“Although some characters wish to re-create the Golden Age, As You Like It shows that country life is no pastoral idyll”.
How far do you agree with this view of the play?
Peripherally, Shakespeare’s As You Like it presents a bucolic, arcadian like setting within the Forest of Arden and only implicitly weaves elements of reality into the pastoral lifestyle to subtly suggest that country life is far from perfect. Greater attention is spent on how Rosalind and Celia perceive the Forest, as they recognise their banishment as simply an extension of the boundaries of their freedom, (the latter going as far as saying “To liberty and not to banishment”). Most critics recognise that the ‘freedom’ of the characters coming from the court is too far removed form the reality of country life, which is only hinted at through the characters originally from the Forest of Arden. In commenting on the pastoral lifestyle of the Forest, we must acknowledge the purpose of the play. Ultimately, “As You Like It” is a comedy and it’s purpose was to entertain. This somewhat justifies its hyperbolic descriptions of the lifestyle of the forest as to fully describe the reality of its hardship would be to contradict the very genre of the play. Rosalind and Celia are told that inhabitants of Arden “fillet the time away carelessly like they did in the golden world” and in creating this idyllic imagery, the genre of the play is firmly set. William Hazlitt, a critic of the Romantic era, argue that the Forest of Arden is the perfect setting for the execution of the play. He stated that “The very air of the place seems to breathe a spirit of philosophical poetry; to stir the thoughts, to touch the heart…”. Fundamentally speaking, the aim of the Arden is not to instil a sense of reality but to offer a respite away from it. Even in ignoring the very purpose of the play, “As You like It” still presents an understandably unrealistic pastoral idyll in the freedom of some characters when compared...
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