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All the World's a Stage

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All the world’s a stage
What is life? Do we exercise our own choices or are we bound by destiny and the different phases of life? These are all reflections William Shakespeare handles in the poem As You Like it.

“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women are merely players; they have their exists and their entrances”

As this quote illustrates, the author has a clear answer to the above-mentioned questions. Just as Søren Kierkegaard – William Shakespeare believes that we throughout our life goes through and experiences different phases. Unlike Søren Kierkegaard, Shakespeare is slightly more naturalistic in his way of presenting these phases. Initially, he describes the beginning of life as a human being: “At first, the infant, Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms” Here, we are presented for the first of seven phases. By establishing an image of a completely helpless newborn baby and the absolute need for other humans, the first phase named the beginning is presented to the reader. Conversely, the second phase is quite simple and easy to understand. “Then the whining schoolboy. And shining morning face, creeping like snail” The second phase is when the child is ready for education. The contrast between shining morning face and creeping snail emphasizes Shakespeare’s personal feelings in regard to this particular phase. As mentioned earlier, this phase is not complex – it is being brought upon you, it is not something you choose for yourself. In addition, this demonstrates how Shakespeare actually is an existentialist. And a very early one. Perhaps even the first one ever. Subsequently, the poem continues: “And then the lover. Signing like furnace, with a woeful ballad. Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier” Again, Shakespeare employs metaphors and contradictions. He uses the contradiction between love and the life of a soldier. Every man had to serve his country as a soldier, another choice which is not being taken by the person; it is again being brought upon him. These phases are also melancholic and harsh.

When entering the Soldier-phase you will also meet a lot of misfortune. Furthermore, you are still not complete. While being in this phase you will try as hard as you can to build a reputation, to be recognized – perhaps even at the cost of your own life. After this phase, you can finally begin to live your life. The “Justice” phase is the redemption of all the suffering and hard work. “In fair round belly with good capon lined, with eyes severe and beard of formal cut, full of wise saws and modern instances” After all the hard work and suffering, a man has to endure and here comes the redemption. When entering this specific phase, you can relax, sit back and enjoy. You have all the experience and even some wise saws. He is now respected and well-known in the society in which he origins. He starts to enjoy the finer things in life, which we can tell by the round belly. But this fine time is soon coming to an end: “With spectacles on nose and pouch on side…. For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice, Turning again toward childish treble, pibes” Despite all the hard work and time it took to get here, it is all about to end. The eyes are fading and so is his voice. He is getting older and losing all that is left of his youth. The imagery Shakespeare gives the reader an abundantly clear image of the man. This man who has endured more than most is now simply fading away.

As the man has done his entire life; he is simply playing his part exactly like it was a theater. A man has different parts and most try to play them all the best he can. “That ends this strange eventfully history, Is second childishness and mere oblivion” This is the absolute last phase. Everything has come to an end now and the man who played all his parts the best he could is going to die. In this phase, he is in extreme age and not capable of doing anything. He is just like he was in the first phase, where he simply was puking on the nurse and being helpless. Despite the fact that this poem was written merely 450 years ago it is still very topical. These different phases are actually still reality and many people experience similar phases. It amazes me that something written for so long ago can make so much sense to day.…...

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