As You Like It may not be the most popular, but it is the most perfect of Shakespeare’s comedies. For a long time it was popular too. It was often played in the eighteenth century (in the first half in Charles Johnson’s adaptation Love in the Forest) and both at that time and in the early nineteenth century many famous actors and actresses excelled in the parts of Touchstone, Jaques and Rosalind. Macklin played Touchstone. Kemble, Macready and Phelps played Jaques. Rosalind was played by Peg Woffington and Mrs Siddons and, before the last war in this century, by Edith Evans and Sybil Thorndike. The popularity of As You Like It has declined with the increased interest in problem comedies like Measure for Measure and late romances like The Winter’s Tale. In other words mid-twentieth-century audiences are often unsympathetic to the genre of romantic comedy to which this play so pre-eminently belongs. There is not even the bitter-sweet flavour of the end of Twelfth Night to recommend it. Instead the lovers all return from the forest to the comfort of the court, leaving behind them the only two characters — Duke Frederick and Jaques — who find they can benefit from the solitude of Arden. Arden itself is a problem. For it reminds us throughout that the action of the play takes place according to the convention of pastoral, and this convention strikes us today as artificial in the extreme.
KeywordsRomantic Love Love Affair Pastoral Landscape Romantic Idealism Pastoral Setting
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