Philosophical Conundrums of our Time
No.4: The Seven Ages of Man

by uploaded: 06-02-2005

Shakespeare would have us believe that the Seven Ages of Man go something like this: infancy (mewling and puking); boyhood (whining and shining); lover (sighing); soldier (jealous, with a beard); justice (fat and wise); pantaloon (spindly spec-wearer); second childishness (oblivious to everything).

Well, you can’t say that Shakespeare is too complimentary about his sex, but that’s fair enough, really. However, seeing as this was written a good 400 years ago now, we couldn’t help thinking that it was time for a bit of an update. But we discovered, while some parts fall short of defining what is modern-day man, others were still eerily accurate. So here goes…

Infancy
A formative time for the male race. While Shakespeare’s brat is nurtured by a nurse, who probably had several other brats to look after too, modern-day man is breast-fed, adored and spoilt by his mother, leading to a life-long dependence on the woman and/or fascination with large breasts, rather than some scrotty offerings that have fed half the village.

Boyhood
Whining, shining, creeping like a snail unwillingly to school? Sounds reasonable.

Lover
Blimey. Just how early did they get it on in Shakespeare’s time? Seems a bit of a leap here. For his “lover”, read our spotty adolescent. And while old Will might have been penning a few romantic lovenotes or two, this generation of teenage lovers are rather to be found scrawling “Debbie takes it up the arse” behind the bike sheds. And as for the eyebrow bit – well, your average 15-year-old will probably be aiming a little lower…

Soldier
Leaving aside the few thousand men that actually do join the army aged 18, the majority of men have to direct their aggressive, man-killing urges elsewhere. Apart from that, Shakespeare’s description is pretty accurate. Full of strange oaths? Just your average football fan. Bearded like the pard? Student. Jealous in honour and quick in quarrel? Punch-up over mate’s girlfriend. Seeking the bubble reputation, Even in the cannon’s mouth? Okay, it’s a while since I did English A Level, but I’d say this pretty much equates to that strange habit small blokes have of picking on the tallest guy in the pub.

Justice
Seeing as people tended to kark it a bit earlier in Shakespeare’s day, this description surely matches today’s middle-youth. So, yes, we have the fat belly, from one too many lagers rather than, perhaps, too many large chickens, and as for the wise saws, well, blokes of a certain age (mid-thirties up) do tend to bang on a bit and always think they’re right. Sadly, Will’s man does seem a bit more mature than today’s middle-youthers, however – the regression to second childishness has already begun, with an obsession with gadget, fast cars and doling out “justice” via a computer game.

Pantaloon
Looks a bit odd at first sight, but then we find that a Pantaloon, instead of being a type of trouser, is actually an “old wealthy suitor”. Rich, retired and mean and miserly, the pantaloon had a penchant for younger women, despite the fact, as we can see from Shakespeare’s original, he had specs, love-handles, and was a bit spindly. Any of your dad’s lecherous mates, then.

Second childishness
Shakespeare’s man ends up blind, deaf and oblivious to everything. Except themselves, we might add.
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[No.3: If I cannot see my cellulite, does it really exist?]

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