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From Act II, compare Touchstone and Jacques as philosophers in As You Like It by...

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namelesswonderer | Student, Grade 9 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted October 26, 2012 at 4:47 PM via web

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From Act II, compare Touchstone and Jacques as philosophers in As You Like It by William Shakespeare.

JAQUES

 [Topuchstone] [s]ays very wisely, 'It is ten o'clock:
    Thus we may see,' quoth he, 'how the world wags:
    'Tis but an hour ago since it was nine,
    And after one hour more 'twill be eleven;
    And so, from hour to hour, we ripe and ripe,
    And then, from hour to hour, we rot and rot;
    And thereby hangs a tale.' (Act II)

JAQUES 

    All the world's a stage,
    And all the men and women merely players:
    They have their exits and their entrances;
    And one man in his time plays many parts,
    His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
    Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.
    And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
    And shining morning face, creeping like snail
    Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
    Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
    Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,
    Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
    Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
    Seeking the bubble reputation
    Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,
    In fair round belly with good capon lined,
    With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
    Full of wise saws and modern instances;
    And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
    Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon,
    With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
    His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
    For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
    Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
    And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
    That ends this strange eventful history,
    Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
    Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything. (Act II)

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted January 10, 2013 at 4:27 PM (Answer #1)

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This is a difficult concept to analyze and compare. First, you have to agree that Touchstone is a philosopher, then you have to see what is similar or different between Jaques' and Touchstone's approaches to philosophy. To start the process, let's see what Jaques thinks of Touchstone. He quotes what Touchstone says about time to Duke Senior:

JAQUES

... When I did hear
The motley fool thus moral on the time,
My lungs began to crow like chanticleer,
 

["[M]otley fool" refers to Touchstone. "[C]hanticleer" is a literary allusion to the rooster called Chauntecleer in Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales ("The Nun's Priest's Tale") who was renowned for his marvelous crow. Jaques is saying is laugh was as loud and long as a rooster's morning crow.]

Jaques makes it clear here that he thinks of Touchstone as a moralizer, an analytical opinion I am inclined to share. A philosopher and a moralizer are not the same thing; one addresses questions about what is right, the other, theorizes about life:

  • moralizer: someone who makes moral pronouncements; someone who interprets or explains things in a moral sense about what is right; right and wrong (Collins Dictionary)
  • philosopher: someone who speculates about causes or theorizes or reasons about questions of life (Random House Dictionary)

So, according to Jaques, Touchstone is a moralizer, talking about right and wrong, wisdom and folly: [Touchstone] "so is all nature in love mortal in folly." Basically, a moralizer thinks about one small part of all the things a philosopher thinks about. Jaques, a philosopher, declares he wants to be a motley fool moralizer too and tell all people about the right and wrong they do--well--mostly he wants to tell them about the wrong they do.

... give me leave
To speak my mind, and I will ...
Cleanse the foul body of the infected world,

While there may be disagreement about whether Touchstone is indeed a philosopher, let's for the moment say he is: For the moment, we agree Touchstone is a philosopher. What in the text compares the kind of philosopher Jaques is to the kind Touchstone is? Each has a speech about humankind's progress through life's cycle of time. Let's compare these. Touchstone's speech is reliably reported through Jaques as he tells Duke Senior about it:

Jaques

[reporting Touchstone's words]
"... from hour to hour, we ripe and ripe,
And then, from hour to hour, we rot and rot;"

Touchstone's short philosophical argument describes life as an hour by hour process of first ripening into our prime age followed then by rotting into old age: "Thereby hangs a tale."

Jaques' more eloquent and detailed philosophical argument describes life as the seven acts of a player on a stage [the stage/theater metaphor was first introduced by Duke Senior, then given elaboration by Jaques]. Jaques describes each stage by characteristics such as sounds made: the baby voices "mewling"; the school-child, "whining"; the soldier "strange oaths"; the old man, "wise saws"; the second childhood age is "sans" sounds, "sans everything."

Let's compare these two as philosophers. Touchstone gets right straight to the point without poetical images or words: we rot. Jaques reaches the same conclusion, that we end up "sans everything," but he defines specific stages and describes characteristics of each stage while retaining a distinct picture of humanity though in a downward spiral to "mere oblivion." You might say that while Touchstone seeks shock value and a laugh, Jaques seeks an emotional commonality, a sentimental reaction and a sense of the tragic in man's life. 

Sources:

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