Back to: As You Like It by William Shakespeare
The character of Jaques is a multidimensional character. In the play As You Like It, Jaques is an attending Lord to the banished Duke Senior. He is introduced to us as a widely traveled person. His younger days were of loose morals.
In the play, it says, “For then thyself hast been a libertine, as sensual as the brutish sting itself…wouldst you disgorge into the general world.”
His vast experience is the background of the melancholia with which he is introduced to us in the play. Rosalind says to Jaques that “your experiences makes you sad.”
As an Elizabethan character, his melancholia is full of humor. From the very beginning of the play, he is characterized as someone whose analytic power is very good.
Earlier corruptions might have rotten some parts of him but his insights are brilliant and yet gloomy. So, he says that he can “suck melancholy out of a song as a weasel sucks egg.”
Jaques is full of ego. His humor comes from that egoistic view of life in which he constantly tries to differ from others. In the play, he is less of an actor but more of an observer.
William Hazlitt said that “Jaques thinks, and does nothing.” Jaques says to Rosalind that his melancholy is in a class by itself. He analyses Touchstone deeply and their conversation reveals their depth to us and in his own words, they are rare fellows, “as good as anything and yet a fool.”
Jaques is full of contradiction. He seeks society and also solitude. He is childish and yet full of wisdom. He is a courtier but when they are in the forest of Arden, he is trying to seek comfort and consolation in nature and solitude.
To the very end of the play, when he tries to join Duke Frederick because he has left the pomp and show of court, we come to understand that his character is sketched to be melancholic but without any bad intention for anyone.
Like Duke Senior says in the play that he loves to meet him in his “sullen fits” because then his wisdom and humor overflows.