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What are the differences between pastoral and court life that Duke Senior refers to in...

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user7638644 | eNotes Newbie

Posted September 25, 2013 at 7:35 PM via web

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What are the differences between pastoral and court life that Duke Senior refers to in Shakespeare's As You Like It?

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tamarakh | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted September 27, 2013 at 7:32 AM (Answer #1)

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Duke Senior's very first speech in Act 2, Scene 1 is a good passage to use to analyze the differences he expresses between pastoral life and court life. One significant difference he refers to is safety. Duke Senior's life has just been threatened by his brother Frederick, who has just usurped him. Frederick would have killed him, but he and his courtiers escaped into the Forest of Arden, and the Forest of Arden represents pastoral life. Hence, Duke Senior points out that life at court would be full of danger, while the woods are safe, as we see in his lines, "Are not these woods / More free from peril than the envious court?" (II.i.3-4).

A second difference he points out is that, while the woods may be safer, in the woods, they are also exposed to the harsh elements of nature, while at court, they are safe from harsh weather conditions, such as winter winds.

He also points out the differences in manners between what he experiences in the woods and what he would experience at court. Specifically, in this speech he points out the falseness of courtiers at court. Courtiers are known to smile into their ruler's face and flatter their ruler, telling any sort of fervent lie to do so. But in the woods, the cold winds and other elements act as courtiers, and they always tell him the truth--specifically, they tell him he should seek shelter. Hence, by comparing the cold winds to courtiers, he is showing us the differences between manners encountered in the woods and manners encountered at court. We see him likening the winds to courtiers in the lines:

Even till I shrink with cold, I smile and say
This is no flattery: these are counsellors
That feelingly persuade me what I am. (9-11)

In this passage, the terms "flattery," "counsellors," and "feelingly" serve to liken the winds to the courtiers. Normally, courtiers act as counselors by feelingly, meaning passionately, giving advice for no other purpose than flattering the ruler, and advice given to flatter is usually all lies. But the cold winds give honest advice to seek shelter, unlike the "counsellors" at the court.

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