Monday, February 21, 2011

Suburbs of Our Discontent

Isn't Aging Funny? (like funny ha-ha)

I'm well aware that, if I'm lucky, I will grow old and decrepit. That said, I'm having a hard time with age. Not my own (for once!) but my mother's. She was here over the weekend for her birthday, and I was like whoa, this getting old thing is for real.

So I read Jaques' oft-quoted monologue on "The Seven Stages of Man," which ends with this description of old age:

"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." (As You Like It, 2.7.157-166)

And it made me think about how Shakespeare sometimes tries to make the most depressing things funny. In this case, old people. How about that scene in Much Ado About Nothing when the elderly Leonato and his brother Antonio challenge young Claudio and his friend Don Pedro to a duel? Although Claudio has publicly shamed Leonato's daughter and (he believes) caused her death, he's still got a funny line: "We had like to have had our two noses snapped off with two old men without teeth."

Sans humor, this would all suck.

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