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As You Like It

As Shakespeare's comedies go, As You Like It is more serious than most, which manifests in a wonderful hybrid style—much like the later romances, The Winter's Tale and The Tempest—filled with poignancy and humor and, of course, a sweet ending, as director Kent Thompson brings to fruition in the Denver Center Theatre Company's current production now running in the Space Theatre.

Maren Bush as Celia and J. Paul Boehmer as Duke Frederick
Maren Bush as Celia
and J. Paul Boehmer as Duke Frederick
Photo: Adams Visual Communications
Every aspect of the production is a distillation of Thompson's years of experience, commensurate insight, and a budget that enables a variety of eloquent elements, including stellar casting (Paul Foquet, CSA), eclectically stylish costuming (Denitsa Bliznakova), magical lighting (Charles R. MacLeod), heartwarming musical passages (M. Scott McLean), and a deft directorial hand.

The plot adapts and weaves together a number of biographical threads, which are ignored by would-be critics and so-called scholars, while emboldening those who prefer to match known events with canonical details.

(Left to right) Marin Bush as Celia and Carolyn Holding as Rosalind
(L to R) Marin Bush as Celia
and Carolyn Holding as Rosalind
Photo: Adams Visual Communications
Duke Senior (J. Paul Boehmer) is overthrown by his brother, Frederick (Boehmer), who permits the daughter of his exiled sibling, Rosalind (Carolyn Holding), to remain with his daughter, Celia (Maren Bush), as they are best friends. Orlando (Maurice Jones), the son of the deceased Sir Roland de Boys, falls in love with Rosalind, but must flee the duchy—with his servant Adam (Philip Pleasants)—under threat from his older brother, Oliver (Jason Bowen), who aims to control their father's estate and disinherit Orlando. Soon, Rosalind is banished by Duke Frederick. Celia, as well as the court clown, Touchstone (Matt Zambrano), go with her. Both groups head in the vicinity of the former Duke's camp in Arden Forest.

Maurice Jones as Orlando and Carolyn Holding as Rosalind
Maurice Jones as Orlando
and Carolyn Holding as Rosalind
Photo: Adams Visual Communications
Holding is a marvel in one of the most demanding roles in the canon—Rosalind having been played by the likes of Vanessa Redgrave, Helen Mirren, and Patti LuPone—as both a woman in love and a fair youth who befriends Orlando, while hiding her true feelings. Much good humor is mined as Rosalind (disguised as the boyish Ganymede) is barely able to contain herself when she and Orlando are in close proximity. Holding pushes the comedic tension to the brink, looking as if she were about to burst, taking the audience along with her.

Jones brings heartwarming earnestness and a deep sense of self reliance to Orlando, who, despite attacks from his brother and Duke Frederick, remains trusting and forgiving, enabling the resolution of the comedy. Zambrano is masterful, as always, as the chief comedic element, Touchstone, who hold the unique position of both the wise fool and the male half of the lowest caste romantic plot line that, following the playwright's modus operandi, runs in parallel to the dramatic arcs of the nobility and gentry. Zambrano has such a knack for this, with rueful, tongue-in-cheek hyperbole and a broad range of physical shadings.

(Center to Right) Daniel Pearce as Jacques, M. Scott McLean as Le Beau, and Maurice Jones as Orlando
(Center to Right) Daniel Pearce as Jacques,
M. Scott McLean as Le Beau,
and Maurice Jones as Orlando
Photo: Adams Visual Communications
The main message, though, belongs to the master of melancholy, Jacques (Daniel Pierce), who shares more of the playwright's point-of-view than any of the other characters. Like Edward de Vere, who wrote his father-in-law, William Cecil (Lord Burghley, Queen Elizabeth's chief of state for nearly her whole reign) from Genoa in September 1575 regarding the sale of lands to finance his trip (In the 14 months of travel on the continent, de Vere spent £4,561, over $1.2 million today.1), Jacques "sold [his] own lands to see other men's."

Pierce's well-grounded and thoughtful portrayal lends the required weight to Jacques' observations and pronouncements; for example, one of the most famous speeches in the canon:

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. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.
And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

While in Siena, in 1576, at the cathedral (Duomo), de Vere viewed the circular mosaic representing the proverbial Seven Ages of Man that Jacques describes.2

As You Like It primarily concerns the legally entangled fortunes (in marriage, inheritance, and courtly life) of the sons of the executed duke of Norfolk (de Vere's cousin), characterized as Sir Rowland de Boys in the play. It was written in celebration of a small victory for the Duke's youngest son in receiving a portion of his due inheritance, 22 years after his marriage. De Vere, who never received his full inheritance, must have surely felt for his second cousin.

