Internet Shakespeare Editions


All the world's a stage

In As You Like It, the "melancholy" Jacques speaks these lines just before Orlando brings the good old man Adam on stage. Jacques must recently have read Timothy Bright's A Treatise of Melancholie.

The passage is spoken in the dialect that Shakespeare would have used:

Learn more about Elizabethan pronunciation.

Jacques: 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.
Then the whining schoolboy, 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 canon'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.
(As You Like It, 2. 7. 139-167)


  1. Puke

    According to the Oxford Dictionary, this is the first recorded use of "puke" meaning "to vomit." Previously the word had been used to mean a dignified dark brown color. Not surprisingly, once the new meaning took hold, the previous meaning disappeared rapidly; its last recorded use was in 1615 (As You Like It was written in about 1598).

  2. What does Jacques mean?

    Bearded like the pard
    As hairy as a leopard.
    A capon was a castrated rooster; the capon was considered a delicacy, and may well have been used to bribe officers of the law.
    Wise saws
    Well-tried proverbs (clichés perhaps), contrasted with modern precedents. The judge is in more than one way well-rounded.
    A reference to the figure of Pantalone in the Italian Commedia dell' Arte tradition. The Pantalone was a foolish figure, made fun of by the other characters.
    The use of "its" for the neuter possessive pronoun did not become normal until late in the seventeenth century; "his" here is therefore generic in meaning.
    Without (Jaques is affecting some courtly French).