Duke Frederick and Duke Senior are brothers, but they are as different as night and day. Duke Frederick, who is younger, is initially jealous of his brother Senior, and, when he somehow amasses enough power to do so, he banishes Duke Senior from the royal court, and plunders the estates of those who have accompanied him into exile. Duke Frederick's animosity towards his brother continues even after he has removed him from the court; when he learns of the influence Duke Senior still wields from the forest, his place of refuge, he sets out to eliminate him and his followers by force. Near the end of the story, however, Duke Frederick almost miraculously turns from his wicked ways when he is converted to a life of contemplation by a religious man in the Forest of Arden.
In contrast to Frederick, Duke Senior is a kind and virtuous man who draws others to himself because of his exemplary comportment. He is at one with nature, and is able to sustain himself off the land. Duke Senior lives simply, and as a ruler is much beloved. In his life in exile in the forest, he seems not to rule at all; he treats all men as equals, and his leadership is effective because of the strength of character he exudes. At the end of the story, when Duke Senior's kingdom is restored to him, the reader is left with the sense that all will be well because of his qualities of wisdom and benevolence.