Shakespeare said it – as he always has:
All the world’s a stage
And all the men and women,
The words, put in the mouth of the melancholy philosopher, Jaques, in As You Like It, continue:
And every man – and woman – plays many parts
Shakespeare then proceeds to organize these parts into several inter-related generational segments. Thus this famous soliloquy is known as “The Seven Ages of Man.” Some five hundred years later, the correct titular phrase should be “The Seven Ages of Man and Woman.”
Here in my ALF (Assisted Living Facility), you will find several of the Seven Ages, most notably the last - number seven. I‘ll describe the Ages :
To begin at the beginning, Man – Woman - is mewling and puking in his – her – nurse’s arms. Not a compelling Act I.
The second act is also nasty. The androgynous human becomes a whining school boy – girl – with shining morning face. This kid – we humans– creeps like a snail, unwillingly to school. In Elizabethan times, s/he wore a satchel on his – her – back. Today, we’d call it a Star Wars backpack.
Then the play receives an R rating. Acts III and IV are the Elizabethan version of “The Game of Thrones.” Sex in Act III - The lover, who sighs like furnace to his mistress. Violence in Act IV - The soldier, bearded like the pard. He – the military had not yet become gender neutral – swears strange oaths – four letter words? – and is jealous in honor and quick to quarrel (good thing the Elizabethans didn’t have AK 47s.)
Sorry about Act V ladies, it’s the judicial brotherhood – he would age up to become a justice, in fair round belly, with good capon lined.
If our hero – and heroine – make it into Act VI, s/he becomes a lean and slippered pantaloon, and wears spectacles on
his/her nose, his/her bones encased in a shrunk shank. Alas, his big manly voice, turns to a childish treble, and pipes and whistles in his throat
Sorrowfully, at this stage, a slow metamorphosis occurs: second childishness – think Depends – and mere oblivion. Shakespeare leaves both Man and Woman sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.
Ripe for an ALF or nursing home.
Now, wait a minute! I’m in the final act – 85 years old, as many ALF residents are. My voice is full and resonant. I can project it to a theatre audience. I throw it strongly from my diaphragm. It’s not a measly throat piping. True I wear glasses – so does my 13-year-old grand child. Sorry to say I wear Depends, though, but I also lift weights,, press my biceps, pedal a stationary bike, speed through step-ups .. . . and I’m disabled and in a wheelchair, to boot.
While the cycle of life may be poetic and metaphorical and end as it began, Shakespeare was wise in Hamlet enough to realize that Man – or Woman – could endure the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing, end them.
We may not be able to prevent aging. But we can disrupt it.
[Istock Photo: Michael Burrell]
Dick Weinman is an AARP Oregon volunteer and an assisted living guru! He has a long-running blog on this page called The Thin Edge of Dignity.