"All the world's a stage" is the phrase that begins a monologue from William Shakespeare's play As You Like It. The speech (Act II Scene VII) compares the world to a stage and life to a play, and categorizes the seven stages of a man's life: infant, schoolboy, lover, soldier, justice, old age and facing imminent death.
The man in the poem goes through these stages all expressed in a sardonic and sometimes bitter tone:
- Infancy: He is a helpless baby and knows little.
- Whining schoolboy: He begins to go to school and is unwilling to leave the protected environment of his home.
- The lover: In this stage he is always sentimental, expressing his love in a silly manner.
- The soldier: He is uneasy and hot-headed. He is always working towards making a reputation for himself even at the cost of foolish risks.
- The justice: In this stage he thinks he has acquired wisdom. He has reached a stage where he has gained prosperity and social status and becomes vain.
- Old Age: He is a shadow of his former self. He loses his firmness and shrinks in stature and personality.
- Incapacity: Dependent on others for care and unable to interact with the world, he experiences "second innocence, and mere oblivion."
The British Council offers interactive tasks together with printable worksheets for these famous lines, suitable for B2 students. They can be accompanied by the following video, which was one of my first attempts to combine audio with pictures in presentations. The audio is taken from a special trailer marking 80 years of original British drama from the BBC.