Touchstone Monologue (Act 5, Scene 4) | Monologues Unpacked
Touchstone monologue

Touchstone Monologue (Act 5, Scene 4)

Written by on | Monologues Unpacked

If you’re looking for a highly physical, highly comical, and highly pastoral prose monologue for your next audition, then look no further my friends. Today we’re going to take a look at Touchstone’s final speech from As You Like It by William Shakespeare. This is a great monologue and offers an opportunity for you to show off your physical and textual comedy chops. Let’s take a look…

Context

Our story begins in a Duchy in France where Duke Senior has just been usurped by his brother Duke Frederick. Touchstone, our hero for today is the court Jester to Duke Frederick and a great friend and confidant to Celia, Duke Frederick’s daughter. Celia just so happens to be best friends with Rosalind, Duke Seniors daughter, who has been allowed to stay in court because they are so close… until now. Frederick suspects Rosalind may be plotting against him and so decides after all to banish her from the Duchy. In a cunning plot Rosalind and Celia decide that instead they will run away together to the forest of Arden disguised as a brother and sister called Ganymede and Aliena with Rosalind playing the former, accompanied by our friend Touchstone. 

The trio make their way to the forest where they run into a number of familiar faces, Duke Senior and his exiled court, Adam, Orlando, as well as some new faces too. Enter Audrey, a Shepherdess who some might say is not the sharpest tool in the shed. This however does not stop Touchstone from falling madly in love with her from the moment he lays eyes on her. Like many of his counterparts throughout the play.  Touchstone attempts to woo Audrey and succeeds, she seems to fall for him too! But Sir Oliver Martext tells him that he can’t just have a shotgun wedding like he wants to and that he’ll have to have a proper wedding to which Touchstone reluctantly agrees. Unfortunately for a number of people, another young shepherd named William is in love with Audrey too. Touchstone with the use of his verbal and intellectual wit, as well as threatening to kill him in 150 ways, sends him on his way quite quickly, and begins to make plans to be wed to Audrey and even sings a song to prove it!

While all this has been going on, people have been falling in love, getting attacked by snakes and writing love poems all over the forest. As everyone begins to come together in the forest to be married and make up, in comes Touchstone and Audrey who wish to do the same. However before we get to any of that, Jaques tells Touchstone he doubts his status as a courtier, to which Touchstone replies saying he “If any man doubt that, let him put me to my purgation. I have trod a measure. I have flattered a lady. I have been politic with my friend, smooth with mine enemy. I have undone three tailors. I have had four quarrels, and like to have fought one.”. Jaques is curious as to how the fight was settled to which Touchstone tells him they had reached the seventh cause. Curious just what on earth he means by that he asks him to elaborate further, to which Touchstone regails them with the niceties of quarrelling, saying something a little bit like this…

Original Text

TOUCHSTONE
Upon a lie seven times removed – bear
your body more seeming, Audrey – as thus, sir. I did
dislike the cut of a certain courtier’s beard. He sent me
word if I said his beard was not cut well, he was in the
mind it was. This is called the ‘retort courteous’. If I
sent him word again it was not well cut, he would send
me word he cut it to please himself. This is called the
‘quip modest’. If again it was not well cut, he disabled my judgement. This is called the ‘reply churlish’. If again it was not well cut, he would answer I spake not
true. This is called the ‘reproof valiant’. If again it was
not well cut, he would say I lie. This is called the
‘countercheck quarrelsome’ – and so to the ‘lie
circumstantial’ and the ‘lie direct’.

JAQUES
And how oft did you say his beard was not well cut?

TOUCHSTONE
I durst go no further than the lie
circumstantial, nor he durst not give me the lie direct;
and so we measured swords and parted.

JAQUES
Can you nominate in order now the degrees of the lie?

TOUCHSTONE
O sir, we quarrel in print, by the book, as
you have books for good manners. I will name you the
degrees: the first, the retort courteous; the second, the
quip modest; the third, the reply churlish; the fourth,
the reproof valiant; the fifth, the counter-check
quarrelsome; the sixth, the lie with circumstance; the
seventh, the lie direct. All these you may avoid but the
lie direct and you may avoid that too with an ‘if’. I knew
when seven justices could not take up a quarrel, but
when the parties were met themselves, one of them
thought but of an ‘if’: as, ‘if you said so, then I said so’;
and they shook hands and swore brothers. Your ‘if’ is
the only peacemaker; much virtue in ‘if’.

