As You Like It: A Royal Blush

Review of Shakespeare’s
As You Like It
by Charles Pope (St. Mikey)

The Name of the Rose

Shakespeare’s, As You Like It, was a stage play based upon a popular Romance Novel by Thomas Lodge with the outlandish (and suspicious) title, “Rosalynde: Euphues’ Golden Legacy, Found After His Death in His Cell at Silexedra”. Lodge claims to have discovered and passed on this work rather than directly authoring it, much like Cervantes in his “Don Quixote”. The mention in Lodge’s title of the artist colony of Silexedra, which was owned and patronized by Francis Bacon, has led Baconians to identify him as the true source of both the novel and play using Lodge and Shakespeare as masks.
(“Shakespeare is Bacon” website)

The hero of Lodge’s novel is called Rosader, a name with definite Baconian overtones. Rosader connotes “brazen serpent”, as in the fiery serpent lifted up on a pole/cross by Moses to end a plague in the wilderness. Elizabethan England was likewise looking for a means of concluding their plagued Exodus from the Empire and subsequent wilderness experience. A variant of the name Rosader, Rosencrantz, appears in Hamlet, which along with Twelfth Night are sequels to As You Like It. Both of these new works were part of the damage control undertaken after demise of Essex. As noted in the Hamlet study (posted on this site, see link below), Rosencrantz is a play on Rosicruscian (“rosy cross”), a serpent-venerating (as in wisdom) society believed to have been inspired, if not also founded, by Francis Bacon.
(Hamlet analysis)
(Symbolism of the brazen serpent)
(Grail research related to “La Serpent Rouge”)

But who would be the Elizabethan Savior/Osiris? Francis Bacon was by the end of the century involved in valuable “intelligence work” but showed little or no political aspiration. His putative younger brother Robert Devereaux, Earl of Essex, with russet hair and militant flair, was most definitely on the rise. The secret marriage of their mother Queen Elizabeth to their father Leicester evidently had not occurred until just before the birth of Essex, excluding Bacon from the succession. As the elder of the two, Bacon would then have assumed the role of “forerunner” to Essex, a role which called for some kind of public announcement (“preparing of the way”). The novel (Rosalynde) and play (As You Like It) performed this function admirably.

A Rose by Any Other Name

Lodge’s Rosader was an adaptation of the tragic Charlemagne Romance figure of Roland. Roland, according to the legends, had exhibited unflinching loyalty to Charlemagne by hurling himself into battle against overwhelming odds. Although he lost his life, he was lifted up as a shining example of knightly chivalry. His story was later adopted in Italy under the patronage of Lorenzo (“The Magnificent”) de Medici. The Italian writers however transformed Roland from an ill-fated warrior into a frustrated lover named Orlando.

In the Italian/Medici stories, Orlando vies with his cousin Rinaldo (brother of cross-dressing female knight Bradamante, the stilted fiancé of Orlando) for the much coveted but highly elusive Angelica, daughter of the King of Cathay (China!). Although Angelica wears a clasp given to her by Orlando, she ultimately chooses a Moor named Medoro after she helps him recover from critical battle wounds and he unites their names in tree carvings.

Orlando Innamorato,M1

Orlando Furioso


Medici Patronage of Literature

The Charlemagne Romance is a celebration of world-wide escapades and includes intermarriage between Arab/Muslim and European/Christian royals. The story of the oriental Lady Angelica is a memory of Byzantine Queen Irene, who was deposed for her dalliances with the Charlemagne court. The western tradition that Irene (as Angelica) eventually sought refuge even further to the east and with the support of a Moorish partner is indication that there was more to her story than reported in official Byzantine histories (and that the network of Byzantine influence stretched all the way to the Orient).
The Charlemagne Romance became a cautionary tale for Queen Elizabeth, who emulated Irene/Angelica. Elizabeth also forged a link with the Far East by honoring her “father” (royal predecessor) King John (Temujin/Genghis Khan) as well as his heir Timer (Tamerlane/Tamburlaine). She was also infatuated with “Modoro”, that is, the Renaissance culture and “characters” of the Medici court of Italy. Lodge’s Rosalynde and Shakespeare’s As You Like It are both attempts to cure Elizabeth (as if by magic potion) of her “fatal attraction” for all things Medici/Medoro and restore her to the good favor of the Western (Habsburg/Holy Roman) Empire, rather than encouraging her to seek out far-flung eastern alliance to save her.

Note: Youngest sons were often favored among the Great Khans and in Byzantium, but rarely in Norman kingdoms.

