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Shakespeare's Fools: Touchstone in As You Like It

From The Fools of Shakespeare by Frederick Warde. London: McBride, Nast & company.

"A Worthy Fool"

To term Touchstone a clown, as he is called in the cast of characters of "As You Like It," seems to me both a misnomer and an injustice. His knowledge, his wisdom, his wit and his faculty - of observation, raise him far above the condition that such a term would imply.

Fool to the court of The Duke, whose dukedom is not named, the character of Touchstone is a most positive and complete conception of the mediaeval jester, and he more fully realizes the accomplishments essential to that office, as described by Viola in the "Twelfth Night," than any other of the motley-minded gentlemen that the poet has created.

He is a man of considerable learning, his wit is never lacking in wisdom, he chooses the object of his jests with prudence, the time with discretion, the matter with judgment, and he is never at a loss for a reply that is apt and to the point.

Touchstone scorns mere persiflage, is happily free from the punning habit, and is seldom a corrupter of words; he makes his jests by logical deductions, with a good premise, a sound argument, and a positive conclusion.

This same happy quality may be found in his encounters with the gentlemen of the court, the ladies in their disguises, the simple shepherds in the forest, and with the grave philosopher Jaques; indeed, it is the latter gentleman who most accurately summarizes the accomplishments, and gives the keynote to the jester's character, when he presents him to the Duke: "Is not this a rare fellow, good my lord? he is as good at anything, and yet a fool."

The wit of Touchstone does not scintillate, but burns with a steady flame; it is not like the sparks that fly from the contact of tempered steel, but the bright and ruddy glow that radiates from molten metal in the crucible. It is sententious rather than brilliant, more philosophic than frivolous, and invariably epigrammatic. His hutpor is never malicious, nor his satire bitter; he shoots his wit at every mark that presents itself, but his shafts are harmless; they have no barb and leave no sting.

Touchstone is not a buffoon, he does not play practical jests nor indulge in such pranks as did that "mad rogue" Yorick. Had it been. Touchstone in the churchyard at Elsinore when the sexton was digging a grave, he would not have poured a flagon of wine over the old grave-digger's head; he would probably have leaned against one of the old yew trees, watched the proceedings with quiet reflection, and if the old sexton had advanced any of his socialistic theories, the jester would have argued the matter to the end, and no doubt have beaten him on his own proposition.

There are no demonstrations or expressions of affection by Touchstone, as by the fool in "King Lear," yet he is not lacking in loyalty; he leaves the court of Duke Frederick to follow the fortunes of Celia, the Duke's daughter, out of sincere regard, running the risk of the Duke's displeasure and probably of punishment if discovered; he accepts the fatigues of the journey and the discomforts of life in the forest of Arden without hesitation or complaint; he readily adapts himself to his new environment, keeps his own counsel, as well as that of his mistress, and holds the secret of the disguises of Celia and Rosalind inviolate.

My first acquaintance with Touchstone was made many years ago, at Manchester, in England. A very elaborate production of "As You Like It" was presented at the Prince's Theater there. I played the part of Orlando to the Rosalind of that beautiful and incomparable actress, Miss Adelaide Neilson. Mr. Compton was the fool. I cannot imagine a more adequate and effective performance of the part than Mr. Compton gave; his quaint personality, his unctuous humor, his artistic instinct, added to his ripe experience, combined to present a complete embodiment of the poet's design. The mobility of his features reflected the spirit of every line he uttered; and though he seldom smiled, under the gravity of his expression you seemed to feel there was the keenest appreciation of the humor of the occasion, which laughter would have failed to convey. The memory of Mr. Compton's performance will ever remain with me as the living embodiment of Touchstone.

