Compare and contrast Jaques and Touchstone, bringing out their contrasting features in a character sketch.difference in the character of jaques n touchstone

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davmor1973 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Both Jaques and Touchstone are fools, but in different ways. Touchstone is an official fool, a jester at the court of Duke Frederick. But he is a very witty, intelligent man, someone who displays a good deal of wisdom. (He may be a court jester, but he's certainly no buffoon.) And his earthy, somewhat cynical view of love provides a nice contrast to the lushly romantic courtship of Rosalind and Orlando.

In common with many of Shakespeare's fools, Touchstone provides the audience with a commentary on proceedings, giving us insights into the action from beneath a veil of humor. It's important, then, for Touchstone to be intelligent and wise, as we need to gain a disinterested perspective on things. Touchstone is a mordant critic of society with all its strange conventions and myriad absurdities. But because his critique is delivered with good humor and wit, we feel sympathy for the characters rather than contempt. Touchstone is a gentle mocker of society, not its avowed destroyer.

In the person of Jaques, we're dealing with a very different kind of character altogether. Like Touchstone, he is a fool, albeit not an official one. Although he certainly seems to have ambitions in that regard:

"O that I were a fool!/I am ambitious for a motley coat." (Act II Scene VII).

Jaques, like Touchstone, is also something of a social critic, but his whole way of looking at the world is radically different. Though rather cynical when it comes to matters of love, Touchstone is a cheerful soul with a sunny, optimistic outlook on life. Jaques couldn't be more different. He isn't called "The Melancholy Jaques" for nothing. Whereas Touchstone is only really cynical about love, Jaques is cynical about pretty much everything. He is also a completely inert character, prone to endless contemplation. If Hamlet spends much of the play brooding before finally doing something, Jaques just broods.

Jaques' function in the play is also different to Touchstone's. He provides a touch of shade to the bright, dream-like world of the Forest of Arden, acting as a reminder that, ultimately, all joys are mortal.


sensei918 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Shakespeare's As You Like It, the characters of Jacques and Touchstone  could be said to be mirror images of one another. They both play the role of the fool; they both receive attention for their musings and pronouncements, yet they represent different aspects of the same character. Touchstone is lightly mocking; he sees the humor in everything and he works that to his advantage. He is self-consciously witty, and his obvious attempts to be funny tend to lift the spirits of those around him.  He is a good foil for Rosalind, who can use him (as well as poor lovesick Orlando) to practice her verbal skills and sharpen her wit. 

In contrast to Touchstone, Jacques is funny inadvertently; he does not even realize it. He is so caught up in the twists and turns of his own mind that he cannot see the humor in things, which, ironically, makes him a comic character. Shakespeare does give Jacques one of the best speeches in the play and one of his most famous - the "all the world's a stage" speech.  Jacques's character is given to melancholy, and when he and Touchstone are together they play off one another's different styles and create a kind of balance between the ridiculous and the sublime.k


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As You Like It

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