Rosalynde among the Familists: As You Like It and an Expanded View of Its Sources

Author(s): Robert Schwartz
Source: The Sixteenth Century Journal, Vol. 20, No. 1 (Spring, 1989), pp. 69-76
Published by: The Sixteenth Century Journal
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Sixteenth CenturyJournal
XX, No. 1, 1989
Rosalynde Among the Familists: As You Like It
and an Expanded View of its Sources
Robert Schwartz
Oregon State University
Shakespeare's innovations on Lodge's Rosalynde in As You Like It have
seemed haphazard and designed to broaden the play's scope of debate.
However, the background of the antinomian, libertine "Family of Love"
lends a curious coherence to many of the play's deviations from Lodge,
especially in the addition of characters, in its altering of seemingly minor
details, and its broad interest in the dynamics of 'family.'
GEOFFREY BULLOUGH, considering the ways in which Shakespeare used
Thomas Lodge's Rosalynde, observed that As You Like It "is more than a
pastoral play of escape to an idyllic world; it is rather an inquiry into the
different ideas of country life current at the time, and a reconciliation
between them." Actually Shakespeare's play is an inquiry into, and a
quite a bit more than this. Nonetheless, Bullough is
correct in stressing, as have scholars since, that, while pastoral in its
underpinnings, As You Like It is more significant for the innovations it
works on traditions of pastoral than for its wholesale adoption of much that
is more superficially conventional in Lodge.'
Beyond the shift in pastoral tone evident both in the reduction in
number and importance of 'shepherd' scenes as well as the addition of
debates on virtually all aspects of love and life, Shakespeare's play differs
significantly from Lodge in other ways. There is the addition of Jaques,
Touchstone, Audrey, and Sir Oliver Mar-text. Familial parallels are inten-
sified by making Frederick (Torismond) and the Duke Senior (Gerismond)
brothers and characterizing the group of exiled "loving lords" as a brother-
hood (i.e., Duke Senior: "Now my co-mates and brothers in exile"). Scenes
are added which further describe the life of Senior's exiled band (in Lodge
merely a "lustie crue," and we do not see them eating, drinking, singing,
and commenting on the human condition) and especially in references to
their somewhat pantheistic, perfectionistic, loving, and communal exis-
tence. The notion of religious conversion is also added.
'Geoffrey Bullough, ed., Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare, vol. 2: The
Comedies, 1597-1603 (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1958), 153. Cf. A New Variorum
Edition of Shakespeare: As You Like It, ed. Richard Knowles (New York: Modern Language
Association, 1977), 476, which lists among Shakespeare's innovations on Lodge "reducing the
pastoral elements;" and Agnes Latham, ed., The Arden Edition of the Works of Shakespeare: As
You Like It (London: Methuen, 1975), who notes that "in some ways Lodge is more
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70 Sixteenth Century Journal
These innovations have seemed haphazard and designed merely to
expand the scope of debate in the play-to open up the play's comic and
serious potential and introduce a broader range of character types. In fact,
however, all of these major changes take on a striking coherence when seen
in relation to a peculiar bit of information Shakespeare gives us about the
background of his most important addition to the play, the character of
Duke Senior:
Most mischievous foul sin, in chiding sin.
For thou thyself has been a libertine,
As sensual as the brutish sting itself;
And all th'embossed sores and headed evils
That thou with license of free foot hast caught,
Wouldst thou discharge into the general world.
(II, vii, 64-69)2
This reference to Jaques' "libertine" past has confused Shakespeareans
for a very long time. It has been normal either to
in light of this,
as an exhausted epicurean" "long experienced in sin," a "sated voluptary,"
a "blase roue," one who has had "too intimate acquaintance with the
seamier side of life," or simply to discount the Duke's comment on the
grounds that what he says is just not true, but merely an attempt to draw
Jaques into an argument. As George Kittredge pointed out in defense of the
latter view, "Libertine, to be sure, meant 'loose liver,' but it had not become
so specialized as in modern English."3 A closer look at what "libertine" did
mean at the time the play was written allows us not only to question
Kittredge's judgment about the insincerity of the Duke's comment, as well
as the view that Jaques is merely licentious and dissolute, but gives, also,
some coherence to many of the changes that Shakespeare made in his major
sources for the play.
