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As You Like It Study Guide

As You Like It

As You Like It Study Guide

By William Shakespeare
Directed by Fontaine Syer

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Preshow Lecture »

November 13-14, 17-21 at 7:30pm
November 21 at 2:00pm
Ruth N. Halls Theatre

Welcome to our study guide for As You Like It. We prepared these resources for professors, teachers, students, and anyone who would like to learn more about As You Like It.

Enclosed in these pages you will find scenic designs, costume designs, and essays about elements in William Shajkespeare’s As You Like It. Frequently you will find images that are too small to see on most monitors. Just click on the image to see a larger view.

What is "the pastoral"?

There are categories of literature, music, or drama called genres, and "the pastoral" genre was quite popular in Shakespeare’s time. In Hamlet, the king’s advisor Polonius announces that a troupe of actors has arrived to entertain the court, and he lists all the dramatic genres with which he is familiar. As usual, Polonius goes overboard:

The actors come hither, my lord. The best actors in world, either for tragedy, comedy, history, pastoral, pastoral-comical, historical-pastoral, tragical-historical, tragical-comical-historical-pastoral, scene undividable, or poem unlimited; Seneca [Roman writer of tragedies] cannot be too heavy, nor Plautus [Roman writer of comedies] too light, for the law of writ and liberty: these are the only men.

The pastoral is a genre of literature that takes place in the country and depicts life there in a romanticized and highly idealized way. The genre fits in the logical progression from tragedy to comedy: the pastoral would be the next link in the chain. In the classical tradition, tragedy focuses on nobility and takes place at court (Macbeth is king, Hamlet is a prince, Othello is a general, and Romeo is the son of a nobleman). Comedy, meanwhile, usually focused on people who were not nobles, but everyday citizens whose comic situations were worked out in the public sectors of town.

In contrast, the pastoral drama or poem or romance depicted life far from the city in a countryside that was both idyllic and ideal. The shepherds and shepherdesses in a pastoral poem lived an almost perfect existence; their lives were closer to ideal than those of their well-bred cousins in the city and at court, whose existence, in contrast, was tedious and hypocritical. In a pastoral poem, romance, or drama, the shepherds write poems and live with a nobility that far exceeds their lineage or education.

Here is a pastoral poem that illustrates these qualities: "The Passionate Shepherd to his Love," written by the poet, playwright, and spy Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593). Notice how the speaker in the poem describes life in the country, how he views rural existence as a wonderful, luscious way to spend one’s time:

                        Come live with me and be my Love,
                        And we will all the pleasures prove
                        That hills and valleys, dale and field,
                        And all the craggy mountains yield
                        There will we sit upon the rocks
                        And see the shepherds feed their flocks,
                        By shallow rivers, to whose falls
                        Melodious birds sing madrigals.
                        And I will make thee beds of roses
                        And a thousand fragrant posies, 
                        A cap of flowers, and a kirtle [a woman’s gown]
                        Embroidered all with leaves of myrtle;
                        A gown made of the finest wool 
                        Which from our pretty lambs we pull; 
                        Fair lined slippers for the cold, 
                        With buckles of the purest gold; 
                        A belt of straw and ivy buds,  
                        With coral clasps and amber studs:  
                        And if these pleasures may thee move,  
                        Come live with me and be my love. 
                        The shepherds’ swains shall dance and sing          [country youths] 
                        For thy delight each May morning:  
                        If these delights thy mind may move,  
                        Then live with me and be my love.

Pastoral poems first appeared in English in the early 1500s. An incredibly popular pastoral poem, Edmund Spenser’s The Shepheardes Calendar, was published in 1579, establishing the genre in poetry and building a basis for the popularity of the pastoral play. The Shepheardes Calendar was written in dialect and consisted of twelve sections, one for each month of the year. Here is a link to a PDF of the poem, if you’d like to read it.

The Pastoral as Drama

It may be difficult for us to imagine how popular these pastoral romances, poems, and plays were with almost everyone in Shakespeare’s time. But popular, they were, indeed. Pastoral dramas first appeared in Renaissance Italy, according to scholar J. E. Congleton, with Agostino de’Beccari’s Il Sacrificio (1554) leading to "the heyday of pastoral drama in Italy during the last quarter of the 16th century."

Here’s an indicator of how successful these plays were, and not just in Italy: In 1545 the Italian architect Sebastiano Serlio (1475-c.1554) published a volume of woodcuts in Paris which included scenic designs as part of a series books about perspective drawing. In his Second Book of Perspective he includes a illustration of a stage set for tragedies, of a set for comedies, and another one for pastorals. The pastoral was produced with enough regularity that Serlio thought it necessary to provide a model scenic design for his readers, people who would be designing perspective sets for plays.