In Lodge’s Rosalynde the character Montanus excels even Medoro in his use of tree bark as the medium for wooing the aloof Phoebe (a pseudonym for Elizabeth praised as the goddess Phoebe/Bel-phoebe). Lodge’s Phoebe however does not fall in love for Montanus, and only agrees to a marriage after her first choice falls through. The humble yet haughty shepherdess Phoebe had found her true reflection and counterpart in Montanus, but was a long time in recognizing it. Shakespeare’s Phoebe is just as resistant to Montanus (renamed Silvius). The name Silvius (“of the woods”), in addition to emphasizing the shared status of exile, is somewhat effeminate and recalls the famous mistress of French king Henry II, who competed vigorously with Catherine de Medici. Hence, there is a subtle anti-Medici tone to Shakespeare’s Silvius, and suggests that Silvius represents a prince who has learned the winsome Medici ways, but competes with a Medici. As in Twelfth Night, the successful suitor is not a Medici but one (representing King James) who has become desirable to Olivia/Phoebe (Elizabeth) by his wide travels and adoption of Renaissance (Medici) high culture.

In the play Othello, the character Montano is the (recalled) governor of Cyprus, a contested island state like England. The name Montano itself recalls the famous sacked Humanist, Cola Montano, who unwittingly inspired (through his writings) the murderers of Duke Sforza in 1476. Montano was later taken into custody and hanged after being accused (also probably falsely) of conspiring to murder Lorenzo de Medici. The character name Montano/Montanus would then suggest someone whose lofty principles ran contrary to the Medici brand of despotism and was unfairly persecuted on account of it.

Another humanist philosopher and writer with a similar name was Montaigne (Michel de Montaigne, 1533-1592). Montaigne had a profound influence on contemporary Elizabethan England, and is clearly paid tribute (especially as a role model of King James) in both As You Like It and Twelfth Night. As a youth Montaigne spent three years living in a country cottage (such as the one in Lodge’s Rosalynde). A distinguished academic career was followed by ten years of seclusion (as in a “dark cave”) for meditation and writing. He was however driven from this life by a grievous condition (kidney stones) and traveled widely, including to Italy, in search of a cure. Afterwards he returned to Bordeaux (the home of Lodge’s Rosader) in France where he acted as a mediator in the bitter Catholic and Protestant conflict. This is the sort of future anticipated for James at the end of As You Like It, and as fulfilled in Twelfth Night. By then, James was no longer only a Montanus but had morphed into sweet Sebastian.

Triumphant Humanist Montaigne

Disgruntled Humanist Cola Montano,M1

Giovanni Battista Montano, 16th Century Medical Writer,M1

Benedictus Arias Montanus, 16th Century Biblical Translator (and Jewish Sympathizer?)

Elizabeth’s (Scottish) Shepherd She Did Not Want

The typecasting of Montanus in Lodge’s Rosalynde was very plainly that of a Jacob, the Hebrew form of James. The character Montanus is an ambitious shepherd ala Patriarch Jacob, and like Jacob Montanus labors two times seven years to earn the hand of his beloved Phoebe. However, while he waits for that day, his flocks are not multiplying like those of Jacob, because Phoebe is withholding the promise of returned love. She is not behaving as a Rachel to him (as he would like it), and this brings on a state of depression like that of Jacob reflecting on a life that was “short and full of troubles”.

Meanwhile, Lodge’s Rosader is taking a cue from Montanus and learning to romance the stone by scratching on wood. Rosader unlike Montanus is faring better in love. His desire for Rosalynde (who is also, like Phoebe, strongly representative of Elizabeth) remains unsatisfied, but she at least also desperately wants him and has given him her pendant. Dynastic upheaval brought them together, but it was also keeping them apart.

Rosader first caught the eye of Rosalynde when he triumphed in a courtly wrestling match. This episode in Lodge’s novel was patterned after an earlier medieval tale of Gamelyn, whose opponent in a wrestling match accused him of desiring to sleep with his own mother. Much has been made of the intimacy between the Earl of Essex and Elizabeth. There were no doubt suspicions and rumors about their private moments together. It could have merely been the affection between a mother and her son, however that ordinary bond had been colored by Elizabeth’s inability to officially recognize Essex as her royal (red/rosy serpent) son, and by the royal family’s storied history of mother-son inbreeding.

Note: A line in Shakespeare’s As You Like It compares Orlando to a walnut dropped from the royal tree of Jove (Jupiter/Joseph), indicating a royal birth of Essex from Elizabeth (See Arden Shakespeare, As You Like It, pp 252-253).

