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One of Shakespeare's themes in As You Like It is the corrupt nature of the court and the wholesome nature (no pun intended) of the Forest of Arden.
Charles himself sets up the negative picture of court life when he explains that "there's no news at the court, but the old news: that is, the old duke is banished by his younger brother the new duke. . . ." The reversal of the natural order of life--the overthrowing of the older, rightful duke--is explained as a natural occurrence of life at court, which emphasizes just how corrupt and unnatural court life is.
The Forest of Arden, on the other hand, is immediately associated with culturally positive images--the old Duke and his followers live in the forest "like the old Robin Hood of England," one of the most well-known folk heroes in English literature. Even more important, Charles says that the Duke and his supporters spend their time "as they did in the golden world," implicitly comparing Arden with an earthly paradise during an age before courts and politics.
From a political perspective, life in the forest, although it can be harsh, is "more sweet than that of painted pomp," and even more to the point, the forest is "more free from peril than the envious court." Here, Shakespeare establishes two of the most important differences between life at court and life in Arden: the natural life is better than artificial surroundings and those living in Arden are safe from envy and the peril envy causes.
All the characters living in the forest are acutely aware of the difficulties inherent in living in nature, but aside from the physical difficulties, they all recognize the essential wholesomeness of mind and body that comes from living away from the court. Duke Senior, in fact, says that although he suffers from the cold, "I would not change it."
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