As You Like It — Acts I, II, III
Play number three is another comedy! A quick note on Shakespeare’s definition of “comedy.” Though these plays do have humorous moments, they aren’t the rolling-in-the-aisles type of entertainment we are used to today. One of the funniest comedies ever produced on film, in my correct opinion, was a little movie known as Old School. If you wanted to compare Will Ferrell’s comedic genius to that of any character in a Shakespeare play, you’d come up short changed because it’s like comparing apples to Shakespeare plays. They’re so different!
Oliver greets Dennis in the middle of this scene with the above salutation. I found it amusing anyway because… Holla!
Prior to this though, we’ve been privy to a lot of goings on. Or at least one thing. This play is about brothers! Holla! Oliver and Orlando jump into the scene, at each other’s throats over their father’s will. Methinks the old man is dying. The younger bro says it doesn’t matter if he was the second youngest or the 20th because any son who is not the firstborn might as well go drown himself in a lake for all his importance, basically. A little self-ribbing can do a person good but that seems extreme, little dude.
Who was it? Who is the younger and who the elder brother? I have to read on. Even though I’m sure this info was given in context, I refuse to go back. Always forward.
“Can you tell if Rosalind, the duke’s daughter, be banished with her father?” Oliver asks Charles.
First things first — Is there a snowball’s chance this is the same Rosalind who Romeo was madly in love with before he dropped her like a sack of potatoes for Juliet? I’m guessing no. It’s probably as common a name back then as Jimmy Jackenheimer Jethro Wally is today.
Secondly, and more important, who banished whom again? Is this the meat of the potatoes I’m supposed to have picked up? Sigh, I get everything wrong.
Oliver is the elder. Orlando the younger. Dig it. Charles is telling Oliver he knows that his younger brother Orlando is plotting to go into his town (?) tomorrow and mess some stuff up. I dunno. But he’s keen to it and he tells him he won’t have it. You know, cuz Charles is in charge.
Ba dum ppbbthh!
Oliver is kind of a prick. When he’s alone onstage at the end of Scene i, he tells the audience he hates his brother more than anyone and wouldn’t shed a tear on his death. WTF, Oliver, this is supposed to be a comedy. Didn’t you get the memo?
By the way, there are some very long speeches in this play so far. Longer than the previous two I’ve bloggied, anyway. This gives you more of a chance to fall into what’s happening. I’ll let you know if I ever get there.
Also, there’s more than a couple references to a “wrestler” or “wrestling” in Scene i. The first few occassions I thought it was colloquial, but after six or seven instances, I started believing there’s an actual wrestler coming to town to slam somebody up against the ropes. Probably not, though,
Have we discussed Scene ii yet? No? Dang it. Start it over!
Scene ii, Take Two
Enter Celia and Rosalind. Rosalind is the daughter of the old duke. Celia is the daughter of the new duke. They are friends. Awkward! I might have their character setups wrong. Awkward! But they do talk to each other like they have at least respect and maybe even love for one another. They say they should play some sport. What sport? I dunno, let’s f*** with Fortune. Fun! I don’t know where this is headed but they appear to be a couple of bored dilettantes with nothing better to do than to stir up trouble. Here come the calm-edy!
I must be tired and it’s probably time to check out for the night but what the gravy is Touchstone talking about here? And what kind of a name is Touchstone? And why am I posting a pic of the dialogue instead of typing it out? (See first words of first sentence in this paragraph.)
Is he (or she?) putting mustard on his (or her) pancakes?! Yeah, stick a butter knife in me, I’m smeared. But I have to at least finish this scene! I persist…
A weirdo named Le Beau walks in spouting info about three, count them, three brothers who are coming to town. He says the oldest of the three wrestled with Charles. So ok. They are talking about actual wrestling. That’s groovy. I’m not sure why there are three of them. He’s talking about Oliver and Orlando right? Is there an Oscar I missed as well?
Well, Orlando’s entered and he’s talking about how he doesn’t want to wrestle Charles because he’ll be beaten to a pulp or something, I dunno. Way too tired and I clocked a few pages ahead and this scene goes on forever so. Nigh nigh for now.
