Plato’s Republic Book II (Part II): The City in Speech

In the second half of Book II, Socrates is put on trial, reluctantly defending justice against the false accusations of the Athenian brothers, Glaucon and Adeimantus. He suggests they examine the question of justice in a larger way, not like men who are squinting at small letters from a distance. Socrates proposes that they watch a “city coming into being in speech” (369a) so that they may investigate the nature of justice on a larger scale, at the level of the city. This is distinct from a city coming into being in physis (or nature). That is, the city in speech is not the natural city.

At any rate, the city comes into being because each man is not self-sufficient but is in need of much. Each human being is erotic and humans share a common participation in eros with one another and as a result they are drawn to the city out of necessity. Recall the earlier claims of the two brothers. They are concerned with Aristotle’s “First Cause”, the Material Cause, for which Socrates lays out an explanation for the city. Because of the needs of men, they gather in settlements, and their primary need is for existing and living, but the second need is for housing and clothing and such. This first city, therefore, is the City of Utmost Necessity, composed of four or five men.

Soon, however, it is discovered that men would do a finer job if they focused on one art in particular -thus the division of labor is introduced. The city will also require more citizens for all its jobs. When asked where to find injustice or justice in this city, Adeimantus suggests it might perhaps be in the needs these men and women have for one another. He implies that justice has a kinship with eros. Socrates calls this the “True, or Healthy City” as it lives within its means and keeps an eye out against poverty or war.

Suddenly, Glaucon interrupts the conversation noting that none of the men in the city will have fine things and luxuries. This leads to the conversation of how The Luxurious City comes into being, or the Feverish City. It grows to include reclining couches and excesses, and thus the need for war is introduced. However, war presupposes friends and enemies of the city, and thus there is a need for warriors to protect the property and the luxuries of the city. This point leads to a conversation about the adequate training of the warriors, or guardians, who are primarily important for the city. They must be trained to love the city and hate the enemies, and not use their force against the city. They must be made to be virtuous. They must be trained like dogs, and this begins with an education in music and gymnastics. The music portion includes the stories that are told to children at a young and impressionable age. The false stories of the gods and the city will be highly regulated and many sections from Homer and Hesiod will be eliminated. The end, or final cause, of the education of the warriors is found to be eros of the beautiful. From their crop must be the caring, or love (philia) of the city. The remaining discussion of the education of the guardians continues in Book III.

For this reading I used Allan Bloom’s essential translation of Plato’s Republic, as well as Leo Strauss’s The City and Man and his lectures.

What is Love in the Symposium?

Plato’s famous dialogue, the Symposium, takes place the day after the tragic poet Agathon wins his first and only award at the Lenaia in 416 BC (the year before Alcibiades’s failed quest to Sicily). The dramatic setting occurs among a group of Athenians gathered at Agathon’s house in Athens to celebrate his victory. The party is a symposium, sometimes translated as a “banquet.” The word symposium literally means the activity of “drinking together,” alluding to the Greek love of mixing intellectual discourse with the drinking of wine.

The dialogue is presented to the reader at multiple levels of distance, indicating there is something to be hidden in its meaning and also alluding to the opaque nature of eros, in general. The symposium happened many years ago. Aristodemus originally leaks the story of the symposium. He openly re-tells it publicly to anyone who will listen, including a man named Apollodorus, who confirms the details with Socrates. The dialogue is entirely based on the recollection of these two individuals, principally Aristodemus, as he originally attended the party with Socrates. Unlike other dialogues, like the Republic, the Symposium is a recollection by others in attendance and is not revealed to the audience until many years later after the failed Sicilian expedition has long passed out of the public’s consciousness. Leo Strauss indicates this is because of the popular belief that Alcibiades was the profaner of the sacred Eleusian mysteries, when in fact it was actually Socrates as evidenced by his speech about Diotima. The recounting of the tale can only be told many years after this fact, when the demos is no longer manic. This context is crucial to understanding the dialogue.