It is a pleasing pastime to conjure up in one's mind the pictures that Shakespeare has drawn, and give them vitality, form and color. I have endeavored to imagine the scene of the first meeting of Touchstone with the gloomy philosopher Jaques, in the forest, as described by that eccentric gentleman.
A fool, a fool! I met a fool i' the forest,
A motley fool! - a miserable world!
As I do live by food, I met a fool
Who laid him down and bask'd him in the sun
And rail'd on Lady Fortune in good terms,
In good set terms, and yet a motley fool.
The description is brief, but it suggests to the imagination a scene of rare sylvan beauty, and striking human contrast. An opening in the trees where the sun, unimpeded by the heavy foliage of the deep forest brightens the landscape, and the atmosphere is redolent with the fragrance of the wildwood flowers. The bees are humming drowsily, the birds flit by on speedy wings to reach their nests, and from their leafy homes trill out their joy in sweetest melody. Touchstone is lying upon the soft green turf; he imagines himself to be alone, unseen, unheard. He is soliloquizing, speaking his thoughts aloud, as many thinkers do, possibly contrasting the beauties of nature with which he is environed, with the frowns of fortune that have banished his mistress and himself from the luxurious life of the court to the plain, homely existence in the primitive forest. But he is not alone. Jaques, wandering through the forest, observes the motley figure reclining on the ground, and hearing his voice but seeing no auditor, stops and listens. Noting his motley coat, Jaques at first takes the fellow for an ordinary fool, for which most people at that time, including Shakespeare himself, had a profound contempt; but Touchstone's railing is no ordinary abuse; it is in such "good terms," such "good set terms," that the philosopher not only stops to listen to "the motley fool," but is so entertained that he finally accosts, and greets him with a salutation that invites conference.

After the greeting there is another picture. The background is the same, but the figures have changed their position. The fool is still lying upon the ground, now alert and responsive; while Jaques has found the trunk of a friendly tree, against which he leans in contemplative curiosity.

It would be interesting to hear the whole of the dialogue between the recumbent fool and the standing philosopher; but the dramatist was too wise to make such an error of construction. He gives us the main points and leaves the rest to the imagination. That Touchstone was fully equal to the occasion, and "vented from the strange places in his brain, crammed with observation, mangled forms" that impressed and astonished "Good Monsieur Melancholy," is proved by the fact that the latter's usual gravity is changed to the broadest merriment, culminating in his expressed desire to emulate the province of the clown.
O that I were a fool!
I am ambitious for a motley coat.
But to return to that portion of this interesting interview the poet has given us. It is narrated by Jaques himself:
"Good morrow, fool," quoth I. "No, sir," quoth he,
"Call me not fool till heaven hath sent me fortune."
And then he drew a dial from his poke,
And looking on it with lack-lustre eye,
Says very wisely, "It is ten o'clock;
Thus may we see," quoth he, "how the world wags.
'Tis but an hour ago since it was nine,
And after one hour more 'twill be eleven;
And so, from hour to hour, we ripe and ripe,
And then from hour to hour we rot and rot;
And thereby hangs a tale." When I did hear
The motley fool thus moral on the time,
My lungs began to crow like chanticleer,
That fools should be so deep-contemplative,
And I did laugh sans intermission
An hour by his dial. - O noble fool!
A worthy fool! Motley's the only wear.
We are not informed of the effect of the interview on Touchstone but, doubtless, like a good soldier that appreciates a foeman worthy of his steel, he esteemed the philosopher the more after the combat of their wits.

Henry Giles, in his "Human Life of Shakespeare," calls Touchstone "The Hamlet of motley," and finds "a sadness in his jests" and "in his mockery seem(s) to hear echoes from a solitary heart." He epigrammatically summarizes the character as follows: "He is a thinker out of place, a philosopher in mistaken vesture, a genius by nature, an outcast by destiny." It may be presumption on my part to differ from so distinguished an authority, but, while I approve the application of the term "Hamlet of motley" as justified by Touchstone's analogy to the Danish prince in his reflective philosophy on the mutability of life, I fail to find any evidence of "sadness in his jests" or the "echoes from a solitary heart" in his sentiments or conduct. As I have before observed, his jests are not frivolous, but they are characteristic of the man, quaint and sententious, and never lacking in humor.

