Shakespeare Quotes: Seen better days
Seen better days Introduction
I'm Duke Senior. I'm in exile in the Forest of Arden because my brother stole my dukedom. But I don't let a little thing like that get me down. And you know what I think?
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 wiped 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. (2.7.121-127)
Who Said It and Where
Duke Senior and his band of merry men are readying to settle down to dinner and they're looking for their friend Jaques. When Jaques arrives he's in a good mood (shockingly!).
Jaques says he ran into a "motley fool" in the forest. He's talking about Touchstone, who is a, in fact, "licensed fool." A licensed fool is a guy who literally has a license to say whatever he wants without getting into trouble (like Feste in Twelfth Night and the Fool in King Lear). Paid fools were pretty common in the households of royalty and the nobility in Shakespeare's day.
Jaques says if he were a licensed fool, he could point out everybody's flaws and cure "th'infected world" of all its problems. But Duke Senior's not buying any of it. He points out that Jaques is more likely to infect the entire world (with venereal disease) than to cure it. Oh, snap.
As Jaques responds to the Duke's insult, Orlando bursts in on the dinner party and yells "Forebear, and eat no more!" In response, Jaques promptly calls Orlando a "cock" (no kidding).
What's Orlando so up in arms about? Good question. Duke Senior asks whether Orlando is distressed or just raised to have no manners. Orlando is hell-bent on stabbing somebody if they eat, though the Duke insists he should take it easy.
Orlando can't take it easy, because he and Adam are starving. Still, he does apologize, saying everything in the forest is so brutish, he must have become brutish himself. The Duke understands, and he invites Orlando to eat with them. (That's more than we would have done.)