What is the contrast between the court life and the pastoral life in the Forest of Arden in As You Like It by William Shakespeare?
The most direct contrast between pastoral Arden Forest life and sophisticated court life occurs in Act II. Scene i gives us Duke Senior's thoughts about life in Arden Forest while scene ii lets us witness life as it is being led at court when the Duke is unhappy. Scene iv gives a view of the inhabitants of the forest and the ease with which Rosalind, Celia and Touchstone are given help, while scene vii brings Orlando face to face with life in Arden Forest when he violently intrudes into Duke Senior's camp.
In scene i, Duke Senior compares pastoral life in Arden to "Sermons in stone" that are no false counselors but sincere friends telling him what he truly is. He compares Arden to a toad that, although it can be dangerous, "wears a precious jewel" of truth. He contrasts Arden Forest life to court life when he declares that Arden, despite toads and biting, shrinking cold, is safer and freer than court life with false advisers and false flatters.
Now, my co-mates and brothers in exile,
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? (II.i)
Contrast between court and pastoral life is dramatized in scene ii in Duke Frederick's palace. He learns that his daughter, Celia, has rejected him and escaped with the newly exiled Rosalind. He hears the false gossip that the girls have probably run off with Orlando. He demands that Orlando's older brother and courtier, Oliver, be brought before him "suddenly" to prevent Oliver's running away also.
Scene iv gives a glimpse of life in Arden Forest as lived by its non-exiled inhabitants. This glimpse situates love as the dominating theme when Silvius cries, "Thou hast not loved. / O Phebe, Phebe, Phebe!" Finally, Scene vii brings Orlando face to face with Duke Senior and the gentle generosity that imbues Forest life and which Ganymede/Rosalind and Aliena/Celia and Touchstone met with from Corbin. The contrast between the two life styles is clearly one of generosity versus tyranny, love versus rejection and exile, and acceptance versus usurpation.