And I’m back! Where was I? Lost and confused? Awesome.
This is what I gather: Orlando appears to be inferior to Charles. The ladies beg Orlando not to wrestle, as he will lose and be hurt. It is an inevitability. But Orlando, either because he is sure of his abilities or pigheaded, wrestles anyway. Does he win? I guess so. Because when it’s over (in less than one stage direction), he is delivering more dialogue with the best of them.
Soon it is revealed that Orlando has a thing for Rosalind.
Le Beau enters and Orlando asks which of the girls, Rosalind or Celia, is the duke’s daughter. Le Beau gets cryptic and answers by saying that neither is his daughter if you judge by manners. What? Speak plainly, Le Beau! He goes on to say that the lesser of the two girls is the duke’s daughter. So who is that? Your guess is as good as mine. Unless you’re a Shakespeare aficionado. Then your guess is way better than mine. But then why are you reading this at all? Just to laugh at me and my juvenile interpretations? Not cool, Shakespeare aficionado. Not cool.
Here come the Duke. Here come the Duke. When he appears before Celia and Rosalind, he seems immediately put out by one of them. I’m not sure even he knows which one. What are you so angry about Dukey? Did he discover that Orlando has a thing for his daughter? And is Rosalind even his daughter?
I’m very sorry for the mixup here but I’ll tell you what, the Duke goes on to banish Rosalind from his domain, wherever that is. The two cousins (I just learned that Celia and Rosalind are cousins) talk with each other and even they are like, “Your father just banished you.”
“But did he, though?!”
One of them decides to dress like a man and leave town. The other one decides to go with her. This all has the makings for a nutty and imperceptible Act II.
Ok, I’m lost. Here we have a guy called Duke Senior. What Duke is he? He’s in the forest? perhaps hunting? Or talking about hunting? or maybe it’s all metaphor? I just don’t know, bro. I need to cheat and get a reveal. But no! I will not! Because that is not the game I have laid out before me! I’m a glutton for punishment, aren’t I? Maybe Scene ii will clear things up? Doubtful.
Scene ii, iii, iv
Duke Frederick learns that the girls are missing. They ran off into the woods. Silly girls.
Next, Adam pretty much pledges his undying love to Orlando. Not really. Adam is Orlando’s servant. Or about to be, if he wasn’t already. Adam begs Orlando not to enter some house and then offers his devotion. So that’s swell.
Rosalind, Circe, and their attendants are in Arden forest, talking about love as if it were a thing one needed for survival. Maybe it is, girls. You may have something there. But I’m not sure what that ethereal conversation topic has to do with you being out in the woods, by yourselves. Surely this is a dangerous thing during your time period (or purse, for that matter).
When they happen across some other people, Rosalind is mistaken for a man, I think. Or maybe she’s dressed similarly to a man? Or, what’s more likely, is I’ve got a tumor that’s eating away at the rational part of my brain that, up until recently, had held me back from attempting to read all of Shakespeares’s 37 plays. Good show, old chap.
Scene v, vi, vii
Two guys named Amiens and Jacques sing and then discuss what they are singing, also in the forest. Good times.
Scene vi begins and something is happening! Adam complains that he is dying from not having eaten anything in awhile. But he sounds pretty serious. Maybe he is dying? That would be something. At first I thought Orlando would kick him and tell him to quit his whiny baby act. I don’t know why I expected this. But I did. And guess what? That doesn’t happen. Surprise! Instead, Orlando bucks up and tells Adam he will find him some shelter and food, if it’s the last thing he does, essentially. This is hero stuff. Go, Orlando. Oh, but I still have no clue what he or anyone else is doing in the forest. I can only assume they are looking for Rosalind and Circe? But who knows if they are even in the same universe, let alone if they even know each other.
Jacques speaks to Duke Senior about a motley fool he just witnessed discussing time and age like he was a wizard of words and knowledge. Oh how supremely wise this motley fool was! Oh how I wish I could be as much a smarty pants as this fool.
