The Forest of Arden, in Shakespeare's 'As you Like it', is an idealised pastoral setting? Discuss.

Essay by 035845High School, 12th grade April 2004

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The idea of the pastoral setting was that it was a retreat to a perfect place, often characterised by innocence, from the world of harsh experience and city society. The absence of unpleasant features, such as illnesses, wickedness and the treachery and shallowness of the courts is also noted, as well as the presence of pleasant features, such as plenteousness of food and kindly weather. Education could sometimes be found in the pastoral setting, where people returned from the forest as changed people, with their wicked flaws eradicated in favour of renewed spirit and generous characteristics. Other features include the fact that it often contains shepherds who pipe, look after their sheep and fall in love.

The Forest of Arden is a refuge from the deceit, hypocrisy and ambition of the court. It is a place of harmony, free from the anger of fathers and brothers, from envy or malice, or the false friendships and "painted pomp" of flattering courtiers.

It fosters regeneration and reconciliation, as characters are changed by their experiences and discover truths about themselves and others. In respect of the kindly weather mentioned above, 'As You Like It' does not feature this, but rather the "churlish chiding of the winter's wind". However, even though the natural conditions are hard, the forest is still preferable to the "envious" court, where comfort is combined with cruelty. In these details the forest does seem very much like a pastoral setting, however, to be truly an idealised pastoral setting, the forest must have nothing in common with the court or town life.

In the town, the treachery is clear through the disloyalty the Duke shows when talking to Oliver. He unfairly blames Oliver for Orlando's disappearance and therefore his daughters as well, and threatens to "seize" his lands if he does...