Note: Biblical Jacob steels the birthright from his brother by virtue of favor from his mother Rebecca.

“Osiris which is in Horus” (Bacon Pours Himself into Essex)

The character Rosader, as fashioned by Lodge, is strongly typecast both as a Horus and as an Osiris. As Horus he slays a lion, but as Osiris he is critically injured. These stripes prove to be the salvation of his brother Saladyne and elicit his full confession and redemption. The “green wounds” (green is also associated with Osiris, as is the pomegranate tree, also present in the scene) are nursed by Rosalynde (as Isis) with many tears and much grief. When he subsequently leaves Rosalind for three days and returns to her great relief, the circular metamorphosis in his characterization (from Horus to Osiris and back to Horus) is complete. He is no longer the defeated Roland figure of Charlemagne Romances, nor the lovelorn-loser Orlando, but has become a fortunate Medoro. He has been fully restored and takes Rosalyne as his very, very Angelica, and not by taking flight with her to the Orient but establishing himself in her own restored kingdom. Elizabeth would have loved both of her sons. In the end, there could only be one (at best, on the throne). Francis Bacon, as an Osiris, sacrificed himself to make Essex a potential Horus.

Shakespeare, in As You Like It, reworks the storyline of Lodge. The mortal wounding of Rosader (now called Orlando) by a lion takes place during his brief leave of absence from Rosalynde (now called Rosalind). He separates from Rosalind at mid-day and within the stated two hours he has not returned. (Note: When the sun – as Jacob – is at its highest it begins to fall.) It is Saladyne (now called Oliver) who attempts to dress the wounds of Orlando using a handkerchief. He is also compelled to cover for Orlando’s delinquency by bringing the stained handkerchief to a waiting and worried Rosalind, who immediately passes out at the sight. However, unlike Thisbe in Ovid’s Metamorphoses who comes across the blood-soaked shroud of Pyramus, Rosalind does not panic and take her own life.

Extreme Royal Makeovers

In Shakespeare’s version, the status Rosader as a dashing Medici-like suitor is increased by calling him by the Italian form Orlando (“handsome”). There are other subtle but significant changes in Shakespeare’s stage adaptation. Only Orlando is allowed to use trees to extol the wonders of his love. Montanus now called Silvius is completely denied this charming device. The new, improved Rosader/Orlando grabs Jacob typecasting from Montanus/Silvius as well. It is he that now craftily nips at the heels of fleet-footed goddess Atalanta (and Rosalind’s heart, symbolizing that he is “prevailing with God”/Elizabeth and “with men”/rivals). Rosalynde (now Rosalind) is captivated in a state of wonder for seven days and pines, as if for seven years, to be with her outlawed champion Rosader/Orlando.

Rosalind finds that the verses of Orlando have a beguiling (Jacob-like) lameness to them. But, there is something more disturbing about this Romeo. Orlando’s verses are not limned directly on the trees, but hang creepily from them. The nature of this love is accursed like that of Oedipus for his mother. The jester Touchtone is more openly critical of Orlando’s tree desecration, as well as his white horse rhythm method. Rosalind is criticized too for letting it infect her as by the black horse of plague. Rosalind answers that she will graft the “hanging fruit” of Orlando and Touchtone with the medlar pear (a third dynastic meddler?) to create the perfect hybrid blend.

Even More Extreme Royal Makeovers

In 1586, a young Essex acquitted himself well on campaign in the Ardennes of France alongside Leicester (his father). Leicester however died in 1588 leaving the future of Essex very much in doubt. The publication of Rosalynde in 1590 effectively renewed the vows of Elizabeth and Leicester and reassured Essex of his continued favor and princely advancement. A decade later, Essex was a fully mature and powerful lord in a rapidly developing England. After striving with Elizabeth and her advisors, he pulled off a stunning victory over the Spanish by raiding Cadiz in 1596. Essex had in effect wrestled with “Charles” (or more specifically Philip II son of Charles) and thrown him for a loop. It must have been after this that Elizabeth presented Essex with the mysterious chain and ring that he wore around his neck until his death. Essex proved himself to be “no Montanus” as Shakespeare put it, that is, no royal brown-noser to Elizabeth as James was turning out to be.

Note: Prior to being challenged by Rosader, the wrestler “Charles” had just finished brutalizing the three sons of “Franklin”. This alludes to Habsburg Philip II (son of Holy Roman Emperor Charles) subduing the Frank/French kingdom of Francis (I) and his three sons, the Dauphin Francois, Henry II, and Prince Charles.

