We may have more information than any generation before us, but does instant access to video game cheat codes really make life today better than it was hundreds of years ago?
In "All the world's a stage," one of Shakespeares best-known monologues, he breaks human life into 7 easy to digest parts (he probably could have written for Cracked.com). And while certain details may have changedlonger life spans, fewer children, more bottled wine coolerstheir lives dont seem all that different from ours.
All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players,
They have their exits and entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.
We still have actors. Hell, we have reality TV!
But every aging classic needs to be occasionally updated for the sake of remaining relevant, and dammit, what's the modern equivalent to Shakespeare if not me, Cracked.com's Michael Swaim?
Verily, I doth be. So lets see how we stack up:
The Lines:At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.The Analysis:
Okay Billy Boy, you havent taken a lot of chances here. Its a safe assumption that infants are still going to be puking for the foreseeable future. A recent study showed that about thirty percent of an infants body weight is either green feces or spit-up, and thats all gotta come out sometime. If anything, the weakness here is a lack of information; yes, you want to stay punchy, but the modern infancy really cant be described without the mention of some key points.
For example, according to the National Vital Statistics Center, more and more children are being born to women 40 and over, and as a result, Down Syndrome is on the rise. And while infant mortality is dropping for white folks, its still rising for ethnics. Furthermore, the average household can no longer afford a full-time nursemaid, and tends to lean on a daycare center or Television when it comes to child rearing.
To be fair, these statistics only apply to children born in the United States, but most U.S. historians agree that Shakespeare would have been American anyway if given the choice.
The Revision:At first the infant,
Snow white and retarded in front of The Wiggles.
The Lines:Then, the whining schoolboy with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school.The Analysis:
Again, youre right on for the first line or so; kids whine as much as they ever did. In fact, whining seems to be on the rise (or parenting on the wane), as nearly a quarter of todays U.S. children have seen a health care provider because of behavior problems. The overwhelming majority of diagnoses? ADD and Hyperactivity. So creeping probably isnt the best descriptor anymore. Lets replace it with jabbering.
On the plus side, cars are way more affordable now than in your time. Also, they exist. And with fleets of buses ready to serve, the only kids who still walk to school are the ones who live across the street. Maybe its that lack of walking thats led to the current upswing in childhood obesity. Hopefully the trend will correct itself as all buses fill up with fat kids and the rest are forced to march alongside.
But until then, child obesity worldwide is such a big deal that it actually rivals malnutrition as a cause of death in even the poorest African countries. That means when you see those starving Ethiopian kids on late night TV (another dynamite invention; just chill out for a few centuries), theres usually a big fat kid just off camera horking down a Twinkie and chortling like Jabba the Hutt.
Also, if you come to school with a satchel, youre going to get beat down.
The Revision:Then, the whining schoolboy with his Jansport
And greasy blubber face, jabbering like a howler monkey
In his Moms Durango.
The Lines:And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow.The Analysis:Heres where your monologue starts to kind of fall apart. Romantic love is certainly admirable, and theres still a place for it in our culture: shitty movies and Danielle Steele novels. But if youre trying to capture the sexual experience of the modern youth, you have to face the facts that sexual activity in teens has been increasing for twenty years, and has hit more than 50 percent as of 2000. Which isnt to say the Elizabethan boys couldnt close the deal; judging from the number of fourteen-year old mothers walking around in 1650, there was just as much clumsy groping going on then as at the proms of our era.
Luckily we future people have found a few tricks to keep those hasty, post-slow dance trysts from turning into full-fledged baby-itis. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, teen pregnancy is actually starting to level off, despite what Bristol Palin might tell you. This is mainly thanks to the modern day practice of slipping a thin layer of rubber between the parts that make a baby, a practice more than three quarters of sexually active teens employ.
It might not be quite as romantic as a woeful ballad to his mistress eyebrow, but at the end of the day, we dont have kids tagging along with us to Senior Ditch Day.
Except Bristol Palin.
The Revision:And then the lover,
Shuffling like geriatric, dances to Greendays Good Riddance
With sweaty hands on his mistress ass.
The Lines:Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden, and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth.The Analysis:
William. Will. Now you're just getting lazy. Surely, even in your day, claiming that every living (presumably male) human joined the army is a bit of a stretch. And nowadays, its one of the least popular occupations there is. National figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that while we wholeheartedly support our troops, theres only about six of us who still want to be one. An Army of One may well become the literal reality, assuming the Iraq war continues for McCains estimated 10,000 years (just think how good our tanks will be by then! Theyll probably hover).
Today, the most popular profession for youth is retail salesperson, with a whopping 4.6 million. Thats enough salespeople to harass the 1.4 million fighting men and women at a nearly 4 to 1 ratio. Todays war is sales, and America's got the largest army in the world on the front lines, gift cards and barcode scanners at the ready.
