As You Like It is Shakespeare’s happiest comedy. Characteristically, it is both romantic and pastoral. In the play, no one suffers intensely, it has no tragic element, it is full of comic and lively spirit. Characters like Touchstone and Jaques without any indirect intention provide the best of comic elements to the play.
Once all major characters are in the Forest of Arden, the whole mood becomes romantic. The forest is full of fresh air, there is no regulation, no duty. Duke Senior is no courtly Duke but a friend to other attending lords.
Unlimited freedom allows everyone to hold on to a romantic spirit. Before entering into the Forest, Orlando was already in love with Rosalind. Touchstone finds Audrey. Oliver falls for Celia at the very first sight.
Silvius truly loves Phebe. Rosalind and Celia love each other much more than sisters and for always. Hence, the whole plot of the play innocently progresses, away from the falsehood of the world and torments of society. There is no hierarchy here.
All are courtly characters but no one has characteristic courtly envy or ambition. Oliver hated his brother Orlando in the very beginning but fell in love when he selflessly saves him from a lioness.
In the wilderness of the Forest of Arden, of all human passion, only love remains. Here and romance and comedy go hand in hand. The comic effect is created by Touchstone, Jaques, and Rosalind.
Rosalind and Orlando’s love story deals with happy love. Their courting period in the forest is full of wild passion and joy. The love episodes of Celia-Oliver, Silvius-Phebe, and Audrey-Touchstone have their own charm and surprises.
Romance is the framework of the play on which all actions happen, a kind of romance that begins at first sight.
Pastoral is something that deals with shepherds and rustic life. The play unfolds in the Forest of Arden which makes it pastoral because its setting and few characters are rural.
Most of the actions in the play happen “under the shade of melancholy bough.” The first major pastoral character is Audrey who is a rustic maiden.
Her simplicity and frankness come in contact with the courtly Touchstone and his courtly manners. Phebe is more sophisticated but pastoral anyway.
In the forest, Duke Senior also starts becoming a nature lover. Regarding shepherd life, Touchstone says that “Truly, Shepherd life in respect of itself, is a good life…it is a spare life which fits my humor.” Corin and Silvius are representative shepherds of a pastoral world.
Shakespeare uses the simplicity of the pastoral world to fit the primary emotion of love and comedy in its elementary mood. As You Like it is a dramatic presentation of a pastoral world.