On the arrival of the fool in the forest of Arden, with Celia and Rosalind, he jests at the love tale which he and the ladies overhear Sylvius relate to Corin, and burlesques the amatory verses that Orlando has written to Rosalind. He meets and courts Audrey, the country wench, with the usual attentions and compliments of a lover in his station, and in the third act arranges to marry her; in fact, he would have done so, but for the advice of Jaques, who urges him to postpone the ceremony till a more favorable opportunity. This opportunity presents itself at the conclusion of the play, and Touchstone is there with his sweetheart, eager, as he declares, to "swear and forswear, according as marriage binds." These conditions do not seem to indicate a solitary heart. As to Mr. Giles's final summary of Touchstone's character, his genius I admit; but a thinker is never out of place: there is no distinctive vesture for a philosopher: and the jester to so important a personage as the Duke can scarcely be termed an outcast.

It would seem by the initial appearance of Touchstone that Shakespeare intended to represent him as the ordinary type of "a dull fool," and later endowed him with the wealth of wit and wisdom that has so enriched the character, and made it so conspicuous in the comedy. This has caused so eminent an authority as Dr. Furness to conclude that Shakespeare intended to present two separate and distinct characters: an ordinary "roynish clown" or "clownish fool," as he is called in the first act, and the keen and witty philosopher, the "worthy fool" we find in the later acts. Again, I am compelled to differ with a distinguished scholar.

I can find nothing inconsistent in the character. In the first act, Touchstone's jests are light and frivolous, but in perfect keeping with the duties of his office, which were to entertain and amuse his master and his household; and even that trifling example of the knight and the pancakes is an apt illustration of his argument on "swearing by his honor"; while his sarcastic reference to "breaking of ribs" as "sport for ladies" is entirely consistent with his philosophic satire in the later acts.

The unities of the character are well preserved, and the link connecting Touchstone at the court with Touchstone in the forest is clearly defined. Rosalind and Celia, having decided to leave the court and seek security in the forest, Rosalind proposes:
What if we assay'd to steal
The clownish fool out of your father's court?
Would he not be a comfort to our travel?
To this proposal Celia eagerly assents:
He'll go along o'er the wide world with me;
Leave me alone to woo him.
That her wooing was successful is obvious, for the next time we meet them they are at the edge of the forest, Touchstone is with them, and like themselves wearied by the journey they have made. The continuity is complete. The same trenchant wit that satirized the "breaking of ribs" at the court, humorously exclaims against the fatigues of the journey, and the discomforts of the forest.
Ros. O Jupiter! how weary are my spirits!
Tou. I care not for my spirits, if my legs were not weary.
Cel. I pray you bear with me; I cannot go further.
Tou. For my part, I had rather bear with you than bear you; yet I should bear no cross if I did bear you, for I think you have no money in your purse.
Ros. Well, this is the forest of Arden.
Tou. Ay, now I am in Arden; the more fool I! when I was at home, I was in a better place: but travelers must be content.
It is obvious to me that the characters developed in the mind of the author as he progressed in the construction of the play, and however clear may have been his first conception of the part, he elaborated and perfected it as the possibilities presented themselves.

Dr. Furness, however, is most emphatic against this view of Shakespeare's methods. He says: "I cannot suppose - it is unthinkable - that from the first instant each character was not present before him in perfect symmetry and absolute completeness."

This is the natural point of view of such an accomplished scholar and scientific literary critic as Dr. Furness; but Shakespeare had not the Doctor's advantages of a systemized education, nor such profound literary culture. Shakespeare adopted methods of his own, which were at variance with conventionality; he discarded the scientific rules of construction, followed the natural instincts of his own mind, and established a new standard of dramatic writing.

