All the world's a stage  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
stage

All the world's a stage is the phrase that begins a famous soliloquy from William Shakespeare's As You Like It, spoken by the melancholy Jaques. The speech compares the world to a stage and life to a play, and catalogues the seven stages of a man's life, sometimes referred to as the seven ages of man: infant, school-boy, lover, soldier, justice, pantaloon, and second childhood, "sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything". It is one of Shakespeare's most frequently-quoted passages.

Contents

The monologue

The full passage is:

"All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms;
And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lin'd,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well sav'd, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion;
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything." — Jaques (Act II, Scene VII, lines 139-166)

Interpretation

The man in the poem goes through these stages:

  • Infancy: In this stage he is dependent on others and needs to be constantly attended to.
  • Childhood: It is in this stage that he begins to go to school. He is reluctant to leave the protected environment of his home as he is still not confident enough to exercise his own discretion.
  • The lover: In this stage, comparable to modern day adolescence, he is always remorseful due to some reason or other, especially the loss of love. He tries to express feelings through song or some other cultural activity.
  • The soldier: It is in this age, comparable to modern day young adult, that he thinks less of himself and begins to think more of others. He is very easily aroused and is hot headed. He is always working towards making a reputation for himself and gaining recognition, however shortlived it may be, even at the cost of his own life.
  • The justice: In this stage, comparable to modern day adult, he has acquired wisdom through the many experiences he has had in life. He has reached a stage where he has gained prosperity and social status. He becomes very attentive of his looks and begins to enjoy the finer things of life.
  • Old age: He begins to lose his charm — both physical and mental. He begins to become the brunt of others' jokes. He loses his firmness and assertiveness, and shrinks in stature and personality.
  • Mental dementia and death: He loses his status and he becomes a non-entity. He becomes dependent on others like a child and is in need of constant support before finally dying.

In Limerick

The poem was compressed into limerick form by the historian Robert Conquest.

Seven ages: first puking and mewling,
Then very pissed off with your schooling,
Then fucks and then fights,
Then judging chaps' rights,
Then sitting in slippers, then drooling.

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "All the world's a stage" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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