1598 | Forest of Arden

The Quip Modest

Quarreling wordplay, courtesy of William Shakespeare.

Touchstone: Salutation and greeting to you all.

Jaques: Good my lord, bid him welcome. This is the motley-minded gentleman that I have so often met in the forest: he hath been a courtier, he swears.

Touchstone: 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: And how was that ta’en up?

Touchstone: Faith, we met and found the quarrel was upon the seventh cause.

Jaques: How, “seventh cause”? Good my lord, like this fellow.

Duke Senior: I like him very well.

Touchstone: God’ild you, sir; I desire you of the like. I press in here, sir, amongst the rest of the country copulatives, to swear and to forswear according as marriage binds and blood breaks. A poor virgin, sir, an ill-favored thing, sir, but mine own. A poor humor of mine, sir, to take that that no man else will. Rich honesty dwells like a miser, sir, in a poor house, as your pearl in your foul oyster.

Duke Senior: By my faith, he is very swift and sententious.

Touchstone: According to “the fool’s bolt,” sir, and such dulcet diseases.

Jaques: But, for “the seventh cause”: how did you find the quarrel on “the seventh cause”?

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 judgment: 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 lied: 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.


William Shakespeare

From As You Like It. First performed in 1599 or 1600, this comedy is based on Thomas Lodge’s popular 1590 pastoral romance Rosalynde, with some alterations. The jester Touchstone and the melancholy Jaques are Shakespeare’s inventions, as is the idyllic Forest of Arden. The latter may be modeled after an ancient Warwickshire forest that still surrounded Stratford-upon-Avon during Shakespeare’s lifetime; the playwright’s mother, Mary Arden, may have belonged to a minor branch of the noble family that owned it.