The primary meaning of "libertine" in the late sixteenth century, and
the one most clearly evoked by the context of the Duke's as well as Jaques'
comments on chiding and cleansing sin, was one who was a member of an
antinomian sect. Libertines, often also referred to as Seekers, Spirituals,
Quakers, and, more often, Familists, were condemned as early as 1545 by
Calvin (in his attack Contre la secte phantastique etfurieus des Libertins qui se
nomment Spiritulez) and later very bitterly in England, for example byJohn
Knewstub at Paul's Cross in 1576, by Stephen Batman in 1577, by Lawrence
Chaderton in
1578, by John Dyos
1579, by George
Gifford in
1596, and
determinedly pastoral than Shakespeare, " and that the tone of the play runs less to the pastoral
frame of mind than to an ethos stressing the "natural turn of events" (xvi and xliv).
2References to the works of Shakespeare are cited from The Complete Signet Classic
Shakespeare, ed. Sylvan Barnet (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, repr. 1972).
3Knowles, ed., 120-21 n. Cf comments by Gervinus, Fletcher, Skipton, Gray, Kittredge
and the editor.
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Rosalynde Among the Familists 71
others, well into the seventeenth century.4 The attack on Familists (the
libertine sect known as The Family of Love, The Service of Love, The
House [or Household] of Love, or The Family) did not come, furthermore,
only from the established church, but also from literary circles. Thomas
Nashe "sneered at Familism in his Return of the Renouwned Caualiero Pasquill
in 1589 and in Pierce Penilesse in 1592. Early in the seventeenth century we
find the same mocking attitude in Thomas Middleton's Family of Love and
Ben Jonson's Eastward Hoe and The Alchemist. "5 The relation between the
term "libertine" and the so-called Family of Love was especially close in
England toward the end of the sixteenth century. In general, as George
Mosse writing about Puritan radicalism tells us, "libertinage . . had
meant, in the sixteenth century, those who were filled with the 'Holy Spirit'
and thus thought themselves free from any ecclesiastical discipline." It was
later, in the seventeenth century, that "it came to be applied to those deists
who seemed to justify moral laxness."6 But beyond this, as Alastair
Hamilton has pointed out,
The identification between libertines and Familists had been a frequent
feature of attacks both Catholic and Protestant throughout the 1560s
and 1570s, and the Reformed Protestants, who prided themselves on
their moral and political integrity, interpreted all attempts at compro-
mise as the work of this vague, but at the same time ubiquitous,
sect . . . 'the libertines are increasing, and with them the true atheists',
wrote the Reformed preacher Hendrik van den Corput in November
1579. . . . In a further letter, in March 1581, Corput made it clear that
libertines and the Family of Love were one and the same thing, that
they were peddling their books openly and that the Reformed
Protestants must do something about them.7
And other historians agree that, as Jean Dietz Moss says, "Familist eventu-
ally became synonymous with libertine."8
Certainly the meaning of the term, its connection with Familism in a
theatrical context, and the appropriateness of its application
critic of romantic love in As You Like It-is nicely glossed in Middleton's
bitter and relentless attack on the sect in his 1602 (very close in time to As
You Like It) play titled The Family of Love, where the romantic hero,
4See George H. Williams, The Radical Reformation (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1962),
788-89: "A distinctive feature of the radical movement in England was the close interrelation-
ship of Libertinism, anti-Trinitarianism, Anabaptism of the Melchiorite strain, and Spiritual-
ism." For English critics of the sect see Alastair Hamilton, The Family of Love (Cambridge:
James Clarke & Co., 1981), 128, and Jean Dietz Moss, "The Family of Love and English
Critics," Sixteenth Century Journal 6:1 (1975): 44.
5Lynnewood F. Martin, "The Family of Love in England: Conforming Millenarians,"
Sixteenth Century Journal 3:2 (1972): 100; Hamilton, Family of Love, 134-35.
6George L. Mosse, "Puritan Radicalism and the Enlightenment," Church History 29
(1960): 426.
7Hamilton, Family of Love, 109.
8Moss, Family & English Critics, 35.
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72 Sixteenth CenturyJournal
Gerardine, answers Lipsalve and Gudgeon ("two gallants that only pursue
city lechery") as they mock men who wish to marry:
Profane not thus the sacred name of love,
You libertines, who never knew the joys
Nor precious thoughts of two consenting hearts!
