As You Like It

by: William Shakespeare

  Act 2 Scene 7

page Act 2 Scene 7 Page 3

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JAQUES

45It is my only suit,
Provided that you weed your better judgments
Of all opinion that grows rank in them
That I am wise. I must have liberty
Withal, as large a charter as the wind,
50To blow on whom I please, for so fools have.
And they that are most gallèd with my folly,
They most must laugh. And why, sir, must they so?
The “why” is plain as way to parish church:
He that a fool doth very wisely hit
55Doth very foolishly, although he smart,
Not to seem senseless of the bob. If not,
The wise man’s folly is anatomized
Even by the squand'ring glances of the fool.
Invest me in my motley. Give me leave
60To speak my mind, and I will through and through
Cleanse the foul body of th' infected world,
If they will patiently receive my medicine.

JAQUES

That’s all I ask from you, as long as you promise to rid yourself of any rotten idea that I am wise. Like the wind, I must have the freedom to blast anyone I please, as fools do. And whoever is most irritated by my foolishness has to laugh the hardest. Why, sir, must he? Well, it’s as plain as the beaten path to a parish church. Any person who thinks I’m satirizing them would be stupid if they didn’t pretend not to be hurt by my joke. Otherwise, they’d be admitting I was talking about them, and the fool would expose the wise man’s foolishness with a joke that wasn’t even meant for him. Dress me up in motley. Let me speak my mind, and I’ll rid the world of its sickness—if it will only tolerate my medicine.

DUKE SENIOR

Fie on thee! I can tell what thou wouldst do.

DUKE SENIOR

To hell with you! I know what you’d do.

JAQUES

What, for a counter, would I do but good?

JAQUES

What would I do besides good?

DUKE SENIOR

65Most mischievous foul sin in chiding sin,
For thou thyself hast been a libertine,
As sensual as the brutish sting itself,
And all th' embossèd sores and headed evils
That thou with license of free foot hast caught
70Wouldst thou disgorge into the general world.

DUKE SENIOR

You would be committing a wicked sin by chiding other people for sinning, because you yourself have been a terrible sinner, as carnal in your appetites as lust itself, and all the swollen pustules of sin that you acquired in your freedom you now want to burst and shoot back into the world at large.

JAQUES

Why, who cries out on pride
That can therein tax any private party?
Doth it not flow as hugely as the sea
Till that the weary very means do ebb?

JAQUES

But if I cry out against pride in general, how can anyone say I’m accusing a particular person? Aren’t we talking about a problem as vast as the sea, that keeps flowing until all the wealth in the world is almost used up by everyone showing off?