As the "Dead Shepherd," or slain love poet invoked in the magical forest of Arden, Christopher Marlowe's spirit permeates As You Like It. This new edition vividly recreates the harrowing climate of religious persecution and artistic censorship in which the play was written. The Bishops' Bonfire on June 4, 1599, in which Marlowe's newly published version of Ovid's love poems was publicly burned by the archbishop of Canterbury and bishop of London, is alluded to in the play. As this edition shows, the Dead Shepherd was remarkably alive.
Initial publication of As You Like It in the First Folio 1623.
Cynthia Morgan's Review of Marlowe's As You Like It
"Alex Jack’s interpretation of As You Like It slips seamlessly into a late 16th century political and religious historical context. Until now, the general consensus has been that Shakespeare was merely remembering Marlowe’s death at Deptford when he had Touchstone the court Fool say, "When a man's verses cannot be understood, nor a man's good wit seconded with the forward child Understanding, it strikes a man more dead than a great reckoning in a little room."
"Alex Jack’s As You Like It reveals so many new allusions to Marlowe’s death, along with a multitude of glances at his literary resurrection under the William Shakespeare name, that Kit Marlowe himself becomes the subject of this play’s subplot—a subplot that is now, for the savvy reader, more riveting than the main romantic storyline.
"Alex’s insight that Touchstone, who has fled into exile with the other banished characters, is Marlowe’s alias mouthpiece gives us a new and deeper understanding of the dialogue in this play, including lines that have bewildered readers for centuries. After reading his fresh rendering of the text and the added objective stylistic and linguistic studies that reveal a match between Marlowe’s and Shakespeare’s literary fingerprints, Jonathan Bate’s comment—that Shakespeare “only became Shakespeare because of the death of Marlowe. And he remained peculiarly haunted by that death"—also takes on new significance."
—Cynthia Morgan, editor/publisher, TheMarloweStudies.org
Donna N. Murphy's Review
"It is well known that As You Like It refers to Marlowe and quotes his work, and that in it, a man named 'William' is portrayed unflaterringly as an unlearned, country fellow. Alex Jack’s book deepens our understanding of Marlowe-as-Touchstone, and As You Like It as a play that 'seals the renewed dramatic compact between Marlowe and his audience.' Jack highlights ways in which this comedy contains subversive undertones regarding the Church of England, and how it offers 'a naturalistic or mystical form of Christianity.' One truly gains the sense that As You Like It was written by an enlightened individual instead of a materialistic one who hoarded grain and sued people over debts—as historical records depict the actor from Stratford. I recommend Alex Jack’s As You Like It for its fresh, new insights, and because it serves as a compendium of research about the play and about the circumstances surrounding Marlowe’s 'death.'”
—Donna N. Murphy, Renaissance scholar, contributor to the Oxford University Press journal Notes & Queries, and co-winner of the 2010 Hoffman Prize for her work on Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Nashe, and the authorship of anonymous plays.
In As You Like It, Touchstone the fool tussles with William, the country boy, for the affections of Audrey, the goat girl. "Aud," the root word of her name, means auditor or listener, and she represents the London theatre audience.
Marlowe, who is glanced at by Touchstone, appears to be upset with William for taking credit for the first plays published in his name in 1598. Until then, the Shakespearean plays had been published anonymously.
Marlowe is referred to by Phoebe, the shepherdess in the play, as the "Dead Shepherd," but as Celia makes clear, reports of Kit's death are falser than "the word of a tapster; they are the confirmer of false reckonings." "Reckoning," also punned on by Touchstone, refers to Marlowe's reputed slaying in a quarrel over the tavern bill or reckoning.
Rosalind also challenges the gossip and rumors about Marlowe's death when she rails at the "foolish chroniclers of that age" who got the circumstances of Leander's death completely wrong. Leander glances at Marlowe's long poem Hero and Leander that he was working on at the time of his arrest in connection with heresy.
“Marlowe's As You Like It should be required reading in the schools and universities. It is a textbook.”—Elizabeth Karaman, New York City