Now, my co-mates and brothers in exile, 
Hath not old custom made this life more sweet 
Than that of painted pomp? Are not these woods 
More free from peril than the envious court? 
Here feel we not the penalty of Adam, 
The seasons’ difference, as the icy fang 
And churlish chiding of the winter’s wind, 
Which when it bites and blows upon my body 
Even till I shrink with cold, I smile, and say 
“This is no flattery. These are counsellors 
That feelingly persuade me what I am.” 
Sweet are the uses of adversity 
Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous,
Wears yet a precious jewel in his head;
And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in everything.

(Act 2, scene 1, lines 1–17)

These lines, spoken by Duke Senior upon his introduction in act 2, scene 1, help to establish the pastoral mode of the play. Duke Senior addresses the gentlemen and nobles who have followed him into exile, remarking on the stark difference between the villainous “painted pomp” of court and the safe and restorative Forest of Arden. The duke’s romanticization of the woods recalls the idealizing conventions of the pastoral mode, which tends to figure the country as a place of abundance and leisure. Above all, the country enables a life of simple pleasures, far removed from the “public haunt[s]” that do nothing but bring unnecessary complication. The duke is at his most idealizing in the concluding lines of this quotation, where he claims that the trees, the brooks, and the stones of the forest provide all the intellectual nourishment he needs. And, contrary to life in the city, “everything” in the forest is, at its heart, “good.”

A subtle irony emerges, however, when Duke Senior makes a biblical allusion to Adam. In Arden, he says, “we feel we not the penalty of Adam.” In the Book of Genesis, Adam and Eve disobey God and get expelled from the Garden of Eden. Newly burdened with the blight of original sin, they wander the world, exiled from Paradise. When the duke says that he and his followers “feel not the penalty of Adam,” he’s suggesting that Forest of Arden is so ideal that it’s like the Garden of Eden. The irony, of course, is that Duke Senior actually is in exile, having been banished from his realm when his brother usurped his throne. In other words, duke is in the reverse position of Adam: he’s been exiled to Paradise. The fact that the duke could have such an optimistic perspective on his situation demonstrates why he, and not his malevolent brother, is the better ruler. Though down on his luck, he’s nonetheless quick to make the best of the curve ball life has thrown him. His optimism and generosity of spirit provides a suitable background for the events that will unfold in the pastoral space of Arden.