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This report is taken from PN Review 168, Volume 32 Number 4, March - April 2006.

The Exit According to Shakespeare Aharon Komem

Towards the end of the last century, and nowadays as well, 'exit' has become a very exciting word. All over the world, scores of start-up companies in the hi-tech domain, mostly run by ambitious people, can't wait for the chance to 'make an exit', to go out to the bourse and sell their invention of some electronic device, thus realising their dream of making a fortune, sometimes millions of dollars.

As so often, Shakespeare has already thought of it. In his famous soliloquy 'All the world's a stage', he puts great emphasis on the exit:

                     All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances...

                           (As You Like It, II.vii)

Metrically speaking, it is clear that the main stress in the third line is on 'exits': it comes after three non-meaningful-auxiliary-monosyllabic words, and is followed by two non-meaningful-auxiliary-monosyllabic words, and only then by 'entrances' - another first-syllable accentuated word, yet a longer and less intense one, ending with two unstressed syllables.

This seems to be quite natural, especially to English readers who know this passage from their early childhood. Yet only when we check translations of this utterance can we fully understand what Shakespeare really achieved here.

Jean Anouilh, a leading French playwright himself, working with Claude Vincent, translated as follows: 'Ils font leurs entrées, leurs sorties, ...


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