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The Sorrows Of Jaques In Shakespeare’s As You Like It

“Cleanse the foul body of th’infected world / If they will patiently acquire my medicine” (Shakespeare 304). William Shakespeare addresses an ailment known as melancholy via the character Jaques in As You Like It. In this quote, Jaques blames the outside planet for imposing their “infections” upon him. Robert Burton defines this situation in Anatomy of Melancholy: Jaques’s symptoms indicate that he suffers from what Burton defines as habitual melancholy of emulation and adore.

In order to realize Jaques’s illness, it is crucial to study his symptoms. Robert Burton explains that signs of melancholy within the body are “obvious and familiar,” and that the afflicted “voluntarily betray themselves, they are too frequent in all places…their grievances are as well effectively known” (Burton 382). In Act two, Scene 1 of As You Like It, Shakespeare introduces the readers to Jaques by way of a revealing conversation with Amiens. Amiens recognizes Jaques’s discomfort with a song he performs. The lyrics encourage other folks to sing along collectively, and to fear nothing except “winter and rough weather” (Shakespeare 302). Jaques responds with cynical comments about this constructive message. He desires Amiens to continue singing, whilst prolonging his sad feelings. His interaction with Amiens reveals his nicely-known melancholic nature. Amiens openly addresses the truth that Jaques, who can “suck melancholy out of a song as a weasel sucks eggs,” is unable to be pleased (Ibid. 302). In addition, Jaques admits in Act 4, Scene 1 to suffering from “a melancholy of mine personal, compounded of many simples, extracted from many objects, and certainly the sundry contemplation of my travels, in which my often rumination wraps me in a most humorous sadness” (Ibid. 315). This reveals Jaques’ comfort and openness with his grievances he is willing to make everybody aware of his sickness.

The melancholy humour arising from the body “makes some laugh, some weep, some sleep, some dance, some sing, some howl, [and] some drink” (Burton 383). Jaques’s inconsistent behavior includes moments of sarcasm, contemplation, and silliness. In Act 2, Scene five, Jaques sardonically comments on his enjoyment of the music, and decides to create his personal verse. His production consists of words that are cold and dry he criticizes “dog apes” that have fled the courts: “Here shall he see / Gross fools as he / An if he will come to me” (Shakespeare 303). This song presents Jaques as a playfully sarcastic character who promotes his melancholic attitudes. In Act 4, Scene 3, Jaques insists that the lords “Sing it. ‘Tis no matter how it be in tune, so it make noise enough” (Ibid. 317). This need for noise arises from melancholy in the body.

In addition to playful sarcasm, Jaques revels in contemplation. He expresses a philosophical concept underlying a deceptively easy notion. For example, in Act 2, Scene 1, Jaques describes a motley fool whom he meets in the Forest of Arden. He talks with youthful excitement – a stark contrast from his darker moments – when describing this fool: “And in his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit following a voyage…Oh, that I have been a fool! I am ambitious for a motley coat” (Ibid. 304). This statement represents Jaques’s conflicting nature. Jaques wears a coat of dry wit and melancholy that becomes portion of his perpetual costume, yet shows a philosophical and intellectual side, significantly like the motley fool. This proposes a bit of irony in Jaques’s disposition due to the fact his adamant want to transform into the motley fool has already evolved. An additional example of his contemplative nature occurs as he preaches about the passage of time and the inevitability of mortality. The continual shadow of melancholy that hangs over Jaques final results in the improvement of his disease.

It becomes evident by way of the study of Jaques’s symptoms that his melancholy is of a habitual nature. Robert Burton states that the distinction among melancholy of habit and melancholy of disposition lies in the way that infected men and women deal with themselves during periods of suffering. Life is a “succession of pleasure and discomfort,” and all humankind experiences melancholic feelings regardless of their social, mental, or physical situation (Burton 144). Some find out to develop patience during occasions of sickness, even though other folks turn into their illness, regularly exposing their continual state of despair.

