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Reading Orlando historically: vagrancy, forest, and vestry values in Shakespeare's As You Like It.

IN pursuing the original meaning(s) of As You Like It--recuperating the drama as they liked it--we should seek, by conventional imperative, the historicities of the local level.
Ros. Then shall we be news-crammed.
Celia. All the better; we shall be the more marketable.

(1.2.89-90) (1)

Yet we should also, less conventionally, search within the text for discernible structural implications to the truism that drama is crucially incomplete in its written form. Having recognized, that is, that this play of 1599 is responsive to conditions and events specific to the late 1590s, we should investigate it also, qua script, as designed for a self-completionary meaning achieved through interactive performance before a specific and generically familiar target audience, at the new Globe. It will be the contention of this paper that, when approached through this dual methodology--grasped in its topicality, and scrutinized for constructed performance latencies--As You Like It becomes discernibly a protest play; and that its indictments of an emergent ideology unfold substantially through surprise operations upon the figure of its supposedly lovable young hero, Orlando, which work at the level of stagecraft. Literary criticism has not always taken the drama's political measure, sunnily asserting, for instance, as recently as the 2005 Penguin edition that from the moment it escapes the world of Duke Frederick, "all the rest of the play is one long celebration of benign comic freedom"; (2) or even concluding that Shakespeare's Arden "seems to have only one definitive attribute: an exclusion of contemporary reality." (3) Yet As You Like It, with its cast of malnourished cottager, bankrupt gentleman, starving vagrants, scathing malcontent, and assorted political refugees, takes pains to foreground anti-Arcadian perspectives, evoke political ills, and countervaluate harsh contemporary attitudes. Sparkling as the play often is, its tonal range and nuances, as well as its targets of hilarious political mockery, have yet to be fully identified. This essay will accordingly seek to demonstrate the play's responsiveness, at both textual and performance levels, to two particular historical conditions, each escalating at the fin de siecle under pressure of fresh legislation and royal proclamation: the demonization of vagrancy, and the intensification of what we might dub vestry values. And in examining (for reasons of length) the presentation mainly of Orlando, it will uncover a number of political "performance secrets," as we might term them: mechanisms that, seeking to outflank mounting censorship pressures, could activate on the stage transformative dimensions of meaning preserved invisible on the page.

In the opening of act 4, Rosalind, debating Jaques, refers suggestively to those who "betray themselves to every modern censure" (4.1.6). Her words point to a climate of indictment Assuring the national culture in the 1590s; and in so doing, they pinpoint for us a missing link, I suggest, in literary criticism's connection between As You Like It and that "freedom" of medieval carnival values which the play is often noted to celebrate. For there is more to this transmission than a broad matter of folk festivity as generally bequeathed to London's new professional theaters (Barber), or of the state continuing to license a temporary, politically cathartic revolt by anarchic bodily values (the Bakhtin school), let alone of an undiscriminating conflation of carnival and popular culture with riots and crime (Richard Wilson). (4) Though there is some truth in all these models, the connection between As You Like It and carnival values must also be grasped at the level of political topicality, as the drama's response to a nationwide institutional development: the authoritarian alliance of the state church with divisive parish oligarchies--a union legislatively empowered, distinctively repressive, and expressed above all in an intensifying campaign to exalt local hegemonies by extirpating folk revels. Blessed by the crown, the new authoritarianism of local government with its suppressive agenda grew notably harsher through the 1590s, to the point of detonating explosions of protest from parliament itself, shortly before this play was written, in 1598. Critical to As You Like It, and hitherto unrecognized in studies of the drama, is the absolute centrality of this hardening prosecutorial climate driven by oligarchic vestries.

Certain features of this pattern were not new. Central government's alliance with local officers had been long-standing in Tudor England. Crackdowns on the poor were routine in periods of economic distress, suppressing alehouse keeping, promiscuity, and traditional parish revels. Reformation zeal had long stigmatized calendary festivals as pagan and was phasing out community drama as papist. Yet by the end of the century, a new level of censoriousness had developed, born of a now extraordinarily tight embrace between central authority and local elites. Officers in town and village were flooded with new directives (for road maintenance, provision of militia weapons, regulation and relief of the poor), and became proportionately more highly empowered by the late Elizabethan state. "Having to a very large extent functioned outside the state system," observes Steve Hindle, "the parish now changed its character, becoming to an unprecedented extent a local expression of state authority." (5) Simultaneously, parish self-representation had disengaged itself from a broad-based local franchise to establish the self-perpetuating rule of elite "select vestries." As Christopher Hill long ago noted, "From the mid-sixteenth century we find groups of richer parishioners formally agreeing to exclude 'the rest of the common people', although not the leading families of the parish, who would be consulted on important matters even if not members of the vestry ... Select vestries from about 1590 onwards aspired to have their authority confirmed by a faculty from the bishop. They appealed to the bishops' dislike of democracy, against the 'great confusion' which would result 'if the whole parish should be electors' ... and 'excite the ruder sort to extreme liberty.'" (6) This late sixteenth-century secession of the prosperous notables of town and village from the community at large generated a new severity of class-control: an almost adversarial, policing relation to social inferiors, aggressively seeking to enforce, as a reformation of manners, substantially "Puritan" values of industrious abstinence and righteous sobriety.

There thus emerged in early modern England a distinctively postmedieval structure of feeling, whose ingrained Victorian familiarity perhaps disguises its emergence in the sixteenth century: the "bourgeois" attachment of snobbery not to wealth or to rank but to staid civic respectability. These vestry values, as we shall call them, imposed on community by the bureaucratic regimentation of reforming oligarchies, established a monied authoritarian primness, a new snobbery of sanctimonious repressiveness, that rejoiced in scapegoating the poor and prohibiting their folk celebrations. The old feastings, ales, and merry-makings had comprised "shared recreational activity," expressing "communitarian sentiments" (7) and fostering "a strong sense of neighborly identity": (8) one in which the poor had had their rightful place. But now, in the name of public order, anything perceived as popular disorder, scandalizing the godly, was to be extinguished: a project pointedly extending to festal pastime.

The result was a clash of cultures, fought out in village and parish across late Elizabethan England, in bitter local wars over civic control and the mores of Christian neighborhood, that escalated through the 1590s and would reach its fiercest point in the first decade of the seventeenth century. "Swearing, tippling, sexual irregularities, 'night walking', absence from church, feasting and merry-making, and general idleness: these were the common targets of reformers everywhere." (9) Thus clergy fulminated that after Sabbath revels of bearbaiting, dancing, and drunkenness, "men could not keep their servants from lying out of their houses the same Sabbath day at night." (10) The curate of Winsley in Wiltshire, infuriated by midsummer feasting, thundered in 1602 "that all women and maids that were singers and dancers were whores, and as many as did look upon them no better than they." "The phallic maypole," notes Hill, "was for the rural lower class almost a symbol of independence of their betters": so that opposition to the strict rule of city fathers might express itself in the erection of maypoles and playing of May games (e.g., Lincoln 1584-85). At Shrewsbury in 1588 prohibition of the maypole saw protestors jailed. (11)

Late Elizabethan class conflict thus pitched "emergent ideology" against "residual" through rival ideals of community. (12) Feudalism's superstructure had promoted, in David Underdown's words, "the traditional concept of the harmonious, vertically integrated society," whose bonds of paternalism and good neighbourliness were expressed in "familiar religious and communal rituals": a scheme rebuffed by the vestrymen's emergent ideology, with its accent upon "the moral and cultural distinctions which marked them off from their poorer, less disciplined neighbours." (13) Ian Archer writes similarly of the new oligarchic values being imposed in London: "the expression of the social bond [as] a much more hierarchically articulated one than the older practices of commensality among neighbors," the emergent model emphasizing "the extraction of deference in return for patronage, in particular through the exercise of poor relief." (14) The 1590s, argues Peter Clark, "unstopped a cascade of internal community vendettas ... the new machinery of the poor law allowed parish busy-bodies to victimise any poorer villager whose face they happened to dislike." (15) In Underdown's summative words, "Whether initiated by county JPs or borough corporations, by village notables or reforming ministers, the campaign against popular festivals was almost invariably divisive. In that campaign Puritans naturally took a leading part. Puritan insistence on the distinction between the elect and the reprobate made the idea of all-inclusive parish harmony unrealizable ... Examples of urban conflict can be culled from every part of England." (16)

Church ales--festivals of wassailing (or pledging one's neighbors) used to raise money to pay the parish clerk and support the parish poor--were becoming replaced by the fun-free cash demands of parish rating. In Somerset, Wiltshire, Worcester, Berkshire, Devon, and other cloth-counties, we find church ales prohibited from the 1590s on grounds of order: a suppression fomenting bitter county disputes, and even fistfights in church. (17) Zachary Some, of Sandon in Essex, reviled his parson in 1592 as "a prattling fool, for preaching against drunkenness," and hurled hassocks at the sexton. (18) The power of churchwardens, moreover, was now escalating. The churchwarden, as Eric Carlson records, had thirteenth-century origins, but his duties were standardized under the Tudors as the upkeep of church property and valuables. (19) It was important that he be a man of some prosperity, as he would have personally to outlay expenses in advance; and from the 1580s on, his social status rose further, as more gentry, moved by a "desire to enforce their own social attitudes," held the office. (20) Elected in church after evensong, the churchwarden was powerful as the crucial arbiter of fluctuating social status in the parish: for nearly everywhere it was he who allocated seating positions in the church, pinpointing the hierarchic location of each member of the congregation. Those who paid the highest church rates ranked supreme; but with local fortunes rising and falling, accusations of bias and favoritism grew commonplace. (21) Parish snobbery's Master of Ceremony, all too often deference was his exaction and abasement his metier.

