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What is the symbolism in the following comment, which is a paraphrase from Act II,...

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emyloly | High School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 14, 2011 at 7:19 AM via web

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What is the symbolism in the following comment, which is a paraphrase from Act II, scene i by the Lambs of Duke Senior's speech in As You Like It?

Comment: "These chilling winds which blow upon my body are true counsellors; they do not flatter, but represent truly to me my condition; and though they bite sharply, their tooth is nothing like so keen as that of unkindness and ingratitude." Charles and Mary Lamb. Tales from Shakespeare (1878).

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K.P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted February 15, 2011 at 5:38 AM (Answer #1)

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This quote is part of a paraphrase written in 1878 of Duke Senior's speech in As You Like It about his living conditions in the forest of Arden, Act II, scene i. "These chilling winds that blow" literally refer to winter winds blowing on one who, like Duke Senior, lives mostly out in the open. Symbolically these bone chilling winter winds represent the sorrows and troubles that beset all humankind at one time or another and in one form or another. This symbolism is reinforced by the phrase "blow upon my body," which is literally the physical body and symbolically the representation of the psychological self that suffers from adversities.

The point being made is that these cold winds, these troubles, sorrows, and adversities are the stuff by which our inner qualities are revealed: "they represent truly to me my condition." Adversities bring out a person's inner qualities that either rage against suffering in arrogant anger; or moan and weep before trouble feeling they are too good to deserve hardship; or laugh suffering off as unimportant and valueless; or with courage seek to find the best way to solve and endure suffering.

The paraphrase of Duke Senior's speech ends by personifying the cold wind by giving it an animal's bite and tooth: "they bite sharply." The explanation for thinking of "chilling winds [of adversity] that blow" as "true counsellors" is that though they are hard to go through and endure, they are nonetheless not so horrible as the cold bite of "unkindness and ingratitude." This alludes to Duke Frederick's usurpation of Duke Senior's kingdom and throne. Actually, the paraphrase diverges here from Duke Senior's actual speech for he doesn’t allude to Duke Frederick’s unkindness and ingratitude.  What he says is that the winter wind is like "a precious jewel" because in Arden, away from court life ("exempt from public haunt"), he finds friends, literature, religion, and all good things; he:

Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones and good in every thing.
I would not change it.

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