Unfamiliar Language

seeming (adv.)
seemingly, becomingly

dislike (v.)
disapprove of, take exception to

disable (v.)
disparage, belittle, devalue

churlish (adj.)
rude, blunt, ungracious

countercheck (n.)
old form: counter-checke
countering manoeuvre, rebuke

measure (v.)
old form: measur’d
check that the length of two weapons is the same [before beginning a duel]

print, in
in a precise way, by the letter, very carefully

avoid (v.)
old form: auoyd, auoide
repudiate, deny, reject

take up (v.)
old form: take vp
settle, make up, resolve

justice (n.)
old form: Iustices
judge, magistrate

swear (v.)
promise, vow, pledge

virtue (n.)
old form: vertue
power, capability, efficacy, property

Modern Translation

Upon a lie seven times removed
Our argument went through seven stages.

bear your body more seeming, Audrey
Watch your posture Audrey. Like this, sir:

I did dislike the cut of a certain courtier’s beard.
I didn’t like the way a particular courtier’s beard was cut.

He sent me word if I said his beard was not cut well, he was in the mind it was. This is called the ‘retort courteous’.
He sent word to me that whether I said I like it or not, he was in the mind that he did. This is the first stage, and it is called the ‘retort courteous’.

If I sent him word again it was not well cut, he would send me word he cut it to please himself. This is called the ‘quip modest’.
If I sent him word again that I didn’t like the way it was cut, he would send me word that it was cut to his liking, not mine. This is called the ‘quip modest’.

If again it was not well cut, he disabled my judgement. This is called the ‘reply churlish’.
If I sent him word again I didn’t like it, he said my judgement was flawed. This is called the ‘reply churlish’.

If again it was not well cut, he would answer I spake not true. This is called the ‘reproof valiant’.
If again I sent him word that I didn’t like it, he said I speak untruthfully. This is called the ‘reproof valiant’.

If again it was not well cut, he would say I lie. This is called the ‘countercheck quarrelsome’
If again I said it wasn’t well cut, he said I lied. This is called the ‘countercheck quarrelsome’.

and so to the ‘lie circumstantial’ and the ‘lie direct’.
And so we get to the circumstantial lie and the direct lie.

I durst go no further than the lie
circumstantial, nor he durst not give me the lie direct;
and so we measured swords and parted.
I dared not go any further than the circumstantial lie and he dared not give me the direct lie and so we measured the length of our swords and parted ways, ending our fight.

O sir, we quarrel in print, by the book, as
you have books for good manners.
Oh sir, we argue properly, there are rulebooks for arguing just as there are rulebooks for good manners.

I will name you the degrees: the first, the retort courteous; the second, the quip modest; the third, the reply churlish; the fourth, the reproof valiant; the fifth, the counter-check quarrelsome; the sixth, the lie with circumstance; the seventh, the lie direct.
I’ll tell you the names of the stages of an argument. First, the ’retort courteous’; second the ‘quip modest; third the ‘reply churlish’; fourth the ‘reproof valiant’; fifth the ‘counter-check quarrelsome’; sixth the ‘circumstantial lie’; and seventh the ‘direct lie’.

All these you may avoid but the lie direct and you may avoid that too with an ‘if’.
You can avoid all of these but the direct lie, and you can manage to avoid that too with the use of an ‘if’

I knew when seven justices could not take up a quarrel, but when the parties were met themselves, one of them thought but of an ‘if’:
I once heard of seven judges who couldn’t resolve a case, but when they met, one of them thought to use an ‘if’

as, ‘if you said so, then I said so’;
As in, if you said so and so, then I said so and so’;

and they shook hands and swore brothers. Your ‘if’ is
the only peacemaker; much virtue in ‘if’.
And so they shook hands and swore to be brothers. You use of ‘if’ is the only way to make peace. There is virtue in the word ‘if’.

Notes on Performance

Firstly this is an incredibly finicky and wordy piece and there’s two ways to look at that. You can shy away and steamroll your way through the language OR, you relish that language and make use of the playful and bouncy nature of it. Touchstone is an incredibly intelligent and witty character and it would be a shame to throw away his beautiful play of words.
I would suggest identifying what words get repeated, figuring out why they’re being called back to and leaning to the wordplay of the repeated words. Particularly the word ‘if’. All in all, it’s important to play and have fun with the language here.

The next thing is physicality, this speech offers you the opportunity to unleash your inner clown and really play with some fun, big, and bold physical gesture. Just remember to always ground it in truth. Which leads us to our final point.

It can be very easy to then get lost in the fun of it all and lose the sense of truth. Always remember, if the actor finds it funny, the audience probably won’t. Yes he is playing, but it’s coming from a place of truth.

Ultimately the goal of this piece should be a fun, witty and dynamic performance which is grounded in some truth as to not steer us too far away from the story that’s being told. Keep playing and you’ll find that balance.

About the Author

StageMilk Team

is made up of young professional actors and writers from around the world. This team includes Andrew Hearle, Luke McMahon, Indiana Kwong, Patrick Cullen and many more. We all work together to contribute useful articles and resources for actors at all stages in their careers.

About the Author

StageMilk Team

is made up of young professional actors and writers from around the world. This team includes Andrew Hearle, Luke McMahon, Indiana Kwong, Patrick Cullen and many more. We all work together to contribute useful articles and resources for actors at all stages in their careers.

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