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As You Like It /

An Introduction to This Text: As You Like It

By Barbara Mowat and Paul Werstine
Editors of the Folger Shakespeare Library Editions

As You Like It was first printed in the 1623 collection of Shakespeare’s plays now known as the First Folio. The present edition is based directly upon the First Folio version.1 For the convenience of the reader, we have modernized the punctuation and the spelling of the Folio. Sometimes we go so far as to modernize certain old forms of words; for example, when a means he, we change it to he; we change mo to more and ye to you. But it is not our practice in editing any of the plays to modernize words that sound distinctly different from modern forms. For example, when the early printed texts read sith or apricocks or porpentine, we have not modernized to since, apricots, porcupine. When the forms an, and, or and if appear instead of the modern form if, we have reduced and to an but have not changed any of these forms to their modern equivalent, if. We also modernize and, where necessary, correct passages in foreign languages, unless an error in the early printed text can be reasonably explained as a joke.

Whenever we change the wording of the First Folio or add anything to its stage directions, we mark the change by enclosing it in superior half-brackets ( ). We want our readers to be immediately aware when we have intervened. (Only when we correct an obvious typographical error in the First Folio does the change not get marked.) Whenever we change either the First Folio’s wording or its punctuation so that the meaning changes, we list the change in the textual notes, even if all we have done is fix an obvious error.

We regularize a number of proper names, as is the usual practice in editions of the play. For example, the Folio sometimes calls Le Beau by the name “Le Beu,” sometimes names Rosalind “Rosaline,” and sometimes refers to Sir Rowland de Boys as “Sir Roland de Boys.” We, however, use only the forms Le Beau, Rosalind, and Sir Rowland de Boys.

This edition differs from many earlier ones in its efforts to aid the reader in imagining the play as a performance rather than as a series of actual events. Thus, stage directions and speech prefixes are written with reference to the stage. For example, when one goes to a production of As You Like It, one is always aware, after the actors playing Rosalind and Celia have donned their disguises, that they no longer look like princesses. Instead, the actor playing Rosalind looks like a man from the country called Ganymede, and the actor playing Celia, now named Aliena, looks like Ganymede’s sister. Only the two princesses and Touchstone know that Ganymede and Aliena are assumed identities. In an effort to reproduce in our edition the effect that an audience experiences, we have added their “disguise names” to the speech prefixes ROSALIND and CELIA whenever these characters are in dialogue with characters who think they are conversing with Ganymede and/or Aliena rather than with the princesses. With the addition of such directions to the speech prefixes, we hope to give our readers a greater opportunity to stage the play in their own imaginations.

For the same reason, whenever it is reasonably certain, in our view, that a speech is accompanied by a particular action, we provide a stage direction describing the action. (Occasional exceptions to this rule occur when the action is so obvious that to add a stage direction would insult the reader.) Stage directions for the entrance of characters in mid-scene are, with rare exceptions, placed so that they immediately precede the characters’ participation in the scene, even though these entrances may appear somewhat earlier in the early printed texts. Whenever we move a stage direction, we record this change in the textual notes. Latin stage directions (e.g., Exeunt) are translated into English (e.g., They exit).

We expand the often severely abbreviated forms of names used as speech headings in early printed texts into the full names of the characters. We also regularize the speakers’ names in speech headings, using only a single designation for each character, even though the early printed texts sometimes use a variety of designations. Variations in the speech headings of the early printed texts are recorded in the textual notes.

In the present edition, as well, we mark with a dash any change of address within a speech, unless a stage direction intervenes. When the -ed ending of a word is to be pronounced, we mark it with an accent. Like editors for the past two centuries, we display metrically linked lines in the following way:

 Phoebe, with all my heart.
PHOEBE  I’ll write it straight.

However, when there are a number of short verse lines that can be linked in more than one way, we do not, with rare exceptions, indent any of them.

  1. We have also consulted the computerized text of the First Folio provided by the Text Archive of the Oxford University Computing Centre, to which we are grateful.