Act II - Act II, Scene 7

SCENE VII. Another part of the Forest.

[A table set. Enter DUKE Senior, AMIENS, and others.]

I think he be transform'd into a beast;
For I can nowhere find him like a man.

My lord, he is but even now gone hence;
Here was he merry, hearing of a song.

If he, compact of jars, grow musical,
We shall have shortly discord in the spheres.
Go, seek him; tell him I would speak with him.

He saves my labour by his own approach.

[Enter JAQUES.]

Why, how now, monsieur! what a life is this,
That your poor friends must woo your company?
What! you look merrily!

A fool, a fool!--I met a fool i' the forest,
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.
'Good morrow, fool,' quoth I: 'No, sir,' quoth he,
'Call me not fool till heaven hath sent me fortune.'
And then he drew a dial from his poke,
And, looking on it with lack-lustre eye,
Says very wisely, 'It is ten o'clock:
Thus we may see,' quoth he, 'how the world wags;
'Tis but an hour ago since it was nine;
And after one hour more 'twill be eleven;
And so, from hour to hour, we ripe and ripe,
And then, from hour to hour, we rot and rot;
And thereby hangs a tale.' When I did hear
The motley fool thus moral on the time,
My lungs began to crow like chanticleer,
That fools should be so deep contemplative;
And I did laugh sans intermission
An hour by his dial.--O noble fool!
A worthy fool!--Motley's the only wear.

What fool is this?

O worthy fool!--One that hath been a courtier,
And says, if ladies be but young and fair,
They have the gift to know it: and in his brain,--
Which is as dry as the remainder biscuit
After a voyage,--he hath strange places cramm'd
With observation, the which he vents
In mangled forms.-O that I were a fool!
I am ambitious for a motley coat.

Thou shalt have one.

It is my only suit,
Provided that you weed your better judgments
Of all opinion that grows rank in them
That I am wise. I must have liberty
Withal, as large a charter as the wind,
To blow on whom I please; for so fools have:
And they that are most galled with my folly,
They most must laugh. And why, sir, must they so?
The 'why' is plain as way to parish church:
He that a fool doth very wisely hit
Doth very foolishly, although he smart,
Not to seem senseless of the bob; if not,
The wise man's folly is anatomiz'd
Even by the squandering glances of the fool.
Invest me in my motley; give me leave
To speak my mind, and I will through and through
Cleanse the foul body of the infected world,
If they will patiently receive my medicine.

Fie on thee! I can tell what thou wouldst do.

What, for a counter, would I do but good?

Most mischievous foul sin, in chiding sin;
For thou thyself hast been a libertine,
As sensual as the brutish sting itself;
And all the embossed sores and headed evils
That thou with license of free foot hast caught
Wouldst thou disgorge into the general world.

Why, who cries out on pride
That can therein tax any private party?
Doth it not flow as hugely as the sea,
Till that the weary very means do ebb?
What woman in the city do I name
When that I say, The city-woman bears
The cost of princes on unworthy shoulders?
Who can come in and say that I mean her,
When such a one as she, such is her neighbour?
Or what is he of basest function
That says his bravery is not on my cost,--
Thinking that I mean him,--but therein suits
His folly to the metal of my speech?
There then; how then? what then? Let me see wherein
My tongue hath wrong'd him: if it do him right,
Then he hath wrong'd himself; if he be free,
Why then, my taxing like a wild-goose flies,
Unclaim'd of any man.--But who comes here?

[Enter ORLANDO, with his sword drawn.]

Forbear, and eat no more.

Why, I have eat none yet.

Nor shalt not, till necessity be serv'd.

Of what kind should this cock come of?

Art thou thus bolden'd, man, by thy distress:
Or else a rude despiser of good manners,
That in civility thou seem'st so empty?

You touch'd my vein at first: the thorny point
Of bare distress hath ta'en from me the show
Of smooth civility: yet am I inland bred,
And know some nurture. But forbear, I say;
He dies that touches any of this fruit
Till I and my affairs are answered.

An you will not be answered with reason, I must die.

What would you have? your gentleness shall force
More than your force move us to gentleness.

I almost die for food, and let me have it.

Sit down and feed, and welcome to our table.

Speak you so gently? Pardon me, I pray you:
I thought that all things had been savage here;
And therefore put I on the countenance
Of stern commandment. But whate'er you are
That in this desert inaccessible,
Under the shade of melancholy boughs,
Lose and neglect the creeping hours of time;
If ever you have look'd on better days,
If ever been where bells have knoll'd to church,
If ever sat at any good man's feast,
If ever from your eyelids wip'd a tear,
And know what 'tis to pity and be pitied,
Let gentleness my strong enforcement be:
In the which hope I blush, and hide my sword.


