What role does the Forest of Arden play in Shakespeare's As You Like It?

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The role of the Forest of Arden in Shakespeare's As You Like It is that of a temporary place of refuge from the oppressive court of Duke Frederick. The forest is a place for meditation, self-discovery, and self-renewal for characters in the play and a place for love and romance, mistaken identities, and comic interplay between the courtiers and the forest's rustic residents.

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William Shakespeare's As You Like It is seemingly set in two worlds: the court of Duke Frederick and the Forest of Arden, which serves its role as a place of temporary respite from the troubles of the court.

The Forest of Arden is often interpreted symbolically as the idyllic counterpart or alternative to an oppressive court. The court is certainly oppressive. Prior to the beginning of the play, Duke Frederick usurped the dukedom of his brother, Duke Senior, and banished Duke Senior from court. Duke Senior goes to live in the Forest of Arden with a number of his followers.

In act 1, scene 3, Duke Frederick banishes Duke Senior's daughter Rosalind from court for being Duke Senior's daughter and possibly for falling in love with Orlando, the son of Duke Frederick's hated enemy, Sir Rowland de Boys.

At her cousin and best friend Celia's suggestion, Rosalind decides to join her father in exile in the Forest of Arden. Celia decides to accompany her there and to take the court jester, Touchstone, with them. At Rosalind's suggestion, and as a practical matter, Celia and Rosalind disguise themselves in order to travel safely to Arden, because, as Rosalind says, "Beauty provoketh thieves sooner than gold."

Act 2, scene 1 is the first scene in the play that occurs in the Forest of Arden. Duke Senior and some of his followers are walking through the forest, "like forester," says the stage directions in the First Folio. Duke Senior tells his followers how much he enjoys living in the forest, but it doesn't sound like a particularly pleasant place for those who don't have Duke Senior's optimistic, accepting attitude.

DUKE SENIOR. 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.

(act 2, scene 1, lines 6–9)

Duke Senior also mentions "ugly and venomous" toads, but he seems to find "good in everything," and his follower Amiens agrees, remarking, "I would not change it."

Rosalind, Celia, and Touchstone arrive in Arden in act 2, scene 4. When Rosaline says "Well, this is the Forest of Arden," Touchstone puts the forest into perspective.

Ay, now am I in Arden: the more fool I;

When I was at home I was in a better place; but

Travellers must be content.
(act 2, scene 4, lines 15–17)

Orlando calls the forest "uncouth" and finds that "there's no clock in the forest," but aside from those two observations, nothing more is said about the forest during the rest of the play.

The Forest of Arden serves as a refuge for Duke Senior and his followers, as well as for Celia and Rosalind—if not quite so much for Touchstone—and for Orlando and his old servant, Adam, when Orlando flees to the forest to escape from his abusive brother, Oliver.

The forest is also a place for meditation (Jaques and Duke Senior), self-discovery (Rosalind and Orlando), self-renewal (Duke Senior and Oliver), and for fantasy and make-believe, in the sense of a person being able to indulge their make-believe fantasies—Rosalind, disguised as a man, teaches Orlando how to love Rosalind—not in a sense of the forest itself being fantastical.

The Forest of Arden serves as the setting for the play and as a backdrop for the action of the play. If it weren't for Duke Senior being exiled from court and choosing to live in the Forest of Arden, the forest scenes could easily have been set anywhere in the countryside around the Duke's palace, in much the same way that the scenes in A Midsummer Night's Dream are set in the forest outside Athens, and The Tempest is set on an island somewhere in the Mediterranean Sea. Magical, spiritual, and fantastical things happen in each of these places, but the forest or island itself isn't particularly magical, spiritual, or fantastical.

When order is restored in act 5 of As You Like It and Duke Senior regains his rightful place at court, the true identities of Rosalind/Ganymede and Celia/Aliena are revealed, and all lovers are properly paired up with the help of Hymen, the god of marriage, and it appears that everyone except those who originally lived in the forest plans to return to court—except for Jacques, who chooses to join the newly-enlightened Duke Frederick in a cave with "an old religious man"—and not another thought is given to the Forest of Arden.

