Internet Shakespeare Editions

Author: David Bevington
Peer Reviewed

As You Like It: Textual Introduction


As You Like It: The Text

1"As you like yt, a booke" was entered in the Stationers' Register on August 4, 1600, together with "'Henry the ffift, a booke," "Every man in his humour, a booke" (by Ben Jonson), and "The Commedie of muche A do about nothing a booke." All were marked "to be staied," that is, held back from publication until further notice. No publisher is mentioned, nor is there any indication of payment of the customary fee. Possibly the staying entry is the notation of a clerk in the Stationers' office indicating that the matter required further consideration. Or perhaps the Lord Chamberlain's acting company, to which Shakespeare belonged as actor and dramatist, took this step of registration to protect their interests in these three very popular plays. If that was their intent, it failed of its purpose with Henry V, which appeared in an unauthorized quarto that same month. In fact, "Henry the ffift" may instead refer to 2 Henry IV, as argued by Peter Blayney (in an unpublished paper cited by Lukas Erne, Shakespeare as Literary Dramatist, 2003, p. 103n.; see also Rosalyn Knutson, The Repertory of Shakespeare's Company, 1594-1613, 1991). Henry V must have been already in print or in the process of being printed when the staying entry was registered.

2As You Like It, unlike the other plays listed in the staying entry, was not published in quarto at all. It first appeared in print in the Folio of 1623. Conceivably, the long delay was owing to a perception by the authorities in 1599 that the play contained topical material in the depiction of Jaques as a satirist. If Jaques's name was meant to suggest "a jakes," a privy, it could be interpreted as a hit at Sir John Harington, whose The Metamorphosis of Ajax, 1596, had taken the form of an extended scatological joke on the recently invented water-closet or toilet. Harington, who had served in the Earl of Essex's Irish campaign, was best known as "Sir Ajax Harington" for his notorious treatise. Then, too, As You Like It's foray into satire might have been seen as a salvo in the fad of satire as a literary and dramatic genre as manifested in George Chapman's An Humorous Day's Mirth in 1597, Ben Jonson's Every Man in His Humor (quarto version, 1598), and Joseph Hall's Theophrastian Virgidemiae in 1597. The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of London were sufficiently exercised about the potentially scandalous nature of satire that they issued a decree on June 1, 1599 prohibiting the printing of satires and epigrams. John Marston's The Metamorphosis of Pygmalion's Image (1598) and his The Scourge of Villainy, Sir John Davies's Epigrams (published with Christopher Marlowe's translation of Ovid's Amores), and still other satirical writings were burned at the Stationers' Hall with the authorization of the Privy Council on June 4, 1599.The public playhouses had been forced to close for some months in 1597 in the wake of the controversy over The Isle of Dogs by Thomas Nashe and others. The boys' private theatres had been closed for most of the decade of the 1590s because of their satirical tendencies and apparent complicity in the Martin Marprelate controversy. Libels and rumors were bound to proliferate in the years around 1598-9 when Queen Elizabeth was seen to be in physical decline, and the Earl of Essex was in secret correspondence with James VI about the possibilities of his succeeding to the English throne. These were heady matters, and even a mildly satirical play like As You Like It might have seemed suspect.

3When the time came around for the printing of the Folio of 1623, the publishers secured their rights for As You Like It and a number of other plays with the following entry in the Stationers' Register, November 8, 1623:

4 Mr Blounte Isaak Jaggard. Entred for their Copie vnder the hands of Mr Doctor Worrall and Mr Cole, warden, Mr William Shak- speers Comedyes, Histories, and Tragedyes soe manie of the said Copies are are not formerly entred to other man, vizt. Comedyes. The Tempest. The two gentlemen of Verona. Measure for Measure. The Comedy of Errors. As you Like it, All's well that ends well. Twelft night. The winters tale. Histories. The thirde parte of Henry the sixt. Henry the eight. Tragedies: Coriolanus. Timon of Athens. Julius Caesar. Mackbeth. Anthonie and Cleopatra. Cymbeline.

5Actually, As You Like It had been previously registered, in 1600, though, as we have seen, without payment of fee or naming a publisher. Perhaps for these reasons Blount and Jaggard believed that they had no obligation to a previous owner of copyright. Otherwise this list follows exactly the order of the not-previously-registered plays as they were to appear in the 1623 Folio.

