What types of figurative language can be found in Jaques speech found in Act 2, Scene 7 of Shakespeare's As You Like It?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In Jacques long speech in Act 2, Scene 7, he is essentially praising Touchstone, who he just met in the forest. He finds it hilarious that Touchstone should be so deeply philosophical even though he is merely a court jester. In addition, Touchstone's philosophical melancholy matches Jaques' own melancholy. One might typically think of a fool's comedy as being upbeat and sarcastic, but Touchstone creates humor through philosophizing. Jaques especially relays that Touchstone philosophized on the nature of time, saying that from "hour to hour, we ripe and ripe, / And then, from hour to hour, we rot and rot," which is a very cynical perspective that Jaques can easily relate to. Hence, Jaques is very amused by the fool he thinks is such a genius and describes his admiration in this long speech. In this same speech, we can also find a couple of instances of figurative language that Jaques uses to describe both the fool and the fool's affect on himself.

Figurative language refers to any language an author uses to create meaning beyond the standard definition of the words. A lot of figurative language takes the form of similes, metaphors, and personification. One type of figurative language we find in this speech is an example of personification. Jaques uses personification to relay what Touchstone was doing and thinking when Jaques discovered him in the woods. Specifically, Jaques describes Touchstone as having "rail'd on Lady Fortune in good terms," which means that Touchstone was bitterly complaining about "Lady Fortune" (II.vii.16) The phrase "Lady Fortune" refers to fortune, or fate, but since personification takes place when we give human traits to either ideas or inanimate objects, referring to the abstract concept of fate as "Lady Fortune" is a form of personification because it identifies the abstract idea of fate as a lady.

Later, Jaques uses a simile to describe how much Touchstone had made him laugh. A simile is a type of figurative language in which we describe something further by comparing it to something else. Our comparison must be concrete in that we use either the word "like" or "as" to form our comparison, and since the thing we are comparing is not really the thing being compared to, a simile is a form of figurative language because the words are not literal, but rather being used to express a further idea. Jaques uses a simile to describe his laughter in the line, "My lungs began to crow like chanticleer" (30). Chanticleer is a rooster character appearing in "The Nun's Priest's Tale" in The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. Since roosters have very long and loud crows, likening his laughter to Chanticleer's crows is essentially to say that Jaques laughed very loudly for a very long time. Plus, since this line uses the word "like" to make the comparison between Jaques' laughter and Chanticleer's crow, we know beyond a doubt that this comparison is a type of simile.