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Contrast between the rural life and the court life in "As You Like It."By referring to...
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Firstly, those banished from court life seek and find refuge in rural life (in the Forest of Arden). The characters escape their court life woes and are free from the restraints of this lifestyle - both sets of brothers (Oliver and Orlando, Duke Senior and Frederick) part ways - the evil brothers maintain their court lives, and "the benevolent, wronged brothers create an alternative "green" world in the Forest of Arden" (Dolan, F. in Introduction of AYLI Pelican edition). In the opening of the play, court life appears full of coruption, with Oliver having control over Orlando and denying him an education.
The forest of Arden, in contrast, is full of possibilities. Characters constantly speak in conditionals - as Touchstone remarks "Your If is the only peacemaker. Much virtue in If." (V, iv, 101). Rosalind and Celia play with the endless possibilities that the forest presents with their disguises (dressing up as Ganyemede and Aliena) and it is through her disguise that Rosalind can ask Orlando to imagine that 'he' (Ganyemede) is "your very very Rosalind" (IV, i, 65-66).
The forest is also a romantic setting with many characters falling in love (act 2 scene 4 is good to discuss here - they talk about love and that the forest brings it out in them). Orlando proclaims his love for Rosalind by carving her name on trees in the forest.
In AYLI there is also a lot of music ("AYLI contains more songs than any other Shakespeare play." -Dolan), but this is only in the forest. The characters sing and dance when in the forest (act 2 scene 5, act 2 scene 7, act 4 scene 2, act 5 scene 3, act 5 scene 4), but never in the palace or any other 'court-life' setting in the play.
The characters also verbalise the pros of rural life vs court life (act 2 scene 1 is a great scene for this: "Hath not old custom made this life more sweet/ Than that of painted pomp? Are not these woods/ More free from peril than the envious court?" etc).
However, I think it's a little more complicated than it originally seems. While all of these things contribute to the forest/rural life = good, court life = bad idea, the forest still has many dangers. During the Elizabethan period the word 'wilderness' conjured up images of over-grown and uncoltivated forest. "To many, [largescale deforestation] symbolized the triumph of civilisation. Forests had originally been synonymous with wildness and danger, as the word ‘savage’ (from silva, a wood) reminds us." (Thomas, K., Man and the Natural World: Changing Attitudes in England 1500-1800 (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1984)) Those who have escaped to Arden must also hunt for themselves in order to survive (act 2 scene 1 reminds us that in order for one species to survive, another must perish - Jaques is made fun of, as he, like the dying deer is sad and pathetic, however this scene shows that forest life is not all fun and games for everyone).
Dolan says something very note-worthy I think: "This pastoral place is not an alternative to civilisation, "nature" as opposed to "culture". Instead, it is a place where the denizens of the court go to renew themselves, and where they literally leave their mark."
I'm just about to write an essay on a similar subject for uni, and haven't quite finished planning yet, so my thoughts are a bit all over the place at the moment. Sorry!
Posted by fayean on October 31, 2009 at 6:09 PM (Answer #1)
"As You Like It" is a piece of literature in what is known as the "pastoral" genre. In such pieces, rural life is seen as good while city life is seen as corrupt and evil. In this play, life at the court is bad while life in the Forest of Arden is good.
We can see the contrast between the two in the fact that Duke Frederick and Oliver and evil and corrupt whereas the people in the Forest of Arden (Duke Senior, Orlando, Rosalind, Celia) are good. Furthermore, we see that Oliver becomes good once he gets to the Forest, as does Duke Frederick.
Posted by pohnpei397 on October 30, 2009 at 3:22 AM (Answer #2)
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