The Pastoral

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  • Topic: As You Like It, Pastoral, Ben Jonson
  • Pages : 5 (1939 words )
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  • Published : April 27, 2013
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The Nature And Culture In ''Ass You Like IT''

The most influential writer in all of English literature, William Shakespeare was born in 1564 to a successful middle-class glover in Stratford-upon-Avon, England. Shakespeare attended grammar school, but his formal education proceeded no further. In 1582 he married an older woman, Anne Hathaway, and had three children with her. Around 1590, he left his family behind and traveled to London to work as an actor and playwright. Public and critical acclaim quickly followed, and Shakespeare eventually became the most popular playwright in England and part-owner of the Globe Theater. His career bridged the reigns of Elizabeth I (ruled 1558–1603) and James I (ruled 1603–1625), and he was a favorite of both monarchs. Indeed, James granted Shakespeare’s company the greatest possible compliment by bestowing upon its members the title of King’s Men. Wealthy and renowned, Shakespeare retired to Stratford and died in 1616 at the age of fifty-two. At the time of Shakespeare’s death, literary luminaries such as Ben Jonson hailed his works as timeless.

The pastoral idealized with cardinals of simplicity, purity, love and honesty and the invocation of the paradisal Golden Age was a common literary device in the fifteenth and sixteenth century. Rapin urges in 1659, in his “Disertatio de carmine pastorah” that pastoral poetry “is a product of the Golden Age.” To Rapin, pastoral itself is a perfect image of the state of Innocence of that Golden Age, that Blessed Time, when Sincerity and Innocence, Peace, Ease and Plenty inhabited the Plains.” In the first Act of the play itself, when enquired by Oliver about Duke Senior, Charles replies, “ They say he is already in the Forest of Arden…many young gentlemen flock to him everyday and fleet the time carelessly, as they did in the Golden World.” The inception of the concept of the Golden Age so early in the play and also by such an unexpected source as Charles, Thomas Mc Faulana quotes “is to go – not historically but semiotically – to the very foundation of the pastoral myth and thereby to concede the dire need for alleviation of the alienated mood” – a mood of intense alienation that sets in by the end of Act I by the bitter rivalry and hatred between the two brothers Orlando and Oliver or the news of usurping of the benevolent Duke Senior and the corruption and treachery of court and power. It is thus accordingly, both fitting and necessary, that the second act of As you Like It opens with a massive attempt to restore comic benignity and to check the tragic comedy in an escape to the Pastoral, the elemental; as the Duke Senior without preliminary of action, invokes the pastoral vision and the idea of a new society, as he proclaims, “Now, my co-mates and brothers in exile, Hath not old custom made this life more sweet.” He extols the simplicity and honesty of the pastoral life, away from “painted pomp” and “envious court”, he builds a sense of festive communion and brotherhood that celebrates the simple joys of life in this forest life which is impossible in the courtly life of fakeness, mistrust, greed and hunger for power. The courtly life is the cold world where there is no place for goodness and virtue, no room for undissimulated feeling: the tainted radically corrupt world of court or city, of lust for gain and place, of craft and deceit. From wicked brother and wicked uncle there is no recourse for the oppressed but to take flight, which they do gladly: be it Duke Senior, Rosalind, Celia or Orlando. They go to “Liberty not to Banishment”. The flight into the forest draws upon the tradition of that other time and other place of the nostalgic imagination – the locus amocnus where the return to nature from corrupt civilization allows the truth, simplicity and humility of innocence to replace the treachery, craft and arrogance of worldly sophistication.

However, this promise of the golden world is not entire fulfilled. The forest of...
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