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MonkeyNotes-As You Like It by William Shakespeare
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Act II, Scene 5

Summary

Jaques, Amiens, and several lords are seated in the forest, near the cave of Duke Senior. Amiens is singing a song, which begins with "under the greenwood trees." He warns Jaques that the song will make him more melancholy. Jaques, however, is pleased that he will be able to "suck melancholy out of a song as a weasel sucks eggs." Jaques also reveals that he has been avoiding Duke Senior, for he feels the duke is too argumentative, an ironic statement coming from the man who thrives on argument. When the singing is over and Jaques lays down to rest, Amiens departs to go and bring the duke. The others begin to prepare a meal, which will be eaten by the duke and the lords.

Notes

This is another pleasant, pastoral scene set in the Forest of Arden. Amiens and several lords sit under the trees and sing. The words of the song emphasize the loveliness and cleanliness of the country in comparison to the city, which is filled with corruption; the song further underscores a theme that Shakespeare has already introduced and emphasized. The singing also makes the play seem more like a masque, which emphasizes a pastoral setting, quickly changing scenes, and the importance of music and/or dance.

In addition, the scene gives more information about the character of Jaques. He is an argumentative man, who never sees good in anything or anybody. He also believes that he is very intelligent and that his arguments are important and enlightening. The audience is led to judge him for what he is: a melancholic moralizer with misplaced self-importance. It also becomes obvious that Jaques' melancholy has been intentionally assumed and developed by him, rather than being caused by some trauma in his life. When he adds a verse to Amien's romantic tune, it is appropriately filled with realism and scorn about country life. Ironically, at the end of the play, Jaques will remain in the forest, while the others return to court.

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