6The play was published in 1623 with the familiar title, As You Like It, on the "Catalogue" or Contents page and at the head of the play itself. It occupies sigs. Q3r through S2r, also numbered pages 185-207 (with page 189 incorrectly numbered as 187, between The Merchant of Venice and The Taming of the Shrew. The text is generally sturdy and reliable..The Oxford editors (1986, 1987) conclude that the printer's copy "was either the prompt-book or a literary transcript, either from the prompt-book itself or the foul papers" (A Textual Companion, p. 392). The evidence for some indications of playhouse practice, such as might be set down in a prompt-book, includes a number of anticipated entrances on stage before the character in question is required to speak or has been mentioned in the dialogue: see, for example, Touchstone's entry in 1.2, Duke Frederick's in 1.3, Orlando's and Jaques's in 3.2, and Rosalind's in 5.2. Entrances marked in this fashion presumably afforded time for the entering actor to get on stage. We also find a number of stage directions in the imperative, such as "Wrestle" and "Shout" during the wrestling match in 1.2, both of which may have been marginal annotations in the printer's copy; this style can be suggestive of a prompt copy. Speech prefixes are generally consistent, as is not always the case in author's papers. Unusual stage directions like "Enter Rosaline for Ganimed, Celia for Aliena, and Clowne, alias Touchstone" at the start of 2.4 sound like helpful notes to those who are managing stage entrances.

7Conversely, the Folio text suggests authorial copy at times. A few stage directions are vaguely worded as to the numbers of actors needed in a particular instance; see "Enter Duke Senior: Amyens, and two or three Lords like Forresters" at the head of 2.1, "Enter Duke, with lords" at 2.2, "Enter Duke Sen. & Lord, like Out-lawes" at 2.7, and "Enter Iaques and Lords, Forresters" at 4.2. Some needed exits and entrances are missing or incomplete; see collation. Some speech prefixes are confusing from a staging point of view, as when "I. Lord" in 2.7 probably refers to Amiens but who is otherwise no longer named after 2.5. In 4.2, speakers are identified simply as "Lord" in two lines when the dialogue would appear to require that first one person and then another speaks. Is the second speaker, identified simply as "Lord" in the speech prefix, in fact a lord, or a "forester," by which term Jaques has just addressed him? (TLN 2128-333). Or does Shakespeare think of lords and foresters as interchangeable in this strange forest?

8Speech prefixes, though generally consistent, are sometimes in error or missing. Oliver's last speech in 1.1 lacks a speech prefix. In 1.2, Celia's insistence that "My father's love is enough to honor him enough," i.e., Orlando, properly belongs to Celia but is given instead to "Ros." in the Folio text (TLN 248); the confusion is understandable, since "My father" might seem to refer either to Celia's or to Rosalind's father. Orlando's second speech in 2.3 lacks a speech prefix, and his next "Why, whither, Adam, would thou have me go?" is incorrectly assigned to "Ad." i.e. old Adam (TLN 733). These could be compositor's errors, to be sure. Jaques's next to last speech in 2.5 is given erroneously to "Amy" or Amiens (TLN 936). Touchstone's last speech in 3.3 is mistakenly bestowed upon "Ol.," that is, Sir Oliver Martext (TLN 1701). Jaques de Boyes, identified as "Iaques" in the play's first scene (TLN 8), is called "Second Brother" and "2. Bro." in the play's final scene (TLN 2726-7) when the malcontent Jaques is also present. Perhaps, then, an authorial manuscript or transcript of that manuscript, with some characteristic authorial inconsistencies, was then marked up for playhouse use. Since the play had never been printed by 1623, this manuscript was presumably in the possession of the King's acting company for the use of John Heminges and Henry Condell as editors of the 1623 Folio.

9Fortunately, the uncertainties as to the exact nature of the printer's copy pose little practical difficulty for the modern editor. The Folio text is the sole authority, and it requires little editorial intervention. Evidently Compositors B, C, and D were involved in the press work, as determined by Charlton Hinman,The Printing and Proof-reading of the First Folio of Shakespeare, 1963 1.182-200). Again, this conclusion has only a minimal bearing on editorial decisions to be made. A few minor corrections are necessary such as "much" for "must" in 2.1, "some" for "seeme" in 2.3, "thy wound" for "they would" in 2.4, "good" for "pood" in 3.2, "policy" for "police" in 5.1, and the like. (See collation notes.) The ordering of the stanzas in the Pages' song, "It was a lover and his lass," in 5.3 needs correcting, both for the logic of the song and the testimony of other exemplars of this famous lyric by Thomas Morley. The songs may have been given to the printers in separate copy, making such a mistake in printing all too easy.

