Humour in As You Like It

Role of Humour in “As You Like It”

In the medieval period, the word humour carried a different connotation which was generally understood to be a peculiar turn of mind, a caprice or whim of a particular person. Humour originally meant physiological rather than a psychological phenomenon. It was supposed to represent a fluid in the human body which expressed itself in the character of the person concerned. Thus the word came to signify a strange characteristic or whim of a person. It has been painted by critics that “As You Like It” is a representation of three types of humour manifested in different characters of the play. Touchstone is thought to display professional humour while Jaques shows morbid, Rosalind the principal character of the drama is an embodiment of normal humour. Touchstone adopts professional attitude because he is a court jester and it is his duty to amuse the king or his master by his wit and fancy. He is bound to keep up a light-hearted and jesting appearance because his profession requires him to be always witty and humour. Hence, Touchstone’s humour is described as personal humour. It is not natural in the scene that it is employed with a conscious motive that of entertaining and amusing the people.

On the other hand, Jaques is full of morbid and melancholy humour of the pessimist. In contrast to Touchstone’s light-hearted wit, Jaques possesses a very serious outlook on life. He is discontented with everything in life. He irrespective of its quality. In fact, Jaques is purposely melancholy his words complain his view of humour. He says “I can suck melancholy out of a song as a weasel suck egg.” It is crystal clear that Jaques is a born pessimist whose mind became unhealthy an account of self-brooding. In the drama, he always complains about one thing or another, to him the years seems to be made up of twelve Decembers. Quite surprisingly all the gaiety and mirth brought by a different pair of lovers bring little to this eternal weeping wizard. When various lovers are to be united in matrimony, Jaques presents a strange comment “There is, sure another flood toward, and these couples are coming to the ark! Here comes a pair of very strange beasts, which in all tongues are called fools.” Hence his humour is rightly described as morbid melancholy and unnaturally serious. 

Finally, the drama produces Rosalind’s humour which has a healthy and hilarious note. At the same time, it is strange enough to brush aside all pessimism in us. Rosalind is serious without being pedantic or light-hearted, without being vulgar. Her humour is born of natural innocence and simplicity of responses to situations. Adversity has not soured her temperament. Although circumstances in the court were bent upon spoiling her sunny spirit. But the moments she decides to move on to unknown destiny and disguises herself as a shepherd, all the finer traits of her personality begin to bloom. The difficult and tiresome voyage into uncertainly brings little discomfort rather it wriggles out the best from this adventurous traveler. Even when she is inclined to ridicule the folly of Jaques, her laughter is not embittered by malice whatever she says or does has a certain unfailing grace which is the result of her genial humourRosalind’s humour is the standard of all true humour which ought to be never boisterous. Its laughter is infectious and disarming. It produces sympathy and gains the affections and confidence of the people in immediate surrounding.

No doubt Shakespeare was a master craftsman. His study of man and his mind is unrivaled and fascinating sins. ‘As You Like It’ is one of the sweetest and happiest comedies, the dramatist has infused rich humour of different tunes and tones in the drama. 

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