Tuesday, July 21, 2009

RE: As You Like It - No Evil Shall Escape My Sight

Derek writes:

Brief reply: I read Lodge's "Rosalynde" a few years ago, and was struck mainly by how straightforwardly Lodge recapitulates the forms and standards of classical comedy, with much more weight given to eclogues between shepherds, and so on. I also remember being entirely underwhelmed by the title character of the play, who bears little resemblance to the one that eventually emerges in Shakespeare's version. I don't remember a thing, really, about the villains in the story, sadly.

But it turns out that I misquoted Bloom, and so please allow me to correct myself. He in fact writes, "Rosalind's high good fortune ― which exalts her over Falstaff, Hamlet, and Cleopatra ― is to stand at the center of a play in which no authentic harm can come to anyone… The glory of Rosalind, and of her play, is her confidence, and ours, that all things will go well."

Bloom spends considerable time in the passage leading into the one I quoted above talking about why scholars have focused for a long time on Falstaff and Hamlet, and what the nature of their deaths have had to teach us. I guess I did a little inferring and came up with the idea that although…

Oh WAIT! He DOES say what I thought he said, only a few pages later! Quoth Harold Bloom: "I have been urging us to see Rosalind in sequence, between Falstaff and Hamlet, just as witty and as wise but trapped neither in history with Falstaff nor in tragedy with Hamlet, and yet larger in her drama even as they cannot be confined to theirs." ― compliment, right? But no! ― "The invention of freedom must be measured against what encloses or threatens freedom: time and the state for Falstaff, the past and the enemy within for Hamlet. Rosalind's freedom may seem less consequential because As You Like It brushes aside time and the state, and Rosalind has no tragic sorrows, no Prince Hal, and no Gertrude or Ghost. Rosalind is her own context, unchallenged save for the melancholy Jaques and the rancid Touchstone." And that's the end of the paragraph ― in fact, of the whole section. Although he says that Rosalind's freedom "may SEEM less consequential," which implies that it really isn't any less consequential, he sure doesn't do a thing to make the reader think that the way her freedom seems is any different from the way it truly is.

That's the passage wherein Bloom dismisses the presence of evil ― that which encloses or threatens freedom. And my contention remains. That Rosalind doesn't take it seriously, or that she behaves MOST of the time like she doesn't take it seriously, does NOT mean that the play as a whole "brushes aside" evil. It's Rosalind who brushes it aside. That was my point, I think.

Thank goodness I hadn't packed up the Bloom yet, as I'm filling box after box with books. And I have a tiny collection compared to certain others of this group. Randall, never move.



Literary Kleptomaniac said...

But isn't moving cathartic, however painful it may be at the time? I found you again... Sorry. I just wanted you to know that I wrote a story about you, and you are welcome to read it if you ever want to. You have my email, teach!

Randall said...

Yes, moving is tremendously cathartic; I've done it a number of times. Derek, though, refers to the thousands of books that festoon my home. He, like others of my friends, has found it necessary to divest himself of many books as a part of the moving process. I do not. I took 35 boxes of books to California in 1989. I brought 120 boxes of books back to Minnesota in 2000. A library, I believe, is a necessary part of a functional home. Derek knows this, and he knows that if I were to move again, 200 boxes would be filled with the library, and my generous friends would rue the day they volunteered to help me load the U-Haul.

If you have a story, e-mail it to me. I'd love to read it. - R