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The role of the Forest of Arden is to serve as the pastoral setting needed to make the play satrical of pastoral literature. The plot of As You Like It was borrowed from a popular pastoral novel published in Shakespeare's time, Rosalynde, by Thomas Lodge. Pastoral literature is a genre of literature stemming all the way back to Ancient Greece and Rome that idealized a shepherd's country life in contrast with corrupt city life. In As You Like It, the Forest of Arden represents the country life and an escape from corruption while the Duke's court represents corrupted city life.

Literary critic Kenneth Muir points out several pastoral conventions Shakespeare uses to illustrate the pastoral genre he is satirizing. One pastoral convention found in the play is a rejected shepherd being sick in love with a shepherd who continues to refuse him. Shakespeare used the shepherd Silvius and his love for Phebe to represent this convention. However, Shakespeare takes the convention one step further by critiquing this type of convention through exposing the wrongfulness of Phebe's "vanity and pride" by having her tricked into marrying Silvius at the end of the play (Muir, "As You Like It"). We see Phebe being tricked in the final scene when Rosalind, still posing as Ganymede, asks Phebe, "But if you do refuse to marry me, You'll [promise to] give yourself to tihs most faithful shepherd [Silvius]" (V.iv.13-14). Having Phebe being tricked into marrying Silvius is a way of exposing Phebe's conventional reaction to Silvius's love as vain and prideful, and exposing her vanity and pride is certainly also a means of satirizing this pastoral convention, as well as pastoral literature as a whole.

Audrey, whom Touchstone marries, and William, who was in love with Audrey, represent a second pastoral convention (Muir). True to convention, both are uneducated, dimwitted country bumpkins. Touchstone stages a temporary marriage to her, but Audrey insists on a real marriage, showing us that in some ways, Audrey is morally above Touchstone, who claims that courtly manners are superior to country manners (Muir). Presenting Audrey as morally above Touchstone further serves to satirize the pastoral convention of idealizing the mindless, simple stupidity of a country bumpkin above the educated but corrupt city dweller.

A final pastoral convention seen in the play is the sudden transformation in the villain (Muir). In a split second, Oliver changes from being a murderer in pursuit of his brother Orlando in Arden to being a "pleasant and acceptable husband for Celia" (Muir). Since the transformation is so sudden, it is also comic, and the comedy helps to show exactly how Shakespeare is satirizing the conventions found in the pastoral literary genre.

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What is the atmosphere like in Shakespeare's As You Like It, especially with respect to the Forest of Arden?

In many of his plays, including in As You Like It, Shakespeare creates contrasting atmospheres and settings that his characters move between. One of these atmospheres is that of a city or a court, where things are often portrayed as needlessly complicated and shrewdness and immorality wins. The other atmosphere is the country, where life is simple and straightforward, and hard work pays off. This country setting is referred to as the "green world," and appears in numerous Shakespearean plays, particularly in his comedies, such as As You Like It, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and Romeo and Juliet.

Notably, many of Shakespeare's plays that utilize the green world begin with a conflict that develops in the city setting. In As You Like It, this conflict is between Rosalind and Duke Frederick, culminating in Frederick banishing Rosalind, Celia, and Touchstone. As the play progresses, this conflict is resolved through lessons learned by the characters in the green world—in the case of As You Like It, the Forest of Arden. 

Shakespeare, however, was never one to wholly adopt a literary convention, like the green world, wholesale. In As You Like It, his depiction of the green world of the Forest of Arden goes beyond it being simply simple and straightforward. Instead, Shakespeare hints at aspects of rural country living that are less ideal, including the danger of wild animals and the constant worry of famine caused by poor harvests.

The concept of the green world was explored in the The Anatomy of Criticism, by the noted literary critic Northrop Frye. There, Frye traces the sources and the complexities of the concept of the green world through Shakespearean plays.

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What is the atmosphere like in Shakespeare's As You Like It, especially with respect to the Forest of Arden?

