Act II, Scene VII of William Shakespeare’s comedy, As You Like It, paints a hauntingly accurate picture of the cycle of a man’s life.
Using SparkNotes’ Modern English translation, and the artwork of Robert Smirke (1752-1845), we gain insight into the figurative seven stages of life that a man progresses through:
"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."
To be continued…