As You Like It

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Themes and Colors
Deception, Disguise, and Gender Theme Icon
Romantic Love Theme Icon
Country vs. City Theme Icon
Love and Rivalry Between Relatives Theme Icon
Fools and Foolishness Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in As You Like It, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Fools and Foolishness Theme Icon

There is a distinction developed throughout As You Like It between those who are fools and those who are foolish. Touchstone is the exemplary fool: he is witty and “poetical,” and his comments, though cloaked in clownish language, are wise and apt. He is, moreover, self-conscious about his own identity as a fool, and philosophizes on the very characterization, commenting “the more pity that fools may not speak wisely what wise men do foolishly,” and “The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.” In the former, he reflects on the fool’s lack of authority; in the latter, he suggests that those who call themselves fools may well be wiser than those who call themselves wise. In both, he reveals himself to be more wise than foolish. Jaques, on the other hand, is an exemplar of foolishness. He is foolish enough to aspire to become a fool (and, moreover, is unsuccessful) and he does not have Touchstone’s wisdom or quickness of expression. While Touchstone is embraced by the court and admired by the Duke, Jaques is out of place throughout the play, and ultimately retreats with Duke Frederick into a monastic existence.

There is also a sense in which foolishness is universal, especially in matters of romance: Orlando looks foolish when he is wildly posting his poems, and Rosalind and Oliver, too, when they fall instantaneously in love. Foolishness in these cases is simply the manifestation of an irrational state of extreme emotion.

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Fools and Foolishness Quotes in As You Like It

Below you will find the important quotes in As You Like It related to the theme of Fools and Foolishness.
Act 1, Scene 2 Quotes

The more pity that fools may not speak wisely what wise men do foolishly.

Related Characters: Touchstone (speaker)
Page Number: 1.2.85-86
Explanation and Analysis:

Touchstone, a fool, interrupts Rosalind and Celia's conversation and tells Celia that her father (Duke Frederick) is looking for her. He pokes fun at Duke Frederick, frustrating Celia. She tells him that if he keeps going he will be whipped. He responds with this line, suggesting that while fools may behave foolishly, what they say is often true. Like many of Shakespeare's plays, As You Like It uses the character of the fool (in this case Touchstone) as a source of unadulterated, objective truth. While comedic, he will turn out to be one of the wisest characters in the play. And, often times, the non-fools, like Rosalind and Celia, make the most "foolish" and rash choices of the play. The irony is that the fool is the most perceptive character and source of crucial information for the audience, as the other characters are too deeply enmeshed in the conflicts of the story. 


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What passion hangs these weights upon my tongue? I cannot speak to her, yet she urged conference.

Related Characters: Orlando (speaker), Rosalind
Page Number: 1.2.258-259
Explanation and Analysis:
After winning the wrestling match, Orlando admits his true identity to Rosalind and Celia. Rosalind tells him that if she knew who he was she would have stopped him from fighting, and she then gives him a chain as a congratulatory gift and symbol of her respect for his father and his victory. Orlando is immediately smitten. He says this line after Rosalind and Celia exit. Orlando, who earlier stood up to his brother with keen articulation is, for the first time, at a loss for words. This is the first time of many where his love for Rosalind will make him speak foolishly. 
Act 2, Scene 4 Quotes

We that are true lovers run into strange capers; but as all is mortal in nature, so is all nature in love mortal in folly.

Related Characters: Touchstone (speaker)
Page Number: 2.4.53-55
Explanation and Analysis:

Rosalind, Touchstone and Celia have overheard Silvius' conversation with Corin. Rosalind tells the group that she can relate to Silvius. Touchstone then reflects on his own past lover, Jane Smile, and says once again that folly and foolishness are a direct result of deep love. Shakespeare brings up an interesting irony here. The memory of love causes Touchstone, the snide fool, to open up and have a moment of deep earnestness. While still comedic and couched in wordplay (using "mortal" to mean both that all living things eventually die and the foolishness of love eventually dies as well), his speech is truthful, suggesting that love can make even the funniest fool reflective and the most serious person foolish. 

Act 2, Scene 5 Quotes

I can suck melancholy out of a song as a weasel sucks eggs.

Related Characters: Jaques (speaker)
Page Number: 2.5.12-13
Explanation and Analysis:

Amiens, a lord of Duke Senior, enters singing to Jaques, another lord. Jaques begs Amiens to continue to sing his song. Amiens tells him that he is worried that the song will make Jaques sad. Jaques replies with this (unintentionally) humorous line, claiming that his cynicism and depression makes any song seem melancholy. In this moment Jaques proves that even former members of the court can appear foolish. He brags about his own sadness, almost celebrating his ability to find melancholy in anything. Furthermore, in his exaggerated commitment to his melancholy state, Jaques' character is actually comedic—an example of "foolishness" that lacks the lively wit and wisdom of the true fool, Touchstone. 

Act 2, Scene 7 Quotes

When I did hear the motley fool thus moral on the time, my lungs began to crow like chanticleer that fools should be so deep contemplative.

Related Characters: Jaques (speaker), Touchstone
Page Number: 2.5.29-32
Explanation and Analysis:

Duke Senior describes a man he saw in the forest, and Jaques tells him that it may have been the fool he met in the forrest—Touchstone. Jaques describes the fool, claiming he was incredibly wise, philosophizing on the concept of time—so wise, indeed, that he made Jaques "crow like chantecleer" (a rooster) in delight. Once again, the fool is seen as a source of truth and wisdom. Jaques, the person who finds cynicism and melancholy in everything, was touched by Touchstone's philosophical nature, and now decides that he admires this kind of "foolishness," and even aspires to it. Jaques clearly desires to be seen as wise, and after this revelation he thinks that wisdom only comes in a jester's costume—so that is what he wants to wear.