In As You Like It, Rosader becomes urbane Orlando and sheds the last serpent skin of Norman incivility. Orlando is a modern prince excelling in the revolutionized arts of love and war. Rosalynde, now Rosalind, gets a new look as well. Shakespeare’s Rosalind is more savvy than Lodge’s Rosalynde. Similarly, Shakespeare’s Phoebe is more sophisticated than to literally hate love, and she does not wilt after a spurning. And it is this (self-) loathing (of Phoebe by her alter ego Ganymede) that is used as the turning point for her personal metamorphosis. The queenly/feminine Elizabeth (called Phoebe) had fallen for the kingly/masculine Elizabeth (called Ganymede, Rosalind in disguise). Phoebe must learn how to love herself again before she can love Silvius. Impertinent Ganymede acts as a catalyst. Ganymede also tricks Phoebe by vowing to marry himself before any other woman! It is only when Ganymede retires her male number, that Phoebe resigns herself to accepting supercilious Silvius. Rosalind effectively kills off her chosen male persona, that of Ganymede, who in myth was raped and later committed suicide. Such was Elizabeth’s “co-dependent” self-image as a male impersonator.

Lodge’s Montanus knowingly and willingly participates in Phoebe’s wooing of Ganymede. Shakespeare’s Silvius delivers the love letter of Phoebe to Ganymede but is a dupe. He thinks he is delivering insults rather than flatteries. In Twelfth Night, Violetta tries to be the unselfish spokesmodel of Orsino but cannot pull it off. The feisty, irreverent Violetta spoils the chances of Orsino and instead triggers the love of Olivia for her (that is, him). In both plays a character representing Elizabeth is turned on by spunk. In the first play the passions of Elizabeth are reignited by her own ballsy behavior. In the sequel it is the gumption of James.

Two’s Company, but Three’s Allowed

In Twelfth Night, James was given three main representations (Malvolio, Violetta, and Sebastian), which turns out to be a carry-over from As You Like It. The clown Touchstone clues us in to the tri-nature of James as Feste does in Twelfth Night. While Feste points to a popular icon (the Three Loggerheads), Touchstone offers a Latin lesson. Touchstone claims, ipso facto, that he can stand for three persons. (See the discussion in Arden Shakespeare As You Like, p 317.)

In Lodge’s Rosalynde, James is represented by the character Montanus (“of the mountains”), which Shakespeare changed to Silvius (“of the woods”) in order to emphasize that this character is also in exile. As noted above, Shakespeare took away some of the typecasting of Montanus and gave it to Rosader (renamed Orlando). He also adds perspective to the characterization of James by creating two new viewpoints, that of Touchstone and Jaques. Silvius is still a “fool for love” (as Montanus was previously), however Touchstone more fully embodies the clownish, effeminate, and hedonistic nature of James.

Touchstone, like the original Montanus, is associated with the number seven, however in a comical way. In response to the stitch of Orlando’s new seven-year prowess, Touchstone brags that he will regale Rosalind eight years running minus the time taken for prodigious eating and sleeping! Touchstone’s attempt to one-up (touché) Rosader/Orlando becomes a comic jab at the indulgent lifestyle of King James. Touchstone is a self-proclaimed master of the barb, and expounds on how to escalate in a war of words with a rival in seven stages. Touchstone vigorously advocates avoiding the seventh and most provocative level of insult which results in an actual duel. Touchtone, as his name suggests, tries the mettle (and patience) of Orlando, and by association, James must have verbally fenced with Essex.

Note: Silvius, the former Montanus, retains no association with the number of perfection and never gets any real love at all, only a begrudged betrothal.

Note: Comically inept fencing is a trait divested from James and reapplied to Andrew Aguecheek in Twelfth Night, a representation of the young Philip III. However, an effeminate side of James remains in Twelfth Night and was assigned to the character Violetta. It is now Violetta (rather than Ganymede) that is squeamish and faints at the sight of blood.

Shakespeare’s other new character Jaques parodies the materialistic, snide side of James and is itself a split personality (divided between Jaques the gentleman and Jaques the lord). In a play called The Malcontent, which was performed at nearly the same time (1600), the melancholic figure is called Malvole (See The Oxford Shakespeare As You Like It, p 33). This character is a “missing link” that connects Jaques to the character Malvolio (also corresponding to James) in Twelfth Night. The number seven is also associated with Jaques, and in a way that makes him appear old-fashioned. His discourse on the seven ages (or phases) of a man’s life is perhaps intended to show off a mastery of the Classics, but only reveals that he is out-of-touch with the latest theories (of the emerging Enlightenment).

