Shakespeare\' As You Like It: Effective Use of Sound In Jaques\' Speech


As infamous as Shakespeare is, and as well known as his works are, some
prose are just simply more extraordinary than the rest. There are many ways to
look at Jaques speech, such as use of language or imagery yet, something we
often do not reflect on is the sound of the prose. When reading this particular
speech, the subject is directly related to the sounds Shakespeare has chosen.
We are guided gracefully through the stages of life in twenty-seven lines. As
it is read aloud, the reader hears the actual sounds that each stage exhibits,
and finds themselves part of the speech, experiencing it, as opposed to merely
reading it.
The introduction is like a drum-roll before the show starts. The
intonation at which the reader proceeds begins with a high sound due to”
...(a)ll...” 1 being the first word. The ‘aw\' sound is repeated at the
beginning and three times during the next sentence, “And all the men and women
merely players;” (2.7.140). The next sentence is lower in pitch, using a lower ‘
e\' sound “..exit and their entrances,” (2.7.141). Reappearing in the final two
sentences, before the actual ages begin, is the ‘aw\' sound. The fluctuation
like that of a ring master, is striving to gain attention before the show starts.

The first three stages can be considered the childhood progressing into
adulthood stages. “Mewling and puking...” (2.7.144), are two words, which when
said, they are slurred and unclear, much like that of the speech of an infant.
The ‘ew\' in mewling and the ‘you\' sound in puking are common noises from young
children. Next we reach the schoolboy stage. Young men are often reluctant to
attend school, and their protests take the form of “...whining...” (2.7.145).
When the word whining is pronounced, it sounds like a whine. The word starts
with a dragged out ‘why\' sound, making the reader again feel like they are
making the sounds which are pertinent to that age. Words associated with lovers
are soft and flowing, much like those used by Shakespeare in the prose of this
age. “Sighing like furnace, with woeful ballad” (2.7.148), depict more emotion
than seen within the prior two stages. When sighing is pronounced, it takes the
form of an actual sigh, causing the reader to actually act out the verb instead
of simply speaking it. The three initial stages are complete, leaving the
reader dangling on the edge of adulthood.
Soldiers are usually equated with fast wit and decisiveness. The use of
short words and short sounds emphasize these next five lines of prose in Jaques\'
speech. “Jealous in honor, sudden, and quick in quarrel,” (2.7.151) is a line
which is said quickly and brashly due to the short sounds such as “...pard,”
(2.7.150) and “...quick...” (2.7.151) which are contained within it. The stage
of the justice is equated with wit and wisdom. A slower sounding, softer word
choice is effective here. “In fair round belly...” (2.7.154) is much softer
than the previous stage. The ‘ou\' sound in round and the ‘ell\' sound in belly
combine to make a softer tone. As the man in this speech ages, his vocabulary as
well as the sounds he uses illustrate how he is aging.
The last two stages in Jaques\'s speech in Shakespeare\'s As You Like It,
are nearing the end of the man\'s life. Looked fondly upon, a “...pantaloon,”
(2.7.158) is simply an older man wanting to be young again by pulling pranks and
such. The sounds in this age, are still soft, with more ‘s\' sounds. “
...(S)lipper\'d...” (2.7.158), “With spectacles on nose, and pouch on side,”
(2.7.159), “For his shrunk shank,...” (2.7.161) as well as, “...whistles in his
sound.” (2.7.163) are all examples of usage of sound. The speech is breaking
down as the man ages, and he begins again to slur words and use more s\',
possibly due to the loss of teeth as he ages. In the final stage, second
childishness, a regression back to childhood is evident. The speech is almost
completely reverted to the soft s\'s made as a child. Out of a possible twenty-
four words, fourteen contain the s sound, the last sentence being almost all s\',
“ Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.” (2.7.166). Therefore as
the reader speaks this speech, he is actually acting out how speech is gained
and then is eventually lost. Through his effective use of sound, Shakespeare
successfully guides the reader along the seven stages of life, masterfully using
the sounds which are apparent