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Bérubé, Plotinus, and William Shakespeare

[ by Charles Camerontotus mundus agit histrionem ]

Or as Shakespeare‘s Melancholy Jacques famously observed in As You Like It: All the world’s a stage…


On the off-chance that you’ll take a few minutes to read it once again, profound beauty being a river into which we cannot dip too often, I’ll give you the whole speech:

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 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 slipper’d 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.



Bérubé, A Theory of Theory of Mind
Plotinus, Third Ennead, ii, 15
Shakespeare, As You Like It, Act II Scene vii.

One Response to “Bérubé, Plotinus, and William Shakespeare”

  1. Charles Cameron Says:

    I’m posting this comment on behalf of David Basch:
    May I offer you a quote from the Talmud which also gives the ages of man, but unlike Jacques, sees something good and noble at each stage, thoughts that seem to have occurred to Shakespeare in writing the events of his play. Here is the quote (Pirke Avot 5.24.):

    He [Juda ben Tema} used to say, At five years the age is reached for the study of the Scripture, at ten for the study of the Mishnah, at thirteen for the fulfilment of the commandments, at fifteen for the study of the Talmud, at eighteen for marriage, at twenty for seeking a livelihood, at thirty for entering into one’s full strength, at forty for understanding, at fifty for counsel, at sixty a man attains old age, at seventy the hoary head, at eighty the gift of special strength (Psalm xc. 10), at ninety he bends beneath the weight of years, at a hundred he is as if he were already dead and had passed away from the world. 



    I noted that while Jacques is jaded at every level, the Talmud sees going from strength to strength as the essence of life. Notice that Adam, age 80, is really a tower of strength as his optimism and funds from a life of careful funds management comes to the aid of his own and Orlando’s life.

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