10More interesting is "seuentie" in the Folio text at 2.3.71 where we would expect "seventeen"; Adam is presumably recounting how he has served the family of the de Boys "From seventeen years till now almost fourscore" (TLN 275). More intriguing is the seeming confusion about the respective heights of Rosalind and Celia: in Le Beau's last speech in 1.2, he says that "the taller is his daughter" (TLN 440), meaning Celia as the daughter of Duke Frederick, and yet in 1.3 Rosalind avouches that she will take the part of the male in their disguises since "I am more then [than] common tall" (TLN 580). The present edition leaves the inconsistency as it stands, since one is hard pressed to determine which way the language should be emended. Rosalind is taller in Thomas Lodge's Rosalind; perhaps, then, "taller" in 1.2 is a textual error for "smaller" or "lesser," but it may that Shakespeare's wrote what we have in the Folio text withou noticing the discrepancy.

11Also interesting is the seeming need for an emendation (as proposed by Lewis Theobald in the early eighteenth century) of the Folio's "merry" to "weary" in Rosalind's opening speech of 2.4, "Oh, Jupiter, how weary are my spirits!" Not all editors agree on the need for emendation; Michel Hattaway, in his New Cambridge Shakespeare edition of 2000, defends the original "merry" by suggesting that Rosalind "is rejoicing in adversity -- or being ironic" (p. 107). Juliet Dusinberre, in her Arden edition of 2006, notes that "merry" accords with the account in Thomas Lodge's Rosalind of how the two young ladies "fed de as merely [merrily] as if they had been in Paris with all the kings delicates" (p. 202), but Dusinberre chooses nonetheless to adopt Theobald's emendation, as do most modern editors (including the present one).

12On a few occasions, proposed emendations significantly bear on meaning, and are not always persuasive. At the beginning of 2.1, for example, when we first encounter Duke Senior and his followers in the Forest of Arden, Duke Senior expounds eloquently on the sweet lessons to be learned from the adversity in which they necessarily find themselves. The woods are more free than "the envious court," he urges, and goes on to explain:

13Heere feele we not the penaltie of Adam,
The seasons difference, as the Icie phange
And churlish chiding of the winters winde,
Which when it bits and blowes vpon my body
Euen till I shrinke with cold, I smile, and say
This is no flattery: these are counsellors
That feelingly perswade me what I am. (TLN 611-17)

14Should the first line here read "but" instead of "not"? Many editors over the centuries have followed Lewis Theobald's emendation (1733), reasoning that "the penaltie of Adam" is "The seasons difference," from which Duke Senior suffers like all human descendants of the original Adam after the expulsion from the Garden of Eden. On the other hand, "not" can be defended (and is retained in this present edition, as in most recent editions) if Duke Senior is proposing that he and his co-mates in exile should not allow themselves to mind the consequences of Adam's original sin, including the hardships of seasonal change. The hardships of the Forest of Arden cannot undo the benefits of the freedom they now enjoy in being away from a corrupt court.

15Another substantive emendation is more persuasive and widely adopted. In 2.7, as Jaques argues vociferously with Duke Senior about the virtues of satiric sharpness, he argues in this fashion, according to the Folio text:

16He, that a Foole doth very wisely hit,
Doth very foolishly, although he smart
Seeme senseless of the bob. If not,
The Wise-mans folly is anathomiz'd
Euen by the squandring glances of the foole. (TLN 1027-31)

17Alexander Pope and some editors seem content with this reading, but Theobald (again) was not satisfied. Surely, he argued, the third line here should read 'Not to seem." "But to seem" has also been proposed, by John Payne Collier in 1853, and with several subsequent adherents. Editions today sometimes prefer "Not to seem," as in Arden 3 and the present edition, though the New Cambridge proposes instead "If he seem," while the Oxford (1986) edition opts for "Seem aught but senseless" in place of "Seeme senseless." The solutions vary, but all agree that the Folio reading as it stands is defective. The metrical shortness of the line invites emendation, and the sense requires that the foolish person under satirical attack, no matter how much he may smart under the criticism, should take care not to seem aware that the jibe might apply to him. The omission of "Not to" or some such phrase would be an easy error for a compositor to make.