Although there are many important themes to consider in the Symposium, such as Homer’s famous ‘ancient quarrel between the poets and philosophers’ or the contest between theology and philosophy for the true seat of wisdom, the surface-level question of love, the god eros, is worth considering, as well. What is love? We are given essentially seven varying speeches that try to answer this question. Each speech reveals a great deal about the particular character of each speaker. In fact, unlike other Socratic dialogues, the defining question of ‘what is…’ does not begin at the outset of the dialogue. It is only addressed explicitly later in the dialogue. Instead, the plan of ‘giving eros his due praise’ is proposed by Erixymachus, the doctor, and Phaedrus, who claims that eros has never been properly praised. Erixymachus proposes the scenario beginning with Phaedrus, and Socrates calls Phaedrus the father of the speeches.

I. Phaedrus
, whose name literally means “radiant” or “bright” is featured prominently in the Symposium and the eponymous Phaedrus dialogue. He was a good friend of Erixymachus, because of their shared interest in physics, as well as the arts and philosophy. It was later said that Phaedrus was one of Socrates’s favorites. Like Alcibiades, Phaedrus was accused of being a profaner of the Eleusian mysteries in 415 BC, and also like Alcibiades, he fled Athens. His opening account of eros is a praise of eros as the oldest god, and therefore the greatest and most honorable (178B). As justification he cites the poets, Hesiod and Akousilaus (now lost). Without eros neither city nor man can accomplish “great and beautiful deeds”. Like the next two speakers, Phaedrus is concerned with the practical application of eros, and what it can make men do. He invokes the images of Alcestis dying for her husband, Admetus, who did not properly give praise of the gods and thus a human sacrifice was called for; of the “soft” Orpheus who was sent back from Hades as he did not die for his wife, Eurydice; and lastly of Achilles’s honorable vengeance for Patroclus’s death that assuredly cost him his life as he was made aware from his mother, Thetis. For this, the gods rewarded Achilles sending him to the Isles of the Blest. Phaedrus claims that Patroclus was in love with Achilles, as Phaedrus speaks from the perspective of the beloved, and praises their love. In his speech, we learn that love is intimately connected to the awareness and the acceptance of death, as a life-affirming need for the polis. Phaedrus presents the classically tragic viewpoint of eros.

II. Pausanius
Next, a few others speak, but Aristodemus skips over them to recount Pausanius’s story of love, from the perspective of the legal scholar and lover, rather than the beloved. He begins by identifying two versions of eros, the noble and the base. The determining factor is how one behaves, not that love is, in itself, inherently noble or base. He provides a defense of pederasty with the law, as it leads the beloved to admire his good and noble elders, and at the same time Pausanius gives a survey of Greek laws that appropriately harness a lover’s point of view. His point is to reform the laws so that a beloved may connect with a lover in order that both exercise a mutual love of virtue. Pausanius teaches us that the activity of love is not inherently noble or base, but must practiced in one way or another, and also forces us to examine the relationship between eros and nomos, love and the law. Love is not bound by customs or laws and it must, indeed, supersede the law (recall the unconventional love of Romeo and Juliet). We are also forced to consider the love of country, or the love of justice, and that it must sometimes also supersede the law (consider the actions of a tyrant versus those of a patriot in rebellion).

III. Erixymachus
Next, Aristophanes was set to speak but he is suddenly overcome with a ridiculous fit of hiccups, and so Erixymachus speaks in his place. Erixymachus, the doctor, expands the scope of love to “all things that are” (185A) including men, animals, and plants. In this way, the health of the body becomes a chiefly erotic art, namely the “art of medicine”. His concern is with harmony, consonance, and balance in the body because he wants to know what eros does to affect life and health. He builds on Pausanius’s defense of pederasty and apology for the lover over the beloved by declaring that decent human beings must be gratified in a harmonious way so that less decent humans can become decent and virtuous. This is to be understood as the noble eros. However the base eros arises with greed and plague and inclement weather, for these are unhealthy. From Pausanius, we are reminded of the inclusion of harmony and consonance in love, a coming together of the disorderly noise of a cacophony to form a more perfect and orderly symphony. Ironically Aristophanes was overcome with a fit of uncontrollable bodily functions -hiccuping and sneezing during Pausanius’s very physical account of love, which causes the others to laugh.

