Athena's Web Weekly Column

  Week of July 1st - July 7th,  2011

All the World's a Stage

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Ages of Man

The Ages of Man

  We often speak of the Ages here in the WEB, of the end of Pisces and dawn of Aquarius, but there is another kind of 'Age' that is sometimes referenced, and these are the 'Ages of Man.' Rather than the (slightly larger than) two thousand year epochs of the former, the latter are generally divided up into seven year intervals. Think of them as stages of growth. This lifetime order follows the planetary speeds, with the Moon as the fastest body we observe moving through the heavens, Mercury is next in line, then the Sun, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. For those that lived in the past, these seven ages were considered to be all she wrote, but today we might additionally add the influences of Uranus, Neptune and Pluto as our life expectancy has increased over time.

  No less a personage than Shakespeare actually penned an articulate description of these periods in his play 'As You Like It' (II, vii). For a reason known only to himself, he pulls the Sun from the middle of the line-up and puts it at the end. Here it is:

William Shakespeare

The Immortal Bard

  All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and 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 a snail
Unwilling to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress's 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 lined,
With eyes severe and beard full 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.

  This is an excellent schoolboy's lesson, couched in both rhyme and reason. At first the infant is ruled by the Moon, bound to breast and body of the Mother, emotionally reflecting his worldly environment through her protective nurturing care. According to tradition, this rules the years from birth to seven. The whining school-boy represents the years from seven to fourteen, when the downy hairs of puberty first make their appearance, a fresh bodily curiosity. The mind is trained and disciplined for the social mold of years to come.
As You Like It

As You Like It

from the 2007 movie

Venus warmly embraces the lover, sighing like a furnace from fourteen to twenty-one, a time when music and fashion become the formulative authors of our world. Mars nips nimbly into the soldier's uniform, quick in quarrel, and seeking fame's fragile fortune. Jupiter claims ethical justice, it's expansive lifestyle reflected in a fair, round belly, his wisdom protruding over his inadequate belt. Saturn consolidates with the 'shrunk shank,' as the sands of time slowly wear us away. And here is where the bard tacks on the Sun in a second childishness, preparing for a lengthy nap in immortality's lap.

  The stars are the choreography, the world the stage.

  All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players.

  This would make a great play. Someone ought to look into it.


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