Articles for Discussion

All the world’s a stage

‘All the world’s a stage’ by William Shakespeare ‘As you like it’ Act II, Scene vii: 142 – 169

Speech made by Jacques to Duke Senior

“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 pantaloons,

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 everythihng.”

Discussion Focus

Discussion Focus: All the world’s a stage

Discussion points:

1. We may not recognise some of the words and phrases used here to describe individual stages in someone’s life, but many are still in use today. Which words and phrases do you find it easy to recognise and why? Do you think they are an accurate depiction of someone growing old?

2. If you were to write your own ‘Seven ages of man’ (or woman), what would be different to this one written by Shakespeare?

3. Shakespeare considers in this passage that life is like being on stage, where we all play a part. If we accept that idea, it suggests that we may simply act a part as we progress through life, rather than being what and who we really are. Why do you think it is important to be true to yourself and not be persuaded to act a part that is not the real you?

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