Compare Touchstone and Jacques as philosophers in act 2 of As You Like It by William Shakespeare.

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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:


... 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:


[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. 

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