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“As You Like It" is not only founded upon, but in some points very closely copied from, a novel by Thomas Lodge, under the title of "Rosalynde: Euphues Golden Legacie," which was originally printed in 4to, 1590, a second time in 1592, and a third edition came out in 1598. We have no intelligence of any re-impression of it between 1592 and 1598. This third edition perhaps appeared early in 1598 ; and we are disposed to think, that the re-publication of so popular a work directed Shakespeare's attention to it. If so, “As You Like It” may have been written in the summer of 1598, and first acted in the winter of the same, or in the spring of the following year'.
The only entry in the registers of the Stationers' Company relating to “As You Like It," is confirmatory of this supposition. It has been already referred to in the “Introduction” to “Much Ado about Nothing" (vol. ii. p. 183); and it will be well to insert it here, precisely in the manner in which it stands in the original record :
“ 4 August. "As you like yt, a book. Henry the fift, a book. Every man
in his humor, a book. The Commedie of Much adoo about
nothinge, a book.” Opposite this memorandum are added the words “To be staied.” It will be remarked, that there is an important deficiency in the entry, as regards the purpose to which we wish to apply it :the date of the year is not given; but Malone conjectured, and in that conjecture I have expressed concurrence, that the clerk who wrote the titles of the four plays, with the date of “4 August,” did not think it necessary there to repeat the year 1600, as it was found in the memorandum immediately preceding that we have above quoted. Shakespeare's “ Henry the Fifth," and "Much Ado about Nothing," were both printed in 1600, and Ben Jonson's “Every Man in his Humour" in the year following; though Gifford, in his edition of that poet's works (vol. i. p. 2), by a strange error,
1 If we suppose that the third edition of Lodge's “ Rosalynde” was occasioned by the popularity of Shakespeare's comedy, founded upon one of the earlier impressions in 1590 or 1592, it would show that “ As You Like It” was acted in 1598, and might have been written in 1597.
states, that the first impression was in 1603. The " stay,” as regards "Henry the Fifth," "Every Man in his Humour," and “ Much Ado about Nothing," was doubtless soon removed ; for
Henry the Fifth " was entered again for publication on the 14th August; and, as has been already shown (vol. ii. p. 183), Wise and Aspley took the same course with “Much Ado about Nothing ” on the 23rd August. There is no known edition of “ As You Like It” prior to its appearance in the folio of 1623, (where it is divided into Scenes, as well as Acts) and we may possibly assume that the “ stay” was not, for some unexplained and uncertain reason, removed as to that comedy.
Malone relied upon a piece of internal evidence, which, if examined, seems to be of no value in settling the question when “As You Like It" was first written. The following words are put into the mouth of Rosalind :-"I weep for nothing, like Diana in the fountain” (A. iv. sc. 1), which Malone supposed to refer to an alabaster figure of Diana on the east of Cheapside, which, according to Stowe's “Survey of London,” was set up in 1598, and was in decay in 1603. This figure of Diana did not "weep;" for Stowe expressly states that the water came ' prilling from her naked breast." Therefore, this passage proves nothing as far as respects the date of “As You Like It." Shakespeare probably intended to make no allusion to any particular fountain.
It is not to be forgotten, in deciding upon the probable date of “ As You Like It," that Meres makes no mention of it in his Palladis Tamia, 1598; and as it was entered at Stationers' Hall on the 4th August (1600], we may conclude that it was written and acted in that interval. In A. iii. sc. 5. a line from the first Sestiad of Marlowe's “ Hero and Leander” is quoted ; and as that poem was first printed in 1598, “ As You Like It” may not have been written until after it appeared.
There is no doubt that Lodge, when composing his “Rosalynde : Euphues Golden Legacie,” which he did, as he informs us, while on a voyage with Captain Clarke “ to the islands of Terceras and the Canaries," had either “ The Coke's Tale of Gamelyn” (falsely attributed to Chaucer, as Tyrwhitt contends in his Introd. to the Cant. Tales, I. clxxxiii. Edit. 1830.) strongly in his recollection, or, which does not seem very probable in such a situation, with a manuscript of it actually before him. It was not printed until more than a century afterwards. According to Farmer, Shakespeare looked no farther than Lodge's novel, which he followed in “As You Like It" quite as closely as he did Greene's “ Pandosto" in the “ Winter's Tale." There are one or two coincidences of expression between “As You Like It” and “The Coke's Tale of Gamelyn," but not perhaps more than might be accidental, and the opinion of
Farmer appears to be sufficiently borne out. Lodge's “Rosalynde" has been recently printed as part of “Shakespeare's Library," and it will be easy, therefore, for the reader to trace the particular resemblances between it and “ As You Like It."
