Jacques Melancholic Presence a Meaningful One

As You Like It by William Shakespeare is a pastoral drama, where love plays an important role in bringing people together from various sides of life and different class. It is meant to contrast and show to the audience, usually of an urban background, that love can be found outside the society’s restrictions and guidelines. This freedom of love is emphasized by the lesser degree of naturalism present in these types of plays; events can occur without any logical reason, and the existence of fairies, spirits, magic in general is not completely out of the question. So, amidst these contradictions of the constructed values of urban life, as the plays seen by Shakespeare are usually seen in, what role does Jacques play to further shed light on the point of the pastoral drama?

Jacques plays an extreme melancholic in As You Like It. Not only so, but he genuinely enjoys being sad and depressing. He thrives on making snide comments and mocking people. In this sense he is a very important character in the overall story and morale of the play even though he seems to be bringing everybody down. The play, as I mentioned above, is about contrast and opposing conventional views of society, something which Shakespeare does through characters such as Touchstone, the wise clown. I do not believe that the same level of explicitness of sending a clear message or idea to the audience through Touchstone exists with the character of Jacques. Rather, I believe the character of Jacques to play a part of balancing the whole play; toning the levels of joy from love down, and not essentially not making the whole play a ‘happily ever after’ story. This way there are two counter-forces; the love cynical Jacques and the group consisting of the ‘young love birds’ Orlando and Rosalind, Oliver and Celia, Silvius and Phoebe, and Touchstone and Audrey.

A plausible reason for the overall unhappy personality of Jacques is that he was in fact one of the young lovebirds once. In fact, he was Orlando but “suffered from a loss in love that he’s never recovered from” (Cooke, 146). This does present a convincing argument, and as Cooke further explains that the play is about the different ways of falling in love, which Jacques is an example of, though a rather sorrowful one. This reason has a meaning of it’s own though. Shakespeare’s meanings in the comedy is to show the different ways of love, how it might find itself in unlikely combinations between gentleman of the court and the maidens of the farms, and so the personality of Jacques presents a future theme in the play; one that shows the audience that love is clearly not always successful, and can in fact ruin a man or woman. Although I believe that this theme fits in with the other present themes of the search for love and breaking society’s boundaries, it is not one that is overly optimistic as the others, but neither is Jacques. He does play a sad role, yet necessary at the same time for the other ideas of Shakespeare in As You Like It to shine through.

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“The Directors Cut”- A Reaction

The interview with directors Michael Boyd and Dominic Cooke proved to be very insightful in the way a Shakespeare play is produced and directed, and gives the reader a chance to acknowledge the director’s skills and creativity. For me, Cooke and Boyd seem to play a very big role on how the play is to be acted out; they do not simply follow the play as Shakespeare has written them. There is almost as much influence of the director’s thoughts and ideas in the plays as there is of the playwright himself.

The aspect of adaption is clearly evident, and as a spectator of theatre, one must consider how the director adds positively to the play, or by straying too far from the original storyline takes away from it? What struck me most was how Cooke and Boyd created their own background stories to make the feelings of characters such as Rosalind and Jacques more believable. They had introduced seasons to their production, to further match the mood of the characters as they play develops. For example, the beginning of their adaption of As You Like It began in the wintertime; a time for festivities and to spend time with one’s family. Yet it still creates a depressing theme as the latter notion is the reason for why Rosalind is depressed in the beginning of the play; because she is reminded about the Christmas spirit and how she used to spend it with her father, whom is now banished and resides in the Forest of Arden. Also, holiday season, as Cooke argues, is also a time for family feuds, which is occurring between Oliver and Orlando. This addition to the play I find useful, and also interesting, as it applies context to the feelings of the characters, making the play more understandable.

