Do you remembering studying Shakespeare’s poem “All The World’s A Stage” when you were at school? Does it resonate with you?
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.
Are we just players in a play? We are born and then we die? Are we cogs that make the wheel go around? Can each of us make a difference? Do we change seven times during our lives – not just in stages of life but does our personalities, our wants, our dislikes, our priorities, do they change as well?
At first, the infant, Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms. Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel And shining morning face, creeping like snail Unwillingly to school.
The description of the baby isn’t that attractive is it? When we think of babies, most of us like to think of them as clean and smiling, wrapped up in a warm blanket. When I read about the schoolboy, an image of ‘Just William’ comes to mind – dressed in grey shorts, falling down knee socks, cap on skew ways, face scrubbed as his mother grabbed him before he left and he is walking as slowly as he possibly can to school. Were you like that as a child?
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 honor, sudden and quick in quarrel, Seeking the bubble reputation Even in the cannon’s mouth.
Do you remember those lovestruck days of youth? Do you think we are more impatient and impulsive and even fiery in our twenties and thirties? Do we become more patient after we hit 40?
And then the justice, In fair round belly with good capon lined, With eyes severe and beard of formal cut, Full of wise saws and modern instances; And so he plays his part.
This suggests our fifth stage is our peak in my opinion. We are wise from our observations of life. We have achieved success in our careers so have earned the respect of others. We may be carrying some extra weight at this stage too!
The sixth age shifts Into the lean and slippered pantaloon, With spectacles on nose and pouch on side; His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice, Turning again toward childish treble, pipes And whistles in his sound.
This stage shows how everything is starting to deteriorate – his status in society, his position in the workplace ends, his size is shrinking, his voice is weakening, his eyesight is failing. When one considers that older people were supposed to be respected more for their increased wisdom, Shakespeare’s poem certainly doesn’t reflect that. Do you think the sixth stage exists in modern life? Yes, our eyesight may deteriorate but can be corrected with glasses. There’s more emphasis on keeping fit to keep our bodies supple.
Last scene of all, That ends this strange eventful history, Is second childishness and mere oblivion, Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.
The last scene describes just before death. In Shakespeare’s day, if people lived to a ripe old age they probably were toothless at that stage and of course, that would affect their ability to eat and taste. It’s a sad ending isn’t it, how the senses we are born with and learn to develop fade away just before we return to the earth ‘dust to dust’. And yet it is strangely peaceful, suggesting the oblivion that death brings.
What do you think of the ending?