..and thereby hangs a tale


A fool, a fool! I met a fool in the forest,
A motley fool; a miserable world!
As I do live by food, I met a fool
Who laid him down and bask’d him in the sun,
And rail’d on Lady Fortune in good terms,
In good set terms and, yet, a motley fool.
‘Good morrow, fool,’ quoth I. ‘No, sir,’ quoth he,
‘Call me not fool till heaven hath sent me fortune:’
And then he drew a dial from his poke,
And, looking on it with lack-lustre eye,
Says very wisely, ‘It is ten o’clock:
Thus we may see,’ quoth he, ‘how the world wags:
‘Tis but an hour ago since it was nine,
And after one hour more ’twill be eleven;
And so, from hour to hour, we ripe and ripe,
And then, from hour to hour, we rot and rot;
And thereby hangs a tale.’ When I did hear
The motley fool thus moral on the time,
My lungs began to crow like chanticleer,
That fools should be so deep-contemplative,
And I did laugh sans intermission
An hour by his dial. O noble fool!
A worthy fool! Motley’s the only wear.

(Shakespeare’s As You Like It)

Jaques the melancholic said this to the woodsmen in Shakespeare’s As You like It , a monologue reflecting his own deep down melancholy, an attitude he has cultivated out of philosophical pretensions. Jaques the melancholic sees sorrow everywhere, a miserable world ,where the clock marks hour to hour as you ripe and ripe and then you rot and rot on your way to the dusty death.

The tale that hangs thereby is not merely the hours marking our time because there is no tale in a routine passage of time. The motley fool is trying to make a tale out of the inconsequential passing of time.He basks in the sun and waits for lady Fortune to smile and asks not to be called the Fool till she sends down his fortune. That is because the Fool is indeed a wise man who knows lady Fortune will not send any such thing. He therefore takes out a dial from poke and observes its hours to pontificate about life, how the world wags. Fools are indeed deep and contemplative.

But the tale actually hangs by the melancholic laughing an hour without intermission, an hour by the Fool’s clock. His admiration for the fool increases as he looks at the motley colors of the Fool’s dress and calls him a noble fool. The Fool is not joker wearing a motley dress for the amusement of the King and his nobles. Here is a noble Fool, who is wiser than many of the King’s nobles. Thereby hangs the tale.