Shakespeare’s Play “as You Like It” as an Example of Pastoral Literature

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  • Topic: Shepherd, Pastoral
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Shakespeare’s play “As You Like It” as an example of pastoral literature

Shakespeare’s play “As You Like It” is a typical example of pastoral literature. It gives a contrast between the court life, where everything is played by the rules, and the life in the forest, where people seek refuge and peace. This play shows that life in the forest has it’s rules, but not as strict as the ones in the court. “They say he is already in the forest of Arden,… they say many young gentlemen flock to him every day, and fleet the time carelessly, as they did in the golden world.” This paragraph tells us that life in the forest is careless and with no dangers, other than from the beasts. It also tells us that many men go to the forest to experience carelessness and freedom. A clue that this play belongs to the pastoral genre is the criticism of the court life and idealize the “free life” in the forest. The people in the forest are happier and are more expressive of their emotions. “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?” The shepherds and shepherdesses are a big part of pastoral literature and they are present throughout this play. “With this shepherdess, my sister; here in the skirts of the forest..” “I prithee, shepherd,..”

“Wast ever in court, shepherd?”
But also love is common topic of a pastoral act. In this play love is expressed by writing on trees. “… no more trees with writing love-songs in their barks.” By seeing all these clues and pointers of pastoral literature, we can conclude that this play by Shakespeare belongs to the pastoral genre.
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