For the churchwarden's duties extended to breaking into alehouses to haul off roisterers to church, and presenting moral offenders to the ecclesiastical courts. It thus lay with him to report and prosecute the culture of revelry--men and women caught drinking, dancing, fornicating, even harboring pregnant women. (22) And it was upon the state's elevation of these formidable powers of suppression and chastisement to a yet higher level that the counter-cultural riposte of As You Like It was written: for by act of the 1598 parliament, churchwardens were made also Overseers of the Poor. As such, they now, universally, assessed their fellows for the poor rate, and placed paupers and their children in work. Classifying the poor as deserving or undeserving, they enjoyed discretionary powers to supplement--or otherwise--the income of workers paid too little to survive: a brutally substantial number. For as Paul Slack has noted, records in Essex in 1598-99, for instance, show that twenty per cent of those in work were "not able to maintain themselves and their charge by their labour." (23) The most recent book-length study of poor law legislation, Steve Hindle's On the Parish, reveals that Elizabethan statutes did not in themselves confer entitlement on the poor: though about 20 percent of the early modern population were in need, only about 5 percent received relief, and this was mainly through granting such makeshifts as rights of pasturage, gleaning, and fuel gathering, not through financial payment. Parish officers, Hindle insists, "negotiated" relief with the paupers--making eligibility depend upon criteria of social respectability such as sobriety, deference, and church attendance. (24) "Vestries are found removing disorderly pensioners from their almshouses or temporarily depriving them of poor relief in hope of 'amendment' of their behaviour." (25) Furthermore, the same parliament now granted powers of summary justice to constables. In consequence, as has long been noted, parish officers--self-appointing vestrymen "recruited almost exclusively from the upper stratum of village society" (26)--now came to use poor relief as a means of social control. The "urban oligarchs and village notables who dominated local government" had "the authority to police their inferiors almost at will." (27)

The campaign against folk revelry utilized church courts: another institution that had become explosively controversial by the late 1590s. Over two hundred and fifty of these existed in Shakespeare's day, and to these "bawdy courts" men and women might be taken not only for failure to attend church regularly or pay the poor rate but for drunkenness, swearing, ribaldry, whoring, "wickedness of life" or defending allegedly "popish" ways. "Mean persons," it was complained in parliament in 1598, had to appear in these "for small causes" whilst there was "a toleration of offences in great persons" (266). The church, conversely, was turning a handsome profit from what was increasingly viewed as a scam. Such was public anger that even parliament expressed outrage, proposing in 1598 "a roving commission on ecclesiastical abuses," only to see it suppressed by royal intervention as encroaching on crown prerogative. "An extensive literature of denigration [emerged] in which the church courts were characterised as oppressive, unjust, corrupt and inefficient." (28)

When As You Like It was written, then, a counter-traditionalist order of disciplinary vestry values that was tightening a noose round the neck of popular culture was receiving fresh support and consolidation from state and church, despite widespread protest. Abetting through select vestries the interests of a disenfranchising, newly domineering parish elite; sermonizing upon an industrious and killjoy godliness; suppressing church ales; prosecuting merrymakers and calendar festivity through church courts; functioning through churchwardens to arbitrate parish status and regiment the desperate poor: by 1599 a kind of usurping cultural totalitarianism was being clamped in place and contentiously policed--the snobbish new authoritarianism of "every modern censure" (4.1.6).

"Hot and rebellious liquors in my blood" (2.4.49): As You Like It

By contrast, "the place of the stage" as recent criticism has shown, was in "the margins of the city," where "forms of moral incontinence and pollution were granted license to exist." In the Liberties, "license shades into licentiousness without even the trace of a seam." (29) The topographically mediated impetus to transgressive autonomy of official culture suggests a framing "politics of the playhouse" that conditioned reception of any individual play; so that criticism needs, as Jean E. Howard suggests, "to take account of the potential consonance or conflict between the ideological import of a drama and of the material conditions of its production." (30) In the closed-off, licensed other world of the Globe playhouse, its appetitive hubbub placed among brothels and close to a bearbaiting house, its pleasures sequestered by the bought privacy of forty-two-foot high walls, wherein alcohol was on sale and whores swaggered their allure, there was no raising of a curtain or dimming of lights to subdue the boisterous audience mood as Elizabethan plays began. It is into the midst, therefore, of exuberant carnival forces that the haughty young gentleman walks who opens As You Like It; and this impeccably dressed figure, "point-device in [his] accoutrements, as loving [himself] than seeming the lover of any other" (3.2.372-74), commences with a familiar torrent of class snobbery. He is, he insists, through to his exit near the end of the first scene, a "gentleman of birth." He seeks "Gentleman-like qualities," and "exercises as may become a gentleman" (69, 72). He invokes his "gentle condition of blood" (45), and his quarrel with his brother is that he "mines my gentility with my education." He aspires, he says, to "good education"--hardly an exciting prospect in the carnival world, as Love's Labour's Lost underlines--and he laments being "marred with idleness." Since the rebuke of 'idleness' was a staple invective of anti-theatrical discourse, the term sets him further at odds with audience values, and the high-minded disgust may have been received as auditorium insult. (Contrast the celebration of idleness elsewhere in the drama: Charles on the banished Duke's men who, like Robin Hood's men "fleet the time carelessly as they did in the golden world," 1.1.118; and Amiens's song praising pastoral otium "Under the greenwood tree," 2.5.1-9.) For Orlando is correspondingly abusive of the lower classes. "You have trained me like a peasant," Orlando complains to his elder brother. He must "feed with hinds." "Shall I keep your hogs" he protests (35), as the climax to his lofty scorn.

Most tellingly of all, Orlando is shrill with self-pity because he is not rich enough. He has, he blurts before an audience packed with servants, laborers, apprentices, tradesmen, and ex-soldiers, "but poor a thousand crowns" (2). He insists again on the sum as minuscule at line 73 ("the poor allotery my father left me"). Though no critic seems to have remarked on it, a thousand crowns ([pounds sterling]250) was in fact the approximate equivalent of [pounds sterling]125,000, or around $200,000 in today's currency. (31) The groundlings must have wept for him. In that period, when Orlando pronounced [pounds sterling]250 inadequate to his gentility, an unskilled laborer earned [pounds sterling]7 per year, a schoolteacher only [pounds sterling]20 per annum, and Shakespeare may have paid only [pounds sterling]60 for the second largest house in Stratford. A contemporary playwright of good standing would receive only [pounds sterling]5 for a new drama. To be considered a true gentleman, one needed to spend at least [pounds sterling]60 per year: and at this rate, Orlando was set up for over four years without having to breakfast before noon.

Orlando, it seems clear, and through him, gentlemanly self-pity, are being set up by Shakespeare for what we might call carnival targeting. Adam the hind will not return the class contempt, remaining so sympathetically in ideological complicity with overclass scorn that Orlando confidently includes him in a trick on Oliver: "Go apart, Adam, and thou wilt hear how he will shake me up" (1.1.26-27).

