A writer should always find time to appreciate Shakespeare. Whether it’s the whole play, a monologue or even just a line, “to be or not to be,” when it comes to Shakespeare, always TO BE!!
And with that please come with me to enjoy the monologue taken from As You Like it (1623), a play that my novel Faces of a Small City even quotes from.
“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.
Then the whining schoolboy, 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 honor, 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 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. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.” (Act II, Scene VII)
Why is this monologue, spoken by the character Jacques, so brilliant? It is simple really. “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players…His acts being seven ages.”
- It is a brilliant observation about life
- It simplifies life into the medium of which the writing would have been presented (a play) making it a reference within a reference, or….. inception reference.
- The fact that it is pretty spot on as to a human’s development through life (in the general sense)
- The fact that in just under 30 lines, Shakespeare manages to go from birth to death and comedy to tragedy in such a thought provoking and moving way
- And because, on top of that he manages to put in such beautiful poetic lines that inspire and amaze, for example, “And then the lover, Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad, Made to his mistress’ eyebrow.”
This monologue is one of Shakespeare’s best, the other being Hamlet’s “to be or not to be” speech, but when all is said and done, personally I think this is not only Shakespeare’s best but the best, most poetic, most sad and wonderful pieces of writing ever. If it were up to me I’d gladly swap my kingdom for the chance to write something as brilliant as this.
And what a depressing end, “and mere oblivion, Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.” In the end, Shakespeare explains, we are left with nothing. Without teeth, without eyes, without taste, without everything. Oblivion. What a depressing end; but true and a monologue made more beautiful for it.
Please check out my novel by clicking the link above and search for me on Twitter @PaulStearsNews.
Check out other blogs by clicking on the pictures below
Thanks for reading!