As You Like It

Shakespeare's Anti-Utopianism: The Forest of Arden in As You Like It

In the pastoral setting of the Forest of Arden in William Shakespeare's As You Like It, the characters are physically removed from society, and thus from the political, economic, and sexual rules that govern social life. If Arden is a paradise, however, it is an illusory one. Shakespere initially represents Arden as a sanctuary where the characters can re-invent themselves in roles that were unavailable to them in society. The experience of inhabiting different personae, however, only renews the characters' dedication to their traditional societal roles. Shakespere thus presents the Forest of Arden as a commentary on the permanent influence of society on individual identity.

In Arden, both Rosalind and Oliver have a chance to reinvent themselves. Rosalind, having fled the corrupt society of court, approaches the Forest of Arden as a place where she may be able to be free to be herself. In a move that suggests the particular oppression of women in Renaissance England, Rosalind re-imagines herself as the mythological male figure of Ganymede: a Trojan boy of great beauty and Zeus' cupbearer (II.1.123). In Rosalind's attempt to shed her identity in outside society as the daughter of Duke Senior, she chooses the...

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