As infamous as Shakespeare is, and as well known as his works are, some prose
are just simply more extraordinary than the rest. There are many ways to look at Jaques
speech, such as use of language or imagery yet, something we often do not reflect on is
the sound of the prose. When reading this particular speech, the subject is directly
related to the sounds Shakespeare has chosen. We are guided gracefully through the
stages of life in twenty-seven lines. As it is read aloud, the reader hears the actual sounds
that each stage exhibits, and finds themselves part of the speech, experiencing it, as
opposed to merely reading it.
The introduction is like a drum-roll before the show starts. The intonation at
which the reader proceeds begins with a high sound due to"...(a)ll..." 1 being the first
word. The 'aw' sound is repeated at the beginning and three times during the next
sentence, "And all the men and women merely players;" (2.7.140).
The next sentence is
lower in pitch, using a lower 'e' sound "..exit and their entrances," (2.7.141).
Reappearing in the final two sentences, before the actual ages begin, is the 'aw' sound.
The fluctuation like that of a ring master, is striving to gain attention before the show
The first three stages can be considered the childhood progressing into adulthood
stages. "Mewling and puking..." (2.7.144), are two words, which when said, they are
slurred and unclear, much like that of the speech of an infant. The 'ew' in mewling and
the 'you' sound in puking are common noises from young children. Next we reach the
schoolboy stage. Young men are often reluctant to attend school, and their protests take
the form of "...whining..." (2.7.145). When the word whining is pronounced, it sounds
like a whine.