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As You Like It

ACT II  SCENE IThe Forest of Arden.
[ Enter DUKE SENIOR, AMIENS, and two or three Lords, like foresters ]
DUKE SENIORNow, my co-mates and brothers in exile,
Hath not old custom made this life more sweet
Than that of painted pomp? Are not these woods
More free from peril than the envious court?
Here feel we but the penalty of Adam,
The seasons’ difference, as the icy fang
And churlish chiding of the winter’s wind,
Which, when it bites and blows upon my body,
Even till I shrink with cold, I smile and say
‘This is no flattery: these are counsellors10
That feelingly persuade me what I am.’
Sweet are the uses of adversity,
Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous,
Wears yet a precious jewel in his head;
And this our life exempt from public haunt
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones and good in every thing.
I would not change it.
AMIENSHappy is your grace,
That can translate the stubbornness of fortune20
Into so quiet and so sweet a style.
DUKE SENIORCome, shall we go and kill us venison?
And yet it irks me the poor dappled fools,
Being native burghers of this desert city,
Should in their own confines with forked heads
Have their round haunches gored.
First LordIndeed, my lord,
The melancholy Jaques grieves at that,
And, in that kind, swears you do more usurp
Than doth your brother that hath banish’d you.30
To-day my Lord of Amiens and myself
Did steal behind him as he lay along
Under an oak whose antique root peeps out
Upon the brook that brawls along this wood:
To the which place a poor sequester’d stag,
That from the hunter’s aim had ta’en a hurt,
Did come to languish, and indeed, my lord,
The wretched animal heaved forth such groans
That their discharge did stretch his leathern coat
Almost to bursting, and the big round tears
Coursed one another down his innocent nose
In piteous chase; and thus the hairy fool40
Much marked of the melancholy Jaques,
Stood on the extremest verge of the swift brook,
Augmenting it with tears.
DUKE SENIORBut what said Jaques?
Did he not moralize this spectacle?
First LordO, yes, into a thousand similes.
First, for his weeping into the needless stream;
‘Poor deer,’ quoth he, ‘thou makest a testament
As worldlings do, giving thy sum of more
To that which had too much:’ then, being there alone,
Left and abandon’d of his velvet friends,50
”Tis right:’ quoth he; ‘thus misery doth part
The flux of company:’ anon a careless herd,
Full of the pasture, jumps along by him
And never stays to greet him; ‘Ay’ quoth Jaques,
‘Sweep on, you fat and greasy citizens;
‘Tis just the fashion: wherefore do you look
Upon that poor and broken bankrupt there?’
Thus most invectively he pierceth through
The body of the country, city, court,
Yea, and of this our life, swearing that we60
Are mere usurpers, tyrants and what’s worse,
To fright the animals and to kill them up
In their assign’d and native dwelling-place.
DUKE SENIORAnd did you leave him in this contemplation?
Second LordWe did, my lord, weeping and commenting
Upon the sobbing deer.
DUKE SENIORShow me the place:
I love to cope him in these sullen fits,
For then he’s full of matter.
First LordI’ll bring you to him straight.

Next: As You Like It, Act 2, Scene 2

Explanatory notes for Act 2, Scene 1
From As You Like It. Ed. Samuel Thurber, Jr. and Louise Wetherbee. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1922.
(Line numbers have been altered.)

The Forest of Arden lies before us, “a golden world” in which we find the father of Rosalind and his faithful followers, “fleeting the time carelessly.” His philosophy of life is worth studying and perhaps following.

Line 2. old custom: long continued habit. The Duke implies here the length of his exile and his content.

8. painted pomp: Note the alliteration here and elsewhere in the scene.

5. penalty of Adam: The poet goes on to describe what he regards as the penalty. In Genesis we find, “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread.” Which do you prefer?

6. as: as for example.

8. which: in regard to which.

12-18. A very celebrated and beautiful passage. Explain it.

13. which … head: This superstition about the toad-stone was very common in Shakespeare’s time. The toad was supposed to have in its head a jelly-like substance which would cure one who had been poisoned. The ugly and venomous toad however, if it could, sucked up the stone before its death, thus depriving mankind of its benefits. What is the precious jewel of adversity?

16. exempt … haunt: free from the public eye.

16. What figure of speech here?

19. translate: Why is this a peculiarly beautiful word here?

21. us: for ourselves.

22. irks me: irritates me. dappled fools: This is only one of the many ways in which the deer are to be described in the play.

23. burghers: citizens.

24. forked heads: It is delightful to find the forked heads so perfectly described as in the following quotation from Roger Ascham: “Two maner of arrowe heades sayeth Pollux, was used in olde tyme, — the one hauying two poyntes or barbes lookyng backewarde to the stele and the fethers which surely we call in Englishe a brode arrow head, or a swalowe tayle, — the other hauing two poyntes stretchying forwarde and this Englysh men do call a forke-head.”

26. Jaques: pronounced in two syllables with a long a and e. We here are introduced to one of the most interesting characters of the play. He is Shakespeare’s own creation. Contrast his attitude towards life with that of the Duke.

27. in that kind: in that way.

29. Amiens: Give this the English pronunciation.

31-43. How does Shakespeare make a clear picture in this passage? Note use of descriptive words.

33. sequestered: separated from his companions.

41. marked: observed. What do you learn of Shakespeare’s attitude towards animals?

44. moralize: extract a lesson.

46. needless: not needing. What meaning has it today?

49. being alone: as to his being alone.

50. velvet: another picture word.

52. flux: flow.

53. full … pasture: having eaten.

58. invectively: bitterly.

59. body: whole system.

62. up: used to intensify the verb.

67. cope: encounter. Why does the Duke so much enjoy Jaques?


1. In the theater of Shakespeare’s time stage setting was often merely suggested. The playwright aroused the imagination of his audience by suggestive words spoken by the actors. For instance the Duke says, “in these woods.” Find other examples and describe the scene.

2. Contrast Duke Senior and Duke Frederick.

3. How are the Lords dressed?

4. What do you learn of the Duke’s attitude towards his changed life? Has he any regrets?

5. How is he regarded by his attendants?

6. Why does Shakespeare frequently introduce a character through the words of another as in the case of Jaques in this scene? What opinion of Jaques have you already formed?

7. What passages are the best and will be remembered?

8. What is the value of the scene?