The point is this: by 1600, the time we think Shakespeare wrote As You Like It, the pastoral play was established on the stages of Europe and England and would continue in popularity into the seventeenth century. Some of the notable English pastoral plays include Ben Jonson’s The Sad Shepherd (1637), Sir Philip Sidney’ The Lady of May (1598) and John Fletcher’s The Faithful Shepherdess (1608-9).

Playing With and Using the Characteristics of the Pastoral Drama

In her study of Shakespeare’s plays, Shakespeare After All, Professor Marjorie Garber notes the characteristics of the pastoral drama and how Shakespeare employed these features in his comedy. The pastoral, she notes, "enjoyed a tremendous vogue in Elizabethan England … [and they] were a favorite with audiences and readers, high and low on the social scale." In pastoral narratives, city dwellers retreat to the countryside, which turns into a "fantasy paradise" where shepherds spend their time composing poems to their sweethearts. "From its earliest appearance," writes Garber, "pastoral had been used as a mode of social critique: under the guise of merely talking about shepherds, poets could write critical and satirical accounts of government, politics, and religion." Recognizable conventions include: shepherds who are also poets, writing poems and playing upon pipes; the good old shepherd, poor but eager to give hospitality to strangers and to those in need; the "savage" man or men who lacked courtly upbringing but possessed an innate gentleness and gentility…; the beautiful shepherdess; the pastoral elegy, mourning the death of a shepherd or shepherdess who was often also a poet; the pastoral debate, on topics like nature versus nurture, or country versus city, a leisurely rhetorical break from the action in which shepherds discourse learnedly with one another about these philosophical topics. These conventions of genre, and others, too, were so well known to Shakespeare’s audience (as the conventions of the Western are to modern audiences) that the playwright could use, mock, and tease them with the confident expectation that his point would quickly be understood. (439)

Shakespeare makes use of almost all of these conventions in As You Like It, a play he adapted, by the way, from pastoral romance Rosalynd, written by Thomas Lodge and published in 1590. (Shakespeare often uses and adapts other sources for his plays; he takes others’ plots and characters and turns them into quite something else.) Let’s look at Garber’s list of the characteristics of the pastoral and see how Shakespeare employs them:

  1. Shepherds are poets. In fact, notes Garber elsewhere in her essay, "the most common of all activities of pastoral shepherds in English Renaissance literature was the writing of poetry." Shakespeare plays with this convention by having the love-struck Orlando write poems—lots and lots of them—about his infatuation with Rosalind. Shakespeare would have created an ideal pastoral convention, except that Orlando’s poems are awful. Everyone hates them (except Orlando), and Rosalind is embarrassed by her friends reading them aloud.
  2. An old shepherd, although poor, welcomes strangers to the countryside. And Corinne (Corin in Shakespeare’s text), the old shepherdess, does indeed welcome the disguised Rosalind and Celia.
  3. Among the characters in the pastoral is a man who "lacks courtly upbringing," yet possesses "an innate sense of gentleness and gentility." Orlando has those qualities: he literally begins the play complaining how is sister has not "bred him well," and treats him worse than the horses on the estate. He lacks a gentleman’s education, despite being a worthy son of a dead father. But Orlando is a "natural" gentleman, one who will be trained in manners and the protocols of love in the forest of Arden by the youth Ganymede.
  4. There a several beautiful shepherdesses in As You Like It, chief among them Rosalind, Celia, and Audrey.
  5. There is an elegy—a poetic lament for a dead person—in As You Like It, but it is spoken by Jaques, over the body of a dead deer—an instance of Shakespeare having fun with the pastoral form.
  6. Also, there are numerous "pastoral debates" in the play, but they are not especially wise, although they are witty: There are debates among Orlando, Touchstone, Jaques, Corinne, Rosalind, Peter, and Celia, and they often serve no purpose but to entertain the characters and the audience of the play. "Be merry," Celia tells Rosalind in the second scene of the play, and Rosalind answers,"From henceforth I will, coz [cousin], and devise sports. Let me see; what think you of falling in love?" And thus begins the first debate in the play. It’s a shortened bit, interrupted by Touchstone’s arrival, but it gives us a sense of the way people in Renaissance England passed the time. They delighted in discussing a set theme. To "devise a sport" meant to think up a topic which might be discussed, to pass the time in an amusing way.

