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Theatrical Allusions in As You Like It

Stage, Players, Exits, Entrances, Plays, Parts, Acts, Scene.

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.

Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history.
11, 7, 139.

Entrances is not used as a stage direction. It is employed here in a special sense of an actor making his appearance on the stage. Exit denotes the departure of an actor from the stage, and is freely used in all the printed editions of Shakespeare's works and in all other dramatic literature. The plural exeunt is also used in the same sense. Although exit is written and spoken in its Latin form, the word is thoroughly naturalised, whilst exeunt is marked in the dictionary as a foreigner.

Man and Manet are also stage directions often to be met with in the old quarto editions; they signify that the actor or actors whose name or names follow this direction remain on the stage after the others have left; later dramatists did not use these terms, and now they have become obsolete. As the old quartos were not divided into scenes or acts, these directions generally indicated that the scene or act was concluded. At the end of a few plays the words "exeunt omnes" are to be found.

Bring us to this sight, and you shall say
I'll prove a busy actor in their play.
III, V, 62.

And so he plays his part. II, 7, 157.
I charge you, O women, for the love you bear
to men, to like as much of this play as please you.
I charge you, O men, for the love you bear
to women, that between you and the women
the play may please.

Shall we clap into 't roundly, without
hawking or spitting or saying we are hoarse,
which are the only prologues to a bad voice.

Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. II, 7, 157.

The roughish clown, at whom so oft your grace
was wont to laugh at. II, i, 8.
Hollow you clown! Peace, fool;
It's meat and drink for me to see a clown.
V,i, 12.

Epilogue. Play.
It is not the fashion to see the lady the epilogue. If it be true that good wine needs no bush! 'tis true that a good play needs no epilogue, yet to good wine they do use bushes; and good plays prove the better by the help of good epilogues. What a case am I in then, that am neither a good epilogue, nor cannot insinuate you on the behalf of a good play!

Thou seest we are not all alone unhappy,
This wide and universal theatre
Presents more woeful pageants than the scene
Wherein we play in. II, 7, 138.

If you will see a pageant truly play'd. III, 5, 55.

The general meaning of this word is simply a kind of dumb-show procession. One of the earliest meanings of pageant referred to the stage, platform or scaffold on which such scenes were acted. It is a point of contention whether the pageant took its name from the structure or vice versa. In course of time, speaking parts were introduced, and then the word became to be applied indiscriminately to all kinds of plays, such as Mystery, Miracle, and Morality Plays, which had by the end of the sixteenth century become obsolete and antiquated.

In the York Miracle Cycle the Ordo Paginorum, the order of the pageants, is prefixed to the version of the plays. The Order consisted of different guilds, which took part in the plays represented on Corpus Christi day in the year 1415.

A subjoined quotation from Sir A. W. Ward's English Dramatists would support the view that the pageant was provided with speaking parts of short duration. "Those pageants, in the generally accepted later and narrower use of the term, which consisted of moving shows devoid of either action or dialogue." In a pageant given at Westminster Hall, before Henry VIII, an account is extant in which a dialogue is represented as taking place between the ladies and the ambassadors, also the sweet and harmonious saying of the Children. It will be observed that in these passages a germ of dialogue existed which in later years may have assumed such larger proportions as might justify these as being alluded to as plays.

An address or short poem recital before the audience after the conclusion of a play. Rosalind, the heroine of this comedy, delivered the epilogue. Few dramatists in those days furnished either prologues or epilogues when writing their plays, but after the Restoration, when women played the female parts, the custom became universal and was generally spoken by one of the actresses. Nell Gwynne, when she acted, usually recited these lines. In many instances the epilogues are spoken by a person not connected with the play. There exists some doubt whether Shakespeare wrote the prologues and epilogues prefixed to the printed edition of his plays, the general custom permitting another hand adding these verses. Of course the magnificent prologues in "Henry V" are Shakespeare to the core.

How to cite this article:
Jonas, Maurice. Shakespeare and the Stage. London: Davis and Orioli, 1918. Shakespeare Online. 10 Nov. 2011. < >.


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