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As You Like It | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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As You Like It | Act 3, Scene 3 | Summary



Touchstone woos Audrey, a goat herder, while Jaques observes from a distance and mocks his foolishness. Touchstone compares himself to Ovid, out of place in the forest just as Ovid was out of place in the land of the Goths. Audrey is not impressed, and the fool laments that she is not "poetical." She doesn't know the word and asks if it is "honest in deed and word." He replies no, since "the truest poetry is the most feigning." Confused, she asks, "Would you not have me honest?" and he answers no, unless she were ugly, "for honesty coupled to beauty is to have honey a sauce to sugar." Audrey says that she is not beautiful, so she would at least be honest.

Touchstone declares that whatever she may be, he will marry her, and reveals that he has gone to see the vicar, Sir Oliver Martext, to perform the marriage ceremony. Audrey agrees happily. Touchstone laments not having a proper church wedding and muses that his wife will no doubt gift him with horns during their marriage. But he concedes the horned forehead of a married man is better than a bachelor's bare brow.

Martext enters but will not marry the couple unless there is a man to give Audrey away. Jaques pops up from the forest and volunteers for duty, and Touchstone welcomes him. Jaques asks Touchstone if he really wants to get married, saying "will you, being a man of your breeding, be married under a bush like a beggar?" Jaques urges him to find a real priest who can counsel them about marriage, else their hasty marriage may fall apart. Touchstone secretly thinks that an improper marriage would be just fine since it would be "a good excuse for me hereafter to leave my wife." Nonetheless, he allows Jaques to lead them away. "Come, sweet Audrey," the fool concedes. "We must be married, or we must live in bawdry."


Most of Touchstone's philosophizing goes straight over simple Audrey's head. She has no idea who Ovid is and can't participate in conversation at clever Touchstone's level. This rather stumps him, for he had planned on seducing her with his pretty words; this is the way wooing works at court. He then wishes that Audrey were more poetical, which he explains is "feigning." Audrey firmly declares that she is honest, however. This is disappointing for Touchstone, because in Shakespeare's day the word honest also had the meaning of "chaste or virtuous." In short he has no hope of taking Audrey to bed easily since he can't smooth talk her out of her virtue.

Touchstone's attitude toward marriage seems very lax; he has given no reason for wanting to marry Audrey other than the implication that he wants to bed her. Having a quickie ceremony by a questionable vicar "married under a bush like a beggar" doesn't bother him at all, and his so-called regret that they are not having the ceremony performed in a church is just for show. Once the vicar arrives the problem arises of needing a male to give away the bride; Touchstone likely knew of this requirement but had not arranged for such a witness. It's probable he hadn't wanted witnesses so he could later forswear the marriage, but Jaques foils that possibility by stepping out of his hiding place. Here the theme of disguises and concealment comes into play once more; by concealing himself and spying on the couple, Jaques changes the course of their actions. Jaques makes Touchstone squirm by pointing out that no man of breeding would seriously be married in such a fashion, and Touchstone admits in an aside that he's okay with having such an easy way out of this marriage later on. The fool knows when he is licked, though, and there's no way of going through with the bogus wedding now. On the surface he concedes to Jaques's point of view that a church wedding is better, and away they go to arrange it. His final line that they must be married or live "in bawdry" (in sin) suggests that he has accepted that they must wed in a proper ceremony. In all of this Shakespeare makes the reader consider the theme of love and marriage: What is "proper" when it comes to marriage, and when is love true or false? Touchstone's love seems to be false at this point of the play, but the fact that he continues forward with plans to wed Audrey—even if he has to have a real wedding to do it—makes the reader consider that perhaps he really does love her after all.

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