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The following excerpt is from Act II Scene vii of William Shakespeare’s comedy As You Like It. In this play, Duke Frederick has usurped and then banished his brother from one of the great dukedoms of France. The brother, the lawful duke, takes refuge in a forest with a group of loyal supporters. In this famous monologue, Jaques, a lord attending the lawful duke in the forest, expresses his ideas about life.
Jaques. 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 school-boy, with his satchel / And shining morning face, creeping like snail / Unwilling to school.
And then the lover, / Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad / Made to his mistress’s eyebrow.
Then a soldier, / Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard, / Jealous in honour1, sudden and quick in quarrel, / Seeking the bubble reputation / Even in the cannon’s mouth.
And then justice, / In fair, round belly with good capon-lined, / With eyes severe and beard of formal cut, / Full of wise saws2 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 hose3, well saved, a world too wide / For his shrunk shank4;
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 childness and mere oblivion, / Sans5 teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.
1 eager for fame and protective of one’s reputation
2 wise sayings
3 type of outer garment worn on the legs by men
4 the leg
Critical Terms and Concepts:
A contradiction between what a character thinks and what the audience knows to be true is called …
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