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Tales From Shakespeare

As You Like It
During the time that France was divided into provinces (or dukedoms, as they were
called) there reigned in one of these provinces a usurper who had deposed and banished
his elder brother, the lawful duke.
The duke who was thus driven from his dominions retired with a few faithful followers to
the forest of Arden; and here the good duke lived with his loving friends, who had put
themselves into a voluntary exile for his sake, while their land and revenues enriched the
false usurper; and custom soon made the life of careless ease they led here more sweet to
them than the pomp and uneasy splendor of a courtier's life. Here they lived like the old
Robin Hood of England, and to this forest many noble youths daily resorted from the
court, and did fleet the time carelessly, as they did who lived in the golden age. In the
summer they lay along under the fine shade of the large forest trees, marking the playful
sports of the wild deer; and so fond were they of these poor dappled fools, who seemed to
be the native inhabitants of the forest, that it grieved them to be forced to kill them to
supply themselves with venison for their food. When the cold winds of winter made the
duke feel the change of his adverse fortune, he would endure it patiently, and say:
"These chilling winds which blow upon my body are true counselors; they do not flatter,
but represent truly to me my condition; and though they bite sharply, their tooth is
nothing like so keen as that of unkindness and ingratitude. I find that howsoever men
speak against adversity, yet some sweet uses are to be extracted from it; like the jewel,
precious for medicine, which is taken from the head of the venomous and despised toad."
In this manner did the patient duke draw a useful moral from everything that he saw; and
by the help of this moralizing turn, in that life of his, remote from public haunts, he could
find tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in
everything.
The banished duke had an only daughter, named Rosalind, whom the usurper, Duke
Frederick, when he banished her father, still retained in his court as a companion for his
own daughter, Celia. A strict friendship subsisted between these ladies, which the
disagreement between their fathers did not in the least interrupt, Celia striving by every
kindness in her power to make amends to Rosalind for the injustice of her own father in
deposing the father of Rosalind; and whenever the thoughts of her father's banishment,
and her own dependence on the false usurper, made Rosalind melancholy, Celia's whole
care was to comfort and console her.
One day, when Celia was talking in her usual kind manner to Rosalind, saying, "I pray
you, Rosalind, my sweet cousin, be merry," a messenger entered from the duke, to tell
them that if they wished to see a wrestling-match, which was just going to begin, they
must come instantly to the court before the palace; and Celia, thinking it would amuse
Rosalind, agreed to go and see it.
 
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