Since As You Like It is a comedy, the atmosphere, especially in the Forest of Arden, is portrayed as a light, happy atmosphere, despite the harshness of reality. Most importantly, As You Like It is a pastoral play, and like other pastoral literature, the forest is portrayed as a peaceful and even healing place. Pastoral literature likens the country to a type of utopia, while city life is portrayed as being full of corruption.

We see the jovial atmosphere in the forest especially portrayed by Duke Senior and his courtiers. Despite the obvious hardships they must face, they remain happy and optimistic, as shown in Duke Senior's first speech in Act 2, Scene 1. He even opens by asking his courtiers:

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? (2-4)

What's more, they also seem to have plenty, also lending to the jovial atmosphere. We especially see how much they have when they are able to offer Orlando and Adam something to eat in Act 2, Scene 7.

Beyond how cheerful Duke Senior and his courtiers are in the face of adversity, other elements lend to the jovial, healing atmosphere in the forest. Touchstone, the fool, is able to make even melancholy Jaques laugh; Oliver is transformed into a loving brother when Orlando rescues him in the forest from a lioness; and even several marriages take place, showing us what ultimately a happy, healing place the forest is presented as being.

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How does Shakespeare depict the forest of Arden in As You Like It?

In As You Like It, Shakespeare depicts the forest of Arden as a place that, though it causes hardships for the people who are used to living at court, is desirable because it IS so unlike the false, pampered life of the royalty. It is idyllic in the traditional way of the pastoral. The simple life of the shepherd is romanticized as somehow much more real, down to earth, in touch with the land. Though Duke Senior misses his daughter Rosalind, he has discovered that he rather likes the simple life.  He has fewer responsibilities and is more in touch with his followers, who have joined him in exile. 

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What role does the Forest of Arden play in creating the atmosphere in Shakespeare's As You Like It?

The Forest of Arden helps to create both a magical and jovial atmosphere in As You Like It. Shakespeare wrote As You Like It to represent the very popular book of his time Rosalynde, a book that is also part of the pastoral literary genre, a genre stemming all the way from Ancient Greece and which was also very popular in Shakespeare's day. Shakespeare uses the Forest of Arden to represent the country, or pastoral setting that is necessary in pastoral literature. It's also important to note that the pastoral literary genre depicts pastoral life as a type of utopia; hence, in order to represent the forest as a type of utopia, Shakespeare also gave the forest healing properties, which help portray the magical atmosphere of the forest.

There are many different ways in which the forest acts as a healer for the characters. One of the biggest ways is that Oliver has significant character change while in the forest. When we first meet Oliver, his jealousy of his brother's attributes drives Oliver to mistreat Orlando, denying him his inheritance and even threatening to kill him. When Oliver is sent by Duke Frederick into the woods to pursue Orlando to try and kill him again, Oliver experiences a sudden transformation. Orlando sees his brother Oliver asleep in the woods and about to be attacked by a lioness. Though Orlando nearly decides to walk away, he turns back and wrestles the lioness to death, saving his brother. Oliver is so touched by this act of self-sacrifice that he transforms into a new man who now loves his brother, as we see him explain in the lines addressing Celia's statement that she has heard Orlando describe Oliver as an evil man, followed by her question asking Oliver if he himself is Oliver:

'Twas I; but 'tis not I.--I do not shame
To tell you what I was, since my conversion
So sweetly tastes, being the thing I am. (IV.iii.135-37)

Beyond Oliver being healed and transformed, even Duke Frederick becomes healed by a religious man he meets in the forest, making him repent and relinquish the dukedom back to Duke Senior.

The healing properties of the forest also help to create the jovial atmosphere of the forest. One example of the jovial atmosphere is that Duke Senior and his courtiers are seen being gay and making the most of their bad situation. Touchstone especially helps create the jovial atmosphere in the forest through his foolery. Plus Rosalind also especially helps create the jovial atmosphere through her love pranks on Orlando as she pretends to be Ganymede. Essentially, all of the happy characters in the forest help to portray the forest as possessing a magical and jovial atmosphere.

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What is the atmosphere of the Forest of Arden in As You Like It by William Shakespeare?