As Garber notes, Shakespeare’s audience was very familiar with the above conventions, and the playwright used that familiarity both to construct his play and to have fun with the established practice. He utilizes the strengths of the form to reveal the baser nature of court life and politics in the middle of so-called educated society, and debunks the notion of country life being nothing but poetry and love outside the city walls. Silvius is constantly humiliated and spurned as he tries to court Peter (Phoebe). And Corinne is not a "poor shepherdess" in the poetic sense: no, Shakespeare gives her speeches that reveal how difficult it is to be impoverished. Corinne would like to help the hungry and tired Celia (disguised as Aliena), but she cannot offer much in that way: "I … wish, for her sake more than for mine own, / My fortunes were more able to relieve her; / But I am shepherdess to another one / And do not shear the fleeces that I graze: / My mistress is of churlish disposition / And little recks [takes no care] to find the way to heaven / By doing deeds of hospitality." Life in the country, as we see from Corinne’s speech, can be a hard life.

When Mel Brooks created Blazing Saddles, he followed the conventions of the Western, while having a good time sending up those same conventions. In doing so, Brooks was following in the steps of Shakespeare, who both utilized and satirized the pastoral when he created his comedy As You Like It.

Here are some online sources related to the pastoral and As You Like It:

The Humors

Humourism is an ancient medical theory, first adopted by Greek and Roman physicians and philosophers about the makeup and workings of the human body. This idea of how the body worked dominated thinking until modern medical research in the 19th Century. The theory maintained that the body contains four liquids, called humours, which control the body and human behavior. When the four humours were in balance inside the body, a person was in generally good health. It was when an imbalance occurred in the humours that sickness, deficiency and disability or aberrant behavior occurred.

The four humours were phlegm, blood, black bile and yellow bile. And they have a specific link to temperament in ancient medicine. Someone who was amorous, hopeful or brave was considered to be sanguine, a disposition caused by an influx of blood. And an influx in the three other humours also created distinct dispositions. Too much yellow bile made one choleric, as noticed by one being prone to anger, ill-tempered or violent. Too much black bile made one melancholic, marked by despondence, sadness, sleeplessness, irritability and listlessness. Finally, too much phlegm made one phlegmatic. A phlegmatic person was usually calm, even-tempered and stoic.

An imbalance in the humours could be caused by any number of things. Feeling an emotion too strongly could lead to a build up of one humour. Excess or lack of physical activity could alter the balance of the humours in the body. Even dietary habits contributed to the notion of the balance of humours in the human body, as different foods were of a certain humoural natures (mutton for instance, was considered to be very highly choleric).

Remedies for sickness or misbehavior included leeches and bloodletting, which were used to drain the body of excess fluids that had built up in a person and caused an imbalance in that person. The belief in humours was so fundamental and basic, in fact, that many believed that a severe enough lack in any of the four humours would lead to death.

While we likely view this hydraulic theory of health as quaint and sometimes amusing, it is important to remember that — for both physicians and patients — the theory of humours described the way the body really worked. People took the existence of the humours and their effects on life for granted. If someone wanted to be cured of a disease or disorder, they would change their diet (in order to increase the quantity of a healthy humour) or, one is sorry to note, submit to being bled, which was supposed to release an excess of the offending humour and bring the body and spirit back into a healthy balance. Of course, the loss of blood often weakened the body, to serious effect. In December 1799, for example, George Washington caught acute laryngitis while riding through the snow at Mount Vernon. A believer in bloodletting, Washington ordered his doctors to bleed him back to health. Over a period of ten hours on December 14, 1799, his doctors drew 124 ounces of blood from Washington, and medical writers have since suggested that the loss of more than half his blood volume led to profound hypotension and shock, which resulted in the death of the first President. (V. V. Vadakan. "The Asphyxiating and Exsanguinating Death of President George Washington." Permanente Journal. 8:2 (2004))

In As You Like It, as in many of Shakespeare’s plays, the humours can provide some explanation or insight into the behavior of certain characters. In As You Like It, Jaques is frequently considered melancholy by others. Using the idea of the humours, one can find insight into Jaques’s temperament, its cause and the potential cure for what ails him. As a contemporary audience, we may read As You Like It and wonder, "What’s Jaques’ problem?" or "Why’s he being like that?" To an Elizabethan theatergoer that question would never even pop into their mind. They would recognize the signs of a melancholic disposition instantly and would need no explanation about his behavior.

Scenic Design From the Heart
An Interview with Hyunsuk Shin

Carle: Where are you from?
Hyunsuk Shin: A small town in the southern part of South Korea.

C: When did you first come to America?
H: 1997, to learn English, then I graduated from the University of Utah. Then I returned to Korea for five or six years, and then came back here for the MFA.

