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Shakespeare's masterful first scene serves as an introduction to the plot and the major characters of the play. It is quickly established in their argument with each other that there is a deep conflict between Orlando, the noble youngest son of Sir Rowland, and Oliver, the greedy and wicked oldest son. Oliver has refused to give his youngest brother his fair share of the inheritance, which was intended for Orlando's education. When Orlando demands the money or an education, Oliver thinks about doing away with his brother, for he does not want to part with the money and is also very jealous of Orlando. When he learns that Orlando is planning to wrestle with Charles, the Duke's chosen fighter, he urges Charles to break Orlando's neck or kill him. The dull-witted Charles agrees to do his best. It is also learned, through conversation, that there is a deep and similar conflict between Duke Frederick and his older brother, Duke Senior. Frederick, greedy and power hungry, has banished his brother and stolen his dukedom.
It is obvious that Shakespeare totally disapproves of the banishment of Duke Senior by his younger brother and of the mistreatment of Orlando by Oliver. Through these brotherly rivalries, Shakespeare is pointing out that hatred and hostility have erroneously taken the place of love, which should unite a family. As a result, life in this play has been thrown into disorder. Ironically, the disarray occurs in the court, which should be well ordered and unified. In contrast, the natural world of the Forest of Arden, characterized by freedom and a lack of rules, appears unified and filled with love. The banished duke enjoys life there, surrounded by admirers. Shakespeare even compares him to Robin Hood and his band of merry men. It is clear that the dramatist prefers the simplicity of country life over the sophisticated and unnatural life found in the court.
In sharp contrast to the relationship of the two sets of brothers in this first scene is the intimacy between two cousins, Rosalind and Celia. Although neither girl is seen on stage during this opening scene, it is revealed that "never two ladies loved as they do." As a result, Rosalind has stayed in court, even though her father, Duke Senior, has been banished, for Celia could not live without her.