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Copyright © (2009) JOHN HUDSON All Rights Reserved

AS YOU LIKE IT: A COMIC RELIGIOUS SATIRE


by John Hudson
email; darkladyplayers@aol.com

This seeming comedy actually has more evil in intent and character than in any
comedy before Measure for Measure.1 As You Like It contains a systematic
allegory which accords with some of the latest New Testament scholarship. It
describes how after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70CE, the Flavian Emperors
co-opted the Hebrew messiah to create a pro-Roman pacifist Caesar cult—
Christianity---so that the Jews would worship them in the guise of the literary
figure of the gospels. In order to describe what the Romans did and to take
literary revenge upon them, the playwright uses a double allegory—which
requires many characters to have multiple allegorical identities.

Overall, the Biblical allegory explicitly provides the ‘bookends’ for the play,
starting by situating the play fairly clearly in Eden2, ending with the clear
references to the Flood and Noah’s Ark. This sets the overall expectation that the
play is about the fall from paradise, the evil world, and God’s punishment of a
wicked generation. The question it then raises is how do the characters and sub-
plots fit into this overall schema—and to what wicked generation is the playwright
referring.

The first major character we meet is Orlando who is given a triple allegory, firstly
as an allegory for the heroic figure of Hercules, secondly as a Hebrew leader like
Jacob-Israel or David, and thirdly as the gentle pacifist Jesus of the gospels. The
plot of the play therefore poses a question of why Orlando—who we initially see
as a strong wrestler able to defeat the champion Charles and then drawing his
sword on Duke S.---is being made so “gentle”. Orlando, is initially “overthrown”

1
Stuart A. Daley ’The Tyrant Duke in As You Like It’ Cahiers Elisabethains 34 (1981)
39-51.
2
Richard Knowles “Myth and Type in As You Like It’ ELH vol. 33, no.1, March (1966)
1-22

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Copyright © (2009) JOHN HUDSON All Rights Reserved

(1,ii,248) by Rosalind, and soon after Adam asks him “O my gentle


master…wherefore are you gentle?”. On entering the forest, the Duke counters
Orlando by saying “your gentleness shall force/ More than your force move us to
gentleness” (2,vii,103), and asks him to “sit down in gentleness” (2,vii,125). So it
would appear that Rosalind and Duke S. are both engaged in persuading the
Hebrew hero to renounce his strength and to become a pacifist ‘gentile’ Jesus. At
the end of the play Orlando even quotes from Thomas a Kempis The Imitation of
Christ.

Although he is strong enough to defeat a lion—in an echo of the labor of


Hercules, but possibly also renouncing his Judean identity--- he goes into a cave
wounded, in an allusion to the cave in which Jesus was buried. There he faints,
and awakes, sending out a piece of cloth. It is referred to in two contrasting ways,
first as a bloody “napkin” (4,iii, 92, 137,153) and then as a “handkerchief’ (4,iii,96
& 5,ii.26). Only one other piece of clothing in the 17th century was widely known
both as a ‘napkin’ and a ‘handkerchief’. This was one of the burial garments of
Jesus, which the Geneva Bible translation called “the kerchief” and the Bishop’s
Bible called the “napkin” (John 20;7). So the playwright is using the words from
both contemporary Bible translations to indicate the precise Biblical allusion and
to continue the allegory of Orlando to Jesus.3 It also makes sense of the name he
is given—a version of Roland the famous Christian hero from the Song of
Roland, who dies abandoned, outstretched under a tree in the form of a cross.

All of this establishes, within the overall schema of the play, that it is allegorically
set in the first century, and that it concerns how the literary character of Jesus
was created by writers at the Court of the Flavian Caesars after the end of the
Roman-Jewish war. It was part of their ‘good news of military victory’ or gospel,

3
In Othello it becomes the handkerchief dyed with mummy.

2
Copyright © (2009) JOHN HUDSON All Rights Reserved

to take the Hebrew messiah and re-write it as a gentle pro-Roman literary


messiah that would be a disguise for the worship of Titus and Domitian Caesar.4

The play starts in the golden age in Paradise, the Garden of Eden. The ruler of
the garden, Duke F, will expel people----as God did in Genesis. He can also be
allegorically identified as the god Saturn who, according to Hesiod, ruled during
the Golden Age, and was associated with three of the key motifs in the play--
manure, time and melancholy.

We know this is Paradise because the maidservant is called Hisperia (2,ii,10),


who was one of the nine daughters of Atlas who guarded the Garden of the
Hesperides, an Elizabethan equivalent to Eden. That is why Adam Spencer has
dropped his last name and become plain Adam, a gardener, and why he appears
in an orchard. That is why rib-cracking is a sport for ladies because rib-cracking
is how Eve was created as Adam’s broken consort, by being taken from his side.
This is alluded to in the reference to broken music in his sides---since broken
music was only played by the assembly of instruments known as a ‘broken
consort’.

In classical mythology, Hercules came to the Hesperides to steal the golden


apples, so it is not surprising to find the strong wrestler Orlando being wished
“Hercules be thy speed young man” (1,ii,222) in a passage that alludes to one of
Hercules’ wrestling matches. He is also given a golden chain that is a weight
upon his tongue since this accords with imagery of the French Hercules Gallus,
while his lack of words for the princess after his wrestling comes from yet another
history of the life of Hercules.5

4
This is why for example in the gospels the 11 key events in the life of Jesus are each
literary parodies of 11 events in Titus’ conquest of Judea, see Joseph Atwill Caesar’s
Messiah (2005).
5
Jeff Shulman ‘The recuyell of the Histories of Troye’ and the Tongue-tied Orlando’
Shakespeare Quarterly, vol. 31, no. 3. Autumn, (1980), p. 390

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Copyright © (2009) JOHN HUDSON All Rights Reserved

When Orlando first appears moreover, he is associated with an ox and a horse, a


stall and dunghills---which were not in Lodge’s original novel. They appear to
have been inserted to suggest Hercules cleansing the Augean stables, by
flushing a river through them.