It turns out to be the elder brother who channels at Orlando the latent carnival targeting, initiating a deixis that renders Orlando the butt of audience mockery through very much of the drama. When Oliver crosses the groundling-encircled Globe stage, he asks Orlando in startled tone--as well he might--"Now sir, what make you here?" (italics mine). "Nothing," replies Orlando snobbishly, for he is "not taught to make anything," but is being "marred," "with idleness." As Orlando rails, Oliver responds with horror--and a presumable glance at the thousands of people watching--"Know you where you are, sir?" When Orlando replies in deictic naivety, "O sir, very well: here in your orchard," he must have been met by audience laughter. Yet still Oliver persists, with a gesture perhaps at the groundlings, "Know you before whom, sir?" "Ay, better than him I am before knows me" counters Orlando, in catastrophically haughty deictic ignorance. In a piece of brilliantly scripted stage ambiguity, then, Orlando's ideological posture, defined through his loud class superciliousness, is being punished as misfit through a pattern of unknowing audience interaction. Where other characters, we will see, acknowledge or tease the Globe community, Orlando is apparently unaware of the spectators' (presumably often vocal) existence. He inhabits the drama as a deictic outsider. In a pastoral play, he complains from the outset against being kept "rustically" (7); and, disapproving of the forest as "desert," he will hang tongues on every tree "That civil sayings show" (3.2.113, 116, emphasis mine). In contrast to the Duke's description of the happily sequestered life "exempt from public haunt," Orlando defines himself contrariously as "inland bred" (2.7.97): a phrase evoking, perhaps, the realm across the water from the Globe, beyond the Liberty. He belongs to London city, officialdom's realm, subject to the gentlemanly authority of the Puritan city council.

Orlando, then, is sequestered from us, marooned inside the fiction amid a lapping sea of spectators. In Shakespeare's theatrical targeting of Orlando, the kind of deictic lobotomy that excises his auditorium consciousness, irreparably rendering his vision not strictly sightless but site-less, will become a politically strategic privation.

Yet this stagecraft-punished overweening gentility is but one aspect of a crucially ambiguous and ideologically destabilized Orlando, in whom thwarted pretension to class superiority becomes paradoxically articulated through a discourse that smacks of underclass rebellion. Orlando insists that he is treated like an animal--precisely as were the poor. "Hounds were better fed than servants, and they were sometimes better housed," records historian Keith Thomas. He cites a Stuart commentator who noted masters to care so much more for their dogs than their servants, that "you may see in some men's houses fair and fat dogs to run up and down and men pale and wan to walk feebly." (32) In More's Utopia, Hythlodaeus similarly judges that the poor, who "never stop working like cart-horses," "get so little to eat, and have such a wretched time, that they'd almost be better off if they were carthorses." (33) One of the leaders of the 1596 Oxford Rising held that "servants were so held in and kept like dogs that they would be ready to cut their masters' throats." (34) Accordingly, Orlando is on familiar ground for many in the audience when he complains that his condition at the hands of Oliver "differs not from the stalling of an ox" (10): a perspective that goes some way to explaining Adam's apparent sympathy, as a servant who anticipates how poorly he will be treated "When service should in my old limbs lie lame / And unregarded age in corners thrown" (2.3.41-42). Orlando persists with "His animals on his dunghills are as much bound to him as I" (14-15), and wonders whether he will have to share husks with the hogs (37). His bitter claim that "his horses are bred better" (10-11) is a standard plaint of class resentment: found in Jack Cade (2 Henry VI) who, arraigning Lord Saye, declares "thou oughts't not to let thy horse wear a cloak, when honester men than thou go in their hose and doublets" (47-49).

Orlando's conclusion is likewise politically charged. His spirit, he claims, "begins to mutiny against this servitude. I will no longer endure it" (22-23). He will rebel against what sarcastically he terms "the courtesy of nations"--an angry indictment of social convention that anticipates the explicitly subversive intentions of another wronged younger brother, Edmund in King Lear, who cheerleads groundling mutiny against "the curiosity of nations" (1.2.4). ("Why brand they us / With base? With baseness? Bastardy? Base? Base?" 1.2.9-10.) True to his word, Orlando erupts into violence when insulted (or perhaps struck) by his elder brother, with a deftly immediate success, pinioning Oliver into pain and concession, that must have won a gust of admiration from the crowd. "Wert thou not my brother, I would not take this hand from thy throat until this other had pulled out thy tongue for saying so" (59-61). Yet even here, the offense is to have been termed low-born (villain/villein, 55).

In the context of the populist theater, then, its carnivalesque orientation still close to the surface in the play's opening minutes, Orlando will be received as an arrestingly contrary figure. Alienating in his shrill class contempt, offensive in his whining genteel insistence on the insulting insufficiency of the wealth bequeathed him, comically hapless in his deictic sightlessness, he yet echoes the language of underclass resentment, and embodies the exciting spirit of active resistance: that cocktail of ideological contrarieties can become almost a Molotov cocktail. This Elizabethan Angry Young Man also possesses street-smart combat skills of the kind that might prove very handy in London's back-streets, as he will demonstrate a second time against Charles the wrestler; yet the charismatic masculine potency, we will see, is cross-grained by sermonizing self-obsession, and he will prove for nearly the length of the drama the dupe and doting puppy of overmastering Rosalind. Punished by duping, targeted by comical deictic unknowing-ness, and mocked in the allocation of execrable verse, his sneering hubris is humbled: and the ideologically conflicted Orlando of the play's opening, already destabilized by his ambiguous class position, becomes incorporable into the playhouse's community of revelers.

For Orlando resembles many in Shakespeare's carefully appraised audience, victims of the severest form of primogeniture practiced in Europe, who are thus appropriable by a politically disaffected and skeptical theater. Louis Montrose has aptly noted that, since "Shakespeare's audience must have included a high proportion of gentleborn younger sons" acquiring law at the Inns of Court, as well as large numbers of apprentices and servants, consequently "Youths, younger sons, and all Elizabethan playgoers who felt that Fortune's benefits had been 'mightily misplaced' (2.1.33-34) could identify with Shakespeare's Orlando." (35) Yet Montrose misses the strident negatives in Orlando's early characterization, like almost all critics (a recent editor, for instance, pronounces Orlando "a thoroughly likeable and good-natured young man," and thinks his opening speech on "but poor a thousand crowns," to "establish immediate sympathy for young Orlando"). (36) Conversely, the rare voice of percipient repulsion, trumpeted in Bernard Shaw, discerns only the "safely stupid and totally unobservant young man." (37) But to miss either the supercilious misfit, stuffy fall-guy to carnival values, or the stirring martial mutineer, is to miss the crucial political redirection of Orlando's development from intense ambiguity toward the telos of As You Like It: the play's triumphant incorporation of deflated genteel resistance, the ludic rout of vestry values. (38)

Initially, however, the preponderantly outsider status is reprised in the scene where Orlando and Adam resolve to flee on Adam's savings (2.4.39-62). Announcing to Orlando his brother's murderous intentions, the hitherto near-silent Adam breaks out into fourteen lines of a curiously exclamatory homage to Orlando. Commencing, tellingly, in reiteration of Oliver's opening and deictically fraught question, "Why, what make you here?" (2.3.4, italics mine), Adam continues "Why are you virtuous?" and eventually concludes "Know you not, master, to some kind of men / Their graces serve them but as enemies? / No more do yours. Your virtues, gentle master, / Are sanctified and holy traitors to you." The strong possibility of deixis here, Adam indicating the groundling sea early antagonized by Orlando's hubristic self-pity, looks clinched by Adam's concluding lines:
O what a world is this, when what is comely
Envenoms him that bears it!

(emphasis added; 2.3.14-15)

"This" is a habitual deictic pointer in Shakespeare, and the Globe theater as "the world"--its motto was totus mundus agit histrionem, The entire world moves the actor--would, many critics assert, become a self-referential commonplace. (39) It is frequently taken so where Jaques's "All the world's a stage," 2.7.139, is concerned. It is not commonly read so in this passage, however, even though Adam's melodramatic staccato "This is no place! This house is but a butchery! / Abhor it! Fear it! Do not enter it!" (27-28) would be consonant with the earlier audience estrangement, and produce hilarious targeting. (40) These deictic histrionics are precisely consonant, too, with what follows: for Adam and Orlando now launch into an enthusiastic Puritan sermon traducing carnival joys.