18The Folio's repetition of "obseruance" in the following passage from 5.2 suggests a printer's error. Silvius is speaking of the dutiful worship he offers to Phebe:

19All adoration, dutie, and obseruance,
All humblenesse, all patience, and impatience,
All puritie, all triall, all obseruance, (TLN 2503-5)

20"Obedience" was first conjectured by Edmund Malone as a substitute for the second occurrence of "obseruance," and is followed by many editors today. But "perseverance" is another possibility (conjectured by Benjamin Heath), and there is no textual authority for "obedience," nor can one be sure which "obseruance" should be replaced, so that one option (adopted by this present edition) is to print "observance" in both places and note the textual problem in the commentary.

21The Folio text of As You Like It divides the play into acts and scenes. This present edition follows the Folio divisions throughout, as do most most modern editions, including the Oxford edition of 1986 and the Arden 3 edition of 2006. An exception is the New Cambridge edition of 2000, which introduces a scene break after the first 18 lines of 3.2, at TLN 1211. Indeed, the stage is briefly bare at the end of Orlando's rhapsodic soliloquy on hanging his love verse on every tree, but the pause is brief and does not imply a change of scene. Some scholars, notably T. H. Howard-Hill and Jams Hirsh (see Arden 3 edition, p. 126), argue that the scrivener Ralph Crane may have been at least partly responsible for the act-scene divisions, though his characteristic copying style is not otherwise as plentifully evident as it is, for example, in the Folio edition of The Tempest.

22Because the play moves with such graceful flexibility between prose and verse, the intent of lineation in the Folio text is not always easy to determine. In particular, the pairing of what may appear to be half-lines making up a full line of verse can be problematic. An example of this occurs in 1.3, at the conclusion of the wrestling match between Orlando and Charles the wrestler. The following passage is preceded by a lengthy section in prose and is then followed by blank verse:

23Duk. No more, no more.
Orl. Yes I beseech your Grace, I am not yet well
breath'd.
Duk. How do'st thou Charles?
Le Beu. He cannot speake my Lord,
Duk. Beare him awaie:
What is thy name yong man?
Orl. Orlando my Liege, the yongest sonne of Sir Ro- land de Boyes. (TLN 377-85)

24The Folio text never indents half-lines to mark what might be seen as the second half of a single blank-verse line; such indentations are the work of editorial tradition. They can assist the reader in perceiving when the dialogue is in verse. But how is one to arrange this passage? It could be (in modern spelling)

25DUKE No more, no more.
ORLANDO Yes, I beseech Your Grace,
I am not yet well breathed.
DUKE How dost thou, Charles?
LE BEAU He cannot speak, my lord.
DUKE Bear him away.
What is thy name, young man?
ORLANDO Orlando, my liege,
The youngest son of Sir Rowland de Boys.

26The last two lines here are irregular, but the rest works well in iambic pentameter. The arrangement here of the first three lines is as it appears in the Arden 3 (2006) edition of Juliet Dusinberre, followed by a prose representation of the last speech:

27DUKE FREDERICK
No more, no more.
ORLANDO Yes, I beseech your grace:
I am not yet well breathed.
DUKE How dost thou, Charles?
LE BEAU
He cannot speak, my lord.
DUKE Bear him away.
What is thy name, young man?
ORLANDO Orlando, my liege, the youngest son of Sir
Rowland de Boys.

28The New Cambridge edition of 2000 by Michael Hattaway prefers not to impose what might be arbitrary editorial choices, and thus does not indent at all:

29DUKE FREDERICK No more, no more!
ORLANDO Yes, I beseech your grace, I am not yet well breathed.
DUKE FREDERICK How dost thou, Charles?
LE BEAU He cannot speak, my lord.
DUKE FREDERICK Bear him away.
What is thy name, young man?
ORLANDO Orlando, my liege, the youngest son of Sir Rowland de Boys.

30Yet because this edition does elsewhere indent second half-lines of what it perceives to be verse, the New Cambridge implicitly labels the passage in question as prose.

31The present edition, noting that other pairings of half-lines are possible, presents the text as follows:

32DUKE FREDERICK No more, no more.
ORLANDO Yes, I beseech Your Grace. I am not yet well breathed.
DUKE How dost thou, Charles?
LE BEAU He cannot speak, my lord.
DUKE FREDERICK Bear him away.--What is thy name, young man?
ORLANDO Orlando, my liege, the youngest son of Sir
Rowland de Boys.