The wrestling scene also alludes to Orlando as Jacob who damaged his leg
fighting the angel in the Book of Genesis, suggesting that he also has a Hebrew
allegorical identity. So does his identity as Abel fighting the bloody brother Cain.
Together with the change of his name from Rosader to Orlando---to match
Roland in the medieval romance--his success in wrestling and throwing down
Charles who represents Charlemagne,6 the “Emperor of the Romans”,7 all
suggests he is a Hebrew hero like David.

More problematically however, the alert reader will recall that the Augean stables
only contained horses. The ox has been included to establish Orlando as an
allegory for the nativity of Jesus, in the stable with the ox and the ass in
accordance with conventional paintings and referring to the prophecy in Isaiah.
This also makes sense since Hercules was regarded in the Renaissance as a
kind of allegory for Christ.8 To confirm the point, Orlando is later identified as the
Prodigal Son from Luke’s Gospel, and even quotes from Thomas a Kempis The
Imitation of Christ (5,iv,3-4).

6
Charles is associated with Denis in the play, as was Charlemagne in the romance.
7
Joannes Turpini Historia de Vita Caroli Magni et Rolandi, printed under the title
Germanicarum Rerum (1566)
8
Pierre de Ronsard Hercule Chrestein (1556)

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Copyright © (2009) JOHN HUDSON All Rights Reserved

The photograph, above, from the production of the play by the Dark Lady Players at the
Midtown International Theater Festival in New York City, in 2008, shows the entry of
Orlando at left wearing the lion skin of Hercules, Adam is identified by his fig leaf, and
the actors form a tableau of a nativity scene, playing an ox and an ass, and the infant
Jesus. Touchstone is in the yellow Elizabethan dress. Hisperia is at right in the apron.

The playwright seems to be telling how an original strong Hebrew hero, like
Hercules, became transformed into the gentle figure of Jesus! Certain characters
in the play repeatedly make him ‘gentle’, put away his sword, and lead him to
write poetry. By the end of the play they will have turned him into a “prisoner” of
love, in a “cage” (3,ii,361), who wants to unite with the “heavenly” “magician”
Rosalind who he worships as a god (3,ii,349 F2).

The play begins in Paradise, but soon begins talking about the ‘fall’ and
describes the fallen world. The first person to be expelled from the Garden, is
Duke S, who we initially encounter talking about the bitterly cold wind. If the
Garden was Eden, then the first person to be expelled was Lucifer, who
according to St. Augustine was carried out by a cold wind. The forest is also
dominated by hunting, although dogs and their kennels or other conventional
infrastructure of Elizabethan hunting do not appear. Although hunting was

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Copyright © (2009) JOHN HUDSON All Rights Reserved

thought to have been caused by original sin9 (and to have begun after the
expulsion from Eden), hunting was also a conventional Elizabethan allegory for a
battle. Moreover the deer are very strange deer since they weep like human
beings, wear leather coats, make their wills, and are described as “burghers” and
“greasy citizens” (2,i,22 and 2,ii,55), implying that they come from a city. But what
is this battle and this city?

The clue comes in the passage about horns of victory from Elyot’s Book of the
Governor where it describes Roman hunting practices.10 The foresters also
inexplicably refer to a “Roman Conqueror”(4,ii,3). Other references suggest the
Duke and his followers are “mere usurpers, tyrants” (2,ii,61), “outlaws” (2,vii,0).
This suggests that the play is not set in the Forest of the Ardennes, nor in Arden
in Warwickshire, but another location where a diabolical and usurping Roman
conqueror was fighting a battle. Further details of the forest suggest that it is an
allegory for Judea during the Jewish war. The forest is described as a desert
(2,vii,16)—since the Romans illegally cut down all the trees. It is surrounded by a
circle—as Vespasian surrounded Jerusalem with a wall. Everyone is starving---
as the Jews were because Vespasian was starving them into surrender. People
are being hung on trees---as thousands of Jews were hung on crosses. The
forest is a “temple” but full of devils11 ---as Jerusalem was when it was invaded
by the Romans.

All of this logically suggests that the satanic Duke S. is an allegory for Vespasian
Caesar the Roman conqueror of Palestine. If so, are the other Flavian Caesars in
this play and how are they disguised? Vespasian had two sons; Domitian, known
for his fly-killing and Titus. In the play Domitian Caesar is represented by the
Beautiful Rose/Rosalind--whose hand will not kill a fly---but who carries a sword

9
Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa Of the Vanities and Uncertaintie of Artes and Sciences
(1530)
10
Sir Thomas Elyot The Book Named the Governor (1531)
11
The foresters are identified as devils through their use of wording from Vaughan’s play
Grim the Collier of Croydon (1600)

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Copyright © (2009) JOHN HUDSON All Rights Reserved

and spear as Ganymede (Cup-Servant of Jove). Ganymede’s normal


mythological companion, Tithonus, allegorically appears here as the Heavenly
Stranger12 (ie. in Latin Celia Aliena), representing his namesake Titus, the
conqueror of the Jews. The Heavenly Stranger conquers Oliver (the olive tree is
a NT symbol for the Jews), in a way paralleling how Julius Caesar conquered
Turkey. Rosalind even uses Caesar’s words ‘I came, I saw, I conquered” to
confirm their allegorical identity.

