« VorigeDoorgaan »
You, cousin; Within these two days if that thou be'st found So near our publick court as twenty miles, Thou diest for it.
Act i. Sc. 3.
As You Like Jt.
DR. GREY and Mr. Upton asserted that this Play was certainly borrowed from the Coke's Tale of Gamelyn, printed in Urry's Chaucer, but it is hardly likely that Shakspeare saw that in manuscript, and there is a more obvious source from whence he derived his plot, viz. the pastoral romance of 'Rosalynde, or Euphues' Golden Legacy,' by Thomas Lodge, first printed in 1590. From this he has sketched his principal characters, and constructed his plot; but those admirable beings, the melancholy Jaques, the witty Touchstone, and his Audrey, are of the poet's own creation. Lodge's novel is one of those tiresome (I had almost said unnatural) pastoral romances, of which the Euphues of Lyly and the Arcadia of Sidney were also popular examples: it has, however, the redeeming merit of some very beautiful verses interspered*, and the circumstance of its having
* The following beautiful Stanzas are part of what is called · Rosalynd's Madrigal,' and are not unworthy of a place even in a page devoted to Shakspeare:
Love in my bosom like a bee
Doth suck his sweet:
Now with his feet.
Ah, wanton, will ye?
led to the formation of this exquisite pastoral drama, is enough to make us withhold our assent to Steevens's splenetic censure of it as 'worthless.'
Touched by the magic wand of the enchanter, the dull and endless prosing of the novelist is transformed into an interesting and lively drama. The forest of Arden converted into a real Arcadia of the golden age. • The highly sketched figures pass along in the most diversified succession ; we see always the shady dark-green landscape in the back ground, and breathe in imagination the fresh air of the forest. The hours are here measured by no clocks, no regulated recurrence of duty or toil; they flow on unnumbered in voluntary occupation or fanciful idleness.-One throws himself down under the shade of melancholy boughs' and indulges in reflections on the changes of fortune, the falsehood of the world, and the self-created torments of social life: others make the woods resound with social and festive songs, to the accompaniment of their horns. Selfishness, envy, and ambition, have been left in the city behind them; of all the human passions, love alone has found an entrance into this silvan scene, where it dictates the same language to the simple shepherd, and the chivalrous youth, who hangs his loveditty to a tree *?'
And this their life, exempt from public haunts,
And if I sleep, then percheth he
With pretty flight;
The livelong night.
How exquisitely is the character of Rosalind conceived, what liveliness and sportive gaiety, combined with the most natural and affectionate tenderness, the reader is as much in love with her as Orlando, and wonders not at Phebe's sudden passion for her disguised when as Ganymede; or Celia's constant friendship. Touchstone is indeed a rare fellow: he uses his folly as a stalking-horse, and under the presentation of that, he shoots his wit:' his courtship of Audrey, his lecture to Corin, his defence of cuckolds, and his burlesque upon the duello' of the age, are all most exquisite fooling.' It has been remarked, that there are few of Shakspeare's plays which contain so many passages that are quoted and remembered, and phrases that have become in a manner proverbial. To enumerate them would be to mention every scene in the play. And I must no longer detain the reader from this most delightful of Shakspeare's comedies.
Malone places the composition of this play in 1599. There is no edition known previous to that in the folio of 1623. But it appears among the miscellaneous entries of prohibited pieces in the Stationers' books, without any certain date.