As You Like It (2.7.139-66)

139 JAQUES.            All the world’s a stage,
140 And all the men and women merely players;
141 They have their exits and their entrances,
142 And one man in his time plays many parts,
143 His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
144 Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
145 Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
146 And shining morning face, creeping like snail
147 Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
148 Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
149 Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
150 Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
151 Jealous in honor, sudden, and quick in quarrel,
152 Seeking the bubble reputation
153 Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
154 In fair round belly with good capon lined,
155 With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
156 Full of wise saws and modern instances;
157 And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
158 Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
159 With spectacles on nose, and pouch on side,
160 His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
161 For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
162 Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
163 And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
164 That ends this strange eventful history,
165 Is second childishness, and mere oblivion,
166 Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans every thing.

The whole world is a stage, and all the men and women merely actors. They have their exits and their entrances, and in his lifetime a man will play many parts, his life separated into seven acts. In the first act he is an infant, whimpering and puking in his nurse’s arms. Then he’s the whining schoolboy, with a book bag and a bright, young face, creeping like a snail unwillingly to school. Then he becomes a lover, huffing and puffing like a furnace as he writes sad poems about his mistress’s eyebrows. In the fourth act, he’s a soldier, full of foreign curses, with a beard like a panther, eager to defend his honor and quick to fight. On the battlefield, he puts himself in front of the cannon’s mouth, risking his life to seek fame that is as fleeting as a soap bubble. In the fifth act, he is a judge, with a nice fat belly from all the bribes he’s taken. His eyes are stern, and he’s given his beard a respectable cut. He’s full of wise sayings and up-to-the-minute anecdotes: that’s the way he plays his part. In the sixth act, the curtain rises on a skinny old man in slippers, glasses on his nose and a money bag at his side. The stockings he wore in his youth hang loosely on his shriveled legs now, and his bellowing voice has shrunk back down to a childish squeak. In the last scene of our play—the end of this strange, eventful history—our hero, full of forgetfulness, enters his second childhood: without teeth, without eyes, without taste, without everything.

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Page Last Updated: 3 March 2013