Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 490
Jacques: a melancholy philosopher who resides with Duke Senior in the Forest of Arden
This scene is set in a clearing in the Forest Arden. Ainiens, one of Duke Senior's courtiers, sings a ballad that celebrates the pastoral life. When Amiens concludes his song, Jaques asks for more. Arniens protests that the music will make Jaques melancholy, but Jaques retorts, "I can suck melancholy out of a song as a weasel sucks eggs. More, I prithee, more/ " Jaques persists, and finally Amiens agrees to sing another verse. Amiens tells Jaques that Duke Senior has been looking for him, but Jaques replies that he has been deliberately avoiding the Duke. Amiens sings another stanza, and this time his fellow courtiers join in. In the forest, the song concludes, one will find "no enemy/ But winter and rough weather." Jaques promptly invents a verse of his own that satirizes the idealism of Amiens' lyrics: "If it do come to pass/ That: any man turn ass,/ Leaving his wealth and ease/ A stubborn will to please... Here shall he see gross fools as he." Jaques tells Amiens that he is leaving "to go to sleep, if I can." Amiens tells him that he will go to seek the Duke, whose banquet has been prepared.
The song that begins this scene is the first of five songs in the play. Its lyrics, with their images of nature, idealize the pastoral life. Again, we are greeted by a reference to the hazards of "winter and rough weather." Yet the declaration, that it is the only "enemy" one might find in the forest, is another reminder that we are a long way from the envious court.
In this scene, we meet Jaques for the first time. He is a multifaceted character. In Shakespeare's time, he was what was known as a "humors" character. It was common belief at the time that a person's temperament was governed by four "humors," or bodily fluids: blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm. An overabundance of black bile produced melancholy-note that this character is referred to at times as "the melancholy Jaques." Yet melancholy is only one of his moods. In the previous scene, we learned that Jaques had become sentimental and philosophical after discovering the wounded deer. Now we see a more cynical side to his nature.
Like Touchstone, Jaques sees the disadvantages of the pastoral life. Earlier, Touchstone has commented, "now am I in Arden, the more fool, I." In this scene, we hear Jaques saying much the same thing. A man is an ass, he comments, to leave his "wealth and ease" to please his stubborn will in the forest. By nature, he is an argumentative malcontent, eager to take the opposing view to whatever sentiments are expressed by those around him. His satirical parody of Amien' song typifies his cynicism and contrasts sharply with the idealism of Duke Senior and his court-in-exile.
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