Thursday, August 07, 2008

All the World's a Stage - a Poetry Friday post

The other day, I watched a movie version of As You Like It by the Bard, which was set in Japan (based on the architecture and costume), but seemed to lack any Asian actors, really. Nevertheless, I was much struck by the performance of Kevin Kline as Jaques, the melancholy advisor to the kind Duke in exile. Here is Jaques' monologue from Act II, scene 7:

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 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.

*pard: a leopard or other big cat

The monologue, written in blank verse (unrhymed iambic pentameter), traces seven stages of life, sometimes called the seven ages of man. This lovely monologue, melancholy though it may be, was summarized in a mere five lines by Robert Conquest, who put it in limerick form. Warning: the limerick includes some crude language. Best not to share it with small kids.

1 comment:

kg said...

the version I put on my blog was written down after a re-telling by a friend, but I've since come across what Conquest actually wrote, and it's slightly different - the gist remains the same, but you may wanna track down the authoritative version. Also, I notice you've blogged about Dover Beach, and if you want the "improved" version of that, look for a poem called "The Dover Bitch" - alas, I can't remember the author, but I think it's on the internet somewhere.