In William Shakespeare’s As You Like It the speech act is introduced and helps to create a unique insight into the play and its events. Shakespeare integrates a speech act by Jaques to deliver a deeper meaning and lesson to the audience or reader of the work. Jaques in his speech act conveys a message with a much deeper meaning and teaching to society in general. The speech act rendered by Jaques addresses the themes of satire, philosophy, and the ages of man.
Jaques starts his speech act by stating that
” All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players.
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They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.” (II, vii, 139-143)
Jaques has turned to philosophy in his search for a new identity, and as a philosopher he starts to question what he sees and hears around him. This drives him to offer this speech act where he sees the world as a stage upon which people perform. Their different ages signify varying acts and scenes in As You Like It. The descriptions presented by Jaques lead one to believe that the roles are somewhat beyond the player’s control and perhaps even that the script has been set by an eternal power.
Jaques addresses the topic of satire utilizing a unique way to convey the message to the audience or reader. A mention is made of the infant who “mews and pukes in the nurses arms “(II, ii, 144-146). He describes the event in such a graphic manner in order to paint a clear picture of the situation in the audience’s mind. Jaques later relates how “a whining schoolboy, with his satchel and shining morning face creeps to school (II, vii, 146-147). He goes on further to describe how the “lover, sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad made to his mistress’ eyebrow (II, vii, 147-148). Jaques takes his satirical approach further as he states that “the justice, in fair round belly with good capon lined, with eyes severe and beard of formal cut … plays his part” (II, vii, 153-156). Jaques finally ends his satirical approach by telling how at the end of life one is left “sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything”(II, vii, 166). He makes his point of the life that is lead by many in society and achieves his purpose through the usage of satire to do so.
Jaques handles the issue of philosophy in his speech act in a way that enhances the rest of the play. As he states that ” all the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players ” Jaques poses a philosophical view of the situation being addressed. He opts to use symbolic means to express his feelings about the behavior of humans in society in which humans simply play out their lives on stage. Jaques goes on to say that ” one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages” (II, vii, 2-3). He categorizes the stages of life into seven significant categories which all contribute to man’s ultimate end. Jaques expresses a very pessimistic view of life and society in general through his philosophical examples.
As his speech act continues, Jaques makes a remark about the seven ages of man and how they add to man’s ultimate end. Jaques breaks up the stages into infancy, schoolboy, lover, soldier, justice, a ridiculous old man or “pantaloon” and finally the stage at which one has no teeth, eyes, taste, or anything else (II, vii, 158). He regards infancy as a stage in which a child is so dependent upon a nurse or other helping hand. The infant then develops into a schoolboy who can be reluctant to attend school at times. This boy has already grown into a person who now begins to feel and act according to the feelings. The next stage encompasses one in which the man develops into a lover who will sing a ballad if necessary and who may not always be the most loyal husband or lover. The next stage as a soldier turns into one in which he is proud to serve and “quick to battle in order to build reputation” (II, vii, 149-151). This is a man now who is ready to serve his country and fight for a necessary cause. The man then develops into a justice who can be imperfect in many ways. Besides a “fair round belly”, he can be influenced by outside forces to sway a ruling or mold a case a certain way. As he approaches the old man stage, the individual begins to act in certain ways that bring ridicule unto himself. The last stage of all encompasses the old age of the man and leaves him without any senses or anything else, according to Jaques.
The speech act rendered by Jaques addresses the themes of satire, philosophy, and the ages of man. He conveys his deeper message to the audience or reader of the work through an elaborate and interesting method. He satirizes justices, a lover and even relates how at the end of the road one is left without any senses. He is able to depict the stages of man through real-life situations. Jaques also achieves integration of philosophical themes into his speech act. He turns into a philosopher as he analyzes and reflects on how people in society behave. Jaques relates this speech act in such a way that magnifies the effect of the play on the audience or reader of the work.