By making both of these characters ”heavenly”, the playwright is alluding to the


fact that Domitian and Titus both had themselves written into the gospels so that
they would be worshipped by the Jews in the literary guise of the heavenly
Jesus. This is why Rosalind is described as being created by a Synod (a church
council), having a body comprised of literary verses, and being made from many
parts13 and having lame feet—as if crucified. That is why the verse bodies are
hung up on thorny trees, and why they describe a god to shepherd turned
(4,iii,40), who is worshipped as divine. It also explains why both characters so
oddly ascend to and descend from heaven. This also suggests why Oliver is
brought to life on the third occasion—as if from the dead—and Orlando goes into
a cave, faints and also revives again. The rhetorical structure is mirrored by
Rosalind---whose fainting is repeatedly described as a “counterfeit”, the
parallelism suggesting that the playwright is commenting on the falseness of the
resurrection story in the gospels.

In some cases the Biblical allegory becomes a specific ecclesiastical parody. On


entering the forest there are suggestions we are in an abbey—possibly

12
Comically the pastor Corin does not recognize Celia as his master and refuses to give
him food, thereby fulfilling the passage in the gospel, that every time you do not feed a
stranger you do not feed Jesus. Stuart A.Daley ‘Shakespeare’s Corin’ English Language
Notes vol 27, no.4 (1990) 4-21.
13
The many parts of the Jesus story were assembled from Jewish traditions and the
conquests of Titus

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Gargantua’s abbey as described by Rabelais14, or possibly the abbey in which


travellers sought refuge from a flood as described in Margaret of Navarre’s
Heptameron. Several passages appear to be ecclesiastical parodies. Corin as a
shepherd appears to be a pastor whose “philosophy” is of the simplest and most
banal kind. Despite his hope of salvation, Touchstone says Corin will be damned
because he does not have the right “manners” echoing the Homily On The
Worthy Receiving Of The Sacrament which tells us to “behold our own manners
and lives to amend them”.15 This is perhaps why Touchstone advices him to
“mend the instance” (3,ii,65).

Corin’s inability to feed the Heavenly Stranger echos a passage in the Gospels,
about those who are unable to feed Christ when he appears as a stranger. But in
his subsequent willingness in exchange for money to become the visitors’
“faithful feeder” (2,iv,98) Corin also parodies the Homily which states “every one
of us must be guests, and not gazers, eaters, and not lookers, feeding our
selves, and not hiring others to feed for us”. The sacramental imagery continues
in Orlando’s speech with the Duke which refers to church bells, the feast, and
being “ministered” with food—as in the Eucharist. Furthermore the repetition of
language follows a liturgical pattern (2,vii,114-124)

These Eucharistic allusions culminate in the disappearance of Adam. Jacques’


speech has concluded that the seventh age of man is “mere oblivion” and “sans
everything” when Adam---the first Messiah—is brought in for a “banquet” (or
‘banket’ as the Homily calls it). The Duke welcomes him to “our table”, and
ambiguously says “let him feed”. Both Orlando and Adam reply “thank you”,
recalling the Greek word for the Eucharist as ‘thanksgiving’ which is mentioned
several times in the Homily. Orlando however is dismissed from the feast, leaving
the satanic Duke and his devils alone with Adam. To the words of a song about
friendship being feigning, and references to a “bite” and “tooth”, Adam’s arm and
14
Juliet Dusinberre (ed) As You Like It (London; Thomson, Arden Shakespeare, 2006).
15
Ian Lancashire (ed.) Certaine Sermons Or Homilies appointed to be read in Churches,
In the time of the late Queene Elizabeth of famous memory (London, 1623)

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Copyright © (2009) JOHN HUDSON All Rights Reserved

his hand are mentioned. But Adam himself speaks no more and at this point
mysteriously disappears from the play into oblivion. Where does he go? The
obvious conclusion is that he is devoured by the devils----as a messianic feast.16
In other words the passage is another Biblical allegory. It comically refers to the
last supper in the Gospels by presenting it as a literal act of cannibalism and
situating it during the Jewish War---except that here it is the Romans17 rather
than the Jews who are engaging in the cannibalism.

Finally, in addition to the dunghills, and various references to excrement—which


are not in Lodge’s novel-- the playwright has added two characters called Jakes,
which was the Elizabethan for toilet. Touchstone even addresses one of them as
“Master What-ye-call’t” (3,3,68) the standard euphemism for a privy. Touchstone
himself can be identified by his most unusual pocket watch, as Sir John
Harington, whose recent book announced the invention of the flush toilet.18

16
Shylock (whose name Shiloh is a name of the messiah) also disappears halfway
through The Merchant of Venice. It is implied that he leaves his corpse—all that he died
of possessed—to the Christians, who are “starved” (5,i,294). They ironically wait for
their messianic feast while cherubic choirs sing the Te Deum (5,i,63) whose words
include ‘bless thine inheritance’ under a ceiling decorated with ‘patens’ or communion
plates (5,i,59).
17
Duke S. is the “Roman Conqueror” of Judea, namely Vespasian Caesar. The Lords are
identified as devils by their singing the horn song which derives from the devils in
Houghton’s play Grim the Collier of Croydon.
18
Sir John Harington A New Discourse Upon a Stale Subject; The Metamorphoses of
Ajax (1596)

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Underneath this however, is Touchstone’s second allegory, as a great poet like


Ovid, who was expelled from Court, and whose work is not understood.
Touchstone’s name in Greek is basanos, and he describes being put to his
purgation—a kind of trial by ordeal which in Greek is also basanos. Evidently
Touchstone is the true author, the Jewish poet Amelia Bassano, which is why he
dislikes William (Shakespeare) so much and regards him as a clown.