In his Lectures in 1818, Coleridge eloquently and justly praised the pastoral beauty and simplicity of “As You Like It ;" but he did not attempt to compare it with Lodge's “Rosalynde,” where the descriptions of persons and of scenery are comparatively forced and artificial :-"Shakespeare,” said Coleridge, “never gives a description of rustic scenery merely for its own sake, or to show how well he can paint natural objects : he is never tedious or elaborate, but while he now and then displays marvellous accuracy and minuteness of knowledge, he usually only touches upon the larger features and broader characteristics, leaving the fillings up to the imagination. Thus in 'As You Like It'he describes an oak of many centuries growth in a single line :
• Under en oak whose antique root peeps out.' Other and inferior writers would have dwelt on this description, and worked it out with all the pettiness and impertinence of detail. In Shakespeare the antique root' furnishes the whole picture."
These expressions are copied from notes made at the time; and they partially, though imperfectly, supply an obvious deficiency of general criticism in vol. ii. p. 115. of Coleridge's “Literary Remains."
Adam Spencer is a character in “The Coke's Tale of Gamelyn,” and in Lodge's “Rosalynde ;” and a great additional interest attaches to it, because it is supposed, with some appearance of truth, that the part was originally sustained by Shakespeare himself. We have this statement on the authority of Oldys's MSS. : he is said to have derived it, intermediately of course, from Gilbert Shakespeare, who survived the Restoration, and who had a faint recollection of having seen his brother William "in one of his own comedies, wherein, being to personate a decrepit old man, he wore a long beard, and appeared so weak and drooping, and unable to walk, that he was forced to be supported and carried by another person to a table, at which he was seated among some company, who were eating, and one of them sung a song.” This description very exactly tallies with “As You Like It," A. ii. sc. 7.
Shakespeare found no prototypes in Lodge, nor in any other work yet discovered, for the characters of Jaques, Touchstone, and Audrey. On the admirable manner in which he has made them part of the staple of his story, and on the importance of these additions, it is needless to enlarge. It is rather singular, that Shakespeare should have introduced two characters of the name of Jaques into the same play ; but in the old impressions, Jaques de Bois, in the prefixes to his speeches, is merely called the “ Second Brother."
DUKE, Senior, living in exile.
Lords attending upon the exiled Duke.
Servants to Oliver.
ROSALIND, Daughter to the exiled Duke.
Lords ; Pages, Foresters, and Attendants.
The SCENE lies, first, near Oliver's House ; afterwards, in the Usurper's Court, and in the Forest of Arden.
1 The list of the persons omitted in the old editions, was added by Rowe.
Orl. As I remember, Adam, it was upon this fashion bequeathed me by will', but a poor thousand crowns ; and, as thou say'st, charged my brother on his blessing to breed me well: and there begins my sadness. My brother Jaques he keeps at school, and report speaks goldenly of his profit: for my part, he keeps me rustically at home, or, to speak more properly, stays me here at home unkept; for call you that keeping for a gentleman of my birth, that differs not from the stalling of an ox? His horses are bred better; for, besides that they are fair with their feeding, they are taught their manage, and to that end riders dearly hired: but I, his brother, gain nothing under him but growth, for
it was upon this fashion bequeathed me by will,] Orlando and Adam are in the midst of a conversation, on the contents of the will of the father of the former, when they enter. It has been objected, that the sense is incomplete; and Malone, at the suggestion of Blackstone, placed a period after “ fashion,” and inserted “He” for the commencement of a new sentence. However, as Johnson observed, there was no necessity for the alteration of the text, which is quite intelligible without any change, excepting in the old punctuation. The words are therefore left as in the original folios of 1623 and 1632; excepting that “poor a thousand crowns,” of the first folio, is properly printed “a poor thousand crowns,” in the second.