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Shakespeare and Ecology$
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Randall Martin

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780199567027

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199567027.001.0001

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Land-Uses and Convertible Husbandry in As You Like It

Land-Uses and Convertible Husbandry in As You Like It

2 Land-Uses and Convertible Husbandry in As You Like It
Title Pages

Randall Martin

Oxford University Press

Having made jibes at Orlando’s love-verses and drawn defensive reactions from Rosalind, Touchstone gently reproves her by appealing to nature as a third party: ‘You have said; but whether wisely or no, let the forest judge’ (3.2.117–18). Thinking ecocritically, we might hear in his advice an anticipation of Aldo Leopold’s landmark book, A Sand County Almanac (1949). Leopold redefined ecological ethics by reading his local Wisconsin landscape for signs of its biodiversity, whose value he asserted independent of its economic and social utility. He also encouraged readers to think about reciprocity and fairness in their dealings with the environments and resources they share with non-human life. Jaques’s viewpoint in As You Like It is hardly as self-disinterested as that of a forest. Yet he captures the essence of Leopold’s biocentric principles by reminding Oliver that the trees into which he has thoughtlessly, if romantically, carved his verses are entitled to their own physical integrity (3.2.251–52). Leopold’s outlook inspired the later movement, bioregionalism, which looks to identification with a landscape’s terrain, climate, and biota, or collective plant and animal life, as the basis for resistance to environmental damage caused by distant political authorities and transnational economies. In conceiving environments as ‘life-territories’ with natural rights that extend beyond those of human culture, Leopold invited people to imagine cooperative attachments to regional modes of subsistence and dwelling. Arden and surrounding Warwickshire were the life-territory where Shakespeare learned to think bioregionally. Whereas his knowledge of Windsor in Merry Wives came from passing acquaintance, his sensitivity to Arden’s place-attachments was both deeply personal and critically detached, and he integrated both perspectives into As You Like It. Topographic and social contouring of Warwickshire’s historically changing terrains dramatically heightens the visibility of Arden’s early modern bio-relations. I’ll begin exploring these by considering how Shakespeare gave his dramatic adaptation of Thomas Lodge’s prose romance Rosalynde (1590) a distinctive environmental profile. In doing so, Shakespeare created an ecological meta-commentary on Lodge’s popular forest romance.

Keywords:   Conservation, Deforestation, Ecofeminism, Globalization, Hamlet, King Lear, Localism, Metabiosis, Pastoral, Reforestation

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