Such evidence as we have, indicates that nearly all of the poet's play-writing was hastily done, and as he then thought, but for temporary use on the stage. We have no evidence of revision either for publication or for subsequent reproduction, but much that justifies the inference that he was indifferent to the merits of his dramatic work; so that while his plots may have been carefully prepared, the characters grew in detailed importance as they developed in the mind of the actor-dramatist, and the construction of the play proceeded. It must also be remembered that Shakespeare worked from more than one point of view; he possessed the creative faculty of the author, the ideality of the poet, the constructive ability of the dramatist, as well as the actor's instinct of delineation. This condition I assume to have existed in the construction of "As You Like It," and the result was the evolution of Touchstone.

The story of the knight and the pancakes, referred to in the foregoing lines, is told by Touchstone in the second scene of the first act; his initial appearance in the play.

Rosalind and Celia are in the gardens of the Duke's palace, when they are approached by Touchstone, who addressing Celia, says: - "Mistress, you must come away to your father." Celia responds with the question, "Were you made the messenger?" "No, by mine honor," asserts Touchstone, "but I was bid to come for you." Honor being a quality with which a fool was not supposed to be familiar, his asseveration draws from Rosalind the query, "Where learned you that oath, fool?" to which Touchstone replies as follows: "Of a certain knight who swore by his honor they were good pancakes, and swore by his honor the mustard was naught. Now I'll stand to it, the pancakes were naught and the mustard was good, and yet was not the knight forsworn."

The ladies at this apparent trifling, grow sarcastic, Celia asking, "How prove you that in the great heap of your knowledge?" Rosalind echoes her cousin's sentiment by adding, "Ay, marry, now unmuzzle your wisdom." For answer, Touchstone requests the ladies, "Stand you both forth now; stroke your chins, and swear by your beards that I am a knave." The ladies do as requested, passing their hands over their faces, Celia exclaiming, "By our beards, if we had them, thou art." Touchstone concludes the story and the argument by asserting: "By my knavery, if I had it, then I were; but if you swear by that that is not, you are not forsworn. No more was this knight, swearing by his honor, for he never had any; or if he had, he had sworn it away before ever he saw those pancakes or that mustard."

Learning from the fool that the story has reference to a friend of her father, Celia threatens him with the whip, for "taxation." Touchstone's reply is worthy of the keenest satirist: "The more pity, that fools may not speak wisely when wise men do foolishly."

The advent of Le Beau, a courtier, puts an end to the discussion. Le Beau invites the ladies to see some wrestling, which he terms "good sport," and describes with much detail the bouts that have already occurred, in which Charles, the champion wrestler, has overthrown and broken the ribs of three young men, brothers, who have essayed to compete with him. Le Beau reports the young men as having been apparently fatally injured, and that some of the more sympathetic spectators have joined the aged father of the boys in his lamentations at their hurts. At the conclusion of Le Beau's narrative Touchstone gravely inquires, "But what is the sport, Monsieur, that the ladies have lost?" "Why, this that I speak of," returns the courtier. "Thus," replies Touchstone, "men may grow wiser every day! It is the first time that ever I heard breaking of ribs was sport for ladies."

In the early days of my dramatic experience, there was an unworthy "gag" introduced into this scene by comedians who played Touchstone. At the conclusion of the wrestling, which is witnessed by the ladies and Touchstone, the champion is worsted by Orlando, and thrown senseless to the ground. The duke, with whom the wrestler is a favorite, inquires with some anxiety, "How dost thou, Charles?" in reply to which Le Beau should answer, "He cannot speak, my lord." Comedians, however, were permitted to appropriate this line and would preface it with the words, "He says," making the sentence in its entirety read, "He says he cannot speak, my lord!" a poverty-stricken jest of which Touchstone would have been incapable. Happily, this "gag" is now omitted.

The journey of Rosalind, Celia and Touchstone to the forest of Arden has been already referred to, together with the latter's witticisms on the subject, but there is one passage of the fool's I cannot refrain from repeating, "Travelers must be content."

