Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 598
Duke Senior: an exiled duke, living in banishment in the Forest of Arden; Rosalind's father and Celia's uncle
Amiens: a courtier and singer who attends Duke Senior
First and Second Lords: courtiers who attend Duke Senior in exile
Scene 1 takes place in the Forest Arden. Duke Senior tells his "co-mates and brothers in exile" that he finds life in the forest "more sweet" and "free from peril" than life at "the envious court," despite the inconvenience of cold and winter winds. Amiens, one. of the Duke's courtiers, agrees, noting that the Duke has turned the misfortune of his banishment into a happy life in the forest. Duke Senior proposes that he and his courtiers embark on a deer hunt, although he regrets having to kill deer "in their own confines." The First Lord replies that Jaques, another courtier, also feels remorse at having to kill animals for food. That day, Jaques had come upon a deer wounded by a hunter. This sight had moved him to tears and philosophical reflection. He had observed cynically that Duke Senior and his courtiers were usurpers and tyrants themselves for frightening and killing the animals in the forest. Duke Senior asks to be taken to the place where Jaques has remained, "weeping and commenting" upon the fallen deer, for he enjoys encountering Jaques when he is in one of his melancholy moods.
In Scene 1, we learn that Duke Senior, although banished from his dukedom and lands, has made the most of his misfortune. Duke Senior's comments on his existence in the Forest of Arden are yet another paean to the pastoral life. Here, we see a far more relaxed atmosphere than we have seen at court. We are in the presence of a new social order. Duke Senior and his court-in-exile have cast aside what is "painted" and "envious." We are also greeted by images of bountiful nature: in the forest, Duke Senior remarks, one can find "tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,/ Sermons in stones, and good in everything." Yet life in the forest, as we learn in Duke Senior's opening speech, also has its hazards, particularly the "icy fang" of the winter wind. Duke Senior is optimistic by nature, however, and he seems undiscouraged by the hardships he and his court have endured. When he mentions that "Here feel we not the penalty of Adam," he is comparing life in the Forest of Arden to man's idyllic existence in the Garden of Eden.
Our introduction to Jaques (pronounced "jay-kweez") continues the pattern of hearing about many of the principal characters before they appear in the play. We learn that Jaques, like Duke Senior, has qualms about killing deer for food. His reaction to this element of life in the forest: is much more extreme than the Duke's. Encountering a deer wounded by a hunter's arrow has provoked one of his philosophical moods. Jaques's ironic observation that Duke Senior and his courtiers have usurped the rightful domain of the animals, just as Duke Frederick has usurped his brother's dukedom, has some validity. His pronouncements are reminders that the forest, like the court, is also home to pain and suffering.
Unlike the court, however, this society is a place where diverse types coexist in harmony. It is permissive haven for a misanthrope such as Jaques. Yet it is apparent that Duke Senior, while enjoying Jaques' company and savoring the entertainment he provides, does not take his philosophy seriously. As he remarks, "I love to cope him in these sullen fits, For then he's full of matter."
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