Why otherwise is William in this play for just such a short piece? He is completely
redundant. Why call him William? What does this William born in the forest of
Arden represent. Why is he a clown? Why does Touchstone hate him, mock him,
and steal his girl? Why do the two passages in the play about mustard and about
William both have similar fool quotations? This parallelism links them together. It
also links them both to Ben Jonson’s parody of William Shakespeare in Every
Man Out of His Humour. If this clown William, is William Shakespeare, a fool---
then the reason Touchstone hates him is because Touchstone is the true author.

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Copyright © (2009) JOHN HUDSON All Rights Reserved

This was illustrated in the production by the Dark Lady Players in New York in
2008, by having William as a cardboard cutout of William Shakespeare, shown
here in a publicity photograph.

Similarly with the Martext character, who also is redundant to the play and comes
on for a few lines and then goes off. The appearance of the oddly named vicar
Sir Oliver Martext, who makes only a strange fleeting appearance in As You Like
It has never been explained. There is no reason why there should be this attempt
at a marriage that doesn’t happen and that brings on this extra character. He has
been given the first name Oliver. The reason is so that Touchstone can refer to
him in the words of the jig or ballad O Sweet Oliver “I will not to wedding with
thee”, even though Touchstone had said a moment before “I were better to be
married of him than another” (3, 3,82-82). If Touchstone is an allegory for Amelia
Bassano, then (as has long been suspected), Mar-text is a contemporary
allegory for the trainee vicar Christopher Marlowe. The song Sweet Oliver is
about a man who leaves behind the girl who wants to marry him, which is
precisely what happened when Marlowe was killed, leaving Amelia behind. She
wrote the evidently autobiographical poem A Lover’s Complaint complaining
about the man who left her. (The references to his youth, holy vows (line 179),
his irreligious behavior, his poetic ability (line 86), and brown hair, narrow down
the number of possible candidates). In As You Like It, Amelia is again
complaining, through her counterpart Touchstone, that she could not go to a
wedding with Marlowe.

The literary structure of four surrounding allusions to Marlowe help set up the
association, specifically to his poem about the untimely death of the young lover
Leander, and the two parallel but not symmetrical references to Marlowe’s death
that exist either side of the central theme.

• the reference to ladies being young and fair and having the gift to know it, echoes
a passage in Marlowe’s Hero and Leander in which Hero is glad she has such
loveliness and beauty to provoke his liking (2,7,37-9)

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• a man being struck dead and the great reckoning in a little room, which allude to
Marlowe’s murder supposedly over the ‘reckoning’ or bill (3,3,12-13)

• ‘I WERE BETTER TO BE MARRIED OF HIM THAN ANOTHER’ (3, 3,82-82)

• a quote from Hero and Leander, ‘who ever loved that loved not at first sight’
combined with a reference to him as a dead shepherd---since Marlowe was the
author of The Passionate Shepherd to His Love (3,5,81-82)

• a comic inaccurate summary of Hero and Leander and their deaths (4,1,90-95)

At the end of the play however, Touchstone orchestrates his revenge. He sets up
a ‘partition’ by an extended use of the rhetorical figure ‘partitio’, that is associated
with seven justices, seven lies, and seven causes---parodying the catalogues of
sevens that mark the Apocalypse in the Book of Revelation. This is the ‘partition’
between heaven and earth that comes down at the end of the world, when Jesus
returns from heaven. And no sooner has he erected it, than Celia and Rosalind
both return from heaven. There are references to “measure” (a term for
judgment), and it is announced that the flood is coming. Jacques states that
Touchstone and Audrey are on their way to the Ark, so one may assume that
they both survive the coming flood---as will the Jacques who hides in a cave, like
the Jews described in the Book of Revelation.

So the toilet and its inventor will both escape, because they know what is about
to happen. However, paralleling the allusion to the cleansing of the Augean
stables in the beginning, everyone else in the play will be washed clean away. Or
to echo the first allegorical production of this play in New York, by the Dark Lady
Players, directed by Stephen Wisker, the play ends with Noah’s flood and a “big
flush” which may be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e8aekCFV7qo The
Flavian Caesars, their Jesus, the church and its sheep-like followers and the
Clown William, all disappear—most comically—down the toilet, while Amelia
Bassano (Touchstone the basanos) and Audrey (the woman who was saved
from a flood) escape in the Ark.

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This allegorical production of As You Like It by the Dark Lady Players in 2008,
was discussed in a television interview by John Hudson, Kirsta Peterson who
played Touchstone, and Alexandra Cohen-Spiegler who played Adam. This
interview is available at http://blip.tv/file/1254195/ and contains several extracts
from rehearsal footage.

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Copyright © (2009) JOHN HUDSON All Rights Reserved

AN ALLEGORICAL PRODUCTION OF AS YOU LIKE IT IN NEW YORK CITY

The latest alternative Shakespeare research claims that the plays were not
written by the man from Stratford, nor by any of the other 65 candidates---but by
someone else. Overlooked for 400 years, because of her gender and skin
color, her name is Amelia Bassano Lanier (1569-1645). She was a major
experimental poet, the first woman to publish a book of original poetry, and also
was mistress to the man in charge of the English theater. She was a member
of the Bassano family, dark skinned Venetian Jews, of Moorish ancestry, who
had moved to England to be the Court Recorder troupe. She has long been
known as the so-called 'dark lady' of the Sonnets—which it now appears she
wrote in the third person. Not only does this explain the plays' unusual interest
in Venice and Moors and recorder music—it also explains their Hebrew puns
and the author's familiarity with Maimonides, the Talmud, and the original
Hebrew text of Genesis.