True is it that we have seen better days,
And have with holy bell been knoll'd to church,
And sat at good men's feasts, and wip'd our eyes
Of drops that sacred pity hath engender'd:
And therefore sit you down in gentleness,
And take upon command what help we have,
That to your wanting may be minister'd.

Then but forbear your food a little while,
Whiles, like a doe, I go to find my fawn,
And give it food. There is an old poor man
Who after me hath many a weary step
Limp'd in pure love: till he be first suffic'd,--
Oppress'd with two weak evils, age and hunger,--
I will not touch a bit.

Go find him out.
And we will nothing waste till you return.

I thank ye; and be blest for your good comfort!


Thou seest we are not all alone unhappy;
This wide and universal theatre
Presents more woeful pageants than the scene
Wherein we play in.

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms;
Then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lin'd,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well sav'd, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion;
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

[Re-enter ORLANDO with ADAM.]

Welcome. Set down your venerable burden,
And let him feed.

I thank you most for him.

So had you need;
I scarce can speak to thank you for myself.

Welcome; fall to: I will not trouble you
As yet, to question you about your fortunes.--
Give us some music; and, good cousin, sing.

[AMIENS sings.]
Blow, blow, thou winter wind,
Thou art not so unkind
As man's ingratitude;
Thy tooth is not so keen,
Because thou art not seen,
Although thy breath be rude.
Heigh-ho! sing heigh-ho! unto the green holly:
Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly:
Then, heigh-ho, the holly!
This life is most jolly.

Freeze, freeze, thou bitter sky,
That dost not bite so nigh
As benefits forgot:
Though thou the waters warp,
Thy sting is not so sharp
As friend remember'd not.
Heigh-ho! sing, heigh-ho! &c.

If that you were the good Sir Rowland's son,--
As you have whisper'd faithfully you were,
And as mine eye doth his effigies witness
Most truly limn'd and living in your face,--
Be truly welcome hither: I am the duke
That lov'd your father. The residue of your fortune,
Go to my cave and tell me.--Good old man,
Thou art right welcome as thy master is;
Support him by the arm.--Give me your hand,
And let me all your fortunes understand.



