Shakespeare’s As You Like It as a representative play of the Elizabethan times is set in 16th century England. Its setting holds a mirror to the Elizabethan mode of living. The primary two atmospheres of the play are courtly England and a more ideal, the Forest of Arden.
The play begins with Orlando who is facing unjust treatment from Oliver. The incident when Orlando surprises Oliver by defeating Charles in the wrestling match shows the most popular sports setting of Elizabethan times. The music, songs and the tendency to disguise were intrinsic part of Elizabethan social life.
Geographically, the play is set in Arden, Warwickshire. The Forest of Arden is set against the courtly life. It provides a foil to the ills found in court. Duke Senior is banished into the Forest by Frederick, his brother.
He learns to love the forest as something honest than the flattering nature of the court. The setting of forest can be imagined from what Charles said regarding Duke Senior’s life in the forest that “they live like the old Robin Hood of England.”
The Forest of Arden is a pastoral setting. Arden is probably a combined word created from Arcadia and Eden. Arcadia means an earthly paradise while Eden is the biblical one.
In the Forest of Arden, the characters live in an elementary way. They hunt, they eat and they roam around the forest. Duke Senior describing the forest’s goodness says that “Are not these woods more free from peril than the envious court?”
The setting in the forest is in such a way that characters reflect philosophically. It is a timeless setting without any regulation, duty or labor. It is charged with romance and leisure.
The trees in the Forest of Arden are where Rosalind finds poetry by Orlando who writes them for her. It is a wild setting as we come to know from the fight of Orlando with the lioness who attacked Oliver.
In the play, Shakespeare keeps the forest of Arden beside the courtly life of France and England and brings out the difference between the naturalness of the forest where love grows and the ambitious nature of court where evils of humanity grow.