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N more senses than one As You Like It" is an unusual play. In its own period it was unusual. In the corpus of Shakespeare's plays it is nearly unique. Technically, it is unusual.

Within the decade 1590-1600 "As You Like It" is unusual, because it is, roughly speaking, a pastoral play. In the strict sense of the word "pastoral," a play dealing wholly with the loves of shepherds and shepherdesses, and filled with details of their habits and sports, at least as conventionally represented in fiction, no specimen surely given on the public stage before 1600 survives. George Peele in his Arraignment of Paris (1581?), in the sub-plot of Colin and Thestylis, breaks way, but for the strictly pastoral play we must turn


to "The Sad Shepherd" of Ben Jonson (1635?) or to John Fletcher's "Sad Shepherdess " (circa 1608). "As You Like It" is a pastoral rather in the sense put upon the word by Samuel Johnson: " a poem in which any action or passion is represented in its effect on a country life." This, too, before 1598, is rare in the English drama. Before that date even an artificial feeling for nature, to say nothing of genuine regard, is rare enough. Robert Greene has slight touches in the sub-plot of Lacy and Margaret of Fressingfield in "Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay." George Peele, in his "Arraignment of Paris" and "Old Wives' Tale," curiously mingles frigid classical allusion with evidences of close observation of nature. There are some touches in the plays of John Lyly. It is, of course, possible that plays no longer extant would increase this list if we had them, for in Act IV of "The Downfall of Robert, Earl of Huntington," Little John speaks as if plays full of outdoor life had not been uncommon:

"Methinks, I see no jests of Robin Hood,
No merry morrices of Friar Tuck,

No pleasant skippings up and down the wood,
No hunting songs, no coursing of the buck."

But the treatment of nature in these rustic scenes was, very probably, purely conventional, or there may have been little or no attempt to gain an added interest by fresh touches of nature; for in the extant plays preceding 1598, which might be expected, because they deal with Robin Hood, to show considerable feeling for

nature, there is little or nothing of the sort. In fact, in the two plays in question, " George a Greene," entered in the Stationers' Register in 1595, and attributed to Robert Greene, and in the "Edward I" of Peele, even the Robin Hood material provides very little. It is, therefore, so far as extant plays are concerned, in Shakespeare himself - in his lyrics, in bits of description, in simile and metaphor that we first find steady appreciation and simple presentation of nature.

There was evidently a vogue between 1598 and 1600 for plays which concerned themselves with life in field and forest, for in 1598 was licensed a two-part play by Munday and Chettle, not printed till 1601, — “ The Downfall of Robert, Earl of Huntington," and "The Death of Robert, Earl of Huntington." In 1600 appeared "Look About You," and in 1600-01 was acted a non-extant play, "Robin Hood's Pen'orths." In 1599 there is record in Henslowe's "Diary " of payments for two plays which have not survived, George Chapman's “Pastoral Tragedy" and "The Arcadian Virgin" of Chettle and Haughton. Circa 1600 Lyly's "Love's Metamorphosis " was revived and the play of imitative title and nature, "The Maid's Metamorphosis," was given. In the light of present evidence it is impossible to settle the question whether "As You Like It" by its success created this vogue or was merely the most artistic example of it. Certainly it is not on the list of Shakespeare's plays given by Francis Meres in his "Palladis Tamia" in the autumn of 1598, but it is not indubitably clear that that list is inclusive or infallible.

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