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.
Fools and Foolishness ThemeTracker
Fools and Foolishness Quotes in As You Like It
The more pity that fools may not speak wisely what wise men do foolishly.
What passion hangs these weights upon my tongue? I cannot speak to her, yet she urged conference.
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.
I can suck melancholy out of a song as a weasel sucks eggs.
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.