Adrian Egolf as Audrey and Matt Zambrano as Touchstone
Adrian Egolf as Audrey
and Matt Zambrano as Touchstone
Photo: Adams Visual Communications
During the time (Christmas, 1599) that de Vere was putting the final touches on this old play3 about relations to whom he felt indebted, he received a visit from one of England's greatest comics, Robert Armin, who helped create one of the most underappreciated scenes in the entire canon—one which re-creates the Costard-Don Armado-Jaquenetta go-around from Love's Labor's Lost—that burlesqued de Vere's relationship with his muse and with Will Shakspere (from Stratford, played by Drew Horwitz).

In this scene, de Vere's muse is represented by Audrey (Adrian Egolf), while Touchstone delivers the blows for the playwright. This time, however, Will is not portrayed nearly as sympathetic as he was in Costard:

TOUCHSTONE: ... Do you love this maid?
WILLIAM: I do, sir.
TOUCHSTONE: Give me your hand. Art thou learned?
WILLIAM: No, sir.
TOUCHSTONE: Then learn this of me: To have is to have. For it is a figure of rhetoric that drink, being pour'd out of a cup into a glass, by filling the one doth empty the other. For all your writers do consent that ipse is he. Now you are not ipse—for I am he.

(Left to right) Matt Zambrano as Touchstone and Drew Horwitz as William
(L to R) Matt Zambrano as Touchstone
and Drew Horwitz as William
Photo: Adams Visual Communications
In other words, de Vere is frustrated by the Stratford man's continuing masquerade as the author of the canon, mocking his recent award of a coat of arms ("Not without merit," LOL!), by calling him "gentle," and using an old Socratic metaphor to tell him that "I am the man himself and you are not!"

William doesn't know what to make of Touchstone's outburst:

WILLIAM: Which he sir?
TOUCHSTONE: He, sir, that must marry this woman [my muse]. Therefore, you clown, abandon—which is in the vulgar, "leave"—the society—which in the boorish is "company"—of this female—which in the commons is "woman." Which, together is, "Abandon the society of this female"—or, clown, thou perishest; or, to thy better understanding, diest. Or, to wit, I will kill thee, make thee away, translate they life into death, they liberty in to bondage. I will deal in poison with thee, or in bastinado, or in steel; I will bandy with thee in faction. I will o'errun thee with policy. I will kill thee a hundred and fifty ways. Therefore, tremble and depart!
AUDREY: Do, good, William.
WILLIAM: God rest you, merry sir. [Exits]

This scene—which chronologically followed Costard in Love's Labor's Lost and Christopher Sly in The Taming of the Shrew—would be the last in which de Vere deals with Will. Ironically, through these glimps at "the upstart crow" (who wears the feathers of other birds), it is de Vere that gives us more insight into the character of the unscrupulous grain dealer cum actor than all of the Stratfordian scholars combined.

In addition to Zambrano's send up of an Elizabethan knight errant, Egolf's quintessential farmer's daughter and Horwitz' country bumpkin make this scene the highlight of the peasant-caste storyline.

Philip Pleasants as Hymen
Philip Pleasants as Hymen
Photo: Adams Visual Communications
Also lambasted earlier in this scene is the pamphleteer "Martin Mar-prelate"—the pen name of a Puritan zealot, with whom de Vere had a contentious flurry under another of his pen names, "Pasquill Caviliero"—in the character of Sir Oliver Martext (Philip Pleasants), a humorless priest.

Pleasants, who has a fun time with a character whom the playwright considered a pompous ass, also does a humorous turn as Adam, the loyal servant of Orlando, and another turn as a refined incarnation of Hymen, a deity of marriage rites.

The Denver Center Theatre Company's presentation of As You Like It runs through November 1st. For tickets: 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org.



Footnotes:
1 Mark Anderson, "Shakespeare" by Another Name, foreword by Sir Derek Jacobi, Gotham Books, New York, 2005, p. 103.
2 Ibid.
3 It's worth noting that de Vere edited and rewrote portions of many of the plays up until his death in 1604. Thus, when his youngest (third) daughter, Susan, who had married into the most famous literary clan in England, provided the manuscripts to her husband (the Earl of Pembroke) and his brother (the Earl of Montgomery), under whose imprimatur the First Folio was published, it was billed as "According to the true and original copies."

Bob Bows

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