Seven Ages Of Man by William Shakespeare

One of the most well-known poems of William Shakespeare, a great English poet and playwright, describing the circle of human life. Shakespeare ingeniously compares the periods of life to theater plays, where actors – people – play their roles until they go away from the stage forever.

Seven Ages Of Man


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. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
Then, the whining schoolboy with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. 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. 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 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. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.


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Analysis of William Shakespeare’s “Seven Ages Of Man”

The poem “Seven Ages of Man” is a part of the comedy “As you like it” written by William Shakespeare. It is a speech of a philosopher Jacques talking to Duke Senior.

This poem is one of the most famous works of Shakespeare due to its first phrase “All the world’s a stage”. The author compares the world with a stage and every living person is described as an actor, who plays seven different plays on that stage. The descriptions of every stage are brief but very lively and colorful through precisely chosen figures of speech.

To illustrate his point, Shakespeare uses seven examples of common actions that man does during his life. The first one is an infant, who cries in the arms of his nurse, than he grows to a schoolboy trying to skip the school. The third stage is an enamored young man, lovesick and composing a ballad to his love. Next one is a grown-up soldier, ambitious, devoted to his vows and short-tempered. Later a soldier retires and becomes a judge, using all the wisdom of his age. The sixth actor is shown aging, in his home clothes, losing the sharpness of mind and strength of body. The last age of man is returning to the infant state, losing one’s sight, ability to taste and hear and slowly going into oblivion.

“Seven Ages of Man” is written in free verse and using the narrative style. The poem is rich in metaphors. They start appearing from the very first phrase where the world is compared to a stage and people to actors on it. The author also uses simile to enhance his message and make the description more vivid. The examples are “creeping like snail” (about a schoolboy who unwillingly goes to school) or “sighing like furnace” (about an emotional and excited young man in love).

The last phrases of the poem emphasize the point that life makes a full circle. The author deliberately names it “second childishness” to make this comparison clearer.


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