As You Like It Act IV, Scene 2
by William Shakespeare

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Act IV, Scene 2

In another part of the forest, Jaques encounters several Lords bearing the carcass of a deer. He asks which of the Lords killed the deer and suggests that they "present him to the Duke, like a Roman conquerer." He inquires if they have a song for the occasion, which they do. "Sing it," Jaques commands. "'Tis no matter how it be in tune, so it make noise enough." The Lords break into a lusty song that features a play on words comparing a deer's antlers and the "horns" of a cuckold.

Jaques' response to meeting the Lords and seeing their slaughtered prey is in sharp contrast to his "weeping and commenting" after encountering a wounded deer in the second act. His response suggests that there maybe some truth to Rosalind's accusation that his melancholy and cynicism may in part be a pose. However, there is more than a hint of sarcasm in his suggestion that the deer be given to the Duke like tribute paid to a Roman conquerer.

The lyrics to the song, with their references to "horns" and cuckoldry, again evoke a comic motif we have heard in the conversations of Touchstone and Rosalind. Touchstone's comments have been witty yet pragmatic, given that he is planning to marry Audrey, and Rosalind's remarks were designed principally to put Orlando to the test by disparaging women's virtues and romantic love in general. Here, the song seems designed to counterbalance the lyrical romanticism of Rosalind's declarations at the end of the previous scene. Note that Shakespeare often juxtaposes romantic sentiments with a refutation of the romantic ideal. After Rosalind reads aloud one of Orlando's poems, for example, we are greeted by Touchstone's bawdy parody.