Text Analysis of As You Like It

Because of changes in the English language, people often view Shakespeare’s wording as lofty and difficult to relate to. However, once you begin to understand his language, you realize that Shakespeare’s stories aren’t that different from our own lives at all! Take a look at Jacques’ famous monologue from As You Like It, which our production references throughout the play to connect to different characters and moments. 

An image of the play’s title page in the first folio of Shakespeare

We began our work on this show by looking at this monologue and breaking it down word-by-word to determine its meaning in our own words. Our actors then went through this process for every single line in the play! At the bottom of this page, you will see definitions and comments from Oxford Shakespeare’s edition of As You Like It on words/phrases you might not be familiar with, as well as words which have meanings that have changed. See if you can piece together this monologue by writing your own paraphrase of it to better understand Shakespeare! An example is provided below to check against once you have finished.

Shakespeare’s Text:

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;

And then the whining school-boy, 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 honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,

Seeking the bubble reputation

Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,

In fair round belly with good capon lin’d,

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 slipper’d pantaloon,

With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;

His youthful hose, well sav’d, 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.

Oxford Shakespeare Definitions of Unfamiliar Words:

Merely players: nothing else but actors

Ages: type of division of life, parts of a play

Mewling: crying like a cat

Satchel: a bag used by schoolboys to carry their books and papers in

Shining: clean from being scrubbed

Creeping like snail: Proverbial, ‘As slow as a snail’

Woeful: expressing grief

Made to his mistress’ eyebrow: A scoffing exaggeration of the lover’s poetical praise of his lady, combining the catalogue of physical beauties and the sonnets on trivial subjects

Bearded like the pard: With a beard bristling like a leopard’s whiskers

Sudden: hasty, impetuous, rash

Bubble reputation: brief, worthless glory

Capon: a Rooster bred for the table, so often used as bribes that corrupt judges were known as ‘capon-justices’

Saws: sayings, moral tags

Modern instances: commonplace examples

Pantaloon: foolish old man (reference)

Hose: breeches

History: chronicle play; or perhaps simply a tale

Mere oblivion: (a) complete forgetfulness (b) being completely forgotten

Sample Paraphrase of the Monologue:

Life is like a play,

In which men and women are just actors;

They are born and they die;

And one person acts as many characters,

As his life is divided into seven parts. The first part is the baby,

Crying and throwing up while his nanny holds him;

Next he’s a boy who complains about going to school, taking his backpack

And his freshly-washed face, as slow as a snail

To school. Next he has a crush,

He sighs intensely, and sings about

How much he loves his crush’s eyebrow. Next he’s a fighter,

Who makes amazing promises, and has a beard like a leopard,

Who wants to be praised, and is always ready to fight,

Looking to maintain his image

Even in the face of danger. Next he’s a judge,

Who eats a lot and is dishonest,

With judgement in his eyes and a trimmed beard,

With clever sayings and connections to life,

And that is how he acts. The sixth stage of life makes him

A greedy old man,

Wearing glasses down his nose and carrying a bag,

His old underwear too big

For his little leg; and his deep voice

High like a child’s again, so much so

That it sounds like a whistle. The final stage of life

In this fantastical story

Is going back to being like an infant, knowing nothing and having no one know him,

Without teeth, without eyes, without taste, without anything.

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