IV. Aristophanes
When Aristophanes speaks, he marks a somewhat new beginning for the eulogy of eros. He claims that humans are entirely unaware of the true power of eros, because eros is the most “philanthropic of the gods”. Additionally, eros is a “physician dealing with an illness the healing of which would result in the greatest happiness for the human race” (189D). Aristophanes tells a tragic yet humorous tale of the origins of man, not unlike those we may find in the works of many works from classical antiquity, such as Hesiod or Ovid. In his tale, there were originally three races of humans -men, women, and an androgynous race. However each person had two sets of everything -faces, genitals, arms and legs and so on. Instead of walking, people merely tumbled in large circles, as globular beings like their parents, who were the sun, earth, and moon respectively. In their proudness these early humans attempted to make an ascent into the sky and overcome the gods. Instead of obliterating the human race, Zeus decides to cut them in half with the help of Apollo who helps to turn their faces forward. Additionally, prior to this change, humans gave birth in the earth like Cicadas, but Zeus puts their genitals on the front of them so that if a man and a woman come together, procreation is possible together, and if two men come together they can at least satiate one another (there is no mention of lesbianism). Eros, then, is “bringer-together of their ancient nature, who tries to make one out of two and to heal their human nature” (191D). Aristophanes provides a defense of homosexuality, and also pederasty, as it is the manliest union of two people. Unlike others before him, Aristophanes attempts to address the question of love, rather than how it can be practically applied for mankind. From Aristophanes’s appropriately amusing account, we gather that there is an ancient nature to which we long to return, a nostalgia as in the case of Odysseus, and a desire to pursue the whole, which is perhaps the only part worth clinging to from his speech. As in the case of theological accounts, humans have a fallen nature which they must try to recover from, and there is an edenic siglio oro, or golden age, to which humans must try to return. Aristophanes, the famous comedian who mocked Socrates in the The Clouds, defends the role of the poets. He also concludes that there is an end to love -a satiation that occurs once someone forms a sexual union with his or her long lost other half. As a pain-loving antiquarian, Aristophanes concludes that this must be from an ancient past to which humans long to return. Eros is a gratifying desire for sex and procreation for Aristophanes, however the most noble eidos to glean from Aristophanes is that eros is a pursuit of the whole -the concept of the whole will later be addressed by Socrates.

V. Agathon
After Aristophanes’s conclusion, Erixymachus praises the speech and claims he is not envious of Agathon’s and Socrates’s station as they must follow what has already been said. Socrates then engages with Agathon who believes Socrates is trying to playfully threaten him because his sensibility is greater than many fools, and Socrates compels him to agree that he would show shame before the wise, but perhaps not before the many. Before Agathon can respond to this final question, Phaedrus interrupts and beckons Agathon to give his speech praising eros. Agathon begins his speech by stating, that unlike previous speeches, he will open with an attempt to address the identity of eros. First, he will address his identity, and then he will acknowledge his gifts. Agathon claims that eros is the happiest god, the most beautiful, and the best. He disagrees with Phaedrus by claiming that eros is actually the youngest god, and he is soft and supple. Eros travels to wherever a place is blooming and beautiful (196B). Recall that Agathon, known for his incredible attractiveness, was mocked by Aristophanes in his play, Thesmophoiazusae, as he was dressed in women’s clothing to spy on suspicious women. At any rate, Agathon continues by claiming that eros is not affected by violence or injustice, and eros is courageous and moderate in all things. In an attempt to honor Agathon’s “art”, in the same way that Erixymachus honored his medical art, Agathon notes that eros must be a poet and his powers can make other poets, as well. In this way, eros is a “maker”, poeitikos. One of his chief conclusions is that “there is no eros present in ugliness” (197B), a point which Socrates will later dispute. We learn from Agathon that eros is in all things soft and beautiful -we invoke the image of a budding flower in springtime. It is important to note that Agathon, the tragic poet, receives an uproar of applause from the crowd once he finishes his speech, as noted by Aristodemus. So much so, in fact, that Socrates playfully claims he cannot follow it to Erixymachus.

