Friday, October 21, 2011

All the World's a Stage

I realized while in the midst of reading and watching As You Like It, that my "learning plan" was lame. I am an Art Education student for heaven's sake, and all that I am focusing on through my reading and discoveries are themes and motifs in the play, and then a little bit of connection to modern day. But, this included nothing that really spurredme on to victory...and I realized that I was doing a whole different learning plan sort of after the fact.

So, here is what really intrigued me in the play: Rosalind, intriguing themes in the play, and also the social criticism that could be applied today.

All the World's a Stage
Act II scene vii has the famous quote "All the world's a stage, And all the men and women are merely players; They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts."

After what is quoted above, Jacques talks about the 7 Stages of Man: Beginning as a baby, and ending, again, in an infantile state. Jacques has a pretty cynical view of the world, which I think reflects Shakespeare's view of the masses:

1. An infant "mewling and puking in the nurse's arms"
4. The soldier "seeking the bubble reputation..."2. "The whining schoolboy"
3. "The lover, sighing like a furnace"
5. The justice with "eyes severe...full of wise saws"
6. The lean and slipper'd pantaloon "a world too wide for his shrunk shank"
7. Another child-like state "sans teeth, sans eyes, sans tasted, sans everything."

We have probably all heard pieces of "all the world's a stage" over the years, taken out of context. Usually I would say that this is a bad thing, but I think just this first part of this quote defines the whole play, without reading the rest of what Jacques said.

Artifice in the Play
The whole play, as I said in my preview post, has a lot of artifice and acting the part. Throughout the play, especially with Rosalind, different characters act in different roles.
Rosalind, as a main example, is:

1. The dutiful niece in her uncle's court after he usurped her father of his throne.
2. The daughter lamenting her father's banishment
3. The run-away when she is banished from the court
4. Ganymede (for traveling purposes, as well as for wooing/matchmaking purposes), as they say in the play "pretty youth"
5. Orlando's love and, at the end, happy wife

Another example that I thought was pretty apparent in the film version was Orlando when he is desperate for food. In order to get food that the Duke and his followers are about to eat, Orlando jumps out of the bushes with knives drawn and threatens their lives unless they give him food first. When the Duke responds to him kindly, he says, "Speak you so gently? Pardon me, I pray you; I thought that all things had been savage here, And therefore put I on the countenance Of stern commandment." Interesting that he decided to act that way, because he thought it would be conforming to the "savagery" of the forest.

The Epilogue informing the Theme?
As You Like It even ends with an "Epilogue" given by Rosalind, in which she admits that this whole production was a play (still in character, but revealing the pageantry of it all). In Kenneth Branagh's film, she does this as she returns to her dressing trailer, walking through the set and all of the film crew. I thought this was a clever way of doing it, although the whole epilogue thing in general was a little strange. In it, she asks the audience to enjoy the play for what it is.

But, I think, as a whole, Shakespeare is commenting on the fact that everyone, whether they admit it or not, has different roles for different situations. It is not just that man has seven stages or scenes of living and this is why "men and women are merely players," but that we all "act" when in different situations. I have two theories as to why Shakespeare decided to write a play concerning this theme:

1. As a social criticism: to point out the hypocrisy of people as they act in order to get things that they want from others
2. Showing that we all inevitably act differently around different people, but it is up to us as to how we act, and that is what makes the difference.

As a result of the Epilogue, Shakespeare was not trying to make people feel terrible about
acting, but was pointing out the pitfalls of taking things too far, and suggesting that honesty is probably the pest policy. So, I guess even though the epilogue made the movie version feel semi-disjointed (since through reading the play there were no cuts or really any scene changes), the epilogue is key to understanding the overall point of the play.

All the World's a Stage: The Internet
In short, Shakespeare does think
that some people are hypocrites
and act to get things, but overall, the
play is suggesting that it is how we act that matters, because we all do. On the subject of "all the world's a stage," I found an interesting blog about Twitter and how this and other social media sites are places for "stage presences," and an NY Times article discussing viral videos and posting videos online as a way of creating that "stage" for people. As a result of these ideas, I think I am going to start working on a series of art lesson plans that connect the students to that "stage."

1 comment:

  1. this is awesome. obvously a lot of thought put into this. It is becoming increasingly obvious how much this theme matters to shakespeare, but in different plays he seems to have different opinions on the matter. you know? Like Hamlet, he seems to really dislike these facades people put on, but sometimes, it's sort of necissary, and always is human. Maybe some days he was in better moods about humanity than others..