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Act II, Scene 1
In this scene, the action of the play moves into the pastoral setting of the Forest of Arden. In the beginning, Duke Senior, seen in the company of Amiens and some other lords, reveals that he is leading a life of simplicity and contentment. He addresses the lords as his "co-mates and brothers in exile" and tells them that their present condition is sweeter than the pomp of the court. Amiens admires the duke's capacity to see the bright side of an adverse situation.
When the duke suggests that they go hunting, one of the lords tries to dissuade him. He says that the melancholy Jaques, another of the lords, feels that Duke Senior is a greater usurper than his brother, Duke Frederick. While Frederick has usurped the dukedom, Duke Senior has usurped the natural habitat of animals, like the deer. The lord tells how Jaques has seen a wounded deer, which seemed to be weeping by a brook. Then a herd of deer passes by the wounded one without stopping in concern. Jaques compares the herd of deer to a group of fat, wealthy citizens who would also pass by, failing to take notice of the poor and broken.
After listening to the report on Jaques' philosophy, Duke Senior asks that he be taken to where Jaques is located. He always enjoys the lord when he is in his melancholy mood, for his talk is always engaging.
Although this scene contains no real action, it serves as a transition from the court setting to the Forest of Arden. Duke Senior is leading a life of contentment in the forest; he is delighted to be away from the envy, flattery, and falsehood of the court. He says that in the forest, he finds "books in the running brooks, sermons in the stones, and good in everything." Through the duke, Shakespeare begins to show how the forest charms people into a better, more carefree life. All of the characters who come to Arden from the city will meet with happier of times.
Jaques is also introduced in this scene, although he does not appear on stage. One of the lords tells how Jaques has seen a wounded deer, standing by the brook and seeming to weep. The upset Jaques believes that Duke Senior, with help from his lords, has usurped the natural environment of the forest animals, like the deer. Jaques is also distraught by the fact that a herd of deer passes by the wounded one without stopping to help; he compares the herd to wealthy men, who would never stop to help a poor or broken human being. It is obvious that Jaques is a sentimental moralizer, who seems out of place in the Forest of Arden; ironically, Duke Senior enjoys arguing with the melancholy man and asks to be taken to Jaques.