Back to: As You Like It by William Shakespeare
Touchstone as Shakespeare’s fool has his own place in the play ‘As You Like It.’ The individualized character of Touchstone has a unique sense of humor and a deep insight into human nature. Even when Touchstone is portrayed as a fool, none of his remarks is meaningless.
Like a chorus of any play gives us a neutral point of view of everything, Touchstone’s character is also such a tool in the play. When other characters in the play are interested in something, he is more of a spectator.
The character of Duke, understanding about him in the play, says that he “uses his folly like a stalking-horse, and under presentation of that he shoots his wit.”
He is a courtier in the play so in a courtly language he satirizes everything. When Rosalind and Celia get excited with the news of wrestling, he says that “thus men may grow wiser every day; it is the first time that ever I heard the breaking of ribs was sports for ladies.”
When Rosalind finds letters of Orlando stuck to the trees in the forest of Arden, it is Touchstone who studies them neutrally and as someone who supposedly doesn’t feel, he points out its artistic failure.
He says that its rhymes are so commonplace that he can “rhyme you so eight years together, dinners and suppers and sleeping hours excepted.”
As a courtier, he is distinguished from the rest due to his natural interest in people and their ways of life. When talking to Corin, he asks, “hast any philosophy in thee, shepherd?” and in the end, he concludes about Corin that “such a one is a natural philosopher.”
Touchstone, while courting Audrey, reveals the frank nature of his character. With clarity, he says that “as the ox hath his bow, sir, the horse his curb…so the man hath his desires.” In a quiet ironical way, he reveals the truth of marriage and courtship beneath conventional perceptions.
The fact that he is professionally employed in the court as a fool, he can fool around anybody without any fear and he uses this privilege to present his wisdom to which one can’t deny. His character serves as a proper foil to everything found naturally in the forest of Arden.