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Touchstone's role, contribution to humor, and differing opinions on his character in As You Like It

Summary:

Touchstone's role in As You Like It is that of a fool who can speak freely and mock others, providing a grounding influence. His contributions to humor include playing the idiot at court and displaying cleverness in the Forest of Arden. Opinions on his character vary, with some seeing him as a truth-teller and others viewing his relationship with Audrey as a parody of pastoral romance.

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What is Touchstone's role and contribution to humor in As You Like It?

Touchstone, like all of the various fools in Shakespeare's plays is an important character for several reasons. The fool has a powerful voice; he can say anything that comes into his mind, because he has permission. His job is to keep the ruler down to earth. Those in power, whom others fear because of that power, need to have someone in their lives to remind them that they are human too. This is the traditional job of the fool, or jester, if you will. Touchstone is such a character. He can mock anyone and he will not experience any repercussions, so we, in turn, can mock the royalty as well.

He is a "touchstone" for humor in two different ways in the play. When he is stuck in the court of Frederick the usurper, along with Rosalind, after the real Duke has been banished, he plays the idiot, so that others may feel funnier and wittier by contrast.  Once he is in the Forest of Arden, however, he returns to his own clever self, adding humor to an already light-hearted play through his puns and bawdy sayings.  He is well-named in that he really is a touchstone for the feelings and attitudes of those around him, at court and in the more romantic pastoral setting of the forest.

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What are the different opinions on Touchstone's role in As You Like It?

Touchstone, as a Shakespearean fool, is a fascinating character who seems to perform many functions and purposes in this play. On the one hand, it is possible to argue that he performs the role of using his position as "fool" to actually comment on what is happening around him and other characters in a way that reveals the truth rather than nonsense. This is something that can be seen in the way that he functions as a "touchstone," a character that exposes the value of other people around him. His conversation with Corin in Act III scene 2 is a perfect example of this, as Touchstone shows the beauty and simplicity of Corin's way of life.

Another view of this character is the way that his opinions about love and marriage, shown through his hilarious relationship with Audrey in Act III scene 3, offer a much more brutal and realistic vision of the politics of love when compared with the relationships of Orlando and Rosalind and Silvius and Phoebe. Note what he says to Audrey when she acknowledges she is "foul," by which in her simplicity, she means dirty as a shepherdess:

Well, praised be the gods for thy foulness. Sluttishness may come hereafter.

Touchstone here acknowledges in a play on words that his wife is "foul," but then also states that Audrey will likely cuckold him or be unfaithful to him later on in their relationship. For Touchstone, this marriage is about satisfying his lusts and nothing more. Therefore, Touchstone can be viewed as one way in which Shakespeare challenges the pastoral ideal of a courtly lover going to the countryside and marrying an unrefined country girl. Audrey certainly is unrefined, and Shakespeare parodies the pastoral relationship through the coupling of Audrey and Touchstone as part of his bigger theme of exploring and questioning pastoral literature.

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

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.

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

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.

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Describe Touchstone's character and role in 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.

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What is Touchstone's role in As You Like It?

Touchstone has an unusual function and there is some continuing confusion about his character roles as both a (1) Shakespearean Fool and a (2) "touchstone." Along with these roles, he is the (3) companion to Rosalind/Ganymede and Celia/Aliena as they go to and dwell in Arden Forest.

Act I shows that, while Touchstone is the Duke's motley dressed Fool, he, Celia and Rosalind share an established bond of playful wit and friendship. He would not have accepted the role of traveling protector and companion if this bond had not been great, especially since, as we later learn, he dislikes rustic living.

TOUCHSTONE
    The more pity, that fools may not speak wisely what
    wise men do foolishly.

CELIA
    By my troth, thou sayest true; for since the little
    wit that fools have was silenced, the little foolery
    that wise men have makes a great show.

A "touchstone" is a siliceous, semi-precious gemstone, often jasper, of minimal value of its own that identifies gold or silver content in metal alloys. When a gold or silver alloy (gold/silver plus other metals) is rubbed against jasper, the color of the mark that appears reveals the quantity of precious metal in the alloy: a low, a standard, or a higher than standard quantity.

Touchstone has this role in Arden because his foolish conversations with others, for example Corbin and Audrey, bring out their inner traits and reveal the depth of human "precious metal" in them. The confusion that arises from his role as a jasper touchstone is that it is sometimes said that by it he shows his own great worth as well. Yet Touchstone makes it clear to us he is a "semi-precious" jasper: he prefers pomp to sincerity; he has dishonorable designs for his marriage to Audrey; he is shallow and materialistic.

