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This comedy has high reputation among Shakspeare's works; and yet, on the stage, it is never attractive, except when some actress, of very superior skill, performs the part of Rosalind.
This character requires peculiar talents in representation, because it has so large a share of the dialogue to deliver; and the dialogue, though excellently written, and interspersed with various points of wit, has still no forcible repartee, or trait of humour, which in themselves would excite mirth, independent of an art in giving them utterance.
Such is the general cast of all the other personages in the play, that each requires a most skilful actor, to give them their proper degree of importance.
But, with every advantage to “As you like it" in the performance, it is more a pleasing drama, than one which gives delight. The reader will, in general, be more charmed than the auditor : for he gains all the poet, which neither the scene nor action much adorn, except under particular circumstances.
Dr.Johnson, in his criticisms at the end of this play, gives the following description of it: The fable is wild and pleasing. I know not how the ladies will approve the 'facility with which both Rosalind and Celia give away their hearts. To Celia much may be forgiven, for the heroism of her friendship. The character of Jaques is natural, and well preserved. The comic dialogue is very sprightly, with less mixture of low buffoonery than in some other plays; and the graver part is elegant and harmonious."
This must appear but moderate praise to those who may profess to be fervent admirers of the comedy.
Of its origin, Steevens says—“ Shakspeare has followed Lodge's novel of “ Rosalynd" more exactly than is his general custom, when he is indebted to such worthless originals; and has sketched some of his principal characters, and borrowed a few expressions from it. It should be observed, however, that the characters of Jaques, the Clown, and Audrey, are entirely the poet's own formation.”
The Forest of Arden (or Ardenne), in which the chief scenes of this drama lie, is an extensive woody domain, in French Flanders, near the Meuse, and between Charlemont and Roeroy.
Shakspeare has made the inhabitants of this forest appear so happy in their banishment, that, wben they are called back to the cares of the world, it seems more like a punishment than a reward. Jaques has too much prudence to leave his retirement; and yet, when his associates are departed, his state can no longer be enviable; as refined society was the charm which seemed here to bestow on country life its more than usual enjoyments.
Kemble's Jaques is in the highest estimation with the public: it is one of those characters in which he gives certain bold testimonies of genius, which no spectator can controvert--yet the mimic art has very little share in this grand exhibition.
Mrs. Jordan is the Rosalind both of art and of nature; each supplies its treasures in her performance of the character, and render it a perfect exhibition.
COVENT GARDEN Mr. Raymond.
Mr. Chapman. Mr. Maddocks. Mr. Creswell. Mr. Dignum.
Mr. Incledon. Mr. Wroughton. Mr. Kemble, Mr. Fisher.
Mr. Murray, Mr. Male.
Mrs. Jordan, Miss Smith.
( Mrs. Burgess. FORESTERS and SOLDIERS.
SCENE–First, near Oliver's House; and, after
wards, partly in the Duke's Court, and partly in the Forest of Arden.
AS YOU LIKE IT.
ACT THE FIRST.
Enter ORLANDO and Adam. Orl. As I remember, Adam, it was in 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 the which his animals on his dungbills are as much bound to him as I. Besides this nothing that he so plentifully gives me, the something, that nature gave me, his countenance seems