Aging In the Reanissance and As You Like It
Life starts upon the exit from the mother's womb. From that moment, time marches on until the inevitable death occurs to take one once again from the world of the living. Life and death fascinated various playwrights and authors of the Renaissance. Shakespeare made his interest in aging known in many of his plays and sonnets. He approaches this continuing theme from many angles. In many of his sonnets he talks about aging and how the image changes as one ages and gets older and less attractive. The most interesting of Shakespeare's plays involving a theme of aging is As You Like It. This is one of Shakespeare's latter comedies and asks the viewer to choose which romance he or she would like. The characters themselves can be placed into one of seven ages. These stages have changed in their significance over time (Mabillard).
In As You Like It, Jacques recites the famous quote "All the world's a stage. And all the men and women merely players." What most people do not know is the following lines
"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 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 honour, 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 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. Norton 1622.
This speech clearly shows the Victorian views on aging.
Since the average lifespan was so much shorter during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, many people tended to get married and have children much earlier than today. Although it is commonly believed that the young love of >Romeo and Juliet was commonplace in England at this time, marriage registries show that many did not marry until their mid twenties (Best). This would mean a more mature man in the role of husband. As You Like It is a play to please everybody. So while there is happiness, there is sadness, while young there is old (Gardner 65).
During this time, England was a highly Patriarcherial society. With the...