Describe Touchstone's character and role in As You Like It.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Touchstone, from Shakespeare's comedy As You Like It, is the court fool who accompanies Celia and Rosalind into the forest after they are banished. Like many of Shakespeare's "fool" characters, Touchstone is deceptively wise. His wit provides comic relief throughout the play, while his wisdom provides balance. He points out the absurdities, first of courtly life and then of pastoral life in the woods. Celia and Rosalind decide to bring him along on their journey into the forest of Arden as a "comfort to [their] travels," knowing his jests will keep their spirits light as they go, and he agrees out of loyalty to Celia.

From this we know that Touchstone is loyal, witty, and clever. We can add to this list that he is prone to complaining. We also get a bit of a character sketch of Touchstone from the mouth of the character Jaques, who is delighted to have met a fool in the forest. In his act 2, scene 7 speech, Jaques describes Touchstone as

A motley fool; a miserable world!
As I do live by food, I met a fool
Who laid him down and bask'd him in the sun,
And rail'd on Lady Fortune in good terms,
In good set terms and yet a motley fool.

Jaques came upon Touchstone in a moment of melancholy, "moral[ing] on the time," and even in his own state of sadness, Touchstone managed to make Jaques laugh and lift his spirits.

Also of note: Unlike Shakespeare's other fools, Touchstone also gets a bit of a romantic subplot all to himself. He meets, courts, and eventually marries a country girl named Audrey.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Touchstone is the fool in As You Like It. The Shakespearean fool has the role of revealing information about important characters and acting as a vehicle for important characters to reveal what they think and feel. This is precisely what Touchstone does, although his role is a little expanded since he talks to almost everyone from Corin the old shepherd to Jaques the melancholy.

Touchstone likes to complain but he does it in word play that turns praise upside down so it ends up as a complaint, as when he tells Corin that the "lean" country life of scant food agrees with him then winds up by saying that it is hard on his stomach, which is apparently always hungry. He is also very clever and witty, engaging is word play and puns at all opportunities.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

How does one write a character sketch on Touchstone and his role in Shakespeare's As You Like It?

A character sketch is a piece of writing that carefully describes a character for a reader, including who the character is and specific details we know about the character from what the author wrote. When writing a character sketch, one first wants to complete a character analysis. When analyzing a character, what we are looking at is how the author presents the character as a person; we are looking at the character's characterization. There are many different things we can look at to analyze characterization ("How to Write a Character Analysis"). A few things to consider are that we want to pay close attention to the things the character does and says. We also want to think about the character's motives for actions--does the character have benevolent motives or non-benevolent? It also helps to look at the ways that other characters respond to the character. The things that other characters think and say about the character in question can help us understand a great deal. Below are a couple of ideas to help get you started.

Touchstone, like most of Shakespeare's fools, plays the role of a very intelligent court jester. In fact, most of Shakespeare's fools are ironically more intelligent about themes and situations than the other characters. Touchstone is no different in that literary critics have pointed out how Touchstone accentuates the values of the play through comedy (Palmer, "Touchstone"). Specifically, critic John Palmer asserts that "Touchstone puts all things and every person in the play, including himself, to the comic test ("Touchstone"). He puts the whole idea of escaping to Arden to the test by pointing out the foolishness of leaving comfort to be in a forest on the pretense that it is the better place to be, as we see in his line, "Ay, now am I in Arden: the more fool I; when I was at home, I was in a better place: but travellers must be content" (II.iv.16-18). He even puts Silvius's love for Phebe to the test by pointing out that love is mortal, meaning that it can die, and that all who love are foolish. Furthermore, while he is cynical about life in the forest, which he says is not as good as life at court, he also enters into an argument with Corin that, contrary to what Touchstone set out to do, actually contradicts his own cynicism and proves that country life is good on its own terms. Beyond putting everyone to the test and showing what foolishness exists, he also proves to be a very loyal servant in the fact that he very willingly follows Celia and Rosalind into the forest.

Hence all of these ideas and more would be excellent things to describe in a character sketch.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on