As You Like It is a pastoral piece of literature and this form of literature thrives on the contrast between life in the city and life in the country. Typically, it suggests that the oppression from the Court can be remedied by a trip into the country’s therapeutic woods which in this case refers to the Forest of Arden and that a person’s sense of balance and rightness can be restored by the uncorrupted shepherds and shepherdesses.
This restored rightness enables one to return to the Court a better person. In this play the character of whom this affects is Oliver de Boys Although Shakespeare tests the bounds of these conventions, the shepherdess Audrey as an example, is neither articulate nor pure. He begins As You Like It by establishing the city/country dichotomy on which the pastoral mood depends. The play ends with Shakespeare reminding us that life in the country is solely a temporary affair.
I have gathered this because as the characters prepare to return to life at court, they do not rank the country over Court or vice versa, but instead they suggest a delicate balance between the two as too much of one thing is seen as being negative. They give the impression that the simplicity of the forest provides shelter from the strains of Court life, but they also display the need for Court and the sophistication it brings.
Life in the Court, and life in the country. These were two very different things during the ‘Golden Age.’ The ‘Golden Age’ is represented by the world of the country, but not the Court. It is the classical time of pastoral perfection where there was no natural decay, no passing of seasons, the world seemed timeless and was peopled by shepherds and shepherdesses along with their sheep. It has also been compared to The Garden of Eden in the Bible, hence, showing its idyllic qualities before ‘Man’ sinned. Life in the Court however was completely different in contrast.
Life in the Court was a place of corruption and, sometimes anarchy as shown by the usurption of Duke Seniors throne by his younger brother Duke Frederick. Usurption of a throne shows a total disregard for all laws and therefore, can make people feel as though they can do the same. However after banishing Duke Senior, Duke Frederick instilled a rule by fear attitude. This put lawfulness back into the court and put an end to the anarchy as everyone became scared to commit a crime because of the dire consequences. Also, the Court although being superior in many ways to life in the country also shows a bad side.
A prime example of this is displayed by Oliver de Boys towards his brother Orlando at the start of the play in Act 1 Scene 1 where Oliver threatens to burn down Orlandos house. Also Oliver refutes his recently deceased father’s wishes and does not grant younger brother Orlando an education like his father asked in his will. This displays the negative, arrogant side of Court life and in this way, it is quite inferior to life in the country. However, the Court was also a place of sophisticatication, in terms of language and attire, Touchstone constantly shows the superiority of language from the Court by bamboozling Audrey with witty phrases, speeches and remarks that constantly leave her dumbfounded and, in my opinion go some way towards making her fall in love with him.
‘I do not know what poetical is. Is it honest in deed and word? Is it a true thing?’ A contrast between Touchstone’s sophisticated language and Audrey’s simpleness is: (Touchstone) ‘A material fool.’ and Audrey’s simple reply: ‘In the light of this, his words seem quite cruel.’ Audrey’s reply Touchstone’s comment shows truly just how simple she is.
Attire in the Court also showed its superiority over the country as attire in the Court was more colourful, colours showed status in the Court, there were also more materials readily available from the court as they had the methods of creating different materials. Whereas, on the other hand attire in the country was very dull, with colours such as blacks, greys, browns, dark blues and sometimes reds were the only colours that were readily available. However, colour did not denote status in the country as status did not matter and everyone in the country just wore garments that they could fashion from what little materials they could gather. This was shown in a recent performance of the play at The Globe, where the costumes of Court dwellers showed their status, but those who lived in the country had plain dull coloured costumes.
On the contrary to the corrupt life in the Court, life in the country was peaceful and idyllic. It is always the season of summer and is a world without seasons, thus making it a paradise, hence why I referred to it as the Garden of Eden in my introduction. There are many reasons why the country is referred to as a ‘paradise’ and as being ‘idyllic.’ In the country there is no real danger or death except from the rare occasion when a mountain lion attacks and when a hart or doe is killed due to mans incessant need for food.
The only small problem with country life portrayed in this play script is hunger. Although the forest is to be seen as idyllic, as with everything there is always to be some negative points, which in this case is hunger and the famished feelings that it ladens upon those it affects. In this particular play script it ladens itself upon Adam, Orlando’s loyal servant and Celia, daughter of Duke Frederick. Act 2 Scene 6 represents this ideology very well as it shows Adam and the weight hunger has ladened upon his shoulders and how it affects him: ‘Master, I can go no further. O, I die for food. Here I lie down and measure out my grave. Farewell dear master.’