Resveratrol is a naturally occurring polyphenolic compound commonly found in plant-derived products, including red wine. A large number of beneficial effects including anticarcinogenic action and protection from atherosclerotic disease have been attributed to resveratrol. Increased resveratrol intake has been suggested as an explanation for the beneficial effects of moderate red wine consumption. Resveratrol also consistently extends the mean and maximum life span in model organisms including nematode worms. It has been suggested that resveratrol exerts its life-span-extending effect through calorie restriction or hormesis mimetic effects. We have characterized the effect of resveratrol on stress resistance, developmental rate, growth, and fecundity in the nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans in order to determine whether the beneficial effects of resveratrol on life span are associated with trade-offs in terms of early life fitness in nematodes. We find that resveratrol treatment increases stress resistance, specifically to oxidative stress, and causes a small but significant decrease in fecundity early in life without affecting overall fecundity. Resveratrol increased mean and maximum life span by delaying the onset of the exponential increase in mortality characterizing the "dying phase" in C. elegans, but did not affect the dying phase itself, suggesting that it did not act by directly affecting metabolism.