Atmosphere is the same as mood and both are defined as the emotional feeling generated by a work or a section of a work, as atmosphere/mood can change from scene to scene in a long complex work. Having said that, it is important to note that even if the atmosphere changes between scenes, there is nonetheless usually an overriding atmosphere that remains a prevailing constant throughout the work.

We are first introduced to Arden Forest in II.i in which Duke Senior gives voice to the virtues of the forest. His principal point is that though the forest may at times be a strong adversary to humans' frailty, the forest is nonetheless a faithful friend and adviser revealing truth about a person. This is part of the underlying analogy between the forest and royal court, which is a place where friends may become foes and counselors are dangerous enviers:

Hath not old custom made this [forest] life more sweet
Than that of painted pomp? Are not these woods
More free from peril than the envious court?

Atmosphere, or mood, is set by a combination of such things as diction, setting, the tone of the character (not author's tone) toward his subject, theme, motif, and imagery. In Duke Senior's introduction to Arden, we have an interesting contrast between some of these elements. While the imagery is dark and gloomy, "the icy fang / And churlish chiding of the winter's wind," Duke's tone is bright and happy, "Sermons in stones and good in every thing." While the diction is loaded with punishing adjectives and nouns, peril, envious, penalty, fang, churlish, shrink, ugly, venomous, etc, the theme is optimistic and thankful, custom made this life more sweet / Than that of painted pomp? ... yet a precious jewel  ... I would not change it.

In the midst of these contrasts, it is the character's tone that wins out, settles the contrasts, and sets the atmosphere of Arden Forest. While Arden Forest delivers all the vagaries of nature, from cruel icy wind to blazing sun, upon its inhabitants, the forest is a true friend that gives good, joy, peace, and truth. The atmosphere of Arden, then, is optimistic from goodness in truth and sheltering comfort through friendship.     

Sweet are the uses of adversity,
Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous,
Wears yet a precious jewel in his head;
And this our life exempt from public haunt
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones and good in every thing.

As confirmation of this, we find the same contrast repeated in Rosalind's and Celia's first encounter with Arden in II.iv. At first, as they enter the forest while in the throes of thirst and hunger, their reaction is none too keen. It is summarized by Touchstone's comment about being a fool for being there for having been in a better place before:

Ay, now am I in Arden; the more fool I; when I was
at home, I was in a better place

Yet, after overhearing Corin and Silvius in earnest talk and after being offered what meager repast Croin can provide them, they immediately see Arden in a different light--a sheltering, comforting light--since they negotiate, in a quick turn in the conversation, to buy Corin's master's sheep farm, flock, and cottage:

And we will mend thy wages. I like this place.
And willingly could waste my time in it.

This confirms the contrasting elements that work together to comprise the atmosphere of Arden: optimistic from goodness in truth and sheltering comfort through friendship.

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What is the part played by Forest of Arden in As You Like it ?

The Forest of Arden is represented as an enchanted place which changes everybody who comes there. It has already made a change in Duke Senior and his loyal followers. They have become relaxed and mellowed by their contact with nature. It would have been difficult for Shakespeare to create the illusion of a forest on his stage. He probably only used hangings of branches and leaves. The forest illusion was created more with the rustic costumes of all the characters. Their clothing would be in sharp contrast to the formal attire seen in royal courts. Even the cruel, selfish Oliver, brother to Orlando, is transformed by coming to the Forest of Arden. He decides to stay there, marry Celia, and live a simple life.

There is a deep truth to this play. Many contemporary people love to get away from urban life and spend time at the beach or in the mountains in order to get rid of the stress that builds up in "civilization." Some will go to Hawaii or Tahiti. Lots of hard-working professionals love to go skiing in the mountains in winter. Nature has a healing power, as William Wordsworth taught in so many of his poems.

The setting included not only a forest but also fields of grazing sheep and rustic cottages occupied by simple peasants. The entire atmosphere of the Forest of Arden and its environs is one of tranquility and love. Shakespeare called his play "As You Like It" because that is how we would all like the whole world to be.

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