Was there an actual Forest of Arden based on the one in As You Like It by William Shakespeare?
Next to the town of Stratford, lies the Forest of Arden that Shakespeare drew upon in writing about the forest in As You Like It. In Shakespeare's time, the Forest of Arden was rich in trees and richly populated with cottages, including cottages of "minor gentry" of the sort that Rosalind and Celia bought for their own abode. On Shakespeare's annual returns to Stratford-Upon-Avon, he undoubtedly reacquainted himself with the pleasures of his own Arden Forest.
Individuals in the villages leased land from the owner, one Robert Arden, living in Wilmcote. Shakespeare's own grandfather leased more than 140 acres from Robert Arden in the Forest of Arden. It was Shakespeare's father, John, who first left the forest and moved to the town of Stratford to learn the trade of glover.
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?
Here feel we but the penalty of Adam,
The seasons' difference, as the icy fang
And churlish chiding of the winter's wind,
Which, when it bites and blows upon my body,
Even till I shrink with cold, I smile and say
'This is no flattery: these are counsellors
That feelingly persuade me what I am.' (II.i)
Yet there is contradictory scholarly opinion that the Forest of Arden is actually the forest of the Ardennes, which is situated in Belgium, part of the Low Countries. What evidence there is for thinking Shakespeare went so far afield for the model of Arden Forest is not made clear.
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