Saturday, March 28, 2009

AS YOU LIKE IT by William Shakespeare

I've finally gotten around to reading As You Like It (yes, I'm an incorrigible slacker when it comes to Shakespeare's 'comedies'), and I'm intrigued by the lesbian theme. Surely the Queer Theory crowd has already pointed out the play's construction/deconstruction of gender roles, its dramatization of gender-as-performance, but what captured my attention is the early, passionate love of Rosalind and Celia that seems to vanish (along with Celia, who's essentially written out of the play and conveniently married off at the end) as soon as Rosalind settles her desire on Orlando. A Shakespearean reading of traditional Psychoanalysis might find the (highly dubious) notion of a homosexual phase 'progressing' to 'healthy' heterosexuality to have been influenced by Freud's reading of As You Like It. Some aspects of the transvestite theme aside, it's actually a fairly conservative comedy, tracing a trajectory of desire from immature lesbianism to mature heterosexuality, arriving at a moment in which lesbianism is represented as the impossible, that which cannot be (when a Phebe-Rosalind relationship is playfully and ironically proposed only to be immediately dismissed at the denouement's unmasking). There is much material here for a potentially transgressive play, depending on the director's emphases. Play it, for example, as the 'tragedy of Celia,' sealed into a heterosexual union when her desire for Rosalind goes unrequited.

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