Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1640
In another part of the forest, we encounter Adam and Orlando. Adam tells Orlando that he is famished, can journey no further, and is ready to die. Orlando comforts him and promises to bring him to shelter; he will then venture forth in search of food.
In Scene 7, Duke Senior, preparing for his banquet, inquires as to Jaques' whereabouts. Jaques enters immediately afterward. He is in an ebullient mood, having met Touchstone: "A fool, a fool/ I met a fool i' the forest." Touchstone, Jaques recounts, had "railed on Lady Fortune in good terms." When Jaques greeted him with "Good morrow, fool," Touchstone replied wittily, "Call me not fool till heaven hath sent me fortune." Touchstone then drew a sundial from his pocket and used it to illustrate his philosophy. At ten o'clock, it is an hour after nine and an hour before eleven; thus, "from hour to hour, we ripe and ripe/ And then from hour to hour, we rot and rot;/ And thereby hangs a tale."
Jaques claims he was so delighted by Touchstone's comments that he laughed an hour by his dial. He expresses the desire that he, too, might be a fool: "I must have liberty ..give me leave/ To speak my mind, and I will through and through/ Cleanse the foul body of th' infected world." Duke Senior remarks that Jaques is an odd choice to do such good, since he has been a libertine. Jaques defends himself by responding that his castigation will not be harmful if he does not name anyone in particular; those who have been criticized justly will realize the truth of his words.
Their exchange comes to a sudden halt when Orlando bursts in with his sword drawn. He commands the Duke and his court to "Forebear, and eat no more/ " Jaques replies drolly, "Why, I have eat none yet." Orlando tells him he will not eat until "necessity be served." Duke Senior calmly asks if Orlando has been boldened by his distress and chastises him for his rude manners. Orlando admits that he has been discourteous and tells Duke Senior he has been brought up in civilized society, but he is desperate for food. Duke Senior tells him that force is unnecessary; a gentle request will bring the result he desires. Orlando is surprised by his courtesy: "Speak you so gently? Pardon me, I pray you. I thought that all things had been savage here/ And therefore put I on the countenance/ Of stern commandment." He apologizes for his behavior, sheathes his sword, and tells Duke Senior that before he can accept any food he must find Adam and bring him to safety. Duke Senior promises that the banquet will not begin until he returns.
After Orlando leaves, Duke Senior, moved by Orlando's suffering, tells his courtiers that "we are not all alone unhappy:/ This wide and universal theatre/ Presents more pageants than the scene/ Wherein we play in." Jaques immediately seizes upon his analogy; commenting: "All the world's a stage,/ And all the men and women merely players;/ They have their exits and their entrances,/ And one man in his time plays many parts,/ His acts being seven ages." He describes each of these ages in turn: the infant, the "whining schoolboy," the lover, the soldier, the justice, the "lean and slippered pantaloon," and finally, "second childishness and mere oblivion."
Orlando enters, carrying Adam in his arms, and the Duke invites them to sit down and eat. Duke Senior asks Amiens to provide some music and Amiens obliges, singing another paean to the pastoral life. After he has finished, Duke Senior tells Orlando that as the son of his old friend, Sir Rowland de Boys, he is welcome to remain. He invites Orlando to come to his cave, welcomes Adam, and asks to hear the story of Orlando's fortunes.
Adam's near-starvation in Scene 6 further emphasizes the perils of the pastoral life. Like Rosalind, Celia, and Touchstone, Orlando and Adam have had a long and difficult journey. Orlando's devotion to the aged servant again reveals his nobility of character; he repays Adam's kindness with genuine concern.
When we first heard of Jaques he was in a state of despair over the wounded deer; when we saw him first he was sardonic and cynical. At the beginning of Scene 7, we are exposed to another facet of his nature: he is elated, having met Touchstone in the forest. Jaques was ecstatic when Touchstone "railed on Lady Fortune," but he failed to realize that Touchstone was simply parodying his argumentative nature. Touchstone's absurd satire serves to counterbalance Jaques' acerbic criticism of the pastoral life and his cynical view of human nature in general.
