> Continued (Page
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"so many of Shakespeare's plays,"
Amy Kass begins, "As You Like It enacts a rite of passage
in which young people are inducted into their next stage" of life.
"The 'it' in the title refers to marriage," and the chosen scenes
show the move from "detachment to attachment" that occurs between
the young and impetuous nobleman Orlando and the maiden Rosalind.
Look, she's Shakespeare's
Rosalind in one word," Amy Kass invites the class with the enthusiastic
air of one issuing a parlor-game dare. When no one leaps in to
play, she prompts a student, "Miss Hicks?" Throughout the class,
that formal style of address--surname prefixed by Mr. or Miss--is
used by professors and students alike in a ritual of academic
civility that mirrors the "old-fashioned" ideal of courtship.
the one-word descriptions get offered: Strange. Manipulative.
Stubborn. Cunning. Clever.
Witty? Look, she's Shakespeare's jewel--she's spritely!" Amy Kass
chides, her eyes flashing with humor. "I want someone to volunteer
to read her part in a spritely, witty style."
roles of Rosalind, Orlando, and Rosalind's cousin, Celia, get
quickly assigned, and the reading begins, with laughter both at
Shakespeare's lines and at Leon Kass's stand-in readings as Duke
Frederick and as Charles, the wrestler whom Orlando has challenged.
all Rosalind," Amy Kass says as the scene ends. "Are you interested
in Orlando?" The young man's honesty and strength get nods. "He's
got that rebel without a cause thing going for him," one young
we'll pick up where the duke leaves," Amy Kass directs her players.
Two vignettes later, she calls the reading to a halt. "Celia's
question is a nice one: 'Is it possible, on such a sudden, you
should fall into so strong a liking…?'"
the next few minutes, students circle Celia's question as they
interpret Orlando and Rosalind's feelings toward each other. Is
it puppy love? "She just has a crush on him--she doesn't know
him at all," a dark-haired woman says indignantly. "This woman
is so incredibly witty and he can't even talk to her." Or is what
the two feel a friendly empathy? "There's sympathy between their
plights," offers a young man in a green cable-knit sweater, reminding
the class that both Rosalind and Orlando are fatherless and alone.
tousle-haired student who plays Orlando is the first to bring
up the matter of love at first sight: "I see this as first-sight
madness--definitely, there's a spark."
Amy Kass turns the observation into a general question--"By the
way, do you all believe that love at first sight is possible?"--there's
nervous laughter. From the back row, a woman asks for clarification:
"Does she love him before or after he wins the wrestling match?"
Kass ticks off several of Rosalind's opening comments to and about
Orlando, proposing that "she has an interest in him maybe even
from the start."
eye contact sounds like something between you and your
Kass, SB'58, MD'62
there love at first sight?" the woman repeats. "I don't really
think so. Certainly…." As her sentence trails off, the room lapses
floor's open," Leon Kass says firmly.
believe in love at first sight--in hindsight," offers a curly-haired
guy in a black V-neck sweater. "If it's not love, I'm not sure
what it is. There's certainly strong eye contact."
eye contact sounds like something between you and your ophthalmologist,"
Leon Kass replies. "What about love as desire?"
student holds his ground. "What you have later on is much larger.
What I'm saying is, when it first starts out, it's as attention,
focus, a pouring out of the heart."
don't believe in love at first sight for teenagers," says a no-nonsense
guy in a dark-plaid shirt. "Maybe," a woman concedes, "but she's
so ready for any of these things to happen. If I were to pick
one word to describe her, it would be 'giddy.' If he'd been called
away, she would have fallen in love with somebody else."
Kass nods. "She's ready, she's ripe. If you ever remember yourself
on the cusp of womanhood, when all of your senses are alive and
the world is beginning to come alive…. It's not an accident that
we have that locution, 'to fall in love.' It's not something you
"wants to fall in love," Kass continues, "but she also wants to
marry." When she and Orlando, both having been forced into exile,
meet in the forest of Arden, Rosalind is masquerading as a youth
to aid her escape. She quickly decides not to reveal her identity
to Orlando, even though he has papered the forest with lovesick
verse. In deciding "to play the knave with him," the class agrees,
she's testing Orlando. As Leon Kass sums up, "She's not just giddy,
she's also smart. She's protecting herself in some way from too
rapid revelation of her own feelings."
greets Orlando by asking him the time--an odd question in the
forest, but "the perfect question," Amy Kass says, to ask a lovelorn
youth. "She wants to bring him down to earth, bring him back into
time." Before they part, Rosalind sets a specific time for their
next meeting. "A person who keeps time is reliable, responsible,"
Kass continues as a student's watch beeps the hour.
arrives late. "How do you feel if someone is late?" Amy Kass asks.
"It's lowering in a way," one woman admits. Meanwhile the student
who's reading Orlando seems perfectly typecast: "It's good to
be 20 minutes late. It makes it more intense."
of lateness get discussed: how late, how good the excuse, how
well you know the person who's late. "I give people the benefit
of the doubt," a black-haired woman announces. "They show up--that
was the point of the meeting."
promise has been broken," Leon Kass notes. "On the face of it,
minimally, you're owed an explanation. Why?"
a promise has been broken," the woman responds, not yet convinced
it's a promise that matters. If Orlando had known he was meeting
Rosalind--not some rustic youth--offers the pragmatic student
in plaid, he would have been on time. Across the table, a woman
disallows the point: Rosalind is testing Orlando to find out how
he'll treat "the Rosalind he'll be married to 20 years down the
road, the one he's not infatuated with anymore."
the class running short on time, Amy Kass calls for the next scene,
where Rosalind leads Orlando through a mock marriage and its aftermath,
including the spectre of adultery.
Full of puns and word play, the scene can seem silly, Kass says,
but it has a serious purpose: "What is she trying to find out?"
witty in both senses of the word," offers the student who plays
Celia. "She's trying to find out something about either his wit
or how he will deal with hers."
gotten him to the mock marriage," Leon Kass agrees, pulling together
punctuality and adultery. "Immediately after, she makes him think:
All right, now that you've possessed her--now what? A woman who's
really in command--can you manage that? A man who isn't ardent
in the pursuit of the beloved might wind up there in time to find
the beloved someplace else. So, get a watch." --M.R.Y.