As You Like It: Act 5, Scene 4 - Summary & Analysis

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ACT V. Scene IV.

SUMMARY

Introduction to the Scene

      The conclusion of the play is much open to criticism. But while the audience are fully acquainted with Rosalind’s double character, the fact is still hidden from Orlando and the Duke. The introduction of Hymen produce a pretty stage effect, but the quasinecessity for reference to magic is felt to be something out of place.

ANALYSIS

If any man doubt that, let him put me to my purgation. I have trod a measure: I have flatter’d a lady. I have been polite with my friend, smooth with mine enemy, I have undone three tailors. (Act V, Scene IV, Lines 44-47)

      Touchstone and Audrey enter on the stage. Jaques says about him ‘he hath been a courtier, he swears’. Jaques speaks in such a way that he does not seriously believe that. Touchstone has been a courtier. Now Touchstone, in order to convince the Duke and others of his having been a courtier, gives proofs. He says he has done all those things which were fashionable in Elizabethan period among the courtiers. Thus what Touchstone has told has come to be the picture gallery of the court life in Shakespearean times.

      Touchstone says that he has danced like courtiers in the company of other courtiers. He has flattered and thus pleased a lady. This was the stock in trade of all the gallants at court. Flattery, corruption and licentiousness were rampant among the courtiers. He has cheated his own friend. He has been very sweet with his enemies so that he could lull their suspicions and get the better of them through fraud. He has also ruined three tailors by no paying them their money. This was the most amusing of the jokes concerning fashionable men at court. They were generally in debt to their tailors. Touchstone had ruined three tailors by not paying them.

He uses his folly like a stalking horse and under the presentation of that he shoots his wit. (Act V, Scene IV, Lines 112-114)

      Jaques and Touchstone are two of the same trade. Touchstone is witty and Jaques wants to be witty. Touchstone always gets the better of Jaques. Naturally, Jaques feels jealous of Touchstone, and though he has to accept the qualities of his rival (Touchstone), his appraisal is always qualified. He praises Touchstone with reservations. And sometimes ‘he hints at the foolishness of Touchstone, taking his profession (of a fool) literally. So he says about him “he’s as good as anything and yet a fool”. The Duke Senior warns Jaques not to underrate the intellectual endowments of the professional fool. The Duke says that couch stone is not a fool. He is a fool by profession, and not a real fool. No one expects that he will speak wisely. He uses his license of being a fool. But under the disguise of wit (foolery), he says wise things and poohpoohs others. Just as a fowler uses his stalking horse to deceive his game, so Touchstone, under the cover of motley ridicules the follies and foibles of the opponents. A stalking - horse is a mechanical animal used as a protection by hunters when they are engaged in stalking the animal whom they wish to entrap. The phrase comes now to mean ‘camouflage’ by which the suspicion of the victim is lulled, and he is caught off his guard, unawares. Touchstone does the same tiling. He uses his profession of a fool as the stalking horse. And under the cover of the motley, he ridicules others. He scores his victory on the basis of being a fool. If he is foolish in his remark, he is not defeated because he is a fool (by profession) but if he is wise in his folly (wit), he gets the merit.

And to the skills of his wild wood he came;
Where meeting with an old religious man, After some questions with him, was converted
Both from his enterprise and from the world.
(Act V, Scene IV, Lines 166-169)

      When marriage celebrations is going to be held, there is an interference and a big surprise. Jaques de Boys (a brother of Oliver and Orlando, who had been at the university) appears suddenly on the scene and tells surprising news. He tells of the miraculous change that has come over Duke Frederick (who had usurped the kingdom).

      Jaques de Boys relates how the miracle happened. Duke Frederick, he says, had heard that men of importance were gathering every day in the forest of Arden. He had sensed some danger and prepared a mighty force. He was himself leading the army to attack Duke Senior and capture him. He had come to the outskirts of forest. At the border of the forest, he met a saint. After the conversation with the old hermit, he changed totally. He decided to turn over a new leaf He withdrew himself altogether from the world. He has renounced everything and now wants to lead his life like a saint.

      This act of abnegation on the part of Duke Frederick, is pleasant and sweet to everyone. It brings about a happy note to the comedy. This change however is sudden, unexpected and miraculous, This is not credible at all and gives an unrealistic note to the drama. But sudden conversion is one of the characteristics of the comedies of Shakespeare. In his last plays there are many such illustrations in The Tempest and The Winter’s Tale. In tragedies the relation between the cause arid effect is necessary. But anything may happen in a comedy. The only thing necessary is that it should end on a happy note. For this, the dramatist has to sacrifice sometimes the realistic nature of the comedy.

      Moreover, it is just possible that great scoundrels may convert suddenly. There have been many cases. Valmiki was a robber before he wrote the epic Ramayana. It has been seen that those who are guilty of one extreme sometimes are converted to the other extreme. In addition to this we may attribute this miraculous change to the forest of Arden. The forest of Arden is as full of magic as the love juice was in the wood in A Midsummer’ Night’s Dream. Its touch transforms everyone. It has a soothing shelter. All the characters take shelter in this forest when they are banished. Even the villain, Oliver is transformed. We should therefore not feel surprised to know that even Duke Frederick is transformed under the magic spell of this forest. As soon as he reaches the border and talks to a saint, lo! there is a wonder. Duke Frederick is transformed. He becomes a saint.

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