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KEY LITERARY ELEMENTS
The play moves between two worlds: the world of Duke Frederick's court and that of the Forest of Arden. The court is characterized by hatred, stratagems, evil designs, "painted pomp," deception, and envy. In contrast, the Forest of Arden is characterized by freedom, beauty, and naturalness. The court supposedly represents sophisticated behavior in a civilized society. By contrast, the forest is a place of natural behavior. There, Duke Senior and his "co-mates and brothers in exile" lead a life which is "exempt from public haunt / Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, / sermons in stones, and good in everything."
Duke Senior - one of the protagonists of the play. His ducal rights are usurped by his younger brother, Frederick. He leads a life of exile in the Forest of Arden with some of his lords ("co-mates and brothers in exile"). His ducal rights are restored to him towards the end of the play when his brother has a moral conversion.
Duke Frederick - one of the antagonists of the play. He is a contrast in every respect to Duke Senior, his elder brother, whose rights he usurps during the play. Towards the end, however, there is a change in his morals, and he tries to make amends for his past ways.
Touchstone - a fool in the Duke's court. He accompanies Rosalind and Celia to the Forest of Arden. Duke Senior rightly remarks that he "uses his folly like a stalking-horse, and under the presentation of that he shoots his wit."
Oliver de Boys - the eldest son of Sir Rowland de Boys and one of the antagonists of the play. He denies his brother Orlando his rightful inheritance and the education that is due to him. Wicked and villainous by nature, he wants to have Orlando killed. However, Orlando saves him from a deadly snake and a fierce lioness, which changes Oliver's attitude.
Orlando de Boys - the youngest brother of Oliver and one of the protagonists of the play. To escape his brother's plot to kill him, he goes to the forest, courts Rosalind, and weds her.
Rosalind - the daughter of Duke Senior and the heroine of the play. Banished by Duke Frederick, she goes to the forest under the disguise of Ganymede. She displays wit, intelligence, and alertness. At the end of the play, she orchestrates all of the marriages, including her own to Orlando.
Celia - the daughter of Duke Frederick. She serves as Rosalind's companion. She is a fine and likable lady who is overshadowed by the more commanding Rosalind.
Jaques - one of the lords attending Senior Duke. A melancholy cynic, he is a critic of the society in the forest and all of life.