Traditionally construed ahistorically, in terms of noble old man and compassionate youth, the values of this scene in 1599 were wholly different in tone. First, Adam lauds his own "thrifty" lifestyle (39) that made possible his savings. Thrift was of course a cardinal virtue of Puritanism and of vestry values, and by definition antagonistic to the priorities of the pleasure-seeking, theatergoing crowd. (Jaques's speech on the seven ages of man indeed fires the riposte, when Adam is carried in, in the "youthful hose well saved, a world too wide / For his shrunk shank," 2.7.160-61.) Next, the sermonizing tone becomes explicit, with "He that doth the ravens feed / Yea providently caters for the sparrow / Be comfort to my age" (43-45). If the Almighty however will provide for Adam in age, what need the lifetime of thrift? The contradiction swells the surreal unease of the moment, as Adam discloses himself to be startlingly wealthy, the possessor of five hundred crowns ([pounds sterling]125 or over $100,000 by today's measure), yet begs Orlando to maintain him in servility ("Let me be your servant. / Though I look old, yet I am strong and lusty," 46-47). The moment must surely have been close to incomprehensible to many of the humbler spectators, whether servants, apprentices, or laborers, as the very reverse of their own attitudes and aspirations: particularly in an age when apprentices, as historians tell us, "were exposed to an almost limitless sadism from their masters." (41) Adam's gesture looks less like Christian generosity than potentially suicidal recklessness, coupled with bizarre preference for abasement over personal freedom. The London underclasses who flocked to liberatory wish-fulfillment in Tamburlaine would find Adam's will-to-servitude a hard sell. Indeed, it will be populist Iago, exuberantly bonding with the groundlings (for the first two acts) through beer-swilling, drinking songs, direct address, lewd jokes, patriotic compliment, and the engineering of exciting sword fights, who utters the perspective of the rowdy, carnivalesque playhouse upon the ideal of indefeasible servility. And it will sound almost like a reminiscence of old Adam.
You shall mark
Many a duteous and knee-crooking knave,
That, doting on his own obsequious bondage,
Wears out his time much like his master's ass,
For naught but provender, and when he's old, cashiered.
Whip me such honest knaves.

(Othello, 1.1.44-49)

So large a sum of money as Adam possesses required, moreover, an enviably fat and bulging super-purse. (One authority estimates that it would have to have weighed close to one and a half kilograms, "more than a bag of sugar.") (42) As Adam holds out to Orlando that clinking, mesmerizing bag--"Here is the gold. / All this I give you" (45-46)--the groundlings, so close to this numinous object, must have suspended their collective breath in envy of Orlando's fortune.

Climaxing the estrangement, Adam now plunges into pointedly antagonizing homiletics.
In my youth I never did apply
Hot and rebellious liquors in my blood,
Nor did not with unbashful forehead woo
The means of weakness and debility.


Delivered to a pit of cheery youthful swillers, located in a notorious red-light district, and in the midst of a comedy, the chances of success for such sentiments look unpropitious. "Just Say No" was a message that, here, did not exactly sing. These godly imperatives of meek teetotalism and retiring chastity summed up, of course, the coercive regime of the new vestry values, inflicted on the socially inferior, the poor, and where possible, the young. Adam, neocon, is specifically assailing youth culture ("In my youth, I never did ..."; emphasis added), whose heartland lay in the riotous freedoms of Liberties such as Southwark, and the pleasures of the playhouse. In 1600, perhaps half of England was under twenty years old, as was much of the theatergoing public. (43) The number of apprentices in London had doubled between 1580 and 1600, rising to some thirty thousand--two to three times the normal proportion--and the number of servants became possibly even greater. (44) To the authorities such figures posed an alarming threat, particularly as London apprentices developed their own, rowdy subculture. "At any sign of general disaffection, the city's first precaution was always to order a curfew for apprentices and servants, and to close the alehouses where they would loiter with intent." (45) As Roger Manning records, even though "these discontented younger sons of the gentry added an articulate and politically sophisticated leaven to the London crowd," "To contemporaries, gentlemen apprentices were associated with riotous living." (46) Adam's charge, moreover, that sexual and alcoholic license "woos ... weakness and debility" echoed the refrain of local elites and parish officers (noted by historian Keith Wright-son) that drinking and alehouses ruin a man, thus raising the local poor rate. (47) Pitched into Elizabethan culture wars, then, thrifty Adam, censorious gerontocrat, far from comprising the elevated exemplar for which Shakespearean criticism has always sentimentally mistaken him, would have commanded at a public theater much the same reception that a TV evangelist might expect from an inset cameo sermon in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Further suggestive for the concerns of this drama was the fact, noted by historians, that since in this, the golden age of flogging, many apprentices ran away, and servants were often laid off at short notice, youth culture tended to overlap with the vagrant population. (48) As You Like It surely maps just this confluence, its political stance thus both compassionate and commercially astute. Indeed an almost precisely contemporary tract (first edition 1603) articulates just this conjunction, the fate dreaded by Adam "When service should in [his] old limbs lie lame" (2.4.41):
  It is the custom of most men nowadays (so wretchedly covetous are
  they grown) that they toil their servants while they can labour, and
  consume their strength and spend them out: and when age cometh, and
  the bones are full of ache and pain, they turn them out of doors,
  poor and helpless into the wide world to shift for themselves as they
  can; and they must either beg or steal or starve, for any relief they
  shall receive from their masters ... and thus it cometh to pass that
  many become thieves and vagrant beggars through their master's
  niggardliness that would not do his duty in bestowing some
  proportionable and competent relief upon them. (49)

Yet as out-of-touch, gentlemanly Orlando responds to Adam's words, he completely misses the injustice of his own class so accurately foreseen by Adam, projecting instead the denigrative authoritarianism visited by the wellborn on servant and vagrant alike:
O good old man, how well in thee appears
The constant service of the antique world,
When service sweat for duty, not for meed.
Thou art not for the fashion of these times,
Where none will sweat but for promotion,
And having that, do choke their service up
Even with the having.


Presented, in Adam's crowns, with an immediate instance of astounding subaltern loyalty and magnanimity, Orlando perversely attacks underclass shiftlessness. The true note of ideology ("In the sphere of ideology, concrete particular and universal truth glide ceaselessly in and out of each other, bypassing the mediation of rational analysis") (50) is sustained as his tirade sketches an almost demented extreme of patrician deserving. Indifferent to the harshness of sixteenth century treatment of elderly servants (More, in Utopia, 1516, had made the same point) (51) Orlando lauds laboring dutifully, apparently forever, with no thought of wages (devoted or "constant service," that will "sweat for duty, not for meed").

Furthermore, the unctuous antimaterialist sermon contradicts his own aching self-pity on inheriting "but poor a thousand crowns" (1.1.2). The tranquil self-contradiction forms another instance of that blind, self-pitying plaint of the well-born, tellingly juxtaposed to the desperate plight of commoners, articulated and targeted in Henry VI, in Romeo, and in Henry V--all of them "superfluous and lust-dieted men" in the words of King Lear, who "will not see / Because [they] do not feel" (King Lear, 4.1.66-68). (52) Finally, Orlando's reproach of material self-interest in the lower orders establishes, in a principle pervasive in Shakespeare, the sly spectacle of dominant ideology's fervent theory dealt demolition by actuality: had servants indeed been heedless of pay, Orlando would not have had those crowns to aid him.

If Adam's rectitude of abstinence was dear to the heart of every churchwarden, Orlando's ideology of underclass fecklessness came straight from the tightened lips of Overseers of the Poor. Adam and Orlando embrace in a tender duet of vestry values: unconquerable servility in a joyless work ethic kneels to hierarchism's calm deserving of feeless underling duty. The self-congratulatory duo of the dour Puritan work ethic unite proudly against the scandal of the lower classes: vice-ridden ("unbashful forehead[s]"), ignobly concerned about their wages ("sweat ... for meed"), and disrespectful to their betters (swilling "hot and rebellious liquors"). They are oligarchy's newlyweds, melting into a marriage made in the very heaven of early capitalist accumulation.

Then Orlando swiftly pockets the chunky bag of coins proffered by Adam.

