Study Guide

As You Like It Act 2, Scene 7

By William Shakespeare

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Act 2, Scene 7

Read the full text of As You Like It Act 2 Scene 7 with a side-by-side translation HERE.

  • Meanwhile, Duke Senior and his band of merry men are readying to settle down to dinner and they're looking for Jaques.
  • Jaques arrives (speak of the devil!) and, shockingly, he's in a good mood.
  • Jaques says he ran into a "motley fool" in the forest. (A "motley" is a multi-colored costume worn to signify one's status as a professional fool or jester.) Hmm. Sounds like Jaques bumped into Touchstone out in the woods, don't you think?
  • Apparently, Jaques hung out with the "motley fool" for about an hour and was amused by the guy's philosophical musings on the passage of time and the nature of women.
  • Jaques bags on Touchstone and says that fools are the only people allowed to mock others without getting into trouble.
  • Brain Snack: Jaques is talking about the freedom of being a "licensed fool" (like Touchstone). 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.
  • 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.
  • As Jaques responds to the Duke's insult, Orlando bursts in on the dinner party and yells "Forebear, and eat no more!"
  • Jaques calls Orlando a "cock" (no kidding) and 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. Everyone promises to wait while Orlando runs off to get Adam.
  • Duke Senior takes the opportunity to comment that misery seems to be a universal experience.
  • Jaques delivers the play's most famous speech and declares, "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players." He goes on to detail the seven ages of man, as follows: You start as an infant, then a whining schoolboy, progress to a lover, then a soldier, then a contented middle-aged man, followed by a kinda-old guy with spectacles, and finally a very, very old guy who has lost his senses and looks and acts like a helpless baby again. (Check out the "Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory" section if you want to know more about this.)
  • Just as Jaques is saying that old men are like infants, Orlando enters carrying his old servant, Adam... who is as helpless as a baby.
  • The Duke doesn't want to bother them with questions before eating, so they all feast (probably on deer meat).
  • Amiens sings a song about how even the harsh winter wind isn't as terrible as the way human beings can sometimes treat each other. (Hmm. Sounds like another reference to how Duke Frederick's court is much worse than living in the Forest of Arden, lousy weather and all.)
  • During the song, Orlando whispers to Duke Senior that he is the son of Sir Rowland de Boys.
  • The Duke recognizes old man Rowland's features in the boy and is delighted to have him. Duke Senior was a good friend of Sir Rowland, so he says Orlando and Adam are welcome in his cave anytime.
  • The Duke says he wants to hear the story of how Adam and Orlando ended up homeless and hungry in the forest.

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