As You Like It Art and Culture Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Act.Scene.Line). Line numbers correspond to The Norton Shakespeare, second edition, published in 2008.
Hang there, my verse, in witness of my love.
And thou, thrice-crownèd Queen of Night, survey
With thy chaste eye, from thy pale sphere above,
Thy huntress' name that my full life doth sway.
O Rosalind, these trees shall be my books,
And in their barks my thoughts I'll character,
That every eye which in this forest looks
Shall see thy virtue witness'd everywhere.
Run, run, Orlando; carve on every tree,
The fair, the chaste, and unexpressive she. (3.2.1-10)
Why does Orlando need anyone (or anything) to "witness" his love for Rosalind? The easy answer is that, when we fall head-over-heels in love, it's natural to want to shout it from the rooftop or write about it. Yet, as much as Orlando wants to express his feelings for Ros, he also acknowledges that it's impossible for him to convey his true feelings for the "unexpressive she" (Rosalind, whose beauty surpasses mere words).
So, on the one hand, Shakespeare is poking fun at guys like Orlando. On the other hand, we know that Shakespeare (who also happens to be a poet) is also a little obsessed with using words to express the seemingly inexpressible. Think about Sonnet 18, where Shakespeare writes "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?/ Thou art more lovely and more temperate." Translation: "It doesn't do me any good to compare you to summer because you're even more amazing than that. Still, I'm going to try to find a way to express how I feel about you, even if my words fall short."
Didst thou hear these verses?
O, yes, I heard them all, and more too, for
some of them had in them more feet than the verses
That's no matter: the feet might bear the verses.
Ay, but the feet were lame and could not
bear themselves without the verse and therefore
stood lamely in the verse. (3.2.166-173)
When Celia and Rosalind talk about Orlando's poetry, it sounds as if they're talking about a "lame" show pony that's been prancing around on injured feet at the Rose Parade. What's up with that? Well, the joke is that Orlando doesn't have a very good ear for meter (a poem's rhythm). Since the most basic unit of rhythm in a poem is referred to as a "foot," it's easy for Ros and Celia to compare the lousy rhythm of Orlando's "verses" to a creature that hobbles around on lame feet.
Shakespeare the poet/playwright just can't resist cracking these kinds of jokes. You want an example? Fine. In Sonnet 89, the speaker of the poem says to his young friend "Speak of my lameness, and I straight will halt," which can be read as "If you bag on the lame/limp meter of my poetry, I'll stop writing poems to you."
If you will see a pageant truly played
Between the pale complexion of true love
And the red glow of scorn and proud disdain,
Go hence a little, and I shall conduct you,
If you will mark it.
ROSALIND [aside to Celia]
O, come, let us remove!
The sight of lovers feedeth those in love.
[As Ganymede, to Corin] Bring us to this sight, and
you shall say
I'll prove a busy actor in their play. (3.4.51-60)
Corin and Rosalind think that Phoebe and Silvius's relationship is as entertaining and artificial as a bad love scene from some random play. This, of course, reminds us that Rosalind's romance with Orlando is also nothing more than a "pageant truly play'd" for our entertainment.