33The implied argument here is that the passage slips from prose into verse at "How dost thou, Charles?," pairing this half line with "He cannot speak, my lord" rather than with the preceding "I am not yet well breathed." Either works well enough in iambic pentameter, though I would argue that the arrangement in this present edition offers a smoother verse rhythm. "How doest thou, Charles? / He cannot speak, my lord" is perfectly regular, whereas "I am not yet well breathed. / How dost thou, Charles?" might seem to require an awkward stress on "am" that goes against the sense emphasis of the line. The present arrangement has also in its favor, perhaps, that it keeps Orlando's "Yes, I beseech . . . well breathed" as a single speech as presented in the Folio text, rather than dividing it into half lines. The Arden 3 arrangement gains credibility, on the other hand, from the Folio's dividing of Duke Frederick's second utterance into two half lines:

34Duk. Beare him awaie:
What is thy name yong man?

35The New Cambridge edition arrangement has in its favor that it refuses to arbitrate between the two possible pairings of "How dost thou, Charles?" since either pairing is possible.

36I have showed these several variants to suggest how modern editorial practice varies in the presentation of verse lineation. The alternatives are often hard to prioritize by any definitive argument. As the editor Fredson Bowers was fond of saying about such editorial puzzles, "You pays your money and you takes your choice."

37The present edition is in modern spelling, like most modern editions of Shakespeare. The choice involves some sacrifice of fruitful ambiguity when an old spelling hints at multiple meanings lost in modern spelling. One instance that comes up often in Shakespeare is the word "trauaile," as in 4.1, just after Orlando's entrance (TLN 1944). Rosalind is arguing with Jaques about his fondness for travel. His gaining experience by travel simply makes him sad, she observes. She continues to press her point: "I had rather have a fool to make me merry than experience to make me sad--and to travel for it too!" The Folio's "trauaile" (or "travaile" when we recognize the "u" as a font substitute for "v") suggests both travel in a geographical sense and "travail" in the sense of wearisome labor. The word similarly occurs in 1.3, in Rosalind's last speech (TLN 596), when she asks Celia whether they shouldn't take Touchstone along with them to the Forest of Arden: "Would he not be a comfort to our travel?" Again, the Folio's "trauaile" captures the dual sense of journey and tribulation.

38Similarly, the First Lord's description of an oak tree's "anticke roote" at 2.1.31 (TLN 638) suggests both "ancient" and "antic," gnarled. Should the modern editor print "antique" or "antic"? Something is lost either way. Celia's reference in 3.4 to "a puisny Tilter, that spurs his horse but on one side" and "breakes his staffe like a noble goose" (TLN 1750-1), loses some resonance of meaning when "puisny" is rendered as "puny" in modern spelling; "puisny" or "puisne," derived from Latin "post-natus," can suggest one who is born later and hence younger, less experienced, insignificant, of lesser rank. Jaques's "anathomiz'd" in 2.7 (TLN 1030) where we would say "anatomized" may pick up some of the resonance of "anathema" which is lost in modernization. The common salutation at parting, "God buy you," as in Jaques's conversation with Orlando in 3.2 (TLN 1452), is more intelligible for the modern reader if rendered as "God b'wi'you," but achieves this clarity at the cost of concealing a possible etymological source of the phrase: "God buy you" could have come into use in the sense of "God redeem you" before it was shortened through continual practice. To modernize the Folio's "these rights" as "these rites" in the play's next-to-last line before the epilogue (TLN 2774) is to recognize that Duke Senior is speaking about the rites of marriage and other festivities, but the old-spelling original does invite the reader to consider other plausible meaning of "rights" as well; Duke Senior is being restored to his dukedom, Orlando to his inheritance, etc., as the play's comic ending sets all "to rights." In such cases, a modern-spelling edition is driven to printing a modern equivalent in the text and then explaining the wordplay in a commentary note.

39Some losses through modernization are less a matter of lost multiple meanings than of a diminution in the colorful character of language. To substitute "gondola" for the Folio's "Gundello" in 4.1 (TLN 1953) is to clarify the meaning for the modern reader, and the OED assures us that "Gundello" is simply an obsolete spelling (along with "Gundalo," Gundelo," "Gundilow," etc.), but "Gundello" has a flavor all its own. Should a modern-spelling edition retain such pleasingly archaic forms? The danger of inconsistency looms at once, and most modern editors choose "gondola." So too with the Folio's "Hyen" for "hyena" later in the same scene (TLN 2064). Since this passage is in prose, metrical considerations cannot assist the editor in determining if there might be a printer's error here or whether it should be regarded simply as an archaic spelling of "hyena."

40Even in a carefully printed text like As You Like It, then, the modern editor faces a number of puzzling choices. Readers need to be aware that in many cases no single choice is unambiguously correct. Such richness of interpretive choice is part of the pleasure in studying the remarkable dramatic artistry of William Shakespeare.