In As You Like It, what does Touchstone mean when he says "for honesty coupled to beauty is to have honey a sauce to sugar"?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

It is always important with such questions to look at the quote in context and to consider what else is happening in this scene. This quote is said in Act 3 scene 3, in which Touchstone courts Audrey. However, this "courting" is really a parody of courtly love that has been displayed elsewhere in the play, for Touchstone seems to accept Audrey's unfaithfulness and also admits openly that he is only courting Audrey so that he can satisfy his lust. The quote you have identified is said as a response to Audrey when she asks Touchstone if she would have her be honest. Note the full response that Touchstone gives her:

No, truly, unless thou wert hard-favoured; for honesty coupled to beauty is to have honey a sauce to sugar.

If we look at this response, we see that Touchstone is arguing that he would not have Audrey be "honest" or faithful to him, because honesty linked together with beauty is like having honey with sugar. Therefore Touchstone is saying that it would be too much of a good thing. We therefore see in this scene that Touchstone "courts" Audrey in a way that is a parody of courtly love. He is ruthlessly honest about his reasons for wanting to marry, and he is likewise honest about his expectations of Audrey as well. The "love" that Touchstone and Audrey share is more about satisfying their immediate physical desires rather than anything else.

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roopaksrinivasan | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 1) eNoter

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Touchstone 's is an anti romantic fool. In her very presence, he refers to her as 'a poor virgin, an ill-favoured thing'.Touchstone does not wish to marry her seriously as wants to abandon her when he gets tired of her, after sometime on the pretext of having not been married by a qualified priest. Even before he has married her, he thinks of divorcing her. However Audrey's love for Touchstone is genuine.

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