An analysis detailing the effect that the pastoral world of As You Like It has on the plot of the comedy.
The romantic pastoral world of Shakespeare’s comedy As You Like Itnot only enhances the plot line, but allows the entire story to develop. The seemingly magical qualities of the Forest of Arden enable all of the characters to be safe and provided for. They never seem to be cold, they are rarely hungry, and they always have a place to sleep. Indeed, due to the comfort of the forest, the plot can focus on the romantic endeavors of the characters, instead of the fight for their survival in a completely different world from what they are used to.
The Forest of Arden is first mentioned in Act I, Scene I, Line 111, when Charles and Oliver are speaking of Duke Senior: “…They say he is already in the Forest of Arden, and a many merry men with him; and there they live like the old Robin Hood of England.” Next to this mention of the forest is an asterisks, at which the editor, Albert Gilman writes “Ardennes (in France, though Shakespeare may also have had in mind the Forest of Arden near his birthplace.)” Shakespeare was born in Warwickshire, England, however, and just a few lines after the first mention of the forest, Oliver, speaking lies of Orlando, says “…I’ll tell thee, Charles, it is the stubbornest young fellow in France…” (Act I, Scene I, Lines 136 – 137) It is clear that Shakespeare wrote this scenery regarding the forest of Ardennes in France, which is somewhat to the right of the well-known modern city of Paris. Upon further research, the depiction of the forest in the book seems to match up completely with Ardennes, France, which is quoted as being a “…region of extensive forests, rolling hills and old mountains.” (John Gerrard) Knowing the location of the Forest of Arden assists the readers of As You Like It in understanding the magical qualities of the romanticized world that Shakespeare creates, for the real location and the recorded location in the comedy do not quite match up.
It is probably winter during most of the play. Close to the very end of the comedy, only one scene away from the four marriages, Touchstone is visited by two page boys who dance around him, singing a song about lovers and the springtime, stating that spring is the only pretty time for giving marriage rings. The readers have no way of knowing just how much time has passed since the opening scene until that particular scene, but it seems to be a fair amount, if the love has blossomed into marriage. There are no clocks, no watches, no personal way of keeping time in the forest, which is stated clearly when Rosalind first meets Orlando in the Forest of Arden as Ganymede. However, every character in the forest has a sense of time. When Rosalind and Orlando were arranging to meet after Orlando assisted the Duke Senior with his dinner, he promised her to return in exactly two hours, and Rosalind, keeping with the stereotypical needy female, retorts, “…If you break one jot of your promise or come one minute behind your hour, I will think you the most pathetical break-promise…” (Act IV, Scene I, Lines 181 – 183) The Forest of Arden is a seemingly magical place, where one can waste their time away, as does Celia, who states that she will do so in the very beginning of the adventure into the forest, but one can also have the essence of time with no way of actually keeping time. This continuing paradox makes it somewhat harder to determine the season in the forest, as well as it continues as a theme, throughout the rest of the play.
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