Yes, I have to admit in the end, it’s actually very good. Not so much for reading -- needs to be performed for all that clever choreography of gender swops, synchronised marriage and sudden conversions to have its full clever or touching impact. But much of it is truly delightful and, while never quite attaining to funniness, is slightly smile-inducing.
Big problems still remain both for the unsympathetic teenage reader and for me. What are we to make of Touchstone’s ‘wit’ and what is to be done with it? A typical example:
Touchstone: Art thou wise?
William: Ay, sir, I have a pretty wit.
Touchstone: Why, thou sayest well. I do now remember a saying: ‘The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.’ The heathen philosopher, when he had a desire to eat a grape, would open his lips when he put it into his mouth, meaning thereby that grapes were made to eat and lips to open....Art thou learned?
William: No, sir.
Touchstone: Then learn this of me. To have is to have. For it is a figure in rhetoric that drink, being poured out of a cup into a glass, by filling the one doth empty the other; for all your writers do consent that ‘ipse’ is he. Now, you are not ‘ipse’, for I am he. (V.i)
Presumably enough of the audience must have found this amusing. More infantile they -- which is the impression I also get from medieval writing, as quoted from letters, home-made prayers etc that I find in books of medieval history. They wrote like 8-year-olds of our own time, and seem to have as sophisticated a sense of humour. Thank God for progress.