Amelia's authorship would also explain the recent startling discovery that many
of the plays contain hidden Jewish allegories—several of them about the
Roman-Jewish war. The allegory in A Midsummer Night's Dream was
performed last year by the experimental New York Shakespeare company, the
Dark Lady Players and was reviewed in NJJN in the February 28, 2008 article
titled 'Kosher Bard'. This summer, the Dark Lady Players put on another
production, at the Midtown International Theatre Festival, showing that an
allegory about the Roman-Jewish war also underlies As You Like It. The
classically trained cast of the Dark Lady Players, comprising 10 women actors,
faced the unique challenge of playing not only the 24 normal characters, but a
dozen allegorical characters as well, in an adaptation that was squeezed into
90 minutes. It was a credit to them and to Shakespeare director Stephen
Wisker, that the production managed to demonstrate the underlying allegory on
stage through clowning, costuming, physical movement and other framing
devices which made the hidden literary structures in the play concrete and
visible, so they could be untangled from the surface plot. It was, as John
Chatterton, the Festival founder, and publisher of the Off Off Broadway
Review (OOBR) puts it "an enjoyable romp through some of the more
impenetrable thickets of Shakespeare
scholarship."

The work being done by the Dark Lady


Players changes the meaning of the plays
and how they are to be understood and
performed. For instance in As You Like It,
the character Touchstone has a pocket
watch and is a fool, indicating that he
represents the informal Court fool Sir
John Harrington, the inventor of the flush

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Copyright © (2009) JOHN HUDSON All Rights Reserved

toilet, which ends up becoming an important underlying theme of the play. But
in addition, Touchstone is a brilliant poet whose work is not understood, who
has been expelled from Court, who hates the clown William (Shakespeare),
and whose name in Greek is basanos. All this suggests he is also an allegory
for Amelia Bassano —who wrote herself into some of the plays. So the actress
playing Touchstone, Kirsta Peterson, needed all her training at the Royal
Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) for the unusual challenge of playing the
surface character and two allegorical characters all at once. She also had to
depict Bassano on stage as the author, for the first time ever, and she rose to
the challenge—being nominated for the Festival Award for Best Supporting
Actress. "It is exciting to take the text and turn it on its head" said Peterson,
"after two years working with the Dark Lady Players, I absolutely believe that
Amelia wrote these plays."

As You Like It: A Biblical allegory

Superficially As You Like It is a pastoral, a genre of literature designed to


deceive, to say one thing on the surface, and mean something quite different
underneath. So allegorically the play is not about romantic love at all, but a
Biblical story which starts in paradise, then covers the Fall from paradise, the
wicked fallen world, and finishes with Noah's Flood.

In the Hebrew Bible, paradise


was the Garden of Eden, while
the equivalent in Classical
mythology was the Garden of
the Hesperides. The identity as
Eden is clear from the orchard
and the character called Adam.
Alexandra Cohen-Spiegler, who
brings to the role her training at
RADA and the LeCoq theater
school in Paris—plays him
comically as an old, wheezing
man, wearing a fig leaf, shown
here talking to Orlando/
Hercules. The Classical identity of the Garden as the Hesperides is indicated
by the existence of the character Hisperia who was one of the guardians of the
Hesperides. So the play begins in a converged Hebrew and Classical
paradise.

Then, almost immediately, it turns into a Nativity scene. We know Orlando


represents not just Hercules in his lion's skin, but also the Hebrew messiah,
because we are told he is growing up in a stable in between an ox and a
horse—as in typical Nativity scenes. In order to communicate his identity to the

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Copyright © (2009) JOHN HUDSON All Rights Reserved

audience, in this production all the cast form a stylized tableau to greet him.

Two of the youngest cast members, Lindsay Tanner and Sarah Jadin, who are
recent RADA and LAMDA
graduates, make their first
appearance as an animal and the
baby in the manger. The use of
such innovative techniques
throughout the play led Philip
Langner, director of the Theatre
Guild, to call this production "the
best piece of creative theatre I have
seen in many years."

Then, after a brilliantly executed


"wrestling match" introduces the
idea of a fall from grace, Rosalind
and Celia are thrown out, in a version of the Fall from Paradise. We see them
crawling on-stage, at Touchstone's feet, encountering the thorns and thistles
on the paths outside paradise in the working day world. They have been
preceded by Rosalind's father Duke Senior, who was the first person to be
expelled from Paradise, and therefore represents Satan. This is why he
appears with a broken umbrella—and in a freezing wind, which is one of the
traditional depictions of Satan being carried out of Paradise.

The fallen world was associated with original sin and hunting, the latter being a
typical Elizabethan metaphor for battle. We are also told that the forest,
originally a temple, has been surrounded by a circle, and turned into a desert
where people are hung on trees, are starving, and the greasy citizens and
native burghers of the city are being massacred—like deer—by tyrants and
usurpers. The hidden story here is that the outlaw satanic Duke is like a
"Roman Conqueror" as he is described. These events fit only one historic
situation-- the Roman-Jewish war. The Roman conqueror Vespasian Caesar,
surrounded Jerusalem and the temple with a circular wall, starved and
slaughtered the Jewish citizens, and illegally cut down all the trees for crosses,
turning the country into a desert. So we start to comprehend that the hunting is
an allegory for the Roman-Jewish war, and the deer are the Jews, who
wear tallits and are slaughtered onstage.

