As You Like It as a Pastoral Comedy

Topics: Pastoral, As You Like It, Shepherd Pages: 5 (1750 words) Published: July 2, 2013
Shakespeare‘s As You Like It is based on a work entitled Rosalynde written by Thomas Lodge (Verity 2000 : xiii) The play is often categorized as a pastoral comedy . The term .pastoral. refers to the life of the shepherds or rural folk and their ways of living, manners and customs. However, pastoral poetry does not reflect the realities of country life and that from its beginning it created an imaginary landscape which was actually a projection of the poct‘s feelings and ideas. Hence the word 'pastoral‘ came to be .identified with an ideal space representing innocence, peace, philosophic contemplation. (Singh in Chandra 2000:111) Theocritus‘ Idylls and Virgil‘s Eclogues are two of the great examples of ancient pastoral poetry, which constructed rural life in this way.

During the Renaissance with its revival of the classical poetry, the pastoral as a literary form was practiced by the English poets as was done by the continental poets. So when the Elizabethan poets came to write their pastorals. They had before them a set of conventions and stock character types that inform the genre of the pastoral. No doubt, Sidney and Spenser employed the pastoral in diverse and complex ways in their narratives. But it is also true that they followed the conventions closely. They saw the pastoral as an alternative mode of life. The shepherds who inhabited their rural landscape were metaphors for lovers, scholar poets and aristocrats in exile. Their primary concern is not the real rustics, even introduced, but the courtiers who led a shepherd-like existence. This article makes an attempt to show the note of criticism of the pastoral life in Shakespeare‘s As You Like It . N.P. The conflict between the court and the country runs throughout the play. The pastoral poet argues in favour of rural life as against the court. At the same time he uses the pastoral space as a device for the restoration of the norm, i.e. life as lived in the courts. As You Like It is structured on this kind of exile-and-return pattern. (Singh 2000:113). The main action of the play takes place in Arden which is set off against the court of Duke Frederick.

Duke Senior banished by his brother enters the forest of Arden and begins to admire it. Similarly Orlando, the male protagonist of the play also runs away from the city and begins his pastoral romance in Arden. But the exiled aristocrats do not shed their courtly manners and behaviour. Loyalties are Strengthened. Orlando is recognized by the Duke (senior) as the son of one of his favorite courtiers. An alternative court begins to function in the midst of Arden. So the Usurper

Frederick fears the gathering of .men of great worth. and decides to invade the forest. But he also comes under the pastoral influence and is convinced to end his illegitimate rule.

Life in Arden is free from the .painted pomp. and flattery of the court. It is simple and natural –hard but sweet. Duke Senior goes to Arden to seek peace,freedom, and serenity in the midst of natural sights and sounds.

Here he finds :

. . . . Tongues in trees, books in running brooks
sermons in stones and good in everything..

In fact, everyone comes to Arden as if it is a green refuge from all other trouble and complications of court life .Rosalind and Celia come to it, and Touchstone follows them. To them, life at the court was one of slavery, of inhibitions. The forest of Arden seems to them a symbol of liberty. So Celia says :

.Now go we in content
To liberty and not to banishment.

(I, iii. 132-133)

All the major characters are associated with woodland life. The heroine buys the estate of shepherd and takes to the life of a shepherd in the major part of the play. It is as a disguised shepherd that Rosalind appears in her best wit and intelligence and triumphs over all in the forest. In Silvius and Phebe, Shakespeare introduces some real shepherds and shepherdesses, and this enhances the pastoral charm of the play....
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