There also seems to be a need for the reason of adaption of a Shakespeare play, rather than the reproduction of it. In other words, there must be some form of creative input from the director. I believe this because whilst the original As You Like It is good, the process of putting the words to life on stage needs some form of guidance. In this sense, I see the play by Shakespeare as a mathematical equation; the answer being the play and the algebraic equations of getting to the result being decided by the director and directors. This way, plays based on the same story by Shakespeare continues to be exciting, new and original due to the specific need of innovative thought on the part of the director or directors for the final production to be successful.

Yet, how far can a director go in tweaking the storyline from it’s authentic form? I believe the answers lay with the purpose of the director. If the aim of the directors is to make an adaption of the play, yet express their own ideas through the notion or creation of something that was not specified in the play before by Shakespeare, for example introducing seasons the way Cooke and Boyd did, then I personally believe it is acceptable. However, if the final product drastically defers from the way Shakespeare has written the play; for example if As You Like It took place in the Asteroid field of Arden, in outer space, then I would think the production has taken inspiration from As You Like It, and used it in his or her own play or movie.

The slight adjustments of As You Like It in the Globe Theatre production were not as noticeable to me unless I read along, in which case I noticed how they for example moved around scenes to make the overall play flow better. In one case they merged Act 4 Scene 1 with Act 4 Scene 3, skipping the Scene 2, albeit it was a small one. It simply made the part of Silvius giving the letter to Rosalind from Phoebe more comprehensible, in my opinion. Another example of this was in the end how everyone burst into fairly modern dance. The wedding dancing was expected, but the way the actors lined up around the stage was not, and I think the extravagance of the dance added to the feeling Shakespeare had in mind that the problems of the characters were all being resolved, ending happily.

 

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The Use of Sarcasm in As You Like It

William Shakespeare’s play As You Like It is one of great comic content, and one of the main ways of how that is completed is through sarcasm. Whether that’s achieved by making a character contradict the society’s pre-founded perception of a character, or through making the audience know more of the plot than the characters, or making ordinary things a sexual reference, the play does certainly play on the aspect of sarcasm to keep the audience amused.

The roles of characters in the play I think constitute a crucial part in making As You Like It a comedy through sarcastic uses. Not only through their spoken language, but often Shakespeare has reversed the roles of the characters, making for example court jesters wise, ladies dressing up as men, and more to achieve a comical twist on the romantic and drama filled events of the play. Furthermore, the fact that the actors who were all male back then when the play was being first produced added another layer of not necessarily sarcasm, yet definitely makes the audience laugh in the fact that they have more knowledge of what is happening than the actors on stage. Language is another source of sarcasm throughout the play, whether it be bantering or joking at each other’s expense, or through more direct means to insult one another.

The language of As You Like It may be old and unfamiliar in certain cases, yet there are still very clear links to the modern definition of sarcasm existing in the writing by Shakespeare. Sexual references are also extremely common, and one scene in particular I find especially interesting and funny is where Jacques talks of his meeting of a fool in the forest (Touchstone) and how surprised he is by Touchstone’s seemingly wise and thoughtful words. The first time I read the scene I thought Touchstone was commenting on the progress and time of society and the lifespan of an individual man, a curious thing for a court jester to do, yet he was in fact simply referring to an erection. As You Like It might seem deep and contemplative at times; with the skewed brotherly relationship between Oliver and Orlando, the exile of Duke Senior, the confused romance between Rosalind and Orlando, yet certain speeches and phrases of clear sexual references reminds the audience that this is clearly a play aimed for comical purposes. Even the play title sounds sarcastic to my ears.

The role of sarcasm throughout the play puts the audience at ease, reminding them that the story might have it’s more dramatic and serious scenes, yet the fact remains that it is a play of comedy. Sarcasm also suits the type of play As You Like It is, as the events of the play are unlikely with Orlando being exactly what he is not supposed to be at the end of a life denied many things including an education, the exiled Duke Senior rejoicing over the fact that he was banned from court by the new Duke, essentially these events are all unlikely when you think about them, and always include a twist. In this sense I think sarcasm suits the style of the play, and helps to emphasize to the audience what is happening because sarcasm is a type of humour with a certain edge to it.

