Shakespeare's Universal Wolf: Studies in Early Modern Reification

By Hugh L. Grady | Go to book overview

5
Reification and Utopia in As You Like It: Desire and Textuality in the Green World

POWER AND THE GREEN WORLD

As You Like It, written and performed sometime between 1598 and 1600, pre-dates the plays discussed hitherto and in some ways seems to come from a different world. And yet this genial comedy can be linked with King Lear, and to a lesser extent the other Jacobean tragedies: although this 'most Mozartian' of Shakespeare's plays has long been celebrated for its geniality, a number of critics have also noted -- and been puzzled by -- the uncannily large number of parallels in structure and themes with what is otherwise its generic opposite, King Lear.1 The resemblance is based on the depiction by both plays of the division of families and the disruption of the polity as a reified power establishes itself at the expense of the customary bonds of traditional culture. Refugees from the disrupted world react through communal solidarity to create a social space as an alternative to that of reified power; in this utopian space eros functions, however, not as a metonymy-metaphor for reification (as in the earlier plays discussed), but as a social force creative of community (albeit one with disruptive tendencies uneasily contained through the problematic solutions of patriarchal marriage). And as the play develops, this space is itself put under interrogation and suspicion, in an open-ended dialogue with the

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1
The most developed discussion of the parallels I found -- Frank McCombie, "Medium and Message in As You Like It and King Lear", Shakespeare Survey, 33 ( 1980), 67-80 -- argues that the two plays each display the limits of the tragic and comic 'filters' Shakespeare utilized in what McCombie posits as a conscious intertextuality, which extends also to Cymbeline and The Tempest. See also David Young, The Heart's Forest: A Study of Shakespeare's Pastoral Plays ( New Haven: Yale University Press, 1972), 81, for a less developed listing of the large number of parallels, constituting what Young calls a 'curious kinship' between the two plays, so different in mood and tone. Both of these works credit earlier studies of King Lear as a pastoral or anti-pastoral tragedy for explaining something of the parallel, esp. that of Maynard Mack, King Lear'in our Time ( Berkeley: University of California Press, 1965), 65-6.

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