Speaking from many years of experience over many miles and in many lands, I know of no bit of wisdom, wit, or philosophy in the realm of literature that expresses a more emphatic truth than those four words of Touchstone.

It is while resting "in the skirt of the forest" that the travelers, unperceived, overhear a lover's complaint by a young shepherd, Sylvius, to his more mature friend Corin. The relation of the passion of the young shepherd brings from Rosalind the acknowledgment that she is similarly affected; and Touchstone declares he too has suffered, and humorously describes his experiences with Jane Smile, concluding with the sage averment: "We that are true lovers run into strange capers; but as all is mortal in nature, so is all nature in love mortal in folly." The sentiment is approved by Rosalind, who remarks, "Thou speakest wiser than thou art ware of." "Nay," modestly replies Touchstone, "I shall ne'er be ware of mine own wit till I break my shins against it."

Touchstone's adaptability and good nature soon make him friends and in the third act we find him in pleasant converse with the old shepherd Corin, who evidently has considerable respect for him, for he addresses him first as "Master Touchstone" and subsequently as "Sir." Corin's homely wit, however, is no match for that of Touchstone, but the latter is compelled, in justice, to acknowledge that even in the limited sphere of his pastoral life the shrewd observations of the old shepherd have made him a natural philosopher. The dialogue is bright and characteristic throughout the scene, but the passages quoted below are especially good examples of Touchstone's logical reasoning.

Cor. And how like you this shepherd's life, Master Touchstone?
Tou. Truly, shepherd, in respect of itself, it is a good life; but in respect that it is a shepherd's life, it is naught. In respect that it is solitary, I like it very well; but in respect that it is private, it is a very vile life. Now, in respect it is in the fields, it pleaseth me well; but in respect it is not in the court, it is tedious. As it is a spare life, look you, it fits my humor well: but as there is no more plenty in it, it goes much against my stomach. - Wast ever at court, Shepherd?
Cor. No, truly.
Tou. Then thou art damned.
Cor. For not being at court? Your reason.
Tou. Why, if thou never wast at court, thou never saw'st good manners; if thou never saw'st good manners, then thy manners must be wicked; and wickedness is sin, and sin is damnation. A little more reasoning, and Corin confesses himself unable to cope further with Touchstone:
Cor. You have too courtly a wit for me; I'll rest.
Tou. Wilt thou rest damned? God help thee, shallow man. If thou be'st not damned for this, the devil himself will have no shepherds.
It is evident that at this time Touchstone has not yet fallen a victim to the bucolic charms of Audrey; for he ridicules, with extemporaneous doggerel, the very interesting love verses that Rosalind has found hanging on the forest trees, and so seriously offends the lady that he is summarily dismissed from her presence.

Shortly after, however, in spite of his sad experience with Jane Smile, we find him paying assiduous court to the rustic maiden, Audrey; offering "to fetch up her goats," plying her with the usual questions, and awaiting her replies with the usual anxiety of a lover; but the court fool's language and references to classic Ovid are beyond the understanding of the simple country wench, who ingenuously asks for further information. This is somewhat discouraging to the motley lover, and he thus complains: "When a man's verses cannot be understood, nor a man's good wit seconded with the forward child Understanding, it strikes a man more dead than a great reckoning in a little room."

He then expresses the wish that the gods had made her poetical. This, too, is beyond Audrey's comprehension, and she artlessly inquires, "Is it honest in deed and word? Is it a true thing?" In spite of Touchstone's desire that Audrey should be poetical, he has apparently no very exalted opinion of poetry, for in reply to her query he replies, "No, truly, for the truest poetry is the most feigning; and lovers are given to poetry; and what they swear in poetry may be said as lovers they do feign."

