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It has been generally agreed that there was once an actual Golden Age of virtue and happiness; but each successive generation has been sufficiently either modest or infelicitous to admit that they ought decidedly to place the blissful period long anterior to their own experience. Frail humanity has, however, clung to the tradition with praiseworthy tenacity; and various nations have applied the term, in a secondary sense, to the most flourishing period of their literature. With us, the phrase is usually identified with the era of Elizabeth ; and Shakspeare's “ As You LIKE IT” will ever form one of its most precious and conspicuous remains. Transported to the sunny glades of Arden, we “ fleet the time carelessly, as they did in the Golden world;" while a feeling of peace, benevolence, and sylvan simplicity, seems (as Sancho says of sleep) “to cover us all over like a cloak.” Rosalind ranks among the best, or rather is the chief, of Shakspeare's comic heroines. She is one of those irresistible charmers in whom gaiety and sensibility contrast and relieve each other with all the harmonious variety of an
exquisite musical instrument. Her friend, the gentle Celia, represents those invaluable, though comparatively passive, creatures who are often seen in nature, gracefully clinging with entire trust and devotion to some fellow-mortal of superior intellect or greater decision of character; amply rewarded for all they can do or suffer with the simple presence of the beloved object, and a thousand times overpaid by kindness and sympathy.
Orlando is not perhaps, in general, sufficiently appreciated. He may be regarded as a perfect model of the intrinsic gentleman — modest, humane, and forgiving; yet wise, sensitive, and courageous. This is just the character that an enthusiastic girl like Rosalind would be likely to comprehend intuitively, and to fall in love with at a first interview. His humble friend and benefactor, fine old Adam, is almost unique in appropriate beauty of delineation. Every sentence he utters is indicative of sound sense and native goodness of heart. The banished Duke is worthy to complete this genial trio of unworldly beings. He is replete with the best kind of wisdom, that which, having learned to estimate worldly men and worldly objects at their genuine value, has yet imbibed no bitterness of spirit in the trying process. Jacques also is of noble nature:- he seems (like many kindred philanthropists, who have often been thought misanthropes by society, and sometimes by themselves) to quarral with mankind principally because they will not be so happy as he thinks they might be, and would wish to see them.
Touchstone is certainly the most amusing and intellectual of Shakspeare's Fools. His weapons are ever bright, pointed, and ready for action. He is at anybody's service for an encounter of jest, and always comes off conqueror. The sylvan Duke exactly paints him. — “He uses his folly like a stalking-horse; and under the presentation of that, he shoots his wit.”
The numerous minor characters in this wondrous drama are all enriched with the most skillful touches of poetry and nature. Altogether, the play will ever afford one of his sweetest repasts to the intellectual reader; and furnish, possibly, not the weakest of barriers to the encroachments of those harsher feelings that sometimes force an entrance even into the generous mind, from its inevitable exposure to what our peerless Rosalind so aptly calls “the briars of this working-day world.”
“As You Like It” was first published in the original folio of 1623. Many of the incidents are founded on the novel of “ROSALYNDE,” by Lodge (1590).
As You Like It.
SCENE I. - An Orchard, near OLIVER's House. Orl. Go apart, Adam, and thou shalt hear how
he will shake me up. Enter ORLANDO and ADAM.
Oli. Now, sir ! what make you here ? Orl. As I remember, Adam, it was upon this Orl. Nothing: I am not taught to make anyfashion bequeathed me: by will, but a poor thous
thing. and crowns; and, as thou sayst, charged my bro | Oli. What mar you then, sir? ther, on his blessing, to breed me well : and there Orl. Marry, sir, I am helping you to mar that begins my sadness. My brother Jaques he keeps which God made, a poor unworthy brother of yours, at school, and report speaks goldenly of his profit : with idleness. for my part, he keeps me rustically at home, or, to Oli. Marry, sir, be better employed, and be speak more properly, stays me here at home un- | naught awhile. kept: for call you that keeping for a gentleman of Orl. Shall I keep your hogs, and eat husks with my birth, that differs not from the stalling of an them? What prodigal portion have I spent, that ox? His horses are bred better; for, besides that I should come to such penury? they are fair with their feeding, they are taught Oli. Know you where you are, sir ? their manage, and to that end riders dearly hired : Orl. O, sir, very well : here in your orchard. but I, his brother, gain nothing under him but Oli. Know you before whom, sir ? growth; for the which his animals on his dung- Orl. Ay, better than he I am before knows me. hills are as much bound to him as I. Besides this I know, you are my eldest brother; and, in the nothing that he so plentifully gives me, the some- gentle condition of blood, you should so know me. thing that nature gave me his countenance seems The courtesy of nations allows you my better, in to take from me: he lets me feed with his hinds, that you are the firstborn; but the same tradition bars me the place of a brother, and, as much as in takes not away my blood, were there twenty brohim lies, mines my gentility with my education. thers betwixt us: I have as much of my father in This it is, Adam, that grieves me : and the spirit me, as you; albeit, I confess, your coming before of my father, which I think is within me, begins me is nearer to his reverence. to mutiny against this servitude : I will no longer Oli. What, boy! endure it, though yet I know no wise remedy how to avoid it.
young in this.
Oli. Wilt thou lay hands on me, villain ?
Orl. I am no villain : I am the youngest son of Adam. Yonder comes my master, your brother. Sir Rowland de Bois; he was my father; and he