VI. Socrates
, in speaking after the two poets and in response primarily to their claims, begins by saying that he cannot eulogize eros in such a fashion, but if they like he can give an account on his own terms. Socrates then begins by compelling Agathon, in a dialectic, to admit that eros is a love of something (or someone) and must be a longing for something that it lacks (echoing Aristophanes), and therefore eros cannot be all good and all beautiful -it must be uglier than the beauty that it longs for. Agathon admits his own ignorance and agrees with Socrates (201B). Eros assumes a state of deprivation, and a longing for the whole. Socrates then proceeds to recount his exchange with Diotima of Mantineia, whose name literally means “honor of Zeus”. She was a “wise” person who was able to delay a plague upon Athens by ten years through her art of erotics (201D). Curiously, Socrates has introduced a “stranger” (from Arcadia) in the form of Diotima into the symposium of Athenian men, and also it is worth noting that she is a woman (earlier all the women at Agathon’s house had been dismissed). At any rate, Diotima introduces a mediation between humans and gods, and reveals that eros is one of these mediators -a daemon. Unlike others in the symposium, Diotima introduces eros’s parents as Poros (Resource) and Penia (Poverty), at the plotting of Penia while Poros was drunk on nectar they become impregnated with eros. She describes eros, not as philanthropic or giving or helping for humans, but rather as “always poor” and “far from being tender and beautiful, as the many believe” and as being “tough, squalid, shoeless, and homeless…always dwelling with neediness. But in accordance with his father he plots to trap the beautiful and the good….philosophizing all his life” (203D). To Diotima (Socrates), eros is a philosopher. She denies Aristophanes’s claim that eros can be any half of anything: “In brief, eros is the whole desire of good things and of being happy” (205D). She claims that when they are pursuing the good in eros, humans are pursuing beauty in terms of both body and soul -of trying to achieve immortality as mortals. With eros, each human is taking a part of the unchangeable things, yet they are always coming to be and also passing away (Aristotelian motion in the Physics). Procreation and generation, physically, is an attempt to continue the species (a manifestation of the “will to power” as Nietzsche termed it), and also men are always trying to achieve the immortal -she reintroduces the cases of Alcestis and Achilles that were originally mentioned by Phaedrus in his timocratic love of honor. None is a greater virtue than the ordering of the affairs of cities and households (209A) -those cities produce enduring “children” such as the laws of Lycurgus in Sparta and Solon in Athens. She then moves from the city to the individual -when one is young they must go to beautiful bodies, only to realize that bodies are all the same, and that love for the soul is more honorable. This kind of beauty always has being, is never perishing, and not beautiful in one respect nor ugly in another but is one whole form. From this Socrates is initiated into the Eleusian mysteries -the ladder of love -so that he may try to embrace the one single form of the beautiful. Diotima presents a hierarchy of love from bodies, to the form of kalon (the beautiful). Only at this place is the life of a human worth living, according to Diotima (again she implies the connection between death and love, self sacrifice, or passion). Socrates concludes by saying that there is no better “co-worker with human nature than eros” (212B). Unlike Agathon, only some attendees praise Socrates’s speech, but before Aristophanes can respond to the claims levied against him, a loud hammering is heard from the courtyard.