I must confess that I find almost as much difficulty as Audrey in comprehending the argument of Touchstone in the following passages.... These words are clear enough, even to the simple understanding of Audrey, who asks in surprise, "Would you not have me honest?" It is Touchstone's reply to this question that I find confusing. He evidently has a sincere affection for this homely country girl; he admires her ingenuous simplicity in spite of her ignorance, and his intentions are honorable, for he proposes to make her his wife; yet he answers Audrey's question, first, with an emphatic negative, "No, truly," and then makes the following reservation, "Unless thou wert hard favour'd," and gives the concluding illogical reason, "For honesty coupled to beauty is to have honey a sauce to sugar."

It may be that Touchstone's worldly wisdom sees danger in too many virtues, and the honesty of Audrey is sufficient attraction without beauty. There is a ring of sincerity in Audrey's rejoinder; a note that argues well for harmony, and a longer voyage on the sea of matrimony than Jaques allots them. Audrey may not be learned or poetical, but neither is she shallow nor vain like the little shepherdess, Phoebe; she is not coquetting for a compliment, but with refreshing candor admits: "Well, I am not fair, and therefore I pray the gods to make me honest." I find in Audrey's simple prayer and womanly candor qualities indicating that in the choice of a wife Touchstone has neither been unwise nor unfortunate.

It would appear that Touchstone had little doubt of the success of his suit, for he not only tells Audrey that he will marry her, but has anticipated matters by engaging Sir Oliver Martext, the vicar of the next village, to meet them "in this place in the forest, and to couple us."

That Audrey approves of this hasty wooing is evidenced by her characteristically implied consent, "Well, the gods give us joy!" to which Touchstone adds, "Amen!"

As the fateful moment approaches, however, Touchstone indulges in some self-communion: "A man may, if he were of a fearful heart, stagger in this attempt; for here we have no temple but the wood, no assembly but horn-beasts. But what, though? ... Is the single man therefore blessed? No; as a walled town is more worthier than a village, so is the forehead of a married man more honorable than the bare brow of a bachelor; and by how much defense is better than no skill, by so much is a horn more precious than to want." Having arrived at this conclusion, Sir Oliver Martext having arrived also, Touchstone is anxious that the ceremony shall proceed, and asks of the vicar, "Will you despatch us here under the tree, or shall we go with you to your chapel?" For reply, the vicar, looking around, asks, "Is there none here to give the woman?" to which the fool, who is obviously unfamiliar with the marriage service responds, "I will not take her on gift of any man."

As this attitude of Touchstone seems liable to postpone indefinitely, if not prevent the ceremony altogether, Jaques, who has been listening unobserved to the entire scene, steps forward and offers his services. Having, however, acquired a profound respect for Touchstone, and perceiving that he is in earnest in his desire to be married to Audrey, Jaques urges him to have the ceremony performed in a church by a properly ordained minister, and the appropriate surroundings of a gentleman; rather than by a hedge-priest in the forest, like a beggar. Touchstone hesitates before adopting this course, and Shakespeare has put an aside speech into his mouth, which if taken seriously would destroy much of our respect for him. Some of the commentators have taken it seriously, and have deduced the conclusion that Touchstone intended to deceive Audrey ; but I cannot think it. Every action of the fool, and every other line that the author has given him, expresses sincere regard and indicates honorable intentions.

The entire speech seems to me to be the spontaneous expression of the humor of the situation, as it appears to the keen sense of our motley friend. The subject matter is not new nor the treatment of it original. Marriage has been the theme of jest at all times, to all conditions of people, and Touchstone was too instinctively a jester not to appreciate the possibility of a jest, even on himself. The lines are as follows: (Aside) "I am not in the mind but I were better to be married of him than of another, for he is not like to marry me well, and not being well married, will be a good excuse for me hereafter to leave my wife."

