“All The World’s a Stage” is an excerpt taken from Shakespeare’s poem ‘As You Like It’ where the speaker Jaques sees the world as a temporary stage where all of mankind plays particular roles in seven different stages of life.
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All the World’s a Stage
BY WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE
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,
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 honor, 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 lined,
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 slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward 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.
Analysis of Shakespeare’s “All the World’s a Stage”
Perhaps the most definitive lines often quoted from Shakespeare are these lines taken from his play ‘As You Like It’. Shakespeare, who wrote many plays and sonnets, offered profound wisdom in his work. In Act II, Scene VII, the character Jaques speaks about the seven ages of man from birth till death. The excerpt of this speech, often quoted as a standalone poem, is full of meaning and describes the stark reality of man’s existence in the various stages of his life.
The two opening sentences begin with a metaphor that declares the world a ‘stage’, and then the metaphor is further developed throughout the poem as its theme. This extended metaphor is an analysis of the idea of the world as a stage, a temporary setup and life as a transition phase before death. The speaker continues that the people of the world are ‘players’ or actors with specific roles, with their entrances and exits from the stage of life. When it comes to the individual, he plays many such roles in his life, and the poem sheds light on seven such stages in the following summary.
The first stage is that of man in his infancy. The infant’s helplessness is expressed through ‘mewling’ and being dependent on the nurse. The next stage is that of being a young pupil who has a ‘shining morning face’ signifying the vitality in a young child. The schoolboy’s whining signifies how much almost every student complains about formal schooling. The next stage is that of the lover who has devoted his life to his mistress. The lover here is sad and sighing, the ballad or song he has written for his mistress is about a small feature of her face – her eyebrow.
The word ‘furnace’ is significant here to denote the feelings of passionate love. The next stage is that of the soldier who regards his oaths to his state with his life, is proud of his honor and quick in battle. Another stage is that of a powerful judge or justice. The round belly signifies that he is in a comfortable stage of life financially and now knows the ins and outs of his trade.
The sixth age is that of old age that weakens everyone. Our figure becomes lean, eyesight is weakened and the old man has as if turned into a feeble child once again. The last scene is that of oblivion or death, where none of our six senses work and we are left devoid of everything.