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As You Like It | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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As You Like It | Act 2, Scene 1 | Summary



In the Forest of Arden, Duke Senior speaks to his "brothers in exile" of the sweetness and safety of country life in comparison to the "painted pomp" of court. He claims the icy bite of winter's wind to be more pleasant than flattery and adversity to be useful. He then leads his lords in a deer hunt, though he dislikes having to kill the animals in their native haunt, where they should expect to be safe.

The First Lord chimes in to say that earlier that day, he came upon "the melancholy Jaques" crying over a dying deer in the forest. Duke Senior eagerly asks what Jaques had to say about the situation. The First Lord replies that Jaques launched into "a thousand similes" of mourning, blasting humans as "usurpers" and "tyrants" to so frighten and kill the animals. Duke Senior finds these "sullen fits" of Jaques entertaining, so off they go to seek him out in the forest.


Duke Senior and his lords have been exiles in the forest now for many years. Duke Senior's upbeat speech is likely meant to comfort his followers, who have become like brothers to him, and to help them look on the bright side of their situation. Duke Senior does make a valid point about the court: it has its downside even though life there was easier. Some of Duke Senior's values are revealed in his speech, such as truth over flattery and turning adversity into opportunity—or at least making the best of a bad situation.

One of the hardships of life in the forest is that the men must hunt for their food. While most of the party take this in stride, even if they don't like the task, the injustice of the hunt affects Jaques far more deeply. Make no mistake, though: Jaques is disposed to being affected deeply and, in fact, revels in his misery and depression. On the surface of things, he weeps for the deer because it isn't fair that the animals should be frightened, pursued, and killed in their own home. The deer in this scene, however, symbolizes a deeper issue that angers Jaques: social injustice, particularly that social injustice that has landed them all in exile. When Jaques rants about usurpers and tyrants, he isn't really talking about the hunters; he is talking about Duke Frederick and men like him, who take over and unjustly push people out of their homes.

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