If Duke Senior's two allegorical identities are Satan and Vespasian, then
Rosalind and Celia are allegories for his children Titus and Domitian Caesar.
This is why Julius Caesar's maxim "I came, I saw, I conquered" is used to
describe how Celia eventually conquers 'Oliver'—the olive tree being a
traditional Jewish symbol. So in this production Duke Senior wears a pair of
horns like Satan but also wears a purple toga like those worn by Rosalind and

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Copyright © (2009) JOHN HUDSON All Rights Reserved

Celia (played respectively by Kate Murray and Emily Moment) shown here giving
Roman salutes as they set out for
the forest.

After various comic satires about


hanging on trees and counterfeit
resurrection, Rosalind and Celia
oddly ascend to heaven. Touchstone
begins a dynamic monologue
exemplifying the Partition between
Earth and Heaven which comes
down on the Last Day. The moment
he finishes, the Partition—namely the
curtain--opens and Rosalind and
Celia descend from heaven, in a parody of the Last Day.

But the dances and marriages keep being interrupted, because we are told
Noah’s Flood is coming. The two Jaques or ‘Jakes’ characters (representing two
toilets)—come on stage to interrupt the festivities by reciting an ironic and
distracting announcement of ‘fair tidings’. Meanwhile their inventor, Touchstone,
steals William (Shakespeare’s) girl and goes off to the Ark for a "loving voyage".
The Jakes hide in a cave—like the Jews do in the New Testament on the Last
Day—while Touchstone and Audrey sail off, as the flood or "flush" wipes away
the corrupted world. In the final scene in this production which can be seen
online at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e8aekCFV7qo Touchstone recites
the alternative Epilogue from the Ark, above a sea of floating heads, to the loud
background noise of a flushing Jakes.

As dramaturge to the Dark Lady Players it took nine months of research to create
this adaptation. It was then passed on to Shakespeare director Stephen Wisker
and the cast to take on stage. Sitting watching their performance at the Midtown
International Theater Festival this summer, I think Amelia Bassano would have
been proud of how they were at last able to reveal the underlying play-within-the-
play, a Jewish comedy, that has remained concealed for the last 400 years.

JOHN HUDSON

Summer 2008
www.darkladyplayers.com

17
Copyright © (2009) JOHN HUDSON All Rights Reserved

THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE ALLEGORY IN


AS YOU LIKE IT
By John Hudson

As You Like It is a good example of the pastoral genre, which always alludes to
hidden content, and signals that the play contains deeper allegorical meanings.
However Richard Knowles, the editor of the New Variorum edition of As You Like
It, concluded that he could not detect the overall allegorical pattern because the
play kept changing.19 The allegorical elements as he put it, “occur intermittently”
and are not “continuous”. What Knowles did not appreciate however, is that the
playwright is deliberately using discontinuity as a technique in order to make the
allegory harder to solve.

The playwright keeps changing how the underlying allegorical pattern is being
expressed. It begins as a straightforward Biblical allegory, turns into a simile to
church liturgy, transforms into a series of meta-theatrical parodies, and then
highlights the allegorical meanings using rhetorical structures. The reader has to
track the Biblical allegory through its various transformations to unlock the
complete meaning. Finally that meaning has also to be related to the
contemporary allegory.

The Biblical Allegory


Overall, the Biblical allegory explicitly provides the ‘bookends’ for the play,
starting by situating the play fairly clearly in Eden, ending with the clear
references to the Flood and Noah’s Ark. This sets the overall expectation that the
play is about the fall from paradise, the evil world, and God’s punishment of a
wicked generation. The question it then raises is how do the characters and sub-
plots fit into this overall schema—and to what wicked generation is the playwright
referring.

The first major character we meet is Orlando who is given a triple allegory, firstly
as an allegory for the heroic figure of Hercules, secondly as a Hebrew leader like
Jacob-Israel or David, and thirdly as the gentle pacifist Jesus of the gospels. The
plot of the play therefore poses a question of why Orlando—who we initially see
as a strong wrestler able to defeat the champion Charles and then drawing his
sword on Duke S.---is being made so “gentle”.

Orlando, is initially “overthrown” (1,ii,248) by Rosalind, and soon after Adam asks
him “O my gentle master…wherefore are you gentle?”. On entering the forest,
the Duke counters Orlando by saying “your gentleness shall force/ More than
your force move us to gentleness” (2,vii,103), and asks him to “sit down in
gentleness” (2,vii,125). So it would appear that Rosalind and Duke S. are both
engaged in persuading the Hebrew hero to renounce his strength and to become

19
Richard Knowles “Myth and Type in As You Like It’ ELH vol. 33, no.1, March (1966) 1-22

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Copyright © (2009) JOHN HUDSON All Rights Reserved

a pacifist ‘gentile’ Jesus. At the end of the play Orlando even quotes from
Thomas a Kempis The Imitation of Christ.

Although he is strong enough to defeat a lion—in an echo of the labor of


Hercules, but possibly also renouncing his Judean identity--- he goes into a cave
wounded, in an allusion to the cave in which Jesus was buried. There he faints,
and awakes, sending out a piece of cloth. It is referred to in two contrasting ways,
first as a bloody “napkin” (4,iii, 92, 137,153) and then as a “handkerchief’ (4,iii,96
& 5,ii.26). Only one other piece of clothing in the 17th century was widely known
both as a ‘napkin’ and a ‘handkerchief’. This was one of the burial garments of
Jesus, which the Geneva Bible translation called “the kerchief” and the Bishop’s
Bible called the “napkin” (John 20;7). So the playwright is using the words from
both contemporary Bible translations to indicate the precise Biblical allusion and
to continue the allegory of Orlando to Jesus.20 It also makes sense of the name
he is given—a version of Roland the famous Christian hero from the Song of
Roland, who dies abandoned, outstretched under a tree in the form of a cross.

