Role Of Jaques in Shakespeare's As You Like It

Role Of Jaques in Shakespeare's As You Like It

Length: 1032 words (2.9 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Excellent

Open Document

Essay Preview

More ↓

Role Of Jaques in As You Like It


The essentially healthy emotional intelligence of Rosalind and Orlando and their suitability for each other emerge from their separate encounters with Jaques (in some editions Jacques), the melancholy ex-courtier who is part of Duke Senior's troupe in the forest. Both Rosalind and Orlando take an instant dislike to Jaques (which is mutual). And in that dislike we are invited to see something vitally right about the two of them.


For Jaques is, in effect, the opposite of everything Rosalind stands for. He is a moody cynic, who likes to look at life and draw from it poetical contemplations at the generally unsatisfactory nature of the world. He is, in a sense, an initial Hamlet-like figure (the comparison is frequently made), someone without any motivating erotic joy, who compensates for his inadequacy by trying to drag everything down to the level of his empty emotions and by verbalizing at length in poetical images. He takes some pride in what he calls his very own brand of melancholy which can suck the joy out of life as a weasel sucks the protein out of an egg (an interesting image of the destruction of new living potential), and he spends his time wallowing in it. His own social desire seems to be to find someone else to wallow in the same emotional mud as he does. But the spirits of the other characters, especially of Rosalind and Orlando, are too vital and creative to respond favourably to Jaques's attempts to cut life down to fit his limited moods.


That judgment no doubt sounds quite harsh. And perhaps it is, for Jaques is a relatively harmless person, who deceives no one (nor does he try to), and his poetical reflections, like Hamlet's, are often seductive. But we should not let the fame of some of his utterances (particularly the famous "Seven Ages of Man" speech in 2.7, a frequently anthologized piece of so-called Shakespearean "wisdom") conceal the fact that his approach to life is thoroughly negative. He sees no value in anything other than calling attention to the world's deficiencies. He does not recognize in the fellowship, music, and love all around him any countervailing virtues.

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Role Of Jaques in Shakespeare's As You Like It." 23 Sep 2018

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Shakespeare's As You Like It - The Philosophy of Jaques Essay

- The Philosophy of Jaques in As You Like It Jaques is one of the characters in Shakespeare`s comedy As You Like It. We- as audience and readers- learn that although he was previously a libertine, he now seems to have turned to philosophy in his quest for a new identity. As a philosopher he questions much of what he sees around him. At one point Jaques analyses what it is to be a man (II,vii, 60-166). He sees the world as a stage wherein men and women are players, and their different ages represent different acts and scenes in the play....   [tags: Shakespeare As You Like It Essays]

Free Essays
682 words (1.9 pages)

The Fool in William Shakespeare's As You Like It Essay

- The Fool in William Shakespeare's As You Like It The fool is one of the first character archetypes that any student of literature learns how to analyze. Despite his seemingly light or even pointless chatter, the fool usually manages to say some fairly important things. Upon further study, the student may perceive that it is because of his penchant for silliness that the fool is given leave to express even offensive truths about the other characters. What happens, though, when one fool encounters another....   [tags: William Shakespeare As You Like Essays]

Research Papers
1539 words (4.4 pages)

Shakespeare's As You Like It - Importance of the Secondary Characters Essay

- As You Like It:  The Importance of the Secondary Characters       As You Like It, by William Shakespeare, is a radiant blend of fantasy, romance, wit and humor. In this delightful romp, Rosalind stands out as the most robust, multidimensional and lovable character, so much so that she tends to overshadow the other characters in an audience's memory, making them seem, by comparison, just "stock dramatic types". Yet, As You Like It is not a stock romance that just happens to have Shakespeare's greatest female role....   [tags: Shakespeare As You Like It Essays]

Research Papers
1543 words (4.4 pages)

Essay about The Issue of Gender in "As You Like It"

- One of the most intriguing aspects of As You Like It by William Shakespeare concerns the issue of gender. This issue generates a lot of interest and discussions due to its complexity. The main reason for such a concern in the play is the cross-dressing and role-playing. The central love interest between Rosalind and Orlando calls into question the conservative wisdom about men and women and their gender roles. It also challenges our presumptions about these roles in courtship, love, and relationships....   [tags: literary analysis, Shakespeare]

Research Papers
1267 words (3.6 pages)

The Role of the Forest in Midsummer Night's Dream and As You Like It Essay

- William Shakespeare often compares imagination and reality in his plays. He explores this comparison through the role and purpose of the forests in Midsummer Night's Dream and As You Like It. Midsummer Night's Dream focuses on imagination and escape, while As You like It focuses on reality and self discovery. Imagination plays a key role in Midsummer Night's Dream. Puck, a fairy servant and friend of Oberon watches six Athenian men practice a play to be performed for Theseus wedding in the forest....   [tags: compare contrast]

Research Papers
1396 words (4 pages)

Jaques's Perspective in Shakespeare's As You Like It Essay

- Jaques's Perspective in As You Like It       A cynic's cynic might declare Jaques no better than the guy who lurks in corners at a cocktail party, lobbing witty barbs at anyone unlucky enough to catch his eye. But this assessment robs Shakespeare's comedy of its sociological depth; what might be pleasant fluff about young people in love is enhanced by Jaques's ability to make stern judgments about the world, yet still respect the people who comprise it.   Indeed, Jaques observes astutely from the sidelines....   [tags: Shakespeare As You Like It Essays]

