Jaques's Perspective in As You Like It
A cynic's cynic might declare Jaques no better than the guy who lurks in corners at a cocktail party, lobbing witty barbs at anyone unlucky enough to catch his eye. But this assessment robs Shakespeare's comedy of its sociological depth; what might be pleasant fluff about young people in love is enhanced by Jaques's ability to make stern judgments about the world, yet still respect the people who comprise it.
Indeed, Jaques observes astutely from the sidelines. He separates himself from what he considers the frivolity of making suitable marriage matches. But Jaques's speeches are not merely Shakespeare's devices for explication. There is a psychological middle ground between the court and the forest, and the ideals closest to those who think little are, in Jaques's eyes, admirable. His words make him the most egalitarian character in the play.
From his first speech, Jaques paints himself as a moody loner and as rather disdainful of his benefactor, Duke Senior. He says, "And I have been all this day to avoid him. He is too disputable for my company" (II.5 31-32).
But if this is played with a light touch, the audience sees that Jaques is not nearly as melancholy as he pretends. He finds delight in the carefree demeanor of Touchstone and makes several references to his own desire to own a "motley coat." But Jaques sees more in the personae of fools than silliness, and herein lies his nobility.
He quotes Touchstone's ruminations about time, " 'And so from hour to hour we ripe, and ripe/And then from hour to hour we rot, and rot'" (II.7 26-27)...