As You Like It: Act 3, Scene 3 - Summary & Analysis

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Introduction to the Scene

      Humorous wooing of Audrey by Touchstone’s manner as court jester and the rusticity of Audrey are presented in this scene. The scene depicts the comic and pastoral sub-plot. The love affair of Touchstone and Audrey serves as a foil to that of the hero and the heroine.


I am here with thee and thy goats as the most capricious poet honest Ovid was amongst the Goths. (Act III, Scene III, Lines 8-10)

      Touchstone is courting Audrey. During their conversation, he asks his beloved if she likes his features (his general appearance). Touchstone perhaps also means whether she will many him instead of William whom she had been loving before he (Touchstone) met her. Aurdey is puzzled by the Latin word ‘feature’ and asks Touchstone what he means by it. Now Touchstone mystifies poor Audrey by speaking Latin words which she does not understand and feels perplexed. He says that he feels out of place in the company of rustics like Andrey and his learning (of court life) is wasted upon the foolish woman whom he is courting. He compares his banishment to that of the Latin poet, Ovid. The point of comparison lies in the fact of Ovid’s banishment from the court of Augustus Caesar, and his own banishment (though voluntary) from the court of Duke Frederick. Touchstone plays upon the words ‘goats’, and upon the literal sense of the word ‘capricious’. He says to Audrey that he is out of place in her company and her goats as Ovid, the capricious poet, was among, the Goths at Tomi in the country of Getal.

      The classical reference here is to Ovid’s banishment by Augustus Caesar to Tomi in the country of Getal where later he was identified as Goths.

      Touchstone quibbles on (1) goats and Goths and (2) on the literal sense of capricious. A capricious person is one who has uncertain temper. But capricious also means ‘licentious’, and sensual ‘capricious’ comes from caper which is Latin for a goat. And a goat is the symbol of rank sensuality. Touchstone, therefore, means that he is as refined among the rustics, Audrey and the goats, as Ovid was among the uncultured and immoral Goths.

O knowledge ill-inhabited; worse than
Jove in a thatched house.
(Act III, Scene III, Lines 10-11)

      When Touchstone and Audrey were talking, Jaques was hiding himself and listening. Now when Touchstone refers to the classical allusion, he comes out and interferes. He criticizes the fool and shows the apparent inconsistency between the fool and the leaming. His knowledge of the classical poets, says Jaques, is more out of place than was Jupiter in the hut of Baucis and Philemon. He (Jaques) condemns Touchstone by showing the analogy between the humble position of Touchstone and the richness of his talk full of allusions.

      The allusion here is to the story of Baucis and Philemon told in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Jove and Mercury once came down to the earth but found none willing to entertain them. At last they came to a poor hut where there lived Baucis and Philemon. They received them and treated them kindly without knowing that they were gods. The point of comparison lies in (1) The richness of gods and richness of Touchstone’s knowledge and (2) The poverty of the hut and the poverty of Touchstone’s status. Touchstone’s knowledge is as out of place in his humble position as that of the gods, was in the hut of Philemon and Baucis.

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