As You Like It

‘A Fool i' th' Forest’ – Jaques’ Relationship to the Concept of a Fool

In Shakespeare’s As You Like It, Jaques is a static, melancholy character who continually prefers to remain removed from the imprudence of love, wishing he could speak his mind without reprehension. In contrast to most of the other characters, who seize opportunities for change, Jaques, for the most part, successfully resists the magic of the Forest of Arden. His use of the word “fool” is telling. He frequently uses the term ‘fool’ to describe others, such as Orlando and Touchstone, for pursuing love. Also, the post of a fool in court intrigues him, for such fools are allowed to speak their mind without consequence – an ability that Jaques desires. Eventually a reversal of circumstances renders Jaques the fool, which causes his stubborn character to give way and recognize the merits of love and cordial speech. This essay shows how the word and role of “fool” both strengthen and humble Jaques.

Jaques uses “fool” frequently in Act II, scene vii, where it merely describes the profession of a court jester. Such a fool has the ability to say anything he wishes because however sarcastic or biting his statements towards others might be, they could be interpreted as jest and forgiven. He speaks with Duke Senior about how he “met a...

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