Jaques is passé and proud of it, and to the point of being asinine. His attire and satire are both exposed as out-moded. He is sullen when the occasion calls for a soirée. In a word he is the proto-Malvolio. Yet, like Malvolio, there is something admirable in him. It is Jaques that utters the famous lines, “All the world’s a stage … And one man … plays many parts.” Jaques is the most bizarrely bifurcated character of the play. Most importantly, it is also Jaques, like the twisted Malvolio, to whom it is spoken (by Amien the deputy of the Duke), “do as you will”, thy will be done in England as it is in Scotland.

Jaques covets the cowardly, yellow clown suit of Touchstone and is promised one. Jaques quips that it is the one and only one suitable for him. Jaques, like Touchstone, would like to sleep, but if sleep should fail, instead of counting sheep he’ll “rail against all the firstborn of Egypt” (i.e., the various heirs of the Empire). Touchstone only kids about courting Rosalind. Jaques is dead serious about it (along with everything else). He and Orlando contend for the same “world” and the same “mistress” (Rosalind/Elizabeth). In two separate encounters in the play, Orlando and Jaques do not hide their distaste for one another. Their duel extends to the field of role playing (typecasting). The number seven (and double-seven) was part of the Jacob and Moses (Ra/Phaeton) mythology. Seven was also linked to the Patriarchs Simeon/Lamech (Thoth) and Joseph/Enoch (Ptah). Orlando, like Jaques, dares an “over-reaching” as Phaeton and flirts with disaster like Icarus who flew too close to the sun. The Earl of Essex and King James were trying to out-fly one another in attaching as many divine roles to themselves as possible. One would in fact crash and burn.

Note: In Lodge’s novel, Montanus identifies with high-flying Phaeton, a pagan/mythical form of Moses. However, this typecasting is now shared/divided between Orlando and Jaques.

Note: Orlando not only throws his wrestling partner Charles (like the former Rosader), but now specifically does so by grabbing his heels.

There is no obvious rivalry in Lodge’s novel between Montanus and Rosader. That changes considerably in Shakespeare’s rendition. The ass humor of Lodge’s Montanus (“lofty arse”) is transferred by Shakespeare to his new character Jaques. Jaques and Orlando butt heads over the pursuit of Rosalind, even as the cousins Renaud de Montauban and Roland do in the Charlemagne Romance. They were natural friends turned fast enemies over the prospect of well-aimed love. The name Renaud de Montauban of the Charlemagne Romance is translated as Rinaldo di Montalbano in the Italian/Medici take-off. Rinaldo fall madly in love with Angelica after drinking from a fountain. Angelica drinks from a different fountain, which makes her detest Rinaldo.

Washing the Mouth Out with Ajax

In real life, James had to share the distinction of head “smart ass” with Elizabeth’s godson John Harington, born in the same year as Bacon, and knighted (to the queen’s horror) by Essex during his un-campaign in Ireland. John Harington, like Bacon, was an intellectual that studied Orlando Furioso and Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Inspired by the fountains of the Orlando Romance, Harington invented a flush-toilet that was installed in the queen’s own privy. He then flirted with disaster by publishing a crass discourse on the dirty business of human waste disposal called The Metamorphis of Ajax (an abrasive figure from the Iliad). The humanist pot-shots taken by Harington at overly affected Renaissance high-society were just too much even for Elizabeth’s tastes.,M1

Shakespeare’s character Jaques includes a number of touches that derive rather directly from the life of John/Jack Harington and his fertile imagination (and as noted by Arden Shakespeare). In As You Like It, the references to Harington may have created a sort of cover to hide the odor of James. (Both men were still “in the John”, or should we say in the Montal-baño?) The fixture didn’t fool everyone, if anyone, as Jaques is actually called James in the Douai manuscript of As You Like It. In Twelfth Night, James continues in lieu of Harington most of the way through. As Malvolio, he wants to take charge of Olivia’s toilet in the worst way. However, Twelfth Night ends with Malvolio coming out of his dark place, and Sebastian getting hitched to Olivia, the woman Malvolio loves. Consistent with this, Elizabeth tasked Harington to compose and present a report recommending James as her successor.

