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Young gentlemen flock to him every day and fleet the time carelessly as they did in the golden world How does Shakespeare explore the notion of an idealised past in As you like it

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'Young gentlemen flock to him every day and fleet the time carelessly as they did in the golden world' - How does Shakespeare explore the notion of an idealised past in As you like it Shakespeare constructs the world of the Forest as a representation of a golden past; the 'golden era' in which man can 'fleet the time carelessly'. This falls in line with classic pastoral mode by suggesting an absence of time within the Arcadian space. In addition, the 'Gentlemen' become 'merry men' and 'live like the old Robin hood of England', suggesting an attempt to emulate and romanticise the fact that they, like Robin Hood, are both outlaws and in the wilds like Robin Hood. The fact that Shakespeare chose the English folk-legend of Robin Hood suggests a degree of focus on the nature of a conscious, nostalgic desire in the men to see themselves as noble outlaws who reject the modern offerings of the 'pompous court'. It also arguably suggests an element of fantasy, a construction, the fact that Robin Hood is but a myth might also infer that their escape into the past is also one. ...read more.


The forest, as a representation of the past, is a path to freedom for those in the court. It is not Duke Senior who has been banished there, for he is now free; 'To liberty and not to banishment'. The forest further represents an Arcadian past because it offers an alternative source of wisdom. Orlando remarks that 'the trees shall be my books' and that Duke Senior believes 'the winds are my (his) counsellors'. In this sense, Shakespeare is trying to emphasise that the forest presents an all-together more primal, prehistoric form of knowledge. What use are books when the forest can teach me? There are 'sermons in stones' (A sermon pertaining to a form of moral code) and there is 'good in everything', as opposed to the court where the only metaphorical fauna are 'Briars of the working day world' which only serve to entrap, rather than to empower. Shakespeare is very keen to point out the two-dimensional nature of this pastoral illusion however. The lack of a hierarchy in the Arcadian past for example is immediately undermined by the fact that Duke Senior is referred to as 'your grace'. ...read more.


Shakespeare at this point appears to be attempting to convey the notion that the idealised past will always be subject to the values of the present reality, corrupting it as a result. Another interesting interpretation of Shakespeare's writing suggests a certain futility in the need to differentiate between the courtly reality and the nostalgic world of the forest. One can argue that the quote; 'All the worlds a stage' suggests that all is constructed, both reality and the illusory. Indeed, it is alluded to that time pervades all ('From hour to hour we rot and rot') and that ultimately we end up 'sans everything', perhaps alluding to the fact that there is no net 'gain', a memento mori of sorts. Although one can argue that this is ultimately just an extension of the previous point; that courtly values persist throughout the present reality and the nostalgic past. The stage after all is a product of the court, and so is time (Arguably suggesting that the idealisation of the past will always be tainted by the reality from which it is conceived). Created by Matthew Robins ...read more.

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