  1. The Duke recognizes Orlando because of his lineage and assumes to know his identity based on this lineage. These lines reinforce the theme of expecting lineage to determine one’s identity and story arc.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  2. The manner in which Jaques lays out the seven stages of a human life mirrors an episode in the story of the Greek hero Oedipus. When Oedipus encounters the Sphinx outside Thebes, the Sphinx offers a riddle: What walks on four legs in the morning, two legs in the afternoon, and three legs in the evening? Oedipus answers correctly: Man. Shakespeare mimics this gesture of the stages of life as a cycle which returns to its start.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  3. Shakespeare ends Act II in his typical fashion: with a conclusive, rhyming couplet that prepares the audience for the next act. The final lines here encapsulate the major event of the scene: the uniting of the forces of Duke Senior and Orlando. In the case of this couplet, the rhyme—with its pairing quality—imitates the event it describes: the pairing of the Duke and Orlando.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  4. Notice that Duke Senior does not address Jaques’ philosophical musings on the stages of life. He moves on as if Jaques has not spoken, further demonstrating Jaques’ position on the border outside of the courtly space the Duke occupies.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  5. In a beautiful yet chilling image, the Duke sees the “effigies”—the burning funeral pyres of Sir Rowland—in Orlando’s face. The word “limn’d” means “lit,” suggesting that in Orlando’s eyes the Duke sees the aforementioned fire of Sir Rowland. The symbol of fire in the context of the father-son relationship brings to mind the mythical Phoenix, whose fiery death brings forth a new generation.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  6. These lines create a metaphor that compares real life to the theatrical world. On one level, these lines are self-consciously about the theater and speaking explicitly to the audience watching the play. This theater, meaning the theater in which they sit, will display “more woeful pageants” than the ones in which audience members will “play.” In other words, the theater displays how much worse life could be and therefore no one in the theater should feel self-pity.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  7. This metaphor that "all the world's a stage" touches on the theme of wearing costumes and “playing parts” in order to shape the way in which one is perceived. To “play many parts” is to put on multiple costumes and have multiple identities, much like an actor within a play.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  8. Amiens is the melancholic bard. He uses song to transform the sorrows of the world into moments of great joy. Notice the progression that takes place over the course of each of his stanzas. The first stanza begins, “Blow, blow thou winter wind,/Thou art not so unkind/As man’s ingratitude.” In the seventh line, Amiens willfully shifts the song’s tone and content from the sorrowful to the joyful. With the exclamation, “Heigh-ho! Sing heigh-ho!,” Amiens pushes the song to the conclusion that “this life is most jolly.” Amiens thus consciously transforms pain into joy.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  9. The manner in which Jaques lays out the seven stages of a human life mirrors an episode in the story of the Greek hero Oedipus. When Oedipus encounters the Sphinx outside Thebes, the Sphinx offers a riddle: What walks on four legs in the morning, two legs in the afternoon, and three legs in the evening? Oedipus answer correctly: Man. Shakespeare mimics this gesture of the stages of life as a cycle which returns to its start.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  10. This famous line spoken by Jaques creates a metaphor that links everyday life to the events in a play. It fashions people as “merely” players, meaning each person’s purpose is no greater than playing a part. This metaphor suggests that life is ephemeral and has no greater meaning. It therefore functions as a lesson in humility that points out man’s lack of inherent purpose.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  11. In a subtle chiasmus—a repeated, reversed phrase—Duke Senior chides Jaques for his boldness. The Duke remains unprepared for Jaques’ newfound role as Fool, and the necessary forcefulness of that role.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  12. Orlando’s claim that he “put on the countenance” of a rogue robber invokes the recurrent theme of appearance vs. essence. Like Rosalind who can become a man by putting on his clothing, Orlando can change his identity by putting on an act: his appearance is in tension with his essence, but his identity is defined by his appearance.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  13. Notice that the Duke immediately revokes his initial “and you shall have” a motley coat after Jaques’ speech. In his speech, Jaques suggests that the duke will “receive my medicine,” which suggests that Jaques would have insight beyond the Duke’s perception. This could anger the Duke because it suggests that he has lost the power that he wielded within the city.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  14. Duke Senior’s characterization of Jaques portrays him as more “beast” than “man.” This depiction underscores Jaques’ embodiment of the archetypal Wild Man, a figure who exists between the worlds of humanity and nature.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  15. This ambition is markedly different from the ambition that is usually present in Shakespeare’s plays. Typical heroes in Shakespearean drama long for wealth, power, or fame. But here, Jaques longs to be a fool and to gain the insight that comes with being a fool. This inversion of ambition signifies the inverted nature of the green world.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  16. Jaques points to the ultimate goal of the Fool: to, through his jesting, “cleanse the foul body of the infected world.” The Fool identifies that which each person cannot see in himself. The Fool heals by bringing the unconscious into consciousness.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  17. “Chanticleer” was a popular name for roosters in folktales at this time. Most notably, Chaucer uses the name in the Canterbury Tales to name the rooster that appears in the “Nun’s Priest’s Tale.” In the tale, Chanticleer is almost eaten by a fox because the fox tricks the rooster into his mouth by playing on his pride and vanity. At the end of the story, Chaunticleer saves himself by tricking the fox into boasting to the other animals, thus opening his mouth and releasing Chaunticleer.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  18. Jaques further details the Fool’s role, using a metaphor of the Fool as the wind, “blow[ing] on whom I please.” The purpose of this metaphor is to describe how the Fool, like the wind, serves as an equalizing force. Peasants and kings,lords and servants, men and women: all are subject to ridicule by the Fool.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  19. The Celestial Spheres were a medieval cosmological understanding of how the planets and stars were positioned and moved. In this ideology, the planets were fixed in crystalline concentric circles that rotated around each other. Because many believed that one’s destiny and disposition were largely influenced by astrology, the position of the Celestial Spheres was important, as was “discord” ominous and potentially life threatening.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  20. Jaques claims that putting on the “motley coat” of the Fool is his “only suit.” The word “suit” serves as a double entendre, used to refer to both clothing and a formal request (as in “lawsuit.”) His pun-based reply to the Duke indicates that he has already stepped into the role of the Fool.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  21. Remember that Jaques referenced King Midas, who was transformed into a donkey after judging a contest between two gods, in his pastoral song from Act II, scene iv. Here, “beastliness” is equated with melancholy rather than actual physical transformation. Jaques is a beast because he does not fit in with the attitudes and behaviors of the other men in camp.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  22. This scene begins in the middle of a conversation between Duke Senior and Amiens about a mysterious “he.” While the audience will come to find out that this “he” is Jaques, Shakespeare suspends the audience’s imagination by not directly referencing him by name. This is a literary device used to make theatrical life appear more like real life: the conversation begins in the scene as if it has been going on between two characters who are not speaking lines but rather having an actual conversation.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  23. When Orlando chances upon the Duke and his men in the Forest of Arden, he initially mistakes them for savages or criminals. The Duke, even in his exile, has not forgotten his manners; after delivering the pitiful speech about his men having seen better days, he complies with Orlando's demands.

