What is an example of some of the serious issues found in Shakespeare's As You Like It?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Like all pastoral literary works, As You Like It correctly portrays the issue of corruption. Shakespeare points out the issue of corruption at court, but also, interestingly, unlike other pastoral works that portray the country, or the pastoral setting as a type of utopia, Shakespeare points out that even the forest is not completely devoid of corruption, particularly when mankind is in the forest.

Shakespeare particularly portrays the corruption at court through Duke Frederick's actions. Duke Senior is Frederick's older brother, and by legal birthrights, the dukedom properly belongs to Duke Senior. However, the play begins after Frederick decided to usurp his older brother, driving him into exile in the Forest of Arden and taking over the dukedom. Frederick's usurpation of his older brother is certainly a perfect example the type of moral corruption that can be found at court.

However, it is Jaques who points out that corruption even exists in the forest so long as man is there. When we first meet Duke Senior and his courtiers in the forest, we learn that Jaques is off crying somewhere over a deer that had been hunted and now lies wounded in the forest. Jaques' argument is that mankind has no right to kill the animals simply because mankind needs food and that to do so is to usurp the animals of their own "native dwelling-place," which the animals have the right to lay claim to as their own personal utopia. In short, Jaques is arguing that Duke Senior and his courtiers are behaving as tyrannically as Frederick to come and take the forest from the animals, thereby usurping the animals of their own birthright, as we see in one of Duke Senior's courtier's lines as he quotes Jaques:

Thus most invectively he [Jaques] pierceth through
The body of the country, city, court,
Yeah, and of this our life, swearing that we
Are mere usurpers, tyrants and what's worse,
To fright the animals and kill them up
In their assign'd and native dwelling-place. (II.i.58-63)

Hence we see that according to both Jaques and Shakespeare not even the pastoral life is fully devoid of corruption, making the existence of corruption one of the serious issues dealt with in the play.

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As You Like It

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