All The World’s A Stage. Shakespeare Song. Appreciation by P.S.Remesh Chandran.
Editor, Sahyadri Books & Bloom Books, Trivandrum.
Human beings are born far earlier than when they are ripe to be delivered. If they are retained inside mother body till sufficient growth, the child cannot come out due to large head size. So it has been arranged that they come out early when the head is comparatively small, and remain an invalid infant in the outside world for a very long time, compared to the relatively short infancy of other mammals. That is the price human beings pay for their higher intelligence among the mammalian world.
Life progresses in a circle in which the feelings and passions attached to a particular moment will have to be gone through again.
William Shakespeare was one of the great English poets and dramatists of the Sixteenth Century. All The World Is A Stage is a song from his play As You Like It, which in the play is sung by the melancholy philosopher Jacques. Whether life progresses in a straight line or in a circle is a question still remaining unanswered satisfactorily by philosophers. A point in a straight line will never be repeated, and the feelings and passions attached to that particular moment can never be enjoyed anymore. But a circle is the only figure where every point flies straight forward along its tangent and at the same ends where it starts. If life progresses in a circle, the feelings and passions attached to a particular age certainly can be gone through and experienced again in life after a time as illustrated in this song, the old age being an exact replica of the infancy. But it has to be agreed that Jacques’ description of the various stages of man’s life is rather cynical.
Suppose a man and a monkey are born on the same day: The monkey attains maturity far earlier.
Man’s history on earth seems to be pitiful and comic. He has seven distinct stages in his life in this world which appears as characters one after the other in a play. Infant, school boy, lover, soldier, magistrate, old man and the dying man-all these parts are played by us one after another on the stage that is this world, unless untimely called back to the place where we came from. Mankind has the longest infancy in the animal world. Suppose a monkey and a man is born on the same day. When it is one year old, the monkey would be performing many wonderful tricks and impossible feats in the trees, but the human child would still be lying there invalid, vulnerable and unable to do things by itself.
The most beautiful thing in this world is the morning face of a child going to school.
This long period of helpless infancy is a preparation for the future mighty acts that are to be performed by man. Shakespeare spells this philosophy strongly in the song. A newborn baby kicks and cries in his nurses’ arms. The whining school boy with his heavy set of books and a shining morning face creeps like an unwilling snail to his grammar school. Yes, times have not changed much. The scenes are the same even today. The most beautiful thing in this world to look at is still the morning face of a child going to school, and when he returns in the evening from school, he still looks like returning from the battle field after a fight.
The universal picture of lost lover, heaving sighs like a hot furnace.
The third stage is that of the lover who has loved and lost who sighs like a hot furnace and sings sad songs about his lost love. Such sentimentality and unripeness shall be forgiven, as it also is a natural stage in the normal evolvement of the human psyche and physique. Then the stage of the lover strongly and silently evolves into that of the soldier, when sentimentality withdraws and strength appears in its place. In this stage, which is unusually colourful and lively, he seeks chivalry and glory and is even ready to get into and explode himself inside the cannon’s mouth to gain a bubble reputation, though momentary.
A person standing outside this world, watching us, would be amazed at the naturalness of our acting
Now come the rest three successive stages of the middle aged man, the old man and the dying man, which also we act such extremely well on the stage that if someone stands outside this world and watches us, he would be amazed at how naturally we act. The fifth is a transition period in which man is equipped with the energy of the young and the experience of the old. How fortunate and prime a time and state to form oneself a statesman! In this middle age he is exceptionally able to distinguish between the right and the wrong and behaves like a magistrate, the man of justice. Then he becomes old, his body becomes weak, and he begins to wear light slippers in place of heavy boots. He wears spectacles and his cheeks are baggy. His trousers are now loose, and they become a vast playground to his thin legs. We may like the old men if at least their sounds are sweet and their words are meaningful, but alas, he has now lost several of his teeth and his words have lost their sweetness and meaning. In the seventh and the last stage, which ends this strange history of man’s life on the world’s stage, he looses all his teeth, loses sight and taste and everything else and becomes again a child to close the circle. And perhaps after death he may go beyond this world and reside in other realms of this limitless universe, or born again in this world itself to repeat everything.
Pictures Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons.
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Translations of this article in French, German, Spanish and Italian published in Knol.com can be read by clicking here.
All The Worlds A Stage, Ancient Dramas, Appreciations, Articles, As You Like It, British Authors, British Writers, English Literature, Essays, P S Remesh Chandran, Playwrights, Poetical Dramas, Poets, Reintroductions, Reviews, Sahyadri Books Bloom Books Trivandrum, William Shakespeare
Meet the author
Editor of Sahyadri Books & Bloom Books, Trivandrum. Author of several books in English and in Malayalam. And also author of Swan : The Intelligent Picture Book.