The Seven Stages of Life: Shakespeare’s Timeless Reflection on the Human Journey

On my third visit to Shakespeare’s hometown, I found a picture of seven periods of life. The picture was bought at an inconspicuous street stall, and the seven periods were a few lines from the play “As You Like It”. Shakespeare’s original text can be roughly translated as follows:

The world is a stage, and all the men and women are just actors, going in and out. Some are stepping down, some are just coming up. Playing various roles, but it is nothing more than seven acts of life.

At first it was a baby, crying in the nanny’s arms.

Then there are schoolchildren, their faces glowing but crying, carrying schoolbags but not wanting to go to school, always walking in snail-like footsteps.

Then there is the lover, sighing like a stove, worried and regretful for the height of the lover’s eyebrows.

Then came the soldiers, who fought for fame to the point of jealousy, swore, had a leopard-like beard, fought at every turn, and maintained a bubble-like reputation, even on the muzzle.

Then there is the judge, who is shy and has a big belly, awe-inspiring eyes, a neat beard, a sharp mouth and a grand conversation.

The sixth period is the old man Long Zhong, with glasses on the bridge of his nose, his wallet on his belly, his wrinkled legs wearing the big socks used in his youth, and the man’s thick voice becoming as sharp and urgent as that of a child.
So, being a child for the first time was repeated, ending the quirky and eventful seventh act of life: no teeth, no eyes, no taste, nothing at all.

Holding this painting, I boarded the plane back to Boston, thinking along the way: Babies, schoolchildren, lovers, soldiers, and old people and later rejuvenation are all easy to understand, but why is there a judge in the middle? In Shakespeare’s time there were 360 rows, today there are more than 36,000 rows, and how many people are judges?

From the time I bought the painting to the time I sat on the plane, my friend patiently told me stories from the Bible. She said that human nature likes to point others, so that they can be judges. The so-called judgment is rarely not arrogant.

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