Discuss the difference between court life and country life in As You Like It

Question: Discuss the difference between court life and country life in “As You Like It”.


In “As You Like It” (1590) Shakespeare‘s (1564-1616) one of the principal themes is the difference between the court life and the country life. In this play, the court life represents treachery, disloyalty, corruption. On the other hand, country life represents safety and natural goodness even though nature can be harsh. The country as represented by the Forest of Arden is depicted as a magical place, a heaven for those who seek to escape the restrictions and artificialities of court life.


As we know that the atmosphere of “As You Like It” is rural and pastoral. Early in the play, we find that the atmosphere of the court is vitiated by jealousies, rivalries, and antagonism, and the court life is also affected by this. But the atmosphere of the country life is entirely different. As in the forest, Duke Senior finds that the life of the forest to be more acceptable than the life of the court. He realizes that the adversities are sweet. As he says –

“Sweet are the uses of adversity, Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous,

Wears yet a precious jewel in his head.”

By saying “Even till I shrink with cold” Duke Senior, for the first time feels alive, it does not matter that he is freezing in the cold wind because the elements remind him of his natural state. While living in the court, he was isolated from nature, and that isolation created the corruption effect of the court life.

More Notes of As You Like It

Mode of life

In the play, Shakespeare reflects the idea of the importance of the Forest of Arden, in the sense that the forest changes it’s visitors to the better. Duke Senior and his Lords used to have a comfort life at court but in the forest, they have adopted themselves to an existence full of hardships and enjoyed it. And Amiens exposed it by singing –

“Blow, blow, thou winter wind

“Blow, blow, thou winter wind

Thy tooth is not so keen

Because thou art not seen,

Although thy breath be rude.”

Thus, city life is different from rural life.

Corruption vs Purification

City life begets all the abominable characteristic features within human beings but rustic life changes and purifies people. In the Forest of Arden, all the characters are keen sensitive with each other and they have honest interests to each other’s thoughts.

To Orlando’s eldest brother, Oliver, the forest brings a remarkable metamorphosis. The selfish, proud, cruel man Oliver gives up his wealth to his brother Orlando. Two events contribute to his change. Orlando saves him from the lioness, taking the risk of his own life and Oliver meets Celia.

Liberty vs dependence

The Forest of Arden is a place where people can put on new identities and disguises such as Rosalind disguised herself as a men, Ganymede and Celia disguised as Aliena. And the Forest of Arden is indeed a place of freedom for its inhabitants. As Celia says –

“Now go we content

To liberty and not to banishment.”

Therefore, pastoral life removes the dependence of the major characters of this fantastic drama and they enjoy their freedom of life out and out.


As the characters prepare to return to life at court, the play does not laud country over court life but instead suggests a necessary balance between the two. In essence, the court life and the country life are opposition to each other, as the court breeds envy and corruption and the country life brings men closer to nature and free from corruption.

SR Sarker
SR Sarker
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