David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s “As You Like It”: A Retelling in Prose — Act 2, Scenes 1-2

— 2.1 —

Duke Senior, the Lord Amiens, and a few other Lords were talking together in the Forest of Arden. All of them were dressed like foresters.

Duke Senior said, “Now, my companions and brothers in exile, have we not grown used to our new way of life and don’t we now agree that this way of life is better than a life of artificial splendor? Are not these woods freer from danger than the envious and malicious court? Here we feel only the penalty of Adam, who was sent away from the Garden of Eden into exile. We feel the different seasons, such as the icy fang and churlish chiding of the winter’s wind, which, when it bites and blows upon my body, even as I shrink with cold, I smile and say, ‘This is no flattery: These are counselors who powerfully tell me what I really am.’ Sweet are the uses of adversity — adversity makes men wise. Adversity is like an ugly toad that according to folklore is poisonous and yet has a jewel — the toadstone — in its head that protects itself and others from poison. Our life is free from interruption from other people, and here we can listen to the trees, read the running brooks, and learn about natural theology from stones. Everything here in Nature is good.”

Amiens, a Lord who had followed Duke Senior into exile and who was a good singer, said, “I would not change anything. Happy is your grace, who can translate the harshness of fortune into so quiet and so sweet a state of mind. You are able to look at bad fortune and see what good may come from it.”

“Come, shall we go and kill us a deer and eat venison?” Duke Senior asked. “And yet it irks me that the poor dappled fools, being native citizens of this scarcely populated territory, should in their own land have their round haunches gored with arrowheads.”

A Lord said, “Indeed, Duke Senior, the melancholy Jaques grieves at that, also, and accordingly, he swears that you do more usurp the deer’s territory than your younger brother, Duke Frederick, usurped your territory when he banished you. Today my Lord of Amiens and I did creep up behind Jaques as he lay under an oak whose ancient root pokes out near the brook that flows noisily through this wood. To that place came a poor stag that had been separated from its herd. A hunter had wounded it, and indeed, my Lord, the wretched animal heaved forth such groans that their discharge did stretch his leathern coat until it seemed that he would burst his hide, and the stag’s big round tears trickled down his innocent nose as they chased each other, arousing pity. The melancholy Jaques looked at the hairy stag as it stood on the edge of the brook and added its tears to the brook’s water.”

“What did Jaques say?” Duke Senior asked. “Knowing him, he would have drawn moral lessons from this stag’s suffering.”

The Lord replied, “You are correct. Jaques made a thousand similes. Seeing the stag dropping his tears into the stream, Jaques said, ‘Poor deer, you are making a last will and testament the way that materialistic humans do. You give more to what already has too much. The stream of water hardly needs your tears.’ Seeing the stag alone, abandoned by its herd, Jaques said, ‘Misery stops a stream of visitors. A poor or ill person has few visitors.’ Soon, a carefree herd of deer that had eaten its fill of grass in a meadow ran by the wounded stag and did not stop to greet him. Seeing this, Jaques said, ‘Run on, you fat and greasy citizens. This is the current fashion. Why should you bother to look upon this poor and broken wretch here?’ Thus he harshly criticized and pierced the heart of the country, city, court, and even our way of life here. He swore that we are mere usurpers and tyrants and whatever is worse than usurpers and tyrants, because we frighten the animals and kill them in their Heavenly assigned and native dwelling places.”

“Did you leave him to his contemplations?” Duke Senior asked.

A second Lord said, “We did, my Lord. He was weeping and commenting on the sobbing deer.”

“Show me where he is,” Duke Senior said. “I love to debate him when he is in one of these moralizing moods because then he has a lot to say.”

The first Lord said, “I will take you to him right away.”

— 2.2 —

In a room in his palace, Duke Frederick questioned some Lords.

“Is it possible that no one saw Celia and Rosalind leave the palace? It cannot be. Some villains in my court knew about this and assisted them.”

A Lord said, “I cannot find anyone who saw your daughter leave. The ladies, her attendants of her chamber, saw her go to bed in the evening, and early in the morning, they found her bed empty.”

Another Lord said, “Duke Frederick, the vulgar and despicable clown at whom so often you have been accustomed to laugh is also missing. Hisperia, the princess Celia’s gentlewoman, confesses that she secretly overheard Celia and Rosalind much compliment the good qualities and accomplishments of Orlando, the wrestler who recently defeated the sinewy Charles. Hisperia believes that wherever Celia and Rosalind are gone, Orlando is surely with them.”

Duke Frederick said, “Send someone to Orlando’s brother Oliver. The messenger must bring Orlando to me, or if Orlando is gone, the messenger must bring Oliver to me. I will make Oliver find Orlando. Do this at once. Meanwhile, we will continue to inquire after and search for these foolish runaways and bring them back.”

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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