Pondering life's big questions is the activity of choice in As You Like It, where debating about philosophical points of view seems like an Olympic sport. (What else are characters supposed to do with their time in the Forest of Arden? Herd sheep? Um... yeah, no.) Just about everyone in As You Like It has an opinion about the nature of life, love, the passage of time, etc. Yet, the play never offers up any definitive answers to the big questions it raises. Instead, Shakespeare gives us multiple points of view and invites the audience to decide for themselves.
Questions About Philosophical Viewpoints
Touchstone meets Jaques and goes off on a strange aside about the nature of time. Is the fool just searching for an opportunity to talk to people who don't know him as a fool? Is there something about being a fool that inherently precludes him from also being a philosopher?
Jaques seems to agree that the nature of his melancholy comes from his travels, which are the source of his learning. By definition, is committing to a life of study also committing to a life of melancholy? Is the act of philosophizing (or contemplating) an inherently melancholy act?
Do the philosophical asides work in conjunction with the play, or are they merely tacked on?
The play is definitely a comedy, and even the saddest character, Jaques, seems rather silly. Is it appropriate that philosophy be such a significant part of the play? When Shakespeare addresses philosophical concerns, like the nature of time or age, is he really being serious, or just making fun of philosophy as part of the play's general foolishness?
Chew on This
Philosophy is a necessary balance to all the foolishness in As You Like It. Philosophy saves the play from being reduced to a fluffy, meaningless piece while still allowing it to have fun.
As You Like It offers multiple and incompatible philosophical points of view on the nature of life.