VII. Alcibiades
, the young, beautiful man and follower of Socrates, bombastically and ‘very drunkenly’ intrudes into the party, demanding to be taken to Agathon. He is wearing a wreath and says he shall adorn it upon the “wisest and most beautiful” person at the party (212E). Unlike others at the party, including Socrates, each of the men wishes not to be laughed at except for Alcibiades, for as Nietzsche says: there is no better way to kill something than to laugh at it. At any rate, Alcibiades leaps up noticing Socrates and claims that it is impossible to reconcile himself with Socrates as he is jealous of his love with Agathon. Alcibiades vows “vengeance” on Socrates at another time. Nevertheless he wreathes Socrates, rightfully praising the philosophers over the poets as the claimants to the throne of wisdom and beauty. Alcibiades then declares he will make a speech praising Socrates, while also telling the truth about Socrates (as vengeance). Alcibiades claims Socrates is like the Silenus, the half-human, half-ass that when caught gives vague wisdom about the preference for death rather than life. He claims that Socrates is also like the flute player Marsyas, charming those he encounters. Alcibiades says that he initially decided to take up the political affairs of the Athenians instead of growing old by the charms of Socrates, who is like the Sirens in the Odyssey. Alcibiades feels shame only before Socrates because of his decision to seek the honor of the demos (the many) instead of pursuing wisdom. Alcibiades is a political man, not a philosopher. He tells the story of when he was younger and once tried to seduce Socrates, but Socrates was not like other men, the pederasts, and in fact even when Alcibiades sent away his attendant, Socrates carried on as usual and would not give in to any licentious behavior, and this led Alcibiades to admire his courage and moderation far more than any other. He recounts Socrates’s self-control as it far surpassed others, even on their military expedition to Potidaea. Alcibiades claims that Socrates tends to lead boys, like himself, Charmides, and Euthydemus and many others, to believe Socrates is the lover, but in fact he makes them realize that he is actually the beloved. Alcibiades offers this as a warning to Agathon, and laughter erupts at the end of his speech. Alcibiades grows insanely envious at Socrates, as Agathon chooses to lie down next to him.The dialogue concludes when a large group of people come in through the front door and begin drinking. Erixymachus and Phaedrus, the light drinkers, take their leave along with some others. Eventually Aristodemus falls asleep and he is awoken when the cocks are crowing only to find that Agathon and Aristophanes and Socrates are still awake -the two poets and the philosopher. Socrates is compelling them to agree with two claims: 1) that the same man should know how to make comedy and tragedy, and 2) that he who is by art a tragic poet is also a comic poet. Socrates is, of course, speaking to a comic poet (Aristophanes) as well as a tragic poet (Agathon) and is asking them to step outside their particular arts to consider tragedy and comedy in the context of one another. As Aristodemus recalls, neither poet is able to fully follow Socrates. Aristophanes falls asleep first and then Agathon -leaving only the philosopher to endure. This is a fitting response to the charges leveled against Socrates in The Clouds, and it is also an amusing mockery of Aristophanes’s contest between poets in The Frogs. At any rate, Socrates leaves the party after putting the poets to bed and he is followed by Aristodemus. He goes to the Lyceum as he was wont to do any other day and in the evening he goes home to rest. Throughout the question of love, there is no mention of Xanthippe, Socrates’s wife, though she is mentioned elsewhere in the writings of Plato and Xenophon.

The issue of Socrates’s self-control is particularly apropos in a dialogue focused on eros. The Greeks had several different words for love, chiefly: philia or deep friendship and soldierly camaraderie, agape or selfless love for everyone including strangers, and eros meaning romantic and particularly sexual love. Eros can be dangerous for the lover, as well as for the beloved, as evidenced in the relationship between Socrates and Alcibiades. Love can be life-affirming, but it must also be restrained and control, as in the case of Socrates. It is a dangerous sensation in the wrong hands, like Alcibiades, who maintains more of a tyrannical personality. A person’s self-control is tested at a symposium -a drinking party where people’s inhibitions are relaxed and truth-telling becomes more prominent, as the famous latin maxim reminds us. A symposium is a relaxing of laws, as evidenced by the discussion of pederasty among the Athenian aristocrats, such as the reformations requested by Erixymachus. In a symposium, it is crucial for the man of moderation to legislate rules for himself (note: this is not an allusion to Kant’s categorical imperative), as in the case of Socrates who is affected neither by alcohol, nor the words of the poets, nor sexual advances. As truth-telling becomes more prominent, rather than obedience to law or custom, the question of the relationship between eros and truth becomes less clear.

