Friday, September 12, 2014

An Inexplicable Romance in the Forest of Arden

While I am currently playing the part of Celia in a beautifully excellent rehearsed production of As You Like It, I wanted to take a moment and see how different my portrayal of her would be if this was in an Unrehearsed Cue Script version of the show.  Specifically, the ending.

If I were to just receive Celia’s cue script, which would contain only my lines and the last 3 or 4 words of my cue line, I would be totally surprised by the fact that she marries Oliver at the end.  Of course, this would be if I knew nothing of the play to begin with and that information would be shared with me during my text session with the director.  However, going by just what’s in the text: how does Celia end up with Oliver?  Was Shakespeare in a hurry to finish and just figured they were the only two single people of similar age, so why not marry them?
In their first meeting in Act 4 Scene 3, there is never a moment of attraction from either side in the text:

Take their first lines to each other from the First Folio:

Oliu.    Good morrow, faire ones: pray you, (if you know)
            Where in the Purlews of this Forrest, stands
            A sheep-coat, fenc'd about with Oliue-trees.

Cel.      West of this place, down in the neighbor bottom
             The ranke of Oziers, by the murmuring streame
             Left on your right hand, brings you to the place:
             But at this howre, the house doth keepe it selfe,
             There's none within.

Oli.      If that an eye may profit by a tongue,
            Then should I know you by description,
            Such garments, and such yeeres: the boy is faire,
            Of femall fauour, and bestowes himselfe
            Like a ripe sister: the woman low
            And browner then her brother: are not you
            The owner of the house I did enquire for?

Cel.      It is no boast, being ask'd, to say we are.

Oli.      Orlando doth commend him to you both,
            And to that youth hee calls his Rosalind,
            He sends this bloudy napkin; are you he?

Calling a woman “low” and “browner” doesn’t instantly recall other romantic phrases that the Bard is famous for.  All of Celia’s lines to Oliver are straightforward and not really invested in him – unlike her encouragement to “faire” Orlando in the first act and her flirtatious congratulations to Orlando after he wins the wrestling bout.  Even at the end of Act 4 Scene 3, Celia is more concerned about her swooning cousin and basically orders Oliver to help her get “Rosalind” home.
As an Unrehearsed Technique actor, Celia’s cue script for those first few lines would look like this:

…………………………………………………………….with Oliue-trees.
West of this place, down in the neighbor bottom
The ranke of Oziers, by the murmuring streame
Left on your right hand, brings you to the place:
But at this howre, the house doth keepe it selfe,
There's none within.

…………………………………………………………… enquire for?
It is no boast, being ask'd, to say we are.

There’s nothing in Celia’s text that clues me (as the actress) into the fact that she’s falling in love with whomever she’s speaking to.  Of course, the rest of the scene is all about Oliver telling how Orlando saved his life and wants him to deliver a blood-stained napkin to “Rosalind” aka Ganymede.  Oliver reveals that he’s Orlando’s evil brother, but now he’s totally changed and not evil any more.  Rosalind faints and they carry her off.  Next thing we know, Oliver is telling Orlando that he’s fallen in love with Celia (or “Aliena” as he knows her) and they’ll be married.  Even Rosalind gets into the story of love by saying in Act 5 Scene 2:

Ros.     O, I know where you are: nay, tis true: there
            was neuer any thing so sodaine, but the sight of two
            Rammes, and Cesars Thrasonicall bragge of I came, saw,
            and ouercome. For your brother, and my sister, no soo-
            ner met, but they look'd: no sooner look'd, but they
            lou'd; no sooner lou'd, but they sigh'd: no sooner sigh'd
            but they ask'd one another the reason: no sooner knew
            the reason, but they sought the remedie: and in these
            degrees, haue they made a paire of staires to marriage,
            which they will climbe incontinent, or else bee inconti-
            nent before marriage; they are in the verie wrath of
            loue, and they will together. Clubbes cannot part

Really?  When did this happen?  Yes, they “met” and “look’d”, but all that sighing stuff didn’t happen when they met.  Did this happen after they carried Rosalind home?  The text that’s given for Celia in the fifth act is conspicuous by its absence.  She has no more lines for the rest of the play after Act 4 Scene 3.  She has a couple of entrances, but the usually witty, intelligent and funny Celia is silent in Act 5.  She’s been silent before in the play, but that’s when she’s watching Rosalind con Orlando into wooing her or dressing down Phebe.  It’s your wedding day, Celia.  And Rosalind’s!  No good wishes or even a response to your beloved uncle when he addresses you?    
If Celia is to follow the stage directions in the text, then the fact that she marries Oliver in the end will come as a complete surprise to the audience.  There’s never a moment in that earlier scene that tips anyone off to the fact that they’ll end up together.  Did Shakespeare intend this?  Usually when two people meet over extraordinary circumstances, like one man saving his brother’s life by wrestling with a lion and rewarding his “love” with a bloody napkin, there’s a combined emotion of survival and excitement that’s shared after such an intense moment.  But would it last?  Doesn’t matter.  This is a comedy.  Comedies end in marriage.  If two people are single and of marrying age and can still conceive children, then why not marry them in the end?  For rehearsed plays, it’s up to the director how Celia and Oliver’s love connection is perceived.  However, in an Unrehearsed production of this play, the audience gets to draw their own conclusions as to why there’s a quickie wedding between these two at the end and by simply following the stage directions given to the actress playing Celia in the text there isn’t necessarily an answer for it.  After all, love is never easy to understand anyway.
- Elizabeth Ruelas
The Unrehearsed Shakespeare Project