As You Like It Act 3, Scene 3 Summary & Analysis
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Touchstone enters, talking to a goatherd named Audrey. He compares himself to Ovid, saying he is amongst Audrey’s goats just as Ovid was amongst the Goths. When Audrey doesn't understand, Touchstone expresses regret that she's not more “poetical.” He elaborates that “the truest poetry is the most feigning, and lovers are given to poetry,” and explains that Audrey need not be honest because she is already beautiful, and it is excessive to be both honest and beautiful. Throughout their exchange, Jaques stands nearby and makes occasional asides about Audrey’s stupidity.
Touchstone once again demonstrates his sophistication and ability to make remarks that have an air of intelligence. This ability, previously contrasted with Corin’s simple-mindedness, is here contrasted with Audrey’s. The content of Touchstone's comments is also worth noting, with its connection of "lovers" with "feigning", i.e. dishonesty. And as Orlando's poetry comparing Rosalind to Helen of Troy indicates, there is a kind of exuberant dishonesty inspired by love—Orlando is even lying to himself in that he thinks those comparisons are valid!
Touchstone announces his decision to be married to Audrey by Sir Oliver Martext, a vicar from a neighboring village. He then riffs on the theme of horns, which were said to grow from the foreheads of men whose wives cheated on them, and concludes that it is more desirable and honorable to be a ‘horned’ (cheated-on) married man than a bare-browed bachelor.
Touchstone deems that it is preferable to be with someone, even if that person is unfaithful, than to be alone. His verbalized preference for company makes sense, given that he is never found alone within the context of the play, and always seems to assume the role of someone’s side-kick or companion.
Sir Oliver Martext arrives and inquires if there is anyone to give away the woman in the marriage ceremony. Jaques steps forward and offers to do it, but then convinces Touchstone that the marriage should actually occur in a proper church. Touchstone agrees, despite his reservation that a poorly- administered wedding would provide a better excuse for him to leave the marriage if he wanted to later on. The three of them depart, leaving Martext alone and confused in the forest.
Touchstone’s convictions regarding marriage are revealed to be rather weak, both concerning how his marriage should take place, and even, it seems, whether it should take place at all. Further, his initial interest in getting married seemed to be connected to also being able to easily get out of the marriage.