For this reading I used Seth Benardete’s masterful translation of Plato’s Symposium for the University of Chicago Press.

“All The World’s A Stage” Considered

In Act II scene 7 of Shakespeare’s As You Like It, we encounter one of the more fatalistic and artful monologues in all of Shakespearean literature, Jaques’s famous “All the world’s a stage” soliloquy. Drawing on Ovid, Shakespeare uses the character, Jaques, to compare the totality of human life to the charade of a play, and he enumerates the seven stages of a man’s life -it is sometimes called the ‘Seven Stages of Man’ monologue. However, unlike Ovid there is something nihilistic about Jacques’s speech -perhaps an idea he gets from the clownish “philosopher” Touchstone.

To set the scene, the tyrants have overtaken the good and noble men. Orlando, a willing and capable man with natural talents (“Fortune”) is denied his due inheritance and rightful place by his conniving and jealous older brother, Oliver. According to their family servant, Adam (thought to have been played by Shakespeare), Oliver plans to kill his younger brother Orlando, so Adam and Orlando take flight into the Forest of Arden. Meanwhile, Duke Senior has been overthrown by his usurping brother, Duke Frederick, and has fled with a band of loyal noblemen into the Forest of Arden to live like Robin Hood and his merry men in the wild, pastoral, wilderness. One of these men is Jacques who has been led to question the nature of things and the meaning of life by a fool -a philosopher who laments the passing of time. According to Jacques, all of life becomes a tragedy when considering the passing of time as nothing more than another step closer to death. Are we growing or merely rotting? Is all of life vanity? Jacques, who has been influenced by the poison of the fool, is led to a life of woe -he is disillusioned and depressed. However, Duke Senior is not persuaded by his lugubriousness. Instead, when Orlando bursts onto the scene and demands food from the strangers for himself and his dying compatriot, Adam, Duke Senior provides an example of civility by inviting Orlando to the table. It is a moment of justification for civilization’s conventions to the brooding Jacques. Like the famous anecdote of Diogenes contra Alexander the Great, Jaques tells Duke Senior to stand out of his light. He plays the part of a cynic and Epicurean. He would rather live ‘like a dog’ (the meaning of the Greek word “cynic”) and entertain his mind with minstrels and distractions, preferring not to eat or care for the needs of his body.

Returning to the passage in question, Duke Senior has just tried to convince Jaques that “we are not all alone and unhappy. This wide and universal theatre presents more woeful pageants than the scene wherein we play” (136-139). With the grace and respect shown among civilized men, Duke Senior and Orlando, there are many worse and more woeful places wherein Jaques could dwell. The debate is between cynicism and convention, Diogenes and Alexander the Great. Duke Senior defends the superior of the latter, while Jaques seems tempted by the former.

We now turn to Jaques’s monologue. “All the world’s a stage” is stated by Jaques in response to the Duke claiming that there are “woeful pageants” elsewhere that are far worse than the present situation. Jaques undermines Duke Senior’s claim not by denying that there are worse situations elsewhere, but rather that all situations are mere fantasy. The word “All” is used twice to encompass both ‘all the world’ and also ‘all the men and women’. The most significant word in the opening sentence is “merely” used to describe players. The reason for this significance is that it serves to deny praise of theatre, claimed by some, and rather to highlight Jaques’s pessimism about the nature of things. In other words, a “mere” player is directly connected to the stage, and one could make the claim that all the world’s a stage is a Platonic or perhaps Nietzschean notion that high art is what forms the basis of culture, however Jaques is not a creator, in the way that Prospero is in Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Recall Prospero’s “our revels now are ended” monologue during the fabled marriage ceremony of his daughter, Miranda. He laments the transience of all things man-made, but perhaps not to bring them all down and see things from a jaded, disillusioned perspective. Jaques, being a young man and well-traveled like Odysseus, is quickly and easily reoriented by the fool to be a woeful Epicurean moral philosopher. His opening statement is an ontological claim -all the world is a stage. He does not use poetic similes, such as ‘like’ or ‘as’ imagery to highlight his claim to knowledge of the meagerness of the world and all the men and women who dwell in it.

