The Pastoral

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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

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