All the world’s a stage

Old Trafford

It will be the dream of every Manchester United supporter to play at their home ground, Old Trafford, which in recent years has been renamed ‘The Theatre of Dreams’.

Cynics might argue that the title is apt as the players seem to act injured and feign fouls in order to gain an advantage but certainly the dream will be for success; the home ground is where their hopes and dreams will be fulfilled. Drama is played out on the pitch, week in and week out, and those watching revel in it. It is where history is made and written. It is where lessons and values are shared and stored.

Many will be aware that although Shakespeare was probably not a soccer fan (for obvious reasons) he alluded to the image when in his play ‘As You Like It’ he had the character Jaques declare that “All the world’s a stage”.

It is not just the sports field that is a stage, but the home, the school, the workplace, the marketplace, the business world, the whole world. Jaques explained his point by underlining that there are seven stages in everyone’s life; we all go through the same stages though we act them out differently.

We play our part and move on to the next stage; as Jaques points out “one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages”. So school is just a stage; we do not stay there forever, though we would be misguided if we held the view that learning happens only at school. School is only a stage, which will come as a massive relief to pupils suffering at school.

However, school is a stage in another sense as well and it is a point that the character Jaques explains when he says, “all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances.” Everyone plays a part. Plays often include many who have less important, even non-speaking parts, but each one is necessary, even the ‘extras’ who make up the crowd, such as the guard, the passer-by, whoever.

The character Jaques is one of the main characters yet he is one who prefers to observe the people around him rather than participate in their activities. It is obviously such an important lesson for our children to learn and understand, that each one of them at school is playing a part, that each one is necessary and important; they all have a place in the school. They all have their name in the credit list at the end, no matter how big or small a part they play. All the boys and girls are all “merely players”, and being described as such, none are more important than others. There are no heroes or villains; they are all equally players.

There is, however, another crucial point that we must not overlook when we consider this statement that “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players” and as we place it in the context of school. All the world’s a stage, even during the stage of school, and thus we all play a part in the education of our children. It is not just teachers who play the part in educating children nor is it simply the parents who do so; both may well play the lead roles in it but they are not the only ones. Nor is it only other characters within a school context – the administrators, the ground staff, the guards - who play a part, not always a speaking part but contributing to the reality of the scene. They play a part, for sure; without them the stage would not be realistic or relevant.

The reality is (and understand this is not a dream) that many others are playing a part in the education of our children, often without us fully knowing or recognising it to be so. Politicians are educating our children not just by the decisions they make but also by the actions and behaviour they display. Advertisers are educating our children massively, as are film-makers and singers.

Those who drive on the roads are educating our children just like our neighbours do. We all play a part; it is indeed the village that raises a child and the global village is the one raising our children, where Kim Kardashian is an aunt, Cristiano Ronaldo is an uncle and Donald Trump is the grandfather.

The world is a stage; it is not a theatre. In a theatre, there are actors on stage and there are spectators in the auditorium watching. In the world though there are no spectators, only actors. We all play a part in the education of the children of this generation, whether knowingly or not. We cannot and do not simply look on from the side-lines, from the auditorium. We may not play a large part or a speaking part but we are all players. So, is the education that we offer as we like it? Do we know our lines? Will our children’s dreams be fulfilled? Let us all play our part correctly. Enter, stage right.

  • Tim Middleton is the executive director of the Association of Trust Schools [ATS]. The views expressed in this article, however, are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of the ATS.  
  • email: [email protected]
  • website: www.atschisz

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