C: Why did you originally come to America?
H: To study set design. I think that theatre is really strong in the U.S.A., but at the time, 10 years ago, there weren’t a lot of theatre programs in major universities.

C: What were you doing in Korea between Utah and Indiana?
H: Actually I studied fine art first in Korea, but while I was studying fine art I really wanted to work in theatre. So I did some research, but never found a school with a really good theatre program. So I talked to my professor and said I love fine art but I really want to study theatre and set design. And we have theatre programs in Korea, but they’re really at a beginner level, so if you want to study set design you should go to the U.S. And he really helped me and after I finished by degree in Korea, I came to the U.S. to study set design.

C: When you return to Korea, do you work?
H: I had an internship last year. I had a friend who was working in film and I came on and did an internship with them.

C: Was that design work?
H: It was design work, mostly in set decoration.

C: In Korea do you mainly do film, or do you do theatre as well?
H: We don’t have a lot of theatre in Korea, so I will usually work in film, but I do some theatre work if I have time. But I don’t make money doing theatre work in Korea, it’s more I just help them with whatever they need.

C: As You Like It is your thesis design, so has the process been different from previous designs?
H: I tried to do it differently. I think so yes, I tried to use a little different style of research.

Transformation from half-cutting human heart to a forest/columns Transformation from half-cutting human heart to a forest/columns Transformation from half-cutting human heart to a forest/columns Transformation from half-cutting human heart to a forest/columns Transformation from half-cutting human heart to a forest/columns Transformation from half-cutting human heart to a forest/columns

C: Where did the design for As You Like It come from?
H: As You Like It is kind of like a comedy, but it is also a love story. So I started from a human heart. From the image of a real human heart. Then the next step, I made a simplified version of the human heart, and then from the image of the heart I generated trees based on the human heart. A lot of As You Like It happens in the forest, so I tried to design trees based on the human heart. If you love somebody, it comes from your heart, not from your head, and so I wanted to make the forest based on the heart. Then I found some images of the heart cut in half. So I took these graphics of the inside of the heart, and to me they really looked like a forest, so I made some sketches from these research images. And then I simplified them. We cannot put all the literal details in theatre, so I tried to make it simplified. And so I straightened out the lines and just simplified the design. Then I took this basic design and put in the Halls and the hills became platforms and the tree trunk became columns and the leaves became made out of straight lines. And the leaves can be flown out for the court scenes. So the set is a really simple set, but it has a lot of texture. So the whole design came from a very basic idea, the real human heart.

C: How did Fontaine’s vision of the play affect the design?
H: I love Fontaine’s work because she already has some ideas, but she doesn’t come to me and tell me what she wants, she asks me first what my ideas are. And even though she already has some ideas she asked me which way I wanted to go first. So I shared with her some of my literal human heart ideas, and shared some of my personal experiences with love. Then I came back to her in the next meeting with some of the research images and she said, "Where did this design come from?" and I showed her the images and told her I wanted to find lines from the human heart and she didn’t understand: "So you want to find lines from the human heart? How do you find lines in the human heart?" And at first it was hard to explain to her, but I went through it in a lot of detail and said, "This is where I got this line, and this line becomes this one." And I took all these lines from the human heart and made them into lines for my set. And Fontaine said "Huh, that’s really different." So it was really fun, and so she asked me how I got to the design, and after I explained it to her, she accepted everything. She didn’t say "I want this, I want this, and I want this," she just accepted my design from the beginning of the process. Sometimes it’s really easy for the director to say, "I want this." And I can give it to them, but when you have a director that just wants to know what you are thinking, it’s totally different. And so for this I am very thankful to Fontaine. Because I put a lot of my imagination in this design; and when I first presented this human heart idea, I was really hesitant. I was not sure when I told her about it if she would accept it or not because my designs sometimes come from really weird things. But she totally accepted it and totally understood. So I am really happy with the design. It is really simple, but at the same time really strong I think.

C: Is the color palette also comingfrom the human heart?
H: The color palette has changed a little bit, because at first the palette was really dark. But then I decided I wanted to put a lot of colors on the set. Because, this is kind of like a fantasy of love, you know? And people have really different experiences with love. Because everyone’s heart, you know, is essentially the same, they’re different sizes, but other than that they’re pretty much the same. But this is about love, and especially in Shakespeare’s comedies, everyone’s experience with love is different. And because everyone’s love is different the colors needed to be really different. So later I added a lot more different colors. I started with a lot of earthy colors, but I had doubts as to whether it really worked for Fontaine and me. I thought maybe it was too earthy. And then I talked to Fontaine, and she said to me, "Suk, how about we take out some of the earth tones." And I really agreed with her and ended up adding a lot of colors. I wanted to put in every different color of love. Because this is theatre, and emotionally, every love is different; and so the colors of love will be different. So your love is red and my love is going to be pink, you know what I mean? So I added a lot of colors later, and it works really well and Fontaine likes it. And also it’s a comedy, so it works really well I think.