Jaques represents those whose melancholy defines their lives. He refuses to confront periods of despair with inner patience, and rather “gives way to [his] passion, voluntarily subject…labyrinth of cares, woes, miseries, and suffer (his) soul to be overcome by them…dispositions turn out to be habits” (Ibid. 145). Evidence of this appears in Act 2, Scene 7, when Jaques explains that “All the world’s a stage / And all the males and girls merely players” (Shakespeare 305). He believes that human nature is only a overall performance, and emphasizes the truth that life assigns specific roles. This corresponds with his earlier comments about how society does not count on a fool to speak profoundly or intellectually. Jaques accepts his role in society as “Monsieur Melancholy” (Ibid. 309), and for that reason participates in this dramatic world he describes. Furthermore, society encourages his despair, causing Jaques to transform his melancholy into a habit.

Jaques’s interaction with society indicates that his melancholy is rooted in both emulation and really like. Numerous aspects of emulation and adore intertwine into a single category, for love inspires thoughts of emulation and jealousy. Cyprian describes emulation as a “consumption to make one more man’s happiness his misery, to torture…they do often grieve, sigh, and groan day and evening without intermission” (Burton 266). This “nurse of wit and valor” (Ibid. 267) happens between Orlando and Jaques as they stroll with each other in the Forest of Arden. Orlando writes adore poems to Rosalind on trees, while Jaques develops an intense disgust towards his overly romantic acquaintance. He judges Orlando harshly, expressing negativity towards Rosalind and the complete, miserable world. “The worst fault you have is to be in love” (Shakespeare 309). Jaques attempts to convert Orlando’s feelings of really like into feelings of indifference. He tries to convince Orlando that his actions are shallow, and that only a foolish lady would get pleasure from the superficial really like poems.

A comparable circumstance takes place in Act two, Scene 7: “And then the lover / Sighing like furnace with a woeful ballad / Created to his mistress’ eyebrow” (Ibid. 315). Jaques mocks Renaissance love conventions, but his apparent hatred for lovers is merely a costume. He secretly envies couples like Orlando and Rosalind, but can not escape his melancholic role in the world. This example crosses the boundary among emulation and really like melancholy. According to Burton, those who suffer from adore melancholy grow to be angry when they hear speak about and in between lovers: “What higher contrast can there be than among a lover and a man of self restraint, an admirer of beauty and a madman?” (Burton 5). Jaques’s philosophic nature refuses to accept adore, and he develops into a bitter, mad, melancholic becoming. Shakespeare, nevertheless, believes Jaques’s melancholy to differ from Burton’s definition:

I have neither the scholar’s melancholy, which is emulation, nor the musician’s, which is fantastical, nor the courtier’s, which is proud, nor the soldier’s, which is ambitious, nor the lawyer’s, which is politic, nor the lady’s, which is good, nor the lover’s, which is all these but it is a melancholy of mine personal, compounded of several simples, extracted from several objects, and indeed the sundry contemplation of my travels, in which my often rumination wraps me in a most humorous sadness (Shakespeare 315).

Shakespeare presents his view of melancholy via Jaques, and challenges Burton’s categorization of the disease. Burton attacks melancholy with precision a particular formula which Shakespeare does not believe holds correct for Jaques. In this passage, Shakespeare writes that Jaques’s melancholy cannot be especially defined and that the structure of humankind’s melancholic disposition is as well complicated to be generalized, as it varies case by case. In addition, Burton wishes to educate others about a remedy for melancholy, whereas Shakespeare believes that without melancholy, Jaques would no longer be Jaques.

Robert Burton assumes that wit and negativity signify disease. According to Anatomy of Melancholy, the character of Jaques in As You Like It fits the mold of a melancholic spirit in want of a remedy. Jaques may suffer from melancholy but his sharpness of wit and awareness of the planet outdoors the Forest of Arden proves his robust self-awareness and sanity as opposed to the lives of his pals. In contemporary society, a re-examination of Jaques would most likely reveal a standard and wise disposition ahead of his time.

Works Cited

Burton, Robert. The Anatomy of Melancholy. Ed. Holbrook Jackson. New York: New York Overview of Books, 2001.

Shakespeare, William. As You Like It. The Total Works of Shakespeare, 4th ed. Ed. David Bevington. New York: Longman, 1997. 288-325.
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