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Discuss Duke Senior's view of the forest in this extract

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Introduction

Act 2 scene 1: Passage Question on Duke Senior's opening speech Discuss Duke Senior's view of the forest in this extract. In your answer you should: * Comment on Shakespeare's use of language, imagery, tone and dramatic structure * Show awareness of how different readers and audiences might respond to the extract * Show awareness of the Elizabethan context Shakespeare opens Act two with a speech from Duke Senior attesting the values of life in the Forest of Arden. His 18 line judication provides the audience with an objective and tempered account of life in the rural surrounds which although holds elements of the romantic pastoral vision of the rural life as Eden, is at the same time in touch with reality. The pastoral theme was a popular genre in Elizabethan drama, with its suggestion that life in the rural environment was the remedy to all the woes and stresses which accompanied life in the urban zone. However dramatists such as Shakespeare began to rebuke this idea. The thought that rural life offered an alternative to the corruption of court was simply not an economic reality. ...read more.

Middle

in court life. In place of the corrupted court counsellors whose words served only to flatter and mislead, the Duke has Nature to "feelingly persuade me who I am". Although he makes a suggestion that the forest has parallels to the paradise of Eden- "Here we feel not the penalties of Adam" (referring to Adam's banishment into the cruel world from Eden), the forest is yet a far cry from a heavenly abode. Yet he is adamant in his belief that no matter the adversity, there is good to be found in everything. To drive this point in further still, the Duke refers to a creature widely despised in the Elizabethan period for its vulgarity and supposedly poisonous form- but a life saver with its remedial antidote to poison. The Forest of Arden seems to be a place which brings out and projects the true character of a person. Duke Senior- exiled and removed from his rightful throne to a place of incivilisation and uncomfort should by rights be bitter and resentful, yet he describes his leafy exile as a place of education and rehabilitation to the real world when one could; "Find tongues in trees, books in running brooks, sermons in stones and good in everything." ...read more.

Conclusion

Rhetorical questions comparing life at present to the life at Court, remind the men of the malice and spite left behind them and the lack of any such malevolence in the rural life: "Are not these woods more free from peril than the envious court?" Alliteration of words such as "painted pomp", "churlish chiding", "sermons in stones" serve to provide tonal emphasis to his points and contributes to the euphony of the passage- providing a melodic air. This linguistic device encourages the audience to listen more carefully to his words. The use of a caesura similarly provides further emphatic effect; "This is no flattery- these are counsellors"-a momentary lapse in speech provided for the audience and lords to absorb his words. The syntax of the verse is also peppered with the repetition of vowel sounds- the use assonance such as "churlish chiding" and "books in running brooks". The use of consonance is also employed by Shakespeare- a stylistic device which repeats consonant sounds: "painted pomp- peril- penalty." These devices were not only used for their effect in speech, but more practically, were aids to the actors in learning the verse. ...read more.

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