(The Family of Love I, ii, 15-17)9
When the Duke Senior told the Elizabethan audience that Jaques had
been a libertine or Familist he was telling them very much indeed. The
Family of Love was founded by Henry Niclaes, a German cloth merchant,
who, in his travels, left groups of converts all over Europe. His works were
translated into English and disseminated by his disciple Christopher Vittels
in the 1570s, perhaps after a visit to England by Niclaes around 1560.10
What is most interesting about the group is that although they seem to have
been very well known in their time and almost universally condemned, no
one seemed to understand exactly what they believed or stood for. As
Alastair Hamilton, the most sophisticated and thorough historian of the
sect, has admitted, "the doctrine of the community consisted of a con-
fused, and frequently contradictory, list of tenets." E. Belfort Bax found
Niclaes' central statement of Familist doctrine "nothing but a turgid mass
of theological maunderings, which drones on page after page without
apparently coming to any intelligible point, and out of which it is difficult to
make any coherent doctrine.
While historianJulia G. Ebel adds that "little
can be learned about the Family's beliefs, since most of the tangible
evidence for their creed comes from defamatory literature."tt
But considerable effort has been made tojudge what the Familist creed
held, or was thought to hold; and although sometimes muddled and
contradictory, the following points have been stressed by church histo-
rians: 1) "Believing in the potential goodness of man, [Niclaes] taught that
it was possible for him not to be a sinner in his life." 2) "There was some-
thing far more important than the Bible, [Familists] claimed: the Spirit,
without whose inspiration the Scriptures would never have been written
and whose inspiration continued to function independently of the Scriptures. "
And that ". . . the spiritual formed a group apart in which human learning
was of no account but in which divine wisdom was very much present.
9The Works of Thomas Middleton, vol. 3, ed. A. H. Bullen (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin,
1885), 15.
10For background on Henry Niclaes and The Family of Love see Hamilton, Family of
Love, passim; Martin, Family in England, 78-108; Julia G. Ebel, "The Family of Love: Sources
of its History in England, " Huntington Library Quarterly 30:4 (1967): 331-43; Williams, Radical
Reformation, esp. 778-90; Moss, Family & English Critics 35-52; Wallace Kirsop, "The Family
of Love in France, "Journal of Religious History 3:2 (1965): 103-18; Champlin Burrage, The Early
English Dissenters in Light of Recent Research (1550-1641), 2 vols (New York: Russell and Russell,
repr. 1967), esp. 1:209-14.
"Hamilton, Family of Love, 118; E. Belfort Bax, The Rise and Fall of the Anabaptists
(London: Sonnenschein, 1903), 359; Ebel, Family: Sources, 332.
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Rosalynde Among the Familists 73
"Believing that 'all things are ruled by nature, and not directed by God,'
they taught that heaven and hell were in this life and defended pre-
Adamism. "12 4) Niclaes rejected the "Lutheran solafide and [urged] man to
achieve righteousness by becoming a 'New Man.' [Henry Niclaes signed
himself "H. N.," not for his given name but for Homo Novus.] As Luther
accepted the fact that the believer continues to sin, but that through faith
the righteousness of Christ is imputed to the undeserving sinner as a free
gift, Niclaes taught that the believer would, through divine love, experi-
ence holiness thus being 'made. . . alive, through Christ,' and being
separated from the sinful condition through a sanctification which he
described as being 'godded . . . with him [i.e. God].' "13
Other beliefs that may have some bearing on our specific interest in the
sect for its possible relations to As You Like It are: (1) The principle stated in
the Terra Pacis that the Family "do not vow or bind themselves in the
Matrimony of Men, nor-yet suffer themselues to be bound therein; but are
like the Angells in Heauen." This alleged doctrinal aversion to marriage,
although we know Familists did in fact marry and moreover were pretty
orthodox on this point, came to be a popular point of departure for attacks
on the Family and the charge of loose moral behavior, a common associa-
tion with the term "libertine" that explains the literal emphasis on sensual
behavior and sexual disease in the Duke's admonition
and perhaps
Touchstone's attitude toward the institution of marriage. (2) Familists
followed Niclaes' example of segregating himself from the "impure" and
setting out on a journey to the Land of Peace by traveling to spread their
beliefs. For instance, Christopher Vittels, it was said, "spent his time
'wandryng uppe and downe the Countrey"' proselytising. And Familism
was spread by "such other lyke which by travailyng from place to place, do
get their lyuyng." And those who, "using such a romyng kynde of
Traffique keepe not commonly anyone certaine abidyng place, but runnyng
fiskyng from place to place, stay not for the most part any where long
together. "14
The fundamental Familist belief that man, regenerated in nature by
spiritual awakening, was free from the effects of original sin provides us
with the most profound background possible for many of the comments by
the Duke Senior added to Lodge's story by Shakespeare: "Are not these
woods/More free from peril than the envious court?" he asks at the start of
Act II, celebrating the regenerative quality and moral purity of nature-
"Here feel we not the penalty of Adam." Without the background of the
antinomian sects, this statement has always been problematic for critics,
who don't know how to take the Duke's view in light of the chilling winter
12For this and above, Hamilton, Family of Love, 4, 7, 118.