Jaques is not specifically addressed along with the other brides and grooms by Hymen, the pagan god of marriage, harmony, and “sex change”. However, as soon as Phoebe announces that she will not renege on the “bargain” (suggesting a deal of some kind) by going back on her word about marrying Silvius, Lord Jaques de Boys/Bois abruptly makes his first appearance in the play. The timing of his entrance signifies that King James has received a promotion from the status of a gentleman in England to its Lord. The two Jaques (Scottish and English) are “out of the woods” in terms of any further menace by Frederick (the Holy Roman Empire), but home will remain the “abandoned cave” of Rosalind’s father the Duke (symbolizing the end of the Tudor Dynasty and beginning of the Stuart).

Note: The minor character Le Beau (likely corresponding Lord Beauchamp, another leading candidate for succession born the same year as Bacon and Harington) had earlier warned him to get out of Frederick’s Dodge.

Note: Touchtone will not submit to being married by a priest. He rejects the blessing of priest Oliver Mar-Text for his nuptials with Audrey. In Twelfth Night, there is a deliberate confusion over whether a proper priest or imposter is performing the marriage of Sebastian and Olivia.

As Elizabeth Would Have Liked It

In Lodge’s novel, the usurper Torismond (renamed Frederick by Shakespeare) is overthrown by force and Gerismond (renamed “the Duke”, father of Rosalind) recovers the throne. (Note: The names Torismond and Gerismond suggest rivalry between a Darius-styled king and a Cyrus/Koresh figure.) The novel concludes with Rosader being declared “heir apparent” of Gerismond and to the kingdom of France, i.e., over the traditional dominions of Charlemagne and his successors. Montanus is appointed steward of the forests. In other words, James would be King of a united (but still relatively uncultivated) Scotland and England. Essex, on the other hand, was being groomed for a greater kingship, and as recompense for services rendered to the Empire. (Rosader/Orlando is portrayed as having saved both the “ragged, wretched old man” of kingship and its post-Adamic support system.)

Lodge’s Rosalynde was published just two heady years after the defeat of the Spanish Armada. A decade later some attitude adjustment with respect to the Empire was deemed necessary by Queen Elizabeth. The Mardi Gras of independence was ending and Ash Wednesday of penance looming. In As You Like It, Frederick (representing the Holy Roman Empire) is not attacked by those loyal to the exiled Duke but voluntarily relinquishes his claim, at least over territories formerly belonging to Rosalind’s father. Revenge would not be necessary.

As with Rosader in Lodge’s version, Shakespeare’s Orlando refrains from taking revenge for the harsh treatment of his eldest brother, now called peacemaking Oliver instead of conquering Saladyn. Shakespeare’s Oliver like Lodge’s Saladyn repents of persecuting Orlando but somewhat less sincerely than Saladyn. Saladyn is willing to go so far as “taking the cross”, that is, making a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. This would have been humorous to aristocratic readers who knew that Saladin was the Islamic king that took Jerusalem away from the Crusaders for the last time. Regardless, Orlando’s reprieve from Oliver anticipates Frederick’s change of heart toward the Duke.

Oliver is a non-threatening name, yet has similar connotations to Saladin (“salvation, healing, peace”). Oliver is also a famous name from the Charlemagne Romances. Oliver de Vienne was one of the trusty knights of Charlemagne and the closest companion of Roland, even in death. Unlike the rash Roland, Oliver was more reserved (Habsburg-like) and married a Byzantine princess (also foreshadowing the future Habsburgs). Within the Elizabethan context of As You Like It, the French place name Vienne made for a convenient play on Vienna, Austria, seat of the Habsburgs and Holy Roman Empire. The names Oliver and Frederick then form one of a number of pairs in As You Like It, along with Phoebe and Rosalynde; Jaques de Bois/Boys (a knight) and Jaques (a gentleman); Oliver (eldest son of the knight Jaques) and Sir Oliver Mar-Text (a priest). Moreover, the two Oliver’s in As You Like It further parallel the twin characters of Sir Toby and Topas the priest in Twelfth Night and form one of many links with that sequel.

Oliver agrees (as does Lodge’s Saladyn) to marry Celia (Lodge’s Alinda/Aliena), the bosom-buddy of Rosalind/Ganymede. Shakespeare declares that “no cross (Catholic or Protestant) shall part” Oliver and Celia, a witty tipping of the hat to Oliver’s alter ego Saladyn (the Moor/Muslim/Turk). Celia perhaps corresponds to the real-life Habsburg princess Margareta who rejected the idea of marrying Philip II of Spain. The outlook for Touchtone’s marriage to Audrey is not as good, and reflects the neglect James had for his legal wife.