“They” (or all the men and women) have their “exits and their entrances” and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages. Jaques has moved from denying the authenticity of the stage, to affirming the falsity of all busy men and women, to examining the life of one man in his seven ages, limiting human beings to a short and easily defined life. Under the weight of this new perspective gained from the fool, Jaques proceeds to identify the seven ages of man. For guidance through each age, we turn to the help of Robert Smirke’s painting series in 1798-1801.

seven ages 11) Infant: this stage is defined only by one sentence, of an infant “mewling and puking” in his nurse’s arms. Here Jaques employs the grotesque, rather than the charming, to describe an infant that is typically the subject of adoration.

seven ages 2

2) The “whining schoolboy” who goes to school by “creeping like a snail” in order to avoid the cane. He also has a “shining face” and a satchel. He has gone from mewling to whining.

seven ages 3

3) The “lover”: in this stage he ‘sighs like a furnace’ with a woeful ballad (we recall Orlando and Rosalind’s great sighing in fits of love) with the ballads being written for his mistresses’s “brow” (taken from Petrarch). We note that in the first three ages, there is great suffering.

seven ages 4

4) A “soldier”: here he is full of “strange oaths” and also “bearded like the pard”or a leopard. He is jealous in honor, sudden and quick (recall “swift footed Achilles”) and he is seeking a reputation even in the cannon’s mouth. The cannon destroys both life and fame, the cannon’s mouth does not echo the deeds of great man, only ends them without glory, we recall the moment Don Quixote encounters a gun for the first time.

seven ages 5

5) The “Justice”: his belly is now fair and round, like a rooster or a capon. His eyes are severe now and his beard has a “formal cut”. He is also full of “wise saws” and “modern instances”, or arguments and justifications. Note that the “Justice could be replaced with a sophistry.

seven ages 6

6) Jaques bookends the last 5 stages with “and so he plays his part” and a period. In the sixth age he is older with “pantaloons” and “spectacles”. Suddenly the world is too wide for him. His voice turning to “whistles” and “pipes” again. This age is also bookended with a period, whereas the first four were with a semicolon.

seven ages 7

7) The last scene “ends this strange and eventful  history” and is called “second childishness” that is sans teeth, sans eyes, and sans everything. Along with childishness it is called “mere oblivion”. This fatalism concludes Jaques’s monologue and, shortly following, concludes Act II.

For this reading I used the essential Arden 3rd edition of Shakespeare’s As You Like It.

As You Like It, Act II

Scene 1

In Act II, the longest of the five Acts in the play, we are redirected to (presumably) the Forest of Arden where Duke Senior praises the innocence of the noblemen’s new idyllic life. He calls it “sweet”, “free from peril”, and without the “penalty of Adam”. He hearkens a golden age, but not in a suffering for a long-gone antiquated world. Instead, he praises the harshness of the natural world -“Sweet are the uses of adversity” (Scene 1, 12).

