Shakespeare at 400: 'As You Like It'

Shakespeare at 400: 'As You Like It'

Sometimes the best part of “browsing through Bartlett’s,” my looks at Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, is finding the long version of something that’s usually quoted as just a few lines. That’s what happened to me when my search for the work of William Shakespeare (1564-1616) led me to “As You Like It.”

Just about any speaker of English will have heard the words “All the word’s a stage.” But the speech from which that quotation comes is a masterful description of life — perhaps even the root of developmental psychology. Take a look at  the whole thing and marvel for yourself.

“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 woful


Made to his misstress’ 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 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 7


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  • That is a cool quote but I am hoping that last stage comes a little later than sixth stage. I'm 62!

  • In reply to Kathy Mathews:

    Thanks, Kathy. I'm in no rush for that stage, either -- and we can be grateful for the advances of the past 400-plus years that put off that stage.

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