    — Sarah, Owl Eyes Staff
  24. Nature, though certainly harsh, is not as unkind as "man's ingratitude" because it is not evil or intentionally cruel. Though Duke Senior and his men have been banished to the woods, they are at least safe from the wretchedness of humankind.

    — Sarah, Owl Eyes Staff
  25. The idea that "all the world's a stage" was already a cliché by the time Shakespeare wrote As You Like It. Jacques, the slightly pretentious pessimist in the Forest of Arden, deploys the metaphor of life's stage for his famous speech on the Seven Ages of Man.

    — Sarah, Owl Eyes Staff
  26. This gets to the heart of the fool's role in the play: if the fool can speak the truth, and his advice be accepted by his listeners, he can make the world a better place.

    — Stephen Holliday
  27. That is, he has a lot of information (a retentive memory), but he shows that information in confused ways (his understanding is slow).

    — Stephen Holliday
  28. In Shakespeare's time, a man with a particularly good memory is a man with a *dry *brain, but a dry brain also leads to slowness of understanding.  Shakespeare uses the simile of the last, and driest, biscuit after a sea voyage to convey the image of a dry brain.

    — Stephen Holliday
  29. A wonderful example of Shakespeare's rhetorical skill--he uses *antitheses, *the yoking of contrasting ideas (growing/rotting) to encompass man's lifespan.  In addition, this is an example of compar, the balancing of two clauses of equal length, and parison, the parallel construction of phrases with words of similar sounds (the repetition of r sounds) in similar places.

    — Stephen Holliday
  30. That is, don't assume I am a fool until the gods have sent me fortune, and I still prove to be a fool.

    — Stephen Holliday
  31. The implication of Jacques' comment is that the motley fool belongs with the court in a civilized setting, not in the miserable world of nature in Arden.  From Jacques' perspective, his proper world has been flipped upside down.

    — Stephen Holliday
  32. This is a thought-provoking idea. It is true that from each individual's perspective, all the other people in the world, even including his closest relatives, can be seen as actors and actresses. We can only know ourselves from the inside, but we know everyone else only from the outside. We can't see others the way we see ourselves. We are inside looking out. We may think we know what is going on inside other people--but we can be dead wrong about them.

    This concept was used very effectively in the movie *The Truman Show *(1998), starring Jim Carrey. The young man named Truman had grown up in an artificial environment in which all the other people in his life, even including his wife, were paid professional actors and actresses. Truman's entire life was the subject matter of a highly successful television show which was watched all over the world of the future. Everybody in our own world does a certain amount of acting, and we do a certain amount of acting too. 

    "In every walk of life each man puts on a personality and outward appearance so as to look what he wants to be thought: in fact you might say that society is entirely made up of assumed personalities."—Francois Duc de La Rochefoucauld

    — William Delaney
  33. A character from Italian popular comedies ("Commedia del'arte): a foolish old man. 

    — Jamie Wheeler
  34. A capon is a castrated rooster, fattened as a delicacy.  It also has a slang meaning as a bribe for officials, especially judges.

    — Jamie Wheeler
  35. Crying (newborns cries often sound like small kittens mewing.)

    — Jamie Wheeler
  36. *Chanticleer *is a generic name for a rooster (from the French, "sings clearly") but its most likely source, which would have been familiar to Shakespeare, is Chaucer's Nun's Priest's Tale in The Canterbury Tales.

    — Jamie Wheeler
  37. "Motley" means "multicolored.  Multicolored costumes were often worn by court jesters and clowns. 

    — Jamie Wheeler
  38. Pythagoras believed that the earth was at the center of eight concentric spheres. As the other planets moved within these spheres, they created a harmony, inaudible to humans. This harmony was called the "music of the spheres."  

    — Jamie Wheeler
  39. Some editions note that these characters are dressed like outlaws.

    — Jamie Wheeler