The moment, rich in satiric potentiality, suggests, at the very least, the double standard of those who deplored lower-class cries in their parish for financial help while making hefty sums themselves. It may even have hinted at the widespread contemporary suspicion of embezzlement by vestry officers. The 1601 parliament, for instance, saw one MP object to a bill compelling churchwardens to resume levying shilling recusancy fines against the very poor, for fear that churchwardens might instead compile a secret list, and "take four-pence for themselves and dispense with the rest." (53) Indeed, in the very parish in which this play was being performed (the Globe was located in St. Saviours, Southwark), an intense resentment gathering against restriction of the traditionally universal parish franchise was being buoyed by accusations that the vestrymen were spending the monies gathered for poor relief upon "private feasting." An appeal to parliament was eventually launched, in 1607, and a 1608 ruling restored traditional voting rights. (These circumstances are normally related by critics only to Coriolanus.) (54) Generally, however, "Before Laud the Church seems to have had no 'social justice' policy which would challenge the rule of local oligarchies," so that "embezzlement by town and parish oligarchies of funds intended for poor relief proceeded apace in the century between the Reformation and Revolution." (55)

"I blush, and hide my sword" (Orlando, 2.7.119)

Given Adam and Orlando's embrace of the anti-populist discourse of handwringing self-righteousness, and Orlando's double standard on cash, it is no wonder that Orlando's incorporation into the drama's community of revelers is purgatorial, proceeding by both personal suffering and stage humiliation. Personal expropriation disrupts his genteel fantasia, disorienting him in the inbreaking of cold realism.
What, wouldst thou have me go and beg my food,
Or with a base and boisterous sword enforce
A thieving living on the common road?
This must I do, or know not what to do


Despite immediate, appalled disavowal ("Yet this I will not do, do how I can"), Orlando's despairing cry defines what he will do, commanding the men he encounters to share, at point of sword, their food with him. As he is driven, flinching, to the common road, the play's opposition to state authoritarianism embraces a second front, in the humane counter-valuation of the condition of vagrancy. For, wandering without master, lacking work and wielding a sword, Orlando is in Elizabethan legal terms both a "sturdy beggar"--capable of work yet without it--and precisely the category of vagabond against whom Elizabeth had just issued a proclamation in 1598: Orlando is a man "wandering in the common highways" who possessed "forbidden weapons" and attempted armed robbery. Establishing martial law for the summary lynching of such disorderly vagrant persons, the proclamation could not but have been in the minds of audiences in 1599-1600. Indeed the crown issued another in January 1600, renewing the command to all officers to suppress and punish "rogues and vagabonds wandering up and down this realm idly and insolently." (56)

Vagrancy was, as As You Like It shows, a problem more for the desperately trekking unemployed themselves than for the Tudor state which endlessly vilified them and hysterically exaggerated their numbers, as wandering, dispossessed folk, criminalized per se by legislation, sought forest and commons wastes where they might elude the further catastrophes of bloody lashings, ear-boring, branding, incarceration in bridewells, impressment, summary execution under martial law, or even the penal slavery twice legislated by parliaments. (57) "No-one could guess, by reading this Act [of 1597], that there was any lack of employment in England as the century drew to its close." (58) The parliamentarians of 1597-98 even decreed that the wandering destitute should be dispatched to the galleys. No evidence has been found, however, that suggests this barbarism was enforced. (59) "It is difficult", writes historian J. A. Sharpe, "to draw any real distinction between the vagrant and the unstable poor of the parish, the migrant workers, servants or poor laborers who had no real stake in the community, and who were terribly vulnerable to the economic crises of the period." (60) In 1590, some counties saw the whipping and branding of vagrants at the rate of a new one every day; and an alarmed contemporary in the early seventeenth century estimated the vagabond horde at eighty thousand. (61)

Shakespeare's treatment of rural refugees and the dispossessed is a politically charged departure from both political and literary norms. That outlaws holed up in the forest seek "sermons in stones and good in everything" (2.1.17), proving morally superior to the court, which banishes and seizes at whim, has some basis in pastoral convention and Shakespeare's source, Thomas Lodge's Rosalynde. Yet Lodge's greenwood is studiedly a courtly paint-job: the entire confection is a bravura gentlemanly fantasy into which no reality intrudes. The actuality of Elizabethan patrician attitudes consisted in a well-nigh pathological hatred of the roaming and propertyless as "vagabonds," whether in forests or on the roads. Best-selling contemporary literature claimed to profile their true nature as "cony-catchers and bawdy baskets": professional criminals freely choosing a life of pleasurable wandering over decent Christian labor, their fleshly sores and emaciation mere self-inflicted tactics to fleece gullible citizenry. (62) Thomas Harman's Caveat for Common Cursitors, an early classic of the emergent genre of rogue literature, claims to survey at first hand a worthless and predatory "fraternity" organized into criminal specializations (rufflers, priggers, palliards, Abraham men), armed with a horrifying repertoire of stratagems, and protected by an arcane language of its own. Harman, who delights in recounting anecdotes of harassing and even torturing vagrants, appears to have invented the term "rogue," from the Latin "rogare", to ask: thus eliding a plea for bread with criminal status. Thereby popularized, the term became, as Linda Woodbridge has noted, "elevated to the status of a legally defined technical term in a statute" in the 1572 Poor Law act. (63) Reprinted in 1573 and 1592, Harman's writings on the "scelerous secrets" of the "rowsey, ragged rabblement of rakehells" spawned many imitators, most notably in the pamphlets and plays of Robert Greene and Thomas Dekker multiplying through the 1590s and the early Jacobean period. (64) Welcomed by the propertied classes, and helping drive the penal legislation of branding and ear-boring, of bloody floggings across country to houses of correction, rogue literature furnished a legitimative discourse. "Rarely has any culture fashioned so wily and powerful an enemy out of such degraded and pathetic materials," comments William Carroll. (65) Conveniently repealing the medieval sanctity of poverty and mendicancy, and displacing the passionate tradition of Christian distributivism urged by the Commonwealthmen, the rogues gallery of cheerily cunning parasites ideologically anesthetized guilt over re-enserfing victims of enclosure, depopulation, and ill-chance in the ghastly new proletariat.

As sword-wielding hunger, Orlando figured a commonplace of Elizabethan England. A letter to Lord Burghley speaks in 1596 of rebellious men who "stick not to say boldly 'they must not starve, they will not starve,'" and who protest "that the rich men have got all into their hands, and will starve the poor." (66) The parliament of 1597-98 had considered no less than fifteen bills to remedy poverty and vagrancy, in what Bacon called "a feast of charity." (67) But so incorrigible proved gentry self-interest that parliament diluted the bill to suppress enclosures. To the anger of the queen herself, it actually rejected such antipoverty bills as that to enforce the provision of hospitality (thus failing to heed, as the bill's sponsor put it, "the lamentable cry of the poor, who are like to perish"), as well as a bill criminalizing those practices of forestalling and regrating ("odious to the commonwealth") that inflated food prices. (68) For the impoverished of England, consequently, little was to change, as a Digger pamphlet (1650) would show.
  We have spent all we have, our trading is decayed, our wives and
  children cry for bread, our lives are a burden to us, divers of us
  having five, six, seven, eight, nine in family, and we cannot get
  bread for them by our labor. Rich men's hearts are hardened, they
  will not give us if we beg at their doors; if we steal, the law will
  end our lives. Divers of the poor are starved to death already, and
  it were better for us that are living to die by the sword than by the
  famine. (69)

These are the realities by which Orlando and Adam will be rapidly transformed. In terms of theatrical sympathies, act 2 scene 5 unfolds as the transitional scene. Freshly displaced from gentlemanly hauteur, Orlando is subjected to a final, purgatorial targeting, even as his desperation figures a condition of pathos. Thus the scene has the Duke's forest lords deck a table with food--yet the Duke is absent and his men leave to find him. Stage directions, and commonsense probability, suggest the loaded table did not leave with them: and indeed that laying of the table, enforced by the script, was needless to the scene. A feast set for a Duke thus remains onstage (I would bet center stage) throughout the following scene, in which a starving Orlando and collapsing Adam totter at the brink of death. Critics have noted with puzzlement the near-certain presence of the table in 2.6, but failed to recognize the deducible political effects. (70) First, the spectacle of a laden board juxtaposed to terminal starvation must have formed a graphic, visually dominant tableau of contemporary social injustice. And it is probably no accident that when, in the ensuing scene, Orlando returns to steal food, Jaques and the Duke, laughing amid plenty, are debating the propriety of satire, and bourgeois transgressions of courtly dress codes (2.7.42-87). Aristocracy and bourgeoisie are thus locked cheerfully in ethical contention, while the Third Estate, desperate and indigent, roam famished as complete outsiders to the political conversation. Second, as Adam collapses from hunger and Orlando begs him not to die, promising desperately to find food--somewhere, somehow--the Duke's stacked table sits just feet away: and Orlando never sees it. That complex stage moment serves not only to emblematize Elizabethan inequity but to make Orlando look something of an idiot. Our gentleman protagonist, alienatingly censorious and moralistic, is metaphorically and literally unseeing, missing what exists literally almost under his nose. Orlando the unseeing is perpetuated at the deictic level, too: his language is conspicuous once more for comical auditorium misprision: "If this uncouth forest yield anything savage, I will either be food for it or bring it food for thee ... thou shalt not die for lack of a dinner if there live anything in this desert" (2.6.6-7, 16-17). Invisible on the page but stark on the stage, such performance dimensions disclose a mordant populist politics, often pointed through hilarity.

