>As You Like It

Last night I saw the closing performance of As You Like It at the American Shakespeare Center‘s Blackfriars Playhouse. The show sparkled and the house, which was nearly full, gave it an enthusiastic reception. As with most shows at ASC, the gallant stools on stage were taken and, as usual, there was much interaction between actors and the on-stage audience. In particular, one pretty little girl, who sat with her doll in her lap the whole performance, was addressed frequently, and touched and, at one point, Touchstone the Fool covered her ears for a reference to copulation.

One of the pleasures of seeing Shakespeare performed is the joy of recognition when a familiar passage occurs in its context in the play, such as this from last night:

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper’d pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

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