Back to: As You Like It by William Shakespeare
Shakespeare borrowed certain elements from Lodge’s Rosalynde where most of the scenes are laid in the Forest of Arden which is in France. In the play As You Like It, Shakespeare’s Forest of Arden is the most important aspect of the whole play to which Shakespeare has portrayed in the most English manner.
The play begins in the courtly world of Dukes. Orlando is the younger brother of Oliver who mistreats him because of his envy and inferior complexity. Rosalind’s father is banished by the unlawful Frederick.
All of them are somehow brought to the Forest of Arden. Apart from its real presence, it becomes a symbol of freedom. When Rosalind is banished by her uncle, Celia suggests that together they leave for the Forest of Arden and it will not be an exile but a step towards freedom.
So, the Forest is a place where there are no regulations or limits set by Time. Its importance is that it provides the space for the development of the most elementary emotion in its characters which is love.
Away from the evils of courtly life, the Forest of Arden as a pastoral space is free of whatever wrong found in society. It provides solitude. Jaques’ melancholy is nurtured and soothed in the Forest.
Orlando writes simple poems full of sincere emotions. Rosalind is free from the tyranny of her uncle and closer to her father. Her courage and wit are many times greater in the Forest of Arden.
When Touchstone is talking to Rosalind about the quality of Orlando’s poems, he says that “let the forest judge.” It tells us of the connection between the Forest and the characters of the play.
Oliver who hates his brother in the beginning and wants to get him killed faces a lioness while entering the forest. Orlando saves him selflessly and inside the Forest of Arden, Oliver’s heart changes and he acknowledges his brotherhood.
The Forest of Arden provides that mental rest to the characters in which they come out of the falsehood of the world. It is a space of simplicity which has the role of soothing the misery of even a lover in despair because Orlando learns more about the ways of love in the forest than he knew in the court.
The Forest of Arden has the role of arranging a pastoral world where the sincere passion of the play’s loving couples i.e. Rosalind-Orlando, Oliver-Celia grows into fulfillment. Rosalind and Celia become Ganymede and Aliena in the forest and find greater freedom to express their true nature.