All of this establishes, within the overall schema of the play, that it is allegorically
set in the first century, and that it concerns how the literary character of Jesus
was created by writers at the Court of the Flavian Caesars after the end of the
Roman-Jewish war. It was part of their ‘good news of military victory’ or gospel,
to take the Hebrew messiah and re-write it as a gentle pro-Roman literary
messiah that would be a disguise for the worship of Titus and Domitian Caesar.21
This focuses attention on the two disguised ‘heavenly’ figures, Celia Aliena the
‘heavenly stranger’ and the divine heavenly Rosalind, and whether they might
represent these Caesars.

The Ecclesiastical/Liturgical Analogy


The Biblical allegory then continues, but is harder to recognize because it
appears in a transformed fashion as a parody of Christian practice. On entering
the forest there are suggestions we are in an abbey—possibly Gargantua’s
abbey as described by Rabelais22, or possibly the abbey in which travellers
sought refuge from a flood as described in Margaret of Navarre’s Heptameron.
Several passages appear to be ecclesiastical parodies. Corin as a shepherd
appears to be a pastor whose “philosophy” is of the simplest and most banal
kind. Despite his hope of salvation, Touchstone says Corin will be damned
because he does not have the right “manners” echoing the Homily On The
Worthy Receiving Of The Sacrament which tells us to “behold our own manners
and lives to amend them”.23 This is perhaps why Touchstone advices him to
“mend the instance” (3,ii,65).

20
In Othello it becomes the handkerchief dyed with mummy.
21
This is why for example in the gospels the 11 key events in the life of Jesus are each literary parodies of
11 events in Titus’ conquest of Judea, see Joseph Atwill Caesar’s Messiah (2005).
22
Juliet Dusinberre (ed) As You Like It (London; Thomson, Arden Shakespeare, 2006).
23
Ian Lancashire (ed.) Certaine Sermons Or Homilies appointed to be read in Churches, In the time of
the late Queene Elizabeth of famous memory (London, 1623)

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Copyright © (2009) JOHN HUDSON All Rights Reserved

Corin’s inability to feed the Heavenly Stranger echos a passage in the Gospels,
about those who are unable to feed Christ when he appears as a stranger. But in
his subsequent willingness in exchange for money to become the visitors’
“faithful feeder” (2,iv,98) Corin also parodies the Homily which states “every one
of us must be guests, and not gazers, eaters, and not lookers, feeding our
selves, and not hiring others to feed for us”. The sacramental imagery continues
in Orlando’s speech with the Duke which refers to church bells, the feast, and
being “ministered” with food—as in the Eucharist. Furthermore the repetition of
language follows a liturgical pattern (2,vii,114-124)

These Eucharistic allusions culminate in the disappearance of Adam. Jacques’


speech has concluded that the seventh age of man is “mere oblivion” and “sans
everything” when Adam---the first Messiah—is brought in for a “banquet” (or
‘banket’ as the Homily calls it). The Duke welcomes him to “our table”, and
ambiguously says “let him feed”. Both Orlando and Adam reply “thank you”,
recalling the Greek word for the Eucharist as ‘thanksgiving’ which is mentioned
several times in the Homily. Orlando however is dismissed from the feast, leaving
the satanic Duke and his devils alone with Adam. To the words of a song about
friendship being feigning, and references to a “bite” and “tooth”, Adam’s arm and
his hand are mentioned. But Adam himself speaks no more and at this point
mysteriously disappears from the play into oblivion. Where does he go? The
obvious conclusion is that he is devoured by the devils----as a messianic feast.24
In other words the passage is another Biblical allegory. It comically refers to the
last supper in the Gospels by presenting it as a literal act of cannibalism and
situating it during the Jewish War---except that here it is the Romans25 rather
than the Jews who are engaging in the cannibalism.

The Rhetorical Allegory


Elsewhere in the play the allegorical clues are provided by the rhetorical
structures which give covert meanings to the text. Take for instance, the two
passages (5,i,1-4 and 31-38) that use the rhetorical construction known as
‘staircase’, gradatio in Latin or climax in Greek. The surface meaning of the play
does not explain why these constructions are situated either side of a central
passage---Rosalind’s quotation of Julius Caesar’s words “I came, I saw, I
overcame”---to which they give prominence. They also invite the reader to
compare this central passage, about how Caesar conquered Turkey, with the
staircase passages either side that are about how Celia overcame Oliver

24
Shylock (whose name Shiloh is a name of the messiah) also disappears halfway through The Merchant
of Venice. It is implied that he leaves his corpse—all that he died of possessed—to the Christians, who
are “starved” (5,i,294). They ironically wait for their messianic feast while cherubic choirs sing the Te
Deum (5,i,63) whose words include ‘bless thine inheritance’ under a ceiling decorated with ‘patens’ or
communion plates (5,i,59).
25
Duke S. is the “Roman Conqueror” of Judea, namely Vespasian Caesar. The Lords are identified as
devils by their singing the horn song which derives from the devils in Houghton’s play Grim the Collier of
Croydon.

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Copyright © (2009) JOHN HUDSON All Rights Reserved

(representing the Olive tree, a symbol for the Jews). This rhetorical construction
therefore poses the allegorical question, what is the relationship of Celia to
Caesar?

