As You Like It Act II, Scenes 6 and 7
by William Shakespeare

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Act II, Scenes 6 and 7

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...

(The entire section is 1,640 words.)