13Martin, Family in England, 100-1.
14Terra Pacis. A true testification of the spirituall lande of peace, which is the spirituall lande of
promyse . . .(Cologne, c. 1574) cited in Hamilton, Family of Love, 37, 55, 119-21.
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74 Sixteenth CenturyJournal
wind. But the real pantheism and optimism of the antinomian libertines is
most evident in his elaboration:
And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in everything.
Freed to pursue the spirit of Christian value through nature rather than
through scripture or the orthodox rituals of the church, the Duke Senior's
band of outlaws find God not in their books, but in themselves and in the
world around them. And that such a process is specifically dissociated from
the authority of the church is made clear by the Duke Senior's admission to
Orlando that "True it is that we have seen better days, /And have with holy
bell been knolled to church . . ." (II, vii, 119-20), but that, due to circum-
stances, this is no longer the case.
As far as such connections may take us in understanding the source of
Shakespeare's additions to the story of Rosalynde, we must still ask: What
does it matter ifJaques was a libertine and the Duke Senior seems, by virtue
of his outlaw brotherhood and pantheistic/perfectionistic view, to express,
or at least experiment with, Familist ideas?
To begin with, Jaques, once a libertine, is now a thoroughgoing
melancholic and a skeptic. Is it because of his past that he continues to value
to debunk orthodoxy, to travel "with license of free foot,
" as the
Familists did in spreading their views, and to remain somewhat the radical
reformer? "Jaques, when he is with Touchstone," Agnes Latham says,
"treats him with great courtesy, from which we may deduce thatJaques hits
only those his own size."15 Be that as it may, certainly Jaques' kindness
grows more from the fact that he sees his own past in Touchstone, and in
fact catches the Fool in his affair with Audrey on the verge of making the
same mistake in abusing license under the guise of religiousness (rejecting
the orthodox rituals of the church as antinomians were thought to have
done) for which the libertines were then being condemned, as Jaques
himself has been by the Duke Senior. And like Jaques, Touchstone also
makes a practice of chiding 'sin,' or, rather, parodies such practice, as in his
exchanges with Corin on the evils of fostering the "copulation of cattle." In
fact, almost all of the characters added by Shakespeare-Jaques,
Touchstone, Audrey, Sir Oliver Mar-text-help to uncover the basis of
antinomian belief and practice past and present against which the Duke
Senior, the young lovers, and the newly defined 'pastoral' world of the play
in general measure their own spiritual development. That Touchstone's
desire for "not being well married" by Sir Oliver as an excuse "hereafter to
leave my wife" smacks of the popular and cynical view of Familist ethics,
we cannot doubt. But even the character of Sir Oliver himself has strong
15Latham, Arden Edition, lxxvi.
