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14 Pages

As They Did in the Golden World: Romantic Rapture and Semantic Rupture in As You Like It

WithKeir Elam

Rosalynde is a romance of the pastoral species, and its author’s name is itself eminently pastoral, at least in one of its various dictionary senses: that of the “small country house or cabin.” The relationship between romance and pastoral is, as it were, one of family resemblance, even if, as in most families, there are certain more or less deep-rooted tensions in the kinship. In a word, to the romantic rapture — raptura, a carrying away — typical of the pastoral mode, Shakespeare opposes semantic rupture, ruptura, a breaking away not only from inherited literary canons but from the linguistic and stylistic fixity they presuppose. The obvious point of comparison and contrast is the epilogue of The Tempest, in which Shakespearean pastoral romance, in its most fully achieved and most articulately baroque form, re-renounces the illusionistic Orphism that brought it into being.