When in 2.7 Orlando discovers the Duke's company and demands food at sword point, he becomes the deictic fall-guy once again. "Speak you so softly? Pardon me, I pray you. / I thought that all things had been savage here" (2.7.106-7). The moment can be played for a thrilling turn of high adventure, or can be keyed into another instance of Orlando the audience-insulting and impercipient; especially as he then launches into what sounds like unconscious audience address, conceiving the community of the Forest / Globe as godless idlers--just the view, of course, that Perkins and Puritanism held of vagabonds.
whate'er you are
That in this desert inaccessible
Under the shade of melancholy boughs
Lose and neglect the creeping hours of time;
If ever you have looked on better days;
If ever been where bells have knolled to church ...

(2.7.109-14; italics mine)

That the Globe was situated very close to St. Mary Overbury, so that her knolling bells must have been regularly audible in the roofless theater, introduced yet another ironizing instance of auditorium cluelessness on the young gentleman's part. Further, the machismo credentials of tough-guy Orlando, destroyer of the Duke's wrestler, now bursting in with sword brandished, are successfully mocked by languid Jaques:

Orl. Forbear, and eat no more.

Jaques. Why, I have eaten none yet.

Orl. Nor shalt not till necessity be served.

Jaques. Of what kind should this cock come of? ...

Orl. But forbear, I say.

He dies that touches any of this fruit,

Till I and my affairs are answered.

Jaques. And you will not be answered with reason, I must die.

(2.7.88-91, 98-101)

Yet with Orlando humiliated, the scene then modulates into an intense poignancy. The play grants the audience delicious "punishment" of these misfit sneerers, then under the power of a crafted intensity of pathos, relents to forgive and include them. Just as swordsman Orlando suffers comical humiliation by Jaques's aristocratic contempt, so Puritanical Adam, vaunting his toughening by abstinence from sex and booze--"Though I look old, yet I am strong and lusty" (2.4.47)--has been reduced to whimpering for death: "O I die for food. Here lie I down and measure out my grave" (2.6.1-2). Act 2 scene 7 then progresses to a moving hospitality, as "an old poor man" (129)--all bravado drained and no crowns in sight--now wordless, broken, slumped helpless on Adam's shoulder, becomes cared for, fed, and respected ("Good old man, thou art right welcome ... Support him by the arm," 200-201, 202). The tonality is heightened by the delicate, paradoxically stately lyric poetry of Orlando's imploration, echoed by the Duke:
True it is that we have seen better days
And have been knolled with holy bell to church
And sat at good men's feasts and wiped our eyes
Of drops that sacred pity hath engendered.


The lines summon movingly an older tradition, aligning Christian duty with hospitality, whose stage effect of large and beautiful compassion traduces the meanness of Elizabethan ruling discourse. This is, in effect, indiscriminate almsgiving of the kind urged by the church fathers, at odds with the unwearying Tudor discrimination between the deserving and undeserving poor. As Duke Senior, menaced at sword point, freely grants to the armed vagrant Orlando his fill at the banquet--"Sit down, and feed, and welcome to our table" (2.7.105)--his calm and remarkable mercy works as humanitarian rebuke to the hardened heart of Elizabethan officialdom, adamant in parliament and proclamation.

The effect is at once poetically deepened by Jaques's poignant Seven Ages of Man speech, and the reentry of Orlando with the aged Adam in his arms--in his helplessness close to "second childishness and mere oblivion" (165)--which together infuse the graphic, transforming pathos of a common humanity into the perception of vagrants, the reviled terrorists of official discourse. When the two Masterless Men fall ecstatically upon nourishment, sympathy is further overlaid by the power of song, supplied by Amiens.
Blow, blow thou winter wind
Thou art not so unkind
As man's ingratitude

The song may hint at another topical grievance to which the 1598 proclamation had alluded: the presence of multitudes of discharged or deserting soldiers among England's penniless wanderers. The proclamation gestured angrily at vagrants "colouring their wandering by the name of soldiers lately come from the wars"; but the reality was the discharge of many servicemen with little or no pay, in many cases unable to work through injuries incurred in the defense of their country: grievances discussed in 2 Henry VI, and later hinted in the death of Jack Cade. (71) Shakespeare presented the condition again, almost simultaneously with As You Like It, in the case of Pistol (Henry V), whose crucial defense of a bridge against the French made him, in Fluellen's admiring words, "as valiant a man as Mark Anthony" (3.6.15), yet who ended up friendless, wifeless, unrewarded, and cudgeled by the very officer who so fulsomely had praised him. "Figo for thy friendship!" exclaimed Pistol (3.6.58): whom the drama's close found gloomily resolving "To England will I steal, and there I'll steal" (Henry V, 5.1.91).
Freeze, freeze, thou bitter sky
Thou dost not bite so nigh
As benefits forgot.
Though thou the waters warp
Thy sting is not so sharp
As friend remembered not.

(As You Like It, 2.7.184-89)

In a striking prefiguration of King Lear, where Lear, Gloucester, and Edgar each plummet from comfortable privilege into the humbling strokes of eye-opening poverty, Adam and Orlando, pitched into the desperate paths of "bare distress" (2.7.96), have found that sermonizing snobbery cannot survive the experience of unaccommodated man. Exposed themselves to feel what wretches feel (Lear, 3.4.34), discovering in the acid of their own bellies a society heedless that "distribution should undo excess / And each man have enough" (Lear, 4.1.69-70), they follow, respectively, the terminal options of either broken-spirited death ("O I die for food," 2.6.1) or of robbery with violence. Unaccommodated Orlando, stumbled upon the banqueting Duke, now redefines in desperate hunger what it means to be a gentleman. It is no longer a matter of scorning servants as "hinds," disparaging their concern for adequate wages, or pining for "such exercises as may become a gentleman" (1.1.72). "If you," he begs the Duke, have
         ever sat at any good man's feast,
If ever from your eyelids wiped a tear,
And know what 'tis to pity and be pitied,
Let gentleness my strong enforcement be.

(2.7.115-18; emphasis added)

The personal experience of starvation and outcast status have dissolved, it seems, the brusque class haughtiness. ("O how bitter a thing it is to look into happiness through another man's eyes," 5.1.42.) Following this scene, Puritanical Adam disappears from sight, and Orlando ceases to be a disapproving, anti-carnival figure, becoming puppet instead in Rosalind's playful subversions. Invited hereafter by Jaques to "rail" satirically against the world, Orlando's answer is remarkable.
I will chide no breather in the world but myself,
against whom I know most faults.


He continues to be something of a gull, however, twisted around Rosalind's transvestite finger, his poetry mocked (in sharp contrast to Lodge's original), and his somewhat wan residual personality easily upstaged by perfervidly passionate Silvius. Pitifully duped until the very denouement, it is Orlando, when Duke Senior seems close to rumbling Rosalind's identity, who reiterates her preposterous lies in a burst of heartfelt naivete:
But good my lord, this boy is forest born,
And hath been tutored in the rudiments
Of many desperate studies by his uncle,
Whom he reports to be a great magician
Obscured in the circle of this forest.


If the fortunes, then, of Adam and Orlando present vestry values fusilladed by carnival targeting, and a subsequent movement into chastening, diminishing forgiveness as suffering dissolves their pusillanimous righteousness, the values of Rosalind and Celia are substantially those of As You Like It itself. It was overwhelmingly the women who were "As They Liked It," bouncing into the Globe's enclave of exuberant misrule as the bearers of carnival values. When in act 1 Le Beau announces a wrestling match imminent and Touchstone suggests this scarcely "sport for ladies" (1.2.129), Rosalind calls out, in terms very strange if her only audience is Celia, "But is there any else longs to see this broken music in his sides? Is there yet another dotes on rib-breaking?" (131-33). Clearly deictic, the cheerleading appeal (and presumable enthusiastic response) heighten the carnival bonding that Rosalind's exuberant transgressiveness will sustain right through to the epilogue.

Moreover where Orlando had sneered at underclass concern about wages, the women are prompt to rescue from poverty. "Buy thou the cottage, pasture and the flock / And thou shall have to pay for it of us," Rosalind immediately promises Corin. "And we will mend thy wages" adds Celia (2.4.90-92). Little noted by literary critics today, such sympathy must have stolen the breath away from poorer audience members, for wage complaints from the property-less were currently pouring in to justices of the peace. Cottagers wholly dependent on wages, often in the western forests, were petitioning magistrates for relief, Buchanan

Sharp records; and in 1595, for instance, come bitter complaints of wage-cutting. (72)

Celia shares occasionally in the deixis. Arrived in Arden, she slyly opines, with approving audience survey, "I like this place, / And willingly could waste my time in it" (2.4.92-93). Chiming with the drama's numerous pastoral endorsements of fleeting the time carelessly as in the golden world, the merry response contrasts again with Orlando's [initially] disapproving line on forest dwellers who "Lose and neglect the creeping hours of time," 2.7.112.

