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All the World's a Stage -- William Shakespeare

Guest poem submitted by Rupindar Millington:
(Poem #1873) All the World's a Stage
 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 lined,
 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 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. Last scene of all,
 That ends this strange eventful history,
 Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
 Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.
-- William Shakespeare
A recent submission, "Childhood" by Frances Cornford (Poem #1872), reminded
me instantly of this great poem from Shakespeare's As You Like It, 1600.
The link between childhood and old age, the full circle of life in which at
the first and last stages we are helpless - back to square one:

        Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
        Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

Is our life marked out?  Do we merely go through the stages of our life
acting it out?  Are there really seven stages?  Are some of us better
actors/actresses than others?  Something to debate; no wonder I recall it so
well - it was part of my English Literature Syllabus :-)... or perhaps I'm
having a mid-life crisis!!


Rupindar Millington

24 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Matt Chanoff said...

Thank you, Rupindar Millington, (and what an extraordinary name you're
blessed with!) for the reminder about "Allthe World's a Stage."

I always thought of this one as a comedic parallel to the Macbeth soliloquy:
"Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow..." which contains the lines "Life's but
a walking shadow, a poor fool who struts and frets his hour upon the
stage..." But in tragedy, we only get an hour; in comedy we get seven whole
ages to pat our capon-lined bellies fondly.

Thanks again,

Matt Chanoff

elizchampcheney said...

It reminds me of the passage in Eliot's Four Quartets. Something like: We will never cease
exploring and the end of our exploring will be to arrive at the place we began and know it
for the first time." Although I think Eliot was speaking of this as a transcendant spritual
experience and here Shakespeare's Jacques is laughing at the pointlessness of it all.

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