This is one of Shakespeare’s most iconic monologues. The first line is known to almost everyone across the English speaking world. These very well known Shakespeare monologues can offer unique challenges to actors, but can also be a lot of fun to perform.
As You Like It is one of Shakespeare’s most popular comedies. It’s a fun, silly and entertaining play that most actors have read or seen at some stage. Jaques monologue often serves as a respite from the comedy and its melancholy and insightful tone make it stand out in the context of the play. This monologue is an insightful and poetic piece that shows Shakespeare at his best.
This isn’t a particularly common audition monologue as it’s so reflective, and melancholy, but it’s a beautiful piece. As always, if you are auditioning with a monologue you want to pick one that resonates with you; follow your instincts. I recommend going with a monologue that excites you.
Step 1: Understand the Play
As You Like It (Synopsis)
These are a little silly, but do the job in explaining the story of As You Like It. As You Like It is set in France and is another of Shakespeare’s classic “why don’t women dress up as men, and run away into the forest” kind of plays.
We always recommend reading the play which you can purchase here: As You Like It.
Tip: another great resource is the As You Like It (No Fear Shakespeare). These are great for understanding the play and getting an easy to follow modern translation.
Step 2: Understand the Monologue
Jaques Monologue (Full Text)
Jaques: 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. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
Then, the whining school-boy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then, a soldier,
Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly, with good capon lin’d,
With eyes severe, and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws, and modern instances,
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper’d pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose, and pouch on side,
His youthful hose well sav’d, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.
In the first act he is an infant, whimpering and vomiting in his nurse’s arms.
Then he’s the petulant schoolboy, with a school bag and a bright, young face, dragging himself unwillingly.
Then he becomes a lover, hot and flustered as he writes love poems about his lover’s eyebrows.
In the fourth act, he’s a soldier, full of many ambitions, with a beard like a leopard, he is eager to defend his honour and quick to fight. On the battlefield, he puts himself in front of danger, risking his life to seek fame that is as fleeting as a soap bubble (pops after a few seconds).
In the fifth act, he is a judge, with a fat belly from all the bribes he’s taken over the years. His eyes are stern, and he’s given his beard a respectable cut. He’s full of wise sayings and all the latest anecdotes: and so he can play the part of judge well.
In the sixth act, the curtain rises on a skinny old man in slippers, glasses on his nose and a money bag at his side. The stockings he wore in his youth hang loosely on his shrivelled legs now, and his bellowing voice has shrunk back down to a childish squeak.
In the final scene of the play—that concludes this strange and eventful history—our actor goes back to being like a child and eventually loses his memories and his life: without teeth, without eyes, without taste, without everything.
This is a modern version of the text. As always with a modern translation, this is just one person’s opinion. You can always find your own nuance and understanding in the monologue. That ambiguity is what makes Shakespeare so unique. However, this should help you get a better understanding of what is happening in the monologue.
Mewling: especially as a baby, crying or whimpering
Satchel: a bag carried on one shoulder
Pard: leopard or legendary creature with long shaggy fur
Bubble reputation: quick fame like a soap bubble
Step 3: Prepare the Monologue
Have an opinion
Underpinning this monologue is a great wisdom. It could be argued to be a cynicism or just a philosophical reflection that human life is fleeting and really meaningless. We are simply actors who play the parts dictated to us by society. Even those we admire like Judges and Soldiers, are just doing it for the fame or money and learn how to play the part rather than actually embodying the part to help others. As the piece is so philosophical it’s important as an actor to make some strong choices on what you think Jaques is saying. Why is he saying this monologue? The monologue will fall flat with an underlining motive.
Saying the words for the first time
As this monologue is so well known it’s important to not fall into familiar vocal patterns. Try to imagine you are saying these words for the first time and discovering the revelations as you go. Remember that for the character this is the first time these words have ever been uttered. This is always tricky with such famous lines, but important if you want to portay this monologue is a believable and engaging way.
Detail the images in the monologue. As this monologue is so visual it’s vital to really picture the images you are talking about. Imagine the boy, the soldier, and the judge. The clearer you see the images the clearer it will be for the audience. Work through the monologue slowly when preparing it.
Other interesting resources for monologue
Sans Teeth, Sans Eyes? Shakespeare’s Views on Aging Aren’t That Simple (Huffington Post)
The Soldier (e-notes)
As always when preparing a Shakespeare monologue for an audition, the important thing is preparation. Take your time working through the monologue and make sure you understand every single word you’re saying. Once you have the clarity you can start to have fun with the monologue. If you think this monologue isn’t right for you check out more of our favourite Shakespeare monologues for men.