The Forest of Arden as a Liminal Site of Criticism in As You Like It
The Forest of Arden in As You Like It has been reconceptualised as a pastoral setting and a utopian land while the play has been a matter of discussion in green and ecocritical studies. However, the ambiguous rendering of the setting and its contradictory qualities make the play a storm centre of such critical works. Undoubtedly, these debates meet with critical acclaim, but the play still augments discussion about its spatial setting. What remains to be seen is that Shakespeare’s play actually lays bare the traits of liminal place in the deliberation of the forest setting and the experiences of its inhabitants. While the first act is set at Duke Frederick’s court, the rest of the play takes place in the Forest of Arden where the characters develop communitas as outsiders. When the sixteen forest scenes of the play are analysed, one may posit that there are different definitions of Arden. First and foremost, Arden’s exact location cannot be identified; it might be situated in a French, English or other European border. Secondly, Arden is fused with contradictory and ambiguous characteristics. The forest is fraught with economic difficulties, hunger, coldness and dangerous threats for men and women. Yet it is a place of familial and romantic love, friendship and bliss. In addition to its ambivalent traits, the perception of the forest changes from one character to another. Each character adds a different meaning to the forest regarding their own experiences in this setting. The forest is also a place of transformation and transition as the characters leave the court, go to the forest and return to the court with their new selves in the end. Moreover, Arden becomes a site of resistance against usurpation and banishment and a place of political critique of the court, corruption, exile and colonialism throughout the play. Therefore, Arden emerges as a multi-layered and ambiguous place and such qualities make the forest a liminal landscape. This paper sets out to claim that the Forest of Arden in As You Like It can be regarded as a liminal site in which Shakespeare veils his critical remarks on the late Elizabethan court, implicitly questions the practices of banishment and exile and comments on contemporary political, social and cultural issues by using liminality as a tool for criticism.
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