Explanatory notes for Act 2, Scene 7
From As You Like It. Ed. Samuel Thurber, Jr. and Louise Wetherbee. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1922.
(Line numbers have been altered.)
In this scene our acquaintance with Jaques and Duke Senior is enlarged. The philosopher meets the fool and each appreciates the other in his own way. The scene also brings Orlando and Adam to the forest. All together it is one of the most interesting in the play.
Line 4. merry: The First Lord's idea of Jaques as merry
certainly proves his lack of observation.
5. compact of jars: full of discords. Observe Shakespeare's
power of revealing a character in a few words.
6. discord in the spheres: A theory of the Greek, Pythagoras, that the heavenly bodies revolve about the earth and with
each revolution a note is sounded which makes a harmony.
Compare Lorenzo's speech to Jessica in the last act of "The Merchant of Venice" where he says:
"There's not the smallest orb which thou behold'st
But in his motion like an angel sings,
Still quiring to the young-eyed cherubims."
11. what ... merrily: What do the Duke's words tell us of
the change in Jaques?
12. Touchstone is apparently amusing himself in his new home.
13. motley: parti-colored dress of the fool. a miserable
world: Jaques bethinks himself of his usual pose and heaves a
16. basked: to lie in warmth.
19. This is a reference to the old proverb, "Fortune favors
20. dial: probably a watch. poke: the pocket or pouch
which the fool always wore.
21. lack-lustre: wanting brightness. Touchstone may have
assumed the air of boredom to draw out Jaques.
22. Time and change are the two phases of life particularly
interesting to Shakespeare.
28. And ... tale: the word wags in line 23 may suggest
a pun in tale. Are you reminded of Kipling's 'but that is
31. deep-contemplative: deeply observant.
32. sans: French word for without, as used in line 165.
34. only wear: the only thing to wear.
36. courtier: Touchstone is still a snob.
39. dry: retentive. This passage seems to imply that Touchstone has stored up in his brain many strange bits, which he
expresses in broken phrases.
42. O ... fool: Perhaps you feel that he does not have to
make this wish.
44. suit: Had suit better be read as meaning petition or as
meaning dress? Consider which sense better fits the situation.
45. weed: Note the play upon words and the puns which
48. charter: liberty.
50. galled: vexed.
52. Why is the way plain?
55. bob: jest.
56. anatomized: See I. i. 145.
57. squandering: random. The meaning of the passage
seems to be as follows: Even if a fool manages to find a weak
spot with his wit, a wise man will appear ignorant of the shot:
otherwise his weakness will be revealed.
63. counter: a piece of metal or ivory used for reckoning in a game. Then it comes to mean a coin when scornfully alluded
64. It does not take the Duke long to turn tables on Jaques. This glimpse of his former life shows the poet's skill in enlarging
our view of his characters. Such a man as Jaques could never teach men how to live.
70. The question means: "Who says that I can mean him?"
71. tax: blame.
73. wearer's: Jaques probably refers to spending too much
money for clothes.
75-76. The women of the city try to imitate those of higher
79-82. Those holding humble position dress better than they
should. The whole defense is weak, for Jaques says that he
has no intention of naming any individuals and therefore he will
harm no one.
87. Does Jaques welcome the interruption?
94. vein: temper.
96. inland bred: as opposed to wilder, uncultivated districts.
97. nurture: breeding.
101. The contrast of the Duke's reply to Orlando's threat
indicates the former's character.
106. Why should Orlando be so surprised at this courtesy?
108. The speech from here abounds in beauty of word and
119. Does the Duke merely repeat the words or does he vary
them in his own exquisite manner? Consider this in your reading.
122. engendered: called forth.
130. sufficed: satisfied.
136. This metaphor is one of the commonest in literature.
Shakespeare uses it more than once. Compare Antonio's speech
in "The Merchant of Venice."
"I hold the world but as the world, Gratiano;
A stage where every man must play a part,
And mine a sad one."
137. pageants: What does Shakespeare mean by a pageant?
138. This is an opportunity which Jaques cannot afford to miss and there follows one of the best known and most frequently
quoted passages in any of Shakespeare's plays. The idea of the seven ages of man has been used in art and poetry many
times. Jaques draws his picture from his usual cynical point of view and intends to belittle man in all his ages. All ... stage:
Over the Globe Theatre was the Latin motto, "Totus mundus
agit histrionem," meaning All the world plays the actor. Shakespeare did not have to go far for the introductory thought.
143. Mewling: The first syllable ought to give a hint as to
146. Can you see the schoolboy — and perhaps sympathize with him?
147. ballad: Remember that this was a period when hundreds of love sonnets were being written, including Shakespeare's
149. like a pard: like a leopard.
153. capon: a fattened chicken.
155. wise saws: wise sayings. modern instances: commonplace illustrations.
162. his: its. This long speech has, of course, been used to
fill in the time while they are waiting for Orlando to return with
173. Note that the song seems to be the outcome of the feeling aroused by the condition of Adam and Orlando. Here Adam
disappears. Has he played his part well?
192. effigies: likeness.
193. limned: lined.
1. How have we been prepared for the table?
2. Now that we have the Duke and Jaques together, contrast
3. What has Touchstone found to do in the forest?
4. Why is Jaques so anxious to play the part of a fool?
5. Does the discontent of Touchstone and Jaques contribute any element of unhappiness to the life of the dwellers of the forest? Does their discontent make them disloyal followers?
6. Put into your own words the fool's idea of time.
7. What sharp lesson for Jaques does the Duke point out?
8. How is Orlando's entrance made dramatic?
9. How does Jaques say his famous speech and what are the
others doing? You should memorize this speech.
10. How does Orlando bring in Adam? Note the word, burden. Picture the scene here.
11. What do the Duke and Orlando whisper about during
12. Give all the examples you can of the cynicism of Jaques.
13. How far has this act carried us in the play?
How to cite the explanatory notes:
Shakespeare, William. As You Like It. Eds. Samuel Thurber, Jr. and Louise Wetherbee. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1922. Shakespeare Online. 10 Aug. 2010. (date when you accessed the information) < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/asu_2_7.html >.