Research Papers
552 words (1.6 pages)

Jaques Speech Act in As You Like It

- Jaques Speech Act in As You Like It In William Shakespeare’s As You Like It the speech act is introduced and helps to create a unique insight into the play and its events. Shakespeare integrates a speech act by Jaques to deliver a deeper meaning and lesson to the audience or reader of the work. Jaques in his speech act conveys a message with a much deeper meaning and teaching to society in general. The speech act rendered by Jaques addresses the themes of satire, philosophy, and the ages of man....   [tags: William Shakespeare Jaques Essays]

Research Papers
939 words (2.7 pages)

The Dramatic and Linguistic Means by which Shakespeare Presents Various Aspects of Love in As You Like It

- The Dramatic and Linguistic Means by which Shakespeare Presents Various Aspects of Love in As You Like It The play "As you like it" was at the beginning of the 17th century and in this era, audiences were fascinated by language and Shakespeare capitalised on this by creating a play that focuses on the use of language and drama to portray different aspects of love through many of the characters. The hero-heroine relationship between Orlando and Rosalind is the antithesis of the petrachan love of Silvius and Phoebe....   [tags: Papers]

Free Essays
577 words (1.6 pages)

Observations on Shakespeare's As You Like It Essay

- Observations on As You Like It As You Like It will be for many of you a rather difficult play to appreciate and interpret simply on the basis of a reading. The reasons for this are not difficult to ascertain. The play is, as I have observed, a pastoral comedy, that is, a comedy which involves a traditional literary style of moving sophisticated urban courtiers out into the countryside, where they have to deal with life in a very different manner from that of the aristocratic court....   [tags: Shakespeare As You Like It Essays]

Free Essays
935 words (2.7 pages)

Relationships in Shakespeare's As You Like It Essay

- Relationships in As You Like It      "Pronounce that sentence on me, my liege. I cannot live out of her company"(Shakespeare quoted in Norton Anthology 1611). Who made these remarks about the dear Rosalind, was it Celia, the one whom she calls 'coz', or is Orlando the man that she is in love with. The question then becomes if Celia said these words what was her meaning. Is it that Celia is attracted to Rosalind as more than a friend or is this just an example of the female friendships of the time....   [tags: Shakespeare As You Like It Essays]

Research Papers
1433 words (4.1 pages)

Related Searches


This point is made really explicit at the very end of the "Seven Ages of Man" speech (2.7.138-165). As Jaques concludes his cynical evaluation of the emptiness of human life by talking about how in old age men become useless lumps of flesh ("Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything"), Orlando enters carrying Adam. The latter is the living denial of everything Jaques has just said, for Adam is very old, but has actively striven to help Orlando with generosity, love, and a sense of duty, qualities which confer upon him an emphatic and obvious value. The dramatic irony in that entrance points us to the severely limited and limiting understanding of the world which Jaques has just uttered.


[As an aside, it might be worth remarking that this habit of excerpting speeches of Shakespeare and setting them up as "gems" outside of their immediate dramatic context has the unfortunate tendency to immortalize a passage as some special insight into the nature of life when it is, in fact, quite the reverse. The speech of Jaques is, along with the advice of the Polonius to his son, the most famous example of this problem. Far from being a particularly mature earned insight into anything important, Jaques's speech is an indication of his limited and unwelcome sense of the unsatisfactory nature of life. The entrance of Orlando and Adam underscores this point.]


Oscar Wilde, in one of his most famous apophthegems, once defined a cynic as one who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. That definition applies very well to Jaques, and it helps us at once understand why Rosalind and Orlando will have nothing to do with him. Rosalind understands that love comes at a price. Time will change things, and a commitment in love brings with it the risk of infidelity (and there is much talk of that in the play). But she will not therefore deny its value or refuse to take the risk. On the contrary, she determines to extract the full value from her excited feelings for Orlando, not by freezing those feelings in some sour poetical reflections but by experiencing them moment by moment, no matter what the future may bring. Orlando also is too full of the spirit of life to find anything in Jaques's gentle but persistent pessimism at all worth bothering about.


I don't mean to over-emphasize the kill-joy quality of Jaques. He is generally harmless enough, particularly in this play where everyone recognizes him for what he is and where he has no particular interest in pulling others down to his level against their will. If they don't want to sit down with him and rail against the first born of Egypt, he's content to move away on his own. But it's significant that he's not a fully participating member of the final celebrations and that he is going to remain in the forest. He has learned nothing and, indeed, is incapable of learning anything, simply because he is not open to experience (in terms of the earlier analysis I offered of Richard II and Hamlet, Jaques is a "chatterer"). He's made up his mind what life is all about, and he is seeking confirmation of a pre-set attitude.

Traversi's summary comment on Jaques hits the mark precisely:


. . . Jacques' motive is, in the last analysis "observation," the gratifying of a self regarding curiosity based on a kind of personal impotence, an inability to participate fully and naturally in the processes of life; and, since his attitude is one which implies throughout an incapacity for genuine giving, for the positive acceptance of an order, at once natural and distinctively human, beyond the isolated self--the acceptance by which, in love or otherwise, the self is at last justified--he remains a mere marginal presence in the process by which that order is finally . . . consummated. (An Approach to Shakespeare, Vol. 1, p. 328)

Return to