As You Like It

Jaques's Melancholy in "As You Like It"

"Cleanse the foul body of th'infected world / If they will patiently receive my medicine" (Shakespeare 304). William Shakespeare addresses an ailment known as melancholy through the character Jaques in As You Like It. In this quote, Jaques blames the outside world for imposing their "infections" upon him. Robert Burton defines this condition in Anatomy of Melancholy: Jaques's symptoms indicate that he suffers from what Burton defines as habitual melancholy of emulation and love.

In order to understand Jaques's disease, it is vital to study his symptoms. Robert Burton explains that signs of melancholy within the body are "obvious and familiar," and that the afflicted "voluntarily betray themselves, they are too frequent in all places...their grievances are too well known" (Burton 382). In Act 2, Scene 1 of As You Like It, Shakespeare introduces the readers to Jaques through a revealing conversation with Amiens. Amiens recognizes Jaques's discomfort with a song he performs. The lyrics encourage others to sing along together, and to fear nothing except "winter and rough weather" (Shakespeare 302). Jaques responds with cynical comments about this positive message. He...

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