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The text of this delightful comedy is taken from the Folio of 1623, with some slight corrections from the second Folio of 1632. The date of the play is not fixed with certainty, but there are very strong grounds for believing that it belongs to the last year of the sixteenth century, or to the first year of the seventeenth. The quotation from Marlowe's “ Hero and Leander," which was printed for the first time in 1598, five years after the poet's death, is not conclusive with regard to the exact date, for even if the poem, contrary to the usual custom, had not circulated in MS., it does not follow that the comedy must have been produced in 1599. We know, however, from the Stationers' Registers, that, for some unknown reason, “As You Like It” was entered “to be staied,” i.e., not printed, on August 4, and, although the year
is not mentioned, it is inferred from previous entries that the August was that of the year 1600. Eight of the commentators assign the composition to 1599, and four to 1600. Only Dryasdusts, however, need vex their minds on a question like this, since, as Mr. Furness justly says, an exact knowledge of the very day of the week or of the month when Shakespeare wrote the play can no more heighten the charm of Rosalind's loveliness and wit than would the knowledge of the cost per yard of her doublet and hose.”
The source of the play is a subject of more importance, and with regard to this there is comparatively little difference of opinion—I say comparatively, for no reader unfamiliar with Shakespeare's commentators can have a conception of the variety of judgments dogmatically maintained upon the most trivial points.
That we owe the plot of “As You Like It," and even the title, to Thomas Lodge seems so certain, that the slight objections raised need not be mentioned here. Lodge was not without great merit of his own, for we are indebted to him for several lovely lyrics. He was a romance writer in the fantastical style, popular at the period, and in 1590 he published "Rosalynde : Euphues' Golden Legacie,"—suggested in part by Chaucer's Tale of Gamelyn—which Shakespeare read and converted into the most delightful of pastoral comedies. With the exceptions of Rosalind, of Phoebe, and of Adam, the poet has changed the names, and he has added three fresh characters, Touchstone, Jaques, and Audrey. That the romance satisfied Lodge's readers is evident from its popularity, since several editions of the story were published before the end of the century. Mr. Gosse justly observes that we put Lodge at a great disadvantage in comparing his crude invention with As You Like It ; but he adds: “The “Rosalynde’ is really very pleasant reading for its own sake, and as the author appears to have invented the plot, we may give him credit for having conceived a series of romantic situations which Shakespeare himself was content to accept.” Some readers of the .“ Rosalynde may hesitate in endorsing Mr. Gosse's kindly opinion of its merits. It will be well, however, to read the story, if only that we may turn with more wonder