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Globe Theatre Production of As You Like It Reaction

The Globe Theatre production of As You Like It proved both informative and entertaining. Informative because the actors portrayed the characters well and thus made clearer the relationship between the characters, the plot and in general the understanding of the play. This I think leads to a more enjoyable experience watching the play.

Being slightly more practiced and experienced actors than those who volunteer in English class, I find that the play becomes much more understandable and even comical when you get to see what the actors facial expressions are, how they interact with one another on stage and their tone of voice, which I find especially revealing as to what is being said and what effect it has on the play. It is not always that I understand every word and every sentence of what is being said in the play, yet the tone of voice as heard in the video of the play certainly made things clearer in those situations when the message is not always clear. It is definitely helpful to have a visual aid of the play in such circumstances.

Another reaction to the play was the chosen location of it, that is to say it sparked a feeling of respect and awe to realize that the place where William Shakespeare first presented his plays still remain intact and are being used today for his plays. I think this gives an appropriate historical context to whichever play is being produced there, not just As You Like It. I think it is interesting to know that the original place used for a play is still being used for the play, which for me creates a sense of authenticity and gives a creative insight to how the play must have looked like back when it was first produced even though we are in modern times.

As You Like It definitely becomes more interesting whilst watching the play as it becomes more enjoyable for me, yet of course the book is more useful for analytical writing and such. Also, the story becomes more enjoyable when seen and heard, rather than read, as for me it is more clear and exciting.

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As You Like It, Act 1 Reflection blog

William Shakespeare’s As You Like It immediately jumps into the story of Orlando, Oliver, Adam, Celia, Rosalind, Charles the Wrestler, Touchstone and Le Beau. The reader is immediately aware of all their background stories, the context of each person and in that way Shakespeare captivates his readers at the beginning of the very first sentence and so they read on and on. In my opinion, this also resembles very much the way a landscape photograph is composed: lead in lines/ interesting foreground to attract the viewer, middle ground which usually has the main motif, and then in most cases some sort of sky. There is a beginning and an end to it, the viewer, just like the reader is compelled to look and read through the whole thing.

In class on Thursday, the class brainstormed several things that constitutes good writing, some of them being directly linked to analytical writing and some that could be applied to more general writing. For example, focusing on non-analytical writing things that I remembered were ‘syntax’, ‘grammar’, ‘story-line’, to name a few. Shakespeare, of course, has all of these present in his writing. Shakespeare’s skills as a writer, however, go much farther than having correct grammar and syntax.

As You Like It, Act I, have components of the characters background, their ambitions and aims, and aspects of irony and comedy, as well as a compelling story line. In other words, Shakespeare has managed to come up with a story that allows the readers to easily relate to; as the story has so many human qualities that make it interesting. For example, the first scene of Act I deals with the problems Orlando has growing up as a younger brother to the dominant and selfish Oliver who only wants to keep Orlando as non-educated and non-succesful as possible. This kind of brotherly relationship is extreme, and one that I hope no one actually encounters, yet the feelings of an older brother towards his younger brother can sometimes be made up of jealousy, fear and trepidation. Oliver’s reasoning for treating his brother that way is so that Oliver is able to always remain the successful one.

It is the relatable and intriguing story line of As You Like It that I think makes it such a great play; not solely because Shakespeare had all the technical sides to writing correct.

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As You Like It Character List

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Blog discussions: Quarter three

Here are links to where I’ve been having discussions with my fellow classmates.

