It is a known fact that the ‘Seven Ages of Man’ by William Shakespeare refer to the seven stages of mankind. This is one of the most celebrated poems of William Shakespeare. Here, the world is compared to a stage and all men are, to the poet actors of the great play called life. His acts are divided into seven stages according to the poet.
The poem is actually a speech given by one of his characters named Jacques in his play As You Like it. Jacques is a pessimistic character who the poet uses to portray the life of a man in seven different parts. Birth is compared to an entrance in the play and death, an exit from it.
The Poem Text: 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.
The Seven Stages of Man as Illustrated by the Poem are as Follows:
Infancy- A stage where man knows nothing
Childhood- A stage where he goes to school
The lover- A stage of youth
The soldier- His thinking becomes more altruistic in nature.
The justice- A stage of social status and prosperity
Old age- His personality is shrinked, He has grown old
Death- He becomes dependent on others and finally dies.
According to astrologers, the poem also refers to the seven planets as specifically placed in William Shakespeare’s horoscope. For them, the infant is the moon. The next stage is symbolized by Mercury. Venus is the lover of the third stage. Mars, Jupiter, and Cancer follow next.