Page of Cups - Jacques
Dramatis Personae: Lord Jacques.
Text & Context: Depending how you pronounce it, the name Jacques can be a homophone for jakes, British slang for shit house - a crass joke on a character of elegence and feeling. The root of Jacques' melancholy remains obscure, but it finds sincere expression in the Edenic forest of Arden, its slain hart, and the discovery of "a fool... a noble fool... a worthy fool... in this miserable world." But we are no longer in this miserable world, quite, we are in the quasi-pastoral land of shepherds and poetry and changes of heart.
When the bitter wind blows, Duke Senior tells us, "these are counsellors that feelingly persuade me what I am." He smiles, but his manor is obtrusively formal. Amiens, his courtier, provides obsequious l'envoy
Happy is your Grace,
That can translate the stubbornness of fortune
Into so quiet and so sweet a style
The Duke praises grim reality, but transmutes it into style. He is a formalist; a king of human-built affairs, reared in a world antithetical to nature. Here is a clue to the Duke's dislike of Jacques, and perhaps Jacques' dismay with all the Duke represents. The Duke is a romantacist, poorly disguised as a realist, while Jacques is a realist richly disguised as a romantic.
The crude ridicule then, of Jacques as a house in which one answers the call of nature, belies the feculence of civility, ashamed and shaming, severed from itself in compartmentalized edifices, believing its shit doesn't stink.
At As You Like It's end, of all the court and characters, it is Jacques who eschews the artifice of human society and remains a free - and freed - man in the Arcadian garden. Yet, how will the man who says of himself I can suck melancholy out of a song as a weasel sucks eggs, live sans music, sans eggs? For Jacques is a misanthropist for whom all occasions are but opportunities to exhibit misanthropy. He admires no one more than the dislocated fool Touchstone - as un objet d'art - while he himself "loves melancholy better than laughing."
Touchstone is only happy taking the piss; Jacques is only happy pooh-poohing, and doing it with grandiloquence, and being duly observed while doing it. The most loquacious person in the play, he says of himself without much feeling, "'tis good to be sad and say nothing." But as with his Seven Ages of Man speech, the metaphor is easy, suggests nothing beyond its own narrow limits, and is in the end a sententious declamatory commonplace; a myopic eye that sees no further than itself, a sans tooth for a sans tooth.
To live, the misanthropist needs men around him to hate; left to his own devices in Arden, Jacques has only himself.