Four hundred years ago, William Shakespeare died at age 52 on April 23, which historians believe was his birthday. He was an old man by Elizabethan standards; those who survived childhood in 17th-century Europe typically lived to the ripe old age of 35. And though Shakespeare produced many of his greatest works later in life, much of what the Bard had to say about aging wasn’t exactly positive.
His plays are filled with grim lines that equate age with ailing. “Last scene of all, That ends this strange eventful history, second childishness and mere oblivion; Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything,” he famously wrote in As You Like It.
Of course, Shakespeare often poked fun at youthful folly as well. The way he took whacks at people of all stages and strata of life is one of the things that makes his work so enduringly witty. But he found the beauty in all lifestages, too. That’s one of the things that makes his work so enduringly transcendent.
In honor of this anniversary, we mined Shakespeare’s works for his quotes that spoke to the benefits of growing older.
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