Contrast between rural life/court life and Orlando/Oliver in As You Like It.

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Orlando is the youngest of three brothers, but he is much bigger and stronger than the oldest brother Oliver. Perhaps this is one reason Oliver dislikes Orlando so intensely and why he tries to belittle him and to maintain such a superior attitude towards him.

At the beginning of As You Like It Oliver and Orlando hate each other. Orlando is resentful because Oliver refuses to help him improve his education but treats him like a peasant. He says:

My father charged you in his will to give me good education: you have trained me like a peasant, obscuring and hiding from me all gentlemanlike qualities.

Oliver actually encourages the wrestler Charles to kill Orlando in their upcoming bout, but Orlando wins and then is forced to flee because he learns that Oliver has further plans to kill him.

Duke Frederick orders Oliver to pursue Orlando because he believes Rosalind and Celia have run off with him and he blames this on Oliver. The Duke's reason for blaming Oliver is that he suspects him of plotting to kill his youngest brother and forcing him to flee, thereby providing Rosalind and Celia with the protection to flee with him. In other words, the Duke believes that his daughter Celia is to be found with Rosalind and that Rosalind is to be found with Orlando because they are in love with each other.

At the end of the play the brothers are reunited and reconciled in the Forest of Arden, where Orlando saves Oliver from being killed by a lioness. Oliver has become a changed man. He promises Orlando that he will give him his estate and all its revenues (V.2) because he wants to marry Celia and live the life of a shepherd in the forest.

The amazing change that comes over the mean-spirited Oliver is comparable to that which comes over Duke Frederick when he meets a holy man who converts him and completely changes his aggressive, violent character. There is something mysterious about the Forest of Arden that works its spell on everyone who comes there.

 

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It is clear that at the beginning of this excellent comedy Oliver and Orlando are not the best of friends, in spite of their sibling relationship. Note the way that in Act I scene 1 they fight, and Orlando, having his brother trapped in some kind of wrestling hold, tells us that his brother has committed the following crimes against him:

My father charged you in his will to give me good education. You have trained me like a peasant, obscuring and hiding from me all gentleman-like qualities. The spirit of my father grows strong in me, and I will no longer endure it!

Clearly the hatred that they feel for one another is expressed through their behaviour and the words they use for each other, such as when Oliver insultingly calls his brother a "boy" and he tells the Duke that he hates Orlando just as much as he does, knowing that this will be bad for his brother.

However, the power of the Forest of Arden to transform characters is shown strongly in Olvier's change of heart and his softening of his attitude towards Orlando. Through what he sees and learns in the forest, and through meeting Celia, he comes to love his brother and regret his past actions towards him, even wanting to give the estate and wealth of their father, that previously he had kept to himself, to Orlando alone:

It shall be to your good, for my father's house and all the revenue that was old Sir Rowland's will I estate upon you, and here live and die a shepherd.

Thus by the end of the play, one of the central conflicts, that between Orlando and Oliver, is resolved as they are restored to loving siblings, which is in direct contrast to how they began the play.

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"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.

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One way that Shakespeare demonstrates the difference between court and country life is to have the court characters speak in verse form, and to have the country characters speak in prose form. This is a technique utilized in many of the comedies. The country characters, who live in the Forest of Arden, are portrayed as willful and sometimes simple-minded. The women in particular are shown in string contrast to their court counterparts. Phoebe the shepherdess has a hot temper as displayed in her conversation with Silvius. She also is easily attracted to other men, as shown in her immediate attraction to Ganymede/Rosalind. Audrey, a simple milk maid, is shown to be naive and ignorant as she allows Jacques to seduce her. Both these characters' words and behaviors imply that country women are more sexually open and active than the women from the court.

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Well, there are lots. And the play, like all of Shakespeare's plays, complicates the issue rather than providing a one-word, easy answer. I think the best way of answering yoru question is to focus in on one particular little extract which deals with the topic: the conversation between Touchstone (the fool from the court) and Corin (the shepherd, who lives in the country).

CORIN.
And how like you this shepherd's life, Master Touchstone?

TOUCHSTONE.
Truly, shepherd, in respect of itself, it is a good life; but in respect that it is a shepherd's life, it is naught. In respect that it is solitary, I like it very well; but in respect that it is private, it is a very vile life. Now in respect it is in the fields, it pleaseth me well; but in respect it is not in the court, it is tedious. As it is a spare life, look you, it fits my humour well; but as there is no more plenty in it, it goes much against my stomach.

Hast any philosophy in thee, shepherd?

CORIN.
No more but that I know the more one sickens, the worse at ease he is; and that he that wants money, means, and content, is without three good friends; that the property of rain is to wet, and fire to burn; that good pasture makes fat sheep; and that a great cause of the night is lack of the sun; that he that hath learned no wit by nature nor art may complain of good breeding, or comes of a very dull kindred.

TOUCHSTONE.
Such a one is a natural philosopher. Wast ever in court, shepherd?

CORIN.
No, truly.

The key here seems to be in the duality, the both-at-onceness of both conversations here. Touchstone can see all the good points of the country, but those good points (to him) are also its bad points. So he likes the fact that it is in the country, if you view that in isolation, but if you widen the picture and remember that it is not in the court, then he doesn't like it:

Now in respect it is in the fields, it pleaseth me well; but in respect it is not in the court, it is tedious.

The same sort of double perspective applies, I think, to Corin's perspective on philosophy. I think there are two entirely different routes for the actor playing Corin in the theatre to take with the above speech. Either you play Corin as genuinely wise - everything he says, is of course 'natural' philosophy, and indeed, true - or you play him as a complete idiot, just stating one obvious non-insight after another. Is this country wisdom, or bumpkin stupidity? Corin thinks it the former, Touchstone the latter. It all depends on your perspective on the scene.

And that's what Touchstone goes on to argue. Corin says first that it depends on where you are - good manners in country and in court means two entirely different things:

CORIN.
Touchstone... good manners at the court are as ridiculous in the country as the behaviour of the country is most mockable at the court. You told me you salute not at the court, but you kiss your hands; that courtesy would be uncleanly if courtiers were shepherds.

TOUCHSTONE.
Instance, briefly; come, instance.

CORIN.
Why, we are still handling our ewes; and their fells, you know, are greasy.

We couldn't kiss our hands in the country, Corin argues, like you do in the court, because our hands are dirty. Yet Touchstone's response says that country and court are the same.

TOUCHSTONE.
Why, do not your courtier's hands sweat? and is not the grease of a mutton as wholesome as the sweat of a man?

It depends who you are. It's as you like it.

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Much like the difference between the court of Athens and the forest in "A Midsummer Night's Dream," the difference between the court and the Forest of Arden in "As You Like It" represents the difference between the beauty and wildness of nature and the natural world versus orderly life governed by rules at court.  In the link given below to the various themes of "AYLI," eNotes discusses the fact that Shakespeare's intent is to entertain his audience, but also to remind them that how they live their lives is up to them.  Will they be governed by the orderliness and civilization found in courtly society, or will they be more carefree and wild, at one with nature?

Shakespeare presents both life at court and life in the Forest in a fair light, demonstrating the pros and cons of both.  "As the veteran shepherd Corin tells us, 'those that are good manners at the court are ridiculous in the country as the behavior of the country is most mockable at court' (III.ii.46-47)" (from eNotes). 

Be sure to check the link below for more information.  Good luck!

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