Returning to his role with Rosalind and Celia for a moment, Touchstone is also their "jasper" stone. It is said of jasper that it protects and provides security and stability while easing emotional stress. Touchstone is a "jasper" for Rosalind and Celia.

Jasper is a strong securing gemstone. It is a stability gemstone. It is a powerful protection ... and it eases emotional stresses,... (Crystal-Cure.com)

The Shakespearean Fool and Clown are different. A Fool is a sophisticate urban character who twists words and ideas by intention, (think of Falstaff and the Fool in Henry the IV and King Lear). A Clown is a country "natural" who unknowingly twists words and ideas (think Dogberry in Much Ado). Though often confused with Clown, Touchstone is a Fool, not a Clown. He is sophisticated and knowingly, purposefully, intentionally twists words and ideas to make a point or to reveal something about another character. Fools usually reveal principal characters' traits, but, here, he even reveals traits of minor characters like Audrey.

TOUCHSTONE
    I do, truly; for thou swearest to me thou art
    honest: now, if thou wert a poet, I might have some
    hope thou didst feign.

AUDREY
    Would you not have me honest?

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What makes Touchstone a character of importance in As You Like It?

Touchstone takes on importance in As You Like It because his role, as devised by Shakespeare, is to bring out the true nature, values and thoughts of each character he speaks with. An example of this is his parodic conversation (conversation that parodies the other speaker) with Corin, the shepherd, which can be contrasted to his equally parodic conversation with Jaques.

When speaking with Corin, Corin's true heart and values are revealed and the audience/reader learns of Corin's sincerity and genuine feelings. When speaking with Jacques, Jaques' more urbane sentiments are revealed and his opinions laid open to examination.

Shakespeare uses Touchstone in the same role in which he uses his other "fools" (urban characters who serve the lead characters and entertain with wit that tells the truth and reveals significant information about the protagonists and other important characters) but with a variation: Touchstone keeps the play grounded in reality, preventing it from being lost in an idyllic pastoral celebration in Arden Forest.

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Why is Touchstone an important part of As You Like It?

Touchstone is also known as the Fool.  This is a particular kind of character in a Shakespeare play, though fools had been around British court life for centuries.  In the real world, a fool lived at the court of nobility, providing amusement and witty commentary for the king or lord whom he served.  Shakespeare took this idea and developed a character whose humor came not from crass jokes and pratfalls, but witty and wry observations about the events and other characters in the play.

Which brings us to Touchstone.  The main commentary that he provides in As You Like It, is as a commentator on the behaviour of other characters, especially those (which in this play are quite numerous), who are in love.  He almost marries Audrey, a country girl he meets in the Forest.  Along with providing commentary on love and the lovers he meets in the Forest, he also holds the sense of the "real" world, the court, for the characters who have left it behind, but must, ultimately return.

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What is Touchstone's role in As You Like It?

Touchstone is the "motley fool" or "licensed" court fool of Duke Frederick in As You Like It. Because he is allowed to say what he pleases, his role becomes that of wise commentator in the play. He goes with Celia and Rosalind into the Forest of Arden to help protect them. There, like a real touchstone, which was used to test the worth of a metal such as gold or silver, Touchstone is able to rub up against other characters with his wit and impertinent, often challenging questions, drawing out their true qualities and worth. For example, by mocking the shepherd Corin for his lack of courtly manners, while at the same time mocking those who judge people solely by their manners, he allows Corin to comment wisely on how people adapt their behavior to their circumstances.

Touchstone's role is to provide comic relief in the play, as well as to highlight the absurdities of human nature and make trenchant comments on life in general. Additionally, he draws out other characters to reveal themselves. When he falls in love with the lowly and not terribly intelligent goat-herding Audrey, who marries him to raise her own worldly status, he highlights the absurdity of romance.

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What is Touchstone's function in As You Like It?

To put it simply, Touchstone is a clown. One may also call him, as Rosalind does in his first entrance, a "fool." Shakespearean clowns served to provide comic relief in Shakespeare's tragedies, and in his comedies, such as *As You Like It,* they served to set a light, comedic tone. Touchstone does this, like many of Shakespeare's clowns, by engaging in witty exchanges with the "serious" characters with a mock show of wisdom. He does so with puns, such as that in which he mocks a certain knight who swears "by his honor, [though] he never had any..."

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What is Touchstone's role in the play As You Like It?

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