What are the symbolic representations of the court and forest in As You Like It?

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In As You Like It, a dichotomy is shown between the present court life and the life in Arden forest. This dichotomy is restored to a harmonious balance by the end of the play when Rosalind and her father are restored to court, Celia and Oliver choose a shepherd's life, and Duke Frederick renounces everything to devote himself to repentence in a monastic life.

Court life in the dukedom is symbolically represented by the upheaval surrounding Charles' wrestling matches, in which three young men (their old father's only sons) are brutally defeated and given broken ribs, to the extent that there are fears for their lives. Fearing for one's life or one's safety is a strong symbolic element at court. Orlando also fears for his safety even though he won his match against Charles because, as Le Beau tells him, Duke Frederick is in an outrage over the defeat and injuries sustained by Charles. Soon Rosalind comes to fear her safety at court as well after Frederick orders her to leave.

Another symbolic representation of present court life is the motif of brother against brother. Duke Frederick maliciously usurped (stole) the throne from his elder brother Duke Senior and then banished and exiled him from his own dukedom. Orlando, the youngest of three brothers, has always been hated by Oliver, the eldest and, while Jaques, the middle brother, was cared for, educated, and taught the graces of a gentleman, Orlando was left in poverty and without education or training of any sort, although he taught himself wrestling, a good sport to go with his large and powerful physique (he wrestled a lion to death later in Arden forest).

Pastoral rustic life in Arden forest is symbolically represented by personal liberty, whereas at court people feared for the safety of their lives, in Arden forest, they feel at liberty to express their lives. For instance, Orlando feels at liberty to hang poems (badly written poems) on the trees and carve Rosalind's name in the bark of the trees. Rosalind feels at liberty to connive a silly trick against Orlando by which he comes to "woo" her every day, although he still thinks Rosalind is the youth named Ganymede.

Shakespeare doesn't paint Arden forest as a place where all is perfect. This imperfection is symbolized by things like references to weather, the disagreement between Corin and Phebe, and melancholy Jaques of the forest. However, the people in Arden strive for unity and harmony while the people at court strive for divisiveness and discord.

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