How does one paraphrase Duke Senior's opening speech in Act 2, Scene 1 of Shakespeare's As You Like It?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To be able to paraphrase something like a short speech, you must first have a full understanding of its meaning, that way you can easily pick out what's important from the speech so that you can relay only what's important in your summary.

In Duke Senior's very first speech opening Act 2, Scene 1, he is essentially commenting on how he and his courtiers have established a comfortable life for themselves in the Forest of Arden. He begins by asking his courtiers the rhetorical question, through their habits, haven't they established for themselves a life that's even "more sweet" than the life at court with all of its "painted pomp," meaning superficial and "artificial ceremony" (II.i.2-3; Shakespeare Navigators)? He even asks if his courtiers agree that the woods hold less danger for them than "envious court" (3-4). The term "envious court" refers to his brother who has just usurped him out of envy, or jealousy, endangering Duke Senior's life and taking over his court. He further uses a metaphor comparing themselves to Adam to say that they suffer no more than Adam suffered after sinning--they suffer only the change of seasons that began when Adam was evicted from the Garden of Eden. Because they suffer from the change of seasons, they suffer from "winter's wind," as we see in his lines:

Here feel we but the penalty of Adam,
The seasons' difference, as the icy fang
And churlish chiding of the winter's wind. (5-8)

He continues to state that even as he shivers with cold, he is able to still smile and think of the wind as his courtiers who, unlike real courtiers who only flatter him, tell him the truth by telling him what he should do, which is take shelter from the cold wind.

He also ends the speech by further philosophizing about what nature offers them, such as silent trees, books in the brooks, and stones that teach sermons. In other words, everything they need to know or understand they can learn from nature.

Hence we see that in this first speech, Duke Senior is ultimately relaying how content he is hiding out in the forest.

Read the study guide:
As You Like It

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