As You Like It Theme of Contrasting Regions
By contrasting the treacherous French court with the idealized Forest of Arden, As You Like It participates in an age-old debate of pastoral literature—is city life better than country life? On the one hand, the court is a cutthroat place where corruption and family treachery are all too common, while the Forest of Arden is a place of simplicity, freedom, and self-discovery for the exiles seeking its refuge. On the other hand, despite its appeal, the forest is only a temporary sanctuary for Shakespeare's city-slickers. In the end, most of the cast high-tails it back to court, where, presumably, they will make it a better place. So much for roughing it. (For more on this topic, check out "Setting.")
Questions About Contrasting Regions
- Duke Frederick and Charles the wrestler suggest that Arden is paradise on earth. Is this accurate?
- If Arden is so great, why the heck does everybody decide to return to court when Duke Frederick steps down?
- Compare and contrast Duke Senior's court and Arden.
- Compare the Forest of Arden to some other pastoral settings in literature. (Suggestions: Prospero's island in The Tempest; the woods in A Midsummer Night's Dream; the rural setting in Tess of the D'Urbervilles.)
Chew on This
Even though the weather is seriously lousy in the Forest of Arden and it's full of wild animals, life in the countryside is better than the backstabbing world of Duke Frederick's court.
Although Shakespeare idealizes and romanticizes country life, the play also suggests that life in Arden is a fantasy that cannot be sustained permanently.