The word "forest" in fact occurs no less than twenty-three times in this play, though never more than three in any other. (73) Yet as these deictic instances cumulatively suggest, a master motif of this drama is that the "forest"--so lovingly scrutinized by generations of critics for its environmental details, so lauded for its clarifying, therapeutic effects as a sanctuary in great creating nature--this forest is in fact no more sylvan than mustard and pancakes. "The circle of this forest" (5.4.34) denotes the theater itself.

Christopher Hill noted that "London was for the sixteenth century vagabond what the greenwood had been for the medieval outlaw--an anonymous refuge." (74) Our play confirms the shrewdness of this insight, since on a primary level its forest--safely sequestered from the world of courtly authority, a place of idleness, free speech and pleasure, often egalitarian in tone, and full, we are told, of horned creatures (cuckolds)--proves manifestly to signify the Globe and its creatures. "Now my co-mates and brothers in exile," the Duke exultantly introduces the theme, "Are not these woods / More free from peril than the envious court? / Here feel we not the penalty of Adam" (2.1.1, 3-5): a sly congratulation on escaping the world of ingrate hierarchism.

Deictic elision of forest with playhouse abounds in the play, its success facilitated by the apparent absence of stage props to install a separate world. "Well, this is the forest of Arden," says Rosalind, gazing around, mischievous and appraising. "Ay, now I am in Arden the more fool I" mocks Touchstone (2.4.12-13). When Rosalind and Touchstone debate Orlando's execrable verse, Touchstone resolves, with sweeping democratic gesture, "Let the forest judge" (3.2.120). "Here we have no temple but the wood," he later jokes, "no assembly but horn-beasts" (3.3.43-44). Audrey hopes "it is no dishonest desire, to desire to become a woman of the world" (5.2.4-5).

The Duke's praise of "this our life, exempt from public haunt" clarifies the purpose of this running deixis. Jokes about "the circle of this forest" (5.4.34), reversing pastoral's customary urbs in rure for rus in urbe, serve not only to raise laughter, define character, and promote a commercially shrewd audience-actor bonding, but to define or christen the theater and its constituency. For the Globe has recently opened: this is perhaps only Shakespeare's second play there. And it has been carefully located across the water from the regulated city of London, in a traditional "Liberty" where the city authorities lack jurisdiction. (Rosalind's "Now go we in content / To liberty, and not to banishment," 1.3.133-34, possibly winks at this in pun.) The identification of the new theater with merry greenwood refuge thus underscores its chosen political identity: a realm of countercultural freedom and flourishing satire, of antiauthoritarian populism. The forest identification baptizes impunity, sparking the encircled Globe community of players and spectators alike into collective self-celebration as holiday outlaws. Laying on (with a trowel) the transgressive, carnival roistering suppressed by the vestrymen, its gregarious hilarities restore that lost experience of neighborliness and community, rebuilding, like medieval festivity in Bakhtin's words, "a second world and a second life outside officialdom." (75)

In conclusion, Shakespeare can be seen to infiltrate subtexts of subversion through a stagecraft of stealth. Primary among his performance shibboleths, we have seen, is that form of what we might call determinate or constructed latency (as opposed to the generic and indeterminate openness of dramatic form per se when transferred to the stage) which often works through deixis and the distribution of deictic effects. Orlando the unseeing, on the stage a figure of punitive ridicule, does not exist on the page. In the new stronghold of the Globe Theatre, however, where the Lord Chamberlains' Men possess finally a home of their own, the play as performed announces the continuity of the company's perspective ("As You Like It"), celebrates the impunity enjoyed in the liberty of Bankside, and consolidates its constituency, to sure commercial advantage, through the potent spell of deictic revel.


(1.) All quotation of As You Like It is from the Arden edition, ed. Agnes Latham (London: Methuen, 1975).

(2.) Katherine Duncan Jones, introduction to the Penguin As You Like It (London: Penguin Books, 2005), xxiii.

(3.) Edward Berry, Shakespeare and the Hunt (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2001), 171.

(4.) C. L. Barber, Shakespeare's Festive Comedy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1959); M. M. Bakhtin, Rabelais and His World, trans. Helen Iswolsky (1968; rpt. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. 1984). Richard Wilson aligns the transgressive carnivalesque energies of As You Like It with "the felonies associated with forest rioters," and popular ritual with specifically criminal activities such as poaching, in "Like the Old Robin Hood: As You Like It and the Enclosure Riots" in Will Power), 63-82; quotation from 76.

(5.) Steve Hindle, "The Political Culture of the Middling Sort in English Rural Communities c. 1550-1700" in Tim Harris, The Politics of the Excluded, 1500-1850 (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2001), 137.

(6.) Christopher Hill, Society and Puritanism (London: Secker and Warburg, 1964), 374.

(7.) Archer, Pursuit of Stability, 92-93.

(8.) Underdown, Revel, Riot and Rebellion, 94.

(9.) Ibid., 52.

(10.) Hill, Society and Puritanism, 152.

(11.) Ibid., 152-53.

(12.) For theorisation of ideological process into residual, dominant and emergent formations see Raymond Williams, Marxism and Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1997), 121-27.

(13.) Underdown, Revel, Riot and Rebellion, 40.

(14.) Archer, Pursuit of Stability, 96, 93.

(15.) Peter Clark, English Provincial Society from the Reformation to the Revolution: Religion, Politics and Society in Kent 1500-1640 (Hassocks, Sussex: Harvester, 1977), 249. See esp. 155-57.

(16.) Underdown, Revel, Riot, and Rebellion, 53-54. On sixteenth-century reform of popular culture see also Burke, 207-34.

(17.) Hill, Society and Puritanism, 156-57, 367-68; Underdown, Revel, Riot, and Rebellion, 60.

(18.) David Cressy, "Mocking the Clergy: Wars of Words in Parish and Pulpit" in Travesties and Transgressions in Tudor and Stuart England (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 148-49.

(19.) Eric Carlson, "The Origin, Function, and Status of the Office of Churchwarden." in The World of Rural Dissenters 1520-1725, ed. Margaret Spufford (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), 164-207.

(20.) Hill, Society and Puritanism, 372; quotation from Carlson, "Churchwarden," 194.

(21.) Underdown, Revel, Riot, and Rebellion, 31-32.

(22.) Carlson, "Churchwarden," 174; Underdown, Revel, Riot, and Rebellion, 59. Moral lapses might also be prosecuted in the quarter-sessions and assize courts. It is notable that in these culture wars, churchwardens in some places outside London chose not to present church absentees to church courts. "It was very tempting to report omnia bene in order to defend the community's liberty against the inquisitorial central power": Hill, Society and Puritanism, 337; compare Carlson, "Churchwarden," 172-74, 200-206.

(23.) Paul Slack, Poverty and Policy in Tudor and Stuart England (London: Longman. 1988), 65-66; cit. Woodbridge, Vagrancy, Homelessness, 270.

(24.) Steve Hindle, On the Parish: The Micro-Politics of Poor Relief in England c. 1550-1750 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2005).

(25.) Archer. Pursuit of Stability, 97-98. In the 1601 parliament, Sir Walter Raleigh opposing a bill, narrowly defeated, compelling churchwarden collection of recusancy fines deplored "what quarrelling and danger may happen, besides giving authority to a mean churchwarden!" Cit. Raleigh Trevelyan, Sir Walter Raleigh (New York: Henry Holt, 2002), 345.

(26.) J. A. Sharpe, "The People and the Law," in Popular Culture in Seventeenth Century England ed. Barry Reay (London: Croom Helm, 1985), 256; cit. Carlson, "Churchwarden," 193.

(27.) Beier, Masterless Men, 157. "Overseers were authorized to pry, with demeaning thoroughness, into poor people's lives": Woodbridge. Vagrancy, 275.

(28.) Martin Ingram, Church Courts, Sex and Marriage, 1570-1640 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987).

(29.) Steven Mullaney. The Place of the Stage (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. 1995). 43.

(30.) Jean E. Howard, The Stage and Social Struggle (London: Routledge, 1994), 73, 83.

(31.) We need, as Charles Nicholl suggests, to multiply by five hundred to gain an approximate contemporary equivalence to Elizabethan prices: The Reckoning: The Murder of Christopher Marlowe (London: Jonathan Cape, 1992), 1.

