As You Like It

how are lovers pretenders ?

this question refers to the speech of touchstone in act 3 scene 3 .....during his conversation with Audrey

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Although we learn of the romance between Audrey and Touchstone rather late in the game, the relationship is important to the play for many reasons. First, it produces laughs because of the incongruities between the two lovers. Touchstone delights in words and verbiage. He obsesses over them, wrings multiple—and often bawdy—meanings from them, and usually ends up tangling himself and others in them. That he chooses to wed Audrey, a simple goatherd who fails to comprehend the most basic vocabulary—the words “features,” “poetical,” and “foul” are all beyond her grasp—ensures the laughable absurdity of their exchange (III.iii.4, 13–14, 31). Indeed, the play offers few moments more outrageous than Audrey’s declaration of virtue: “I am not a slut, though I thank the gods I am foul” (III.iii.31).

The rustic romance between Audrey and Touchstone also provides a pointed contrast with the flowery, verbose love of Silvius for Phoebe or Orlando for Rosalind. Whereas Phoebe and Silvius are caught up in the poetics of love—with the man in agonizing pursuit of an unattainable but, to his mind, perfect lover—the attraction between Touchstone and Audrey is far from idealized. Indeed, if Audrey cannot grasp the meaning of the word “poetical,” there is little hope that she will be able to fulfill the part dictated to her by literary convention. Ideals have little to do with Touchstone’s affections for Audrey. By his own admission, the clown’s passions are much easier to understand. In explaining to Jaques his decision to marry Audrey, Touchstone says, “As the ox hath his bow, sir, the horse his curb, and the falcon her bells, so man hath his desires” (III.iii.66–67). Here, Touchstone equates his sexual desire to various restraining devices for animals. Sexual gratification, or “nibbling,” to use Touchstone’s phrase, will keep his otherwise untamed passions in check (III.iii.68).


One of the great fears the men have in all of Shakespeare's comedies is being a cuckold.Essentially this is a fear that once married, they will be unable to sexually satisfy their wife, and she will end up sleeping with other men. The primary image of a husband who is duped by his wife is a man wearing a bull's horns. However, underlying this fear is also the necessity of marriage as a social institution. Touchstone put is best, "As horns are odious, they are necessary" (3.3.42). Thus in spite of his intelligence, he will marry the simpleton Audrey. "As the ox hath his bow, sir, the horse his curb, and the falcon her bells, so man hath his desires" (3.3.66-67). For Touchstone this is a necessity in order for him to become a fully mature individual.