All joking aside, there is a strong acceptance of both major suitors, Orlando and Jaques. At the end of As You Like It, we are left with the impression that both Essex and James will have inheritances from Elizabeth (and/or the Empire), even as they do in Lodge’s novel. However, Orlando is no longer named “heir” of any specific kingdom. It is only implied by his marriage to Rosalind (daughter of the restored Duke). Orlando deserves some consideration for saving the life of Oliver, who is compared to a derelict old man sleeping under an oak (of ancient kingship) and who is about to become prey to a shiny young serpent and a hungry lioness. Logically, Essex would have been potentially useful to the Holy Roman Empire as a counterweight to the growing power and wealth of Spain under Philip II (now succeeded by Philip III). However, if there was a “bargain” involving some greater kingship for Essex, particularly on the Continent, is not spelled out.

As You Like It concludes with “Frightful Freddie” (the Holy Roman Empire) having been transformed into a benign Sir Toby and for no particular reason (other than supposedly getting some of that old-time religion). There had been a changing of the guard in the Empire after the deaths of Maximilian and Philip II. The new Habsburg kings may have been motivated to make peace with England in order to better secure their positions and prepare for new challenges in the East (and/or the Americas).

The Show Cannot Go On

Banishment of Rosalind’s father from the covetous court of Frederick has resulted in a return to the Garden of Eden and a new Golden Age of toil-free abundance and innocence; relief from royal succession battles and exploitation of men and nature; parity of gender, religion, and nationality. As You Like It ends with the bliss of Rosalind and contentment of Phoebe. In the shade of the new Eden, Elizabeth could have two partners, even as Eve did not need to choose between God and Adam. But Paradise was lost by the sin of Essex. Essex had won Elizabeth’s heart at Cadiz, but refused to play a deadly game in Ireland. Elizabeth expected him to fight the lion Tyrone and risk injury. Instead, Essex entered into a treasonous private parley with Tyrone and returned to London unscathed.

Shakespeare’s play could have been titled, “If You Like It”. The appointments made at the end of the play are all conditional, or to use Shakespeare’s words, “If truth proves true”. The ceremony uniting the various couples was not a proper and binding one. Everything was subject to change at the will and whim of the Queen, and change it did. No sooner was the play written than Essex spiraled out of control and fell permanently from grace. As You Like It was obsolete almost as soon as it was finished.

Although approved for printing it did not appear in print until the so-called First Folio of 1623. As You Like It had replaced Rosalynde, but it was quickly superseded by Twelfth Night. (Arden Shakespeare notes that another Shakespeare play, Henry V, had to be edited at this time to remove content favorable to Essex.) There is no known (pre-Restoration) record of any public performance of As You Like It. However when James became king of England, he almost immediately requested a private staging, and perhaps as much for the “benefit” of the English court than for himself. Lodge’s Rosalynde had been more sympathetic toward James (con Montanus) and less degrading (sans Touchtone and Jaques). Rosalynde was allowed to be reprinted in 1604 while As You Like It was placed back “on the shelf”. Both the novel and the play became a permanent record of the “Elizabethan Tragedy” (another apt subtitle) and would have been useful and satisfying to James for that reason alone.

No Sadder Words of Tongue or Pen, Than What Might Have Been

As You Like It was written with some wiggle room for reinterpretation. Ultimately, Queen Elizabeth alone would dictate its fulfillment. After the demise of Essex and prior to her final decision to appoint James her successor in England, there would have been a re-evaluation of all the major candidates. Sir Francis Bacon could have been legitimized (refried, if you will) and equipped with suitable exploits to re-identify him as the real Rosader.

Or, how about Sir Walter Ralegh, whose name (particularly in its original form) suggests a Roland? “With the presence of two Olivers in the play, it surely prompts us to remember that behind the name Orlando lies the French hero Roland, most recently brought to prominence in Sir John Harington's 1591 translation of Orlando Furioso. … when Ralegh was imprisoned in 1592 Sir Arthur Gorges told Elizabeth's chief minister Cecil that "Sir W.R. will shortly grow to be Orlando Furioso if the bright Angelica persevere against him a little longer."

Alternatively, there was always the possibility of Elizabeth returning to the “dark side” of her Medici passions. Shakespeare’s Phoebe is taunted by Ganymede for being dark-skinned. She was also likened to the Phoenix, a bird that arose from its own ashes. Elizabeth might yet rise up from Essex’s funeral and abandon her faux-Florentine James for a true Medici.

