05 October 2010

All The World's A Stage

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) has become, to posterity, quite a mysterious and fascinating man. Was he born in this house?

Can we ever be sure about the contents of his biography? How much of his work is the fruit of collaboration and which aspects of it are truly of his own, unique making?

What do we know of his real physical appearance in life at various ages? Will we ever be able to discover something of the tone of his voice, his verbal diction and the life experiences that created the immortal words his dramatic characters speak?

The monologue, spoken by Jaques in Act II, Scene VII, lines 139-166 of As You Like It, is a well-known example of the fluidity of identity. I see William Shakespeare, the writer, as playing the "justice" role in his posterity.

Which role will you play in yours? Who can tell who might achieve "the bubble of reputation" that will never burst?

Here are a few links to Wikipedia articles:

William Shakespeare

As You Like It

All the world's a stage

The most interesting "role" in the monologue, in my view, is the "soldier". He (and even she) may also be referred to as the worker, the employee, the assistant, the servant, or the helper, as not everyone who has a long life becomes a soldier. Not everyone who earns a living does so in a violent way, in the vicinity of "the cannon's mouth", at least on a regular basis.

Perhaps soldiering was Shakespeare's occupation between 1585 and 1592, from the age of 21 to 28, now known as his "lost years". Compiling biographies from scanty records is always difficult, as you may know if you have ever experienced the role of genealogist.

The most comic role in the monologue, yet also the most tragic in my view, especially in terms of the wellbeing others rather than that of the character, is the pantaloon, known in Italian Commedia dell'arte as Pantalone. You may know of several politicians and businessmen who are past their prime and could easily play the part of Pantalone with no additional training!

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