Your Life According to Shakespeare

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In Act II, scene VII, of the play As You Like It, a disheartened Jacques takes a long look at life:
All the worlds 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(1-4) It is a line that is as simplistic as it is complicated, comparing the cycle of life to that of a play. This quote, pulled from the play As You Like it, a pastoral comedy by William Shakespeare, has been repeated and analyzed thoroughly throughout the years by poets and philosophers alike. This set speech, spoken by Jacques, takes a seven step look at the aging process of man: infant, schoolboy, lover, soldier, justice, pantaloon, and second childishness. With such visual dialect Shakespeare metaphorically compares the seven stages of aging, to the multiple acts of a play and the plot's ascending and descending order much like that of life's from infant to second childishness.

The language that Shakespeare uses for this set speech is remarkably modern. Shakespeare uses a language that is so modern for his time yet so simple for present day dialect that the set speech is often taken out of the play's context and has achieved a reputation as a poem and has been able to remain such a popular work for so long as well as still carry meaning. For instance, Shakespeare refers to the infant as "mewling and puking in the nurse's arms."(6). When Shakespeare wrote this, it was the first recorded use of "puke" meaning "to vomit", before then the word had been used to mean a dignified dark brown color, according to the Oxford Dictionary(Shakespeare 2). Anyone in any time period could picture an infant curled up and spitting up on a nurses shoulder, which is what makes the language he uses so interesting. Shakespeare is able to use such vivid words that are able to reach so many different walks of life and still convey a deeper meaning. He also uses a few that...
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