As You Like It

by: William Shakespeare

Jaques

I thank it. More, I prithee, more. I can suck melancholy out of a song as a weasel sucks eggs. More, I prithee, more. (II.v.12–13)

Jaques tells Amiens he wants to hear more of the bittersweet song she is singing about the woods in winter. Amiens warns Jaques that her continued song will only make him sadder, but Jaques tells her he doesn’t care. Jaques feeds on melancholy, just like a weasel feeds on eggs.

Give me leave To speak my mind (II.vii.58–60)

Jaques wants Duke Senior to give him the title of fool to allow him the freedom to share his true thoughts with the world. Duke Senior seems doubtful, since he thinks all Jaques will do is use his power as fool to call out others on their faults to assuage his own feelings of inadequacy. Duke Senior understands that such behavior belongs to a miserable person and doesn’t reflect the role of a fool.

I’ll give you a verse to this note that I made yesterday in despite of my invention. (II.v.41–42)

Jaques offers Amiens a verse he wrote to a common tune. Jaques admits his tune doesn’t seem that unique or creative. Lack of imagination stands as one of Jaques’s “chief” faults and sets him apart from Touchstone, Rosalind, and the other characters who display a more nuanced view of the world. Jaques exists as a morose character.

The worst fault you have is to be in love. (III.ii.259)

While sparring with Orlando, Jaques points out that his greatest fault is being in love with Rosalind. Jaques and Orlando have become a little too close for comfort. In this scene, the two characters spend real time together, and in doing so, they find they don’t quite care for each other’s company. Jaques’s blunt melancholy grates on Orlando’s lighthearted spirit.

I am so. I do love it better than laughing. (IV.i.4)

Rosalind, disguised as Ganymede, pretends she doesn’t know Jaques and has asked him to tell her more about himself. Here, Jaques tells Rosalind that he likes being sad more than he likes laughing. Jaques, who prides himself on seeing others’ flaws, lacks the self-awareness to see the subtle irony of his own faults—an excessive love of despair.

[I]t is a melancholy of mine own, compounded of many simples, extracted from many objects, and indeed the sundry contemplation of my travels, in which my often rumination wraps me in a most humorous sadness. (IV.i.11–12)

Jaques speaks to Rosalind about his melancholy. He presents his sadness as if the emotion was a rarefied sense that he refined over the years. His melancholy, he explains, has been “compounded of many simples,” or experiences, of his life. Jaques luxuriates so much in his melancholy that his state makes him seem to be a dull character and a bore.

There is sure another flood toward, and these couples are coming to the ark. Here comes a pair of very strange beasts, which in all tongues are called fools. (V.iv.37–38)

Jaques, reflecting upon the resolution of many happy couples, remarks how they all look like a band of fools. With reference to the Biblical story, he claims another flood must be coming, for look how all of the “beasts” are pairing off. While Rosalind and Jaques both seem critical of the foolishness of love, each situation leads toward different ends. Of all the characters, Jaques stands alone and miserable at the end of the play.