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WITH THE STAGE BUSINESS, CASTS OF CHARACTERS,
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NEW YORK :
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This enchanting Comedy is perhaps the most purely ideal of any of Shakspeare's plays. Although the plot is borrowed from the novel or tale of “ Rosalynde,” by Thomas Lodge, a contemporary writer, yet Shakspeare, in passing the materials furnished by the novelist through the alembic of his own imagination, has created new characters and incidents, and has imbued the whole with a higher cast of thought and feeling than could be attained by Lodge. It is, in fact, the alchemic transmutation of the baser metal into pure gold, which Genius, in its adaptive faculty, can alone achieve. The contemplative Jacques, that prince of philosophical jesters, Touchstone, and the “rustical” Audrey, are pure creations of Shakspeare's fancy, worthy of the master-mind that gave them birth.
The late annotators of Shakspeare have exercised their erudite talent of analytical disquisition, by endeavouring to trace the gradual developement of the great poet's powers, in the successive works he produced. “As You Like It” is, by this process of analytical inquiry, referred to that epoch of our author's life when he had attained the perfection of poetic and romantic comedy. It was the period when his brilliant, youthful genius, shone forth in all its freshness of intellectual superiority, “mingled with the thoughtfulness of maturer age.” However doubtful may be the theory of these annotators, the fact will readily be conceded that “As You Like It” is one of the most delightful productions of our poet's pen.
As an acting play, it is perhaps less a favourite, than it is in the closet; we mean to the present race of play-goers, for the character of Rosalind is almost unapproachable unless by actresses of that high and peculiar order of genius, now so rarely to be found in the professors of the histrionic art. Nor are the other prominent characters in this true dramatic treasure scarcely less difficult of embodiment. What a host of portraits, lifelike and vivid, are concentrated in the group the poet has peopled his Arcadian forest with ! How beautifully probable is the whole dramatic action of the piece, where, in the language of Campbell, “Shakspeare has snatched us out of the busy world into a woodland solitude. He makes us breathe its fresh air, partake its pastoral peace, feast on its venison, admire its bounding wild deer, and sympathise with its banished men and simple rustics. But what a tablet of characters! The witty and impassioned Rosalind, the lovedevoted Orlando, the friendship-devoted Celia, the duty-devoted Adam, the humorous Clown, and the melancholy Jacques; all these, together with the dignified and banished Duke, make the Forest of Arden an Elysium to our imagination.” To realize this picture on the stage in all its varied and distinctive beauties, is, indeed, a difficult task, for it would comprise a stock company of individual excellence, now apparently unattainable. The revival of this play at the Park during the Keans' late visit to this country, however, gave a very fair idea of its exquisite adaptation for stage representation. The fascinating Rosalind of Mrs. Charles Kean, was a dramatic treat of that high order now unfortunately so rare on the stage; and the scholarly embodiment of Jacques by Mr. Charles Kean, may be classed among his happiest efforts. Bass, too, as Touchstone, had imbibed the true Shakspearian richness; and Mrs. Abbott was a delighful representative of Celia; nor should we omit the touching and artistical Old Adam of Barry, the spirited Orlando of Dyott, and the well-read Duke of Mr. Bland. The play, with this admirable cast, proved eminently attractive, but the true student of Shakspeare must always find a higher gratification in the reading, than he can ever hope to experience in the necessarily imperfect embodiment of it upon the Stage. The ideality of poetry so completely invests every portion of this incomparable creation, that the attempt to give a fictitious reality to it on the Stage is almost a hopeless task.