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One Man in his Time

Well. I did the monologue I talked about a couple of weeks ago for an audition. The play is As You Like It; the part I particularly wanted was Jaques. That actually was important to the monologue because I particularly did not want to be cast as Touchstone. Touchstone is the professional fool in the play, and he is particularly dire. Shakespeare’s fools are generally unfunny, and Touchstone, in my opinion, is among the worst—he has a million lines, most of them with very heavy puns or paradoxes, and the rest with fart jokes. It’s odd, actually, for a sexy play like this one, that there seem to be fewer dick jokes and more fart jokes than in most of the canon. Anyway, I loathe Touchstone. But I adore Jaques.

Jaques is the other fool, the amateur fool. He’s an odd duck, and everybody thinks of him as an odd duck. I think he’s the only character of note that doesn’t get married at the end (except for the already-married people, parents and whatnot). He’s a foreigner, with a foreign name, and he’s clearly an outsider. People are fond of him—maybe more indulgent than fond—and he has to be likable, but it’s not clear that he is likeable. He is melancholy, and everybody including himself talks about him as being melancholy, but he also has strenuous enthusiasms and jokes incessantly. In other words, he’s a challenge.

And, speaking of challenges, he’s got this bit about the seven ages of man. It’s not Top Five Shakespeare Monologue for audience expectations, not any more, but it’s probably still top ten.

Anyway. The monologue went no better than OK. The director asked me to do it again without “acting”, very simply, and I did, and he seemed to like that. Then I got to read the Rosalind scene, and again he had us do it again “more simply”, actually putting us in chairs facing away from each other. And then, since I was still around, he had me read Silvius for a Phebe in III,v. That was clearly just to have somebody for a Phebe to read with, though. I left the night thinking that I had done fairly well, but not extremely well. It would depend on who else was auditioning. As it always does, of course.

Then there was a callback, and another callback. I think the first callback was for the young persons; I was at the second one, for the Dukes and Touchstones and so forth. There were five us fogeys looking for the various fogey parts. I think there was one other fellow who was focused on Jaques particularly, a much older (looking) man with a quiet voice but a nice line in melancholy—If the director wanted to emphasize the melancholy aspect, that would be a perfectly good way to go. The other three were pretty good as well, though, and I left that callback not having any idea at all who would be cast as what. In particular, of course, whether I would be cast at all, and if so, in what part.

And… I found myself, over the next couple of days, wanting to get cast as Jaques. Really, really wanting it. Eager to get to work on the part, dig in to the text, think about the various possibilities. In point of fact, I braved superstition and did some initial research, looking at Alan Rickman’s essay about the 1985 RSC production and getting my hands on the correct volume of the wonderful Cambridge University Press Shakespeare in Production series.

When the email came, this morning, with the cast list attached, my gut clenched. The document seemed to take forever to open. And forever to scroll down the page through the fourteen parts and people who were neither Jaques nor YHB. And on the fifteenth line, there are both.

So. For those Gentle Readers who will be or can be in the area in May, Your Humble Blogger will be playing Jaques in As You Like It. And I expect that between now and then I will be writing about the part, about the play, the text, the process, and all the that goes with it.

So we have that to look forward to.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,


Congratulations on getting the pat of Jaques--that is a great role!

I have some unfortunate news for you, however--Jaques loves Touchstone's jokes, so if you are going to get into the character, you'll need, at least for dramatic purposes, to work out why Touchstone is actually funny. Fart jokes????

More seriously, there's quite a bit of salacious double-entendre humor in As You Like It, but it's not joking among men. Dick jokes, cuckold jokes, and syphilis jokes in Shakespeare are male-bonding humor, and there isn't a lot of male bonding in this particular comedy. A few cuckold jokes, but that's about it. Most of the humor in the play revolves around the excesses of courtship, and dick jokes just don't get used in courtship very much.