The exiled Duke and father of Rosalind is referred to (in passing) as Ferdinand. Ferdinand was the Holy Roman Empire that took the election from Philip II son of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. Although Ferdinand could be considered a usurper, the name depicts Rosalind (and by association Queen Elizabeth) as a faithful handmaiden of the Empire, even as she is in other plays such as Twelfth Night and Othello.

Just as significantly, Ferdinand was also the name of the ruling Grand Duke of Tuscany/Florence. In As You Like It, the subtle name-dropping of Ferdinand then suggests an ongoing “courtship” between Elizabeth and the Medici, and that Elizabeth might have been seriously considering a proposal to make a Medici her heir and successor. The prominence of the Medici prince and suitor Virginio Orsini (Orsino) in Twelfth Night (the sequel to As You Like It), written after the fall of Essex, makes it quite likely that there was also a viable Medici candidate before the fall of Essex, such as Antonio de Medici. Ferdinand de Medici is accused (by some) of usurping the Medici throne by poisoning his brother Francesco and declaring Francesco’s son and heir Antonio illegitimate.

Note: The Lancaster prince Ferdinando (a.k.a. “Lord Strange”), Earl of Darby and great patron of the theatre, died unexpectedly in 1594. Could there have been an association between this Ferdinand and the Medici Grand Duke Ferdinand? Did he relinquish his titles in England to better manage the Medici Empire (or as part of a “bargain”)? Could there be a relation between the red rose of the House of Lancaster and the red balls of the Medici?,M1,+the+Grand+Duke+of+Tuscany

In exile Antonio de Medici joined the Knights of Malta, after which he took a mistress and eventually had three sons that were legitimized by the Pope. Membership in this same Order is the claim to fame of Rosader’s father in Lodge’s Rosalynde. In fact, the father is so successful as a Knight of Malta in defeating the Turks that he names his eldest son Saladyn, suggesting that he had been appointed as king over Turks. Designating Saladyn as eldest further testifies that the Ottoman Empire was the dominant one and the prince named successor in Constantinople (now Istanbul) was the senior prince and could bully his junior brothers (with their subordinate/weaker) inheritances in the West.

Better to Have Liked in Lust than Never to Have Liked it at All

When the sequel was written, there was no overwhelming sense of tragedy or regret. The festive atmosphere of As You Like It, which is that of Fat Tuesday (Shrove Tuesday/Pancake Day) with a little April Fool’s Day thrown in, is resumed in Twelfth Night. Twelfth Night or As You Will associates itself with the Saturnalia, an occasion that rivals the revelry of Carnival and its climax of Mardi Gras. And true to form, Twelfth Night features a Medici Renaissance prince. The character Orsino not only replaces Orlando but restores his typecasting to that of a diligent but ultimately defeated suitor of Angelica (Olivia). Orsino also replaces Phoebe. In Twelfth Night the doubleness of Elizabeth is gone. She is only Olivia and only desires one partner (though she has to choose between his three manifestations, Malvolio, Violetta, and Sebastian). In As You Like It, Orlando writes in code that the name of the huntress (the goddess Diana/Elizabeth) sways his life. In Twelfth Night, a bogus letter is sent claiming that Olivia’s life is swayed by the encoded name of Malvolio. Orlando failed the “Touchstone test” and was replaced by Malvolio/Jaques. In As You Like It, Phoebe sends Silvius as an envoy for love, but it is Silvius that succeeds. In Twelfth Night, Orsino sends his best man to curry favor of Olivia. And it is once again the double-crossed courier that somehow “gets” the girl and thereby “gets the girl”. In the sequel, Rosalind (Elizabeth) got over her bug for Orlando (Essex) and caught the plague for a final time over Violetta (James in double-drag).

Note: Touchtone also claims to have been an official courier (and isn’t taken seriously).

Additional Links:

The Oxford Shakespeare Introduction to As You Like It,M1

Text of Lodge’s Rosalynde and comparison with As You Like It,M1

On-Line Summary of As You Like It

Ancestral home of Thomas Lodge was in Essex

Summary of Lodge’s Rosalynde,M1

Angelica and Medoro, names united in tree carvings (from Bulfinch Mythology)

Angelica gives away the love clasp of Orlando/Rolando and elopes with the recovered Moor Medoro.

Medoro and Medicine/Medici,M1

Orlando Furioso (Angelica and Medoro) in Spain/Castille

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