A more complex example is the passage about Jane Smile. The reason for the
character’s peculiar name is that this is rather a simile. Jane is a version of
Johanan meaning in Hebrew ‘the Lord is gracious’. The Jane passage concludes
with a chiasmus---a rhetorical cross—formed by the lines “as all is mortal in
nature, so is all nature in love mortal in folly” (2,iv.51-52). Even more important
the entire Jane Smile passage is framed by an inclusio or ‘envelope’ of two
identical mentions of the word ‘passion’, the term for the death of Jesus (2,iv, 38
and 56). 26 Inside the ‘envelope’ we find a reference to drawing a sword against a
man who is a stone, while another man who is a ‘batler’—fighting a battle—
kisses ‘the Lord is gracious’. Both of these echo the gospel account in the garden
of Gethsemane where Peter the Stone drew his sword to defend Jesus and
where his betrayer Judas gave him a kiss. Other aspects of the story refer to how
the Romans treated the Jewish Messianic leader they captured during the Jewish
war.27

The rhetorical constructions of the inclusio and the chiasmus point out that this
passage is a comic allegory of the Gethsemane story, which is later returned to
when Oliver appears from his sleep at the “tuft” (3,v,76) or tuffet of olives, namely
the Mount of Olives. So this is yet another comic Biblical allegory. The playwright
is creating a comic parody of the crucifixion account, and is also linking it to a
real, if obscure, historical incident during the Jewish war.

The Theatrical Metaphor and Literary Conventions


In As You Like It, the poetic convention of a man’s love for his mistress is
parodied and signaled as an artificial literary form. Firstly, the use is excessive—
even alluding to a French poet’s love poem to his mistress’ eyebrow. Secondly,
some of the passages are clearly signaled not as realism, but as a kind of poetic
convention and meta-theatrical performance. In other words just as hunting was
an allegory for battle, the military metaphors in the pastoral love talk signal that
the love fights are allegories for real battles.

One of the earliest play-within-the-play sequences is between Phoebe and


Silvius, which is explicitly referred to as a “pageant” and a “play” which includes
an “actor”. Phoebe is described as a “proud disdainful shepherdess” indicating
she is possibly playing the part of a character from a medieval mystery play.
Their dialogue about “love’s keen arrows” is full of language such as executioner,
the axe falling on the neck, dying by bloody drops, the sight of death, being
injured, murder in the eyes, butchers, murderers, killing, wounding, scratching,
wounds, darts, and hurt (3,v,1-30). This is excessive for any poetic love

26
A Midsummer Night’s Dream uses an identical ‘envelope’ structure of two mentions of the ‘passion’, to
surround the death of Bottom/Pyramus, which is another comic crucifixion parody.
27
they chopped off his limbs, and Jane Smile has ‘chopped’ hands.

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Copyright © (2009) JOHN HUDSON All Rights Reserved

convention. Together with the theatrical distance of being explicitly shown as a


performance, this play-within-the play signals that the use of love imagery
functions as an allegory for real warfare. Similarly when Rosalind threatens
Orlando as a prisoner, and talks of him being put in a cage.

Equally, the passages in the play that appear as letters and poems establish a
theatrical distance—by being the written equivalent of a play-within-the-play.
Their artificial status is highlighted when they are being delivered by improbable
characters. It is unlikely that Phoebe as a shepherd girl would be able to write. In
addition, we are specifically told at the beginning of the play that Orlando was not
schooled but kept rustically at home, so it is odd for him to recite a dizain (3,ii,1-
10) and to write the poems that are hung on the trees. The inappropriateness of
such letters and poems creates an alienation effect which shows they are not
commentaries by the character, but are a form of direct address by the author to
the audience without the constraints of the character. Taken together they
describe Rosalind as having been created by a Church synod (3,ii,147), as an
entity that exists as a body of verses, made up of many parts, who is a
“quintessence of every sprite” (3,ii,136), who has his “godhead laid apart”
(4,iii,44), is “god to shepherd turned” (4,iii,40) and makes people madly love him.
Because the literary body of Rosalind was created by the Church, has a
godhead, lame feet and is hung on thorny trees, it is pretty clear that this is
referring to the figure in the gospels. In other words these passages describe
how a Caesar took on the disguise of Christ—the local divinity--so that he would
be worshipped by the Jews as divine.

The Contemporary Allegory


Once the other allegorical systems have been solved this one also falls into
place. It appears from his pocket watch that Touchstone is an allegory for Sir
John Harington, the inventor of the flush toilet. But there is also a second
allegory---describing a great poet like Ovid. His work is not understood, and he is
called Touchstone (in Greek basanos) and put to his purgation, a trial by ordeal
(in Greek also basanos). So this suggests that Touchstone is the true author, the
poet, Amelia Bassano, which would explain why he hates and wishes to kill the
clown William (Shakespeare) who gets all the credit for his work.

It also gives us the final plot, since Touchstone—as the inventor of the flush
toilet—works with Jacques (the Elizabethan for toilet) to take Jewish revenge
upon the Roman creators of Christianity. He erects a rhetorical ‘partitio’
symbolizing the partition between earth and heaven, which comes down when
Celia and Rosalind return from heaven on the day of Apocalypse to judge the
world. It also makes sense of the story of how a Hebrew hero was gentled into
the literary figure of Jesus, and then united with the divine “heavenly Rosalind”---
who turns out to be an allegory for one of the Caesars.

However the two Jacques characters interrupt the Duke’s planned marriage
festivities, and one of them announces that the Flood is coming. Touchstone

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Copyright © (2009) JOHN HUDSON All Rights Reserved

takes his girl (named after a saint who escaped from a flood) and escapes in the
Ark while the Flood, like a gigantic toilet, will flush away the Caesars, Corin, the
Jesus figures, the dunghills and everyone else on stage.

John Hudson
darkladyplayers@aol.com

23

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