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“As You Like It” was first printed in the folio of 1623, where it occupies twenty-three pages, viz. from p. 185 to p. 207 inclusive, in the division of “Comedies." It preserved its place in the three subsequent impressions of that volume in 1632, 1664, and 1685.
" As You LIKE IT" is not only founded upon, but in some points very closely copied from, a novel by Thomas Lodge, under the title of “ Rosalynde : Euphies Golden Legacie," which was originally printed in 4to, 1590, a second time in 1592, and a third edition came out in 1598. We have no intelligence of any re-impression of it between 1592 and 1598. This third edition perhaps appeared early in 1598; and we are disposed to think, that the re-publication of so popular a work directed Shakespeare's attention to it. If so, " As You Like It” may have been written in the summer of 1598, and first acted in the winter of the same, or in the spring of the following year.
The only entry in the registers of the Stationers' Company relating to “As You Like It,” is confirmatory of this supposition. It has been already referred to in the * Introduction" to “Much Ado about Nothing;” and it will be well to insert it here, precisely in the manner in which it stands in the original record :
"4 August. “ As you like yt, a book. Henry the ffift, a book. Every
man in his humor, a book. The Commedie of Much
adoo about nothinge, a book.” Opposite this memorandum are added the words “ To be staied.”. It will be remarked, that there is an important deficiency in the entry, as regards the purpose to which we wish to apply it:—the date of the year is not given; but Ma. lone conjectured, and in that conjecture I have expressed concurrence, that the clerk who wrote the titles of the four plays, with the date of “ 4 August," did not think it necessary there to repeat the year 1600, as it was found in the memorandum immediately preceding that we have above quoted. Shakespeare's " Henry the Fifth,” and “Much Ado about Nothing," were both pririted in 1600, and Ben Jonson's " Every Man in his Humour" in the year following; though Gifford, in his edition of that poet's works (vol. i. p. 2), by a strange error, states, that the first impression was in 1603. The “stay,” as regards “ Henry the Fifth," “ Every Man in his Humour," and “Much Ado about Nothing," was doubtless soon removed ; for “ Henry the Fifth " was entered again for publication on the 14th August; and, as has been already shown, Wise and Aspley took the same course with “Much Ado 'about Nothing on the 23rd August. There is no known edition of " As You Like It" prior to its appearance in the folio of 1623, (where it is divided into Scenes, as well as Acts) and we may possibly assume that the “stay” was not, for some unexplained and uncertain reason, removed as to that comedy.
1 If we suppose that the third edition of Lodge's “Rosalynde" was occasioned by the popularity of Shakespeare's comedy, founded upon one of the earlier irnpressions in 1590 or 1592. it would show that ? As You Like It” was acteu in 1598, and might have been written in 1597.
Malone relied upon a piece of internal evidence, which, if examined, seems to be of no value in settling the question when “ As You Like It” was first written. The following words are put into the mouth of Rosalind :-“I weer for nothing, like Diana in the fountain” (A. iv. sc. 1), which Malone supposed to refer to an alabaster figure of Diana on the east of Cheapside, which, according to Stowe's “Survey of London," was set up in 1598, and was in decay in 1603. This figure of Diana did not "weep;" for Stowe expressly states that the water came “prilling from her naked breast.” Therefore, this passage proves nothing as far as respects the date of " As You Like It.” Shakespeare probably intended to make no allusion to any particular fountain.
It is not to be forgotten, in deciding upon the probable date of “ As You Like It," that Meres makes no mention of it in his Palladis Tamia, 1598; and as was entered at Stationers' Hall on the 4th August (1600], we may conclude that it was written and acted in that interval. In A. iii. sc. 5. a line from the first Sestiad of Marlowe's “Hero and Leander" is quoted; and as that poem was first printed in 1598, “As You Like It" may not have been written until after it appeared.
There is no doubt that Lodge, when composing his “Rosalynde: Euphues Golden Legacie,” which he did, as he informs us, while on voyage with Captain Clarke, to the isl. ands of Terceras and the Canaries," had either - The Coke's Tale of Gamelyn” (falsely attributed to Chancer, as Tyrwhitt contends in his Introd. to the Cant. Tales, I. clxxxiii. Edit. 1830.) strongly in his recollection, or, which does not seem very probable in such a situation, with a manuscript of it actually before him. It was not printed until more than a century afterwards. According to Farmer, Shakespeare looked no farther than Lodge's novel, which he followed in “As You Like It" quite as closely as he did Greene's “Pandosto" in the “ Winter's Tale." There are one or two coincidences of expression between “ As You Like It” and “The Coke's Tale of Gamelyn,” but not perhaps inore than might be accidental, and the opinion of Farmer appears to be sufficiently borne out. Lodge's “Rosalynde" has been recently printed as part of “Shakespeare's Library," and it will be easy, therefore, for the reader to trace the particular resemblances between it and “As You Like It."
In his Lectures in 1818, Coleridge eloquently and justly praised the pastoral beauty and simplicity of "As You Like It;"' but he did not attempt to compare it with Lodge's “Rosalynde,” where the descriptions of persons and of scenery are comparatively forced and artificial :-"Shakespeare,” said Coleridge, never gives a description of rustic scenery merely