Scene 2.7 - In the Forest of Arden.
Duke Senior, sitting down to his outdoor feast, complains that he cannot find Jacques anywhere. But suddenly Jacques rushes into the clearing, laughing and unusually cheerful. Jacques explains merrily that he has met a "fool" in the woods, who entertained him by making morbid puns about the passing of time and the inevitable death of all mortals - just the sort of jokes Jacques likes. (Since Jacques says the fool told him that he used to live at court, it's clear that this person must be Touchstone, who we know is now in Arden Forest.)
Jacques demands that Duke Senior give him a motley coat (the patchwork costume which court fools and clowns traditionally wore in the Renaissance). Duke Senior promises to give him one. But Jacques now also demands the traditional prerogative of court clowns: the freedom to say whatever he wants and to poke fun at his social superiors. Duke Senior does not agree to this, sharply reminding Jacques that Jacques himself was a decadent sinner when he lived at court, and that he would be hypocritical to condemn other people. But Jacques argues that everyone is a hypocrite, and that if he names no names while describing the sins he observes in others, no one would ever be able to complain that he was talking about them without exposing themselves.
This increasingly abstract argument is suddenly interrupted when Orlando leaps into the clearing, sword drawn, demanding that the Duke's party hand over their food to him. But when Duke Senior politely invites him to sit down and share their meal, Orlando apologizes for his rude conduct, explaining his desperate plight and begging the Duke to take mercy on him. The Duke promises Orlando all the food he needs, and Orlando goes off to find old Adam and bring him to the banquet table. When the Duke comments that Orlando's situation forces him to remember that other people in the world besides himself are unhappy, Jacques responds with his (now famous) speech about the "seven ages of man," in which he declares that "all the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players." He goes on to describe the different ages that humans go through - from infant and schoolboy, to lover and soldier, to middle-aged "justice," to old man, and back into senile second childhood - winding up with a morbid vision of an extreme old age which has lost the ability to see, eat, taste, or experience anything at all.
Orlando returns with Adam, and the Duke invites them both to eat with him; meanwhile, Amiens sings a song to entertain the company. After the meal, the Duke invites Orlando and Adam back to his cavern headquarters to tell him about their troubles. He reminds Orlando that he was a close friend to Orlando's father, Sir Rowland de Bois, and says he will make Orlando and Adam welcome in the forest.
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Points to Ponder
Did You Know
Scenes 2.1, 2.2, 2.3
Scenes 2.4, 2.5, and 2.6
Scenes 4.2 and 4.3
Scenes 5.1 and 5.2
Scenes 5.3 and 5.4