All the World's a Stage

All the world's a stage,

And all the men and women merely players;

They have their exits and their entrances,

And one man in his time plays many parts

- William Shakespeare, As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII

In this excerpt from one of Shakespeare’s most famous monologues, the author draws attention to ways in which life is a performance. Over the course of a lifetime, one person will play many roles: that of child, sibling, mother, father; friend, acquaintance, lover, enemy; student, teacher, judge, and jury. Additionally, we all perform for each other on a daily basis, whether deliberately or unintentionally. The way we dress, the way we talk, the way we walk — these routine actions not only reflect who we are but who we want to be. Unlike the roles performed by professional actors on stage, these are performed in reality. No matter where these performances are enacted, however, they demonstrate how individual identities are fluid, how personas are malleable, how makeup, masks and clothing can influence one’s behavior and other’s perceptions. All of the works on display touch upon the notion of performance, whether literal or metaphorical, reminding us that, indeed, all the world is a stage.

Heather N. Cammarata-Seale, Curatorial Associate, Modern & Contemporary Art

  • 49798
    Japanese, Meiji period, 1868–1912
    Utagawa Kunisada 歌川国貞, 1786–1865
    and Hashimoto Sadahide, 1807–1873
    Interior of the Gankirō Tea House (Butterfly Opera), 1861
    2006-61 a-c
  • 49541
    Joseph Beuys, German, 1921–1986
    Printed by Editions Staeck
    Published by Multiples, Inc. and
    Published by Marian Goodman Gallery
    Iphigenie, 1973
  • 5601
    Edgar Degas, French, 1834–1917
    Mlle. Bécat at the Café Ambassadeurs (Aux Ambassadeurs: Mlle. Bécat), ca. 1875
  • 51179
    Walter Richard Sickert, British, 1860–1942
    Noctes Ambrosianae (Middlesex Music Hall, Drury Lane), ca. 1906–08
  • 55510
    Hiroshi Sugimoto 杉本博司, Japanese, born 1948
    Elmwood, New Jersey, 1977, printed ca. 1992
  • 37454
    William Larson, American, born 1942
    Untitled, from the series "Theatre du Monde", 1993
  • 5690
    Francis Jukes, British, 1745–1812
    after Thomas Rowlandson, British, 1756/57–1827
    Published by John Raphael Smith, British, 1752–1812
    Vaux-Hall, published 1785
  • 9289
    Thomas Rowlandson, British, 1756/57–1827
    after Henry Wigstead, British, ca. 1745–ca. 1800
    Published by John Raphael Smith, British, 1752–1812
    Box Lobby Loungers, 1785
  • 42520
    Robert Longo, American, born 1953
    Published by The Kitchen, American, founded 1971
    Tenth Anniversary Benefit for the Kitchen, 1981
  • 5777
    Abraham Walkowitz, American, 1878–1965
    Dancer in Motion, 1911
  • 5778
    Abraham Walkowitz, American, 1878–1965
    Dancer in Motion, 1911
  • 5711
    Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, French, 1864–1901
    Miss Loie Fuller, 1893
  • 43087
    Clarence H. White, American, 1871–1925
    Dancers from Barnard College Greek Games, 1911
  • 10851
    Francis Haward, British, 1759–1797
    after Sir Joshua Reynolds, British, 1723–1792
    Printed by Gouthier, French, active late 18th century
    Mrs. Siddons in the Character of the Tragic Muse, 1787
  • 60805
    Japanese, Edo period, 1600–1868
    Utagawa Kunisada 歌川国貞, 1786–1865
    Published by Hiranoya Shinzō
    Iwai Kumesaburō III as Princess Wakana raising a large spider through incantation, 1861
  • 17806
    Etienne Carjat, French, 1828–1906
    Published by Goupil et Cie, French, active 1827–1879
    Editor Ludovic Baschet, French, 1834–1909
    Henri Monnier, ca. 1865, printed 1877
  • 62937
    Cecil Beaton, British, 1904–1980
    Marlene Dietrich, 1930s
  • 16471
    Max Waldman, American, born 1919
    The Performance Group: Dionysus in '69, 1969
  • 16767
    Barbara Morgan, American, 1900–1992
    Martha Graham, FRONTIER, 1935, printed 1980
  • 108673
    Guerrilla Girls, founded in New York City, 1985
    There's a tragedy on Broadway and it isn't Electra, 1999