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As You Like It Analysis

In: English and Literature

Submitted By flapnchidori
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Through Shakespeare’s deliberate use of language in the form of listing, he is able to create several instances of positive imagery which support this passage as a piece of Pastoral Literature, as well as through spoken verse and prose. Also through Shakespeare’s use of tone, he is able to convey Duke Senior’s positive and optimistic sounding monologue as something that supports the pastoral ideal; that the country life is the ideal life.

‘Find Tongues in trees’ and ‘Sermons in stones’ and ‘Books in the running brooks’ alludes to their being knowledge in the country side; that just because the court life appears to be sophisticated with its rules, regulations and fixation on superficiality doesn’t make it the ideal life. This positive imagery then leads to the idea that the country life contains ‘good in everything’, unlike the court which is presented in this monologue as a toad, ‘ugly and venomous’. However there is mention of the ‘churlish chiding of the winter’s wind’ and the ‘icy fang’ that may deter anyone from the country life, yet Shakespeare rebuttals this with Duke Senior proclaiming that he smiles in the face of this adversity, for these complications are not complex and are plain and simple, as life should ideally be. At the end of Act 1 Scene 3, Rosalind and Celia exclaim “Now we go in content, to liberty and not banishment.” Which is immediately followed by this positive monologue by Duke Senior which wholeheartedly supports the pastoral ideas, that the country life is superior to that of the court life, proof of this not just being from the given extract but earlier in the play. Furthermore, the tone in which this monologue is being said is of an overly optimistic tone which consoles his brethren such as Amiens who seems to be unsettled with their stubbornness of fortune, as such this optimistic tone helps support the pastoral ideal.

The extract opens with Duke Senior, whose very name implies maturity, wisdom and trustworthiness, providing a sense of camaraderie and optimism with a very heartfelt praising of the forest life. However despite this consoling monologue to his ‘co-mates and brothers’ what reason is there for his character to be still referred to as Duke Senior, or even the referral to the ‘First and Second Lords’? The Duke has been exiled and his merrymen have followed suit, so they are no longer in court and thus do not have to abide by the court’s restrictions yet continue to refer to him and each other as if they did have to abide by social expectation. This doesn’t so much as negate the proposal of ‘As You Like It’ being a pastoral piece of literature, but more so shows the realistic situation; that even though they are no longer in the court and are now inhabitants of the forest, they merely act in the forest as they would in the court.

Through the different types of speech used, Prose and Verse, Shakespeare is able to create a gulf between the Country life and Court life, yet in this passage it serves as a means of proving whether or not Duke Senior openly welcomes and adores the Country life as he so boldly proclaims. They are dressed as ‘foresters’, which we are told through stage instruction, as if they are ready to embrace the country life, yet speak in verse; poetical fanciful language predominantly used in the court or by people of higher social status and backgrounds. There is no reason that the ex-courtiers should be speaking in verse as they are not held by the Court’s restrictions on society. This leads me to believe that the things that Duke Senior is saying isn’t what he truly believes. It is simply a façade to help his men feel better about their current predicament.

Duke Senior mentions that in the safety of the care-free forest of Arden, you are ‘exempt from public haunt’. Being haunted by something implies being bothered or harassed by something that isn’t visible, so unlike the physical deterrence’s such as the weather or Lioness that maims Orlando that harass you in the country side, you are subject to bullying, social discrimination and ostracizing in the court. Yet further in the passage, Duke Senior and his ‘noble’ ‘lords’ intend to mock Jacques for crying over killing deer. This out rightly contradicts what he said about being free from public haunt of the envious court, as they are in the country yet act as if they are in the court. Which also reinforces the point from before that Duke Senior and his men are acting as if they would in court, in the forest; not truly accepting the pastoral traditions and customs, thus undermining this passage as a work of pastoral literature.
“I would not change it. Happy is your Grace (with a capital G, signifying importance and thus inequality contrasting with the ‘co-mates and brothers) that can translate the stubbornness of fortune into so quiet and so sweet a style.” Is Amiens acknowledging that there exile is a terrible twist of fate, and now that they are forced to live in the forest he is happy that the Duke is able to see the good in their situation. How is this a piece of pastoral literature if being sent to the forest from the court is considered a ‘stubbornness of fortune’? This ensures the idea in my head that Duke Senior and his merry men are putting up a façade; that the reality of their situation being stuck in a forest has hit them, and they are just trying to make the best of their situation. By ‘talking up’ the forest as to try and console themselves. This is supported by at the end of the play when Duke Frederick has an epiphany and repents to a monastery, Duke Senior and such are presented with the opportunity to stay in the forest or retake their positions in the court; of which choosing the latter.

Other views such as through Kenneth Muir’s, believe that perhaps As You Like it was not intended by Shakespeare to be a pastoral piece of literature; idealizing country life in all of its care free splendor, but more so something ‘suited to his own dramatic purposes’. This idea is supported by the given extract because though we are presented with Duke Senior’s opening praise of the rustic life, ‘good in everything’, the tone from this monologue onwards draws more ominous. A pastoral piece of literature wouldn’t undermine itself because it is supposed to portray the rustic life as the ideal life, yet Shakespeare’s dramatic irony used in the sense that that Duke Senior and his band of ‘brothers in exile’ move to the court at the first given opportunity support the critic’s view.

This sense of ambiguity, both supporting and negating this passage as a piece of pastoral literature presented by Shakespeare allow the audience to decide for themselves if they think that country life is the ideal life. Yet I believe that the side more strongly represented in this extract is that the country side is not as great as Pastoral Ideas make it out to be, which is what Duke Senior and his merry band of brothers come to experience firsthand, and this reason alone is why they move back to the court.

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