Scene 2

However, being far from the “painted pomp” of court, the noblemen, including Duke Senior, lament the need to murder deer for venison. This is especially true of the lugubrious Jacques, who equates deer in the forest with citizens of a city. He calls Duke Senior a worse usurper than his own for his upsetting of the natural ‘political’ order of the Forest by murdering the deer. Jacques’s brooding begins with his failure to distinguish between  politics and nature. Meanwhile, the usurping Duke Frederick decides to follow after his daughter who is sure to be among the company of the youth who foiled Charles, the wrestler. In Scene 2, we are first exposed to the juxtaposition between the city and the country as Duke Senior and his Lords live a pastoral life, hearkening to the “golden age” alluded to in Ovid. However, the humans are still confused about their place. They know the country only insofar as it is in reaction and contradistinction to the “pomp of court”. Trees become like books and brooks like poetry, the stuff of the city, and the denizens of the forest can only best be compared to the city’s citizenry.

Scene 3

Orlando and his family servant, Adam, flee into the Forest of Arden as Adam laments: “O what a world is this, when what is comely envenoms him that bears it” exposing the tyrannical nature of Orlando’s older brother, Oliver, who is expected to come and burn down the swelling of Orlando. Adam persuades Orlando to leave with his meager retirement savings, also justifying his robustness, despite his age. Orlando tells him: “Thou art not for the fashion of these times, where non will sweat but for promotion, and having that, do choke their service up even with the having” (Scene 3, 59-62). Both Adam and Orlando demonstrate their virtue – Adam says,”Yet fortune cannot recompense me better than to die well and not my master’s debtor” (75-76). Adam is praised for his “duty” not his sweat for “meed”.

Scene 4

Exhausted, Rosalind (disguised as Ganymede) and Celia (disguised as Aliena) tramp through the Forest with Touchstone. They come upon Corin (perhaps borrowed from the name of a shepherd in Virgil’s 2nd Ecologue) and Silvius (meaning “of the woods” in Latin -a lover, as are most in the woods), two shepherds, Corin is scolding Silvius for his affliction of love. quietly Touchstone says: “as all is mortal in nature, so all is nature in love mortal in folly” (51-52). Rosalind is drawn to Silvius’s “passion”. With the shepherds, they use their gold to buy a remote cottage.

Scene 5

The Lords, including Amiens and Jacques, are singing about the merriness of the Forest, though it makes Jacques melancholy. Jacques decides to remain alone while Amiens goes to the banquet of the Duke.

Scene 6

Adam lies down saying he cannot go on any longer. He asks Orlando to leave him to die, but Orlando rushes to find food in the forest.

Scene 7

The Duke comes upon Jacques in the woods and asks him about why he has become so brooding and melancholy in their pastoral Eden. Jacques responds that he came upon a “motley fool” who lamented the time, as each hour passes we “ripe and ripe” meaning we also “rot and rot”. Jacques is recognizing the aimlessness of the pastoral life, from the fool he recognizes the closing imminence of death. The impressionable Jacques, like Ivan from Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov, longs to be the somber, reflective, saddened fool he met earlier. Self righteously, he long to be a disillusioned Diogenis of the Forest’s noblemen, in order to “cleanse the foul body of th’infected world, if they will patiently receive my medicine” (60-61). To this, the Duke rebukes him and his foul illness he seems to have caught. To try to justify himself, Jacques defends the need for one to attack pride and vices that are ever-present in the city. He lives his life in praise of reason, thanks to his exposure from the motley fool he met at an unknown earlier time.

Suddenly, Orlando storms the scene and demands that no man eat until necessity has been served (devoid of food, justice is served ‘each according to his needs’ as the Marxist saying goes’). The Duke instructs him to be gentle and civilized, his gentleness can force more, than force itself. He then invites Orlando to the table to eat, embarrassing Orlando who apologizes for disgracefulness, puts away his sword, and ‘blushes’.

The Duke Senior uses this scene in an attempt to educate Jacques, showing that in this “wide and universal theatre” not all people are alone and unhappy. The Duke makes the case for the goodness of traditional conventions, while Jacques, the reasonable pessimist, remains disillusioned with any kind of custom. Orlando then returns with Adam where they feast together, enjoy music, and the Duke pleasantly learns that Orlando is the son of Sir Rowland de Boys.