(Jane Shilling’s article appeared in the Telegraph, 5/21.)
All Shakespeare’s comedies are perplexing, but As You Like It has divided critical opinion more fiercely than most. George Bernard Shaw considered it a potboiler. Tolstoy complained of its immorality and found Touchstone wearisome.
And as theatre historian Michael Dobson remarks in a programme note for this production, the play “gets most of its characters as far as a forest and then gives place to an arbitrary series of conversations and set-piece comic routines”.
Yet within those routines, with their teasing collisions of prose and poetry, Shakespeare’s emotional perspicacity still speaks directly to us of love’s confusions; of friendship, alienation and sheep husbandry.