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Learning by Talking: Conversation in As You Like It

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 March 2007

Stanley Wells
Affiliation:
University of Birmingham
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Summary

Just before the marriage celebration in As You Like It while Rosalind is off stage changing into her wedding dress, Touchstone delivers a long set piece on various sorts of lies used in quarrels and duels. He ends with , 'Your If is the only peacemaker. Muck virtue in If' (5.4.102-3). Immediately, Rosalind and Celia return with Hymen who pronounces a vision of marriage as an aspect of cosmic harmony; and in rhyme:

Then is there mirth in heaven

When earthly things made even

Atone together.

(5.4.108-10)

In this paper I propose to examine the virtues of 'supposing', of 'if especially as it defines and frames the conversations between Rosalind and Orlando, but also and by extension as it stands for the importance of some deceit to work out the complexities of conversation and sexuality between the lovers, and to bring the play to its happy conclusion. The sort of habit of mind which the play encourages and which I wish to describe by focusing on this word 'if is the habit of mind that allows for comedy and romance; for example, if it is possible for such a place as Arden to exist, perhaps it is also possible to bridge the gap between an ideal of some sort and the 'real world' of the play, and to bring some of the one into the other. Or, if spring comes again each year, so might one rediscover a lost child, a lost innocence, a lapsed generosity.

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Shakespeare Survey , pp. 91 - 106
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 1988

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