Commentary on The Cowboy by James Tate (Suruj)

The Cowboy (Justin)

Cowboys VS Aliens (Matt)

Commentary on The Cowboy by James Tate (my own blog)

The Cowboy (Kiera)

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Commentary on The Cowboy by James Tate

The poem The Cowboy is a poem about a teenager who is lead to believe a certain Roger Lawson is pulling a prank on him by telling everyone that he has an alien in his house. As people start gathering around his house, the narrator announces that the alien had died and vanished into thin air. However, that’s when the alien who likes cowboy movies, especially the John Ford ones, shows up in his house.
In the beginning of the poem, the reader is immediately exposed with emotions; frustration and anger from the narrator, while the crowd shows excitement and curiosity at the supposed presence of an alien. As the poem goes on, the emotions of the story and the narrator turn from being more open and public to more dark and gloomy, as mirrored in the change of setting of the poem. One is exposed to the imagery of hundreds of excited onlookers trying to get a glimpse of the alien inside the closed and ‘fortified’ house. This creates another platform for the later emotions of the poem to come into play, a platform more sincere and genuine than the one outside. This, of course, changes the tone of the poem quite drastically from the practical joking to the sorrow death of the alien.
Upon the discovery of the alien in his kitchen, the speaker is turned into a temporary father for the alien, and cares for the well being of the “nearly transparent fellow with large pink eyes standing about three feet tall.” For example, he offers him orange juice and immediately obliges the aliens wishes of seeing a real cowboy and tries to start planning the trip. This is the exact opposite of what the Samsa family of The Metamorphosis would have done if they had discovered an alien in their kitchen. They would furthermore not be sad at the aliens passing away, and would more likely rejoice in his death. I think the main reason for why the narrator of The Cowboy is able to care for the alien is because of how human he is, and how normal aspirations he has. True, he doesn’t look like one, yet his request of meeting a real cowboy is so common and familiar that the speaker can see past that. This shows that the poem by Tate is open to interpretation, even though reading about his unfortunate background as a son, one can also see how the writer pulls certain themes and ideas from his own life. Death and sorrow is prevalent in the poem, and so is it in his life because of the death of his father in WWII.
The structure of the poem I also think helps the reader understand another concept of life, tragic it may be. The structure of the poem seems to serve the sole purpose of retelling the events of the narrator, filling it with emotions, events and ending in this case abruptly, much like life. It mirrors the fact that life can be taken away from you at any moment, and is presented in the joyful yet sad death of the alien, simply because the mysterious ‘Father’ says it is time. Father represents the opportunity of events which may take your life away and end everything.

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Poetry Reaction of Musée des Beaux Arts

Musée des Beaux Arts by W.H. Auden is inspired by Breughels Icarus, and deals with matters of life the same way as Breughel does in his painting.
In the beginning of the poem, Auden writes about the course of life and how the “Old Masters” view it, which is differently from how ‘children who did not specifically want it to happen’ views life. While the Old Masters realize the need for new life and the replacement of old people by young, the young children want to remain the centre of attention and always be at the middle of things. This creates a sense of ignorance and seclusion, one where a reader finds himself in the midst of a world where no one is extremely observant or cares enough to notice when something happens the world, the people simply go on living their own lives.
This is similar to how Breughel portrays the life of Icarus in his painting, so many things are painted and revealed, yet none of the people in the painting are shown to be aware of any of them. For example, in the bottom right corner of the painting you witness the fall of Icarus; as he was flying too high and so his wings melted, making him fall down with a splash in the ocean close to a fishermen, who even though just saw a young man fall from the sky does not look up from his fishing.
In the poem, lines such as “Scratches it’s innocent behind on a tree” or “Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry, But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone” clearly emphasizes the world of unconcerned and unperturbed people. Also, highlighting this are words that reveal an action, such as ‘scratches’, ‘skating’, ‘splash’ and ‘the forsaken cry’ all create a sense of motion within the poem, which gives the reader a wider range of life and what’s happening in the poem.
However, another interpretation of the poem is how it tells the story of progression and the attitudes of the people in the current change. While this might not be what the painting, nor what the poem is about, since the poem is a reaction to the painting, it is still a plausible interpretation. It is mainly the beginning of the poem which can be related to theme of progression in a society of population. While the Old Masters contemplate the necessity of a growing population and people, the younger and more inexperienced children do not understand this necessity, and hence is against such changes. This also relates to how a person views the world around them, and hence comes back to what Breughel was originally intending to say with his painting, and what Auden wrote in his poem.

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