Jacques: Character Analysis in As You Like It

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      In the play As You Like It the character Jacques portrait as a particular type of psychological disposition namely the melancholy. As a person, Jacques belongs to the family of Oliver and Orlando is one of the sons of Sir Rowland de Boice. He is depicted as such a character whose outlook towards life can be termed as pessimistic by temperament.

       Jacques is always found in the play extremely sad who suffers from his sense of melancholy perspective of life. Jacques is always found upset and every time the man and scene lamenting and moralizing upon the fate of the entire mankind. His famous speech which occurs in scene 6, Act 2 is extremely philosophic at the same time feels oneself with the sensation of melancholy. His speech "All the world a stage and all the men and women merely players......." truly provides the typical sensation of a philosopher.

Jacques representing the particular type of psychological disposition melancholy.
Jacques (As You Like It)

      Jaques is a melancholy lord attending Duke Senior in banishment. Jaques is commonly considered Touchstone's foil, as he provides commentary on the play's diverse issues from a completely different perspective. Jaques's misanthropy, or distaste for humanity, initially casts a dark shadow over the events in Arden forest.

      Where Duke Senior expresses regret at the killing of the "native burghers of this desert city" - the deer - "in their own confines " essentially as an afterthought, Jaques weeps at the sight and sound of a wounded deer pouring forth tears and heaving its last breaths. As reported by a lord, Jaques goes so far as to "most invectively..... pierceth through The body of the country, city, court, Yea, and of this our life, swearing that we are mere usurpers, tyrants". Thus, while Duke Senior has already been cast as a virtuous man, in contrast to the usurper Frederick, Jaques characterizes not only the elder duke but also all the men who have invaded the forest as usurpers in turn. The melancholy philosophizer can be seen as something of an environmentalist. Jaques's anti-humanism is highlighted when Duke Senior's party is unable to locate him and one lord remarks, "I think he be transformed into a beast, For I can nowhere find him like a man".

      Overall, the audience does not develop a favorable impression of Jaques. While Jaques reveals a certain fondness for Touchstone and professes his own desire to become a fool, so as to better "Cleanse the foul body of th' infected world", Duke Senior promptly discredits him for having been a "libertine, As sensual as the brutish sting itself". Indeed, Jaques is Something of a parody of an Elizabethan stereotype (and of a number of Shakespeare's contemporary satirists), the traveler who returns from abroad only to become discontented with domestic life. Shakespeare shows no sympathy for Jaques throughout the play: his cynical statements are rebuked time and again by Rosalind, Orlando, Touchstone, and Duke Senior. Even the initial portrayal of Jaques as an environmentalist is negated when he revels later in the killing of a second deer, hailing the successful hunter as a "Roman conqueror"; the text gives no evidence that the line would have been delivered ironically

      In the end, Jaques refuses to take part in the wedding celebration even vicariously, noting, "I am for other than for dancing measures", and many commentators have read this as Shakespeare's ultimate condemnation of Jaques's character: he simply can not take part in life's joys. Yet while most of the protagonists will be returning to the oft-decried courtly life, Jaques intends to join the newly religious Duke Frederick, remarking, "Out of these convertites There is much matter to be heard and learned". His final lines, which are somewhat cryptic - "what you would have I'll stay to know at your abandoned cave" - at the very least indicate that he is devoted to the ideal of the pastoral world, rather than having merely vacationed there out of necessity.

      The popularity of Jacques is based on his interest and amusement along with the fun he provides to others with his close observation. It is Jacques who gives a complete realistic touch to the pastoral, when he points out the flaws in the ideal Arden by commenting on the wondered deer. Jacques is almost a kind of observer, extremely sensitive having imagination enough to see the common facts of nature in such a way so that then no longer seen common.

       In the Arden, during the conversation between Jacques and Touchstone, he shows his capacity of witty humor. Though he is perpetually finding everything, still he deserves our admiration as being the person who maintains a link between the court and the forest of Arden. It is thus Jacques has his importance in the general scheme of As You Like It. He is of all the character the gravest and the most intellectual and a serious tone to this guy comedy by his somber reflections.

