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William Shakespeare

"All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players."
As You Like It (II, vii, 139-143)

Shakespeare coined many phrases and expressions that have crept into the English language, and not only that, he is even responsible for hundreds of words used everyday in English-speaking countries.

As You Like It was a comedy popular with Elizabethan audiences. On one level it is a straightforward comedy involving the solving of social riddles and mix-ups, and a happy ending is never really in doubt. On another level, Shakespeare uses his characters to consider such issues as love, ageing, nature and death.
This famous quote is a quip by the pessimistic cynic Jaques, who believes that the human race are all acting in a play where the script is pre-ordained and they have little control over their roles. Shakespeare often used clever metaphors about the world of theatre and acting in his plays as a way of reflecting real life back to the audience, and sometimes he even created plays within his plays.

William Shakespeare is the best known writer in English Literature and arguably world literature also. His talent is such that scholars have wondered if this grammar-school boy from Stratford Upon Avon was really the genius behind the timeless words.
He was born around 1564 and wrote about thirty-eight plays, a collection of sonnets and a variety of other poems. Shakespeare was a master of all genres, from comedy to tragedy, history plays and sonnets. Shakespeare's works have been translated into every major living language, and his plays are continually performed all around the world.

Our Expert Says...
Professor David Crystal

Whole books have been devoted to quotations from Shakespeare, and any quotations competition is bound to contain several entries. He was a man 'for all time', said Ben Jonson, and one reason for his continued popularity is his uncanny ability to express profound insights into the human condition which transcend time, culture, and - judging by the remarkable number of translations of Shakespeare which exist - language. These opening lines of the famous speech by the gloomy courtier Jaques continue with the exposition of the seven ages of man. The whole speech might be a quotation.

William Shakespeare

As You Like It online

Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

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