“The mind is its own place and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven…” (John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book I). Discuss this quote in relation to the Pastoral Theme in As You...

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This quote from Milton is of particular relevance to Jacques in Act II scene 1 in this famous pastoral comedy. The original quote is said by Satan and comments on the way that even the worst and most unfavourable setting can be viewed as "heaven" with the right perspective. Satan manages to do this himself, as he looks upon Pandemonium as his kingdom, uttering the famous words, "Better to reign in hell / Than serve in heaven." Satan's words therefore indicate the importance of the mind in choosing whether to be happy or not with your state in life.

In Act II scene 1, the melancholy attitude of Jacques in response to the dead deer stands in direct contrast to Duke Senior, who extols the pastoral nature of his existence in the Forest of Arden:

Hath not old custom made this life more sweet

Than that of painted pomp? Are not these woods

More free from peril than the envious courts?

Duke Senior presents a typical pastoral view that presents the simple, rural life as being far superior to the life at court with all of its luxuries and dangers. He, in Milton's words, has made a heaven out of this hell, as he could easily bemoan the loss of the luxuries he enjoyed at court but now has lost through his exile. However, the attitude of Jacques is in direct contrast to this. He has made a hell out of heaven, as he sees the death of the deer as a sign that Duke Senior has usurped the animals in the forest far more terribly than he himself has been usurped because the Duke and his men:

...fright the animals and kill them up

In their assign'd and native dwelling-place.

Both men live in the same setting, but one chooses to extol its virtues and see it as a heaven, enjoying it and making the best out of his situation, and one determines to view the exact same place in an extremely negative light. Perspective is all. As Milton's words suggest, the mind rules supreme.


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