Why could Jaques be considered the actual fool in Act 2, Scene 7 of Shakespeare's As You Like It, even though he is calling Touchstone the fool?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

By definition, a Shakespearean fool, or court jester, is an educated jokester who often times actually proves to be even more intelligent and observant than other characters. There are ways in which we can consider Jaques to be a court jester of the forest, but Touchstone is recognized by literary critics as the true fool in As You Like It.

One reason why we can consider Jaques to be a Shakespearean fool is because, despite his melancholy mood, his insights are both insightful and comical, even though nobody, including Shakespeare, really agrees with Jaques' insights. However, it is because Jaques is so melancholy that he is not typically recognized by literary critics as a Shakespearean fool. We can especially see some of Jaques' melancholy insights in this speech in Act 2, Scene 7 in which he announces having met Touchstone. For example, in the lines, "I met a fool i' the forest, / A motley fool; a miserable world!," what he is pointing out is the irony of having met a court jester, still dressed in his motley, or multicolored uniform, in the forest (II.vii.12-13). It's ironic because court jesters belong in the luxurious surroundings of a court, so to see a court jester in a forest could be likened to seeing a "man in a fresh tuxedo dumpster-diving" (Shakespeare Navigators). In other words, with his one phrase "a miserable world," Jaques is pointing out the harsh reality of the world, especially that, like himself, one can be evicted from the luxury of court to fend for one's self in the harshness of nature; he is using the fact that he met a fool in the forest to make his melancholy but wise statement that the world is harsh indeed. Jaques is continually making melancholy but wise claims that are comical, even if not all would agree with his claims, and because his melancholy statements have a comic effect, we can consider him a fool. However, Touchstone is the play's true fool.

Beyond the fact that Touchstone wears motley, and one definition of a court jester is wearing motley, Shakespeare's court jesters were also known to develop the main themes of the plays by exposing characters' faults through the court jesters' wise and witty words. Touchstone certainly does help develop main themes, but not by exposing the characters' faults; instead, literary critics point out that he exposes characters' virtues. He also reveals the truth of the fact that those who belong at court are certainly out of place in the forest, which is a central theme. In contrast, Jaques, due to his melancholy views, actually remains a social outcast and therefore does not help to develop any of the play's themes beyond what is central to Jaques' own character.

Hence, while we could consider Jaques to be Duke Frederick's fool of the forest, Touchstone is really the play's true fool as he fits the definitions.

melonsmasher | Student

Hi I am Sanjay. I know that you would not consider my answer. But still................ First of all, we know that Touchstone's wit is being admired and also being laughed about, by Jaques. In the Line, "Good morrow, quoth I. "No Sir" quoth he. "Call me not fool till heaven hath sent me fortune". These lines are being spoke to Duke Senior by Jaques. In these lines Jaques proudly remarks about his meeting with Touchstone. Touchstone says that he would not be a fool until and unless heaven would provided him with fortune. By saying this, he  implies that Jaques is also a fool as he enjoys fortune. 

We know that Touchstone is a court fool while Jaques is basically one of the humble lords who put themselves under the exile of Duke Senior. Jaques blindly thinks that Touchstone was making fun of the world. At the same time, Touchstone is having a wonderful time making fun of Jaques.

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As You Like It

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