      In some of the comedies of Shakespeare there is a character who is an outsider. Jacques stands apart, and loses the sympathy of everyone. In Twelfth Night it is Molvolio who thinks that because he is puritan there will be no cakes and ale. In As You Like It it is Jaques. There are some who are doomed to be dissatisfied in whatever condition of life they may be. Jaques is such a character. He is a critic of society, and yet he himself has been a libertine. Duke Senior rebukes him.

For thou, thyself hast been a libertine,
As sensual as the brutish sting itself;
And all the embossed sores, and headed evils,
That thou with license of free foot has caught
Would thou disgorge into the general world.

      He is an Observer, not an Actor. Jacques, as Hazlitt points out, does nothing. His musing runs like a thread across the cheeryworld of Arden. He is the ‘prince of philosophical idlers’. His only passion is thought. He has been therefore compared to Hamlet. He moralizes into a thousand similes the spectacle of a weeping stag. He speaks of his ‘often rumination’, wrapping himself in a most humorous madness. He is as much a philosopher as the Duke himself, but he lacks vision, purity and benevolence. He is always contemplating and never acts. Only once he performs an action in the play when he endeavors to prevent the illegal marriage of Touchstone and Audrey.

      Jacques is melancholic and morose and sees evil in everything. He is perpetually finding fault, railing on Lady Fortune, censuring all mankind, aiming his sarcasm at persons of all conditions. Even the innocent life of the Duke and his companions in the forest does not escape his satire:

Thus most invectively he pierceth through
The body of the country, city, court,
Yea, and of this life, shearing thate
Are mere usurpers, tyrants and what’s worse.
He is a thorough pessimist, In his opinion all are either fools or knaves.
That they call compliment is like the encounter of two dogapes.

      The high-born ‘the first born of Egypt’ - and those who have succeeded in the world are the marks of his satire. Jacques has abandoned the society and hates the world to be sad is his habit. He says,

‘I can suck melancholy out of a song, as a weasel sucks eggs.’

      Gervinus says about his melancholy, “Wholly compact of jars he is blunted to all friendly habits, he is discontented with all, and even with the efforts of others to satisfy him; angry at his own birth and at his fortune he, rails against ‘all the first born of Egypt’ he blames the whole world, finds matter for censure in the great system of the world and stumbles over every grain of dust in his path. Long experienced in sin, he has learned to find out the shadow side of every age of man.”

      Jacques is therefore a pessimist. He “is a misanthrope whose chief pleasure is to deride humanity and all its affairs; as one who, like the miserable, beaten Macbeth, and the Persian dreamer, can see in life nothing but a poor masquerade in which ‘all men and women are merely players —helpless puppets of a mocking Fate. His speech on Seven Ages has been called ‘a passage full of inhuman contempt for humanity and unbelief in its destiny, in which not one of the seven ages is allowed to pass over its poor sad stag without a sneer’ He has seized the occasion to sneer at the representatives of the whole human race.”

      Hudson has a different view. He is kind to Jaques. He writes, “Still his temper is by no means sour; fond of solitude he is never the less far from being unsocial. The society of good men, provided they be in adversity, has great charm for him his melancholy is graceful, because free from any dash of malignity. The Duke loves especially to meet him in his ‘sullen fits’ because he then overflows with his most idiomatic humor. After all, the worst that can be said, of Jaques, is, that the presence of men who are at once fortunate and deserving, corks him up.”

Must we admire, pity or censure Jaques?

      We cannot admire him because he views all human nature through the jaundiced eyes of misanthropy.

      We cannot pity him because we regard his melancholy as a form of self-indulgence. He spends his time in searching for food of melancholy. And finding it, he lives in a perpetual stage of self-complacency.

      His melancholy deserves our censure rather than our admiration or pity. And yet we should not condemn him harshly. He amuses us as he amuses the Duke. The speech in the last scene in which he gives his parting blessing to various acquaintances does much to obliterate the effect of his earlier melancholy speeches.

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