When all the world's in lockdown we turn to William Shakespeare for inspiration on how to cope at this unusual time.

One of Shakespeare’s most famous speeches is the Seven Ages of Man speech in As You Like It. We took a few liberties with our favourite playwright's works to create the Seven Ages of Lockdown.

The first age - SEPARATION

One of the main aspects of the lockdown is that it is keeping us away from people we love. Romeo and Juliet were of course separated from each other, first when Romeo stands at the bottom of Juliet's balcony (surely at least two metres away!), and then, of course he is banished, meaning they can’t see each other at all.

Juliet in a pink dress on a balcony, Romeo below in the shadows
Sian Brooke as Juliet opposite Matthew Rhys as Romeo (2004)
Photo by Peter Coombs © RSC Browse and license our images

The second age - washing your hands

One of the best pieces of advice to help keep Covid 19 at bay is to ensure we wash our hands thoroughly. Lady ‘out damn spot’ Macbeth would surely have been an expert handwasher.

Lady Macbeth kneels on the stage in a white dress her hand help up
Harriet Walter as Lady Macbeth, directed by Gregory Doran and designed by Stephen Brimson Lewis (1999)
Photo by Jonathan Dockar-Drysdale © RSC Browse and license our images

The Third Age - EATING EVERYTHING IN SIGHT

When you’re at home pretty much all of the time, then food seems to be an even bigger deal than normal, not that Falstaff needed any excuse to indulge in one of his favourite passions - eating. As Mistress Quickly says in Henry IV, “He hath eaten me out of house and home; he hath put all my substance into that fat belly of his.”

 

Man seated at a restaurant table eating lots of food
Desmond Barrit as Falstaff in The Merry Wives of Windsor, directed by Phillip Breen (2012)
Photo by Pete Le May © RSC Browse and license our images

The fourth age - DRINKING EVERYTHING IN SIGHT

Falstaff also enjoyed a good cup of sack (a sweet wine), and being at home might make some of us indulge in a tipple a little more often than usual (alcohol sales are up by around a third). Caliban certainly enjoyed some ‘celestial liquor’ with Trinculo and Stephano in The Tempest.

Two man one dressed as a chef the other with messy hair drinking from a wine bottle
Felix Hayes as Trinculo and Bruce MacKinnon as Stephano in The Tempest (2012)
Photo by Simon Annand © RSC Browse and license our images

The fifth age - MAKING MISCHIEF

Stopping at home is giving us more time to think, and maybe play tricks on each other. Puck from A Midsummer Night’s Dream certainly knew all about making mischief. First off he transforms the weaver, Bottom into an ass, and then, using the power of a magic ‘love’ potion, makes Queen of the Fairies, Titania fall in love with Bottom, donkey ears and all!

 

Lucy Ellinson crouched down as Puck at the foot of a staircase, looking mischievous
Lucy Ellinson as Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream (2016)
Photo by Topher McGrillis © RSC Browse and license our images
 

The sixth age - valuing what we can't have

Being kept at home has made us long to do things like seeing our friends, dancing, playing sports, and, of course, going to the theatre – things that we once took for granted. With the words of Friar Francis from Much Ado About Nothing, Shakespeare manages to encapsulate the way many of us might be feeling now:

'For it falls out
That what we have we prize not to the worth
Whiles we enjoy it, but being lacked and lost,
Why, then we rack the value, then we find
The virtue that possession would not show us
While it was ours.'

Meera Syal seated hand clasped to her
Meera Syal as Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing (2012)
Photo by Ellie Kurttz © RSC Browse and license our images

The seventh age - BEING BACK TOGETHER

Lockdown will end and we will be reunited with our friends and family. After years apart the Dromio twins from The Comedy of Errors are eventually reunited, and end the play walking off together, ‘hand in hand’.

 

Two men arms around each other walk away, backs to the camera
The Dromios are reunited in The Comedy Of Errors directed by Nancy Meckler (2007)
Photo by Ellie Kurttz © RSC Browse and license our images