As far as being quick to quarrel, the Department of Justice has tracked the steady decline of violent crime in the U.S. since 1993. In fact, violent crime (including, I assume, reputation bubble-based assault) is at its lowest point in many decades. If you buy into Freakanomics, thats because around 18 years previously, the Roe v. Wade decision let a lot of poor people abort their would-be criminal children. So...yay?
Finally, the thick, full beards of your day dont really resemble the three-day scruff and ironic soul patches we tend to sport. There arent any statistics to back that up, so youll just have to trust me.
The Revision:Then a salesman,
Full of hazy store layout information, unshaven,
Apathetic in most things, pro-choice, quick to flame online,
Seeking the perfect Jamba Juice booster combination
Even as he claims its become too corporate.
The Lines:And then the justice
In fair round belly, with good capon lin'd,
With eyes severe, and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws, and modern instances,
And so he plays his part.The Analysis:
Again with the beards. So, after they finished their tour in the army, they all became judges? Elizabethan England must have been in dire need of blacksmiths. First off, in our time, tours of duty dont necessarily end. Secondly, when you get out, your career path is far from assured.
Of the top twenty lines of work sought by veterans, seven are in the realm of corrections officer aka cop, guard, jailer et al, and most of the rest involve repairing or maintaining the same type of computer equipment they repaired or maintained while in the military. They also face a 15 percent unemployment rate, according to the Department of Labor, significantly higher than the average citizen.
So not all of them are fortunate enough to line their bellies with good capona roasted rooster that was castrated at a young age. And most of the wise saws they dispense to the public involve puckered war wounds that, frankly, I just don't want to see.
Nowadays, people prefer to get their war wisdom from Clint Eastwood movies and their modern instances from a combination of Stephen Colbert and references in webcomics. Hey, who are you to judge? You pood in a pot.
The Revision:And then the IT specialist
In studio apartment, with IKEA bureaus lind
Or else unemployed, with beard of tangled matte,
Full of conspiracy theories, and weird smells,
And so he frightens children.
The Lines: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 towards childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound.The Analysis:
Lets get this straight: so after all these judges retire, they hang out in slippers, frilled capri pants, and their old tights. Then their voices pull a Thom Yorke, and just sort of stay up there in the falsetto. What youre describing, dear Will, is a transvestite. And while we certainly have them, theyre no longer an integral phase of the human life cycle.
In fact, our retired folks dont much cotton to transvestites. And rather than the relative sizes of the world too wide and their shrunk shanks, their dominant concerns (according to the AARP) are Social Security and how goddamned many of them there seem to be. The number of people over age 65 is predicted to increase by seventy percent by 2020, and sixty percent of those are going to need long term medical care.
If 1970s science fiction movies are to be believed, this trend will culminate in a whole lot of pipes and whistles crying out for mercy while the Mandatory Euthanasia Robots patrol the halls of their Compressed Retirement Dormitory. Of course, thats unlikely to happen as long as the elderly turn out to vote a whopping 73 percent of the time, far more than any other age group. Come 2050, the young and middle aged may just find dentures digging into their shoulders, walkers driving down into their temples, and youthful hose well wrappd around their windpipes.
The Revision:The sixth age shifts
Into the carelessly open robe and flopping dingus,
With family visiting, and eyes averted,
His Wal-Mart greeter pay well savd, a prescription plan too complex,
For his dwindling accounts, and his big manly votes,
Turning again towards the important issues:
Medicare and the gays.
The Lines:Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.The Analysis:Youd think death would stay pretty static over the years. But youd be wrong, Mr. Shakespeare, and a damnable imbecile on top of it. It's almost like, realizing that the rest of your poem was rose-colored hogwash, you overcorrected by ending on a goths description of the afterlife. Hint: depressing doesnt equal art, which is a lesson you could have applied to that sob-fest Hamlet.
Despite your negative attitude, the modern age has presented us with numerous opportunities to turn death into a bizarre spectacle, and weve taken every one of them. Weve turned our dead loved ones into diamonds. Weve had marching bands play us out and served chocolate covered marshmallows at the funeral. Weve had our ashes mixed into comic books and stored in Pringles cans and our skin turned into drum sets. Weve been snorted by our sons. Weve even stuffed ourselves into a cannon shaped like a fist holding a peyote button and had our ashes shot into the sky with fireworks while Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man" played.
And if certain reputable news outlets are to be believed, were going to be able to download our brains onto a computer by 2050, rendering the whole point moot. Sans everything, Mr. Shakespeare? How about sans your downer bullshit? Bring on the Age of Digital Immortality!
The Revision:Last scene of all,
Before he joins his friends in a non-stop virtual party,
Is a personalized rocket to oblivion,
With boats, and costumes, and quiche, and everything.
When not writing for Cracked, Michael is apostrophizing dead literary figures as head writer and co-founder of Those Aren't Muskets!