Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 367
William: a simpleminded young man
Touchstone asks Audrey to be patient; he assures her that their marriage will indeed take place. Audrey argues that Sir Oliver Martext was good enough to perform the ceremony, but Touchstone disparages the cleric and moves on to another topic, remarking that there is a youth in the forest who "lays claim" to Audrey. However Audrey, interested only in marrying her urbane man of the court, protests that her supposed suitor "hath no interest in me in the world."
William, an unsophisticated young man of twenty-five, enters. As soon as Touchstone sees his potential rival, he decides to have some fun at his expense. He questions William about his background and inquires as to whether he loves Audrey. William replies that he does. Touchstone officiously asks William if he is "learned." When William replies that he is not, Touchstone launches into an absurd flight of rhetoric that "proves" his right to wed Audrey. The dumbfounded William fails to comprehend.
Touchstone then asserts his claim to the country goatherd in plainer language. He tells William to abandon his courtship, declaring that if he does not he will kill him a hundred and fifty different way. "Therefore," he concludes, "tremble and depart." To this, Audrey adds her own simple pronouncement: "Do, good William." William meekly agrees and exits. Corin enters immediately afterward and tells Touchstone and Audrey that Ganymede and Aliena are seeking them.
William is a genuine rustic, the type of character one might have expected to encounter in a rural setting in Shakespeare's time. He stands in sharp contrast to Silvius, a poetic shepherd drawn not from life but from the conventions of pastoral romance. Touchstone deceives the unlearned William, just as he has fooled Audrey, with his displays of "erudition." There is a comic contrast in the polite way that William addresses Touchstone and Touchstone's condescending tone when speaking to his rustic "rival." William uses the polite "you" when speaking to Touchstone, but Touchstone employs a patronizing "thou" in speaking to one whom he considers his inferior. Touchstone's threats, of course, are not to be taken seriously, and his aggressive manner disappears as soon as William exits.
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