Duke Senior is impressed. “Who is this fool?” he wonders. When posed the question, Jacques kind of backs out with a “Oh, I dunno. Just some fool, I guess.”
Jacques, you passive aggressive titmouse!
Wait a gosh dang minute! What is this? Jacques says, as if unknowing he would be quoted for eternity,
All the world’s a stage
And all the men and women nearly players.
Did you know that infamous line came from this play? I did not, and I am flabbergasted. Just look at my flabber! It is 100 percent gasted! Now I feel sort of guilty for not knowing what the heck is going on. I almost want to pay closer attention.
Dear God, that is a beautiful speech, Jacques. Here, rather than quote the whole thing, just click this link. Read it and weep. It has the ring of Hamlet’s voice, does it not? Gorgeous.
Act II ends with Duke Senior saying some junk about being welcomed. Damnit! I am so bad at this!
Scene I, Ii
Oliver tells Duke Frederick he never loved his own brother. Alrighty then.
Next, Touchstone (the clown) and Corin, a shepherd, argue about whether good manners are bred at court alone or if you can possess them having lived a peasant’s life, essentially. Corin is very pleased with the simple life he leads, Touchstone begs to differ and sees a man who does not know the finer things in life.
Rosalind enters, reading a love letter, presumably from Orlando (?). Touchstone surprises her by mocking her reading and she calls him a fool and sends him away. Because Touchstone is a court jester makes his conversation with Corin all the more ridiculous and unearned. Bravo, Shakespeare.
Celia enters and reads her own little piece. It’s nice enough. Touchstone and Corin exit and the sisters are left alone.
Celia teases Rosalind a bit, saying she knows someone is crushing on her hard. I don’t get this part (no kidding?). Rosalind knows Orlando likes her, right? Or maybe she doesn’t? Maybe the love letter she was reading was sent anonymously and somehow, Circe found out the writer is Orlando. Ok, let’s go with that. After she had a bit of fun at her sister’s expense, Circe comes around to telling Rosalind the truth: it is he, Orlando who wrestled in the match to win her favor.
Rosalind fires off about a dozen questions at once and asks Circe to answer them all in one word. I laughed out loud at that cuz it’s funny, ya’ll!
Then she asks if Orlando even knows she is in the forest and dressed like a man. Boo yah! Nailed that one. Still don’t know why she’s dressed like a man or why they’re all seemingly living in the forest. Is this Midsummer’s Night Dream and no one told me?
Orlando and Jacques enter. The girls “slink by, and note him.” In other words, they hide and spy.
The two men have some chatty chat and no new earth shattering discourse occurs. But there is some wit about them and it is fun to read. They also discuss the tedious concept of Time for damn near ever. But this is super rad:
Jacques: (speaking of Rosalind) I do not like her name.
Orlando: They did not think of you when she was christened.
Me: I’m paraphrasing but that was basically it. It’s funnier in context, mayhap.
Rosalind emerges (dressed as a man, remember), and talks with Orlando. She tells him he is a man not in love, for he does not carry himself in the same way a lovestruck man would. He does not have those same qualities. She goes on to say that “love is merely a madness.” Hear, Hear, good sister.
Get this — Rosalind (disguised) tells Orlando she will cure him of this fatal feeling of love, if only he will call her “Rosalind” and do as she bids him.
Trippy, yo. End scene.
Scene iii, iv
Touchstone and Audrey meet and talk of things and stuff. They want to be married? He asked the void, wondering if anyone knows.
Sir Oliver Martext enters and also says things. It’s pretty much the greatest scene of all time. Alas, in Scene iv, it must come to an end so Celia and Rosalind can pine over men who are not as good as they wish them to be. You have a different interpretation? Please, I’m all ears.
The final scene of Act III has Silvius and Phebe discussing… I really have no blessed idea what is going on here, folks. I feel like a jackass. Who are Phebe and Silvius even? Are they at all important to the plot? Ima gonna guess no. So that’s that. Going out with a whimper here, ain’t we?
See you back here on Wednesday for the rollicking finale of As You Like It. Lest much improves, I don’t think I like it… much.