As You Like It



  • A comedy by Shakespeare, written c. 1599, dateof first performance unknown. Tradition says the Bard himself playedthe role of Adam, the old and faithful retainer. Based on Thomas Lodge'sRosalynde (1590), the play is set in the contrasting worldsof Frederick's oppressive court and the Forest of Arden.The plot concerns the romantic tribulations of four couples: Orlandoand Rosalind, Oliver and Celia, Touchstone and Audrey, andSilvius and Phebe. The characters represent various attitudes to love.Silvius is full of exaggerated sentiment, whereas Touchstone is brutallydown to earth. Although deeply in love herself, Rosalind mocks romanticexcess; when Orlando says he will die of love, she has her doubts:"Men have died from time to time, and worms have eaten them,but not for love." Melancholy Jaques derides everything, andhis famous speech reduces life to a farce full of stock theatricalcharacters:
    All the world's a stage,
    And all the men and women merely players;
    They have their exits and their entrances,
    And one man in his time plays many parts,
    His acts being seven ages.
    In the 18th century As You Like It provided choiceroles for such actors as Charles Macklin, Charles Kean, and Mrs Siddons.Modern actors to have excelled in the play include Laurence Olivier,Michael Redgrave, Edith Evans, Vanessa Redgrave, Katherine Hepburn,and George C. Scott. An all-male production at the Old Vic in 1967featured Ronald Pickup, Charles Kay, Richard Kaye, and Anthony Hopkinsas Rosalind, Celia, Phebe, and Audrey respectively.

    When Nigel Playfair directed the play in 1919 at the ShakespeareMemorial Theatre, he courted controversy by substituting authenticShakespeare for local theatrical tradition: amongst other changeshe threw out an ancient stuffed stag always used in the play and restoredShakespearean lines always left out. Play-goers were outraged. Onewoman approached the designer, Lovat Fraser, in town waving her fist:"Young man, how dare you meddle with our Shakespeare."