This scene features a number of references to time, a motif that will recur in many variations throughout the play. Touchstone's sundial seems particularly inappropriate in the forest, where little light would reach through the trees. His comment that "from hour to hour we ripe and ripe,/ And then, from hour to hour, we rot and rot" is a comic foreshadowing of Jaques' "Seven Ages of Man" speech at the end of this scene. Jaques' assertion that he laughed for a hour by Touchstone's dial is ironic, for again he did not realize that Touchstone was satirizing his philosophy.
Jaques' claim that he longs to be a fool, and thus have liberty to speak his mind freely is also ironic, for he speaks his mind at every opportunity. His declaration that if he, too, could wear motley he could "cleanse the foul body of th' infected world" arouses Duke Senior's ire. As one who has sinned, the Duke remarks, he seems an incongruous choice to cure the ills of society. Again, Jaques' observations have some validity, for society, as we have seen it at court, is in need of a cure.
When Duke Senior disarms Orlando with courtesy after Orlando has confronted the Duke and his men with his sword drawn, it is again a reminder than we are in the presence of a new social order, one that is far removed from the "envious court." Orlando's claim to have been well bred seemingly contradicts his statement in Act I, Scene 1 that he has been denied the education of a gentleman. But we know that he is the son of a father who was much admired, and that he has been gifted by nature with many of Sir Rowland's virtues. His innate good qualities have enabled him to transcend his lack of formal education.
Duke Senior's comment after Orlando leaves to bring Adam to safety that "we are not all alone unhappy" introduces yet another hint that the pastoral life is perhaps not as ideal as many of the characters would have it seem. In Act II, Scene 1, Duke Senior extolled his life in the forest, a viewpoint that was echoed in Amiens' first song. Yet here, perhaps because the Duke was reminded of "better days" at court and his own personal misfortune by Orlando's tale of suffering, he admits candidly that there is something "woeful" in his life in exile.
Jaques' "Seven Ages of Man" speech is one of the most famed speeches in all of Shakespeare; it contains some of the Bard's greatest poetry. In this speech, Jaques provides seven impressions of man at varying stages of his life, a further exploration of the theme of time. Yet the canvas he illustrates is selective. For example, we seethe infant "mewling and puking" rather than burbling with delight; the schoolboy is "creeping like snail/unwilling to school" rather than making the journey with enthusiasm. Jaques' comments on the lover are in tune with what we have seen of Silvius (and what we will see of Orlando in the scene that follows), but his next two "ages" are limited, for not all men will be soldiers and justices. This speech, in general, reflects the cynical attitude of its speaker rather than offering a well rounded portrait of humanity. Finally, Jaques arrives at old age and the inevitable end: infirmity and death. His tone is rueful and he paints a grim portrait of man "sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything."
Byway of contrast, Adam enters immediately afterward. He is almost eighty and weakened by hunger, necessitating that Orlando carry him in his arms. Yet as we know, he is not approaching senility; or "second childishness," as Jaques puts it. He is still vital in spirit, a sharp contrast to Jaques' bleak view of life's fading years.
Jaques' observation that "one man in his time plays many parts" is appropriate, however, for it underscores another major theme of the play: role playing. Rosalind, for example, has been the royal princess and the faithful friend; she has recently assumed the masculine role of Ganymede. Touchstone, as we have seen, played the subservient role of the, fool while at court, yet once he is in the Forest of Arden he asserts his superiority to the rustic shepherds, playing the urbane courtier at every opportunity.
Amiens' ballad, "Blow, blow, thou winter wind" is a companion piece to his earlier song. Again, we see a wintery motif juxtaposed with images of a rich, springlike world. This song also echoes the Duke's declaration in Act II, Scene 1 that "Here feel we not., the icy fang/ and churlish chiding of the winter's wind." Exposure to the elements, while harsh, is preferable to "man's ingratitude" and "friends rememb'red not." Yet here, a wistful not of skepticism creeps in as well: "Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly."
This skepticism is immediately refuted by Duke Senior in his welcome to Orlando, for he proclaims: "I am the Duke/That loved your father." And as we will see, love, although making many of the characters appear foolish at times, can also have its lasting rewards.
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