What is the role of humour in As You Like It, with special reference to Jaques and Touchstone?

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In act II, scene 7, Jaques is surprised to encounter Touchstone, telling Duke Senior of the “motley fool” and “worthy fool” he met. Even more in act V, scene 4, Shakespeare shows how the two men are both similar and different. As they converse with Duke Senior, Touchstone spins out elaborate plays on words, which bring some joy to the usually somber Jaques and to the Duke.

Jaques is good at pointing out the foibles of others, but he is overly sensitive when he is the object of their humor. Naturally inclined to look on the dark side, he admits (even brags), “I can suck / melancholy out of a song, as a weasel sucks eggs." His speech on the ages of man shows this bleak outlook. Of all the temporary residents in the Forest of Arden, he begins as the least willing to enjoy the idyll, sarcastically pointing out the disadvantages of rural life and even writing a parody of “Under the Greenwood Tree.” Jaques’s melancholy disposition paradoxically amuses the audience: he seems so convinced of his own superiority that he underestimates the extent to which the other characters mock him, and so he unwittingly plays the fool. Strangely, the remoteness and solitude grow on him, so he stays in the forest when the others return to court.

Touchstone, in contrast, is a Fool by profession—a “motley-minded gentleman,” Jaques calls him. As he earns his living making people laugh, they expect him to ridicule them and generally take it in stride. His function in the play is to provide low comedy, with references to sexuality, including ample use of puns, and bodily functions. His amorous pursuit of Audrey, the goat herder, offers a bawdy parallel to the two main pairs of lovers, as he takes his position among “the rest of the country copulatives,” as he calls them.

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Touchstone and Jacques represent two different kinds of humor in As You Like It. Touchstone is the duke's fool, which means he is allowed to say anything he wants to say and get away with it.  In fact, the fool, or clown, in Shakespeare's comedies, often has the best lines. One of the jobs of a jester in the days of kings and queens was to keep the monarch from getting  too big for his/her britches.  So Touchstone is very broad, bawdy humor, and is someone the lower classes can relate to.

Jacques, on the other hand, is just a fool. He has a rather jaded, silly outlook on life and is amusing without trying to be, rather than funny because it's his job to be. He does deliver the famous "All the world's a stage" speech, and thus, speaks directly for Shakespeare, but Jacques is more often the butt of the humor rather than its instigator.

The two characters, with their different approaches to the idea of what's funny, actually complement each other, and Sahkespeare plays them against one another's styles to comic effect.

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