as you like it



In As You Like It, Shakespeare presents diverse perspectives of city life and country life. Though acts one to three, the comparison of the pastoral versus court lives have been repeatedly implied. Often, it is pastoral life that is admired by a number of characters, yet Shakespeare indicates frequently that it is not an ideal a life as many of the characters assumes it is. In doing so, Shakespeare caricatures the convention of pastoral romance and urban idealizations.
In act one, the obvious contrarieties between city and county life is plainly presented. For example, the court is shown to be a place of corruption and villainy through the actions of Duke Fredrick and Oliver. On the contrary, the banished Duke Senior’s life in the Forest of Arden is idealized and carefree. It is Le Beau who is presented as the epitome of courtly behavior, revealed through his pompous speech and cavalier dress, who is “affected” rather than “natural.” Even Celia and Rosalind proclaim that they are going to leave the court life for the country side, “To liberty, and not to banishment.”S. 3, 145 In sum, this act reveals country life to be idealized and free of hardships.
It is act one that builds the general tension between pastoral and urban existences. Again a certain idealization of country life is manifested in the careless interpretations by Duke senior and in Amiens’ songs; life in the country is far-removed form the “envious court.”S. 1, 4 Jaques comment on the irony of the situation is presented through the Duke and his men killing and fighting the animals in the forest who they have seized just as Duke Fredrick has seized his brother’s dukedom. Duke Senior and Amiens show that county life is not as ideal as everyone imagines, having a rough winter and heavy weather.
Act three also has some contrasting elements about the two lifestyles, and to an extent why one is preferred over the other. For example, Touchstone praises various elements of pastoral life but points out that its existence is tedious and austere. However, Orlando is too preoccupied with his love that he doesn’t realize the seriousness of his situation, only to comment that country life has a timeless quality compared to the strict regimentation of the court.
In conclusion, it is apparent that in As You Like It, Shakespeare looks as if he is praising the virtues of the pastoral life at the cost of the city life, yet ultimately he provides a more equalized view. Both urban and rural lives are shown to have their advantages and disadvantages.




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