Lyrical Interludes in As You Like It

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      Shakespeare emphasized the romantic, pastoral aspect of As You Like It by including a significant number of songs and poems. In all, five different songs are performed, more than in any other comedy, while the audience hears three poems read aloud, two of Orlando's - one of which is then parodied by Touchstone and one of Phebe's. In addition, Touchstone offers a few pithy lines upon leaving Sir Oliver Mar-Text, and Hymen's lines, which are written in rhyming trimeter instead of Shakespeare's conventional pentameter, have an immediate poetic ring to them. All of these forms of verse are presented in the Forest of Arden, rather than in the court. Meanwhile, more than half of the play 15 written in prose, aptly contrasting the characters' off-hand everyday discourse with their romantic poetic bursts.

      The texts of these songs are generally relevant to the scene in which they appear or to the play as a whole. The fifth scene of the second act seems to exist exclusively as a framework for the first tune, sung by Amiens, which mentions "the greenwood tree", "the sweet bird's throat, and "winter and rough weather" and helps establish the woodland setting; Jaques's subsequent partly nonsensical verse, on the other hand, helps establish his nonconformity. The hunters' effusively masculine song, with its possibly sexual reference to "the horn, the horn, the lusty horn", also essentially merits its own scene, highlighting the camaraderie and sense of self-determination fostered by hunting for food together.

      The song sung by Amiens when Duke Senior welcomes Orlando and Adam, "Blow, blow, thou winter wind", merits particular attention. In each verse, Amiens first invokes the severity of nature in wintertime, then offers as a contrast the greater severity of men toward one another. The winter wind is harsh, but it is "not so unkind As man's ingratitude"; the breath of that wind is "rude", but at least it fails to bite, as does the tooth of man. The chorus affirms this trust in nature and mistrust of man, glorifying the "green holly" before stating, "Most friendship is faining" - that is, perhaps, both yearning and pretending (feigning) - "most loving mere folly'. In the second verse, although the freezing sky stings and warps waters, it is preferred to "benefits forgot" and a "friend rememb' red not". Especially given its location in the play as a whole - at the point when the sorrows of courtly life are being discarded, as food and shelter within the forest have been secured - this song may be interpreted as emblematic of the play as a whole, with its depiction of nature's rhythms, even when biter, as preferable to the strife of men.

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