It was a special moment when, groping inside the Penguin Postcard Project HQ mailbox, my hand came to rest on this anonymous little oblong card. The metaphorical gold star for first review goes unequivocally to Mr Thomas Green of York – congratulations! (Real ones, not metaphorical.)
And look – it’s typed up! For a fleeting moment, I supposed that to be some sort of obscure cheating – was using a computer to help you squeeze in 292 words really, you know, cricket?
But then I read the review, and loved it. I remembered all the reasons I love As You Like It, all the reasons I love Shakespeare, and all of the reasons I’ve been so excited to receive your postcard reviews. The thing was settled: far from fraudulent, it was absolutely in the spirit of the project to be creative and resourceful. It was the perfect start. One down, 99 to go!
I’d love to hear your comments – do you like it? Is it inspiring? Do you want to (re)read the play? Answers on a postcard… oh, on second thoughts… maybe just in the Comments box below.
Postcard design by C. Walter Hodges, 1956. Walter Hodges (1909–2004) was an illustrator and author whose lifelong attachment to the theatre led him to be heavily involved with the construction of Shakespeare’s Globe in London (the new one, obviously, not the 16th-century one). He designed costumes and scenery for the theatre throughout his life and once argued that ‘the theatre must be seen as a most powerful instrument in the social history of mankind’. Cool, huh?
This little bit of fluff is my favourite example of Shakespeare’s frothy mood. Don’t read it for a guide to natural history (a lioness in the Forest of Arden?), nor to the art of disguise (change a girl’s clothes, and her own father won’t know her); and don’t look for subtle studies of the growth of love, either: Orlando and Rosalind, Celia and Oliver, and unlucky Phebe all fall in true and eternal love at first glimpse. Equally abrupt are the two conversions from unmotivated villainy to sudden saintliness. Nor is it tightly plotted. Random events (the lioness) and persons (William) pop in from nowhere. In the second half Celia, important and engaging in the first half, suddenly fade out of view and just stands around monosyllabically, and Touchstone’s character and role become very different. Do read it for the down-to-earthiness – briskly sending up all rubbishy claims to be dying of love. And enjoy the set-piece speeches, including the Seven Ages of Man and Seven Types of Lie, though these are simply pasted in – I think Shakespeare wrote them for fun in his bath and stuck them in the play at random. Read it for Shakespeare’s usual stunning phrase-making, and for his compassion for all unlucky people. Some good songs, too. And of course, read it for the clever knot that tangles all the main characters, but comes apart will one pull on the end of the strong: the boy ‘Ganymede’ is revealed as the girl Rosalind, and all is sorted out. Above all read it for Rosalind’s bright repartee, especially with Orlando her would-be lover; and for the brilliant contrivance of presenting a boy actor pretending to be a girl pretending to be a boy pretending to be a girl. Thomas Green, York