The Macksey Journal


This paper argues that Shakespeare’s As You Like It illustrates the necessary misappropriation of nature embedded within a successful pastoral narrative. Although the play is often qualified as one of the purest pastorals, nearly all of the play’s pastoral elements involve either appropriating or exploiting the green world of Arden. From the moment the characters arrive in Arden, they remain set on projecting art into a naturally artless place. Examining the play from a post-colonial standpoint reveals that the character’s negative environmental impact on the space is informed by the overarching colonial mindset of England during the Elizabethan era. A green world is only natural before human arrival, but as humans have preconstructed, city-influenced notions of the green world, and more largely, Eden, as the utopian ideal, characters can never experience the idyll pastoral space without inserting themselves into it through city art and culture. Ultimately the play reveals the dormant artificiality implicit in any human conception of natural space, and moreover, implies an unattainable (con)quest of and for a prelapsarian world.