Study Guide

Duke Frederick in As You Like It

By William Shakespeare

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Duke Frederick

The de Boys brothers (Orlando and Oliver) aren't the only dysfunctional siblings in As You Like It. The first thing we find about Duke Frederick is that he's banished his older brother from court and has also stolen his title. As Charles the wrestler/local gossip tells us, "the Old Duke [Senior] is banished by his younger brother, the new/ Duke [Frederick]" (1.1.98-99). Not only that, but Duke Frederick also boots Rosalind (his niece and his daughter's beloved BFF) out of his court, too. Why? Because he's afraid Rosalind is more popular than Celia. (Dang. Frederick's just as spiteful and petty as Oliver.)

Still, Shakespeare was in a generous mood when he wrote As You Like It, so there's some hope for Duke Frederick. Toward the end of the play, we learn that Frederick has slapped together a posse to track down Duke Senior in the forest. Just as Frederick arrives at the Forest of Arden, he bumps into a "religious man" and decides to change his evil ways. Jaques de Boys tells us how it all went down:

Duke Frederick, hearing how that every day
Men of great worth resorted to this forest,
Address'd a mighty power; which were on foot
In his own conduct, purposely to take
His brother here and put him to the sword:
And to the skirts of this wild wood he came,
Where meeting with an old religious man,
After some question with him, was converted
Both from his enterprise and from the world,
His crown bequeathing to his banish'd brother,
And all their lands restored to them again
That were with him exiled. This to be true,
I do engage my life.

Huh?! You're probably thinking that Duke Frederick's "conversion" is pretty sudden and so random that it's hardly believable. Well, you're absolutely right but that's OK because we totally get Shakespeare's point: Even the worst kind of human being can be redeemed.

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