ٰIn this poem “All The World’s A Stage”, William Shakespeare compares the entire world to a theatrical stage, where all the men and women play their allotted role. Every man has to play through seven acts of drama performing different roles, which are the seven stages covering the period of infancy, boyhood, young lover, enthusiastic soldier, wise judge, old man, and the helpless dotage deprived of all human faculties, till he perishes and leaves the world stage forever.
Stages of Life
In the first act, the man is shown as an infant, crying, feeding, and vomiting in the arms of his nurse or mother. Secondly, In the role of the second act, he appears as a boy, being pursued by his mother to go to school but, proceeding to school reluctantly at a slow pace. In the third stage of his life, he has grown into a young man. He is shown as sighing and singing love songs for his beloved and suffering from the pangs of separation. In the fourth stage, he has been shown as a zealous soldier. He seems to be desirous of conquering the entire world. For the sake of ephemeral fame and honor, he is ever ready to pick up a quarrel and even would sacrifice his life if needed.
Then the fifth stage of his life comes when he is seen as a judge. At this stage, he has earned respect and prosperity in society. He is well dressed and has grown a smart beard. He has become wise enough with life experience to guide and advise others quoting maxims and wise sayings. In the sixth stage of life, his downfall beings rapidly. His body becomes weak and the clothes of his youth days become loose. He wears spectacles on his nose and his socks are also large for his fleshless legs. His practical participation in world affairs is minimized. His manly heavy voice is retracted to preadolescent age by becoming shrill like women and children. (All The World’s A Stage)
Gradually he enters the last stage of his life when he becomes again helpless like a child. Now he gets deprived of all human faculties. Deprived of eyes, ears, teeth and taste, he quits the stage of life in the most pathetic condition. Hence with the end of his final role, he sets out on a new journey to his heavenly destination.
Explanation with Reference
All the world’s 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.
In the given lines, the poet portrays human drama in convincing manner. Being the minute observer of life, the poet compares the whole world to a stage. All men and women have got their certain role to play. They have their exit to appear and disappear. From one corner of the stage, they appear and on the other corner, they disappear. It is the case with life. With birth, man’s particularity role begins and with death it ends. Thus, he plays different role on the stage being seven ages and then he is heard no more.
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.
This is the fifth stage of man’s life. Shakespeare pinpoints the remarkable change that has taken place in man’s life. At this stage, man is deemed to be a judge. He has understood the ups and downs of life. This process has given him a lot of maturities. So he is exact and correct in his judgment. He is a seasoned fellow. He bears practical wisdom and full of wise aphorisms. Also, He has gathered a lot of experience through soldier-ship. He has been to different lands in different ways, under different circumstances, and learned modern examples. He gets bulky for not having an active life. The signs of learning, wisdom, judiciousness, and seriousness are quite blatant on his face. Thus 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 wise,
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound
In the given lines, the poet elaborates on the sixth stage of life. At this stage, man becomes old and retires to passive life from the active one. Youth is no more, mature capabilities are declining and there is an utter change. The masculine body turns into a frail one. A big manly voice converts into whistles. Tight-fitting of youth changes into loose-fitting. The lush green tree of youth is withered now. The pure trunk of youth is now hollow inwardly. Weak eyesight, drooping gait, bony body and shivering voice make life pathetic. (All The World’s A Stage)
Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness a mere oblivion
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste sans everything
These are the concluding lines of the poem in which Shakespeare sums up man’s eventful life. This is the seventh stage which is extremely old age. The body is converted into a hulking skeleton. Man loses everything at the last stage. The more we live the poor we are; for we are deprived of our near and dear ones. Old age is full of bitterness. It offers nothing but groans. Man losses every charm of youth and is overpowered by a sense of forgetfulness. He becomes peevish and loses temperament over nothing. He behaves like a child and gets stubborn over petty issues. Thus he waits for death.
The journey of Life in “All the world’s A Stage”
Man is a very complex creature of God. No other creature can excel man. Man can imitate any other creature but no one can imitate man due to his complex nature. Man is multi-colored. He is to be seen in every walk of life. Or life is to be seen in numberless shades through man. He is the best at bbest and wordst at worst.
There are many other roles that a man gets to play on the stage. The more he lives the more roles he gets to play on the stage. He is a son, father, grandfather, brother, and foster, and whatnot. His self is divided into many other-selves. Today he is a bud; tomorrow he has to be a powerful stem having strong and deep roots. The tree of relations can only stand if the stem is strong. He has to prove this at length. He understands it very well that he is shackled, chained, and bound by the chains of emotional releations.
The life of man begins in the same manner. At a certain point, man is diversified into different segments of society. He becomes a doctor, engineer, thinker, philosopher, writer, politician, reformer, constructor, planner, and so on. Under different circumstances, man develops a different approach towards life. He speaks about lies in the background of his personal experiences. The way he has crossed, he knows well while the uncrossed ways remain unknown to him. Satisfaction and dissatisfaction go side by side with him. Thus, he performs other roles on the stage of the world and later he is heard no more.