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Taken from the extract, I believe the OED reference of ‘Horns’ (OED online, 2019) ‘To ‘give horns to’; to cuckold’ used in the context as a verb proves a relevant definition that I shall use as my contributory evidence. What is evident throughout the whole scene is Touchstone’s desire to marry Audrey however, his somewhat uncouth attitude to marriage is revealed in his comical use of language. Throughout the scene he is suggestive of the act of fornication, possibly between himself and Audrey however, his vague use of ‘a foul slut’ (A334, Line 26) is innocently picked up by Audrey as she finds herself defensive of Touchstone’s declaration.

From this part of his speech we, as readers, witness his childish, untutored ideas about women and his apparent lack of self-control when in female company. As a juxtaposition he suggests that even animals have things that are attached to them as they work ‘the falcon her bells’ (61) therefore he sees marriage as a restraint rather than pleasure and is only there as a substitute to solitude.

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Touchstone’s speech that starts on line 36 contains numerous references to sexuality but seen from his childish point of view that has aspects of tropism. To exemplify this he uses the word ‘horn’ five times to draw links with the environment in which the characters are situated, the forest of Arden. He suggests that the only other inhabitants that may witness his impending marriage are ‘but horn-beasts’ (line 38) that also live in the forest. He continues to show the reader how unsure he is with the act of marriage as his statement of having only animals and not people to witness the marriage could indicate how little he understands the seriousness of what he is intending bringing an aspect of farce to the scene.

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He is also ambiguous with his knowingly saying the word ‘stagger’ (line 36) to symbolize a possible hesitancy or uncertainty regarding what he is about to undertake with Audrey.

From Touchstone’s repeated use of the word ‘Horn’, he may be already aware of how uncertain his intending marriage to Audrey may last. By using this word continually he draws the reader to its definition of cuckolding by which he expects Audrey to act out his suggestion of being unfaithful by openly saying ‘sluttishness may come hereafter’ (29-30). However, he seems to carry on regardless by approaching, beforehand, a neighbouring village vicar. Shakespeare’s continual use of the word ‘Horns’ could also be used as a casual joke that may have been valid at the time of writing. Taken from the OED thesaurus entry for the chosen definition it suggests acts of ‘adultery or incest’ (OED, 2019) that according to this entry in the dictionary, the word and its implications would have had commonplace usage by its first historical recording of 1550. With Shakespeare using this word, he could be seen to have added an ‘in-joke’ suggesting infidelity aimed at Touchstone that the audience at the time of writing may have been more familiar with than today’s audience.

In no more than 1000 words, write a close reading of the rest of the passage.

You should pay particular attention to the following:

Distinctive features of the language and the contribution of these features to the meanings of the passage.

The relationship of the passage to key themes in the play.

Throughout the passage it is clearly possible to analyse differences between what is considered reality and the absurd as the characters reveal their thoughts and feelings about each other throughout the prose. There is a continued sense of unreal or fantasy as both Touchstone and Audrey strangely use the word ‘Gods’ (24) in the plural usage on numerous occasions at the start of their somewhat heated conversation. This has connotations of pagan or non-christian that indicate both the characters sense of what is considered faith or belief. This is a major recurring theme that is carried throughout the passage.

The pagan aspect contained within the scene in question is comically rebuked by Touchstone’s use of the word ‘Amen’ (36) which is clearly a Christian way to signify the ending of a prayer. With Shakespeare using this word within the prose he may be foreshadowing to the audience of the marriage that is about to take place. Giving focus to the reader about any possible longevity of the union between the two characters as the word can only allude to mean one thing, something coming to an end or a conclusion.

Throughout the whole scene there is a casual aspect to the impending marriage with Touchstone often providing phrases such as ‘we have no temple but the wood’ (37) this statement again draws on the pagan aspect of the setting by implying Touchstone’s expected use of a temple. Again the deliberate imagery of a marriage taking place within a temple used by Shakespeare brings to mind a non-christian ideology. As a contradiction, the idea of both the characters carrying out the marriage service within a building could suggest a restriction to their marriage that an internal structure would somehow contain the relationship. In complete antithesis to a wood or open-air location where by the marriage could be seen as open and free.

One of Shakespeare’s previous pastoral plays A Midsummer Nights Dream included aspects of ‘otherness’ (Roberts, 2012) whereby most of the play is contained with a forest, much like As You Like It. The real world contained within the towns and cities are where politics and science occur but, it is in scenes within the forests that expressions of freedom happen. All of the scenes that Shakespeare wrote that are centred within the two forests can be seen as either fantastical and contain aspects of otherness. This is a dramatic theme used often used by Shakespeare to show how certain characters are forced to become someone else either to hide their true identity or simply to behave in favour of a loved one. Jacques, who is also in the passage in focus is a prime example of this form of character development.

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.

Cite this page

Touchstone and Audrey. (2019, Dec 10). Retrieved from

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