The term otherness is defined in the OED as ‘separateness from or oppositeness’ (OED, 2019).
From reading through and watching the play live it is possible to see how Jacques adapts himself to the idea of otherness by actively trying to be somebody else in his attempt to better understand the world. His sense of otherness isn’t derived from the pursuit of love as most of the other characters seem to desire but to copy people throughout the play, especially with Touchstone the fool whom he follows into the forest and believes to be an inspiration.
Jacques actively tries to befriend and engage with the fool to gain his trust as he recommends his marriage to Audrey take place in a church ‘Get you to church, and have a good priest’ (64).
Jacques uses natural imagery to win him over by suggesting the marriage would ‘like green timber, warp, warp’ (67), he even repeats warp twice to strengthen the idea of aphorism to change Touchstone’s mind.
There is a deep irony to his use of timber to symbolise the marriage falling apart when the characters are conversing in a wood in which Touchstone wished the marriage to take place. This form of allegory drawing a comparison between the wood and the possibility of a failed marriage helps to change Touchstone’s opinion but his response contrasts with Jacques as he speaks out aloud his thoughts to himself as a form of an aside in which his thoughts towards the marriage and Audrey are revealed ‘it will be a good excuse for me hereafter to leave my wife’ (70-71).
The frailty of relationships and how people interact is a common theme that is evident throughout the play as a whole. Primarily, the play tries to show how people perceive each other but is complicated by the way most of the primary characters use disguise to over come their own personal conflicts. It is possible to see Touchstone’s and Audrey’s consonantal ‘bawdry’ (74) relationship seen from a cynical viewpoint whereby Shakespeare uses rather base words ‘foul slut’ (26) as a simplified form of hyperbole. As a comparison Orlando and Rosalind’s courtship is complicated with the female lead becoming, briefly, a man, possibly to test Orlando in his declaration of love towards Rosalind.
However, the character traits that Jacques and Touchstone/Audrey have over most of the primary characters, contradictory to Orlando and Rosalind is honesty. Touchstone is often brutal with his way of speaking, even to his beloved Audrey, but he hides nothing and only uses quick-witted words to out think others who believe themselves superior ‘that fools may not speak wisely what wise men do foolishly’ (1.2.85-86). Jacques can be perceived as a bored gentleman who travels through the forest in search of knowledge through the experience of life away from court. His monumental epiphany is captured within his monologue, The Seven Ages of Man.
From this cathartic monologue, Jacques delivers a metaphorical lesson that transcends everything that the characters contained in the play are in pursuit of, love, freedom and equality. By his honest affirmation that man has no control over his life, just like an actor who performs on stage, then life is comparable to a play, it has a beginning and an end but ultimately shouldn’t be taken too seriously.
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