(32.) Keith Thomas, Man and the Natural World: Changing Attitudes in England 1500-1800 (London: Allen Lane, 1983), 103-4.

(33.) Thomas More, Utopia, trans Paul Turner (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1977), 129.

(34.) Calendar of State Papers Domestic, 1595-97, 317.

(35.) Montrose, "The Place of a Brother in As You Like It: Social Process and Comic Form," in Materialist Shakespeare, ed. Ivo Kamps (London: Verso, 1995), 45.

(36.) Katherine Duncan-Jones, introduction to As You Like It, ed. H. J. Oliver (London: Penguin, 2005), xxi-xxii.

(37.) George Bernard Shaw, quoted in James Shapiro, A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare: 1599, 212, who does not reference the observation.

(38.) Richard Wilson, it is true, refers to Orlando's "combination of rebelliousness and conservatism," yet he misconstrues Orlando as simply a Robin Hood stereotype. Quoting Eric Hobsbawm's definition of the "social bandit"--"His role is that of a champion, the righter of wrongs, the bringer of justice and social equality. His relation with the peasants is one of solidarity and identity"--Wilson judges this to be "an identikit picture of Orlando"; and he goes on to associate Orlando with the Midland rioters. Will Power, 69, 77.

(39.) For the adoption of this motto by the new playhouse see Richard Dutton, "Hamlet, An Apology for Actors, and the Sign of the Globe," in Shakespeare Studies 41 (1989): 35-44.

(40.) The punctuation of these lines varies from edition to edition. I have given more exclamation marks than usual, to highlight the melodramatically exclamatory tone I read here.

(41.) Lawrence Stone, The Family, Sex and Marriage in England 1500-1800 (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1977), 120.

(42.) D. M. Metcalf, cit. Alan Brissenden, Oxford Classics edition, 1993, note to 2.3.39.

(43.) D. V. Glass and D. E. C Eversley, eds., Population in History: Essays in Historical Demography (Chicago: Aldine, 1965), 207, 212.

(44.) Manning, Village Revolts (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988), 191-93.

(45.) Susan Brigden, "Youth and the English Reformation," in Rebellion, Popular Protest and the Social Order in Early Modern England, ed. Paul Slack (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), 88.

(46.) Manning, Village Revolts, 193.

(47.) Keith Wrightson, "Alehouses, order and reformation in rural England," in Popular Culture and Class Struggle 1590-1914, ed. Eileen and Stephen Yeo (Sussex: Harvester, 1981), 16-17.

(48.) Stone, The Family, Sex and Marriage, 116-120.

(49.) John Dod and Robert Cleaver, A Plain and Familiar Exposition of the Ten Commandements, 1603 (1662 edition, 199); cit. Hill, Society and Puritanism, 237.

(50.) Terry Eagleton, Ideology: An Introduction (London: Verso 1991), 20

(51.) "They'd [the lower classes] almost be better off if they were cart-horses. Then at least they wouldn't have to work such long hours, their food wouldn't be very much worse, and ... they'd have no fears for the future. As it is, they're not only ground down by unrewarding toil in the present, but also worried to death by the prospect of a poverty-stricken old age ... The climax of ingratitude comes when they're old and ill and completely destitute ... [Society] repays them for all the vital work they've done, by letting them die in misery." Utopia, trans. Turner, 129.

(52.) 3 Henry VI, 2.5.21-54; Romeo and Juliet, 5.1.80-84; Henry V, 4.1.213-266. All references here are to The Norton Shakespeare, ed. Stephen Greenblatt et al. (New York: Norton, 1997).

(53.) Neale, Elizabeth and her Parliaments, 398. The bill was defeated, by one vote.

(54.) See the introduction by R. B. Parker to Coriolanus (Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1994). 40.

(55.) Hill, Society and Puritanism, 375. See also page 250 on later Leveller pressure to redirect embezzled charitable funds to the poor. Hill quotes a John Davenant character in News from Plymouth who boasts of building himself a house on misappropriated income when a Collector for the Poor.

(56.) Proclamation 800, Hughes and Larkin, Tudor Royal Proclamations, 3.204-9.

(57.) On Tudor penalties for vagrancy, see A. L. Beier, Masterless Men: The Vagrancy Problem in England 1560-1640 (London: Methuen, 1985), 146-170. Paul Slack's appendix in The English Poor Law (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990) lists the changing statutory inflictions. William C. Carroll discusses these in the wider context of Tudor "discourses of poverty" in Fat King, Lean Beggar: Representations of Poverty in the Age of Shakespeare (Ithaca: Cornell. 1996), 21-69. C. S. L. Davies has argued that the slavery provisions of the 1547 act were never in fact enforced, but that much the same condition existed under different names: as when Henry VIII had condemned vagrants to serve in "galleys, and other like vessels" in his wars. See Davies, "Slavery and Protector Somerset: the vagrancy act of 1547," in Economic History Review 19 (1966): 533-49.

(58.) Joyce Youings, Sixteenth Century England (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1984), 283. Kelly indeed suggests that the Tudors probably "planned to use the pretense of [adequate] assistance as an excuse for passing restrictive measures of social control ... Suppression of public disorder was the major reason for Tudor concern with poverty." J. T. Kelly, Thorns on the Tudor Rose (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1977), x, 56.

(59.) Beier, Masterless Men, 161.

(60.) J. A. Sharpe, Crime in Early Modern England 1550-1750 (London: Longman, 1999), 146.

(61.) Christopher Hill, Society and Puritanism in Pre-Revolutionary England (London: Seeker and Warburg, 1964), 243; Liberty Against the Law (London: Allen Lane Penguin, 1996), 52. Contemporaries wildly exaggerated the numbers of vagrants, which probably were around fifteen thousand in the Elizabethan period, expanding in periods of economic distress and returning military campaigns: see Beier, Masterless Men, 14-16. and Carroll. Fat King, 31-32. In London's Bridewell prison, however, though in the 1560s only 16 percent of the inmates had been convicted for vagrancy, by 1600-1601 the figure had climbed to 62 percent: Paul Slack, Poverty and Policy in Tudor and Stuart England (London: Longman, 1988), 93.

(62.) A convenient gathering of such texts is Gamini Salgado's Cony-Catchers and Bawdy Baskets (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1972). For widespread belief that the homeless bloodied or mutilated themselves and their children to win sympathy when begging, see Carroll, Fat King, 48-51, 193. Paola Pugliatti. Beggary and Theatre in Early Modern England (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2003), 102-5, records kindred instances from contemporary Italy and France. For the counter-factual topos romanticizing the free and merry beggar, see Carroll, Fat King, 63-67, 181-82, 209-15; Woodbridge, Vagrancy, 239-48.

(63.) Woodbridge, Vagrancy, 41-43.

(64.) "Scelerous secrets" quotation from Thomas Harman, A Caveat for Common Cursitors in Cony-Catchers, 81-82. On Harman, see most recently Patricia Fumerton, Unsettled: The Culture of Mobility and the Working Poor in Early Modern England (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006).

(65.) Carroll, Fat King, 47.

(66.) Quoted by Hill, Puritanism and Revolution, 219.

(67.) Cit. Neale, Elizabeth and her Parliaments, 347.

(68.) See Neale, Elizabeth and her Parliaments, 349-50, 366-67.

(69.) Anon., A Declaration of the Grounds and Reasons why we the Poor Inhabitants of the Town of Wellingborrow ..., cit. Christopher Hill, Winstanley: the Law of Freedom and Other Writings (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1973), 25.

(70.) Agnes Latham registers perplexity in her Arden edition, Appendix A, 132-33. Alan Dessen has noted that the visibility to the audience of the groaning table would condition audience sympathy for Adam and Orlando, but has neither explored the politics of this perception, nor perceived the targeting effect of Orlando's obliviousness to the board: Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare Studies, ed. Stanley Wells (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 98.

(71.) Chris Fitter, '"Your Captain is Brave, and Dares Reformation': Jack Cade, the Hacket rising, and Shakespeare's Vision of Popular Rebellion in 2 Henry VI," in Shakespeare Studies, ed. Susan Zimmerman (Madison: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2004), 32:173-219.

(72.) Buchanan Sharp, In Contempt of All Authority (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980), 164.

(73.) Berry, Shakespeare and the Hunt, 167.

(74.) Hill, The World Turned Upside Down (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1975), 40.

(75.) Bakhtin, Rabelais and His World, 6.
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Publication:Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England
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Date:Jan 1, 2010
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