Yeah, Jaques is a very difficult role in a lot of ways, including why he finds Touchstone so irresistibly funny. Something not right, there. Including Touchstone's two—I think only two—long, rambling jokes about horns/cuckolding, which of course I would cut entirely, if I could. Which leads to the question of what is going to be cut. Don't know yet.

Yes, there are a lot of pregnancy jokes (f'r'ex) which are only dick jokes en passant; that's what happens when the two really excellent characters in the play are young women—and specifically whip-smart sassy and ill-suppressed young virgins.


Congrats on the part! I love AYLI and Jaques, both. I feel like Jaques loves Touchstone for the same reason that he hates everyone else. Every single other person is pretending to importance, while Touchstone is farting in the forest with the woman he loves.

Or, you know. Who loves him, which is almost as good.


> For those Gentle Readers who will be or can be in the area in May

I've forgotten, if you said: Which "the area" is this -- more like "the area near where you live", or more like "the area across the state where you used to live"? I'm guessing the former, but wanted to check.


Your comment "that's what happens when the two really excellent characters in the play are young women" made me wonder which Shakespeare plays pass the Bechdel test. Fortunately, in the modern era we need not wonder things for long, because others have wondered them for us and provided answers, such as this Shakespeare and the Bechdel test blog entry. But I'm curious whether y'all (who know Shakespeare much better than I) would agree with that blogger(Orlando)'s assessments.

I also think it's interesting (as Orlando alludes to in passing) that a given performance might do better (or worse) than the plays as written, by changing the genders of characters. (I still fondly remember Benvolia from my high school's production of R&J; I liked her better as a girl than when I later encountered Benvolio. Though I doubt she interacted with any other female characters.)

I also wonder whether the number of Shakespeare plays that pass goes down if you don't count female characters who are passing as male characters at the time. :)

The blogger doesn't talk about AYLI. Rosalind and Celia in their first scene, and they are dressed as women at this point, begin by talking about the banished Duke (Rosalind's father) and then at line 170 the subject turns to philosophy:

Rosalind. What shall be our sport, then?

Celia. Let us sit and mock the good housewife Fortune from her wheel, that her gifts may henceforth be bestowed equally.

Rosalind. I would we could do so; for her benefits are mightily misplaced; and the bountiful blind woman doth most mistake in her gifts to women.

Celia. 'Tis true; for those that she makes fair she scarce makes honest; and those that she makes honest she makes very ill-favouredly.

Rosalind. Nay; now thou goest from Fortune's office to Nature's: Fortune reigns in gifts of the world, not in the lineaments of Nature.


Celia. No; when Nature hath made a fair creature, may she not by Fortune fall into the fire? Though Nature hath given us wit to flout at Fortune, hath not Fortune sent in this fool to cut off the argument?

Rosalind. Indeed, there is Fortune too hard for Nature, when Fortune makes Nature's natural the cutter-off of Nature's wit.

Celia. Peradventure this is not Fortune's work neither, but Nature's, who perceiveth our natural wits too dull to reason of such goddesses, and hath sent this natural for our whetstone; for always the dullness of the fool is the whetstone of the wits.

So. Bechtel test passed, I'd say.

As for cross-casting male roles with female actors—playing them as women, I mean—I suspect it doesn't change the test results as much as one might think, just because those changes often turn all-male groups into mostly-male groups rather than turning male-female dialogues into female-female ones. Although,now that I think about it, there was a recent production at the Globe with a female Jaques, which would add one scene with Rosalind that counts.

On the other hand, there have been two very high-profile recent(ish) productions of AYLI with all-male casts. So there's that, too.


Thanks! And good conversation between Rosalind and Celia--go, Will!

Oh, and Irilyth, sorry not to respond sooner—it's actually a trifle closer to you than where I live now, I think… hm, Google says that ain't so. But it's the top edge of the state, a stone's throw from the MA border. More details to follow.


whoo hoo!! Congrats, that's great news. :) :)

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