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Home :: Archive :: 2011 :: August ::
Questions on Things Said by Jaques

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 22.0187  Wednesday, 3 August 2011

[1] From:         James McGuire < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
     Date:          August 1, 2011 10:50:28 PM EDT
     Subject:      Re: Qs Jaques

[2] From:         Pete McCluskey < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
     Date:         August 2, 2011 7:20:04 AM EDT
     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Q: Jacques


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:         James McGuire < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
Date:          August 1, 2011 10:50:28 PM EDT
Subject:      Re: Qs Jaques

Re: the theories about Jaques' "a miserable world"

I very much like all your ideas, especially the one that Shakespeare may have been giving an actor something to work with, and, yes, Jaques does sometimes fall over himself verbally.  Perhaps the playwright injected a rather common human trait of occasionally sputtering non-sequiturs.  Having played this part, I remember just making it work as part of my character's verbal associations at the time.  It made perfect sense to say "a miserable world" as a verbalized mental juxtaposition after "a motley fool."  Directors and actors are forced to make choices until something works better than something else.  Thanks for your thinking.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Pete McCluskey < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
Date:         August 2, 2011 7:20:04 AM EDT
Subject:      Re: SHAKSPER: Q: Jacques

Jaques offers his companions an alternative: he will be quiet (by falling asleep) or he will make a caterwauling nuisance of himself by overacting like Herod as traditionally portrayed in the cycle plays.  Cf. Hamlet's advice to the players:
 
O, it offends me to the
soul to hear a robustious periwig-pated fellow tear a passion to
tatters, to very rags, to split the cars of the groundlings, who
(for the most part) are capable of nothing but inexplicable dumb
shows and noise. I would have such a fellow whipp'd for o'erdoing
Termagant. It out-herods Herod. Pray you avoid it.

For another comic allusion to the tradition of overacting the role of Herod, cf. Chaucer's "Miller's Tale":

Sometyme, to shewe his [Absalon's] lightnesse and maistrye,
He pleyeth Herodes upon a scaffold hye.

Regarding the word "miserable"--Shakespeare consistently uses the word in its conventional adjectival sense of misery, so the simplest explanation is that Jaques uses the word ironically to express his 'pleasure' at finding one of the courtly trappings Duke Senior and his followers have forsaken; however, there may be a pun upon "misericord" ("An apartment in a monastery in which certain relaxations of the rule were permitted; esp. one in which monks to whom special allowances were made in food and drink (because of illness, etc.) could eat." --OED) and even (to go out on a limb here) "Miserere" ("Psalm 51 (50 in the Vulgate), beginning Miserere mei Deus (‘Have mercy upon me, O God’), one of the Penitential Psalms; the recitation of this psalm."--OED): Jacques acknowledges God's pity in sending him a diversion from his melancholy.

Pete McCluskey

P.S. Alan Rickman's Jacques in the 1986 RSC production stole the show.

Peter M. McCluskey
Associate Professor
Middle Tennessee State University

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