor for whom the part of Rosalind was written, for the character is given over one quarter of the play's lines. Roger Armin was the company's new clown and Touchstone his first role, while Shakespeare himself is supposed to have taken the part of Adam.
On the surface, As You Like It is a conventional pastoral romance, with improbable conversions, fallings in love and even the unexpected appearance of the God of Marriage. Yet underneath, the play is more complex – nowhere does Shakespeare push the comic possibilities of cross-dressing to such extremes: a boy dressed as a woman dressed as a man pretending to be a woman. An undercurrent of realism in Audrey and Touchstone's earthy liaison and the sarcastic presence of Jaques undercut pastoral idealism without interfering with the Shakespeare's playful illusions. Then as now, theatre-goers leaving the Globe would notice the sign – Totus mundus agit histrionem – the whole world is a playhouse. Famously, a similar line – ‘All the world’s a stage’ – appears in As You Like It.
Published by Oxford University Press and bound in hardback buckram by The Folio Society, The Oxford Shakespeare series offers authoritative editions of Shakespeare’s plays. The early printings have been scrupulously re-examined and interpreted by eminent scholars, who also provide introductory essays covering all relevant background information, together with an appraisal of critical views and of the plays in performance. The exhaustive commentaries pay particular attention to language and staging. Reprints of sources, music for songs, genealogical tables and maps are included where necessary; many of the volumes are illustrated, and all contain an index.
Each book has an individual editor, with the whole series overseen by Stanley Wells.
Alan Brissenden is a world-renowned Shakespeare scholar who specialises in the role of dance in Shakespeare’s plays. He studied in Sydney and London before taking up a post at the University of Adelaide. In 1996 Brissenden was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for his services to the arts.
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