However, Touchstone and Audrey accompany Jaques to discuss the matter further, leaving the despised Sir Oliver in high dudgeon, and without a fee. Jaques evidently succeeded in convincing Touchstone of the propriety of his suggestion, but Audrey fails to comprehend the necessity of delay. To her limited understanding, one priest is as good as another. In the first scene of the fifth act she emphatically expresses her impatience, indicating that she has an opinion, if not a will, of her own, and protests, "Faith, the priest was good enough, for all the old gentleman's saying." Touchstone finds it quite a task for his wit to pacify the lady, and is only successful by diverting her attention to the claims of another to her affections; a certain forest youth named William. It is a shrewd piece of diplomacy on the part of the fool, and not new to the world by any means; to terminate an argument by changing the subject, and affecting reproach, or of meeting one accusation by making another. Audrey, however, denies the soft impeachment, and fortunately the bucolic gentleman referred to appears most opportunely on the scene.

Touchstone regards the newcomer critically, and complacently observes, "It is meat and drink to me to see a clown. By my troth, we that have good wits have much to answer for; we shall be flouting, we cannot hold."

It is a curiously contrasted group we have before us now: The country girl, awkward and embarrassed in the presence of her rustic suitor, and her court trained lover; the forest youth, ill at ease, nervously shifting from one foot to the other, as he stands, hat in hand before her; and the smug, self-satisfied court fool, who conscious of possession, revels in his superiority, and rejoices in the discomfiture of his unsuccessful rival.

With what a delightful assumption of patronage, Touchstone questions the simple William, encourages, emboldens, then confuses, and finally drives the poor fellow from the field with the most terrible threats of disaster and death. The scene is rich in comedy, but beneath the surface may be appreciated a deep satire on the world.

One passage especially, presents a most wholesome truth, that it is superfluous for me to emphasize, but which I cannot forbear quoting. Amongst other questions, Touchstone asks of William, "Art thou wise?" William incautiously replies, "Ay, sir, I have a pretty wit." This is Touchstone's opportunity, and he retorts: "Why, thou sayest well. I do now remember a saying, The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool."

Touchstone is now summoned by his "master and mistress" (Rosalind, disguised as Ganymede, and Celia), who evidently acquaint him of their matrimonial intentions, and approve of his; for the next time we meet the motley "lover and his lass," the former tells her, "To-morrow is the joyful day, Audrey; to-morrow will we be married," to which she candidly and sensibly replies, "I do desire it with all my heart; and I hope it is no dishonest desire to be a woman of the world."

Audrey's wishes are shortly realized; Rosalind, the good fairy, waves her wand, and the forest of Arden becomes a veritable Temple of Hymen. All differences are adjusted, all wrongs righted, and true love receives its reward. It is a joyous meeting of their betters, to which Touchstone brings his prospective bride, and to which they are heralded by Jaques in his characteristic fashion: "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."

However, on their appearance he bespeaks a welcome for them from the Duke: "Good my lord, like this fellow," to which the Duke courteously replies, "I like him very well."

Touchstone's acknowledgment is characteristic, if not especially gallant; but his self-abnegation is scarcely consistent with his previously expressed declaration, that he would not take Audrey "on gift of any man." However, his concluding epigram is convincing, and his metaphor perfect: "God 'ield you, sir! I desire of you the like. I press in here, sir, amongst the rest of the country copulatives, to swear and forswear, according as marriage binds and blood breaks. A poor virgin, sir, an ill-favored thing, sir, but mine own; a poor humor of mine, sir, to take that that no man else will. Rich honesty dwells like a miser, sir, in a poor house, as your pearl in your foul oyster."

The completeness of the character of Touchstone is achieved in his last scene.... Here Touchstone is in his element. Surrounded by persons who understand his office and can appreciate his wit, he appears at his best. The various accomplishments by which he claims the title of a courtier, are irresistibly amusing, and the humor may be applied to some modern views on gallantry, as well as to mediaeval standards of courtesy.

How to cite this article:
Warde, Frederick. The Fools of Shakespeare. London: McBride, Nast & company, 1915. Shakespeare Online. 2 Aug. 2011. (date when you accessed the information) < >.

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Touchstone, played by James Lewis. From The Fools of Shakespeare by Frederick Warde.