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Rosalynde Among the Familists 75
Familist parallels: in reference to a group of "suspected Familists" who in
1574 "had been meeting in a secret conventicle in Balsham . . . ." it was
noted that "the leader of the group appears to have been Robert Sharp,
parson of the little village of Strethall. . . . It was reported of Sharp that he
married people in the fields using a rite of his own." Further, "the
unlikelihood of Robert Sharp being an orthodox Puritan minister is
apparent from the fact that he was unable to write and had to make his mark
at the foot of the confession. "16
Jaques was a libertine, but now, like all good Puritans of the time, looks
for sin not in
but in others. Touchstone, in his relations with
Audrey and Sir Oliver, represents what Jaques would like to forget about
his past. The Duke and his co-mates and brothers in exile (Familists greeted
one another with phrases like 'here is a brother in the family') as well as the
other inhabitants of the Forest of Arden, represent what is best about
Familist thought: its belief in the potential to redeem fallen man and to
become Homo Novus, the New Man spiritually reborn in nature. This
accounts not only for Jaques' fascination with what we may call the 'New
Man' that is Frederick the convertite (which in itself mimicks the spiritual
rebirth of Oliver), but for his disinclination to return from the forest to the
world of civil authority as well.
This view of what Jaques represents, the function served by
Touchstone, et. al., the relevance of comments given to the Duke Senior
about original sin and the family of man (in fact the play's general
intensification of the role of families and its occasional questioning of what
constitutes a proper family), all serve to make the total action of the play a
brief but invigorating antinomian fling-almost in religious terms what
C. L. Barber discussed in social and ceremonial terms as "release" and
"clarification."17 There is generally a rejection of the corrupt rules of the
'civil' world and a simultaneous celebration of the moral purity of nature.
The unlimited questioning and testing of values in the forest ends in a
reaffirmation of traditional social order and an even more orthodox sense of
moral redefinition (a visit to an "old religious" man), the proper ceremony
of marriage, and finally the restitution of civil authority.
More so than his source in Lodge (and the less proximate Tale of
Gamelyn) Shakespeare asks the question, "What is a proper family?" In
spirit some families, as Le Beau tells Orlando, cannot be said to exist:
Which of the two was daughter to the Duke . . . ?
16N. A. Penrhys-Evans, The Family of Love in England, 1550-1650 (unpublished MA
thesis, University of Kent at Canterbury, September, 1971) 84-86. Cf. Hamilton, Family of
Love, 121.
17C. L. Barber, Shakespeare's Festive Comedy (Princeton: Princeton University Press,
1959), passim.
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76 Sixteenth CenturyJournal
Le Beau:
Neither his daughter, if we judge by manners.
(I, ii, 261-66)
Later, Adam, too, questions the nature of family ties:
Your brother-no, no brother, yet the son-
Yet not the son, I will not call him son-
Of him I was about to call his father-
And when his own family loyalty is challenged, Orlando firmly defends it:
I am more proud to be Sir Rowland's son,
His youngest son, and would not change that calling
To be adopted heir to Frederick.
(I, ii, 228-30)
Indeed, as Louis Montrose has demonstrated, "It is precisely in the
details of inheritance that Shakespeare makes one of the most significant
departures from his source," adding that "Shakespeare alters the terms of
the paternal will in Lodge's story so as to alienate Orlando from the status
of a landed gentleman. The effect is to intensify the differences between the
eldest son and his siblings. ..."18
What is striking about Orlando's need to defend his family loyalty here
is the degree to which Shakespeare has deviated from Lodge in this small
point; for rather than wishing "I would thou hadst been son to some man
else" (I, ii, 220), Torrismond in Rosalynde favors Rosader (Orlando) and
especially for his parentage: "but when they knew him [Rosader] to be the
youngest Sonne of Sir John of Bordeaux, the King rose from his seate and
imbraced him. . .."19
To Adam's odd questions of Orlando, "Why are you virtuous? Why do
people love you?" (II, iii, 5), we may apply Orlando's own observations that
although "never schooled and yet learned" (Familists rejected formal
education in favor of spiritual illumination), "the spirit of my father grows
strong in me . . ." (I, i, 161-62; 68-69).
Indeed, freed from the rules of the civil world, in the benevolent and
nurturing laboratory of nature, all men have found the spirit of their
'father'-what Familists called the 'holy spirit'-and thus their social and
true Christian selves. That Jaques does not participate in the return to a
civil society does not in any way diminish this, since the process of self-
discovery is unending and, as he says, "Out of these convertites/There is
much matter to be heard and learned" (M iv, 184-85).
18Louis Adrian Montrose, "'The Place of a Brother' in As You Like It: Social Process and
Comic Form." Shakespeare Quarterly 32:1 (1981): 28-54.
19Bullough, Sources of Shakespeare, 172.
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