Up Close: A ‘Seven Ages of Man’ painting

The infant, the schoolboy, the lover, the soldier, the justice, the pantaloon, and old age. Many Shakespeare fans are familiar with Jaques’s famous speech in As You Like It about these seven ages of man, which begins:

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. (As You Like It, 2.7.146-150)

A 19th-century oil painting in the Folger Shakespeare Library collection attributed to George James De Wilde depicts all seven ages of man, moving across the canvas from left to right. Click through the captions to zoom in on the part of the painting that corresponds with each age, paired with Jaques’s words from As You Like It. Plus, uncover some of the Shakespeare connections and symbolic meanings of other objects found in the painting.

To use the viewer: Click through the arrows to see captions that zoom in on different parts of the image. Click the eye icon to hide or display the captions. You can also examine the image at your own pace by clicking and dragging to move and by scrolling to zoom in and out.

For more details about this painting, see A Catalogue of Paintings in the Folger Shakespeare Library by William L. Pressly. Much of the information contained in this blog post was sourced from Pressly’s entry for this painting (page 46).

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