Transformation from half-cutting human heart to a forest/columns Transformation from half-cutting human heart to a forest/columns Transformation from half-cutting human heart to a forest/columns Transformation from half-cutting human heart to a forest/columns Transformation from half-cutting human heart to a forest/columns Transformation from half-cutting human heart to a forest/columns

C: How did the others designers influence the set designer?
H: I think the costume and set designs work together really well. I had all these colors, so I asked the costume designer to stop by the shop to look at paint samples. I was really worried because I had all these colors and I didn’t know how they were going to work with the costume design. But every time when she stopped by to look at the colors, they were already in the costume design. So it ended up really matching well. So I think the costumes are really going to be beautiful on the set.

C: In As You Like It a big deal is made about the difference between the forest and the city. You have this grid of leaves that flies in and out. Is that the only way the set shows that difference?
H: Yes, because I wanted to keep it really simple, but with a really big impact. One of the first things Fontaine told we was, "Suk, I really want to have big changes between the court and the forest." And at the time I already had the concept for the trees and columns. So I had to figure out how I could make the audience’s eyes see the difference. So I already had the basic set, so I thought, "what is the biggest difference between the court and the forest." And I thought of the leaves in the forest. And so when I was thinking how I could keep the very simple set but have a big difference between the two settings, I wanted something that could fly in and out. So the leaves became the major element for making that big change. And we ended up changing the material we used to make the leaves to masonite so it would have a bigger impact than the materials we were going to use. So by making the leaves the way we did they had a made a bigger impact on the set and made the change bigger. If it had been thinner, the audience’s eyes may not have caught it. So even though it’s really simple, there’s a big difference between the court and the forest.

C: So you will be leaving IU at the end of the year. Will you be returning to Korea?
H: I think I am going to stay here for a while, and then return to Korea, but not right after IU.

C: Do you have plans for what you will do after you finish here?
H: I want to work in theatre and do some film too. Film and theatre are totally different. To me, theatre is more artistic impressions, and I am able to put all my artistic skill into the theatre but not in film. Film is much better money, but I am able to put much more emotion into theatre, I am able to put more of myself into it. So because of that I want to stay in the US for a little while after I graduate, to get more experience in the theatre. And if I have a chance, at the same time, to work in TV or film, I’d like to do that too. And I consider myself really lucky to be in America. Because I have friends in Korea who really want to work in theatre or film, but they don’t have a chance to work in those areas. But I have been able to come here and work and study in the theatre with all these theatre people, and I consider myself very lucky. So I really do want to stay here and work in theatre for a little longer, but after a few years I think I will return to Korea. But I really want to work in both places.

C: Is there a specific place where you want to go?
H: I think I really want to go to California, to L.A., but I want to go to Japan as well. Because I’ve become really aware of Asian theatre. I am Asian, but when I lived in Korea, I wasn’t that interested in Asian theatre. I almost ignored it. But when I came here and studied here, and took theatre history classes, I really began to feel that I should be working in Asian theatre. I felt that I cannot ignore where I came from. So my perspective has been changed a little bit.

Orlando and Rosalind

Costume Design

As a designer, I try to find a link into the world of my characters--something to inspire and launch the design. When I think of Shakespeare’s Rosalind, of her playfulness, strength and sense of humour, I am reminded of Katherine Hepburn.

This was one of the main inspirations for the costume design. Starting with her, I researched 1940s fashion and used the lines and silhouette of that period to give the design structure. This is a contemporary Shakespeare, with the characters in current clothing, but there are little 1940s details and allusions in mostly the court scenes and the final wedding scene.

The court is very structured in its dress code. Golds, tans, and creams make up most of the palette. the only exceptions are Rosalind, Celia and Orlando. They have both a different softness in silhouette and sense of color.

Once the characters are in the forest, there is more color, pattern, and variety in the clothing. The foresters are layered and the shepherds slightly simplified. Comfort for the actors was important and we played with the manipulation of their costumes. The foresters are much more of an eclectic style than the tailored and coordinated courtiers.

Jennifer Sheshko, Costume Designer
As You Like It

Rosalind Rosalind/Ganymede Rosalind Amiens Celia Celia/Aliena Orlando Foresters Foresters Jaques Olivia Silvius Touchstone