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As You Like It

William Shakespeare

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Jaques

Jaques delights in being sad—a disparate role in a play that so delights in happiness. Jaques believes that his melancholy makes him the perfect candidate to be Duke Senior’s fool. Such a position, he claims, will “Give me leave / To speak my mind,” and the criticism that flows forth will “Cleanse the foul body of th’infected world” (II.vii.5860). Duke Senior is rightly cautious about installing Jaques as the fool, fearing that Jaques would do little more than excoriate the sins that Jaques himself has committed. Indeed, Jaques lacks the keenness of insight of Shakespeare’s most accomplished jesters: he is not as penetrating as Twelfth Night’s Feste or King Lear’s fool. In fact, he is more like an aspiring fool than a professional one. When Jaques philosophizes on the seven stages of human life, for instance, his musings strike us as banal. His “All the world’s a stage” speech is famous today, but the play itself casts doubt on the ideas expressed in this speech (II.vii.138). No sooner does Jaques insist that man spends the final stages of his life in “mere oblivion, / Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything” than Orlando’s aged servant, Adam, enters, bearing with him his loyalty, his incomparable service, and his undiminished integrity (II.vii.164165).

Jaques’s own faculties as a critic of the goings-on around him are considerably diminished in comparison to Rosalind, who understands so much more and conveys her understanding with superior grace and charm. Rosalind criticizes in order to transform the world—to make Orlando a more reasonable husband and Phoebe a less disdainful lover—whereas Jaques is content to stew in his own melancholy. It is appropriate that Jaques decides not to return to court. While the other characters merrily revel, Jaques determines that he will follow the reformed Duke Frederick into the monastery, where he believes the converts have much to teach him. Jaques’s refusal to resume life in the dukedom not only confirms our impression of his character, but also resonates with larger issues in the play. Here, the play makes good on the promise of its title: everyone gets just what he or she wants. It also betrays a small but inevitable crack in the community that dances through the forest. In a world as complex and full of so many competing forces as the one portrayed in As You Like It, the absolute best one can hope for is consensus, but never complete unanimity.

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Character Mix-Up

by girlfatal, July 24, 2013

This Sparknote for Act II, Scene IV states that Corin is the young shepherd and Silvius is the old shepherd. It is the other way around. The Oxford Shakespeare's character list states:

Corin, an old shepherd
Silvius, a young shepherd, in love with Pheobe

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MISTAKEN SPELLING

by nikki123444, October 26, 2013

The spelling of de boys is given as de bois.This is wrong as in all major textbooks it is given as de boys.

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What is to Shakespeare 'The Forest of Arden' in his play 'As You Like It'?

by Shehanaz, December 09, 2013

RITUPARNA RAY CHAUDHURI(SHEHANAZ)
‘AS YOU LIKE IT’- WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE
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AS YOU LIKE IT IS A SHAKESPEARE'S ROMANTIC COMEDY, BLENDING WITH LOVE-HEROISM-SENTIMENT-ADVENTURE-AND PURE FUN. THE FOREST IS MERELY A GOLDEN WORLD, BUT ITS CONTENTMENT HAS DEALT OF THE BITTER LESSONS OF LIFE. (DR.S.SEN)
PRONOUNCE THE WORD 'ARDEN'-PERHAPS A PUN BY PRONOUNCING IT A-DEN-- A FOLIAGE OF MATERIALISTIC WORLD.
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